Don’t Be Ignorant of This Mystery (Week 49)
Paul’s epistle to the Romans is considered the most concise presentation of the gospel in the New Testament. Interestingly, it also includes the most thorough treatment of God’s dealings with the Jewish people and how the church should relate to them. Why was that information so foundational that Paul included it, yet it is hardly taught in churches today?
These verses are admittedly complex, but they best describe Paul’s view of his own people, God’s unending love for them, and the apostle’s vision of harmony between Jews and gentiles in Messiah. Paul needed to instruct the church in Rome on this issue because of its unique set of circumstances.
The Jews had been kicked out of Rome by the emperor, Claudius, and after his death, they were allowed back in. Therefore, the early church in Rome started out as Jewish, then included gentiles, became only gentile, and finally was a mix of gentiles and fewer Jews. The problem was that the gentile Roman church had developed a condescending attitude toward the Jews in their absence. Now that they had returned, friction ensued.
I am so thankful Paul wrote Romans 9–11. It clarifies what He understood as a Jewish Christian that needed to be explained to gentile Christians, that the Jewish people still had a special place in God—their calling is irrevocable, and they are loved on account of the patriarchs. While a remnant had followed Christ, most had not and could even be considered enemies of the gospel—but this did not change the promises of God regarding them.
Instead, their rejection of Jesus’ messianic credentials had allowed the gospel to go to the gentile world. Their disobedience had resulted in our receiving grace—so we should show kindness to them. We should be humble and realize we were at one point all enemies to the gospel and as guilty as the other.
This partial hardening of the Jewish people was only until the fulness of the gentiles had come into faith, and then, the apostle proclaimed, all Israel will be saved—just as God had promised through the Hebrew prophets of old. The branches that had been broken off the tree of faith will be grafted in again, and it will be for the world as “life from the dead”—a global revival.
Paul understood how fundamental this understanding was to unity amongst the Jews and gentiles in the church. He also understood its complexity and called it a mystery. But He pleaded with the gentile church in Rome not to be ignorant of it, and neither should we.
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About this episode:
Romans is considered to best, most concise presentation of the gospel in all of the New Testament. Interesting that it also includes the most thorough treatment of God’s dealings with the people of Israel and how the church should relate to them. Why was that so foundational that Paul included it – and yet it is hardly taught in churches today? This episode complements the daily readings from our Walk Thru the Bible reading plan for January 3-9, covering Romans; 2nd Corinthians.