Thinking Deeply About Participating in the Plan of God (Reading Romans 10:14-21)

“I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” Romans 10:19

Paul quoted Moses. In Deuteronomy 32:21 Moses sang a prophetic song that contained a stanza about how God would punish His wayward people. He told them that if they turned to idols which are foolish, empty gods, then God would turn to a people that Israel considered to be a foolish, ignorant people, the gentiles. If Israel turned to fools God would punish them by Himself turning to fools. As a gentile this does not bode well for my self-esteem but I am yet in awe that the wrath of God has resulted in my salvation. I am a fool for the grace of God, literally.

Paul had critics. He was criticized for his gentile mission. If his gospel was of God then why would his focus not be on the Jews instead of the gentiles? Furthermore, if the gospel was the saving act of God why was it not working for the Jews but rather for the gentiles? Paul’s answer in Romans was that it was working. The salvation of the gentiles would result in the jealousy of the Jews, a jealousy that would eventually lead to their own salvation. So, we could say in some way Paul focused on gentile missions knowing it would hasten the salvation of his people. He so desired to see them saved (Rom. 9:1-3; 10:1).

This seems to be such a twisted plot. How did Paul come to such a strange conclusion? How did he even know what he was doing would work, that the salvation of the gentiles would lead to the jealousy of the Jews and in turn to their own salvation? The answer is simple. Paul thought deeply about Scripture. As a Pharisee Paul was a master of the sacred texts. As a theological writer he displays a depth of interpretation and understanding that is unrivaled. How else could a guy take a phrase from a prophetic song and see in it a strategy for missions but to be thoroughly acquainted with Scripture?

Yet there is one more question to ask. Did Paul really believe that he could do something to hasten the plan of God? Formerly as a zealous Pharisee, participating in the plan of God would have been hardwired into his psyche. At the time Paul was persecuting the church he did so because he thought he was an agent of God. Christians were the ultimate violators of Torah. The righteousness of God would not be ushered in until the nation believed and practiced the laws of God. In Paul’s mind then, the logical conclusion would be to usher in the righteousness of God by force. This is not a concept foreign to certain groups throughout Jewish history. These types of movements are well documented. So why not transfer that same zeal to Christ? Why not continue as a participant in the will of God, now as a co-laborer with Christ? Why not be a part of what God was doing in bringing in the “fullness of the Gentiles (Rom. 11:25)” that he may usher in the desired salvation of the Jews?

How much more effective would we be if we discerned the meaning of our life and the meaning of the times through Scripture?

Paul’s mentality as a participant in the will of God should challenge everyone who calls themselves a follower of Christ. We should think deeply about Scripture as to how it applies to our culture and the era in which we live. We should, as Paul, consider ourselves participants in the plan of God. The plan of God, as Paul cited, is to turn to the salvation of the fools that he may ultimately save His people from foolishness. This is an age of gentile missions. God is saving people. If a person is not participating in the plan then he surely cannot consider himself a follower of Christ. When Jesus was questioned about His acts of healing on the Sabbath day He replied, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” (John 5:17)[1] He was the ultimate participant in the plan of God. He was the personification of co-laborer. Why have we become so shallow in our theology and so thoughtless of the Scriptures? We, like Paul, must see them as applicable to our time and see ourselves as participants in His plan. As a man who thought deeply about the Scriptures and participated in the plan of God, Paul was a man that caught a tide that resulted in the salvation of millions throughout untold generations in every nation. The anemic impact of the church on our culture can in some ways be attributed to our lack of thinking as we discern the times through Scripture and fail to participate in the plan of God to save people.

May we think deeply about participating in the plan of God.

[1]The New King James Version. 1982 (Jn 5:17). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.


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