For an understanding of the Lord’s message of salvation to Jews and Gentiles there is perhaps no more interesting, significant and instructive portion of the Scriptures than the story of the Lord Jesus and the Greek woman, recorded in Mark 7:24 to 30 and Matthew 15:21 to 28. Every student of the Word of God should carefully and prayerfully read those two accounts and diligently study them for the meaning which the Holy Spirit has in them for our instruction and edification.
We have in Mark 7:26 this statement, “the woman was a Greek”. To that woman, the Lord Jesus said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. Matthew 15:24. The Greek woman did not belong to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Therefore, to her the Lord Jesus was not sent. But some years later the Lord Jesus had gone back to heaven, and He called and appointed an apostle to go to the Gentiles. Acts 22:21. That apostle wrote, “I am debtor to the Greeks”. Romans 1:14.
When the Lord Jesus was on earth He was Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved by God in the midst of Israel. He was a minister of the circumcision to confirm God’s promises to Israel. He was born to take the throne of David. Acts 2:22; Romans 15:8; Luke 1:29 to 32. He rode into Jerusalem as King of Israel, but Israel would not receive Him as King. Certain Greeks, desired to see the King but He would not gratify their desire. To those Greeks He sent word that He must first be the corn of wheat to die and be raised. John 12:20 to 27.
To the Greek woman, the Lord Jesus said, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread and cast it to dogs”. Here we see that the Lord Jesus referred to His own people, Israel, as “the children” and to the Greeks as “the dogs.” At first thought it would seem to us that the Lord was rather unkind and unmerciful to the woman, but we can better understand His plain speech when we read the history of the Gentiles in the first chapter of Romans. According to that same Divine Record, the Gentiles were “no people”, “a foolish nation”, “the wild olive tree”. Romans 10:19 and Romans 11:17. But in this same Divine Record there is recorded the glorious good news for the Gentiles. They obtained mercy because of the unbelief of the children. Romans 11:30. Therefore, we find in Romans 10:12 that the Gentiles’ position, in the year 60 A. D., was entirely different from the Gentiles’ position when Jesus of Nazareth was on earth. When He was here they were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise; dead in trespasses and sins; without Christ, without God; and having no hope in the world. Ephesians 2:1 to 12. The Lord Jesus called Israel “children”; the Greeks “dogs”. What a great difference there is between children and dogs. But about 20 years later, God declared, “There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek”. Romans 10:12. “Both Jew and Greek baptized by the same Spirit into the same body”. I Corinthians 12:13. As we read these last two statements we should be sufficiently interested in the change and development of God’s program and purpose to see what took place between the year of Christ’s message to the Greek woman and the year Paul wrote, “there is no difference between the Jew and Greek”. In this study let us emphasize these words of the Lord Jesus to the Greek woman.
LET THE CHILDREN FIRST BE FILLED
What did the Lord mean by these words to the Greek, “let the children FIRST be filled”? Mark 7:27. I think we have a very definite answer to this question in Paul’s message to a company of Jews, about the year 45 A. D., which was some 15 years after the Lord Jesus had met the Greek woman. After the Apostle Paul had faithfully presented Messiah’s claims to Israel, the Jews opposed him and rejected the Lord Jesus once more. Whereupon the Apostle Paul uttered these words, recorded in Acts 13:46, which we quote: “It was necessary that the Word of God should FIRST have been spoken to you; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles”. Then followed the salvation of a multitude of Greeks. Acts 14:1.
Now let us carefully note the Lord’s statement, by the mouth of Paul, in Acts 13:46. He said to the children, “It was necessary that the Word should first be spoken to you”. We can see that that was in accordance with Mark 7:27. But it is rather difficult to understand such a statement if we are to believe the teaching of most of our Premillennial, Fundamentalist teachers. These brethren have tried to lead us to believe—and have succeeded with many of their students in the teaching—that Israel, or the children, were set aside when Christ in the closing verses of the 23rd chapter of Matthew said “your house is left unto you desolate”. In those verses He called them “serpents and a generation of vipers”. I presume we are all agreed that if we had to be called either “dogs” or “serpents”, we would prefer to be called “dogs”. And if we were to judge only by the bitter denunciation of the Lord Jesus, recorded in Matthew 23:31 to 39, we would most assuredly say that Israel’s King and Messiah was done with that Nation. We would say that the children’s opportunity to be filled had been forfeited. After reading Matthew 21:33 to 43 and Matthew 23:31 to 39 we would decide that the Kingdom had been taken from them and God had given them up.
But as we turn to Paul’s message, recorded in Acts 13:46, we must decide that God had changed His mind. He had postponed His judgment, pronounced by the Lord Jesus, in the 23rd of Matthew. For in that “Acts” message the Apostle Paul plainly declared that the children must first be filled. And there we learn that Paul turned to the Gentiles, because Israel had again refused to be filled. Is it not rather difficult to reconcile the judgment of Christ. in the 23rd chapter of Matthew, with Paul’s statement in Acts 13:46, unless we diligently search the Scriptures to see what caused the change in God’s attitude toward Israel?
If we are willing to approach the Scriptures with open minds, without the prejudice or interference of our preconceived opinions and the interpretations of other men, we can understand and reconcile the two messages in the light of Christ’s prayer on the cross and His message by the mouth of Peter and the Eleven, recorded in Acts 3:14 to 26.
We have observed that in the 23rd chapter of Matthew, the Lord Jesus, rejected by His own Nation, called them “serpents” and pronounced the judgment of desolation upon them. But in the message of Peter, recorded in the closing verses of the 3rd chapter of Acts, the same serpents and vipers were addressed very affectionately and tenderly, in great mercy, “ye are the children of the prophets and of the covenant”. Then the Lord added, “Unto you FIRST”. Acts 3:25 and 26. Now it is easy to understand “Unto you first”, in the light of Mark 7:27: “the children must first be filled”. But it is not at all easy to understand, “Unto you first” in the light of the 23rd chapter of Matthew. In Mark 7:27, Israel were children. In Acts 3:25 they were children. In Matthew 23:33 they were a generation of vipers, serpents. Why should serpents have preference over dogs? The answer is the prayer of Christ on the cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”. Then followed that message of mercy in Acts 3:12 to 26. We quote the 17th verse and the 25th and 26th verses:
“And now, brethren I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.”
“Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers. saying unto Abraham, and in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.”
“Unto you FIRST God, having raised up His Son Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning every one of you from his iniquities.”
Can we not say, therefore, that we could never understand the ministry of the Twelve Apostles and Paul to Israel, during the Book of Acts, if we accept the teachings of those who would have us believe that Israel was set aside when Christ was delivered to Pilate to be crucified? Surely the kingdom was not taken away from Israel until some years after Pentecost.
Let us read and compare Matthew 16:20 with. Acts 2:36, Acts 17:3 and Acts 18:5. In these Scriptures, quoted from Acts, we learn that the Twelve Apostles and Paul were doing just what the Lord forbade them to do in Matthew 16:20. They were testifying to Israel that Jesus was the Christ. What is the answer? The answer is, because of the prayer of Christ on the cross, God postponed judgment and made a new offer to His Nation Israel which was not the offer of the Body of Christ, which later began historically.