"I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?" (Romans 11:13-15)
Paul made every opportunity to share the Gospel when he was around the Israelites even though he was an apostle to the Gentiles. God specifically commissioned him to spread the good news to the rest of the world. Paul understood that the Gentiles readily accepted Jesus and he anticipated both envy and curiosity among his own people in hopes that they too would accept his gospel message. Throughout his travels he encountered many of his kin and he saw them both reject Jesus and accept him as their Messiah.
In today's passage, Paul is stressing the importance that we who are outside of the natural line of Israel understand that Israel is still part of the plan. Since their rejection and exclusion from the benefits of salvation meant the reconciliation of the world to God, can you imagine what their acceptance and admission will mean? When they finally understand as a whole that Jesus is their promised Messiah this revelation will bless the entire world by their obedience to this message of grace.
Paul is a great example of this. According to Philippians 3, he was the ideal example of Israel. "If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless" ( Philippians 3:4-6 ). According to their laws, customs and traditions Paul was the perfect example of who Israel was. He was zealous for God and a leader among his people. However, after he meant Jesus on the road to Damascus and saw the gloried savior he could never go back to his life before Christ. He went on to say in Philippians, "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith" ( Philippians 3:7-9 ). He considered all things as rubbish compared to knowing Christ. This revelation of Jesus changed and blessed the entire world.
Paul started out as a Pharisee; he knew the law and studied under Gamaliel, who was a well known and well educated Rabbi of the time. Paul understood the fine points of the law, and was well ahead of his peers in this knowledge. The amazing thing is that once Paul accepted Christ he brought all of this knowledge with him and the Lord revealed to him what it all meant. It went from head knowledge to heart knowledge. He connected all the dots between the law and the savior. After his conversion, he spent over fourteen years in seclusion understanding the fullness of the gospel of Christ in regard to the law. In Galatians he said, "I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ" ( Galatians 1:11-12 ). This revelation of Christ as told by Paul changed the known world.
Out of this experience, all of mankind has been blessed by Paul's revelation of grace. What he has shared through the epistles changed the church and by default has changed the world. Wonderful books like Romans and Hebrews came from understanding the entire law and then seeing it's fulfillment through Christ Jesus. These are books that were written to show how complete our redemption has been; books that show how Jesus fulfilled the entire law and was our substitution for the punishment for sin. Amazing books full of the promises of God. Just the acceptance of this one Jew brought amazing benefits to the world over the past two thousand years. Imagine what the entire nation's acceptance of Jesus will bring. It will be nothing short of life from death. Like Paul they are zealous for God, but their knowledge is not based upon the truth of Christ ( Romans 10:2 ). When they understand Jesus is their Messiah, this truth will change and bless humanity and we will see amazing things happen.
Today, I am thankful that Paul was sent to the Gentiles to reveal to us the Christ. I am excited to see the days unfold when Israel returns to the Lord and sees Jesus for who he is. May you understand this grace to which you were called and live a life worthy of your calling, amen!