Read: Romans 11:25-32
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. Romans 11:25-26
Perhaps the striking thing about this passage is that Paul calls the Jews’ present resistance to the gospel a mystery. He doesn’t mean that it is obscure and difficult to understand. When Paul calls this a mystery he means that it is a supernatural phenomenon that has to be revealed to us. You can’t explain it by the normal reasons for resistance to the gospel. I do not know if you have had any occasion to try to witness to a Jewish person. If you have, perhaps you have run up against what seemed to be a rock wall of indifference and resistance to what you were trying to say. If so, you may well have been experiencing what Paul is talking about here, a strange hardening toward the gospel by Jewish people. It is not because the Jews are inferior in intelligence — they are among the most intelligent of people. It is not because they don’t want God; they are among the most religious of all people. Ordinarily you would think they would be open to hearing the good news of how God, in grace, is ready to reach men and change them and indwell them and enrich their lives. And yet those who go among the Jews often find this strange resistance, this anger that is awakened because of the preaching of the gospel.
Paul says three things about this hardness: First, it is a hardening in part. That is, not all Jews are afflicted this way. We are not told here what portion of Israel is going to be hardened — whether 10% or 90%. All we are told is that there are going to be some Jews who simply will not hear, who will not receive the gospel. I have been to Israel five times, and I am always amazed at how resistant the Jews there seem to be to the claims of the Lord Jesus. And Paul tells us that this hardening is not only in part, but it is also limited in time. It is not going to go on forever. A hardening of the heart has happened until the full number of the Gentiles come in. So this is not something that they are bound to experience forever. What does the full number of the Gentiles mean?
When Paul uses this phrase the fullness of the Gentiles, he is talking about a Gentile church which is going to become so rich and full in its spiritual riches that it will awaken again the envy of Israel. God turns to the Gentiles so that he may arouse the Jews to envy. Anyone who reads church history knows that there hasn’t been a great deal in Gentile churches that would awaken the Jews to envy! Often, the Jews have been oppressed and persecuted and terribly treated — all in the name of Jesus Christ — by those who profess to be Christians. But this is still a very hopeful thing for us. It means that a day is coming when the Gentile churches are going to be enriched with such spiritual blessing that the Jewish people will say, We want that! And they will be open, as never before, to the gospel of the grace of God.
You may be treated as an enemy, but remember also that the Jewish people are loved by an unchanging God. God loves every Jewish person, without exception. No matter how stubborn or resistant they may be, he has set his love upon them. The nations of the world had better not forget it that God still has chosen the Jews.
Lord, I thank you for the love you have bestowed on all nations across centuries, which is a great reminder of how no matter the difference in beliefs, both Jews and Gentiles, will fully understand and be open to the gospel of the grace of God.
Has God repudiated His investment in Israel? Can we recognize both God’s kindness and His severity in their ongoing saga? Can we also see how our redemption is entwined with theirs?