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Our views of evangelism are far too tiny, too anemic, and too weak. Evangelism is not a matter of recruiting enough people so that your church can pay its bills. Evangelism is not a matter of getting market share. Evangelism is not a matter of the Israelite army settling for a portion of Canaan. Evangelism is about the salvation of the whole world.
“Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: 9 And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. 10 And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. 11 And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. 12 And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust” (Rom. 15:8-12).
Summary of the Text
Jesus Christ was a minister of the Jews, a minister of the circumcision, in order that the promises that God made to the patriarchs might be confirmed (v. 8). Jesus was a rabbi of Israel. But He was not just as rabbi of Israel, but was also the desire of the nations. He came in such a way that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy to them (v. 9). In support of this, Paul cites 2 Sam. 22:50 and Psalm 18:49—confession is to be made among the Gentiles, and songs of praise sung in their midst (v. 9). Then he quotes Dt. 32:43, where the Gentiles are invited to join in the praise (v. 10). Then he quotes Psalm 117:1, where all the nations are called upon to sing praise to the Lord (v. 11). And then he tops it off with a most instruction quotation from Isaiah 11:10, where the prophet tells us that the root of Jesse will spring up, that He will rule over the nations, and that the Gentiles will in fact hope in Him (v. 12).
A Minister of the Circumcision
Jesus Christ came to the Jews, and He came to them as a servant, as a deacon. He is described here as a minister or servant of the circumcision, in order to accomplish two things. The first was that He came in order to fulfill the promises that had been made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But the second was based on the first, and it was something that the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had not understood. The promises made to the patriarchs of the Jews were not exclusive promises, but rather promises that encompassed the whole world. The confirmation of these promises therefore overflowed into the Gentile world as well—Jesus was a minister of the circumcision so that the uncircumcision would be able to glorify God for His mercy. This was not an esoteric aspect of the promises given to the fathers. Abraham was told, remember, that all the families of the earth would be blessed through him. The Lord had pointed to the stars and had said, so shall your descendants be. And as Paul argued earlier in Romans, Abraham believed God in this before he was circumcised, making him the archtypical Gentile. And he was then circumcised, making him the archtypical Jew. He truly is Father Abraham.
Let the Gentiles Sing
As the great King David was on his death bed, he sang about how he would praise the Lord in the presence of the Gentiles (2 Sam. 22:50). A variation of this is found in Ps. 18:49). The Gentiles watch while David praises the Lord. But they are destined to be more than spectators. Remember that Dt. 32 has been a key to understanding Paul’s view of Israel’s apostasy. In that verse, the Gentiles are invited to praise the Lord, together with His people, for the Lord will avenge the blood of His servants. The Gentiles are invited to sing and rejoice in the context of the coming demolition of Jerusalem (Dt. 32:43). Then Paul cites the very short psalm, where the nations are invited simply to praise the Lord—His merciful kindness is great toward us (Ps. 117). The Church needs to stop preaching to the devil’s stragglers, and start preaching to the world.The salvation that the Lord is bringing upon the earth is by no means limited to the Jews. This salvation is for all the world, all the nations, all the peoples, and all the tribes. The Church needs to stop preaching to the devil’s stragglers, and start preaching to the world.
Is Isaiah Out of His Mind?
The next quotation, from Isaiah 11, is quite instructive. Let’s look from the beginning of that chapter.
1And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: 2And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; 3And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: 4But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. 5And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. 6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. 7And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. 9They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. 10And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious” (Is. 11:1-10).
What is Paul doing? He is citing this passage, along with all the others, in order to justify his mission to the Gentiles, which he began two thousand years ago. There are two things we must remember in this regard. The first is that these days of glory do not arrive, wham, overnight. The leaven works through the loaf, and the mustard seed grows. But the second is that Isaiah tells us what the loaf looks like fully risen, and Paul tells us that the leaven was at work in the loaf in his day. Is Isaiah out of his mind? No, but we who call ourselves Christians are frequently out of ours. Why do we not believe what the prophets have spoken?