ROMANS 11: 13-15
New International Version (NIV)
13 I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry 14 in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
It was Paul’s belief, affirmed by the leaders of the early church, that "the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me" (Gal. 2:7-9). And so, he evangelized, planted churches, and taught and preached in mainly Gentile areas, such as Asia Minor and Greece.
Nevertheless, he always carried a burden for his own people, the Jews, as he has confessed freely in Romans (9:1-3;10:1). Was Paul, then, stuck in a ministry he did not love, called to go to Gentiles but desiring to evangelize among Jews? By no means. He was an apostle and had received divine revelation as to what God was doing among Jews and Gentiles. Therefore, he understood, that God had left the Jews in the hardness of their hearts and sent the Gospel to the Gentiles to arouse the Jews to envy of the spiritual blessings the Gentiles were receiving.
Thus, Paul saw that he could advance the cause of the Gospel by all he could to reach Gentiles. He willingly aligned his purposes with God’s, striving to reach Gentiles in hopes of bringing his countrymen to faith. "I magnify my ministry," he writes, "if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh."
Verse 15 seems to parallel verse 12. It is a rhetorical question that offers tantalizing clues as to what lies ahead for the Jewish race. In the earlier verse, Paul spoke of the Jews’ fall," whereas he speaks here of his people being "cast away." Both references are to the Jews’ almost universal rejection of the Gospel, but verse 12 has to do with the Jews’ stumbling over Christ (9:32), while verse 15 reiterates the reason they stumbled – God had not predestined them to believe. In either case, however, the result is the same - "riches for the world" and "the reconciling of the world."
The large-scale refusal of the Jews to believe had led to the unspeakable blessing of the Gospel coming to the Gentiles. And if that is so, Paul asks, "what will their acceptance be?" His answer: It will be "life from the dead." As in verse 12, where the "riches" of the Gentiles is contrasted with the blessedness that will come with the Jews’ "fullness," it is very difficult to discern Paul’s meaning here, and scholars are deeply divided. Is he speaking of an actual reversal of the Jews’ rejection of the Gospel?
Janet Irene Thomas
Published Author/Gospel Lyricist &Producer
Bible Stories Theatre of
Fine & Performing Arts