The Fullness of the Gentiles – Numeric or Relational
A Response to “Israel Only” #4
My articles in this series have been posted for several days now, and have caused a lot of discussion on FaceBook. However, there still has not been one single exegetical attempt to refute what I have offered in this series. There have been vitriolic, caustic, sarcastic comments, diversionary and obfuscatory (irrelevant) comments, (even some outright, blatant lies) but no substantive attempt to answer what I have argued here. But, I do want to share a couple of remarkable issues.
One of the leading proponents of IO on FB admitted on 12-12-18 that: “We have always stated that the Israelites were among the nations.” To say that this is a fatal admission is a huge understatement!
You must catch the power of this!! Essentially, this admission gives the farm away. It surrenders the IO paradigm. Here is why.
If (since) it is admitted that “the Israelites were among the nations” that is an overt admission that Israel was not the nations and that the nations were not Israel! Israel was not scattered among themselves! (BTW, another leading IO spokesman, is on record -repeatedly admitting that foreigners could in fact join themselves with Israel! This is another fatal admission). So, when it is admitted that Israel was scattered among the nations, and when one then sees that God promised to save the nations, that means that God promised to save non-Israelite nations. The game is over for IO! The only way out of this fatal dilemma is to be able to show that while Israel was scattered “among the (non-Israelite) nations” but that at some point in time, Israel became the nations, and the nations became Israel! And as a point of importance and interest, I have posed the following question some five times now, to the leading IO advocates on FaceBook:
<Tell us, with scripture at what point of time Israel became the nations and the nations became Israel, and from that time forward “the nations” are always Israel, and “Israel” is always the nations / Gentiles.>
To this date, and have not received a key stroke in response. I should also take note that one of more “aggressive” IO posters even posted an article by a “leading scholar.” He claimed that the scholar, Dr. Barber, wrote, “those “gentiles” called out from the nations were Israelites.” Let me be very clear. Dr. Barber most assuredly did not say that the Gentiles were the Israelites. That is a blatant, flagrant falsehood. Dr. Barber makes it clear in that article that he DOES NOT view Israel as the nations. He DOES NOT view the nations as Israel. Such a gross, purposeful misrepresentation of scholarship is far too common among the IO proponents, however, and in reality, should send up red flags to anyone and everyone!
It should be clear from the above that numeric fullness is not in view in regard to the mystery. Israel / Gentile equality in Christ is the issue. Much like Matthew 20 where the workers who had labored for a short time received “equal pay” with those who had worked a long time, there is absolutely no emphasis on numeric fullness but on equal status, equal standing.
Some suggest – in fact, this is the main attempt at answering my argument – that this equality was accomplished when the Gentile Cornelius was converted in Acts 10, or when Paul wrote Romans 1:12. This simply is not true. The conversion of Cornelius by Peter was the symbolic act of equality to be sure. Peter began the call of the Gentiles. Yet, Paul said the task of presenting the Gentiles to God as an offering, and finishing that priestly function, was distinctively his (Romans 15:16 / Colossians 1:25f; 2 Timothy 4:16f). He said, writing after Romans, that it was his personal task (stewardship) to accomplish that unity, (Colossians 1:24-27) and that his ministry was not complete until he stood before Nero (2 Timothy 4:17f). The “unity of the faith” was the goal of his entire ministry (Ephesians 4:1-16).
We need to look closely at this text, for it is full confirmation of what we have been presenting.
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says:
‘When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.’
(Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:1-16).
Notice that Paul speaks of the “Ones” of the faith: One Body, One Spirit, One Hope, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God. This emphasis on “One” drives home the idea of the mystery he has just presented in the previous chapter, that Israel and Gentile alike partake of the blessings of that One-ness. There is not a reward, not a hope, not a baptism, not a Spirit for Israel and another for the Gentiles. Paul emphasizes the “unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace.” Unity, equality, one-ness are the focus of his concern. There is, for Jew and Gentile alike, One God, the same God, the same Lord: “who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (See Romans 3).
Paul then discusses the giving of the charismatic gifts. They were for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” The Lord bestowed on Jew and Gentile believers alike, the gifts, with no distinction. This reminds us that Peter defended the conversion of Cornelius by calling attention to the fact that God gave them the Spirit just as he had the Jews: “So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:8f). God manifested Jew / Gentile equality by the equal disbursement of the charismatic gifts. That is present here in Ephesians 4.
What was the purpose of that? It was to bring the church to “the unity of the faith” to the “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” to the “perfect man.” Notice that he uses our word from Romans 11 – pleroma – and says it was the goal of the out-pouring of the Spirit on both Jew and Gentile believers. (I should note that the “unity of the faith” is not when all believers think alike. It is “the unity of the faith”– “the faith” is the New Covenant world, not individual faith or belief. In other places, “the faith” is the Gospel system, the “world” of Christ).
So, in Romans 11 we have the salvation of Jew and Gentile alike, with Paul’s emphasis on his personal ministry to call the Gentiles and the anticipation of the fullness (pleroma) of the Gentiles. And that is the fullness of being grafted into the root, along with Israel being grafted back in. In Ephesians 3-4 we have Paul emphasizing his role in the “mystery,” Jew and Gentile equality, and his discourse on how the gifts were disbursed equally to Jew and Gentile alike, in order to bring about the “unity of the faith” and the “the measure of the stature of the fullness (pleroma) of Christ.” In Romans there is no emphasis on how many of the Gentiles were being grafted in, and in Ephesians there is no mention of numbers. It is all about equality of Jew and Gentile, in the one body of Christ.
Commentators have recognized that in Ephesians 4 Paul is focused on the perfection of “the mystery” that he has earlier discussed. John McRay, in a persuasive article, defines the “perfect man” and the “unity of the faith” in Ephesians 4: “This can only mean, in the total context of the discussion, the maturity of the church as evidenced in the Jewish acceptance of the inclusion of the Gentiles into the divine body, which for at least a decade belonged only to the Jews.” (John McCray, “To Telion In 1 Corinthians 13:10,” Restoration Quarterly, 14, (1971), 168+). As the minister to “make the Gentiles obedient” (Romans 15:18) Paul ministered the miraculous gifts to Jew and Gentile converts equally (Romans 15:19 / 1 Corinthians 12-14). The egalite dispersion of these gifts manifested that there was no difference between Jew and Gentile. But, that did not mean that when the first Gentile received the gifts that Paul’s mission -and the fullness of the Gentiles– was accomplished. Paul even wanted to go to Rome to impart to the members of the church there, “some spiritual gift” (Romans 1:11).
Now, it is fascinating and more than revealing that not one IO proponent has attempted to show:
1. That pleroma must speak of numbers.
2. They have ignored the significance of hettema, “diminishment” in Romans 11, which cannot be numeric. It is patently diminished status / standing. Since pleroma is the opposite of diminished status, that means that pleroma is about status.
Sadly, Sam Frost, former preterist tried to appeal to the one single translation that gives “diminished number” but that argument literally blew up in his face and he abandoned that argument.
3. That the lexicons define pleroma as numeric fullness.
4. That Paul ever, even one time, used pleroma to speak of numeric fullness.
5. That my contextual analysis of Romans 11 is false.
6. That Paul’s ministry was ever focused on numbers and not status.
The only attempt at response to my argument has been the claim that Jew / Gentile equality was already a reality when Paul wrote Romans 11, therefore, he was not anticipating the full arrival of that status. But, as I have shown above, that is a specious and false argument.
Unless and until someone can successfully establish these points – and the fact that they have not even tried is revealing – then my articles stand. Be sure to get a copy of my book, Elijah Has Come: A Solution for Romans 11:25-27 in which I discuss the fullness of the Gentiles in-depth.
More to come!