The Messianic Calling for all Gentile Believers
(This article is adapted from Sam’s book: “Messianic Foundations”)
In light of the most recent developments in the land of Israel, we see once again the importance of our witness to the Jew first but not to the Jew only. The nation of Israel and the surrounding nations will only be able to live in peace when the Prince of Peace, Sar Shalom, Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) lives in their hearts. But this “to the Jew first” Good News calling is not only for those of us that are Jewish believers, but is especially for all Gentile believers, as well. I would like us to consider the vital calling that the Apostle Paul shares with us in the New Covenant:
“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.” (Romans 11:13-14)
Paul says, “I am speaking,” not “I will be speaking.” In other words, he was already speaking to the Gentiles throughout the entire chapter. There are some who teach (and many who believe) that once a Gentile comes to faith in Messiah, he or she is no longer a Gentile, but is now a “spiritual Jew” (or spiritual “Israel”). Paul is quite clear on this point: Just as Jews that believe in Yeshua are still Jews (Romans 9:3-4; 11:1), so Gentiles who believe in Messiah are still Gentiles. For the sake of political correctness, many believers might be tempted to ask, “Why does he bother to say that? Shouldn’t we just forget about any differences, since we’re all one in Messiah?” Yes, we are one in Messiah, but that unity is spiritual and entails our diversity as well. We must be careful not to exchange unity for uniformity, disregarding our diversity in Messiah. Paul wanted Gentile believers to reach out to the Jewish people as Gentiles, and not by calling themselves Jews.
The Apostle authorizes an outreach to Israel as a practice of Gentiles and their disciples. By him saying that he magnifies his ministry is not implying that he is arrogant, but rather Paul meant to especially encourage Gentile believers in their reaching out to the Jewish people. Why “as Gentiles”? Paul wanted to show that the Abrahamic Covenant was fulfilled in Yeshua, the greater seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:16).
This covenant not only assured Abraham that he would have a Land and a Seed (Genesis 12:1-2, 7; 15:5), but also that all the families of the earth would be blessed through his seed (Genesis 12:3; 22:18). As Paul describes it:
“In order that in Messiah Yeshua the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Galatians 3:14)
Gentile ministry to the Jewish people is evidence of the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant in Yeshua, a testimony to Israel that Yeshua is the Messiah. This also explains why Paul was willing to give up his life, and certainly his freedom, to bring the financial gifts from the Gentiles to the Jewish people in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:3; Romans 15:25-27; Acts 21:11-13). This gift would be the first fruits of what God had promised in the prophets (Isaiah 2:3; 60:1-6). The testimony of love from the Gentiles by sharing Messiah with Israel in a culturally relevant, yet clear, manner would be proof that God has not forsaken Israel at all. Rather, Messiah Yeshua is the very fulfillment of the hope of Israel. He is God’s faithfulness to Israel.
Paul says, “I had been entrusted with the Gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised” (Galatians 2:7). Some may get confused over this division of apostolic labor between Peter and Paul. There were not two different works of God, that is, a work among the Jewish people and a work among the Gentiles. There is only one work of God, to demonstrate God’s faithfulness to Israel. Peter’s work was directly to the Jews; Paul’s was indirectly to the Jews through the Gentiles. The two men worked to reach Israel in different ways.
Gentile believers must embrace their calling as Gentiles to make Israel jealous through their mercy and love. Stop waiting for some special calling before you reach out to the Jewish people with the Good News of Messiah. Every believer is called to and responsible for demonstrating God’s faithfulness to Israel. Even as all ministries are to be oriented “to the Jew first,” all may “magnify their ministry,” whatever that specific ministry may be (Romans 11:13).
Romans 11:14 is one of my favorite verses:
“if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them.”
I love the sense of desperation in the phrase, “if somehow.” It communicates Paul’s sense of urgency; he used various creative methods to reach out to the Jewish people. In essence, Paul is saying, “If I don’t do everything to see that my ministry to the Gentiles is effectively reaching out to the Jewish people, then I’m dishonoring my calling and office.”
The job of a Gentile ministry is not merely to give a token effort to Jewish ministry, but to reveal God’s desperate love for Israel and all lost people. If one approach does not work (or even if it does), we try another, even being “all things to all men, as a Jew unto the Jews” that some might be saved (1 Corinthians 9:20-22). This is the forgotten mission of believers generally, one which has been relegated to a table at a missions conference.
I notice that some Gentile believers wear a Jewish Star necklace at work or elsewhere. Others have considered them “wannabe Jews,” or think that wearing the jewelry will at least give off that impression. However, such behavior, rather than reflecting a confused identity, can reflect a renewed sense of mission. I recently suggested to someone, “try wearing a Jewish Star at work. If you are asked about it, you’ll have an opportunity to explain that your Savior is Jewish and about the hope, forgiveness, and joy that you experience because of the Jewish Messiah.” Even simple things may have a new purpose in context.
However, our calling needs to go below the surface. It must be the practice of every Gentile believer and of all congregations to do all they can to make Israel jealous for the Messiah. Paul knew it was God’s will for Israel to be saved; therefore, he did all he could to fulfill God’s will in both prayer and practice (Romans 10:1). That’s what believing God’s will is supposed to accomplish in us.
In Antioch, Paul “sat in the synagogue” and waited to be called upon to speak before saying anything (Acts 13:14-15). Elsewhere, he initiated action and boldly preached in the marketplaces “to anyone that happened to be present” (Acts 17:17). There were no printing presses, Good News pamphlets, newspapers, radios, television, or internet—so he reached the crowds as best he could. In Ephesus, he taught “both publicly and house-to-house” (Acts 20:20). In general, Paul made himself to be as a “servant to all” for the sake of the Good News “that I may become a fellow partaker of it” (1 Corinthians 9:19, 23).