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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles

Chapter 10 - Acts 3:25, 26 - Israel Beloved of God Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles by Bonar, Horatius

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"To the Jew first"; "beginning at Jerusalem"; this was God's order, and it is so still. The Jew has not been displaced from his blessed position of being entitled to have the first presentation or proclamation of Christ. This was not merely at Pentecost, to prove them, and see whether they would receive Him,—that if they rejected Him they might henceforth have no such first place in the preaching of the gospel; it was so at all times, and in all places to which the apostles went. The Jews' rejection of Jesus, their crucifixion of the Lord of glory, their persecution of his disciples, did not annul their privileges, shewing that the New Testament, or "Gentile" dispensation, was in one sense a simple prolongation of the old or Abrahamic economy; all the spiritual privileges and gifts unfolded and dispensed at Pentecost being first presented to the Jew, as his especial birthright. Not only pardon and righteousness, but sonship, heirship, membership of the one body, the one church, the one family, were first placed within his offer, as a son of Abraham, with whom the one covenant was established. The Christian church was no new thing in the earth; it was the continuation of the one body which began to be formed when first the seed of the woman was announced, and was afterwards more fully developed under the Abrahamic promise; and yet more fully developed when the ascended Christ shed down His Spirit, first on Abraham's sons, and then on the far off Gentiles.

They are still beloved for their fathers' sakes. God's gifts and calling are without repentance: for God is not a man that he should lie, nor the son of man that he should repent. It is not merely that they were the chief of sinners, and that "Jerusalem sinners" bring most glory to Christ, but God forgets not Abraham and his seed; they are the nation whom he delighteth to honour; and when Gentiles come into the church they are accounted as Abraham's seed, for "they that be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham;" they are the wild branches graffed into the good old olive tree, which has never been uprooted nor cast away. The New Testament church gets its sap, its vitality, from this connection; and New Testament saints are what they are by reason of their being made "partakers of the root and fatness of the olive tree." These are memorable words, never to be forgotten by those who would unduly elevate the saints of the New Testament: "If the root be holy so are the branches"; the Gentiles are but after all branches of the old tree, inserted in room of those broken off; and we derive our holiness from the holiness of the root. Are the branches better than the root and stem? Shall the New Testament branches (whose day of cutting off is coming, Romans 11:21, 22) boast against that olive tree to which they owe everything? Shall they say, Ah, we are a new thing in the earth? we possess a standing far above Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob? "Boast not against the branches, but, if thou boast (remember), that thou bearest not the root, but the root thee." It is this pride and boasting against the branches that we see in some of the haughty heresies of modern times.

The designations of honour, and the intimations of privilege as still possessed by the sons of Abraham (as given in these two verses), are worthy of notice.

I. They are the children of the Prophets. The prophets are those referred to in the previous verse: "these prophets" who have age after age prophesied of blessing to Israel. The whole nation here gets the singular name,—a name of peculiar honour,—sons of prophets! As if every son of Abraham were connected with that great prophetical peerage or nobility which God raised up in Israel. That link with prophets remains unbroken. It is still their name.

II. They are the children of the covenant. To them belonged "the adoption (the sonship in its widest sense, the Abba Father privilege now, and the resurrection glory hereafter), and the glory, and the covenant, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises" (Romans 9:4). The covenant with Abraham, so dwelt upon by the apostle in his epistle to the Galatians, was specially theirs; that covenant which comprised within its vast limits and mighty fullness all blessing,—all blessing for themselves and for the world, for Abraham was "heir of the world" (Romans 4:13). This worldwide, this everlasting covenant was theirs; and it is on their covenant we enter when we believe, "for in thy seed shall all kindreds of the earth be blessed."

III. They are they to whom God first sends His risen Son. Christ's resurrection is first of all for them, his kinsmen according to the flesh, the children of the covenant. Pentecost was first of all for them. The first fruits of the New Testament church was taken from among them. It was in Jerusalem that the great ingathering began. God sent His risen son to Israel first that He might bless them, that He might turn every one of them from their iniquities. Could anything more distinctly mark the continuity of that great election of all ages, called the church, than this? that election which David so often sung of as the "congregation of the saints," or "church of the holy ones"? that body which Solomon celebrated as the bride, all fair and without spot, to which the Psalmist pointed in his "song of loves" (Psalm 45) as the queen, the daughter, the glorious one, whose name is to be remembered for ever and ever.

1. God's love to Israel. He looks down on them, yearns over them, pities them, says, "How shall I give thee up?" And this love the many waters have not quenched, nor the floods drowned. They are monuments of sin abounding, and of grace abounding yet more. What good news of God's free love do they preach to us Gentiles!

2. God's purpose concerning Israel. He sends His risen Son to them just now, even in their unbelief; but He has glorious things in store for them hereafter, when the day of their rejection ends, and they are gathered into their land, and rejoice in their rebuilded cities once more. Great shall be Israel's glory then. Oh that it were come!

3. God's desire that we should feel toward Israel as He does. We ought to enter into His mind concerning the beloved nation. He loves them; so should we. He stretches out his hands to them; so should we. In endeavoring to bless them, we shall be blessed ourselves.