The Fellowship of Faith

Despite the fact that originally God had chosen a particular race of people- the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to demonstrate who He was, what his purposes were and His ways, he was now making the relationship open to all who would believe and trust in the name of Jesus the Christ.

You are: A Reconciled Humanity
O.T. LESSON Jeremiah 31:31-34
N.T. LESSON Hebrews 3:1-14

The Gates of Heaven are opened to the Gentiles

The early church was primarily Jewish. Jesus was a Jew [John 1:12], the disciples were Jews. The disciples were sent to “The lost sheep of Israel” [Matt 10:6]. Jesus said “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” [Matt15:24]. However, before Jesus left this world he said that the Good News of Salvation should be dispensed to everyone [Matt 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15,16a- Go to all the world preaching and making disciples of all nations].

And in Acts 2:5,11 that’s what began to happen- People from every language group in the ‘then known world’ heard the Message. It moved to the rest of the country , Judea and Samaria, in Acts 8:4,5,14-17,25. Then God prepared Peter to consider going to the Gentiles in Acts 10 [ see vv 9-23,44-48]. A council met in Jerusalem a number of years later,[see Acts 15:5,6;12-15;19-21]The Apostles and significant leaders set an official policy of approach to Gentiles. Paul describes the relationship that came out of that in Ephesians 2:11-22.

Let’s note the Key Phrases-

  • ‘formerly called ‘uncircumcision’ ‘ v.11
  • ‘excluded from citizenship in Israel’ v.12
  • ‘he himself has destroyed the barrier’ v.14
  • ‘reconcile both’ v.16
  • ‘fellow citizens’ v.19
  • ‘built on the foundation’ v.20
  • ‘Jesus- the chief cornerstone’ v.20
  • ‘a dwelling in which God dwells’ v.22

Despite the fact that originally God had chosen a particular race of people- the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to demonstrate who He was, what his purposes were and His ways, he was now making the relationship open to all who would believe and trust in the name of Jesus the Christ.

Paul goes on to show that the ministry of reconciliation [see IICor 5:14-6:2] based on the sacrifice of Christ for us puts both, Jews and non-Jews, insiders and outsiders, together. Whether slave of free, male or female, young or old, all are invited to an intimate relationship with the creator of the universe.

The old ceremonial law that was designed to separate Jews from Gentiles is completed and set aside by the finished work of Christ. He fulfilled all of the symbolism and modelling. –Note the moral law is common to man’s conscience, and was not set aside.[ the code of Hammurabi for example operated on the main principle that “the strong shall not injure the weak’. It set up a social order based on the rights of the individual and was backed by the authority of the Babylonian gods and the state. (“Hammurabi” World Book Encyclopedia.1980) ]

Jesus quoted Isa 56:7 when he said “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations”, when he ‘cleansed the temple’ [Mark 11:17]. Isaiah had said “foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to serve him to love the name of the Lord and to worship him…will I bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer…The Sovereign Lord declares– he who gathers the exiles of Israel; ‘I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered”. [Isa.56:6-8].

God initiated the process of bringing us back into a relationship with him that is real and personal, and as a result we can also have meaningful whole relationships with other believers, both Jew and Gentile, with our family members and neighbours. Paul writes ‘now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.’ Today is the day to bind yourself to the Lord. Recognize what he has done on the cross, and acknowledge that without him we are hopelessly lost. He is waiting for us to respond to his love and grace, so that we ‘all may be one'[John 17:21] and so that the whole world will believe.

2000 D. H. Friesen

Do Whatever He Tells You: Mother’s Day

THE COMMANDMENT OF MARY in JOHN 2:5

Old Testament Lesson:  Isaiah 66:1-2, 12,13 New Testament Lesson:  John 2:1-11

Miryam [that’s her name in Hebrew] grew up in a normal Jewish home.  Her parents would have performed the rituals and the roles assigned to them by their society — Tradition! (Shades of “Fiddler on the Roof”).

She most likely didn’t have much education, but she had remembered what she had heard and she had learned to believe and trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  At the critical point in her life she recognized the difference between a fantasy and God communicating to her.  [Notice the parallel between the ‘Magnificat’ in Luke 1:46-56, and the song of Hannah in I Sam. 2:1-11]

Miryam reminds me of my mom. My mom didn’t have a lot of education but she knew her Bible and she listened to God.  She became a key player in my fathers’ ministry as he communicated the Good News of the Gospel in a Children’s ministry for over 26 years in full time service.

We next meet Jesus’ mother in Luke 2.41-52.  The family went to the feast as usual.  Joseph and Mary set a precedent for their children and joined in the pilgrimage to the temple to perform the obligations of the ‘Tanakh’ [the Law- O.T. teachings].  We are introduced to the idea that Jesus had learned his lessons well, when he stayed behind in the temple to discuss with the teachers of the law, a discussion that lasted for three days, only to be interrupted by Jesus’ parents looking to take him home.  [For an indication of what happened in a Jewish home look up II Timothy 1:5; 3:15 -“from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures” … “Your sincere faith, first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice“]

My mom taught my brother and I and anyone who would listen, from the Word. The whole Bible, the popular and the obscure, the difficult as well as the clear.  We were included from infancy in the fellowship of the believers.

[I’m not trying to compare others with my mother but rather celebrate mine and encourage you to follow her example.  Some of you may not be married.  Some may never have had children.  But you can share your faith and trust and teach others what you have learned– nephews, nieces, the neighbourhoods’ kids– my mom did that and often.  After they had retired, kids would come to play and hear stories at “Grandma Friesen’s”- and they were not necessarily her grandchildren.  You can invite the children of your acquaintances to join you in services that celebrate Jesus and his body of Believers.  Some of you have been doing that, and I would like to encourage all of you to consider that as the normal way to do things.]

The next place we see Mary is at the wedding in Cana.  Mary has recognized who Jesus really is; not all of the implications, because she and the rest of her children struggled with Jesus’ popularity and later the lack of acceptance [see Matt 12:46-50].  She said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you“.  And they did it.

In the book my mom wrote called I Remember When… she describes responding to my fathers’ proposal of marriage and the struggles of a four-year engagement.  Her focus was on a relationship of faith with the risen Lord. It cost her: another suitor, waiting, my fathers’ emotional breakdown (as a result of over-work by a boss who didn’t recognize his efforts).  However all during our “growing-up” years we saw modeled a willingness to serve God even when that was misinterpreted, and unappreciated by others.

Then we see Mary at the cross.  When others deserted, she stayed with him.  “Dear woman, here is your son” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother” [John 19:26,27].   God provides what we need. My mom passed away, but my father remarried- and my stepmother has a heart for God and for ministry like my mom!  God has provided the encouragement my father and our family needed.

Mary was there with the others in the Upper Room.  Though it doesn’t say explicitly, it is implied in Acts 1:14 and 2:1 that she was there at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon all of them, and they spoke in the languages of the people from every corner of the ‘then known world’ who had come for the feast.  They drew attention to the wonders of God, and the Good News of the Salvation provided for all of mankind by the death of Jesus, and that “every one who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” [Acts 2:21].

My mom spent a lifetime introducing anyone she came across to Jesus. And my stepmother is the same.  She’s retired (in terms of living on a pension) but she hasn’t retired from having a burning desire to see people introduced to Jesus.  Her family has been powerfully influenced by her example.  She works in her church to encourage people to reach out and bring their friends, families and neighbours to meet Jesus.  She works with Child Evangelism Fellowship to organize and encourage churches and young people to infiltrate neighbourhoods in their cities and towns with the Gospel, through summer “5-day clubs” and ‘Tel-a-story’.

This Mother’s Day, tell your mom or stepmother that you love her. Some of you don’t have one of those, so remember the wonderful parts of their lives (ignore the negatives). If your mother doesn’t know Jesus, gently share what He means to you, and what He could mean to her. Go and “mother” those who need one.  Be a nurturer, sharing and caring and bringing into the kingdom those who need to know Jesus.  Encourage and support those who need to grow in their faith.

Celebrate Mother’s Day with Jesus as the reason for your life and the Focus of your hope.

“I Remember When…” was self-published and is not currently available.

© 2000 D. H. Friesen