“The Jew first”


Did todays’ church begin at Pentecost? As we will see, No!

From the O.T. days of Abraham through the writing of the epistle to the Romans ‘The Jew first’ is a key characteristic of God’s dealings with mankind. During the earthly ministry of Christ He limited His ministry as well as that of His 12 Apostles “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ (Matt. 15:24, 10:5-6). The Gentiles at that time were considered ‘dogs’ (see Matt. 7:6 and 15:26).

No Gentiles were at Pentecost!

Peter, on the day of Pentecost, addressed his words to ‘Ye men of Judaea’, ‘Ye men of Israel’, ‘All the house of Israel’ (cf. Acts 2:14, 22, 36). The God in whose name he spoke to the people was ‘The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers’ (Acts 3:13).

The Christ that Peter preached was the One Who had been raised from the dead ‘to sit on David’s throne’ (Acts 2:30), and Who had been sent to Israel ‘first’ (Acts 3:26) and Who had been exalted a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance unto Israel’ (Acts 5:31).

Peter was still a Law-Keeping Jew as of Acts 10.

It is manifestly impossible to believe by the testimony of the chief speaker himself that a single Gentile had been admitted to the Church inaugurated at Pentecost. We can say this because when Peter, only because he was constrained of God by a vision from heaven to yield to the request of Cornelius, he meets Cornelius with the words: “Ye know how that It Is An Unlawful Thing For A Man That Is A Jew To Keep Company, Or Come Unto One Of Another Nation [i.e., a Gentile] (Acts 10:28).

Therefore, Peter knew nothing of today’s Church where Jew and Gentile were ‘all one in Christ.’ Further, by his own confession Peter would have classified Cornelius with dogs and swine up to the time of the vision at Joppa. (cf. Acts 10:14, 28)

But God hath showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean” (cf. Acts 10:14, 28).

Peter knew nothing of today’s false religious tradition of Christendom that the says ‘church’ began at Pentecost. Peter’s attitude was not personal, it simply was the belief of all the Messianic Jewish believers at the time:

‘They of the circumcision [Israel] which believed were astonished ... because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost(Acts 10:45). These words disprove the prevailing Christians religious idea that a single Gentile received the baptism of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

The Messianic Jewish Church at Jerusalem, who at that time were also ignorant of the idea that Gentiles could be “granted repentance unto life,” scolded Peter for his going to Cornelius.

‘When Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended [resisted] with him, saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them’ (Acts 11:2-3).

Search the record, today’s Church of the Gentile “Body of Christ is impossible to find in that time period.

The testimony of Acts 11:18-19 makes it conclusive. It reveals that the first time the Pentecostal Jewish Church at Jerusalem recognized the possibility of a Gentile being saved:

Paul asks; “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” (v18)

At that time “… they [the Jews] which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen ... [were] preaching the word TO NONE BUT UNTO THE JEWS ONLY.” (v19)

The “Jew first” in Romans.

Space will not allow us to cover the whole field of the Acts and the epistles of the Acts period. It will suffice, however, to discover the dispensational position of Jewish and Gentile believers in Paul’s last epistle written by Paul BEFORE the throw-down of Israel in Acts 28 – the book of ‘Romans.’ It was written about the time of Acts 20 while Paul was a prisoner in bonds.

In Romans 1:16 the Messianic gospel is to the Jew first. In Romans 2:9 judgment is to the Jew first. In Romans 2:10 blessing is to the Jew first.

In Romans 3:1-2 advantage and profit are admitted as pertaining to the Jew. Paul writes;

“What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? 2 Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” Romans 3:1-2)

Although, regarding sin there is no difference. Paul writes;

“What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are All Under Sin;” Romans 3:9 (KJV)

So stubbornly did the Jewish Church hold to their privileged position, that the apostle Paul had to ask:

‘Is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also of the Gentiles?’ (3:29).

In Romans 9:4-5 the advantages and privileges of the circumcision (i.e., Israel) are detailed, every item of which is exclusive to Israel according to the flesh (their racial birth).

Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; 5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.” Romans 9:4-5 (KJV)

The Wild Olive.

In Romans 11:17-25 the position of Gentile believers dispensationally is set forth under the figure of an olive tree. Israel is the olive (Jer. 11:16,17), but ‘some of the branches’ had been broken off. The Gentile believers who ‘stood by faith were Wild Olive Branches Graffed In Among Them.’ But there was No Such Thing As Perfect Equality. The Gentiles were 2nd class under Israel and Israel’s program at that time. But, this is how Gentiles of that time came to ‘everlasting life’ during Acts.

When we come to Paul’s Post-Acts epistle of Ephesians, we find a completely different state of affairs.

The middle wall abolished – no more 2nd class status.

‘For He is our peace, Who hath made the both one [Gentile and Jew], and hath broken down the middle wall of partition’ (Eph. 2:14). (see https://artlicursi.com/articles/middle-wall-partition-now-broken-down )

It will be of service if we make clear to every reader what ‘the middle wall’ really is. There was discovered at Jerusalem a slab of stone bearing an inscription, the translation of which is somewhat as follows:

“No one being a foreigner may enter within the enclosure around the holy place. Whoever is apprehended will himself be to blame for his death which will certainly follow.”

You should remember the violent attempt made by the Jews upon Paul, because they believed he had taken Trophimus, a Gentile, into the Court of Israel. (cf. Acts 21:27-28)

While that middle wall stood (during Acts), the Jew was first. But with the setting aside of Israel in Acts 28, the dispensational superiority of Israel as God’s favored nation ceased [at least for a time].

In the risen and ascended Christ a new sphere was founded, no longer in the flesh, but “in the spirit” and in the super-heavenlies. The Gentiles ‘in the flesh’ were ‘without hope’ (Eph. 2:11-12), but those in Christ by faith have access to “the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3) seated in Christ “far above all.” (Eph. 1:21).

The Jews ‘in the flesh’ had had the advantage (Rom. 9). By contrast, now in the Post-Acts 28:28 Church of the “One Body” there is perfect equality among Jew and Gentile (Eph. 3:6). In this new heavenly calling and sphere of blessing, wherein all racial distinctions vanish, and ‘One NEW MAN’ is created (Eph. 2:15).

The both one. Notice the emphasis upon the unity here made “in Christ.”

‘He is our peace, Who hath made THE BOTH ONE. (Middle wall broken down, with the Jewish distinctive ordinances abolished).

To create in Himself of THE TWAIN ONE New Man, so making peace: And that He might reconcile THE BOTH unto God in ONE BODY (Enmity slain - Peace preached). Through Him we THE BOTH have access by one Spirit unto the Father (Eph. 2:14-18).

Instead of being excluded from an earthly temple the Gentile believer is himself built together as a holy temple in the Lord. Instead of the Jew having the prior elevated place access now is for the both by one Spirit unto the Father.

The Threefold Equality of the Members f The Joint “Body of Christ.”

The apostle Paul sums up the new position in Ephesians 3:6-7. Here the most important word is that which is expressed in English by ‘Co’ or ‘Joint’. It occurs three times: ‘That the Gentiles should be -

(1) Joint heirs, and a

(2) Joint body, and

(3) Joint partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel, whereof “Paul was made a minister.”

Here then, after the Acts period, is the charter of equality for every member of the One “Body of Christ.”

  • It is higher and deeper than the covenant of Abraham for Israel.
  • It goes beyond the inheritance either of the promised land, or the New Jerusalem for Israel.
  • It is essentially linked with a New Creation, a New Man, a Super-Heavenly sphere, and God’s purpose pre-dating "the foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4).

This doctrine is a special revelation’ received by Paul from the ascended Lord Jesus and … passed from Paul to us. It was a “mystery [Grk. musterion, secret]” hid in and by Goduntil the time came, AFTER ACTS, to make it known.

That time after Acts 28:28, was during Paul’s imprisonment at Rome. It is found with all teaching essential to it in these four prison epistles, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and 2 Timothy, and these epistles become the standard whereby the applicability of other Scriptures is tested. We enjoy and learn from all Scripture but only here do we get our instruction, and learn of our calling, and our heavenly hope.

Paul, as “the Apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:13) announces “the church, which is His body” in Ephesians 1:22b-23a, his first Post-Acts epistle, being written from prison in Rome. This is a new church is based on a new gospel that points us to heaven as our eternal destiny (Col 3:4).

When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in [heaven’s] glory. (Col. 3:4) 20 For our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious [resurrection] body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. Philippians 3:20-21 (KJV) “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;” (Titus 2:13)

We have no written laws to follow, though Paul did offer his fatherly counseling to us concerning Christian living, these usually appear in the 2nd half of His Post-Acts epistles.

For example, some Scriptures teach the observation of the Sabbath. Colossians 2:16 is the passage which decides this question for the member of “the One Body.” And so with all questions, regarding what we eat or drink, celebratory seasons, and days. These are done away in Christ. We are free from all external regulation and observances. We live by “the Spirit of life” and “the word of truth.”

Now we Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:” Colossians 2:16 (KJV)

  • Portions taken and adapted from Charles Baker