I want to include one final Old Testament quote in this series on the salvation of the Gentiles. In Romans 15, Paul quotes the Old Testament six times, four of which comprise the section directed at the subject of the salvation of the Gentiles. This occurs in Romans 15:8-12. There was a previous quote in Romans 15:3 from Psalm 69:9 which I posted about. Then later in the chapter, Paul quotes Isaiah 52:15 in Romans 15:21. I believe this Old Testament quote also brings light to the question of the salvation of the Gentiles, specifically concerning the preaching of the good news to them. Let’s explore.
Let’s look at the progression of Paul’s line of thought after he explodes concerning Gentiles rejoicing alongside Israel. Paul is not done writing about the Gentiles after the mini-explosion in 15:8-12. In verse 16 he reveals his office which has been given to him by God. He writes, "…a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit."
First, we see that Paul’s specific ministry is among the Gentiles. This was declared to Ananias before he gave Saul his sight back, Acts 9:15. The timing in the book of Acts is pivotal. Thus far the Israelite church had preached only to Israelites, and then secondarily to Samaritans. Samaritans were ultimately Israelites who had forsaken the Mosaic covenant. In Acts 9 Saul is set apart for ministry among the Gentiles. In Acts 10 the way of salvation is opened up to the Gentiles by one of the twelve. The twelve compose the nucleus of the Israelite church, as they will sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel, Matthew 19:28, Luke 22:28-30.
Some may read Acts 1 improperly and suggest that Peter jumps the gun when he testified that someone needed to take Judas Iscariot’s place. There is nothing in the text to even hint that Luke believes they were wrong to choose Matthias. Further, the lay out of the material is such that Peter shows that the promise of the Holy Spirit would not come unless they had fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies contained in Psalm 69:25 and 109:8. Now that there were twelve once again, the Holy Spirit would come and anoint the Israelite church. Some would suggest that Paul was the actual twelfth apostle. Paul is not. Paul is an apostle, but his ministry is to the Gentiles. The twelve had their ministry to Israel and are foundation stones for the rest of the church. Don’t think me mid-Acts dispy, this is the way the scriptures are laid out.
Saul visits Jerusalem for the first time in Acts 9:26-30. This is the time where Saul met Peter as described in Galatians 1:18. So Peter was present in Jerusalem at the time of Saul’s visit. Luke lays out the material quite chronologically. Peter does not visit Cornelius at Caesarea until well after Saul had received his sight. The LORD set apart Saul for ministry amongst the Gentiles, then opened up the way of salvation to the Gentiles. This subject of the Gentiles having their very own Israelite apostle is what the children of Israel found so appalling in Acts 22:21. When Saul first came to Jerusalem all those years ago, the LORD spoke to him about his office. He was to go to the Gentiles. When the children of Israel heard this in their own Hebrew language, they thought him worthy of the death penalty. Paul’s testimony before Agrippa in Acts 26:17 gives the same information concerning ministry among the Gentiles, but does not provoke nearly the same response. The offense was strictly against Israelite nationalism.
My conclusion is that Paul’s office as an apostle was specifically to minister to Gentiles, not to be identified as one of the twelve. It is true that Paul had a ministry amongst his own people. But Paul claims that the best thing he could do is win Gentiles to provoke his own countrymen to jealousy, Romans 11:13-14.
Second, Paul is a priest offering up the salvation of the Gentiles as a sacrifice to the LORD. He writes, "in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit." He continues by boasting of this offering which he knows to be acceptable in God’s sight. He goes so far as to say that he will not venture to speak of anything except what Messiah has accomplished in bringing Gentiles to obedience in the Messiah. The preaching, the signs, the wonders, the miracles, all this has been orchestrated by the Spirit of God to bring Gentiles to faith. Paul boasts that from Jerusalem to Illyricum that he has preached this good news to the Gentiles. It is truly an offering well pleasing to the LORD.
Third, Paul has a train of thought going before he quotes Isaiah 52:15. In verse 20 he is describing how he has made it his ambition to preach among people who have never heard about the Messiah. He is still describing his office as the apostle to the Gentiles. He is still describing the priestly offering of the Gentiles to the LORD. He is still describing the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles. Paul says that his ambition is not to build on someone else’s foundation. His ministry has been ordained by God to be among people who have never heard about the Messiah. The foundation he is describing is the Israelite foundation, now consisting of the twelve apostles at Jerusalem. Instead of building on the foundation of the Israelite church headed by the twelve apostles at Jerusalem*, he writes that an Old Testament scripture is being fulfilled. "As it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand." Paul saw the present preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles in Isaiah 52:15. Can we?
Let’s examine Isaiah 52:15 in its original context. Isaiah 52 is too intertwined to completely expound upon from a Pre-Millennial point of view in such a short post. Briefly, Isaiah saw the restoration of Jerusalem, but many other events as well. The main goal of Isaiah’s preaching was to provoke the children of Israel to repentance based on God’s knowledge of the future. God would give the wake up call to Zion, 52:1. This wake up call is a response to Israel’s plea to the LORD to wake up and defend her, Isaiah 51:9. God says, "Me wake up? You need to wake up and recognize your God!" Jerusalem will be freed from oppression, cleansed from uncleanness, and clothed with beautiful garments, 52:1-2. Then in the prophecies which follow, the LORD reveals to Isaiah how it will happen.
Isaiah 52:7-10 contains the preaching of good news, the proclamation of peace, and glad tidings of good things. But the original context seems to suggest that this will occur at the same time that the LORD is bringing back Zion from captivity, rebuilding the wasted places of Jerusalem, and flexing His muscles in the eyes of all nations on behalf of Israel. Clearly these things are second advent. All the ends of the earth will see this salvation of the God of Israel when He accomplishes these things. As God restores Israel, the good news will go forth. If we didn’t know any better, we could say that this good news will be preached only when God reclaims the nation of Israel for His own. Based only on 7-10, we can’t nail this timing down for certain from a purely Old Testament perspective. Preliminarily, I will say that both advents tie so closely together, that Isaiah saw a cause and effect here.
I won’t go too in depth about 52:11-12 and why Paul quotes this verse in II Corinthians 6:17. Isaiah saw the development of a system which would tempt God’s people away from Him. This system is coexistent with the preaching of the gospel. So when the gospel is being preached, evil is not yet vanquished, only disguised. Since we are in the context of Jerusalem, I believe it will play a part in fulfilling this prophecy. The prophecy of course points to the entity known as Babylon in the New Testament, Revelation 18:4. This points to the climax of evil at the end of the age just before God "brings back Zion". I’m referring, of course, to the great tribulation.
Now for 52:13-15, the section that Paul quotes in Romans 15:21.
13 Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently;
He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.
Just as many were astonished at you,
So His visage was marred more than any man,
And His form more than the sons of men;
So shall He sprinkle many nations.
Kings shall shut their mouths at Him;
For what had not been told them they shall see,
And what they had not heard they shall consider.
The Servant throughout Isaiah has consistently been Messiah. Here is a description of the Messiah exalted high. But in the same passage, many are astonished at how disfigured He is. Gentile Kings will have nothing to say at this sight; they will be put to silence. The reason why is that a great mystery which was hidden from them is now told to them and they understand. It almost seems like we have a contradiction. How can the Messiah be exalted high, yet disfigured beyond what any other man has ever been?
This is a progression which has been revealed in Isaiah 42 and 49 already. The Messiah is meek and mild, Gentiles trust in Him, then comes like a man of war. The Messiah is personally given as a covenant to Israel, Gentiles are shown this light, then He restores Israel after this. Here we have no contradiction. It’s the same Messiah who is destined to rule in glory that will suffer this disfigurement. As He suffers, He will sprinkle many Gentile nations. These nations will now have the revelation of the Messiah of Israel brought to them. Isaiah continues into chapter 53 by further revealing what this disfigurement will include. Chapter 53 is so well known as referring to Messiah’s death that I will not expound.
The prophecies concerning Messiah’s first advent and second advent preliminarily seem to be intertwined to the point where we cannot separate them. But upon examination, it breaks down quite clearly. We see that Messiah has already come, suffered, died, and given Himself as a covenant. We see that currently Gentiles are being brought the light of the Messiah, they understand the message which was previously hidden to them, and they learn to trust in Him. We see that in the future, this same Messiah will bring back Zion from captivity, rebuild the waste placed of Jerusalem, and flex His muscles in the eyes of all nations on behalf of Israel. Just because God is fulfilling these prophecies to Gentiles now does not mean that Israel has been replaced or superceded; in fact, quite the opposite. If God is fulfilling His plans amongst the Gentiles now just as He said He would, then He will fulfill His promises to Israel just as He said He would.
Let’s go back to Romans 15:21. Paul saw exactly what Isaiah saw. He believed he was fulfilling the prophecies of Isaiah 52:13-15 as he preached among the Gentile nations. Paul even continues further with his line of thought when writing concerning the collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem, Romans 15:25-27. These Gentile saints were giving a monetary offering to Israelite saints because they were partakers of the spiritual things of Israel. Israel as a nation had not been done away with, replaced, or superceded at the time that Paul wrote Romans. Instead, God was working through the Israelite remnant which had not been blinded, but believed on Messiah Jesus by faith.
This is it for my series on the salvation of the Gentiles. I didn’t realize it would take this long, or result in so many posts. Taken together, we are currently in the time of salvation for Gentiles as individuals. The gospel is being preached throughout the entire world. But the time is closing upon us. The end of the age is near. Messiah will come again with vengeance. Gentile nations will be smashed. Only the righteous will be able to enter His kingdom. Yet when He comes, salvation will still be available. He will continue to reach out to Gentile nations as a whole when He assumes His role as the King-Priest. His Kingdom will last for 1000 years before the final revolt. But Satan will not be able to undo Messiah’s work. Satan is only a pawn, doomed to fulfill his role.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman
My post on Isaiah 42 can be found here.
My post on Isaiah 54-55 can be found here.
* Note: There is no contradiction here with Ephesians 2:14-22. Paul is talking about the ministry of the preaching of the gospel, not the inclusion of Gentiles within the plan of salvation. Both Israelites and Gentiles are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. But the nation of Israel has a destiny to be provoked to jealousy by Gentile believers. Israel also will be restored, raised up, and regathered as promised in the Old Testament. Gentile nations will take their place of subservience to Israel and Israel’s Messiah at His second advent. There is only one people of God. This does not mean that Israelites and Gentiles are the same thing, though.