By Graham Pearce
T CANNOT BE DENIED that the restoration of the nation of Israel in righteousness is the foundation of Jesus' preaching. The words of the angel to Mary are brief, and their brevity emphasizes their importance on such a momentous occasion. The angel makes no direct mention of forgiveness of sins other than announcing the name Jesus; there is the clear simple statement that the son of God is to be given the throne of his father David. Zechariahs witness by the Holy Spirit at the end of the chapter is in line with this. God has raised up an horn of salvation in the house of David who should deliver the nation from their enemies, that they might serve God in holiness and righteousness. This is the New Testament introduction of Jesusas the coming king on Davids throne, and saviour.
When Jesus entered his ministry, the good news he taught was that he was the fulfillment of Gods promise, he was the king and saviour. In him the kingdom of God had come nigh. The faithful who pressed to hear him knew well the glorious theme of their prophets: "Behold the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days shall Judah be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is the name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Jer. 23:5,6). "In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and will build it as in the days of old; And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; and shall also make gardens and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD God". (Amos 9:11-15). Jesus teaching emphasized the change of heart, and the seeking righteousness that was essential to participate in the kingdom of God, but he in no way changed the character of what they already knew from the prophets. He encouraged the disciples to look for the restoration of their polity in righteousness. "Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye shall also sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel"(Matt 19:28).
This political foundation to his preaching was continued to the end. The seal to his teaching was given when he "witnessed a good confession before Pilate" (1 Tim. 6:13). And what was his confession? That he was king of the Jews: and so his accusation declared "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews". If that was not his role, he could have told Pilate so, and escaped crucifixion. But as it was "the Truth" (John 18:37-38), he did not waver, but witnessed a good confession.
We have confirmation of the nature of Pauls preaching in the confessions he makes at the several trials reported in the last six chapters of the Acts. His witness was essentially to the risen Christ, that he is the one looked for as the Messiah from the prophetical writings: "saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come" (Acts 26:22). "Now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God to our fathers: unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come"(verses 6 & 7). So Paul in his preaching keeps close to the original statement of the Holy Spirit by Zecharias at the birth of John BaptistGod had remembered his promises to the fathers and would save them from their enemies through Jesus of Nazareth, that they might serve him in holiness and righteousness.
When writing to the believers in the Galatian ecclesias, bewitched by Judaisers, does he say forget the things of Israel? No, Abraham and the promises are the foundation of his argument: it is the blessing of Abraham that is to come upon the Gentiles. This concerns the inheritancethe inheritance of the land of promisebut it is not by the Law, but by the promise to Abraham. (Chapter 3:14-18). He concludes this chapter: "And if ye be Christs then are ye Abrahams seed and heirs according to the promise". Thus, in his arguments, the original promises to Abraham stand as a prior matter. There is to be a change of constitution for the nation (Galatians chapter 4), when they enter on their future inheritance along with the saints, but the concept of the material inheritance is still fundamental.
Honouring God by Believing His Word
It is the wholehearted belief in Gods promises to Israel that pleases God. The understanding and acceptance of these things is the basis of faith being reckoned for righteousness. It was Abrahams belief in the promised seed and the promised land as a possession, that constituted the faith by which he was accounted righteous. As Paul says: "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should afterward receive for an inheritance, obeyed and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise" (Heb. 11:8, 9). Paul exhorted the Hebrew christians to hold fast in this same faith; and he exhorts us to do so. Do not be beguiled by the reasoning of men. It is an important part of our pleasing God, to believe that what He has promised to do in the earth He will perform, and to believe that we too may have our reward in the fulfillment of those promises, (Heb. 11:6).
Extracts taken from "What Is The True Gospel?" 1972.
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