Taking verses out of context can be dangerous and lead to some pretty strange interpretations of the Scriptures. Recently, I heard a radio show offering free information and I called in to receive a free book and CD on how to “properly” interpret the Bible.
In brief, the information says that we just need to pay attention to the Pauline books of the Bible, because the other ones are written to other folks.
From Genesis up to Acts of the Apostles was all to Jews according to this information. The Pauline Letters are for us Gentiles. From Hebrews to Revelation is for some future time for both Jews and Gentiles.
They reason to such a conclusion by pointing to a few verses in Ephesians, Chapter 2.
Ephesians 2:11-12 therefore remember …you Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcision by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands -- remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
- So that is the times past when God is just dealing with the Jews.
Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ.
- This is the present time we are in and have been brought near by the blood of Jesus.
Now, we have to back track to pick up verse 7.
Ephesians 2:7 that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
So we have past, present, and future. How do they reason that the Gospels and Acts are a part of the past?
Romans 15:8 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs.
They say, “See, Jesus ministered to the circumcised, that is the “times past” spoken of by Paul, therefore, Jesus in the Gospels isn’t talking to us Gentiles. We only really need to listen to Paul.”
How do we untangle these scriptures? Especially the ones that suggest we don’t need to listen to the Gospels?
My answer to this is one verse at a time. You know if you change the meaning of any part of the Gospel, it changes the entire Gospel because it is so interconnected and unified.
The issue is finding for whom Jesus came. Did He come for the Jews only, or the whole world? The booklet I received quotes these three verses:
Matthew 10:5-6 These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them, "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Matthew 15:24 He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
John 4:22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.
From these verses they reason that Jesus was only sent to the Jews.
Now, Jesus did come to the Jews first. That is plain, but He came to those whom He had been preparing for the last 1500 years to receive Him. He went to the Jews as a kind of “first fruits” for the harvest of the world.
Each of the above verses is taken out of context.
When Jesus said to the Samaritan woman in John 4 that salvation was from the Jews, it did come to the world through the Jews in the person is Jesus. Yet Jesus is talking with a Samaritan woman for her salvation and for the salvation of her town. These were not Jews.
When Jesus said in Matthew 15 that He was sent to the lost sheep of Israel, He was in a Gentile territory of Tyre and Sidon. A woman comes up to Him and says "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." And he answered, "It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed instantly.
So, Jesus ministers not only to the Jews but the Gentiles as well.
Jesus also says in John 10:16 And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice.
This has traditionally been understood to mean the Gentiles.
In Luke, Chapter 2, Simeon takes Jesus in his arms and says that Jesus will be a light of revelation to the Gentiles.
So Jesus came to the Jews to fulfill what had been prophesied about Him so that both Jew and Gentile would believe in Him.
The apostles would continue this pattern in the Acts of the Apostles. They go to the Jews first and then to the Gentiles. As they travel around the Mediterranean, they would enter into the synagogues first and then go to the Gentiles.
Remember when St. Paul in Romans said that Jesus came to minister to the circumcised? Let’s read that in context.
Romans 15:8-12 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, "Therefore I will praise thee among the Gentiles, and sing to thy name"; and again it is said, "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people"; and again, "Praise the Lord, all Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him"; and further Isaiah says, "The root of Jesse shall come, he who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles hope."