A Question I Was Asked:

Could You Explain These Two Scriptures in Matthew?

I have come across a couple of verses in Scripture that have caused friction and controversy amongst folk on Facebook sites and I would be interested in your interpretation of these passages. They are Matt.10:5-6 and Matt. 15:24.

"These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel."" (Matt.10:5-6.)

"He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel."" (Matt. 15:24.)

One person advocates that the Gospel was never intended for the Gentiles, whilst another states that Jesus was racist. I believe both positions are in error. A right understanding of these passages would be interesting.

UK Apologetics Reply:

Yes, it is a shame that a few always seem to take up extreme interpretations of Scripture.

The explanation here is very straightforward: Jesus, and the original twelve, only had the mission to take the Gospel to Israel. The mission to the Gentiles came a little later and fell mainly to Paul and Barnabas, although the tradition is very strong that Thomas too eventually had a mission among the Gentiles, even finally preaching in India. But even John was prepared to reach out to them. See John 4 for evidence of this.

So, yes, the Gospel was certainly intended for the Gentiles but was to be taken to Israel first because they had been recipients of the Old Covenant and the lineage of David, resulting in Jesus, came through that route, of course.

So a principle was employed, 'to the Jew first, them to the Gentile' (Romans 1:16). This is why Paul first went to the synagogues in any town which he entered before moving on to the Gentile communities of those places.

One of the most famous of all New Testament texts clearly confirms that the message of the Gospel was ultimately meant for the world - not just Israel:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. (John 3:16-18).

The old covenant message was primarily intended for Israel but, under the New Covenant, Christian believers now become grafted into Israel (Romans 11:11-32), and become spiritual Jews (Romans 2:28-29). Those finally redeemed from the earth are of all nations (Revelation 7:9-17; Revelation 14:1-4).

Robin A. Brace. May 11th, 2014.