It is clear from the Bible that the New Testament is the New Testament – that is a new agreement between God and man thanks to the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The New Testament is not the Old Testament, but the New.
Now all this may be obvious, but people will try to make the Old Testament affect the interpretation and understanding of the New Testament. The position of the nation of Israel is one good example. There are those who still claim a special place for the Jewish nation, despite the clear teaching of Jesus Christ.
And we come to just such a clear passage this week in our study of the last verses of chapter 21 in Matthew’s Gospel – verses 33 to 46.
Jesus tells the story of a vineyard owner who rented out his vineyard for many years to unfaithful tenants. Those tenants abused their position and abused the owner’s servants when they came to collect the rent. When the owner finally sent his son, they killed him, believing that they could then just take over the property as its owners themselves.
In the end, the owner returns, throws the tenants out and installs new tenants who will pay their rent on time without quibble. Faithful tenants, grateful for the opportunity and keen to meet their side of the agreement as they appreciate what the owner has done for them.
The chief priests and Pharisees understood immediately the interpretation of this parable. They were the bad tenants, and they were to be evicted. Their privileges in God’s kingdom were to be taken away from them and given to another people prepared to properly cultivate the spiritual fruit and pay their dues to God.
In other words, the Jews were no longer to be God’s privileged people. Those who come to faith in Jesus Christ are now the people of God – as the apostle Peter so clearly confirms and explains in verse 9 of chapter 2 of his first letter.
We do not need to dwell on this tragic outcome for the Jewish nation. But we must note this. God had for many centuries held faith with the little nation he had called out of Egypt to be his special people. Centuries. But the privilege he bestowed and the blessing he gave were not appreciated. In fact it was taken for granted and demeaned. The people were continually faithless despite the arrival of various prophets over the centuries to call them back to God.
They were therefore cast off and a new agreement made by God with a new people – the church – the body of believers in Jesus Christ. Individual Jews can certainly come to Christ, and do. But as a nation they have now a residual and historical role in the historical plan of God. God may still use the nation of the Jews in Israel to make a point in the affairs of mankind and in history; but they are no longer God’s special people – that privilege belongs to the believers in Jesus Christ, and those believers are drawn from every tribe and tongue and nation [Jews included] as the Revelation to John makes clear, and as the events of Pentecost also indicate.
Now we must understand the reason why the kingdom was taken from the Jews and given to Gentiles.
Jesus makes it clear when he said in Matthew 21 and verse 43:
The kingdom of God shall be taken from you and given to a nation bringing forth the fruit of it.
God was not getting his due honour and obedience from the Jewish nation, so he started again. But God still expects to receive the fruit he wants from this new nation. This new people, the Church, is under an obligation to give God his due place in their lives and to bring forth fruit for him.
And what is the fruit he expects ?
First and foremost lives dedicated to him, that is
- praising and thanking him
- becoming more like Jesus in outlook and behaviour
- serving God’s purpose of bringing other souls to Christ
which we might put otherwise as
The words of the apostle Peter cited above confirm this when he says:
But ye are a chosen generation,
- a royal priesthood,
- an holy nation – a peculiar people;
- that ye should show forth the praises [or virtue] of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light
This means the church of Jesus Christ must live out its precious and privileged position !