« Prev 1. Admission of the Gentiles into the Christian… Next »

1. ADMISSION OF THE GENTILES INTO THE CHRISTIAN BODY.

A consideration of the question whether the Gentiles also ought to be encouraged to become Christians will perhaps be the clearest way of showing that, of all the writings of the New Testament, the Fourth Gospel marks the greatest step forward.

At first Jesus did not think of extending to the Gentiles the benefits of his work (p. 34 f.), and he forbade his disciples 234to undertake mission work amongst them, or even among the Samaritans; though perhaps the reason was simply that he wished the preaching of salvation to reach, at any rate, all the members of his own race before the end of the world, which he imagined to be quite near (Mt. x. 5 f. 23). For a Gentile was no less capable than a Jew of meeting the requirements for entrance into the kingdom of God, a longing for God, humility, compassion, purity of heart (Mt. v. 3-9); and in this matter Paul has grasped the inmost thought of Jesus more correctly than the original apostles. These leave Paul and his associates to go on a mission to the Gentiles, while they address themselves solely to the Jews (p. 187); and Paul has to fight hard for the principle that the Gentiles do not need first to become Jews and to accept circumcision and the whole of the Jewish Law before they can become Christians (Gal. ii. 1-10; Acts xv. 1, 5). In the Apocalypse only Jews (12,000 from each of the twelve tribes) receive the seal on the fore head which protects them against the great tribulations of the last days before the end of the world (vii. 1-8); and it is only in a section added later (vii. 9-17) that the seer sees before the throne of God a numberless crowd of all peoples who have come there, because they have steadfastly endured the great persecution of the Christians.

In the Fourth Gospel, however, the admission of Gentiles to Christianity is quite a matter of course. When Greeks come near to Jesus and wish to meet him, he sees in their coming the beginning of the hour in which he will be glorified, that is to say, exalted to heaven (xii. 20-23). This story, which at an earlier point in our discussion (p. 78) seemed very curious, is now intelligible. The last and greatest goal of Jesus earthly message was the admission of the Gentiles to Christianity. And in x. 16 he 235says: “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring . . . and they shall become one flock, one shepherd.” Only such views as these could make Christianity a world-religion.

For the same purpose again it was important that it should not seem to be dangerous to the State. In the case of Paul, the Acts of the Apostles always represents the Roman officials as recognising that it did not really threaten the State (xviii. 14 f.; xxiii. 29; xxv. 18 f.; cp. xix. 37; xxvi. 31 f.). In the Third Gospel, the same author, going beyond Mk. and Mt., tells us that Pilate declared three times that he found no fault in Jesus (xxiii. 4, 14 f., 22). Jn. emphasises this still more (xviii. 28-xix. 16) and adds, moreover, that in the course of his trial Jesus expressly said that his kingdom was not of this world (xviii. 36).

« Prev 1. Admission of the Gentiles into the Christian… Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |