Friday, November 27, 2015

The New Testament Church In The Wilderness.

After the death and resurrection, of Jesus. Part 18

By Terry Cropper & Joe Daniels.

God used many types and shadows in the Old Testament that found there fulfillment in the antitype of the New Testament. Israel’s 40 year wilderness journey is one of those types and shadows of the first century church’s 40 year wilderness journey.

It was no accident that Stephen, a Jewish Christian called Israel the "church in the wilderness under the leadership of Moses. Acts 7:37-38 NKJV 37 “This is that Moses, who said to the children of Israel, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear.’ “This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us,
"Congregation" This is the Greek term ekklesia is used in the sense of an “assembly” and translated "church" in the New Testament, is often used to refer to Israel in the ancient Greek version of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint (LXX). The “Congregation” or “Church” equates to ἐκκλησία / ekklesia is made up of two syllables. The Greek prefix ἐκ means “out of, or away from” and the root verb κλησία which means “to call or invite.” ( A handful of quick references out of the 73 times where our word “church” ἐκκλησία is translated as “assembly in the LXX are Deut 4:10; 9:10; 18:16; 23:1,2,3, & 8; Josh. 8:25; Ps.40:9; 68:26; 89:5; 107:32; Micah 2:5)

There were no Gentiles in the church for several years after Pentecost. But God was going to do among many wonders or marvelous things a wonder that would shock the Jews to their core! It was predicted in the Old Testament and also likened to the original Exodus journey. We would like to refresh your memory of it. Aliens were welcome. Exodus. 12:47-49 NKJV All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. 48 And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it. 49 One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you.” Other verses are (Numbers.9:14; Isaiah. 56:6-8) Joshua, converted to Hebrew by "conversion" he entered into the Mosaic Covenant because he had a sincere desire to worship the God of Abraham.

These Aliens fell in step with the Hebrews as they marched out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses. Exodus 12:37-39 mentions two groups of people—Israelite and the mixed multitude marching out of Egypt. 37 Then the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children. 38 A mixed multitude went up with them also, and flocks and herds—a great deal of livestock. 39 And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they had brought out of Egypt; for it was not leavened, because they were driven out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared provisions for themselves.

For how long? Their presence during the quail incident, cited above, indicates that these peoples were still with the Israelites at least one year after the first Passover. That means that the mixed multitude was present at Mount Sinai, some fifty days after the Red Sea crossing.

The marvelous thing that was going to be seen during the wilderness journey of the first century Church was that the Gentiles would be grafted into the salvation of the Jews! (John 4:22) Let’s get back to the day of Pentecost to view something we find marvelous in the hindsight of our eyes! It is the fact that the apostle Peter in his Holy Spirit empowered sermon on that day while giving the gospel plan of salvation, unknowingly included the Gentiles and prophesied of their inclusion of Israel’s salvation. He does this using the “Afar off” in verse 39 (GR. μακρὰν) It is used only 4 other times after it is used here. (All used by Paul.)

Now first let’s look at the context here. Clearly Peter in preaching on the day of Pentecost and is speaking to Jews! These were Jews were from every nation under heaven – Jewish men of the dispersion. (Along with proselytes!) This is very important to understand here!

Why is that important? Pay close attention to this: It’s because Peter stated that this gospel is to YOU – these people (Jews) from the dispersion (To whom he wrote to later on! (See 1 Peter 1:1) And to THEIR CHILDREN (more Jews)! And then to those who are “AFAR OFF” AS MANY AS THE LORD OUR GOD WILL CALL! These are NON JEWS! Want proof? Here it is…

The Apostle Paul says this about those who are AFAR OFF? And we would ask you if these people fit the description of Jews? We don’t think so and here is why: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off (GR. μακρὰν) have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Eph.2:13
“And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off (GR. μακρὰν) and to those who were near.” Eph.2:17

Now we want you to also remember that in Eph.2:11-13 Paul states that these people were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise! ”Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands 12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were “far off” have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” This does not sound like they were connected to the Jews in any way, shape, or form.

Keep in mind that Pentecost was in or about the year 31 A.D. The apostle Paul proclaimed that this subject of Gentile inclusion was a mystery! (Eph.3:3-12) This mystery was not yet known! Yet God was already from the very start making it known by progressive revelation! But at this time the mystery had not been revealed, the Apostle Paul’s conversion was approximately 2 years later.

The first Gentile converts were the house of Cornelius about A.D. 38. And here is more proof of our position about Peter unknowingly prophesying about the Gentiles in Acts 2:39 … it was Peter who God used to convert Cornelius and his family, and God had to show him a vision that this was to be done! (Read all of Acts chapter 16) And even after all this, Peter was rebuked by Paul for still harboring prejudice towards the Gentiles.

Paul really didn’t reach out to the Gentiles till approximately the year A.D. 46 - 49 (Acts.13:46-49) It was about A.D. 49 that we read of the Council of Jerusalem to speak of this wonder of the Gentiles coming into the church.

It is here that James the Lord’s brother spoke of the Gentiles coming into the church as the rebuilding of the tabernacle or temple of David?

Whenever the Apostle Paul went anywhere he started preaching in the synagogues of the Jews first, but always reached out to Gentiles (Non Jews). In any place Paul brought the gospel it was his custom to find a synagogue of the Jews first, and to preach Jesus to them for three Sabbaths. Then he would preach to the gentiles! Look at what we read when we see him going to Thessalonica:
Acts 17:1-2 (NKJV) “Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures.”

Later in that chapter we read of him leaving the unbelieving Jews behind and turning to the Gentiles. Right there in Acts chapter 17 we see Paul going to Athens, and what do we see him immediately do? He heads straight to the synagogue there! And notice the distinctions of people there! We read that he reasoned with the Jews and “Gentile worshippers” (God fearers and proselytes!) as well as speaking to ANYONE who happened to be in the market place! Yet we know that he then preached to Gentiles there. What about the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers he spoke the gospel message to? Where they only Jews as well? We know that is not true!

Acts 17:17-18 (NKJV) 17 Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. 18 Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection.”

Paul was told by God himself that this would be his mission: “Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you FAR (GR. μακρὰν) from here to the Gentiles.’” Acts 22:21 What the apostle Paul was to do what we specified was the definition of the church - ἐκκλησία a word made up of two syllables. The Greek prefix ἐκ means “out of, or away from” and the root verb κλησία which means “to call or invite.” The invitation was for all, Jew and Gentile to go through the Exodus journey and enter the promised land!

During the wilderness journey of the church God was sill fulfilling the promise to Abraham. In the midst of a Roman Empire dominated society a Christian society was founded on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem about 30 to 31 A.D. (Acts 2) Peter's sermon on the Day of Pentecost was entirely Jewish, quoting the prophets and the Psalmist David, and would have meant nothing to any Gentiles standing around, if there were any. The 3,000 people who were saved that day would have been all Jewish.

(Acts 2:1-41) Yet as we have noted in a few studies Peter spoke of the mystery that was not yet revield. A mystery hidden until the apostle Paul made it clear that salvation would also be for those “afar off” μακρὰν ! Acts 2:39 “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” (NKJV)

The first time Gentiles would be directly evangelized and admitted into fellowship with Jewish Christians would occur about ten years later. Cornelius (in Greek, Κορνήλιος The name Cornelius means “of a horn” the use of a “horn” in scripture speaks of power.) was a Roman centurion who is considered to be the first Gentile to convert to the faith, as related in Acts 10. This section shows that God, through the Holy Spirit, is bringing the Gentiles into his spiritual body, the church. In Acts 15:5-11 it shows this acknowledgement concerning law as decisions were rendered regarding Gentiles coming into the Church. (Acts 15:18-20)

A centurion was a Roman army officer, theoretically in charge of a hundred men. Cornelius was called a God-fearer, that is to say, he was a monotheist, a Gentile who worshipped the One God. (A very important fact to note is that “God fearers” were people who converted to Judiasim yet would not yeild to circumcision.) One day, as he was praying, an angel appeared to him and told him to send a messenger to Joppa and ask Peter to come and preach to him. Notice Cornelius's worship is directed to the one true God. Acts 10:3-6 About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!” And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, “What is it, lord?”

Peter, meanwhile, was given a vision that disposed him to go with the messenger. When Peter had preached to Cornelius and his family and friends, the Holy Spirit fell on them, as on the first Christians at Pentecost (Acts 2), and they began to speak in other tongues. Thus, there was ample evidence to convince Jewish Christians who hesitated to believe that it was the will of God that Gentiles should be brought into the Church.

Cornelius was the first Gentile converted to Christianity, along with his household, and Luke, recording this event, clearly regards it as of the utmost importance in the history of the early Church: the beginning of the Church's decision to admit Gentiles to full and equal fellowship with Jewish Christians.


The wilderness experience for the Israelites was a period of trial, and testing. Deuteronomy 8:2-3 NKJV says, And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.

God also knew that the wilderness is an ideal place to test his people and to help them learn faith and endurance. There is hardly a way to travel from Egypt to the Promised Land without passing through the wilderness. We know from Deuteronomy 1:2,that it should have taken only eleven days to go from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea, which was on the border of the Promised Land. Yet, it took the children of Israel forty years to make the journey.

They were stuck in the wilderness because of unbelief and because God had a few things to teach them. In Hebrew, the word for wilderness is midbar. It is surely interesting that the root of midbar has the meaning of “speak” or “word.” God speaks to Israel in the wilderness.

God also humbles and proves Israel in the wilderness. Deuteronomy 8:2 And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.

The Israelites were guilty on many occasions of tempting God. The children of Israel had just seen the miraculously miracle of God through Moses in Egypt. They were delivered through the sea as they escaped from Pharaoh. While in the wilderness, the children of Israel had some real trouble in the area of worship. Even while Moses was in the mountain receiving the law of the Lord, the people were busy making a golden calf to worship (Deut. 9:7-21).

While God had forth all Israel's battles for them they sill refused to enter the land of Canaan and take the land. (Numbers 14:1-38) They tested God to the point that they were finally sentenced to wander forty years in the wilderness. Numbers 14:30-32 Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in. 31 But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised. But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness.

In the New Testament, wilderness in which the church finds herself is not a literal desert. But a time period of trial, and testing also. And her destination is not the literal territory of Canaan. But a “better country,” which indicates that the promised land the saints hope to enter is something other than the literal territory of Palestine. (Hebrews 11:16)

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