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Jealousy That Leads People to Jesus

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Romans 11:11–15

God’s eternal plan is being worked out today, though often out of sight; but it will one day be revealed in all its fullness. That is His promise and assurance to both Jews and Gentiles who put their trust in Jesus Christ.


As we return in our Wisdom Journey to Romans chapter 11, the apostle Paul explains a little more about what God is doing during this dispensation of the church age. Israel has not been permanently abandoned, but God is doing something new—something unexpected that no Old Testament prophet foresaw—namely, the creation and development of a church composed, primarily, of Gentile believers.

Here in Romans 11:11, Paul explains what God intends to do during this current era, this dispensation of the church age, when Israel is temporarily set aside. God is now unfolding at least two purposes in this present age.

First, His plan is to proclaim salvation to Gentile nations by means of the church; and, second—and this might surprise you—His plan is to provoke jealousy in Israel, the Jewish people, because of the church.

Let’s just read verses 11-15, which, frankly, explain themselves:

So I ask, did they [unbelieving Israel] stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?

To summarize what Paul writes here, Israel rejected their Messiah, but as a result, the gospel is now being received among the Gentiles. There is coming a day when Israel, moved by jealousy, will accept their Messiah when He returns.

This word for making others jealous is not entirely negative. Here it speaks of Jewish people longing for what they see taking place in the lives of Christians. The joy you have, the relationship you have, and the forgiveness you have through Christ can actually provoke jealousy in the hearts of those around you. This jealousy, Paul writes, can be used by God to actually lead people to Jesus.

Now I want to offer three timeless truths for us from this text.

Number 1: Much of what God is accomplishing today among the Jewish people is taking place behind the scenes. I have never had a Jewish person say to me, “I am so jealous of you Christians.” They do not put it that way; but I have had Jewish people say to me, “I do not have the assurance you have; I do not have the peace of forgiveness of sins like you do. What do I need to do to have what you have?”

That is a form of jealousy, so to speak, that is bringing Jewish people to Christ today. Much of it is taking place behind the scenes.

Number 2: Everything God has promised Israel will one day come to pass. Beloved, it is no surprise to me why Satan and His kingdom of darkness continually attack the Jewish people. Israel is a part of God’s future kingdom plan. So, if Satan can eliminate the nation of Israel, he can nullify the promises of God. And if God cannot keep His promises, then He is not really the sovereign God after all.

So even today, the tide of anti-Semitism is once again rising. As far back as 1991, one magazine reported that video games allowing players to relive the concentration camps of Hitler during World War II were becoming increasingly popular. One Jewish organization has counted more than 140 online games that involve bloodshed against Jewish people. If you can imagine it, one game allows players to manage a concentration camp, where they gain points by selling gold fillings from teeth extracted from Jews or by selling lampshades made from the skin of dead Jews. The proceeds from these sales provide the necessary funds to buy poison gas and build additional gas chambers.

Beloved, one of the greatest proofs of God’s sovereign promises to Israel is the persistent attempt by Satan to destroy the Jewish people. Why bother with the Jews? If covenant theologians are correct and God has replaced Israel with the church, and all the promises to Israel have been adopted spiritually by the church, why bother persecuting the Jewish people? Why is there such worldwide hatred for this nation?

I will tell you why. Satan cares because he takes the Bible literally. The devil happens to be quite a Bible student. Just look back at Matthew 4, where Satan tempted Jesus by quoting Scripture to the Lord, twisting its meaning of course, to suit himself.

I believe the devil understands the Bible as an inspired document to be interpreted literally! He evidently understands God’s promise of the land to the Jews as an everlasting inheritance, and that is why he has fought it for centuries and continues to do so today to keep Israel out of the land of promise, if not eliminated completely.

I believe Satan takes literally Christ’s promise to bring a literal kingdom to earth and to rule from David’s throne in a literal Jerusalem. The book of Revelation reveals the devil’s attempts during the tribulation to keep this from happening.

One of the greatest proofs that God is not finished with Israel is the unnatural hatred for the Jewish people and the demonically inspired attempts throughout modern history to wipe them off the face of the earth. But God will keep His word to Israel in the future just as He has in the past.

The Philistines tried to wipe out Israel; and my friend, have you ever met a Philistine? No, you haven’t. That nation no longer exists. But more than likely you have met an Israelite because that nation continues to exist.

Here is one more timeless truth—number 3: Everything God has promised the believer is just as reliable as His promises to Israel.

And beloved, this is true, no matter what anyone or anything seems to indicate. God is faithful to keep His promises to Israel. What greater evidence do we need to know that He will keep His word to us, as New Testament Christians?

God’s unchanging covenant with Israel, in spite of their unfaithfulness and disobedience, is your assurance today. Your own personal failures are not permanently fatal. As a Christian, your falling is not final. Even your moments of disobedience do not destroy God’s covenant with you as a child of God by faith in Christ alone.

His covenant of grace with you says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). You can count on it, lean on it, depend upon it, rest in it—that is His unchanging promise to you!

You possess blessings from God that the unbelieving world—and certainly the unbelieving Jewish world—longs to have: forgiveness and the grace of God.

I think of Dr. Charles Feinberg, a faithful believer and a brilliant Jewish Bible scholar. Feinberg was raised in an orthodox Jewish home that hired a “Sabbath Gentile,” a Gentile woman who was hired to cook and clean and serve his family on the Sabbath day. The joyful disposition and the quiet testimony of this woman, who was a dedicated Christian, was so appealing and frankly unnerving that, finally, this sophisticated, educated young man went to her and began asking her questions. Through the testimony of this cleaning lady, Charles Feinberg placed his faith in Jesus Christ as his Messiah.[1]

No matter who you are or where you are, live out your gratitude to God for His unfailing promises to you through your Messiah, Jesus Christ. You never know when someone might be watching you and will be moved to jealousy to want what you have.

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