Rom 11:13-16 “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.”
Paul is recognized as the apostle to the Gentiles. Certainly, this was by God’s design. Still, it is good to recognize the events that led to this designation. Paul and Barnabas started out ministering to the Jews, but many of them rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ that Paul preached. As a result, they were told “…It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth (Acts 13:46-47).”
Paul speaks to the Gentiles here and assures them that he brought honor to the office God had given him. He had preached boldly and faithfully the gospel of Jesus Christ to them; encouraging, exhorting, and rebuking as was necessary. The root meaning of the word translated as “office” here, means to “attend as a servant or render service.” Paul was declaring to them that he had been a faithful servant, not a lord.
Although he was the apostle to the Gentiles, he never lost sight of his love and desire for his brethren where his ministry started. Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles was not a farce to provoke the Jews. His love for, and care of the Gentiles was genuine, and he carried it out even to the endangering of his own life. That did not prevent him from harboring the hope that his Jewish brethren might be moved by the flourishing of the gospel among the Gentiles.
As servants of the True and Living God, we should always be ready to serve wherever He sends us. We may not always serve where we started out, and those we love may reject the truth of grace. However, we should never lose our love and hope for them because God sees fit to use us elsewhere. Indeed, our deepest desire should be that God’s blessing on us would be a means to provoke those we love to serve and never be used as an “I told you so.”
Paul hoped that magnifying his service among the Gentiles would be a stimulus to the Jews to move them to follow the truth of Jesus Christ. He hoped to stir in them a Godly jealousy to want what they saw in the Gentiles. Paul had no notion that he would save them from their sins as evidenced by his declaration to the church at Ephesus (Eph 1:3-12) that “…we have redemption through his (Jesus’s) blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” However, he had a great zeal to see them saved from the error of trusting in their own righteousness according to the works of the law.
The rejection of the Jews as God’s only covenant people was necessary, both as an opening of the kingdom to the Gentiles and a provocation to the Jews to seek the righteousness of God (Rom. 11:11). If this act was glorious, how much more glorious is it to see those who were once rejected then restored to the joy of His salvation. If the firstfruit (Christ) is holy, then the lump (both Jew and Gentile) is holy. Since the root (Christ) is holy, the branches (both Jew and Gentile) are also holy.
May we always give God glory for the Firstfruit and Root of our salvation!