-noun. “Any person, thing, or situation exhibiting an apparently contradictory nature.”
Paradoxes are usually called such because they create tension. I have always enjoyed stained glass windows as symbolic images of paradoxical ideas, because of how seemingly incongruent shapes and odd mixes of color combine to form something incredibly beautiful when light shines through. Likewise, the concept of salvation by grace to all who believe is paradoxical to many believers…all the more so for Jews who still await the Messiah. Yet the Bible tells us a new day is coming when Jews the world over will embrace Yeshua as Messiah…and the message of salvation by grace as well.
Meanwhile, this subject remains a difficult one. In most Christian circles, while salvation by grace is taught as a foundational tenet of faith, the “blueprint” explaining how it is made possible (grafting Gentiles onto a Jewish rootstock) remains a mystery generally left to seminary scholars to explore. Even so, according to the Apostle Paul, the underlying motivation God played on (and is still using) to make it all “work” on a human level is common to us all. Jealousy. Speaking of Israel’s unwillingness to believe in the Christ when He appeared, Paul writes in Romans 11:
I say then, have [the Jews] stumbled, that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, their falure, riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? (Romans 11: 11-12, 15).
These verses reveal two truths. One, in His wisdom God allowed the Gentiles to receive the blessings of salvation knowing in doing so the Jews would, eventually, take a good hard look at the Christian message of salvation by grace through Christ, and ultimately believe. The other truth – perhaps more pertinent to us Gentiles – is that the Jews’ eventual acceptance of the “fullness” of salvation through Christ will result in our riches! Not only salvation itself (which is riches enough, don’t you agree?), but, I believe, some future fullness in richness that we as yet have not seen, nor can begin to comprehend.
Speaking of the process by which Gentiles were grafted into the salvation intended for the Jews, Paul continues:
And if some of the branches were broken off [unbelieving Jews], and you, being a wild olive tree [Gentiles], were grafted in among the [believing Jews], and with them became a partaker of the olive root [Jewish rootstock] and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the [natural] branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root…but the root supports you. Then, you will say, “the [natural] branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” (vss. 17-19).
Paul uses two interesting terms here: “unbelieving” and “believing” Jews. The modifier “(un)believing” shifts the focus of salvation from the word “Jew” to the verb “to believe.” And who was the first believing Jew? Abraham. Read Romans 4, which Paul sums up in his letter to the Galatians:
…”Abraham ‘believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ Therefore, know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying: ‘In you, all the nations shall be blessed.'” (Galatians 3: 6-8)
In conclusion, the writer of Hebrews reminds us that Abraham is the father of all who believe because when his faith was put to the test, it proved to be sincere. Believing, truly, that Isaac was God’s promised son – the seed that would become a nation, through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed – Abraham was willing to sacrifice his precious child Isaac to God, knowing that if need be, to fulfill His promise, God would raise Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11: 17-19).
To answer an earlier question, then, who are the children of Abraham? Those who believe.
To what ethnic group or nationality do Abraham’s children belong? Jew, Gentile, slave, free, male, female, ALL are children of Abraham, and thus of God, if they truly believe.
And finally, what benefit is there to understanding the blueprint by which God made salvation to Gentiles possible? To knock down ancient barriers and bond Gentile Christians and Jewish Christians together, knowing that the unique blessing to us Gentiles flows through the promise made to a certain faithful Jew, millennia ago.
Amen, let it be so!