Thesis:God's provision of salvation to the Gentiles addressed Israel's problem of misguided zeal.
Introduction:In our study last week we focused our attention upon whether God's promises regarding Israel were going to be revealed to be a false fantasy or a final reality. These alternatives have huge implications and consequences. If the prophetic words regarding Israel are ultimately some kind of fantasy, God is a liar and men have no basis for trusting Him. On another hand, if the current picture of God's dealings with Israel do not indicate a present fulfillment, men will often use their lack of His big picture as an excuse to call Him a liar and refuse to trust Him (this is the quasi-rationale of 2 Peter 3:4). But, if the Plan of God is understood to simply be "bigger" than what men thought it to be, or to include elements that He did not reveal to men, men can continue to believe in a God of integrity while they await the culmination of the multiple threads of the process to finally come together. Paul's argument is that this third option is the reality. God had not revealed the aspects of His Plan that had to do with calling together a vast host of people from every kindred, nation, tongue and tribe that would constitute what we now know as the "Church", but His activities in regard to those aspects of His Plan did nothing to unseat His words to Israel through the prophets.
This evening we are going to look into this aspect of His Plan. Paul has a "twist" on how we are to understand it that presses us to buy into God's fixation upon Israel. That "twist" is this: God's extension of salvation to us was not only for our sake. He actually extended salvation to us in order to address the reason that Israel was as unfaithful as it was. In other words, He saved us so that He could save Israel.
I. A Word About the Translators.
A. Both of the sets of translators who worked on the AV and the ASV pretty much dropped the ball altogether in 11:11.
B. At issue is why they would translate the phrase "through their fall" that way when Paul's point is not only did they not fall but they did not fall even though they had significantly violated God's Law.
1. The significant violation was a daily gainsaying that ultimately resulted in the murder of the Son of God.
2. But this, as heavy as it is, did not turn God away from the promises He had made to them as a corporate unity.
a. It is a complete error to miss this element of the "corporate unity" so as to think that we can do as we please without consequences.
b. God often deals with individuals differently than He does corporate units.
3. It is true that the words translated "fall" are related but the translators of the Authorized Version had 23 opportunities to translate this particular word and only the two times here in 11:11-12 did they choose to call it a "fall".
II. And A Lot More Words About Paul's Actual Meaning.
A. It is a fundamental element of Paul's theology that not only does no evil accomplish its intention but that every evil is ultimately turned by God into a handmaid of great good.
1. This fundamental aspect of Paul's theology shows up in our text: Israel's evil is the instrument of the salvation of the Gentiles.
2. The evil and the good are both very large.
a. The evil was a determined rejection of God's summons to a servant kingdom.
b. The good was "salvation" for the nations: the inclusion of a vast host in that servant kingdom.
B. It is also a fundamental element of Paul's theology that God uses His extension of grace to directly address the roots of evil.
1. Paul said that God extended salvation to the nations for the purpose of addressing the real root(s) of Israel's high-handed rebellion.
a. This means more than appears.
1) Most people view their salvation as "for themselves".
2) Few realize that it never has been that.
a) In the first place, not even God can make selflessness out of selfishness.
b) And in the second place, all through the Scriptures two facts stand out.
i. The servant nature of God and all that He does and promises means that no one serves for selfish reasons.
ii. Everyone's participation in salvation is for someone else's sake.
3) But this realization needs to come to the surface and take its place in the higher regions of our understanding.
b. The real root(s) of Israel's rebellion was declared by Paul in his description of their activity in 10:3.
1) They set about to prove themselves "worthy" of God's Kingdom, not realizing that it is a servant kingdom.
2) This activity is fundamentally self-serving.
c. The major problem is that they were "zealous" to do this.
2. God's confrontation of the "zeal" issue is at the forefront of Paul's argument.
a. The translators say that God saved the Gentiles "to provoke Israel to jealousy".
b. The problem here is this: how can "jealousy" bring salvation?
c. The word at the heart of this question is rare and its meaning is clouded by our lack of understanding of "jealousy".
1) The word is an intensified form of a basic root that means "to have a most fundamental commitment".
2) This "commitment" is often referred to as "zeal" (this is, in fact, what Paul called the problem in 10:2).
3) As with all "commitments" there is an objective and the greater the commitment, the more profound is the objective.
d. God's "method" is to address the "zeal" by altering its objective.
1) The text tells us that God's salvation of the nations is designed to create this shift of objectives.
2) Our question is: How does this work?
a) When "zeal" is challenged, there are two possibilities.
i. The "zealous" can respond by purging the corrupted elements.
ii. The "zealous" can respond by attempting to purge the accuser.
b) The Jews revealed their penchant for the latter by their dealings with Christ.
c) But God is going to press for the former by His dealings with Israel by His extension of grace to the nations.
i. On the face of it, giving the Gentiles the blessedness of eternal life while leaving the Jews out does a couple of things.
i) First, the blessedness of possessing eternal life "shows up" in the lives of those who are so privileged.
ii) Second, the consequences of not possessing eternal life "shows up" in the lives of those who do not have it.
iii) This means that there is an active contrast that exists in the real world.
ii) This means that anyone who is willing to be brutally honest about his/her "religion" knows whether it is "working".
i) If a person comes to grips with the reality that "it" is not "working", the next step is finding out why.
ii) For the "zealous Jew" this means asking a most basic question: what have I really "targeted"?
iii) If a person of zeal will answer this question honestly in light of the most fundamental requirement of creation (that the creature exists for the Creator's purposes), the eyes of the understanding can begin to see the truth of the Gospel [Note Paul's own testimony to this in Philippians 3:4-8].
iii. At this point it helps to understand the prophetic scenario of the national conversion of Israel.
i) It happens in the context of the time of Jacob's Trouble when it will be beyond obvious that the "god" in whom the Jews trust has utterly failed them.
ii) When this has become "beyond obvious", the Jews will be "open" to a message of eternal life through Abraham's "God" Who did not abandon him in the crunch.