Monday, June 6, 2011

In Search Of Truth, Romans 11:12-18

In previous verses, Paul made it clear that God has not given up on the Jews. Although in Paul’s day and today they have mostly chosen to reject Christ (and therefore God as well, according to 1 John 2:23 and 2 John 1:9), God still has a special purpose reserved for the Jewish people. In the meantime, their rejection of God has resulted in the offer of salvation being extended to all non-Jews. Paul reasons that if their rejection of God resulted in God blessing the rest of the world, the world will be blessed even more when the Jews pursue God again and fulfill his purpose for them! (v.12)

So what does all of this mean for those of us who are not Jews? Paul refocuses his attention toward his Gentile (non-Jewish) readers, calling himself an Apostle (representative of Christ) to the Gentiles. He even aims to draw attention to his ministry to Gentiles (which would have seemed very strange to Jews, who didn’t associate with Gentiles) so that his fellow Jews might take notice and pursue the truth, leading to their salvation. (v.13-14)

This entire scenario serves as another example of how God can use what we intend for evil to accomplish incredible good. The Jews rejected Christ, but God used his crucifixion to make salvation possible. And while they continue to reject Christ and God, God responds by offering salvation to the rest of the world. And once again, when the Jews return to pursuing God, it will result in incredible blessing for them and the rest of the world, which Paul dramatically compares to “life from the dead”. (v.15)

So God is still very much at work in the Jewish people. Paul references the offering of the “firstfruits” that God established for Israel in Numbers 15:20-21. When the first bread from the first harvest was offered to God, it symbolically meant that the entire harvest was dedicated to God’s purposes. So Paul is saying that, likewise, the Jews were established at the beginning to be God’s special people, and that purpose still remains consistent throughout the rest of time. Even now, as they reject God, they are being used to fulfill his purposes. And eventually they will be a unique and powerful instrument for God.(v.16a)

In a similar metaphor, Paul implies that the "root" of Israel ensures that the "branches" will be like it. Israel’s foundation, or “root” is in God’s dealings with them as described in the Old Testament. God repeatedly promised and assigned a special role and purpose for them. This is the foundation for all Old Testament teaching to the Jews. The branches are the people of this chosen group. (v.16b)

From Paul’s day until now, a number of Jews have been “broken off” from God’s chosen group because they refuse to pursue and trust in Christ, while non-Jews have been “grafted in” through their trust in Christ and his offer to save them and bring them into this family he is creating.

But Gentile Christians (as most Christians currently are) should not be arrogant and discount the special role of the Jews in God’s plan. Instead we should be grateful to be grafted into God’s family, realizing that we owe our salvation to God’s work through the Jewish people throughout history. (v.17-18) Despite the fact that most Christians today are Gentiles, Christianity is a Jewish religion; a Jewish kingdom and a Jewish family that the rest of the world has been invited into.

Next- The Disowned And The Adopted Of God’s Family

Coffee House Question- Why do you suppose we don’t usually think of Christianity as a “Jewish Religion” and how might we change that perception?

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