Rabbenu Home


A Discussion of Messianic Judaism, the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, and Related Leadership Issues from the Preoccupied Mind of Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD.

All Contents ©2004-2007 Stuart Dauermann - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Will Paul's Prayer Be Answered? Yes!

“Will Paul’s Prayer Be Answered? Yes!”
A Teaching Presented April 16, 2005
Ahavat Zion Messianic Synagogue, Beverly Hills, CA
Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD

In chapter Romans chapter 10, Paul expounds upon the mechanics of Israel’s stumbling, and how, having stumbled, for the most part and only for the time being, Israel is on the outside looking in at the benefits God has provided in Messiah. We must not forget that this stumbling is temporary, redemptive, and divinely purposed. And as has been hinted at already and will be stated directly in Romans 11, they have not stumbled so as to fall beyond recovery [mei genoito!].

As mentioned last week, to rightly understand Paul’s discussion, we must hold certain ideas in tension with one another. Among these are the contrast between things as they are and things as they will be because of God’s electing purposes for Israel and the nations. As we mentioned last night, we must not judge Israel’s final state by their current condition of being apparently set aside.

Richard B. Hays nicely summarizes the general historical context around the time of the writing of Romans, when he says this:

“By the late first century, the success of the preaching mission to the Gentiles had begun to create a manor crisis of communal identity. How was the community interpret the events of the time” There were ‘too many Gentiles, too few Jews,’ in this new messianic community, which therefore was increasingly in danger of losing its Jewish identity altogether, particularly in the light of the community’s fateful decision not to require Gentile converts to be circumcised and keep the Jewish dietary laws [Richard B. Hays. The Moral Vision of the New Testament. San Francisco: HarperSanFancisco, 1996:410].

Hays suggests that the entire letter circles around two basic issues:

• Is the grace of God extended to Gentiles who do not observe the Torah? The answer is a resounding “Yes!”

• If God receives Gentiles by grace without requiring circumcision and adherence to the Torah, does that mean that he has broken the covenant with Israel [and abandoned them as his people?] To this, the answer is a resounding “No!”

Chapter ten revolves around Israel’s not understanding something. But what is it that they did not understand? Our reflexive answer to this answer to this question is “Messiah. They did not understand that Yeshua is the Messiah.” The problem with this guess as to what they did not understand, is that neither the broader context nor chapter ten or Romans itself supports this interpretation as being comprehensive enough. In other words, this answer is only partially right. One needs to remember the following about the context.

1. The congregations of Yeshua-believers are increasingly heavy on Gentiles, and light on Jews
2. The Jewish community has, throughout Paul’s ministry, been outraged by Paul’s receiving Gentiles into the people of God without requiring of them that they first become Jews—being circumcised as a precondition to a lifestyle of obeying the Torah of Moses
3. Paul is on his way to Jerusalem where he is going to deliver an offering from the Gentile churches, which he views to be both a peace offering cementing the relationship between the churches among the Gentiles and the home congregation in Jerusalem, and a vindication of his ministry as a partial foreshadowing and fulfillment of the prophetic promises that the Gentile nations shall be a blessing to Israel in the latter days.

If one considers this context into which Paul is prooftexts used in this chapter, one will see that they do not deal with the Messiahship of Yeshua, but rather with another disputed first-century issue. And what is that? What was it that Israel did not “get?”

The issue they did not get was that the Gentiles were to become fellow-members of the community of Israel but without accepting circumcision or Torah. In addition to not realizing that Yeshua was the Messiah, Israel stumbled over not realizing that Israel’s being temporarily set aside while God worked out his will among the nations was something that had already been prophesied in Scripture. As we read chapter ten of Romans, we can see how the Older Testament texts Paul chooses address this issue.

We can also see how the discussion in chapters ten and eleven is framed by the prayer Paul alludes to in 10:1—that Israel might be saved. Toward the end of chapter eleven, he gives God’s triumphant answer to that prayer. But for now, let’s examine chapter ten, and see what Paul says about Israel’s stumbling—what they did not understand—and what we can see about God’s saving purposes.

1 Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. 2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3 Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness.

Israel did not realize what God was doing in Messiah, being preoccupied with the sense of privilege that comes from being Jewish and adhering to the demands and status associated with being the people of God and his Torah, they failed to grasp the magnificent new thing God was doing in the coming of Yeshua—and, even more to the point, failed to recognize that this was the prophesied in Scripture.

4 Messiah is the end [that is the goal point] of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

They failed to understand that the Messiah is the goal point of the Torah [in which they took pride], so that there might be righteousness for everyone who believes—both Jew and Gentile. They failed to understand that God was going to bring the Gentiles into his redeemed community in a manner attested to by Torah [and the Prophets], but not requiring of these Gentiles that they obey Torah! This is central to Paul’s argument here—he is still discussing and contrasting what God is doing with Israel and what God is doing with the nations.

He then brings Torah in as a witness to what he is saying, that God had a bigger plan in mind that would encompass not only Israel but also the nations. This is NOT a plan that negates or replaces Torah. Rather it confirms what Torah was saying about what God would do among the Gentiles and what God is doing among the Jews. This hearkens back to what Paul says in Romans, chapter two: 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

Here in chapter ten, he continues demonstrating how what God is doing among the Gentiles and among the Jews in Messiah.

5 Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: "The man who does these things will live by them." 6 But the righteousness that is by faith says: "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?' " (that is, to bring Messiah down) 7 "or 'Who will descend into the deep?' " (that is, to bring Messiah up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

It is important to realize that he is not simply contrasting two approaches righteousness in verses 5-10. The “but” at the beginning of verse six has the thrust of “furthermore.” It is an amplification of the fullness of God’s saving purposes. Otherwise, we have Paul using Moses to refute Moses, which will not do. Rather he is saying, “Yes, the righteousness that is according to Torah [for the Jews] involves a way of life where one enjoys fellowship with God, but furthermore, the Torah speaks of a way of faith, a way of dependence upon what God does independent of what we can do. It is a way of operation attested to in Torah, wherein the issue is not what we do, but what God has done. Don’t worry about ascending to heaven or descending to the depths—about doing great things, but rather rely upon the great thing that God has done. This is a reality, a dynamic testified to in Torah, and demonstrate in our day in what the God of Torah has done in Messiah. This argument underscores Paul’s portrayal of how Israel continues stumbling over Messiah…not realizing what the God of Torah was doing in him.

But the discussion goes on to underscore the broader context of Israel’s stumbling—what God is doing among the Gentiles, and how this great fact and Israel’s stumbling were both prophesied in Scripture. Notice especially the inclusiveness of the quote texts in verses 11-13. This is part of Paul’s point, the foreordained inclusion of the Gentiles. Notice too how Paul vindicates his own ministry through his statements here [another of his concerns].

11 As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile - the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." 14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"

Paul then turns to underscoring again how Israel stumbled, not understanding what God was doing in Messiah especially as it involved what he was doing among the Gentiles, and how this stumbling was part of the foreordained and prophesied purposes of God. Notice the rhetorical questions in verses 16-21, all questions concerning “Well, what about Israel? Has God left them in the dark and left them behind in a dishonorable manner?” Notice how he vindicates God’s honor by piling up the Older Testamental quotations. God is not dishonorable in how he is handling Israel and the nations. He foretold and foreshadowed these things repeatedly—this is all part of Paul’s argument throughout Romans 9-11, where he vindicates the honor of God.

16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our message?" 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Messiah. 18 But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did: "Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world." 19 Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, "I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding." 20 And Isaiah boldly says, "I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me." 21 But concerning Israel he says, "All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people."

Having described Israel in their stumbled state—a state which Paul knows to be not only tragic, but also divinely ordained, purposeful, salvific, and temporary, Paul then asks the question that might arise in people’s minds as they contemplate the apparent petering out of Israel’s momentum. He asks and answers the big question that has been laying behind all of his discussion, “11:1 So then, did God reject his people? By no means!”

Next week we will look at the conclusion of what God has up his sleeve for his still chosen people Israel . . . and the Gentiles as well. Meanwhile, two quotations to whet your whistle:

“As J. C. Beker writes, ‘At the end, Israel’s beginning, that is, its election by God, will be confirmed” (Longenecker, p. 102).

“Although his ministry appears to concern itself solely with bringing salvation to the Gentiles, Paul wants his readers to believe that there is a deeper motivation behind his mission—that is, the salvation of Israel. Paul works for the salvation of the Gentiles, but that does not mean that Gentiles have taken center stage in God’s plan. God has not transferred his favor to the gentiles at the expense of the Jews. He still has Israel in view and in fact, as we have seen, the process of salvation culminates with them. Here, then, Paul portrays even his Gentile ministry as a catalyst for the eventual salvation of Israel.” (Bruce W. Longenecker)