August 5, 2007
THE APOSTLE OF THE GENTILE
“I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I glorify my ministry” (Rom. 11:13). Upon pondering this verse, it seems out of place. Why did Paul call himself “the apostle of the Gentiles,” in this, the dispensational section of Romans? In Romans 9-11 Paul’s focus is on his beloved Israel. He began with sorrow, “I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart...for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh who are Israelites” (9:2-4), yet he ended with a song, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? ...For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to Whom be glory for ever. Amen” (11:33-36). Paul’s heart’s desire and his prayer to God was for Israel, for their national repentance.(10:1).
Why did he not declare his Gentile apostleship when defending his position to the Corinthians when he pointed to their conversion as proof of his work? Why did he not say this in Ephesians where “the dispensation of the grace of God...” had been “given me toward you,” and “that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery...that the Gentiles should be joint-heirs, and of a joint-body, and joint-partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel whereof I was made a minister...that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ...” (Eph. 3:2-8)?
Why did He not state this to Timothy when he wrote, “I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle...a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth” (1 Tim. 2:7) or when he later wrote, “Our Savior Jesus Christ...has abolished death, and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles” (2 Tim. 1:10-11).
Romans 11 shows that Paul’s ministry to Gentiles was not for their sake! God was using the Gentiles to provoke Israel to jealousy. However blessed, this “Gentile salvation” was a collateral blessing, not the purpose of God through Paul. Paul’s ministry then was “to provoke Israel to jealousy”!
Ivan L. Burgener