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).
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).
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.
6 But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” 8 That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. (Romans 9:6–8, NKJV)
God showed His faithfulness by fulfilling His promise to Abraham that “in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 22:18). The gospel of Christ reveals this promised blessing as salvation from sins “for everyone who believes, for the Jew first, and also for the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). The gospel also makes it clear the “children of the promise” are now the children of God. The promised blessing is obtained in Jesus Christ, not as a Jew under the Law of Moses (Gal. 3:16-19). Whether Jew or Gentile, “we are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,” not through the Law of Moses (Gal. 3:23-27). The nation of Israel is no longer God’s chosen people. God chose us “in Christ” for redemption, regardless of race (Eph. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13). In Christ, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). Being a citizen of the nation of Israel does not make one a child of God. The church is now the “Israel of God” (Gal. 6:15-16).
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. (Ephesians 2:13–16, NKJV)
The blood of Jesus brings the nations near to God (Eph. 2:11-12). Access to redemption of the soul from sin in Christ is available to the whole world – both Jews and Gentiles (Rom. 1:16-17). This was a joyous message to Gentiles in the first century, and it continues to be so. Peace with God is not dependent upon your physical ancestry, but upon your faith in Christ (Rom. 4:16; 9:6-8). Christ is the means of our peace with God and with our fellow man. The law of Moses, which identified sin for the Jews, also presented a barrier between the Jews from the Gentiles (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:22-25). The death of Jesus abolished (vanquished) that barrier as it “broke down the middle wall of separation” (v. 14). The new man that is created in Christ is not fashioned after the “law of commandments contained in ordinances” (v. 15), but after Christ Himself. The “one new man” signifies the unity of the body of Christ, His church (v. 16). Thank God we have peace with God in the church by the blood of Jesus (v. 13).
13 And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, ‘Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, 14 who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.’ (Acts 11:13–14, NKJV)
Many well-meaning people have been deceived to believe their salvation depends on a supernatural experience – perhaps it’s speaking in tongues, perhaps it’s a vision, perhaps it’s a warm burning inside they interpret as the Holy Spirit confirming the truth of their conversion – none of which are taught in the New Testament as the means or the basis of one’s salvation. Peter’s rehearsal of the events at the house of Cornelius helps us understand the way God saves the lost. Cornelius was a moral, religious, charitable man of good reputation, yet lost (Acts 10:10:1-2, 22; 11:14). An angel visited him, instructing him to send for Peter to hear words from him, which he did (Acts 10:3-6, 22, 32-33). While doing so, the Holy Spirit miraculously confirmed that Gentiles can be saved just like Jews (Acts 10:34-43, 44-47; 11:15-17). With that, Peter “commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:48). This convinced the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem that “God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life” (Acts 11:18; 15:7-11). It ought to convince us, too. God’s way to salvation is hearing and believing the gospel, confessing faith, repenting of sins, and being baptized to be saved (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:37-38, 41).