God working outside the covenants

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danmpem

Puritan Board Junior
I need a little help understanding the role the OT covenants play in OT salvation. At first glance, it would make sense that the only people who could be saved were those within God's covenants with Moses, Israel, etc., and then Ephesians 3 tells us that after the cross Gentiles could be saved through the grace of God. But then we see situations like those with Jonah or Ruth, for example, when Gentiles were under God's grace. It seems clear to me that God saves even those who were outside his covenants, but if that is the case, then what were the real purposes of the covenants then? (Meaning, I always thought one of the purposes of His covenants was to display his divine election) . If Gentiles could already be saved through the grace of God just like the Jews, then why does Paul treat the topic like such a 'mystery' in Ephesians 3? Could someone please help me understand this?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Examples like Caleb (Edomite background), Ruth (Moabite), Uriah (Hittite), Ittai (Gittite/Philistine), or even more dramatically Naaman (Syran), the sailors with Jonah (Phoenicians?), or as I believe even Nebuchadnezzar--are simple evidence that salvation has always been "by grace alone, through faith alone." People like Ruth or Ittai came to faith in Jehovah, and then were folded into the covenant-community. Read the story of David fleeing Absolom (2 Sam 15), and note who are marked out as cleaving to God's anointed--it was the outsiders who had come to place themselves under God's anointed, while Israel and Judah largely either rebelled or stayed "neutral".

Others like Naaman or Jethro demonstrate their faith, but return back home. But there is little evidence that they are condemned for not going all the way. Clearly they show less than radical devotion like the others, but when Jesus holds Naaman up as an alien whose faith was redemptive as a rebuke to the nation (Lk. 4:27)--that alone is instructive.

But did these people "come to faith" all on their own? Or were there "teachers"? Naaman was "evangelized" by a little slave-girl stolen from the 10 Tribes. Jonah preached the gospel to the mariners even before the Ninevites, surely some of whom (we should admit) were more than outwardly affected only. People still need to hear the good news.

And there was not that much of a "good witness" by Israel in the world. At least, that was the prophet's complaint, which St. Paul echoes in Rom. 2:24, Is. 52:5, cf. Eze. 36:23. They were seldom a light to the nations (Deut. 4, 7-8; cf. Is. 60:3). Jesus actually condemned the residue of their largely unfruitful missionary enterprise, Mt. 23:15.

The administration of Moses' covenant DID signify divine election, doing so in an external fashion. But just being in the OT church never once was a guarantee of election, while it was still a far greater blessing to be so close to the truth and right worship of God, in the hearing of the gospel their whole lives (Rom 3:1,2; Ps. 115; Deut. 30:14). Still, the converse should be noted: that NOT being in the church was almost certain to cut one off from God forever. How FEW of all the nations came to follow the true God, once they had "forgotten" him (Ps. 9:17)! Except for a miracle of calling (exceptional, like Abraham) it took a missionary--a bearer of the truth--and a heart prepared by God. And God had most evidently called very few from anyplace outside Israel. And (obviously) far less than a majority of ethnic Jews either (1 Cor. 10:5; and not just a single generation, Deut. 32:20f; cf. Rom 10:19).

And Eph 3? What of this "mystery"? Simply this: that the "obvious" means of evangelizing the nations all through the OT was through an expanding "Jewish" nation or confederacy, or some such notion, with the Jerusalem as the center of a worldwide cult. Paul, as Lead-missionary to the Gentiles, was the sign that the opposite (a previously "hidden" thing) was true, namely that God design (previously kept hidden) was that the CHURCH was to be spread abroad through the nations, with no "geographic center" whatsoever. The "political" nation had served its signatory purpose: it had existed as a 1500 year old "sermon illustration" (thank you for that, RSC), a preserver of truth in a world of growing darkness, and a preserver of the Seed of the woman--the Savior of the whole world. No more need for it; abandon the distraction; God's kingdom is a spiritual one.

All that was totally outside the expectations of the Jews, even (or perhaps especially) in the days of Jesus and the early NT Church. "God's purposes no longer centered on the Jews? Ridiculous!" many said. That was at least a part of the Judaizing error. And sadly, we have seen the bizarre revival of a Christian balkanizing zionism or political judaizing in the phenomenon of Dispensationalism. A literal "making two new men from one" (to invert and pervert Eph 2:15).

Anyway, hope this gives you something to chew on.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
I love this: "The "political" nation had served its signatory purpose: it had existed as a 1500 year old "sermon illustration"

I might add that it has continued for another 2000 years as a 'sermon illustration' in the preaching of preachers all over the world!
 

danmpem

Puritan Board Junior
Examples like Caleb (Edomite background), Ruth (Moabite), Uriah (Hittite), Ittai (Gittite/Philistine), or even more dramatically Naaman (Syran), the sailors with Jonah (Phoenicians?), or as I believe even Nebuchadnezzar--are simple evidence that salvation has always been "by grace alone, through faith alone." People like Ruth or Ittai came to faith in Jehovah, and then were folded into the covenant-community. Read the story of David fleeing Absolom (2 Sam 15), and note who are marked out as cleaving to God's anointed--it was the outsiders who had come to place themselves under God's anointed, while Israel and Judah largely either rebelled or stayed "neutral".

Others like Naaman or Jethro demonstrate their faith, but return back home. But there is little evidence that they are condemned for not going all the way. Clearly they show less than radical devotion like the others, but when Jesus holds Naaman up as an alien whose faith was redemptive as a rebuke to the nation (Lk. 4:27)--that alone is instructive.

But did these people "come to faith" all on their own? Or were there "teachers"? Naaman was "evangelized" by a little slave-girl stolen from the 10 Tribes. Jonah preached the gospel to the mariners even before the Ninevites, surely some of whom (we should admit) were more than outwardly affected only. People still need to hear the good news.

And there was not that much of a "good witness" by Israel in the world. At least, that was the prophet's complaint, which St. Paul echoes in Rom. 2:24, Is. 52:5, cf. Eze. 36:23. They were seldom a light to the nations (Deut. 4, 7-8; cf. Is. 60:3). Jesus actually condemned the residue of their largely unfruitful missionary enterprise, Mt. 23:15.

The administration of Moses' covenant DID signify divine election, doing so in an external fashion. But just being in the OT church never once was a guarantee of election, while it was still a far greater blessing to be so close to the truth and right worship of God, in the hearing of the gospel their whole lives (Rom 3:1,2; Ps. 115; Deut. 30:14). Still, the converse should be noted: that NOT being in the church was almost certain to cut one off from God forever. How FEW of all the nations came to follow the true God, once they had "forgotten" him (Ps. 9:17)! Except for a miracle of calling (exceptional, like Abraham) it took a missionary--a bearer of the truth--and a heart prepared by God. And God had most evidently called very few from anyplace outside Israel. And (obviously) far less than a majority of ethnic Jews either (1 Cor. 10:5; and not just a single generation, Deut. 32:20f; cf. Rom 10:19).

And Eph 3? What of this "mystery"? Simply this: that the "obvious" means of evangelizing the nations all through the OT was through an expanding "Jewish" nation or confederacy, or some such notion, with the Jerusalem as the center of a worldwide cult. Paul, as Lead-missionary to the Gentiles, was the sign that the opposite (a previously "hidden" thing) was true, namely that God design (previously kept hidden) was that the CHURCH was to be spread abroad through the nations, with no "geographic center" whatsoever. The "political" nation had served its signatory purpose: it had existed as a 1500 year old "sermon illustration" (thank you for that, RSC), a preserver of truth in a world of growing darkness, and a preserver of the Seed of the woman--the Savior of the whole world. No more need for it; abandon the distraction; God's kingdom is a spiritual one.

All that was totally outside the expectations of the Jews, even (or perhaps especially) in the days of Jesus and the early NT Church. "God's purposes no longer centered on the Jews? Ridiculous!" many said. That was at least a part of the Judaizing error. And sadly, we have seen the bizarre revival of a Christian balkanizing zionism or political judaizing in the phenomenon of Dispensationalism. A literal "making two new men from one" (to invert and pervert Eph 2:15).

Anyway, hope this gives you something to chew on.

:popcorn: Thank you! It did help me understand it more.
 
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