Not My People

“Concerning the Gentiles, God says in the prophecy of Hosea, “Those who were not my people, I will now call my people. And I will love those whom I did not love before.” And, “Then, at the place where they were told, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’””
Romans 9:25-26 NLT

Imagine how the Gentile Roman recipients of Paul’s letter must have felt when they read these verses. God, through His grace and mercy, has extended His love to all those not of Jewish heritage but who called upon His name anyway. Paul quoted verses from the Old Testament prophet Hosea – Hosea 2:23 and 1:10. But the entirety of the prophet Hosea’s message didn’t come to fruition until the early Apostles started to evangelise the world of their day. It wasn’t easy for the Jewish men. Acts 10 gives the fascinating account of Peter, and how God gave him a vision about telling the Good News to a Gentile believer, Cornelius. This man, a Roman centurion, we are told, was a God-fearing man who, one day, had a visit from an angel who scared the life out of him. He was told to send for Peter, who was living at the time in a place called Joppa. In parallel with this, Peter received a vision. We read in Acts 10:11-13, “He saw the sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners. In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them””. Peter wasn’t happy about this, because the sheet was full of animals that Jews were not supposed to eat. He said in Acts 10:14, ““No, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean””. But the response to him in the vision was, “ … “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean”” (Acts 10:15). This happened three times and then there was a knock at the door from the men that Cornelius had sent to find him. We can read how Cornelius and his family became believers in the rest of the passage in Acts 10.

Jesus of course prepared the way for salvation for all men. The famous verses we read – John 3:16-17 say, “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“.  But Jesus Himself was only sent to God’s people, the Jews. Of course, He couldn’t be everywhere. Jesus told the Syrophoenician woman, as recorded in Matthew 15:24, “He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel’“. ‭‭But He commissioned His disciples to take the Gospel beyond the Jews, as we read in Matthew 28:19-20, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age‘”.

Today there are many Christian denominations. But regardless of which one we belong to, we know that Jesus must be at the centre. The liturgy, the prayers – they must all point to Him. He is truly the Son of God and all that we do in our churches must be to His glory. Sadly, there are one or two Christian sects who have demoted Jesus to little more than a prophet. However, the old Apostle John, living as he did in an age of all sorts of erroneous claims about Jesus, wrote in 1 John 4:1-3, “Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here“.

We pilgrims are truly grateful that God’s grace even extended to us Gentiles. Wherever we are living in the world, or whichever race we belong to, God’s grace and His Good News reached us. There is no where we can go to escape it. And as we extend that invitation to those around us, we remember how God’s love and grace saved us from a lost eternity. Let us never forget!

Dear God. We are so grateful for all You have done for us. And for extending Your love and grace to pilgrims everywhere. we praise You today. Amen.

The Bride

“Then one of the seven angels who held the seven bowls containing the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come with me! I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”
Revelation‬ ‭21:9‬ ‭NLT

If someone invited us to go and see a bride what would we expect to see? A beautiful young woman dressed in an expensive white dress? Hair beautiful coiffured? Makeup expertly applied? Nails perfect? An excited smile on her face? Yes, all of these things would apply. But if we were asked to describe the “wife of the Lamb”, what would we expect to see?

The Scriptures describe the Bride being readied for Christ. Ephesians 5:25-27 reads, “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.” So we see that the Bride of Christ is the Church, made up of Christians, those who have become His followers through His saving sacrifice at Calvary.

But when we look at the Church of today, do we see a perfect representation of a Bride, in all her glory, in all her beauty? “Without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish”. Sadly, there would appear to be much in the Church of today that falls far short of the “glorious church” that Paul wrote about. But there are two things worthy of thought. 

In Matthew 25, Jesus told a parable about sheep and goats. The sheep represent those who were saved and redeemed through their relationship with Jesus, and they demonstrated their salvation through the way they treated those around them. On the other hand, the goats represent those who did not have a relationship with Jesus, but even though they may, or may not, have performed charitable and helpful acts to others, that was of no consequence to their status before the “Great White Throne” of judgement. So the sheep and goats template, when overlaid on today’s Church, might have some surprising results.

The other thing that church leaders fret about is church unity. Ecumenism is important when it is represented by different churches with the same fundamental beliefs in God and the infallibility of Scripture. Sadly, there are some denominations that claim a right to be part of the ecumenical movement, but who deny some of the “red-lines” laid down in Scripture. Thankfully, the washing “by the cleansing of God’s word” will make the Bride of Christ “holy and clean”.

In the end, what denomination we belong to is less important than the relationship we individually and corporately have with God. Jesus said in John 10:16, “I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd”. Perhaps He was leaving the door open for His ultimate Bride, the Church, to have many representations, enriching her personality. It won’t matter whether we are Anglicans, Baptists, Charismatics or any other denomination – the ground at the foot of the Cross is level with all repentant sinners eligible for salvation. Eligible to be part of the “wife of the Lamb”.

Dear Lord. We thank You for Calvary and Your sacrifice for our sins. Your praises are always on our lips. Amen.

The Church

“Now He is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made Him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is His body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with Himself.”
‭Ephesians‬ ‭1:21-23‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Earlier in this first chapter of Ephesians we read that God had a plan. “And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth.” (‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭1:10‬ ‭NLT‬‬). Now that the plan had come to fruition, Paul reaffirms the greatness of Christ, and His status as being the ultimate head of all things. Even head over our presidents or prime ministers. Jesus had, and still has, that authority. And He always will have for all eternity. God’s plan has been implemented through Him. Paul continues with the revelation that all this was because of the Church. But what is this church? A dictionary look up immediately defines churches as ornate and religious buildings, but the dictionary writers had obviously not read these verses. Paul is quite explicit – the Church is the Body of Christ. And Christ is the ultimate authority over everything for the benefit of the Church. 

As an aside, the devil is not the least bit concerned about church buildings. He knows that they are a wonderful device for soaking up the resources of God’s people, their time and their money, in building maintenance. Two congregations local to where I live are in a perilous state because they were very building focused and their church buildings have had to be abandoned because maintenance will cost money that they don’t have. Without a building they are, as Jesus said, “like sheep without a shepherd”

But back to the real Church – the Body of Christ. Romans 12:4-5 reads,  “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” The Body of Christ is composed exclusively of Christians. Not denominations, I should add. All those who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour qualify for membership of the Body of Christ. Sadly, this opens a can of worms, because Christians are not good at accepting people in other denominations. The problem is summed up in this old song by the Christian singing group, the Imperials.

Well, you can call yourself a Baptist and not be born again,
A Presbyterian or a Methodist and still die in your sin.
You can even be Charismatic shout and dance and jump a pew.
But if you hate your brother you won’t be one of The Chosen Few.

We need to be careful about what we say about other Christians and other denominations. Whatever we are denominationally labelled matters nothing – the important thing is our relationships with God and each other. Another reason to be careful in what we say about other denominations is that all Christians form the Body of Christ. If we criticise Christians in other denominations, are we not criticising Christ Himself?

Moving on swiftly, we Christians are in a very blessed position. With Jesus as our Head, and us made “full and complete by Christ” we are unstoppable. Praise be to our wonderful God!


“Let me be united with all who fear You, 
with those who know Your laws.
Psalm 119:79 NLT

“Let me be united with all who fear you” sounds like a noble goal. Nothing to disagree with there, I think. I would think we Christians all “fear” God, in the fullest meaning of the word. And we all know His laws because we read the same book, the Bible. So it’s not hard to pray the prayer, “Let me be united“. But then a niggling thought pops up in my mind. What about Christians in other denominations who perhaps interpret Bible verses differently to me? Or what about those brothers and sisters who discount parts of the Bible because they don’t think they are applicable 2000 years or so after they were written? What about the denominations that involve a liturgy I find strange and archaic? Or what about that dear sister who told me she doesn’t read the Old Testament because there is too much violence and bloodshed? Am I united with them? Hmmm…

There can be a problem because, although we all start from the same position in reading the same Bible, legalism, liturgies and licence all start to erode our very roots. The problems can even start with dissension over which version of the Bible we should use. I know someone who will only use the original King James Version of the Bible, writing off all other versions as heresies. And then how the Scriptures are interpreted pushes us further apart. Many different denominations have emerged based on misunderstandings and misinterpretations, disagreements and differences. As an example, in 1843 the Church of Scotland split into two denominations after years of wrangling, to become the original Church and the Free Church. Apparently, one third of the ministers in the Church of Scotland started a new denomination because of a row over what was perceived at the time as state interference in the Church. But it didn’t end there – the Free Church split in two in 1900, into the United Free Church and the original Free Church. The reasons for such historical events are fading into the mists of time, but it would be inappropriate to offer judgement over what went wrong. Having been part of a church split some years ago, I know such events can be unavoidable when legalism and liturgies become more important than a relationship with our gracious and loving God. As we allow worldliness and secular principles to creep into our churches, diluting and destroying the pure Word of God, we inevitably end up with problems.

There is another key word that is often lacking in inter-denominational rivalry and dissent. And that is “grace”. How do I view people in other churches? With a judgemental attitude, or with God’s eyes of grace-filled love? Do we think our liturgy is better than theirs? Do we think we are right and they are wrong? I have for a number of years had a niggling thought that God is less concerned about which denomination I attend than about my heart attitude in worshipping Him “in Spirit and truth” (John 4:23). The reality is that I need to look kindly, lovingly and graciously at other Christians, whatever their denomination. A dear Christian couple recently told me about the abusive attitudes they had experienced from evangelical Christians over their Roman Catholic roots. Unfortunately these attitudes are all too common and can be seen working out in sectarian disturbances between Protestants and Catholics.

But whatever our denominations, God loves all His children; one day we all will stand before Him to give an account of our lives. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:10 (AMP), “For we [believers will be called to account and] must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be repaid for what has been done in the body, whether good or bad [that is, each will be held responsible for his actions, purposes, goals, motives–the use or misuse of his time, opportunities and abilities].”  Another Hmmm…. I think.

So in a sense, the Psalmist in this verse, Psalm 119:79, has opened a “can of worms”. Church unity is often talked about and joint services are sometimes held between denominations, but this is not what the Psalmist was talking about. Christians are bound together by a fundamental belief that God sent His Son Jesus to this world, born of a virgin, living a life as a human being but without sinning, to bridge that gap between God and man, and ultimately to die for the forgiveness of our sins. Paul wrote about unity in several of his Epistles. Here’s one verse from 1 Corinthians 1:10 (AMP), “But I urge you, believers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in full agreement in what you say, and that there be no divisions or factions among you, but that you be perfectly united in your way of thinking and in your judgment [about matters of the faith]”. Though he was writing to one particular church, I believe the principle applies across all churches.

So how does our 21st Century pilgrim cope with and respond to other Christians in the cause of unity? With grace and love. Just as God does. We might not want to hang our coats on their liturgical pegs, but we love them anyway. There is no other way.