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5 Minute Jesus: The inclusivity of Jesus and Paul

5 Minute Jesus: The inclusivity of Jesus and Paul

by John Dickson

The most extraordinary thing about the Apostle Paul is his inclusiveness. He once shared the view of his fellow Pharisees that the Jews alone were the people of God, the pure. Even when the Pharisees accepted converts, those converts had to adopt the entire Jewish culture. Food laws, circumcision and so on. Paul’s message of welcome to those outside of Judaism is extraordinary. He said that Gentiles, a word that basically meant foreigners, can be full members of God’s family as Gentiles. Not by adopting a culture or custom, but by faith, which in his letters essentially means entrusting yourself to Jesus Christ. Here is one of the ways he puts it in Romans 3:

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith…For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. (Romans 3: 21-25; 28-30)

Honestly this is the manifesto that launched Christianity onto the international scene. And is not a curbing of the free spirit and love of Jesus. It is the very expression of Jesus’ own habit of including sinners to his own dinner table. Consider these statements in the gospels:

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Mark 2:15-16)

For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, “He has a demon.” The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” (Luke 7:33-34)

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:1-2)

This is quintessential Jesus, sitting down with the outsiders, those classed sinners. People normally thought to be under the judgment of God. And here in the gospels, this only refers to Jewish sinners, and the Pharisees were still upset by it! ‘Friend of sinners’ was no compliment on their lips. Paul, who had formerly been a Pharisee, took this inclusive spirit of Jesus and universalised it. Anyone from any nation, Paul said, who entrusts themselves to Jesus the Lord is part of God’s family. As Paul memorably put it in Romans 5:

God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)

Paul was the ultimate disciple and herald of the mission of Jesus.

5 Minute Jesus: The inclusivity of Jesus and Paul

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