Bible readingThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Romans 11:11-15

Gentiles Grafted In

11 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion[a] mean!

13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?

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Last week’s post discussed Paul’s citations of Isaiah 29:10 and Psalm 69:22-23 to illustrate the spiritual blindness of many of the Jews from the time of the Old Covenant.

Paul says that, while the Jews stumbled, they did not fall; through their sin of refusing to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, God opened the Church to Gentiles with the objective of making the Jewish people spiritually jealous, wanting them to imitate the Gentiles in belief (verse 11).

John MacArthur compares the Jews’ rejection of Jesus to the guests originally invited to the wedding feast of which Jesus spoke in Matthew’s Gospel. Those who were invited all said they had other things to do that day; some even set their servants upon the host’s servants. The host then instructed his servants to invite anyone they saw in passing to come to his feast. This parable is an excellent analogy for the growth of the Church (emphases mine below):

in Matthew 21:43 Jesus says this, “Therefore I say unto you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits of it.” Or literally, to a people, many nations, bringing forth the fruits of it. Because you refuse it, it will open up to the Gentiles. Chapter 22 gives us another parable. You’ll remember there’s a king who made a feast for his son; it is God calling people to His Son’s celebration. He calls them to the fact that Messiah has come; it’s a feast in honor of Messiah. He sends out His servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding, verse 3, that’s Jews, who were already the called ones to come and greet the Son, the Savior, the Messiah and enter the kingdom. But they would not come. He sent forth other servants to tell them everything is ready, come. They made light of it. They went their ways, one to his farm and another to his business. Some of them just mocked and laughed. Some of them just were indifferent, I’ve got to take care of my farm, I’ve got to take care of my business. And verse 6, “Others literally killed the servants.” Some were extremely hostile when the gospel came and when the Messiah offered Himself to Israel.

And then there’s a judgment given. And then it says in verse 8, “The wedding is ready. The ones who were already bidden (that is Israel), weren’t worthy, so go into the highways and as many as you find, bid those to the marriage. So they went into the highways and gathered together all as many as they found, good and bad, and the wedding was furnished with guests.” The salvation of Gentiles came about on a wide scale because of the fall of Israel and the reaching out of the gospel to the Gentiles. Now it wasn’t that saving Gentiles was an afterthought. God desired to reach them through Israel, but when Israel rejected that calling, God moved right out to reach the Gentiles.

Therefore, if the Jews’ sin of unbelief meant that the Good News could be preached unto Gentiles, Paul says, how much greater would the glory of the Church be if Jews also came to believe (verse 12). Putting that into the context of the wedding feast, and the host would have been even happier if his original guests had come to share in that happy occasion.

Matthew Henry says that the Church has room for everyone:

the church has room enough, and the new covenant grace and comfort enough, for us all. The blessings are not lessened by the multitudes of the sharers.

Paul’s mindset was the same as that of the host of the wedding feast. He wanted everyone to come to faith in Christ Jesus: Jew and Gentile alike, for we are all one in Him. Note today’s Epistle, taken from Romans 8: we are sons and daughters of God, heirs along with Christ of His everlasting Kingdom.

Think of that in the context of the wedding feast. What a promise, what a joyous eternity we have ahead of us!

Paul then turns his attention to the Gentiles, a large proportion of the Christians in Rome, as MacArthur tells us:

Predominantly the Roman church was Gentile, of course, so he particularly addresses them. They make up the majority of the congregation.

Paul says that his ministry is ‘magnified’ by including the Gentiles (verse 13). MacArthur explains that Paul is saying:

I honor my office, I esteem my office. It is a high, holy, glorious privilege to bring the gospel to the Gentiles …

That is because Paul hoped to encourage Jewish conversion through a spiritual jealousy — a positive force, in this case — and save Jewish souls, too (verse 14):

I love this, verse 14, “If by any means I may provoke to jealousy them who are my flesh and might save some of them.” That’s a tremendous insight. He says, “You know why I’m happy to be the apostle to the Gentiles? Because as long as I’m the Apostle to the Gentiles, I might be able to provoke some Jews to getting saved.”

You see, that’s the bottom line with him. That’s the bottom line with him. He has a heart for his people. Can you blame him? They’re his flesh. And he says, “I really want to save some of them. I don’t mind you getting saved in the process, but I really would like to save some of them.” I understand that. He says, “I’m following the plan of God. I magnify my office. But, oh, oh, my desire is that I should see some Gentiles come to the Savior, that in them coming to the Savior they might provoke some Jews to jealousy.” That’s his personal commitment.

Paul knew he could not save every Jew he encountered or addressed, but he hoped to save ‘some of them’. He worked earnestly and tirelessly to that end through his missionary travels and through his many Epistles.

Paul yearned for a complete Church, uniting both Jew and Gentile (verse 15). Again, think of the wedding feast and how much more complete it would have been had the original guests turned up along with those from the highways and byways who attended.

MacArthur explains, including the aforementioned Romans 8:

again it’s that “much more” kind of argument, isn’t it? If the casting away of them, that’s the negative, can have such great results, what will the reception of them, that’s the positive, be? And then he tells you what it will be. Life from the dead. And he’s not talking about personal resurrection. He’s not talking about the resurrection from the dead which would be the Pauline term. Life from the dead refers to the rebirth, if you will, of the nation and the rebirth of the world in the glory of the kingdom. I think that’s the proper way to interpret it. When Israel is received, he’s not speaking about individual resurrection from the dead, but life from the dead, a unique phrase used here, which I believe refers to national resurrection of the nation Israel to the place of blessing and world resurrection, as it were, in the recreated new heaven and earth of the millennial kingdom, right? That’s the life from the dead. The nation and the world, when the kingdom comes, will be delivered from its spiritually dead state and there will be new life. It is not, as I said, the phrase, “resurrection from the dead,” which is Paul’s concept that he refers to when he refers to individual resurrection, but the resurrection of the nation into kingdom glory. It’s that which Romans 8 describes as the glorious liberation of the children of God, the manifestation of the sons of God, when we enter into the glorious kingdom and are made manifest to the world as the true children of the living God.

According to Revelation, this will happen through the 144,000 Jews selected from all the tribes of Israel:

And all of that, by the way, begins in Revelation 7. The first thing that begins to happen is the Lord sets apart 144 thousand Jews, twelve thousand out of each tribe, and that happens during the tribulation. And they go out to evangelize the world.

What a happy event that will be.

Yet, Jews have come to Christ throughout history. MacArthur says in his sermon that a number of them attend his church.

MacArthur gave his sermon in 1984, at a time when American televangelists began to appear on Christian cable channels en masse. Some were good, but others were over the top both in their services and in their private lives. MacArthur shared a conversation he had with a Jew in Israel:

you go over to the nation Israel and you take a tour or a trip and everybody who gets on the bus every day, you have a Jewish guide, and you have Jewish people all around you all the time, these Israeli people, marvelous people, gracious people, lovely people, bright and just very capable people, we just enjoyed them thoroughly. But the thing that’s in the back of your mind is, you’re so anxious to win them to Christ and the ones who are the guides and who get all the Christian groups, they’ve heard it over and over and over and over. They can sing all the songs. In fact they lead you in all the songs that we sing about Christ. I mean, they’ll start singing it on the bus and everybody sings with them. They know all the doctrine, all the theology, the whole thing. But as one of them, when I spoke with him one evening, said to me, “Look, I know what all of you believe. What I can’t handle is the way most of you live.” And he went on to tell me horror stories about the so-called Christian leaders who come up there and don’t sleep with their own wife, you understand? Or come over there and want under the table favors, or want free jewelry, or want this or want that or want the other thing and are nothing more than charlatans. And, you see, they file this because these people call themselves Christians, too, whether they are or not. And it is that tremendous disparity between the true and the false that confuses them as to the validity of Christianity. As one of them said to me, “I came in this…” we were having a marvelous Sunday morning meeting in the upper room and we were singing songs and speaking out of the Word of God and the presence of the Spirit was there in great power and we just were overwhelmed, and some people were just teary- eyed. There we were in the city of Jerusalem, it was marvelous, and we went out of there so refreshed in our spirit. And one of the guides took me aside and he says, “You know, I was in that room with a certain so-called American healer and people were smashing over and smacking their heads on the concrete floor and going into all kinds of hysteria.” And he said, “Are you like that? Is that what your group does?” And I said, “That’s not what you saw.” He said, “Well, I didn’t know whether you do that somewhere else.” I said, “No, we don’t knock people down and crack their heads on the concrete, we’re not in to that kind of theology.”

And then he went on to describe… It sort of opened the flood gate and to tell me about some of the experiences he’s had with quote/unquote Christian leaders. The impact of undermining all that we believe in the hearts of Jewish people is they cancel it out, see. And we have been redeemed with a great burden on our backs and that is to give clear-cut testimony to Israel that they may be provoked to jealousy. Well in many cases, that’s the last thing they’re provoked to since they wouldn’t want what they see some Christians have. But we should so live to be attractive.

Too right!

There is a lot of kooky ‘Christian’ stuff, for lack of a better word, out there: magazines, comic books, television programmes that are so erroneous in what they present that they turn people away from the Good News. Those things do not present the Gospel story or the Christian life. They present carnal satisfaction in sensationalism and/or bitterness.

Therefore, let us be circumspect in our reading and viewing matter as well as our religious practice.

That is the way we win souls — Jewish or not — to Christ.

Next time — Romans 11:16-24