COMMENTARY: When Have Christians Ever Made Jews Jealous?

Maybe we’ve got it backwards. Maybe the purpose of making Jews jealous of the gospel was to repel them

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Wasn’t that supposed to be our job? Didn’t the apostle Paul say he magnified his ministry to the goyiim to move his fellow countrymen to jealousy in order “to save some of them” (Rom. 11:14)? Implying, I thought, that the more gentiles he could convert to the faith, the more his brethren would become envious and want to know Yeshua.

But when I searched the New Testament I couldn’t find one example of where a Jew met a saved gentile and said, “I want what he has!” And then repented and gave his life to Yeshua. Instead, all I saw was Jewish outrage at the idea unclean goyiim would dare think they could be accepted by God apart from the Law. Look at the murderous intent Saul (before he became Paul) showed towards Jewish believers, even sanctioning the stoning of Stephen.

Of course, after gentile Christians gained the upper hand and began persecuting Jews, the chance Jews would become envious of anything we had plummeted to zero. That’s when I realized we might have this all backwards. That the real purpose for making Jews jealous was not to attract them to the gospel, but to repel them! Didn’t Paul tell us later, that from the standpoint of the gospel they were being made “enemies for our sake” (Rom. 11:28)?

Backing up a few verses, I found my suspicion confirmed. Paul reveals that his brethren should have realized their fury towards the incoming gentiles was actually a fulfillment of a prophecy by Moses: “I will make you jealous by that which is not a nation, by a nation without understanding will I anger you” (Rom. 10:19). There it was – anger!

And if we read the whole prophecy we learn the punishment fit the crime. “They made Me jealous with what is not God; They have provoked me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.” (Deut. 32:21)

God then used this anger to drive the gospel out from Jerusalem to find more of that “foolish nation” scattered among the goyiim who had ears to hear.

But what about Paul’s salvation plan for the Jews? If God’s purpose for bringing in gentiles was not to make Jews envious, but furious, why did Paul say, “I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them” (Rom. 11:14)?

Paul knew his countryman’s time of salvation was not then, but future. I believe he saw the only way he might rescue some of his beloved brethren was to preach the gospel all the more to the gentiles. Hopefully, it would make them so hopping mad they’d connect it to the prophecy and realize this was that. And seeing it was all tied to God’s justice for the nation’s historic sin, repent.

It was a desperate plan, but from Paul’s perspective the only hope they had back then. But it’s a new day. I believe the judgment of jealousy with its Jewish anger has served God’s purposes. Now it’s time for the salvation of “all Israel.”

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