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In the text "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of Samaritans enter not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Does Jesus place restrictions on the preaching of the twelve? How would the original audience have understood the text?

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  • This is one of the main reasons why some people doubt Paul as an accurate portrayal of Christ. Commented Mar 4, 2017 at 1:26
  • It is only common sense to try putting one's own house in order, before telling anyone else how to take care of their own.
    – Lucian
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 15:12

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Jesus sent the Disciples first to the Jews so that they (the Jews) would not later be able to claim that they did not believe in Him because He preached first to the Gentiles and Samaritans and not to them. On this passage, John Chrysostom (347-407 AD) writes:

He sends them on the harder task, indicating his guardian care of them, and stopping the mouths of the Jews, and preparing the way for the teaching of the apostles, that people might not hereafter blame them for entering in to men uncircumcised [Acts 11:3] and think they had a just cause for shunning and abhorring them. And he calls them “lost,” not “stray,” “sheep,” in every way contriving how to excuse them, and whining their mind to himself.

Homily XXXII on the Gospel According to St. Matthew

It has also been suggested that Jesus wanted the Disciples to avoid - at this point at least - the lifestyle of the Gentiles. Hilary of Poitiers (300-368 AD) writes:

They are warned to avoid the ways of the Gentiles, not because they were never going to be sent for the salvation of the Gentiles, but because they were to avoid the works and lifestyle of the unenlightened Gentiles. They were warned, moreover, not to go into the assemblies of heretics [i.e. Samaritans]. For heterodoxy does not differ at all from unenlightenment. Therefore they were being sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, who raged against him with the tongues and jaws of wolves and vipers. At any rate, the law was due to receive the special benefit of the gospel. The less excuse Israel had for its ungodly behavior, the more zeal it might have in heeding the warning

On Matthew X.III

Jerome (327-420 AD) moreover explains how Jesus' command here to avoid the Gentiles is not inconsistent with His later command to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19):

This passage is not contrary to the command given later: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The former command was given before the resurrection and the latter after the resurrection. It was necessary to announce Christ’s first coming to the Jews, lest they have a good excuse for saying that the Lord rejected them because he had sent the apostles to the Gentiles and the Samaritans.

Commentary on Matthew I.X.5-6

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The commissioning of the twelve, of Matthew 10, was for an exclusive purpose for a period of time. Jesus stated his purpose was to reach "the lost sheep of the house of Israel". A close look at who the "lost sheep" were, and examining the prophetical context of that verse will shed light on why Jesus temporarily directed the disciple's focus to their brethren according to the flesh.

When Jesus referenced the house of Israel He was speaking of all twelve tribes. After the nation of Israel was divided (only Benjamin remained loyal to the house of David), many Jews fled the northern kingdom to Judah because of its abominations. II Chronicles 11 records why members of Levi came to Judah.

2Ch 11:14 For the Levites left their pasture lands and their possession, and came to Judah and Jerusalem; for Jeroboam and his sons cast them off, that they should not execute the priest’s office to Yahweh. 2Ch 11:15 He himself appointed priests for the high places, for the male goats, and for the calves which he had made. 2Ch 11:16 After them, out of all the tribes of Israel, those who set their hearts to seek Yahweh, the God of Israel, came to Jerusalem to sacrifice to Yahweh, the God of their fathers.

It's clear that only a remnant of the tribes returned. And as Israel's level of sins reached its fill, God caused the the Northern kingdom to be exiled by the Assyrians. Though most were exiled, a few remained. These lost sheep would typify a people who were many years to come. That is, a lost people who were in need of a righteous King.

For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they departed not from them; Until the LORD removed Israel out of his sight, as he had said by all his servants the prophets. So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day. II Kings 17:22-23

Please read the following passages. They record how remnants of the Northern Kingdom (sometimes called Ephraim/Israel) came to Judah, once again faithful to the House of David: 2nd Chronicles 15:9-10, 2nd Chronicles 30:6, 2nd Chronicles 30:10.

The passages found in 2 Chronicles 30 are very important. They record how Hezekiah, King of Judah, called for those who remained In Israel to humble themselves and come to Judah for Passover.

"So the posts went with the letters from the king and his princes throughout all Israel and Judah, and according to the commandment of the king, saying, Ye children of Israel, turn again unto the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, and he will return to the remnant of you, that are escaped out of the hand of the kings of Assyria. 2nd Chronicles 30:10

But the call from the king was neglected by all but a remnant. Eventually Judah's string of evil kings, and the sins of the nation caused them be exiled by the Babylonians.

Lost Sheep?

The earthly ministry of Jesus was a time when the Jews were lead by blind guides and hypocrites (Matt 23: 16-22). The were in need of Righteous leadership. Hence Christ's command to preach the message of God's kingdom (Matt 10:7). Christ had not come to set up a carnal earthly kingdom. It was His purpose to seek and save the lost (Lk 19:10). Israel, and later Judah, had historically been nations of lost sheep, each lead by bad shepherds.

Jer 50:6 My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have caused them to go astray. They have turned them away on the mountains. They have gone from mountain to hill. They have forgotten their resting place.

This verse speaks of both Judah and Israel.

Jer 50:17 “Israel is a hunted sheep. The lions have driven him away. First, the king of Assyria devoured him, and now at last Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has broken his bones.”

Only to the lost sheep?

It was God's design to call a remnant to faithfulness through the ministry of His dear Son. What the OT typified was fulfilled in Christ. Here again we see the most righteous King, Jesus, calling His lost sheep through the agency of His disciples. This was specific in scope and focus for a period of time to Israel. What we find here is the fulfillment of OT prophesy. What Hezekiah did in part; unify the two divided nations into one loyal to house of David, Jesus did in totality; unify one spiritual holy nation loyal to the King of Kings.

How are we to understand this?

It was God's divine plan to bring a people to Himself (To the Jew first then the gentile Rom 1:16). But the gentiles were not to be neglected. In fact, Paul explained that it was God's plan all along to bring gentiles into the fold making one new man in Christ (Eph 2:15). Jesus makes mention of this in John 10:16:

And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

If we consider God's treatment of Israel under its ignoble kings and their abominations. And consider God calling Israel "not my people" Hos 1:9. Then we can better understand why the inspired apostle Paul used this passage in regarding the calling of the gentiles.

Rom 9:24 whom he also called, not from the Jews only, but also from the Gentiles? Rom 9:25 As he says also in Hosea, “I will call them ‘my people,’ which were not my people; and her ‘beloved,’ who was not beloved.”

You asked a very good question. I hope I've answered it well. I added a lot of information with the aim detouring doctrinal errors proposed by dispensationalists who purpose that the message of the kingdom was only for Israel until Jewish rejection.

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Christ came to the Jews and the House of Israel - God's chosen people - first (Mat. 15:24). He gave them a chance to accept salvation knowing they were so steeped in tradition and man's commandments they would, for the most part, reject Him (Mat. 13:57). It was ordained from the beginning that Christ would be born a Jew and that they would have Him crucified. He went first to His own people and they did not recognize Him (John 8:19)!

In Acts 13:46 Barnabas and Paul tell the Jews that they were to receive the Gospel first but, since they rejected salvation, it was being offered to the Gentiles.

There are no restrictions now on where or to whom the Gospel is to be preached (Mat. 12:21, Acts 9:15) but while Christ lived, He - and His disciples - went only to His own. Not because they were better than anyone else but they had been entrusted with the preservation of God's Word and SHOULD have known and accepted the true Messiah. Their perversion of God's commandments and their smug traditions made it impossible for most to see what was right before their eyes.

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In order to explain this question, I have to give you the back story of Israel. At the outset, after the Egyptian captivity and Pharaoh's defeat, the children of Israel promised in the wilderness by saying to Moses in Exodus 24:7 “All that the Lord has said, we will do, and be obedient.” So Moses proceed with the blood covenant which was made between God and Israel. Well the tribes did not keep their end of the covenant and the children's children had to pay for the sins of the fathers via the Assyrians captivity spoken of in 2 Kings 17:6, the Babylonian slavery stated in 1 Chronicle's 9:1 and others such as the Persian-Medes (Ezra 9:9), Greek (1 Maccabees 8:18) Romans (during Christ), the Sub-Saharan and Spain captivity (after Christ) and finally the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade of the Americas as stated in Deuteronomy 28:68. Slavery had occurred so much that it provoked Jeremiah in verses 2:14 to ask, "Is Israel a slave? Or is he a home-born servant? So God declaring the end from the beginning stated in Jeremiah 5:19, "And when the people ask, 'Why has the LORD our God done all this to us?' you will tell them, 'As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your own land, so now you will serve foreigners in a land not your own.'

Not being in their land would prevent them from sacrificing as told, So the God of Israel not only tested Abraham with the sacrificing of Isaac, but He ultimately sent his son as an ultimate sacrifice for Israel knowing they would need a lamb for the condition and sins to come especially since they would be scattered to the four corners of the earth per the curses starting at Deuteronomy 28:15 and become without a land (Luke 21:24), heritage (Jeremiah 17:4, 12:7 and 15:14) and a loss people without a God (Isaiah 1:3 and Jeremiah 2:11)

As you may know, all the new covenant is based on the old so John 3:16 which really comes from Isaiah 45:17 states: "But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end." And this is why it states in Matthew 1:21 "...and He shall save His people from their sins." and the Messiah stated in Matthew 15:24, "I am only sent to the lost sheep of Israel." So ultimately Israel would become a nation among nations and be as gentiles serving gods as the gentiles do. So this is why in John 7:35 when the Messiah stated he was going to where he could not be found, the people asked among themselves, "Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the scattered among the Gentiles, and teach the scattered Gentiles?"And Paul stated, in Ephesians 2:11, "Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh,...remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world." Additionally, this is why James is addressed to the 12 Tribes, who are scattered and the other book are addressed to those who were Hellenized and living like heathens which it was unlawful for Jew to even talk to them as Cornelius. Finally know, the Northern 10 tribes were not even present when the Messiah walked the Earth only Judah, or Jews, the tribe of the Messiah linage, The Tribe of Benjamin and the Levites (which included some of Pharisees and Sadducees) who were rejecting the Messiah and also being paid by the Romans Kingdom. Thus, those not present when he came needed to hear the good news too.

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But she came and bowed down before him and said, “Lord, help me!” “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs,”. “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, your faith is great! Let what you want be done for you.” And her daughter was healed from that hour (Mt 15:25-28 [NET])

After Jesus left there, he went to the region of Tyre. When he went into a house, he did not want anyone to know, but he was not able to escape notice. Instead, a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him and came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, of Syrophoenician origin. She asked him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and to throw it to the dogs.” She answered, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “Because you said this, you may go. The demon has left your daughter.” She went home and found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. Then Jesus went out again from the region of Tyre and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee in the region of the Decapolis. (Mc 7:25-31 [NET])

Jesus was in the region of Tyre. Talking to a Greek woman, of Syrophoenician origin

I understand that the children in the context, represent those who were waiting for the Messiah: The Jews, the Samaritans as the woman of the well (John 4:1-4:42) and up to some gentilics, like the magicians who visited Jesus in his birth.

And the little dogs all arrange what were not waiting for the Messiah, in great majority, the gentilics.

How do understand the text? David M Moyane

He came to what was his own, but his own people did not receive him. (Jo 1:11 [NET])

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