Please comment on Paul’s decision in Romans 11 concerning the relationship between the salvation of the Gentiles and Israel’s disobedience. He seemed to say that Gentile Christians owe their salvation to Israel’s disobedience and rejection. If so, it seems we should be eternally thankful for their disobedience and that we, in turn, are second-class Christians.
To keep this section of Romans in perspective, we must remember several facts. First, our salvation is not ours on the basis of what Israel did or did not do. Salvation is available to us on the basis of Christ’s finished work on the cross on our behalf, since He was the perfect sacrifice for sin. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is what we need to be thankful for.
Second, we must ever hold to the Scriptural teaching that there is no difference between Jew and Gentile in God’s sight. Romans 10:12 and 13 read, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For whoever calls upon the name of the LORD shall be saved.”
God has no favorites, no second-rate believers. We often see Israel referred to as God’s chosen people. But this designation does not mean that God does not love equally those who are not of Israel. Rather, it speaks of His divine plan for that people through the annals of time. It was to them He chose to commit the oracles of God (Romans 3:2). It was through them God sent Jesus into the world (Matthew 2:2). It was to them He unconditionally promised a messianic millennial Kingdom (2 Samuel 7:12-16).
The Old Testament covenants had to do with Israel and determined the whole future program of God for that nation. We could cite other privileges as well. These are facts for which we can thanks God. One Bible scholar stated that he could never be anti-Semitic because through the Jews God has given us so much. Certainly those who minimize or reject Israel in God’s program for the ages (including the future) have a myopic view of the truth.
But God also has a program, a divine plan, for giving the gospel to, and in His dealings with, the Gentiles. We see God’s love for Gentiles in the ministry of a person such as the apostle Paul, whom God saved and called as a missionary chiefly to Gentiles (Romans 15:16). The fact that the church in this dispensation is primarily a Gentile entity and that Jews saved in this dispensation are saved primarily through the witness and ministry of Gentiles is further evidence of God’s love for the Gentiles. Even in the covenants, we see grace extended to Gentiles (Genesis 12:3). Also, Gentile saints will have the privilege of reigning with Christ in the Millennium and will share in millennial blessings. Throughout all eternity, believing Jews and Gentiles alike will share in the bliss brought about by being in Christ’s presence forever.
Third, we must see this Romans section not as mere favoritism toward Jews but as a “line of privilege.” God in His good pleasure set apart a people for certain purposes. The nation of Israel was the first people to be in this line of privilege. “To the Jew first” is a concept we note in Scripture (Romans 1:16). Because of their rejection of the Messiah, they temporarily lost this line of privilege. The Gentiles were next “grafted into the tree” and became partakers of privileges (Acts 28:28).
So in God’s order those of both groups have the opportunity for His blessings of salvation. When the “fullness of the Gentiles” comes about at the time of the Rapture of the church (when the last member is added to the Body of Christ—Romans 11:25), God will take up His program for Israel again. It will begin with the awful period of time referred to in Scripture as the Great Tribulation (God will deal severely with Israel, who will consequently be ready to accept Messiah) and will extend through the Millennium, the time when Christ reigns from Jerusalem for a thousand years.
God’s grace always has a way. No wonder this section of Romans concludes with these words:
For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! (Romans 11:32, 33).
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