1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God (Romans 10:1–3, NKJV).
Israel was lost. Only the gospel of Christ, not the Law of Moses, would save them (Rom. 1:16; Acts 4:12). Therefore Paul, himself a Jew who previously persecuted Christians, earnestly desired and prayed for their salvation. He was convinced their zeal for God did not save them. Misguided by their allegiance to the Law, they refused to submit to God’s plan of salvation. Even now, many religious people who are zealous for God contradict the gospel in their zeal (Matt. 7:21-23). We should not confuse passion for God with God’s approval. Scripture says God wants sinners to be saved and “to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). God will not save us from our sins when we are ignorant of the truth of Christ (John 8:24). The example of Israel warns us not to establish our own way of salvation like they did (“their own righteousness,” Rom. 10:3). They believed their salvation was through the Law of Moses and rejected “the righteousness of faith” revealed in the gospel (Rom. 10:4-8). We must be careful not to make a similar error. We must submit to God’s righteousness by faith in Christ and obedience to His gospel (Rom. 10:3, 9-13; 6:17-18). Then we can be confident of our salvation, regardless of whether we are a Jew or a Gentile (Rom. 8:1-2; Gal. 3:26-29).
29 “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; 30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation 31 Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, 32 A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:29–32, NKJV).
Simeon confidently waited with hope for the Messiah, the “Consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25). By revelation, the Holy Spirit told him he would not die until he saw the Lord’s Christ (Luke 2:26). Simeon took the child in his arms in the temple and praised God with stirring words that still fill our hearts with joy and hope. Simeon saw God’s promised salvation in the Child Jesus (v. 30; Isa. 51:1-6). The salvation he saw was not national victory over the Roman occupation of their land. God’s salvation for Israel was deliverance from their sins (Matt. 1:21). This salvation was not only for Israel but also for the Gentiles (v. 32). Jesus, the light of the world, would shine His truth brightly upon Israel and the nations (Isa. 9:1-2; Matt. 4:13-17; John 1:4; 8:12). God prepared salvation from the clutches of sin and death (1 Cor. 2:9). The birth of Jesus was an integral part of God’s preparations to redeem us from sin (Heb. 10:5, 10). Our hope in Christ is sure and steadfast because salvation is sure in Him (Heb. 6:19-20; Acts 4:12). Like Simeon, may we never grow weary but “eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20; Heb. 9:28).
2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:2–3, NKJV)
Christ’s apostle boldly described those who perverted the gospel (i.e., false brethren) by demanding Gentiles keep the law of Moses to be saved; They were false brethren (Acts 15:5; Gal. 2:4-5; 5:4). For emphasis, Paul gave one warning three times. (1) Beware of dogs (v. 2). Feral dogs lived in packs, scavenging for food (Ps. 59:6; 1 Kings 14:11). We must be alert against false teachers who attack and consume souls (Gal. 1:6-10; Jude 4). (2) Beware of evil workers (v. 2). Their works are wicked; Do not give them quarter (Ps. 119:115; Phil. 2:18-19). (3) Beware of the mutilation (v. 2). The doctrine of binding circumcision for salvation did nothing to remove sin because it was only a physical incision. By contrast, Christians (whether Jews or Gentiles) are “the circumcision” (the covenant people of God, whose hearts are circumcised, Rom. 2:28-29; Col. 2:11-13). Next, Paul gave three counterbalancing descriptions of Christians. (1) Christians worship God in the Spirit (v. 3). The word “worship” denotes service to God. We serve God according to the truth that the Spirit revealed, not by the error of the “dogs” (Gal. 3:1-3; 5:5-6). (2) Christians rejoice in Christ Jesus (v. 3). We have joy in Christ and do not take pleasure in evil things (Phil. 3:1; 4:4; Rom. 12:15). (3) Christians have no confidence in the flesh (v. 3). Our salvation in Christ does not depend on physical pedigree, performance, and promotion. Paul refused to trust in such things (Phil. 3:4-7). Brethren, be alert to error and those who teach it. Serve God with the confidence of the truth of the gospel.
29 Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, 30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law (Romans 3:29–31, NKJV).
Law cannot save the one who violates it (Gal. 2:21; 3:21). Law identifies the transgression (sin) and applies just punishment (Rom. 3:19-20; 3:23; 6:23; Gal. 3:10-11). By definition, a system of law is not a system of grace. While the Law of Moses was “holy and just and good,” it did not contain a means of “eternal redemption” (Rom. 7:12; Heb. 9:12; 10:1-4). Therefore, it is essential to acknowledge (the) law’s nature, purposes, and limitations. In the context of today’s passage, Paul laid out what law does (identifies sin and holds the sinner guilty) and what it cannot do (justify the guilty, Rom. 3:19-20). Sinners are “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:23-24). Christ’s death appeases divine wrath “through faith,” saving Jews and Gentiles who have faith in Jesus by grace (Rom. 3:25-26; Eph. 2:8-9). The gospel is God’s power to save Jews and Gentiles (Rom. 1:16-17). Therefore, (1) God justifies Jews by faith (v. 30). Faith is the means of justification for Jews, not the Law of Moses (Acts 15:11; Rom. 10:3-4), and (2) God justifies Gentiles through faith (v. 30). The salvation of Gentiles is completed or finished through faith without adding anything to it (Acts 15:9-10). The “law of faith” does not discount obedient faith but rewards it with salvation (Rom. 3:27; 6:17-18). So, we uphold (establish) God’s law as we understand its nature, purposes, and limitations (Rom. 3:31).
To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27, NKJV).
Paul’s stewardship was to preach the word of God, “the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints” (Col. 1:25, 26). God’s redemptive purpose, hidden in past ages, is now revealed in His Son (Heb. 1:1-2). God has “willed to make known” His spiritual riches to the nations (Eph. 1:3-14). At the center of God’s revealed mystery of redemption is “Christ in you,” who secures our hope of glory (Heb. 6:19-20). Christ dwells in the Christian’s heart “by faith” (Eph. 3:17). Faith is the belief, trust, and confidence to follow Jesus when we hear His word (Rom. 10:17; Heb. 11:6). Such belief compels one to be baptized into Christ, who adds each saved sinner to His church (Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:47; Col. 1:13-14). When Christ is in you, His word dwells in you (Col. 3:16; 1 John 2:24-25). When Christ is in you, you live by faith, obeying Him (Gal. 2:20; Rom. 12:1). When Christ is in you, you abide in Him and He in you by keeping His word (John 14:23). Is Christ in you? Yes, when by faith you hear and follow His word. Do you have the hope of glory? Yes, when Christ is in you, and you abide in Him by living as He lived (1 John 2:5-6). Let us not be “moved away from the hope of the gospel” that the apostles of Christ preached to the world (Col. 1:23, 28; 3:1-4).
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:31–33, NKJV).
Jesus drives to the heart of the matter. When physical goals and concerns consume us, we start asking the wrong questions. Worry (anxious care) distracts us from God, who knows and supplies our needs. When we seek (crave intensely) physical needs (food, drink, and clothing) before and instead of spiritual needs (the kingdom of God and His righteousness), we are like the faithless Gentiles (those who have no hope and are without God in this world, Eph. 2:11-12). Our primary craving must be the rule and reign of God in our lives and righteousness by faith through the gospel of Christ. We trust God to give us the things that are necessary for our temporary journey on earth. At times we struggle to keep these spiritual priorities in place. The world presses us to conform to its values and expectations. Let us be strengthened in faith and trust the Lord to provide our daily bread as we live for eternal things that will not pass away (Ps. 37:25-26; 2 Cor. 4:17-18).
7 Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God. 8Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, 9 and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written: “For this reason I will confess to You among the Gentiles, and sing to Your name” (Romans 15:7–9, NKJV).
The gospel brings into one body people of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, etc., “Christ is all and in all” (Col. 3:11; Gal. 3:28). He is our peace, reconciling us to God “in one body through the cross” (Eph. 2:14, 16). Therefore, outward, physical differences must not become barriers preventing us from receiving one another as Christ received us: Fully, complete, and to the glory of God (Rom. 15:7). Using Christ as our great example of pleasing others instead of ourselves, the inspired apostle summarizes the message of Romans 14. Like Christ, Paul urges Christians to sacrificially serve each other instead of pleasing ourselves over scruples of conscience (Rom. 15:1-3; 14:1-3, 13-18). Christ served the truth of God (Rom. 15:8). For the Jews, He did so by fulfilling the promises made to the fathers (Rom. 15:8; Acts 3:20-26). For the Gentiles, He did so as their (our) only means of mercy (Rom. 15:9-12). Surely, since Christ served us by serving the truth of God, we must “receive one another” without rancor, dispute, and division over matters that do not prevent God from receiving us (Rom. 14:3-5). This is not a defense of “agreeing to disagree” over doctrinal and moral issues (Gal. 1:6-9; 2 John 9-11). It is a pattern of how those who practice the truth of God receive one another to the glory of God (Rom. 15:7).
28 he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: 29 “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; 30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation 31 Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, 32 A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.” (Luke 2:28–32, NKJV)
Simeon was a just and devout man waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promised hope (Lk. 2:25). God promised he would not die before seeing the Lord’s Christ (Lk. 2:26-27). His praise of God with the child Jesus in his arms directs our attention to the wondrous salvation God brought to the world in Jesus. I’m impressed by Simeon’s repeated mention of things that belong to God. Perhaps you will be, too. 1) Your servant (v. 29). Simeon viewed himself as God’s servant. What an excellent way to see ourselves (Mk. 10:43-45). 2) Your word (v. 29). Simeon saw God keep His word and was ready to die. Trust in God’s word prepares us to depart the world in peace. 3) Your salvation (v. 30). God is the preparer and provider of salvation, deliverance from our enemies of sin and death (Isa. 49:6; 52:10). The Savior has come, and His gospel proclaims salvation to the whole world (Mk. 16:15; Rom. 1:16). 4) Your people Israel (v. 32). The Messiah came into the world through the nation of Israel, blessed among the nations (Rom. 9:4-5). But now, regardless of race and nationality, Gentiles and Jews are called by the gospel “to the mountain of the Lord,” “the house of the God of Jacob,” the church, the “Israel of God,” the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Isa. 2:2-3; Acts 2:47; Gal. 6:16; Col. 1:13; Gal. 3:28-29). Praise God for His spiritual provisions of salvation in Jesus, the Savior of the world (1 Jno. 4:14).
28 Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. 29 Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. (Acts 10:28–29, NKJV)
God separated Israel from the nations and codified that distinction in the law of Moses (Exo. 19:5-6; Deut. 7:1-11). That “middle wall of separation” was broken down in Christ (Eph. 2:14). God taught Peter the nations (Gentiles) were included in His redemptive plan by a dramatic vision. Clean and unclean animals were lowered in a sheet from heaven, and a voice told Peter, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat” (Acts 10:9-17). Peter drew the necessary conclusion not to call people “common or unclean.” That truth should permeate our thinking, words, and our treatment of others. Here are some lessons to ponder and apply. 1) The gospel is for all. Sin has defiled all of us (Rom. 3:23). Everyone needs sin’s stain cleansed by Christ (Rom. 1:16; Acts 22:16). Let us share the gospel so others may believe and turn to the Lord (Acts 11:21). 2) Prejudice has no place in the heart and life of Christians. God looks at the heart, not the outward appearance (skin color, ethnicity, gender, culture, caste, etc.) (1 Sam. 16:7). Grievous errors in judgment happen when based on appearance (Jno. 7:24; Prov. 18:13). 3) Obey God without objection (v. 29). When God has spoken, we listen and obey without resistance and complaint (1 Sam. 3:10). Christians must not murmur against the Lord’s will like Israel did in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:10). Peter’s example of learning and obeying God’s will continues to encourage us.
12 As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. 13 For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. (Galatians 6:12–13, NKJV)
Paul warned the Galatians of those whose teaching was perverting the gospel of Christ (Gal. 1:6-10; 2:4-5; 3:1-3). Their false doctrine of binding the Law of Moses on Gentile Christians was damning them and endangering many others (Gal. 1:8-9; 5:1-7). Paul summarized his letter to the Galatians with a scathing indictment of these opponents of the truth. They had hidden agendas (Gal. 2:4). 1) To escape persecution (v.12). These Jewish Christians were avoiding persecution by compromising (corrupting) the gospel. Fellow Jews would not persecute them “for the cross of Christ” if they showed solidarity over the Law of Moses. Changing our teaching to avoid persecution is a sin against Christ and the truth (Matt. 24:10-12; 1 Pet. 3:). 2) To boast in their accomplishment (v. 13). Like the hypocritical Pharisees who gloried in making proselytes, these Jewish Christians boasted in the circumcision of the Gentiles (Matt. 24:15; Phil. 3:4). They “zealously courted” the Gentile Christians, only to enslave them to their error to do their bidding (Gal. 4:17). We must only boast in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and never in personal accomplishments over others (Gal. 6:14-15; Rom. 15:17-18). Our faith must be free of personal agendas that tarnish the cause of Christ and His disciples.