Tuesday, December 2, 2014

All The Saints (part 14)

It is impossible to dismiss the drama that unfolds here in Jerusalem.  The roots of the drama run deep, portending an ideological, theological, and eschatological divide that is, as revealed in Paul’s constant attention to it, more than a little bit difficult to bridge.  For centuries, Jews stood on one side of that divide, with their covenant and their Temple that so epitomized and represented that covenant and its heretofore exclusive limitation to Israel. 

On the other side of that divide stood Gentiles---outside of the covenant unless they were willing to become Jews.  Even then, they would be excluded from full access to the Temple, and by logical extension, from full participation in the covenant.  In the middle stood the Christ, arms out-stretched to bridge that divide.  It would be part of the mission of His church, as understood by men such as Peter and Paul and others, to represent the all-embracing Christ of the Creator God, to bring it to pass that when one spoke of “all the saints,” that this was no longer the exclusive domain of national Israel, but was a phrase that was being spoken of a kingdom of all peoples. 

Clearly, the journey to bring such a thing about was going to be long, as even some that participated in the church, conceivably thinking of themselves as components of a new Temple and as citizens of that new kingdom, found it difficult to allow that bridge to be built in such a way as to allow Gentiles and Jews to meet in the middle, figuratively standing upon Jesus alone, and the Gospel claim about Him, as both the bridge and its underlying support. 

Opposition to Gentile participation within the covenant was not restricted to Jews that rejected the messianic status of Jesus.  Many believers, from national Israel, presumably along with other Gentiles that had previously Judaized and subsequently became believers in Jesus, accepted Jesus as the bridge and the foundation of that bridge, while also believing it to be necessary for Gentiles to cross that bridge to the side of the Jews as they had, taking upon themselves and placing themselves under the marks of the covenant, so as to participate in the long-awaited and greatly anticipated blessings promised to Abraham. 

So yes, the passions ran deep.  In fact, as Luke speaks with all of the fitting hyperbole that the situation required, it is said that “The whole city was stirred up, and the people rushed together.  They seized Paul and dragged him out of the Temple courts, and immediately the doors were shut” (Acts 21:30).  It doesn’t end there.  “While they were trying to kill him,” theoretically for bringing Gentiles into the Temple and thereby polluting the Temple, “a report was sent up to the commanding officer of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion” (21:31).  

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