Rav Shaul (The Apostle Paul) was known as an “apostle to the Gentiles” but does this mean that he gave up on the Jewish people in regards to faith in Yeshua? Shaul answers this very clearly in the B’rit Hadashah when he says in Romans 11:1-2a
“1 I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected His people whom He knew beforehand…”
When reading the writings of Shaul in the B’rit Hadashah, he is very clear that the Good News in word and in deed is “to the Jew first.” The reason for this is that Shaul saw a divine two-step pattern in world redemption. The pattern begins with Israel’s restoration, for without the restoration of Israel there can be no incorporation of Gentiles into the people of God. Shaul was determined in this conviction of “to the Jew first” because to circumvent God’s design of salvation history (first the restoration of Israel and then the incorporation of the nations into the people of God) would certainly and necessarily lead to the Gentiles in superseding Israel in God’s plan which would result in Israel permanently falling away. This is why Shaul expressly highlights Israel’s permanency in God’s plan in Romans 11.
So how does Shaul understand God’s redemptive plan in the context of salvation history? Shaul understands the two step redemption pattern of “to the Jew first” and “equally to the Greek” as salvation going to and through the Jews, who’s acceptance results in the salvation of the willing Gentiles who are then incorporated (not converted) into the people of God. As the Gentiles receive this Good News, and the prophetic incorporation into the people of God results, then the Jews who have been blinded in part will recognize the prophetic fulfillment as the work of God. As they receive this salvation of the Good News of Yeshua it will result in the redemption of all Israel. Shaul sums this up nicely in Romans 11:15
“15 For if their rejection leads to the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?”
This is the provocation to jealousy mentioned in Deuteronomy 32:21
“21 They made Me jealous with a non-god. They vexed Me with airy idols. So I will make them jealous with a non-people. With a foolish nation I will vex them.”
This process of thought is in light of the accepted Jewish eschatology that the nations will be brought near and into faith with God. Isaiah 2:2-3
“2 It will come to pass in the last days that the mountain of Adonai’s House will stand firm as head of the mountains and will be exalted above the hills. So all nations will flow to it. 3 Then many peoples will go and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of Adonai, to the House of the God of Jacob! Then He will teach us His ways, and we will walk in His paths.” For Torah will go forth from Zion and the word of Adonai from Jerusalem.”
By going to the Gentiles equally, Shaul anticipates those that have been hardened will be provoked to jealousy because of his eschatological ministry success. This jealousy will bring those who have stumbled to the realization that the work of God through Yeshua is resulting in fulfilling promises of understood salvation history.