Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Hope for the Gentiles (Romans 15:9-13)

“and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written, “Therefore I will give praise to You among the Gentiles, And I will sing to Your name.” Again he says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people.” And again, “Praise the Lord all you Gentiles, And let all the peoples praise Him.” Again Isaiah says, “There shall come the root of Jesse, And He who arises to rule over the Gentiles, In Him shall the Gentiles hope.” Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:9–13, NASB95)

Yesterday we looked at the hope for the Jews as God has proven Himself faithful to the promises He had made to Abraham and others. Today the focus shifts to the Gentiles, which includes everyone who is not of the Jewish people. God’s promises included that through Abraham’s seed all of the nations would be blessed, and the Gentiles comprise all of the other nations. Specifically cited in these verses are some Old Testament passages which pointed to the rejoicing of the Gentiles for the salvation they had been granted.

During this current church age we have many Jews who are saved, but the church is largely comprised of Gentile believers. Those who were formerly not a part of the promise have now been grafted in. Paul wrote earlier in Romans 11, starting with verse 13 and leading up to verse 25 which was cited yesterday, that in response to the rejection He received from His people, God reached out to the Gentiles that they also might believe. This was not a secondary plan of God’s, but one He knew would unfold this way and even declared through the prophets, and for which He has the outcomes fully under control. We read,

“But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen 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? If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?” (Romans 11:13–24, NASB95)

Paul, who considered himself to be a Jew of Jews, was called by God to be an apostle to the Gentiles. And in that role he is cautioning the Gentile believers not to hold this over the Jews and in so doing become arrogant. Salvation was first given to the Jews and the first believers in Christ were Jews. It was from them that the good news spread and Gentiles came to believe. And it was God who stopped Paul in his tracks, changing him from one who was dragging out followers of Christ to be persecuted to one who was given to proclaiming the good news to both Jew and Gentile alike. As was his custom, when Paul entered a town he went first to the synagogues and from there to the streets. But Paul’s greatest ministry, the one where he saw the greatest fruits was the one which he was set apart for and that was to reach the Gentile peoples for Christ.

As Christians today we indeed can rejoice, thanking God that His plan was not exclusive to His chosen people, but that from His great love He called so, so many others. Because of their hardness of heart we were invited to dine with Christ. We have a partial description of this in one of the parables of Jesus found in Matthew chapter 22.

“Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.’ But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. ‘Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.”” (Matthew 22:1–10, NASB95)

But the amazing thing about our God is that His love is not easily set aside. He had made a promise to the Jewish people and He is faithful to His promises. The next verses of Romans chapter 11 goes on to tell of a time yet to come when the fullness of this Gentile period will reach its climax, and God will bring forward during the great tribulation period a remnant so that all Israel will be saved.

There is clearly cause for all believers to rejoice in the hearing and receiving of God’s Good News. Paul closes these verses with the admonition that, “the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” There is no greater hope and no greater peace than to know that we have been fully accepted, forgiven, and embraced by God through His Son, indwelt by His Spirit and filled with hope as we look forward to eternity which is set firmly in His hands.

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