- Published: 30 August 2010
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The mystery was first announced and defined in 9 words in Acts 28:28 , The Salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles. And that Salvation was Christ. Now the question comes up as to how this may have been worked out in the ministry of Paul to whom this mystery was revealed and he the steward to proclaim it.
We discover that in epistles of Paul written after Acts 28:28, the word Gentiles appears 10 times. Nine of these have to do with Paul's ministry of the mystery among the Gentiles. They occur in Ephesians, Colossians, 1 Timothy, and 2 Timothy. It might add more light if we look at these and see what they have to say about the Gentiles.
Eph. 2:11 Ephesians 2:11. In time past Gentiles in the flesh. He is talking to Gentiles who had been believers in the time past, Acts period, where they were children of faithful Abraham by faith, were grafted into Israel to receive blessings, and so would partake of Israel's hope. There has been a change. They no longer have any relationship to Israel. All believers have been welded together into a new creation, the church which is the body of Christ. This is a new creation. Israel is off the scene.
Ephesians 3:1. I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles. This new creation is now called Gentiles. The church of the dispensation of the mystery is called Gentiles. The church of the dispensation of promise was called Israel.
Ephesians 3:6. That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ. In Israel there never had been an equality. One tribe was above the rest as to kingship. One tribe for priesthood, and even in Acts there was a diversity of gifts, not an equality. But in the mystery there is equality as to being heirs, being members, and even of a promise which Israel never had.
Ephesians 3:8. That I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. Paul's ministry had been during Acts to the Jew first. No Jew now in view. He is to preach among the Gentiles. The expectation of the Jews had been cut off and they were blind to any spiritual truth except they should become as Gentiles and believe the mystery.
Ephesians 4:17. Walk not as other Gentiles walk. In all other instances the word Gentiles has been used in these latter epistles of believers, members of the church which is the body of Christ, and of which He is the Head. But these Gentiles here mentioned are outside this group.
At no time were uncircumcised Jews called Gentiles in the Word. Be not deceived. If any during Acts could have been uncircumcised Jews (and that very unlikely) their first duty would have been to be circumcised. So then the Gentiles in Galatia could not have been Jews.
We have found Gentiles mentioned 5 times in Ephesians Now we see that they are mentioned once in Col, and twice in each of the letters to Timothy. Let us look at them.
Colossians 1:27. To whom (saints) God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Now the hope of glory, as found in Colossians 3:1-4 is the manifestation of Christ with His saints, the members of the church which is His body. That is where their citizenship is (Philippians 3:20) and so that is where they will awake in resurrection.
1 Timothy 2:7. I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verify. As in Ephesians 3:1 and other places, there is the one new man created, the body of Christ and spoken of as Gentiles. The Jew has been absorbed in this new creation.
1 Timothy 3:16. Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up info glory. Glory is the place to which He ascended. It tells us where? But here the word preached is the participle and means that He was preached unto the Gentiles.
2 Timothy 1:11. I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. We note in all these references that Paul is not preaching to Gentile believers in the Synagogues as he did in Acts period, but this is his sole commission after Acts, that is, to preach to Gentiles and them only. The Jew is gone from the scene and cannot be first as formerly.
2 Timothy 4:17. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. Note here especially that all Gentiles were to hear, not a few that attended the synagogue and believed and then were grafted into the kingdom when the Jews rejected it. This is an entirely different setting. It could be that he still means those Gentiles who believe, but he now wants to tell all of them the good news of the dispensation of the mystery. There is now no message for the Jew as such. He has been divorced and off the scene. So all that are left for him to preach to are the Gentiles (uncircumcision) and the few of the circumcision who now are Gentiles in name.
Formerly the hope was Israel's hope and Gentiles sharing it. But now, it is the hope of the Gentiles and Israel can share in it. This has more angles which we do not have room for.
Now for contrast and comparison, note use of uncircumcision in Ephesians 2:11; Colossians 2:13; 3:11. Also circumcision in Ephesians 2:11; Philippians 3:3; Colossians 2:11; 3:11; 4:11, and Titus 1:10. All these need to be studied in context and compared and contrasted. This is your part of the study.