When we started studying Romans this summer, the opening comment from a friend of mine after reading the opening of Romans was: “I’m not sure what to think about the Jews.” I love honesty like that. And Paul continues to touch on the subject momentarily throughout Romans, but then in chapters 9, 10, & 11, he settles down to address this issue once and for all. Now we are not going to try to understand all that God thinks about the Jews, or even all of what Paul thinks about the Jews. We are just going to address one thing that broke my heart.
“Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” (Romans 11:25)
When I was in college, I took a class in Ancient Hebrew Thought. It was basically a class on Genesis at a secular institution. My professor was a brilliant Jewish man. I learned so much from him. But at the end of the class, for all his brilliance, he did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah toward which his faith pointed. I’ve never understood that. I’ve thought about it for almost 20 years now. But in studying this summer, it finally started to become clear. God has chosen to harden the hearts of many Jews to the truth until such a time that “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” It doesn’t matter how brilliant they are. God decided to harden their hearts in order to save the rest of the world. That’s why he couldn’t understand. Not because he was stubborn, but because God is stubbornly pursuing the hearts of the Gentiles.
“Rather through their trespass, salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.” (Romans 11:11b)
God has made salvation distant to many Jews in order to win the hearts of the Gentiles, but then also plans to use our faith to win the Jews to Him as well. It makes me wonder if we are living lives that would make Jews jealous? Or are we just criticizing them for being wrong? Are we reaching out in love, building relationships, or just treating them like a cult of unbelievers? Because whatever the current status of their faith is, they are still God’s chosen people. And if He wants to use us to win their hearts, are we living lives that they would want? Like the new song by Casting Crowns, do they feel loved by us or do they just know us by what we’re against?
This really changed my heart. I’d love to hear your ideas.
10 thoughts on “Romans 9-11: The Jews”
This is the type of thing I struggle with. If salvation can only be found through Jesus and God is hardening the hearts of Jews so that they can’t believe in Jesus, isn’t that condemning them to hell?
This would also seem to be removing their true ability to have free will seeing as He’s hardening their hearts without their say-so.
I’m not saying you’re wrong in what you’ve written, just that I don’t understand God’s logic behind it.
I rarely understand God’s logic. I think one of the weaknesses of our current culture is the assumption that we can understand it. I only know what I read in the Bible. And a lot of the time it is difficult to understand and believe. But I keep reading.
I’ve never looked at it from that prospective, but it brought to mind a verse. Esther 4:14 for if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the jews from another place, but you and your fathers house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this
Winston Churchill said, “It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” Of course, he was not referring to Romans 11, but it seems to apply there too. This is an aspect about God where even trying to understand it gives me a headache.
A commentary in the Voice Bible offers this: “Let’s not forget that hardening is not God’s unilateral action. Whatever hardening takes place happens first on our side before God reluctantly agrees. That part of Israel now hardened has already rejected God’s Anointed.”
It was the grace of God that chose Israel, the grace of God who opened the doors for us (Gentiles), and the grace of God who will welcome back the Jews who will believe later. All is grace. If God can use us to extend His grace to others, what an awesome privilege.
We have nothing to brag about, like I hear some churches do when they talk about being “chosen” of God. It’s not “us” versus “them.” It’s God’s grace extended in ways we can’t comprehend. I don’t think we can put that into a box and define it because we truly can’t understand it.
I wish every one of our brothers and sisters in Christ would have the perspective you stated above and ask themselves whether people “feel loved by us or do they just know us by what we’re against?” And my prayer is that when we are touched by His love, our response will be love toward others.
Amen. The only thing I might add is that God’s judgment will be a perfect event. He is righteous and just in character and therefore He will render justice always. That is why God did not and could not just say, “alright, I’m forgiving everyone’s sins because you didn’t have a fair chance to start with.” No, he had to have a righteous, sinless human being to pay the penalty for all sin. Jeshua Hamashia (Jesus the Messiah) paid it all. He served justice for our penalty of sin. Had he come as a conquering King the first time, the Jewish people would not have called for his death and there would be no salvation for anyone. It is evident that God’s plan for salvation for everyone throughout the ages was for the Jews to reject Him so he could pay our sin debt by the shedding of His precious blood.
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Personally I feel far too many “Christians” are overly pious and self-righteous, which, when you consider it, it is quite humorous and tragic at the same time. With the LORD’s righteousness, who needs their own, right?
At any rate, I have struggled with the condemnation issue as many have. There is but ONE way to the Father, and as an historian, I try to look at the message. In Romans 9:27 Isaiah is quoted as the the “number if the Israelites be like the sand by the sea.” To me the verb be indicates present tense, which may not necessarily translate to modern day. Then we fast-forward to Revelation 7 which indicates the sealing of 12,000 from each tribe. My understanding of that verse is they are to be the new witnesses in Christ after our rapture and to be the Light during the trials and tribulation period, and may well be the instrument through which the Anti-christ is brought to power.
If the latter is indeed true, their hearts of course, need to be hardened lest they would have the discernment to not follow a mere mortal after the departure of all Christians. They SHOULD know better but alas, will continue to be used by God for their stubborn tenacity.
Sorry for the rambling thoughts- just a quick post before I get to work.
Blessings to all
I believe the story of Joseph disclosing his identity to his brothers is a prophetic picture of the Jewish people not recognizing Jesus. Joseph wept at the fact that his brothers didn’t recognize him. It wasn’t until he had everyone leave the room (get raptured) that he revealed his identity. I believe the third visit?
Once believers are raptured, the Jews will recognize Jesus as their Messiah. The age of Grace will end and the dispensation of the Jewish age will begin.
When Abraham was told to look at the stars in the sky, and the sand on the seashore to help him understand the countless number of his descendants, I believe God was thinking of Gentiles as the stars, a heavenly kingdom, and the sand, an earthly kingdom. One body, two sides and one head. We are engrafted in the vine.
This is my belief.
It was the second visit, not the third. Second coming JESUS will reveal His identity to his brothers, just like Joseph did to his brothers.
Loved all responses and value all Christian opinions