Saturday, 12 October 2013
For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry,… Romans 11:13
The context of what is being said in Romans 11:13 is important. Paul has been speaking about the Jewish nation’s rejection of Christ which resulted in the message going to gentiles. They in turn readily accepted it. Paul’s ministry to the gentiles is a ministry for their benefit, but which is ultimately intended to lead back to the conversion of Jews.
In other words, his work should be taken as an interim ministry (albeit of unknown duration). The church has it’s role during this dispensation, but it is not the end of the story concerning God’s kingdom on earth; the restoration of Israel will initiate that. Only when Israel as a nation calls on the Lord will the kingdom age come. This was explained in some detail in the Romans 1:1 commentary.
Paul here first notes his ministry to the gentiles, “I speak to you Gentiles…” He was personally commissioned by Jesus in Acts 9:15. This ministry was to bear the name of Jesus “before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.” In his usual custom, when he arrived at a new city, he would first go to the synagogues and speak to the Jewish believers. However, his ministry was unique in that it was intended for gentile instruction. He explicitly states it here… “inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles.” This same thought is conveyed time and again in the New Testament, such as in Acts 15:12, Galatians 1:16, Galatians 2:7-8, Ephesians 3:8, 1 Timothy 1:7, 2 Timothy 1:11 and elsewhere.
All of his personal letters are written to gentile churches and gentile peoples – Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. Hebrews, which is unnamed, is an explanatory and transitional letter between Paul’s church-age letters and those to follow. Its title, “Hebrews”, shows that it is intended for a Jewish audience. It is intended to wake them up and show them that the Old Testament is only pointing to the greater work of Christ. The letters by James and Peter, are directed specifically to Jewish believers. John’s letters, like his gospel and Revelation, follow a unique path which combine a message to both Jews and Gentiles. Jude follows the example of John.
By noting the structure and layout of the New Testament, Paul’s statement becomes quite clear. The message went first to the Jews. After that, Paul was introduced to transition the message to the gentiles, but his writings have the final intent of leading back to the Jews (as will be noted in the coming verses). Because of this astonishing pattern which is beautifully laid out in the structure of the Bible and lived out through Paul, he states, “I magnify my ministry.”
His ministry is a turning point in redemptive history which ushered in (so far) 2000 years of gentile conversions. And yet, his writings are intended to have a profound effect on the Jewish people as well, turning their hearts to the knowledge of the truth of Jesus Christ. How is that possible when what he writes is directed to the gentiles? Because eventually it will be understood that the gentiles had it right. How and when the nation of Israel will realize this is yet unknown, but as noted in the Romans 11:12 commentary, it may be the rapture of the church, a tenet taught by Paul. Whatever it is, when it occurs, Israel will finally open their eyes concerning their Messiah, Jesus.
Life application: Paul magnified his ministry, not himself. Everyone has something which can be done for the Lord, but it shouldn’t become a point of boasting except in how it glorifies Him.
Glorious Lord, surely every child’s face is unique and is a reflection of Your work. Every sunrise is a constantly changing painting which adorns the sky with color and beauty. The stars are aligned by Your wisdom and the motion of the universe is timed in perfection. Everything I see around me tells me that You are wise, loving, and awesome. How I love to ponder Your majesty. Amen.