Do you like mysteries—something hidden that doesn’t get revealed until later, which afterward seems so obvious? From the perspective of the Jewish Christians, God’s concern for the Gentiles was truly a mystery.
“How that by revelation He [God] made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already…” (Ephesians 3:3)
“…by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)” (Ephesians 3:4)
“…which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 3:5)
“…that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6)
Last time we learned about the various dispensations—the different ways God chose to deal with human kind through the ages. In the beginning, God dealt with individuals, initially Adam and Eve, and subsequently those who worshipped Him and walked with Him, such as Noah. But from the offspring of Abraham through Isaac, God created a nation through which He would reveal Himself to the world.
Subsequent to Moses, those who followed God were required to keep the Law as a sign of their faith in God. If you had lived at that time and acknowledged Him as the true God, you would have done it by following the Old Testament Law. Because the Law had been given to them, and although conversation to Judaism was allowed, typically it was the Israelites who followed the Law. Thus it is easy to understand how the mindset of the Jews was that God’s salvation was intended for them alone. Yet God was greater than that.
After the resurrection, Jesus gave a curious command—curious, because it probably didn’t resonate with the expectations of His disciples, who were Jews: “Go therefore and make disciples [followers] of all the nations [not just the Jewish nation]…” (Matthew 28:19) God was now revealing the mystery—that His heart is for all to be saved. Yet many years earlier, before Abraham even had Isaac, God had foretold, “…in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3b) All of the families of the earth were indeed blessed through Abraham, because Jesus’ earthly geneology derives from Abraham.
The apostle Paul, an Israelite himself, wrote of the fact that many within the Jewish community rejected the gospel, while far more outside of it believed and converted. “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, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.” (Romans 9:1-5) He continues, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:1-4) The purpose of the Law was only to help mankind see that it is humanly impossible to attain perfection; it was not a means of salvation. Once the Law had done its job, God sent His Son to be perfection on our behalf, and it is because of Christ’s righteousness—not ours—that we can be accepted by God.
Yet what of the Jews? Has God forgotten them? Absolutely not! “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not!…God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew…For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved…concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy. For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.” (Romans 11:1-2, 25-32) God’s plan of salvation—the great mystery—is for all to know Him, and He has certainly not forgotten Israel.
So what is our attitude to be toward unconverted Jews? “…do not boast against the branches [the Israelites, here referred to as the natural branches of the olive tree of God’s people]. But if you boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in [God cut off the natural branches—the Israelites—who did not believe and grafted in the wild branches—those who had not known God].’ Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.”(Romans 11:18-23) The attitude of the Gentile Christian—those of us who do not have Judaic ancestry—toward the unsaved Jewish people should be a sober recognition that it is they who have the tradition of the revelation of true God into which we have been brought through Christ.“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 11:33)
Dear Lord God,
Thank You for the great mystery that You have shown Your people—that You love all, not just some, and that You want all to come to know You. Help us to continue in Your goodness. Through Christ, Amen.