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The Blueprint for Salvation

Salvation for the Gentiles, repentance of the Jews, the return of Jesus, the fullness of the kingdom and the restoration of Creation are bound together in Apostle Paul's vision.


The Apostle Paul was indeed a "spiritual giant"—and we are right to think of him as such. But he was also a humble human being who understood all too well the frailties to which we are prone.

Apostle Paul

Nonetheless, he was able to confidently write, "I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14). That was his heart's cry. May it also be ours.

Saul of Tarsus—evangelist, theologian, Hebrew of Hebrews and Apostle to the Gentiles. That's quite a résumé! Paul's letters reveal a brilliant mind and an unquenchable faith. But they are also more than the sum of their parts. As God's revealed Word, the Epistles convey timeless spiritual truths and instructions for holy living. Yet they are also a blueprint for the salvation of the Jewish people—and the world.

Most of Paul's letters are of a pastoral nature. They often address specific circumstances in the various congregations or the lives of people he knew who were in his care. But there is one letter that is different: the Epistle to the Romans. Written to a fellowship he did not found and had not yet visited, Romans is the most extensive, closely-reasoned exposition of the Gospel that Paul produced in his lifetime. It is also filled with human emotion, as we read of the ache of Paul's heart for the salvation of his Jewish people.

Paul and the Jewish people

For someone known as "The Apostle to the Gentiles, "Paul certainly spent a lot of time preaching in synagogues. It's true that he declared in Corinth, "From now on I will go to the Gentiles" (Acts18:6). But that same chapter records that when he came to Ephesus, he entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. When they asked him to stay a longer time with them, he did not consent, but took leave of them, saying, "I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing … " (Acts 18:19-21).

… [Paul's] love for the Jewish people would be best served by carrying out his commission as the "Apostle of the Gentiles."

There is no doubt whatsoever that wherever Paul went, he never stopped praying for his Jewish brethren. His own words say it best: "I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh … " (Romans 9:1-3). Where in Scripture is there a more heartfelt plea?

But great as Paul's love for his own people might have been, he never allowed it to blind him to the knowledge that the Gospel was also for the nations. He made it clear that the Gentile people were also God's beloved for whose sake Messiah had suffered, died and risen from the dead. And as Paul wrote to the Romans, we see the birth of a spiritual truth so sweeping in its scope that it is literally breathtaking—the truth that his love for the Jewish people would be best served by carrying out his commission as the "Apostle of the Gentiles."

Why? The answer is as startling as it is true.

The mystery of Jewish unbelief

One of the themes that Paul touches upon in Romans is why so many of the Jewish people seem to have rejected the Gospel. This rejection was no small mystery to the early believers to whom Paul wrote. For who, if not the Jews, were equipped to recognize the Messianic credentials of Jesus? Yet could the present Jewish unbelief itself be part of God's unfolding revelation? It is precisely this argument that Paul advances.

For Paul the rejection of Jesus by the Jewish people was not a cause for doubt or confusion because he recognized a familiar pattern in Israel's history. He knew that this pattern of disobedience, chastisement, repentance and restoration existed within a more glorious and expansive framework of God's will for all Creation.

Paul also understood Israel's stubbornness first-hand, and he knew of God's unfailing love for Israel—a love that he knew would bring about the right outcome. To Paul, the history of the Jewish people is like a train leading to one destination: the Messiah. When His presence came into view, the Jews who refused to believe were like passengers who chose to disembark and strike out in their own direction. Meanwhile— and this is of utmost importance—the Gentiles were allowed to climb aboard.

The role of non-Jews in Jewish evangelism

The inclusion of the non-Jewish "late arrivers" in God's kingdom on the same faith basis as that of believing Jews, bears witness to the authority of God's prophetic Word that Messiah would indeed be " … as a light to the Gentiles, that "You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth" (Isaiah 49:6). It is the practical outworking of this revelation that caused Peter to marvel in the household of Cornelius: "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him" (Acts 10:34-35).

… non-Jewish members of the Body of Messiah must do their part!

The entry of the Gentiles in the covenant promises of the Lord is truly Good News for the nations. But with this great privilege comes a special commission. The Gentile believers are now to be a blessing to those through whom they have been so richly blessed: the Jewish people.

Paul's heartfelt question in Romans 11:11, "Have they stumbled that they should fall?" could be our question also. And so could his resounding response, "Certainly not!" For in this confident cry is the heart of Paul's purest understanding of the triumph of the will and way of God.

If Jewish unbelief has opened the door for the Gentiles, then the Lord will use the disbelief of the Jewish people as the very instrument through which they must eventually be restored: "For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?" (Romans 11:15).

Therefore the non-Jewish members of the Body of Messiah must do their part! This is why Paul so urgently and diligently carried out his mission to the Gentiles. He knew that it would be these same Gentiles—once far from God, but now reconciled to Him through faith in the Messiah— who would be the instruments through whom the Jewish people would one day turn to Him.

Responding to Paul's charge

Paul's words to the Romans have yet to be fulfilled. The "fullness of the Gentiles" (Romans 11:25) has not yet come in. "All Israel" (Romans 11:26) has not yet been saved. And that is where we come in!

… Gentiles … "provoke the Jewish people to jealousy" …

Jewish and non-Jewish believers both have a part to play today in bringing Paul's words to pass. Both have been given the task of bringing the Gospel to the Jewish people. But the non-Jewish members are to take this task particularly to heart, for the Romans 11:11 charge to the Gentiles to "provoke the Jewish people to jealousy" still remains.

The repentance of the Jewish people, the return of Jesus, the fullness of the kingdom and the restoration of Creation itself are bound together. This is the sweeping vision of the Apostle Paul. Let it be our vision also as we continue to bring the Gospel "to the Jew first … " (Romans 1:16).

Chosen Vessel on DVD

Alan Shore is a staff writer with Chosen People Ministries.

This full-length play, set in the dungeon where Paul is awaiting execution, is a recollection of his life and journeys that is completely faithful to the record of the Scripture. A study guide is also available. For purchase information, visit the website, http://www.achosenvessel.com/store/.

Originally published in The Chosen People, February 2006.

 

 
 
 
 

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