The Sacred Scrolls of the Scriptures
THE SCRIPTURES FOR THE CIRCUMCISION:
THE FOUR ACCOUNTS
THAT THE great bulk of revelation is concerned with the nation of
Israel is true not only of the Hebrew Scriptures but of the Greek as well. Not that it is
concerned with them alone and the other nations not at all, but that they receive the
first and foremost place and the rest a secondary and subordinate one. Christ has
become the Servant of the Circumcision, for the sake of the truth of God, to confirm the
patriarchal promises. Yet the nations are to glorify God for His
mercy . . . with His people (Rom.15:8-10).
The twelve apostles of Christ
continued this ministry, and Peter, James and John are expressly said to confine
themselves to the Circumcision. Paul writes to the Galations: Perceiving that I have
been entrusted with the evangel of the Uncircumcision, according as Peter of the
Circumcision (for He who operates in Peter for the apostleship of the Circumcision
operates in me also for the nations), and knowing the grace which is being given to me,
James and Cephas and John, who are supposed to be pillars, give to me and Barnabas the
right hand of fellowship, that we, indeed, are to be for the nations, yet they for the
Let us remember, however, that the
term Circumcision includes proselytes such as Cornelius (Acts 10:1-48), who,
in order to share Israels blessings, submitted to this fleshly rite.
From these clear statements it is
evident that the accounts of our Lords life, usually called the gospels
and the ministries of Peter, James and John, both in the Acts and in their epistles, are
distinctly limited to the favored nation whose flesh bore the seal of the covenant of
Yahweh. As Hebrews is written to the Hebrews and Jude was one of the Circumcision, we are
doubly assured that Paul alone wrote for the Uncircumcision, though his ministry was
shared by Barnabas and Timothy and Titus, as well as many others.
The writings for the Circumcision,
like the Hebrew Scriptures, fall into two great divisions, Historic and Prophetic. The
historical record of the ministry of Messiah and His apostles in the so-called Gospels and
the book of Acts, repeats the sad tale of declension, defection and apostasy which is
characteristic of their course from Moses to the close of the book of Kings. But the
epistles, and the apocalypse, like the ancient prophets, present a splendid spectacle of
Each of these two divisions is again
divided into two classes. In the Gospels the Kingdom is rejected through the crucifixion
of the King. In the Acts it is finally refused by the failure of the ministry of His
apostles. The epistles present the Kingdom in distant prospect; the apocalypse presents it
coming in power.
Of old Israel rejected Yahweh and His
prophets. Now they reject the Lord and His apostles. The Kingdom is proclaimed by the
Messiah and they crucify Him. In mercy it is again proclaimed by His apostles in the book
of Acts, only to be once more rejected.
The treatises of Matthew, Mark, Luke
and John are a fourfold presentation of Messiahs ministry to Israel and its
rejection. His cry upon the cross, Father, forgive them, for they are not aware what
they are doing! once more opened the door into the Kingdom and they wander for forty
years in the desert of unbelief, as recorded in Acts.
In the book of Hebrews, those
individuals in the nation who believed the proclamation of the kingdom are exhorted to
patient continuance in faith in view of its postponement. Their trials in the past as well
as the trials which await His earthly people when the Kingdom is set up in power in the
day of the Lord are made the basis of the epistles of James, Peter, John and Jude.
The Revelation, or Unveiling, of Jesus
Christ is the crowning prophecy of the Circumcision series, and details the conflict of
Israel with the nations and the realization of all the prophecies and promises of the
It has been the
usual custom simply to prefix the name of the author to each of the four accounts of our
Lords life thus: According to Matthew; According to Mark;
According to Luke; and According to John. Lately the editors of
the text have prefixed the word Gospel or evangel as a sort of general title
to them all. So long as this does not mislead us into the belief that they are, or
contain, the gospel for us today no serious objection could be offered. It does lead,
however, to the hazy impression that we must look to these for the gospel of salvation.
The good news, or evangel, contained
in these records of our Lords earthly ministry is strictly confined to the Kingdom
foretold by the prophets. Christ was not sent to the nations but to the lost sheep of the
house of Israel (Matt.15:24).
While the four accounts differ in many
details, they all have the same underlying subjectthe earthly ministry of Jesus, the
Messiahand all pursue a similar plan in its unfolding. They refer us to the fortieth
of Isaiah in introducing the forerunner, John the Baptist. Then Messiahs public
ministry to the apostate nation follows His anointing and is closed by a quotation from
the sixth chapter of the same prophet. This is followed by His private ministry to His
disciples, His betrayal, death and resurrection. The four accounts agree in presenting
these great features of the common subjectMessiahs ministry. Our Lord Himself
confirmed this limitation of His ministry on various occasions. I was not
commissioned except for the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt.15:24). He
warned the twelve when He sent them forth, not to go to the Samaritans. He Himself
never went outside the boundaries of the land until after His resurrection and ascension.
The quotations from Isaiah are in
themselves sufficient evidence. It is Israel whose heart has become fat and whose
ears are heavy and whose eyes are closed. Their land has been laid desolate. A remnant of
them is being gathered back at this very time. None of this can even be
applied to the church. Why, even the chapter headings over the
sixth of Isaiah tell us that He sheweth the obstinacy of the people unto their
desolation, and we may rest assured that the people the translators had
in mind was the Jews, not the church. The refusal of Messiahs ministry
to Israel calls down the doom so long before pronounced upon them by the prophet. Is this
gospel? These gospels contain the evangel of the kingdom, but this
is limited to a few of their earlier chapters. It did not take long for them to refuse it.
Then it is no longer proclaimed, and the narrative occupies us with the rejected Messiah
and His descent to the cross.
While the four accounts of our
Lords life have a common theme and a common plan, each is burdened with its own
distinctive aspect of His glory. The attentive reader needs but to read the opening words
of each to gather the gist of its contents. Matthew mentions the names of David and
Abraham and thus intimates that the One he presents is heir to both the throne and the
land. Luke takes us back still further to Adam. He presents the Son of Adam, the suffering
Seed and the Subjector of all Mankind.
Both Mark and John present us with the
Son of God: Mark in His service for man and John in His ministry for God.
The four-fold presentation of
Messiahs ministry gives us every aspect of His work in connection with the
establishment of the Kingdom. His relation to Israel as their King is first presented in
Matthew, His work of restoration in Mark, His suffering for all mankind in Luke and His
priestly relation to God in John.
The four aspects of our Lords
life are presented to us in the Hebrew Scriptures under the figure of the Sprout. Jeremiah
tells us of the Sprout of David, as He is presented in Matthews account
Behold! Days are coming, averring is Yahweh,
When I will raise for David a righteous Sprout.
And a King shall reign and use intelligence.
And He will execute judgment and justice in the land.
In His days Judah shall be saved,
And Israel shall tabernacle trustingly.
And this is His name, by which they shall call Him:
Yahweh, our Righteousness.
is summarized in the exclamation, Behold Me bringing My Servant, the Sprout
(Zech.3:8). This was said to Joshua, the high priest, who is himself a figure,
Behold the man! Sprout is his name! (Zech.6:12). Johns account is
referred to in Isaiah (Isa.4:2-4):
In that day the
elegance [AV, Branch] of Yahweh is coming to
be for stateliness, and for glory,
And the face of the land for pomp and
For the delivered of Israel and Judah.
And it comes that the remnant in Zion,
and the rest in Jerusalem,
Are being termed holy for Him, all
as living in Jerusalem.
If Yahweh washes the filth of the
daughters of Zion,
And the blood of Jerusalem be expelled
from within it,
By the spirit of judgment, and by the
spirit of consumption.
The robes of
royalty invest the first account of our Lords life. He is the Son of David, who, in
the genealogy, is called the king. The genealogy itself is put forward immediately
to prove His claim to the throne of His father David. The incidents attending His birth
are all associated with the nobility of the earth. The wise men came to acknowledge the
King and Herod sought to slay Him because of His royal rights. When He announces the
Kingdom He lays down its laws and empowers His disciples to proclaim it likewise.
This account alone uses the phrase
kingdom of the heavens, a distinct reference to the prophet Daniel, who was
told that in their days, that is, of these kings, the Eloah of the heavens
will set up a kingdom . . . (Dan.2:44). It is only as we
interpret the parables it contains of this kingdom that their real significance is
discovered. Let us not associate them with a mythical kingdom in existence now
instead of that future reign predicted by Daniel and definitely assigned to a time
subsequent to the overthrow of all earthly sovereignty. They trace the history of this
kingdom from the time of its proclamation by the King, through its rejection, to its
realization at His return in power at the end of this eon. This account carries us into
the very kingdom itself in anticipation when He told them Given to Me was all
authority in heaven and on earth. The commission which follows is emphatically the
kingdom commision founded on the presence of the King. It cannot be fulfilled during His
Let us steadfastly refuse to be drawn
into the insidious application of this kingdom to Gods present work of
grace. Nothing, not even the rejection of His claim to the throne of David, will so
obscure and eclipse His glory as the King of Israel. Let us insist that, in Gods
good time, the kingdoms of this worldGreat Britain, Germany, the United States,
France, Russia, India, China, Japan and all the restall these shall be displaced by
the imperial sway of the Son of Man and Israel will have the highest place under the Son
If the writer of
Matthew was a tax-gatherer and a traitor to the royal hopes of Israel before his call, the
writer of Mark was the most distinguished example of what a servant ought not to be. Paul
would not have him with him (Acts 15:38). Yet he is chosen to portray Gods Son as
the Servant. Without a genealogy or any introduction He goes to work immediately and keeps
at it, with brief intervals of rest until He sits down at the right hand of God (16:19),
His work accomplished.
The ideal attitude of the Servant of
Yahweh towards the other nations is revealed in the story of the Syrophenician woman
(7.26). She besought Him that He would cast out the demon out of her daughter. But He said
to her, Let first the children be satisfied, for it is not ideal to take the
childrens bread and cast it to the puppies. Yet she answers, Yes, Lord.
For the puppies also, underneath the table, are eating from the scraps of the little
children. She took her proper place and received the blessing. If she had claimed
the same food as the offspring (the Lord uses a special word for children) she
would have received nothing but a rebuke. But when she acknowledged her inferior position
in the kingdom she gets her share of blessing. Had we any place in that kingdom this would
be our portion: under the table feeding on the scraps which Israel drops. Now, however,
when the table is bare and Israel has nothing, we find ourselves in a totally different
place as set forth in Pauls epistles. As the proselytes to Judaism from among the
other nations, such as Cornelius, had the standing of servants, this account of our
Lords ministry is especially suited to them. Many of its Jewish expressions are
interpreted, and its idioms accommodated to the understanding of the Roman reader.
The broader outlook
and vaster range of human sympathy found in Lukes account are foreshadowed by the
genealogy, which stretches clear back to the first man Adam. In this account He is
preeminently the Man, the only One of the human race Who bears the name without a blush.
He is the Son of Adam come to seek and to save that which Adam lost. And He will find it
and deliver it. He will undo the effects of Adams sin and restore to humanity the
sovereignty over the lower orders which Adam forfeited. He will deliver them from the
effects of sin in all its phases. This is the Man the world should be waiting for.
Repentance and remission of sins is not confined to the favored nation, but is to be
preached to the whole human race, beginning at Jerusalem. All the nations are to be
blessed through Israel. The fulfillment of this commission is given us in the book of
Acts, which speaks of Lukes account as the first account. From Jerusalem
the message spread to all Judea, and to Samaria. It was taken up by Paul in his early
ministry to the nations, but was later displaced by the gospel of God, in which repentance
is displaced by faith and remission by justification. Like the other gospels
Luke hinges all on Israels blessing. While Israel is set aside for the time
(Rom.11:14) this ministry waits until their restoration to Yahwehs favor.
account our Lords ministry is unfolded to us in these simple words: He came
out from God and is going away to God (John 13:3). Here we find Him in the beginning
with God. Then He comes to His own but His own people do not receive Him. Hence the
balance of the book is occupied with His journey back to God. If we compare this return
with the path of the priest into the tabernacle we cannot but be struck with the
similarity. After His rejection He speaks of His sacrifice. The corn of wheat falls into
the ground and dies (John 12:24). Then He washes His disciples feet, unlike, indeed,
the priests of old, who washed only their own feet at the laver. Then He enters the holy
place with His disciples, teaching them the truth of the table of shew bread in the
parable of the vine, and promising the spirit, which is the anti-type of the seven
branched lamp stand. In the seventeenth chapter He enters beyond the veil into the holy of
holies. Then it was that He went forth to His death and became the Victim on the brazen
The seven signs in this account are
especially intended to convince readers of the Hebrew Scriptures that Jesus is the
Messiah, the Son of God (John 20:30,31). The marriage at Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11)
prefigures the Wedding of the Lambkin in the day of Yahweh. And the healing of the
noblemans son (John 4:46-54), the curing of the impotent man (John 5:1-9), the
feeding of the five thousand (John 6:1-14), the stilling of the storm (John 6:16-21), the
opening of the blind mans eyes (John 9:1-7) and the raising of Lazarus (John
11:1-44) all signify and certify to the nearness of the kingdom foretold by the prophets
which commences, indeed, with the resurrection of all the saints of the Circumcision and
banishes all blindness, impotence and disease from the people because of His power over
the forces of nature.
The fact that this gospel is for the
whole world does not in the least discount the further truth that it can only be
administered through the Circumcision. John, in his first epistle includes the
whole world, but in its very expression shows that the priority of Israel is not lost
sight of for a moment. He is the propitiatory shelter concerned with our
sins, yet not concerned with ours only, but concerned with the whole world
also (1 John 2:2). The overflowing blessing of Johns gospel must not be
confounded with the transcendent ministry of the apostle Paul. Israels
spiritual blessings will spread over the whole world when they are blessed, but have no
channel while they are cast aside.
Back to Table of Contents
Back to Chapter 4 - Forward to Chapter 6
Copyright © Concordant Publishing Concern
P.O. Box 449, Almont, MI 48003 810-798-3563
This publication may be reproduced for personal use
(all other rights reserved by copyright holder).