Bible Study with Jairus- Romans 11
In chapter 11, Paul focuses on how salvation came to the Gentiles because of the Israelites unbelief. He discussed how God’s salvation would come to the Jews again, and all Israel will be saved when the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. A man in our study questioned Romans 11:32, “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.” Why did consigning us to disobedience instead become God’s mercy?
There are many different beliefs about why the Israelites are consigned to disobedience and what God’s plan is for them. There are also many theological controversies about when the full number of Gentiles is and how the Israelites are eventually saved.
One of the controversies is whether the Israelites’ unbelief results from them living under a curse. Matthew 27:24-25 records that Pilate refused to be involved in Jesus’ crucifixion because he did not want the man’s blood on him, so he washed his hands and told the Israelites to take care of it. But the people of Israel answered him, “His blood is on us and on our children!” So Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified.
There has been much controversy over-interpreting the sentence: “His blood is on us and our children.” Some people believe that the tragic fate of the Jews, including the Holocaust during World War II, was brought about by this curse.
In the history of Christianity, some believe that since the Jews crucified Jesus, they should be held accountable for their actions.
In the second century, this trend of thought appeared among Christians. In the 4th century, the famous “St. John Chrysostom” pushed this discourse to a peak. He said that the Jews murdered Jesus and worshipped the devil. You can find his book “Saint John Chrysostom: Eight Homilies Against the Jews” on the Internet, which carried out severe attacks on the Jews. Under his exacerbation, anti-Semitism in Europe began to take root.
Martin Luther, who sparked the Reformation, is also an anti-Semitist. His later work “On the Jews and Their Lies” also expressed serious allegations against the Jews. He encouraged believers to burn down Jewish synagogues and schools, warn people against them, refuse to let Jews own houses among Christians, take away Jewish religious writings, forbidding rabbis from preaching, and offer no protection to Jews on highways. He also wanted to prohibit usury, remove all of the Jew’s gold and silver, and set it aside for safekeeping. It was only to be given back to those Jews who truly converted. Young, strong Jews were to be given a flail, ax, spade, and spindle and let them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow.
Generally, Christians do not pay much attention to theology, but theology’s impact on us is very significant. You may unknowingly accept certain theological thinking, believe that it is the truth, and practice it in your life. One day you may find that the erroneous theological thinking you unknowingly accepted may cause you to make some mistakes or be an accomplice of mistakes.
Because of Martin Luther’s anti-Semitism teachings and anti-Semitic thoughts in European history, Hitler of Germany used this kind of thinking to promote anti-Semitism. Except for a few Christian people with great insight who were against Hitler and imprisoned or exiled in Nazi Germany, most German Christians played a tacit and conniving role in Hitler’s anti-Semitism. Therefore, in recent years, many theologians have also argued that the mass murder of Jews by the German Nazis is related to erroneous Christian theological teachings. These theologians all reflect that Luther and St. Johns Chrysostom’s arguments about the Jews may be wrong.
If you think that Matthew 27:24-25 is about the Jews being punished by God because they said that the blood shall be on them and on their children, it does not hold water. There are two arguments. The first is that the Lord Jesus prayed on the cross and said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (ESV, Luke 23:34). This shows that the Lord Jesus has already forgiven them and asked Heavenly Father to forgive them. The second argument is that the Bible says that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (ESV, Galatians 3:13). If the Lord has forgiven us and redeemed us from the curse of the law, why didn’t He forgive the Jews from the curse? Aren’t the Jews included in this? According to this statement, the Jews were also forgiven and redeemed from the curse. Therefore, the Jews experiencing so much suffering and mass murder does not mean that God is cursing them. It may be that Satan had taken advantage of the erroneous Christian teachings and hatred towards the Jews.
So if God consigning the Jews to disobedience is not His curse to the Jews, then what is it? I cited some examples, including personal examples and national examples, to illustrate this problem.
First, I cited a personal experience and then my friend’s experience. I was the first Christian in our family to be saved. I only got saved and believed in the Lord at the age of 27. I naturally sinned before I believed in the Lord. After I was saved, I lived in two different student dormitories for six consecutive years. Many of the people who lived with me grew up in Christian families. I envied them. They had known the Lord since they were children and hadn’t made any major mistakes in life. They were under God and the churches’ protection. One day we shared our salvation experiences. I told them about my miraculous experience. They were shocked especially knowing that I had survived miraculously with just 300 dollars when I first arrived in the United States. They told me that they envied my experience because I had so much real and vivid experience of God. Although they had been protected since childhood, they lacked experience.
After I was saved, I asked the Lord why He didn’t allow me to be born into a Christian family to know Him from a young age and avoid making so many mistakes and taking so many detours in my life. I didn’t realize until much later that God was calling me to help evangelize China. The Holy Spirit spoke to me and told me about the great revival that would happen in China. This became a burden that burned in my heart. A Korean prophet told me that the Holy Spirit was leading every step of my life. He said that God would use me to teach His truths and preach the Gospel all over China during that great revival. In a prophetic dream, the Lord appeared to me as a big eagle with colorful wings, training a little eagle to fly. I heard Him say, “I will train you like a big eagle trains a little eagle.” If this is true, why did God allow me to experience all I have gone through?
I asked the man who questioned Romans 11:32 at the beginning of our study whether he thought being born into a Christian family or an unbelieving family was more conducive to God’s plan for my life. We both felt that it was God’s wisdom that I was born in an idol-worshipping family. The house I grew up in was built on an abandoned Bodhisattva temple. My family was a lowly peasant family, and I experienced suffering and sin amongst people who didn’t know or believe in God.
Once I was saved, I understood how terrible sin was and how stubborn idols and evil spirits are. Perhaps God is preparing me to deal with all of these things when I preach the Gospel in the future. By experiencing the pain of sin in the world and then being delivered from it through salvation, I realize that there is no darkness in God, and my wholehearted love for Him continues to deepen and mature. I am also more empathetic toward those compatriots who have suffered as I have.
My friend who later lived in this dormitory and slept in the bunk above me had a very different experience. He said that he was born into a Christian family, but because he didn’t have an experiential relationship with the Lord, he went abroad to do business and left the Lord for many years. Later, after retiring, he sold his business and returned to the United States to take care of his mother. He began to go to church with his mother, mainly to accompany her. Over time as he listened to the sermons, his heart became open and alive to God. He started serving full-time in the church, fell madly in love with the Lord, and became a good friend and an encouragement to me.
Looking at the examples above, people’s individual experiences reflect God’s wisdom. Whether we were first consigned to disobedience, or when we consigned ourselves to disobedience for a period of time after salvation, it is all God’s wisdom. The purpose is for us to experience some setbacks and to have a deeper understanding of God’s salvation. God’s purpose is not to punish or neglect but to train and help us better experience His love and redemptive grace in a more profound way. My personal experience has been like that. The same is true of a country’s experience. I read a story about Hudson Taylor, which left a deep impression on me. He went to China to preach the Gospel. A Chinese man was saved, and he asked Hudson how long the British had known about the Gospel. Hudson told him for hundreds of years. The Chinese man said his father had sought after the truth all of his life, but no one had told him about Jesus or salvation. He blamed Hudson for the fact that the British knew about the Gospel for hundreds of years, yet his father left the world not knowing the truth of the Gospel.
When Paul was preaching the Gospel in Asia Minor, the Holy Spirit did not allow him to go east or north, nor did he allow him to preach in Asia Minor(Acts 16:6). Instead, The Holy Spirit gave him a prophetic vision of Macedonia, letting him go west and evangelize Europe. So, why did God want Paul to evangelize Europe first? If the Holy Spirit led Paul to preach the Gospel from Asia Minor to the east at that time, wouldn’t it be possible for China or Asia to be evangelized? Why did God allow China to stay in the dark so long without preaching the Gospel to the Chinese people, like the father of the Chinese man who went to his grave without the truth?
A viral video circulated on Facebook and other websites showed a group of Chinese people rushing to grab a copy of the Bible being distributed. The people were very excited and emotional over receiving them. Some kissed the Bible while others held it close to their chests. Many Christians were astonished by the video, saying that many Christian families in the United States have multiple Bibles in their homes that are not read or cherished like the Chinese people in the video. In fact, these Bibles are often gathering dust on the bookshelf.
Many prophetic words say that God will significantly use Chinese people to preach the Gospel in the last days. This could be why God has consigned the Chinese people to disobedience for so many years. Actually, this is the great wisdom of God. Because the Chinese people are in the dark experiencing the pain and torture caused by Satan for so long, they will burst into great spiritual power once they know God and are freed from Satan’s slavery. As Napoleon said, the Chinese are the sleeping lions of the East. Many people in politics often cite this, but it can also be applied to spirituality. The following statement could be prophetic: the spiritual power that the Chinese bring forth after they are released from the darkness could be phenomenal.
We aren’t saying this because we are Chinese; many western Christians say the same thing. An American woman that I know said that God revealed a lot of things about China to her. She has been praying regularly for China. God told her that the last would be first. Although China is late in coming to the kingdom of God, He will profoundly use China and its people to preach the Gospel through Central Asia, the Middle East, and then to Israel.
When we compare evangelization in Europe and the United States, China lags behind. China has been consigned to disobedience for a longer time, but this doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love the Chinese people. He is sovereign and wise. Every country has a specific call and development time for the kingdom of God, whether Peter called to evangelize the Jews, Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, or Christians evangelizing the Roman Empire, Spain, Portugal, and later, the United Kingdom and the United States. The timeline and calling are God’s, and even if we don’t see Him effectively working in a country, it doesn’t mean he loves them less. In Matthew, chapter 20, Jesus told the parable of the workers in the vineyard. They were all God’s workers, some were sent into the vineyard later than others, but all were paid the same. When I said the last would be first, I wasn’t trying to exalt China. Instead, I tried to illustrate that God’s grace is priceless and His riches, wisdom, and knowledge have incredible depth. We are not competing with one another as to who is first in God’s kingdom because it’s not by our works or effort but by His grace alone that we enter.
Similarly, because the Israelites refused to accept Jesus as their Messiah, God temporarily rejected them, but not to just curse or punish them. Instead, He hoped that they would learn to be obedient to the faith through suffering, thereby having a deeper understanding and experience with Him. The Jews are like Simon the Pharisee in Luke 7 when he condemned the woman, a sinner, who offered the alabaster jar to the Lord. The Lord’s response to him was, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (ESV, Luke 7:47). This is a very profound statement.
When the Jews or we are consigned to disobedience, it is actually God’s mercy that allows us to become like that woman when we know Him and are forgiven one day. Her sins, which were many, are forgiven–for she loved much. God’s plan for us in this life is to experience His love and redemption. It will take eternity for us to praise God. If it takes some time on this earth to learn this lesson, it is undoubtedly worth it. If we have been able to express our sincere gratitude and praise to God in all things in this life, it may indicate that we actually know God quite well and have a very subjective experience with Him. This principle applies to the Gentiles and also to the Jews.
Therefore, Paul exclaimed at the end of Romans 11:
11:33 (ESV) “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
11:34 (ESV) “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”
11:35 (ESV) “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”
11:36 (ESV) For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
Paul really knew God’s riches, wisdom, and knowledge! He was full of praise for God’s plans for the Israelites! How unsearchable are God’s judgments and how inscrutable His ways! For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. We can only imagine what it will be like for the Jews once their time of discipline and consignment to disobedience is over. They will praise and be grateful for coming into the full knowledge and truth of Jesus Christ. We are bound by time, but God is not. He is beyond time restraint. We must view this from eternity’s perspective. It is not about when we get into the vineyard, but it is about the bountiful grace of God being extended to anyone who enters the vineyard. In a sense, it does not matter that much WHEN you get into the vineyard. People are anxious because their mindset is still on the WHEN.
Sometimes, our loved ones face the same situation, especially in the United States. Many children from Christian families have wandered far away from God, even taking drugs and committing sins. Why does God allow these things to happen? On the one hand, it is their own choice. On the other hand, God consigned them to disobedience for some time to have mercy on them. Don’t give up hope. Know the depth of the richness, wisdom, and knowledge of God! May we praise Him; May His mercy come to them when the time is up. Temporary rejection or discipline is not permanent rejection or punishment, but God’s wisdom! May we rest in the Lord!