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Jealous Jews and Grafted Gentiles

Jim Thompson - 5/13/2018

The gospel is the good news that the crucified and risen Jesus is the true Lord of the world. And through the power of the gospel, God is changing people because of and to be like him. The major movements in Romans show that the gospel not only brings salvation, but it also brings transformation. And the last half of Romans shows us how the gospel additionally brings about unity.

Unity is always tough because relationships are tough, but it was especially difficult for the church at Rome. Jewish Christians were frustrated that Gentile Christians weren’t doing more Jewish stuff like circumcision and Sabbath; Gentile Christians were frustrated that Jewish Christians showed such little respect to Caesar; Jewish Christians were perplexed that Gentile Christians were okay with eating meat and drinking wine sacrificed to idols; and so on.

But underneath all of this, and what made it even more difficult, is that the exact reason God called Abraham (and Israel) long ago was to be a blessing and a light to all the families of the earth – to the Gentiles. And because of time, pride and presumption, Israel reduced the package deal of salvation and vocation to largely exclude the idea of vocation before God. This made matters far worse. So, in the church at Rome, there was a certain kind of Jewish pride and a certain kind of Gentile pride, and both needed to stop. And all of this helps us see the big picture of Romans 11.

Yes, God has been faithful to Israel; he hasn’t rejected them. But the temporal hardening they were experiencing meant salvation for Gentiles. And Gentile salvation was in order to make Jews jealous and desire their Christ. But in all of this, the grafted-into-the-family Gentiles had become smug and arrogant toward their Jewish brothers and sisters. They were doing the very thing that caused Israel to miss the point throughout the Old Testament. And this is what Paul is writing to address. Simply put…

● In 11:1-10, the rejection of Israel is not TOTAL because there’s a remnant of Israel with believing Gentiles that see Jesus as Messiah.

● In 11.11-24, the rejection of Israel is not FINAL because the jealousy of Israel because of believing Gentiles will continue to bring them to Jesus as Messiah.

Again, in Paul’s mind, these ideas are further proof that God is faithful, sovereign, and wise, and that his people should be faithful, humble, and not presumptuous. While Romans 11 subtly asserts God’s faithfulness, it also rebukes God’s people into unity.

What could’ve guarded Israel from pride in the Old Testament, what could’ve guarded the Gentile Christians from pride in the Roman church, and what should guard us from pride as Christians today is understanding our divinely-given vocation – our holy responsibility and calling before a sovereign God.

Your vocation includes knowing that your salvation and transformation aren’t only about you; they are about unity.

Israel missed it before Jesus came. The Gentile Christians presumed it after he came. And now the ball is in our court. How should this idea of vocation change our attitude? How should it push us towards unity? How does it change how we think about God? And how do salvation and vocation relate? The key to these things is to know that salvation and vocation are a package deal and are both by grace. If we know this and live like it’s true, it will guard us against pride and presumption, and launch us into our responsibility. This grace is most evident in seeing Jesus’ story in light of Israel’s story because where Israel failed, Jesus fulfilled.

● Israel was supposed to be a family that reflected Adam’s vocation to “fill the earth” by being a light and blessing to all nations. But Jesus is the Second Adam who fulfills Israel’s responsibility to be a light and blessing to all nations.

● Israel was exiled from the land because of its idolatry, sin, and rebellion. Jesus was exiled from God because of the idolatry, sin, and rebellion of the world.

● Israel is bearing God’s temporal wrath because of their unbelief. Jesus has borne the eternal wrath of God because of his representative sacrifice.

● Israel, after a temporal and partial hardening, can return to their God by faith in their Messiah Jesus. And Jesus, after a temporal and victorious death, will always be faithful to receive those who confess him as Messiah and Lord.

These are the individual trees, but the forest is grace. It’s not on the basis of works, otherwise, grace would no longer be grace (11:6). Rather, our salvation, transformation, vocation, unity, and responsibility – all of these are rooted firmly in the grace we have in Jesus. And because of this, we should and lay down our pride (11:18), stand fast in faith (11:20), and continue in his kindness (11.22). Jesus has taken our place, assumed our role, and carried it out. And in trusting him, there is pride-killing and grace-giving life.