and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles,
how much more will their full inclusion mean!
13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles.
Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry
14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.
15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world,
what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?
Gentiles take note: You owe your participation in salvation history first, of course, to God but also to the Jews. You are being saved to make Jews jealous, Paul said at the end of verse 11. But God has much more in store for you than being a vehicle for the salvation of Jews. You enjoy the riches of your salvation now but even these amazing blessings pale in comparison with what awaits you when the Jews are finally restored.Correcting a false assumption
By highlighting God’s present and future blessings for Gentiles, Paul is also setting the stage for warnings to come. He puts Gentile believers on notice that everything they receive from God depends in some way on what God does with Jews. Gentiles benefit both from the Jews’ failure and even more from Israel’s future full inclusion in salvation.
It seems Gentiles’ superior numbers in the Roman church had led them to a false assumption, as Douglas Moo explains. “The Gentiles’ rejoicing at being included with Jews in God’s people would all too easily lead to boasting that they had replaced the Jews as the people of God.” And this misconception, Moo notes, is still prevalent in the church today.
One reason Paul wrote chapters 9–11 is to foster harmony between Gentile and Jewish believers in Rome and everywhere his epistle would be read, and this requires that he counter Gentile arrogance. God’s promise that Gentiles will benefit from the restoration of Jews should awaken in them a welcoming spirit toward their Jewish brothers and sisters and a heartfelt desire that more Jews come to Christ.Dual purpose of Paul’s apostleship
One talking point among Gentile believers seems to have been what they perceived as Paul’s abandonment of his fellow Jews to take the gospel to Gentiles. If even the apostle with a reputation of unsurpassed zeal for his own people has turned to us, they reasoned, it is we, not the Jews, who are now the center of God’s attention. To dispel this misconception, Paul explains that he views his apostleship as serving a twofold purpose.
Paul is fully devoted to his ministry to Gentiles, as the believers in Rome certainly know. But this does not mean he has given up on his fellow Jews, because through his conversion of Gentiles he also hopes to make his countrymen jealous in the manner he described in verse 11. His apostleship can serve two purposes at once. As a realist, Paul seems not to expect the full restoration of Israel to faith in his lifetime, but at least he might save some of them and thus “magnify” (or glorify, dŏxazō) his ministry.
God loves both Jews and Gentiles and works out his plan for each simultaneously and without contradiction. He is not an either/or God but a both/and God. Moo comments, “God has brought salvation to the Gentiles without violating any of his promises to Israel and without retracting his election of Israel as a corporate whole.”Significant words and meanings
Several words and phrases of important meaning in this passage have been variously interpreted, so we’ll give them a closer look.
Failure—The Greek word could be translated “defeat” or “loss.” Everett Harrison calls it “basically a military figure. An army loses the battle because of heavy casualties.” Jews’ defeat became Gentiles’ victory. Charles Swindoll says, “If God can use their disobedience to His advantage, how much greater benefit will their obedience be for the world?”
Full inclusion—Colin Kruse on this term: “the full number of believing Jews, which will be made up when those yet to believe are added to the remnant that already believe.” Charles Cranfield: “the full strength of Israel as a whole.” Douglas Moo sees Paul “suggesting that the present ‘defeat’ of Israel, in which Israel is numerically reduced to a small remnant, will be reversed by the addition of far greater numbers of true believers: this will be Israel’s destined ‘fullness’.” We will see this word (plērōma) again in verse 25, where it applies to Gentiles.
Rejection—Paul likely means God’s rejection of Israel (Cranfield, Moo, Kruse, all seeing it as temporary), not Israel’s rejection of the gospel. God’s rejection of Israel corresponds with God’s acceptance of Israel. So Paul is not contradicting what he said in verse 1. Kruse explains: “the overall context in Romans 11 makes it clear that the issue addressed in 11:1–2 is that of ultimate rejection, whereas in 11:15 Paul has in mind a temporary rejection.” Cranfield observes that in the context of God’s reconciliation of the world to himself, God’s rejection of the Jews led them to hand over the Messiah to Gentiles who put him to death. Therefore, in Paul’s thought, God’s rejection of the Jews is identical with their rejection of the Messiah, Cranfield says.
Reconciliation of the world—Reconciliation is the conversion of hostility to peace. God initiated peace with his enemies through the death of his Son (see 5:10-11). World (kŏsmŏs) can mean its inhabitants: “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son….” In verse 12 it is parallel with Gentiles, and likewise here. Moo points out that “Paul is again speaking in corporate categories; the ‘reconciliation of the world’ does not mean that every human being has been saved.”
Life from the dead—This remarkable phrase elaborates what Paul meant by “much more” in verse 12. Paul likely has in mind the resurrection of all believers at the end of salvation history. Corporate Israel’s “full inclusion” will be the climax of salvation history, at which point comes the resurrection of all believers, Jews and Gentiles. Paul expresses this event as “life from the dead.”
Gentiles take notice of this: Today is the day of salvation for you (2 Corinthians 6:2). The clock is moving. If you are not yet saved, do not delay your repentance. Do not be as the rich fool in Jesus’ parable who thought he had plenty of time to do as he pleased. At some point God will say the same to you: “This very night your life will be demanded from you” (Luke 12:20 NIV).