“Wrestling With Romans”
Abide in Christ (Chapter 11 Verses 11-24)
We often say, one man’s loss is another man’s gain, that’s what Paul is saying here with regards to the Jews (vv12-21). The Jews lost out through their own sin, and the Gentiles gained the riches of salvation (v12). Now if that brings riches for the world, how much more so, when the fullness of the Gentiles comes in, the end-time revival when King Jesus rules from shore to shore (Numbers 14.21; Psalm 72.19; Isaiah 6.3; Zechariah 14.9), how much more richness will that bring in? If the judicial rejection of the Jews by God brings about the reconciliation of the world, how much more will be achieved, accomplished by the Jews being accepted (v15). Is that what Paul means here? Or is he simply speaking about the acceptance that is occurring when he himself in his own ministry to the Gentiles, makes the Jews envious? And of the same acceptance that continues down to this day when individual Jews are added to the Church. We are on controversial eschatalogical ground here, I know, an area that causes an awful lot of heat amongst Christians, far too much heat. In spite of that I must say that I take the latter view. I haven’t always I confess, but with the light that I have presently, that is how I see it. I hold to an a-millennial position, an optimistic one I might add.
Of more profit to us, is the warning Paul sounds for the Gentiles (v17). That they don’t tend to be proud and arrogant (v20). It was simply by grace they were grafted in (v17), so don’t you get boasting proudly over the Jews (branches) that have been cut off (v18). The truth of the Gentile acceptance stands (v19), yes, quite so (v20), but it was only as a result of Jewish unbelief. The Gentiles are no less dependent upon the Root than the Jews were, it is only by grace you stand, so rather than a snooty superiority, says Paul, a humble fear is more appropriate (v20). The one big problem with the Jews? They were high-minded, drunk on pride, their superiority over the Gentiles, thinking themselves to be nothing but God’s chosen people, they needed no washing from sin, no crucified Redeemer (1Corinthians 1.23), and their pride and unbelief led to their downfall. They were blinded by tradition, therefore making the word of the Lord null and void. Well, says Paul, if you find the mark of such pride in you, it should cause you to tremble, look what it did to the Jews? If the Jews with all their privileges (Romans 9.4-5) can fall away, don’t think the same can’t happen to you. It is a warning against false security. We must continue as we began, by faith in Jesus (John 15.1ff). Let the unbelief of those around us, be a check on us, and drive us closer and closer into the bosom of our Saviour.
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)