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"When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was able to give all his time to preaching and teaching, doing everything he could to persuade the Jews that Jesus was in fact God's Messiah. But no such luck. All they did was argue contentiously and contradict him at every turn. Totally exasperated, Paul had finally had it with them and gave it up as a bad job. 'Have it your way, then,' he said. 'You've made your bed, now lie on it. From now on I'm spending my time with the other nations.'
"He walked out and went to the home of Titius Justus, a God-fearing man who lived right next to the Jews' meeting place. But Paul's efforts with the Jews weren't a total loss, for Crispus, the meeting place president, put his trust in the Master. His entire family believed with him." Acts 18:5-8 (The Message).
Paul's ministry to the Jews was like trying to wring blood out of a stone. The same stubborn resistance and unbelief that frustrated God through their entire history was still in them. It seemed that there were few Jews who responded, wherever Paul went, until he was forced to shake the dust off his feet and turn to those who welcomed him and received his message with enthusiasm. I guess, had Paul not had a face-to-face encounter with Jesus that shook him out of his stubborn unbelief, he might not have been where he was, doing what he was doing.
How did God weave this wholesale rejection into His plan for the salvation of the nations? Would these Jewish missionaries have so readily gone to the Gentiles had the Jews responded in greater numbers? As difficult as it was for Paul to accept the persecution he experienced at the hands of his fellow-countrymen, it was all in the plan of God to make Himself known to the nations to the ends of the earth.
Try as he might, as he went from city to city, he could not persuade the Jews that Jesus was their Messiah. What was the stumbling block? The cross! The very reason why God could invite His people into His presence, apart from the rituals that they had so come to trust, was the reason why they rejected Him in the end. They could not accept a crucified "criminal" as their Messiah, resurrection or no resurrection.
Paul understood this and he also understood that God in His sovereignty used this very rejection to open the door for Gentiles to hear the same saving message.
"Again I ask; Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious...Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in His kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off." Romans 11:11-12; 22 (NIV).
Did God make the Jews rebellious and unbelieving? No, it was their choice. But God, in His sovereignty, used what they were to fulfil His purpose for the world. At the same time, He didn't cast them off as rejects. In spite of those who believe and propagate that God is finished with the Jews, that is not what the Bible says.
"As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God's gifts and His call are irrevocable.
"Just as you who were one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so now they too have become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God's mercy to you. For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that He may have mercy on them all." Romans 11:28-32 (NIV).
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