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Summary: ALL who are in Christ Jesus are accepted by God. We have no right to refuse any whom God has received.

THE INCLUSIVENESS OF THE CHURCH AGE.

Isaiah 56:1-8.

The idea here seems to be that the community of God’s people should “preserve justice and do righteousness” (Isaiah 56:1). The reason is not far to seek: “for My salvation is near to come, and My righteousness to be revealed”.

Our ‘doing what is right’ is only possible because we have had ‘His righteousness’ imputed to us (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21). Outside of Christ we simply cannot keep the law: but in Christ we are enabled and empowered and motivated to 1. honour God’s ordinances and to 2. keep our hand from doing any evil, God being with us (cf. Isaiah 56:2).

1. I mention ordinances, but there is one in particular which is named in this passage: the Sabbath (Isaiah 56:6). We read in the New Testament: ‘There remains therefore a rest (i.e. sabbath) to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest’ - not will enter at the end of life, but ‘is’ entered here and now - ‘he also has ceased from his own works, as God did from His’ (cf. Hebrews 4:9-10). In other words, we are no longer trusting to our own works for salvation but are resting entirely in the finished work of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Ultimately, the Sabbath represents the final rest of the new heavens and the new earth (cf. Isaiah 66:22-23).

2. Those who are up and doing in this matter are those who have been made righteous in the righteousness of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (cf. Romans 3:21-22). ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved’ (cf. Acts 16:31). Please note that we are saved ‘unto good works’ (cf. Ephesians 2:8-10).

The openness and inclusiveness on offer in Isaiah’s vision is quite remarkable. It is as if the doors of the Temple should be open to the non-Jew, and even to the outcast (cf. Isaiah 56:3). Significantly one of the early converts to Christianity was both (cf. Acts 8:26-27; Acts 8:36-37). The barrier between Jew and Gentile was serious enough, but God was about to do a new thing (cf. Isaiah 45:22; Isaiah 55:5).

All that should be asked of prospective church members is that they should be committed to the LORD (through our Lord Jesus Christ), to serve Him, to love His name, and to hold fast His covenant (Isaiah 56:6). The Church, for her part, should receive all such, regardless of ethnicity or social background.

The bringing of the outsiders to the holy mountain (Isaiah 56:7) is reminiscent of Isaiah 2:2-3. There the prophet was lifting his eyes beyond the present circumstances of the kingdom of Judah towards a future hope which embraces the whole world. According to the Apostle Peter ‘the last days’ began at Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:16-17).

In the days when Jesus walked this earth, the Jerusalem Temple was only partially fulfilling the function of a place of worship for all peoples. Jesus had occasion to remind His contemporaries that ‘It is written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations”, but you have made it a den of thieves’ (cf. Mark 11:17). The earthly Temple was only ever temporary, as implied in Jesus’ words to the disciples as He left the second Temple for the last time (cf. Matthew 24:1-2).

Jesus did not come to abolish the sacrificial system, but to fulfil it, and to offer Himself as the supreme and final sacrifice for sin (cf. Hebrews 9:25-26). When Jesus’ work upon the Cross was finished, the veil in the Temple was rent in two, from the top to the bottom (cf. Matthew 27:51). Although the Temple rituals continued for a transitional period, the need for sacrifice had been met in His death.

The Temple was the site of many of the scenes in the Gospels and Acts, and it was from here that the message of Jesus went forth to all the world. It is possible that the picture of many nations coming to the house of the God of Jacob represents the progress of the gospel from that place (cf. Isaiah 2:3).

This work is ongoing (Isaiah 56:8), and will continue until the full number of the Gentiles shall be gathered in, ‘and all Israel shall be saved’ (Romans 11:25-26). ‘I have other sheep, which are not of this fold,’ says Jesus: ‘them also must I bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one flock and one Shepherd’ (John 10:16).

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