Mark 7.24-27 and Acts 13.46 – Salvation is of the Jews
Posted: 5 February 2013 in Acts, Mark

“And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid. For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet: The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter. But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.”

“Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.”

The above passages is a theme which recurs on at least four occasions in the New Testament – namely that salvation must first of all be offered to the Jews, and only after they had failed to recognise their Messiah might it be offered to the Gentiles. A similar thought is to be found in Romans 11. Mark, when he wrote his gospel, was writing primarily for a Gentile audience, but even so he clearly felt unable to supress a saying of Jesus that might have put Gentile noses out of joint. If nothing else, this consistency testifies against the often heard claim that the Bible contradicts itself.

An incautious reader might find in these passages the suggestion that God had first chosen a people to worship and serve him (ancient Israel), and only after they had failed to fulfill the commission given them did he had to turn th the Gentiles in desperation. And that, of course, would be nonsense. Nothing comes as a surprise to God and his plans never fail. So the failure of most Jews to recognise Jesus as their Messiah, and SWon of God, must have been part of his plan since before the beginning of time. Not that the Gentiles did much better, as the riot at Ephesus, instigated by the worshippers of a pagan god, testifies (Acts 19.23ff). They too were blinded by original sin.

It could be asked why it was necessary for the Jews first to fail in their vocation, and only then could salvation come to the Gentiles. There is no clear answer to that. Possibly the number of people chosen for salvation needed (in some sense) to have their number made up following the Jews’ failure.

The title of this post is another quote from Jesus (John 4.22). Much about God’s working must remain mysterious to us, and we can know only that which he reveals to us, but accepting what the Bible has to say about the primary role of Jews in God’s plan of salvation must, for us Gentiles, be an exercise in humility.

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