This season is referred to as “the Christmas season”. I think that is fitting and fine. The angel said to the shepherds in the field, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). It was good news not just for the Jews but for “all the people”. This was the angel’s way of saying that the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham had arrived. God had promised Abraham in Genesis 12:3 that through him all the nations would be blessed. Well, this was how that was going to happen…the birth of God’s Son and all that He would accomplish.
In my recent sermon series on Romans, I was trying to get this across when we went through Romans 9 – 11. I believe some Christians are confused in how we are to regard the nation of Israel. Some Christians believe we have to always take the side of Israel in any and every situation and that they are saved people just because they are Jews. To other Christians we no longer have to regard Israel as having any relevance or importance. I believe both extremes are inaccurate.
The “good news” of the gospel is that salvation is found only in a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ (John 14:6 and Acts 4:12). Otherwise, if Jews could be saved apart from Christ, that would make Paul’s wish that he could be “accursed” (condemned to hell) for the sake of his people (the Jews) a foolish statement.
The idea I believe Paul was trying to get across, as he stood between these Jews and Gentiles who were divided from one another, was this: While Jews can be thought of as not being part of God’s saved people apart from Christ, they are still to be honored and respected for their historic heritage because God’s call is “irrevocable” (Romans 11:29).
It is fitting for us to respectfully and sincerely regard Israel as historically “chosen” while also holding them to the full doctrine of salvation through Christ. Paul was saying that they are still God’s chosen people in a historic sense and that must be respected but it does not relieve them of the responsibility to repent and believe in Jesus Christ.
Or, to put it another way: Jews can only be saved through Christ, the same way Gentiles can be. Consequently, in order to help that happen, Gentiles need to honor and respect the calling God originally gave Israel.
So this Christmas season – praise God for going through such a carefully thought out approach to making this “good news of great joy that shall be for all the people” a possibility in sending His Son and then in making it a reality by enabling us to put our trust in Christ. God went to so much trouble to give you and me eternal life when we die and meaning for life in the here and now.