God’s Calling on the Gentiles, His Calling on the Jews

Gentile sharing with Jew

This is an article on God’s calling on the Gentiles as well as His calling on the Jews and is one we have pondered writing for a while.  The reason is simple; how can the (predominantly Gentile) Church fulfill the calling of God mentioned in both the Old Testament and the New Testament if they don’t know and understand what that calling is?  We hope you will take some time to read through this brief article, look up the passages and prayerfully consider how you might walk this out in your own life and in your local congregation.

God’s Joint Calling 

We find that many are surprised to learn that while He was alive, Jesus said that He was sent to the Jews and that He called the disciples to bypass other nations and go to the Jews;

“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Matthew 15:24

Don’t take the road leading to other nations and don’t go to any Samaritan town. Instead go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel

Matthew 10:6

It was only after Jesus’ death and ascension that the disciples were instructed to go to the Gentiles in what has been called “the Great Commission”.

Another thing people find disconcerting because they hadn’t considered it before, is that when Jesus gave the Great Commission it was to Jewish disciples. He was telling them something which would have been quite uncomfortable for them as  Jews — to go to the Gentile nations (i.e. to pagans) and teach them about the God of Israel and His Messiah. The Sent One (Jesus) became the Sending One.

While the Great Commission was originally given to Jews being sent to Gentiles, it has come to be rightfully applied to both Jewish Believers and Gentile Christians reaching out with the same good news to those that do not know Him. This is our joint calling; to teach all nations to observe all things that Jesus commanded us, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit’ (Matthew  28:19).

God’s Calling on the Gentiles, His Calling on the Jews

In addition to our joint calling, both Gentile Christians and Jewish Believers have equal, yet complementary God-given callings to bring glory to His Name in the earth.  We will first elaborate on what our respective callings are and then how we are called to encourage and support each other in carrying out our individual callings.

God’s Calling on Gentile Christians

In our last article on the Parable of the Vineyard Workers, we alluded to what God said the calling on the Gentiles was with respect to the Jews and why He gave it.

God said to Moses (Deuteronomy 32:16-21) that because the Jews made Him jealous and angered Him by serving worthless idols, that He would make us envious and angry by choosing the Gentiles. Look at Deuteronomy 32:16-21, especially verse 21;

“They made Me jealous by what is no god

and angered Me with their worthless idols.

I will make them envious by those who are not a people;

I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding.”

Deuteronomy 32:21

Paul says in Romans 10:19 that salvation of the Gentiles is God accomplishing exactly what He spoke of beforehand in Deuteronomy 32; that the Gentiles are those “who are not a nation” that God is using the Gentiles to make the Jews envious [jealous]and that they are a “the nation that has no understanding“.

How would God’s choosing of Gentiles make the Jews envious or jealous?

Let us explain;

It is almost inconceivable to Jews who were chosen of God, given His Law and set apart as His chosen people that He would choose non-Jews (i.e. Gentiles) from different nations and bring them into a relationship with Him apart from Judaism.

Try to understand this from a non-believing Jew’s perspective; the Jews were not only given the Law on Mount Sinai, but Moses was up on Mount Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights meeting with God face to face. God explained in detail what the Law is and how the Jews were to carry it out.  It is very difficult for a Jew to comprehend that God would call Gentiles who are by definition of Scripture “not a people” and “with no understanding” of Him or the Law and bring them into full relationship with Him equal with the Jews.  While it was spoken of beforehand, Gentiles being grafted into the commonwealth of Israel through Messiah’s ratification of New Covenant is a very shocking concept. Gentile inclusion is one thing, but how is this inclusion to make Jews envious?

Paul addresses himself directly to this jealousy when he wrote to the believers in Rome — referring to his people, Israel as “natural” branches of the olive tree and the Gentiles as the “wild” branches (Romans 11:16-24).  In the verses just before this, Paul speaks of the relationship between Jews and Gentiles in relation to evangelism and outlines the calling on the Gentile Christians with respect to the Jews;

“It is by means of their [Jewish] stumbling that the deliverance has come to the Gentiles, in order to provoke them to jealousy.”

Romans 11:11

Paul elaborates on how the Gentile Christians are to carry this mandate out.

He says to them in Romans 11:14-25 not to brag (:18), not to be arrogant (:20), not to be conceited (:25) and not to be unaware (:25) of God’s plans of redemption of the Jews.  He reminds them that the Jews “were broken off and you Gentiles, even though a wild olive branch, were grafted in among them and have come to share in the rich root of the cultivated olive tree” and that if the Jews do not remain in unbelief, that they can be “grafted back in again”.

Paul also reminds the Gentiles that while they have salvation while much of physical Israel does not, that they are not “better” than the Jews for it.  He exhorts them not to brag and reminds them that they “do not sustain the root, but the root sustains you”. Think about it this way; if the Jews ceased to exist, the Gentile Christians would be grafted into nothing and likewise cease to exist.

Paul exhorts the Gentiles to “not be conceited” and that they should “not be unaware of this mystery: A partial hardening has come to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.”

[for more details on this, see “A Partial Hardening has come to Israel…”].

The calling on the Gentile Christians is to provoke Jewish unbelievers to jealousy by understanding that they, as Gentiles were grafted in as full and equal heirs, but do not replace the natural branches.  We have to wonder– would Paul not have considered the very idea that the Church replaces Israel (i.e. ‘replacement theology’) to be“boasting against the natural branches” (Romans 11:18).

Here is something to consider. Paul says in Ephesians 2:19 that the Gentiles “are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people [the Jews} and also members of his household”.  Gentiles can’t be considered ‘fellow citizens with the Jews’ if they replace them as God’s people. Likewise, it makes no sense for those who hold to the view that Jesus is the “New Israel” — for who then is the Israel Jesus speaks of?  He can’t be both Israel and to have been sent by the Father to Israel.

Paul exhorts the Gentile Christians they should “not be unaware of this mystery: a partial hardening has come to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” The Gospel is going to the Gentiles for a time — but not an indefinite time. While we are currently living in the “times of the Gentiles” – where there is still a partial hardening of Israel, there is coming a day spoken of by the prophets where the Jews will have their eyes opened.  Zechariah speaks of this day when we will look upon Jesus, whom we have pierced and mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child;

Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the house of David [the Jews] and the residents of Jerusalem and they will look upon Me whom they pierced. They will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child and weep bitterly for Him as one weeps for a firstborn.”

~ Zechariah 12:10

Literally; they will look upon Me, Elohim their God whom they have pierced and mourn for Him, my Son.

Gentile Christians are exhorted by Paul not to be “unaware of the mystery” of the future salvation of the Jews, but how often do we hear it taught from the pulpit that God will fulfill His promises to the Jews?  Do we hear messages on how the Jewish people will turn back to Him in repentance, in fulfillment of prophecy and come once again into a vibrant, saving relationship with Him? What is is the reason so few preach and teach these things in the Church? Afraid to rock boats? Paul warned Gentile Christians in Romans about becoming arrogant and conceited — as if they were chosen and the Jews were rejected yet by pastors not teaching these things, the Church is left with that impression by default.

Of course God will keep His promises and turn His attention back to Israel because He is faithful to His Word.  Is this not what Paul was saying at the end of Romans 11 (an entire chapter on the salvation of Israel) when he said that the calling on the Jews is irrevocable?  It may come as a surprise, but this passage is not about spiritual gifts or about God’s call on individuals, but on the irrevocable calling of God on Israel, the Jews.  Certainly, all of God’s unconditional callings are irrevocable and in that way, the principles can be applied to other situations, but in its context, this is what it says. We would encourage you to read all of chapter 11 of Romans to see these verses in context.  In verse 28 & 29, Paul says;

As far as the gospel is concerned, they [the Jews] are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.

Romans 11:28-29

As Gentile Christians, you are called to provoke unsaved Jews to jealousy by knowing more about our God than we do!  Yet how many Gentile Christians have no problem worshiping the God of Israel, while rejecting the Israel of God?  Maybe this bears repeating.  How many Gentile Christians have no problem worshiping the God of Israel, while rejecting the Israel of God?

You, as Gentile Christians are called to provoke unsaved Jews to jealousy by knowing our Scriptures better than we do yet how many have ever read all the way through their Old Testaments, even once – seeking to understand what it said?  People often pick and choose a few select parts — like the best nuts out of trail mix and discard the rest as irrelevant, outdated or replaced. We see the challenge in the word to be ‘to study and show yourself approved’; to ‘search the Scriptures daily to see if these things are true’ – all of Scripture, not just part of it!  Learn about God’s promises to the Jews, what He has fulfilled and what is yet to come – then speak of it to them!  In that way, you will provoke them to the jealousy, as He has called you to.

God’s Call on the Jews

God, from the very beginning has called the Jews to be a light to the Gentiles (Genesis 12:1-3, Isaiah 42:6, Isaiah 49:6); which would find its fullest embodiment in the Person of Jesus yet remains His mandate to us as a people and on the Jewish Believers as the ‘faithful remnant’.

In choosing the Jewish people as His, God picked the ‘runt of the litter’ and the least likely to succeed in order to prove His faithfulness to keep a people of His choosing. Deuteronomy 7 speaks of this;

The Lord was devoted to you and chose you, not because you were more numerous than all peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But because the Lord loved you and kept the oath He swore to your fathers

Deuteronomy 7:7-8

We have nothing to boast in; He chose us and remains faithful to us only because in spite of our rebellion and waywardness, He loves us and will “keep the oath He swore to our fathers”. He says in Deuteronomy 9 (and many other places in Scripture) that we are “a stiff necked people” who He would have destroyed many times if it were not for His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

You are not going to take possession of their land because of your righteousness or your integrity. Instead, the Lord your God will drive out these nations before you because of their wickedness, in order to keep the promise He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Understand that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

Deuteronomy 9: 5-6

This is hardly a reason for us, as Jews to boast.  We only continue to exist because of His faithfulness to His word to our forefathers!

God’s calling on the Jews as a people to be a “light to the Gentiles” did not cease with the coming of the Messiah.  That is why we (Daniel and Joy) attend a congregation of Gentile Christians; how can we be a light to Gentiles, if we don’t worship with them, fellowship with them and do life with them?

This call is also why we write these articles; to highlight the background to the New Testament Scriptures that may be overlooked by Gentiles — because looking at them from a first century Jewish perspective has largely gone by the wayside.

Neither of us can boast

(i) Jews can’t boast

As Jews, we have absolutely nothing to boast in. Despite having the words of the Law and the Prophets, we have been unfaithful as a people.  We played the whore; we served other gods, sacrificed to idols, failed to follow His Law and ignored His repeated calls to turn from our ways.  We killed His Prophets and as a people, rejected our own Messiah and King and had Him killed. In spite of our backsliding ways, He continues to remain faithful to us as a people because of His steadfast love and because of the oath He swore to our fathers. As He said through Paul in Romans 11:1-7, He still has a faithful remnant of Jews preserved. The Jewish Believers in Messiah are that faithful remnant – chosen by grace and as Paul continues “if by grace, then it is not by works; otherwise grace ceases to be grace”.

 (ii) Gentiles can’t boast

Jesus said to the Samaritan woman in John 4:22 that “salvation is from the Jews” and as Paul says clearly in Romans 11: 1-7, God has not rejected the Jews.  As summarized in verse 1;

I ask, then, has God rejected His people? Absolutely not!” [“me genoito” the strongest negative in the Greek!].

Paul says in Romans 11 that the Gentile Christians can’t boast because they “do not sustain the root, but the root sustains you” – that they exist in the Jews that is, that they are grafted into the commonwealth of Israel.

As we did above with the Jews, as far as boasting goes, it ought to be said that when Paul said in Romans 10:19 that God was accomplishing what He spoke of beforehand in Deuteronomy 32, it was not exactly a complement. The passage Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 32 is verse 21, which says;

They made Me jealous by what is no god

and angered Me with their worthless idols.

I will make them envious by those who are not a people;

I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding.”

Deuteronomy 32:21

Looking at the word in Hebrew that translates above as “has no understanding”, it literally means God chose ‘a nation of fools’.  The word in Hebrew is נָבָל (naval) means stupid, foolish or fool, vile, wicked, and especially impious. Nouns in Hebrew come from verbs and the verb in Hebrew is נָבַל which means “to wilt” – to fall away, to faint. Figuratively, to be a disgrace, foolish, to be morally wicked.

Paul says in Ephesians 2:11-12, that the Gentiles were formerly “separate from the Messiah, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world”.

Hardly anything to boast about, too. 


So where does that leave us? It leaves us with (1) God’s individual calling on us as Gentiles towards the Jews, (2) God’s individual calling on us as Jews towards the nations (i.e. the Gentiles) and (3) God’s joint calling on both of us.

When unbelieving Jews encounter Gentile Christians who know their Old Testaments and can show them from the Jewish Scriptures how Jesus fulfills hundreds of prophecies regarding the Messiah — including where He would be born, what lineage He would be from, how He would die, how He would rise again — and are able to communicate this with the understanding that “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22), Jewish people will be provoked to jealousy, because they will see Gentiles Christians serving the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and knowing more about “their God” and “their Bible” than they do.  But more than knowledge, which by itself cannot save, our people need to know Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge (Eph 3:19).  How you feel about the Jewish people and how you talk about them will make all the difference.  This love is essential, because as Jews they have a rich knowledge about God, yet do not know His Messiah nor have access to His forgiveness. But knowledge alone, despite being good, cannot save them. To the Jewish mind, the Temple is gone and Messiah has not yet come.  Will you tell them?

When Jewish believers stop cloistering themselves in Messianic synagogues and realize that it is the Gentile Christians who by and large are called to evangelize our people and we start doing our part — in being a light to the Gentiles and equipping them, we will be able to fulfill our joint mandate together.

God has made it so that neither side alone can accomplish the task!

The Gentile Christians and the Jewish Believers are going to see the fullness of God’s plan unfold when they walk in what He has called them to; individually and jointly.

In order for us as His people; Jews and Gentiles together as “one new man” to fulfill our joint calling, requires Gentile Christians to open their collective eyes to the faithful plan of God to restore the nation of Israel and for Jewish Believers to share with their Gentile brothers and sisters the insight and knowledge that we have from our different vantage point.  We are a stubborn and stiff-necked people, but we have knowledge and understanding that Gentile Christians really do need to fully understand the New Testament. Almost everything Jesus and Paul taught refers back to things known and understood by Jews in the first century and which needed no explanation — but do now.  This is how we, as Jewish believers can still walk out God’s call to be a light.

We, as Messianic Jews cannot provoke our own people to jealousy – only you can do that. You need us and we need you; neither of us can do this on our own.  We need each other and this is by design, so that none may boast.

The blessing of God will be found in our doing as He has called each of us to and together, walking out our calling to those that do not know Him.

“…speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Messiah. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

Ephesians 4:15-16

The Parable of the Vineyard Workers


The Parable of the Vineyard Workers (Matthew 20) starts with Peter asking Jesus a question in Matthew 19:27, “Look, we have left everything and followed You. So, what will there be for us?

Jesus said to them,

“I assure you, at the renewal of all things (Messianic Age, in some translations) when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on 12 thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses, brothers or sisters, father or mother, children, or fields because of My name will receive 100 times more and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Matthew 19:28-30

What did He mean? He explains it in Matthew 20;

In the Parable of the Vineyard Workers, Jesus starts by saying “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner…”.  When we see a passage start with “for”, we need to ask ourselves, “what is the for there for”? In this passage, the ‘for’ indicates that what is being said refers back to what was just said previously; namely Peter’s question in Matthew 19:27 and the beginning part of Jesus’ answer in Matthew 19:28-30.  In Matthew 20, Jesus is elaborating on what He had just said and that is what “the ‘for’ is there for”. That is, the Parable of the Vineyard Workers is a continuation of the explanation given by Jesus to Peter’s question in Matthew 19:27.

So let’s start off with what was Peter’s initial question and the answer that Jesus gave  as it relates directly to the context of the entire parable  in Matthew 20.

It is very important when coming to any passage of Scripture to seek to understand the context of that passage.  Just before Peter’s question, the topic being discussed in Matthew 19:16-26 was treasure in heaven versus treasure on earth.  It was into this context that Peter asks Jesus

“we” (i.e. the disciples) have left everything and followed You. What will there be for us?

Matthew 19:27

Jesus replies by saying that in the age to come, the disciples will sit on 12 thrones and judge the 12 Tribes of Israel.  This could be a whole article in and by itself, but we will not get bogged down in the details. Suffice to say that when Jesus says in verse 28 of Chapter 19 “at the renewal of all things” and when He says “when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne”, He is referring to post Judgement Day, the New Heavens and New Earth i.e. tikkun olum — the restoration of all that is broken.  For more details, see Daniel 7:13-14 and multiple places in Isaiah chapter 60 – 66.

The focus of what Jesus says in Matthew 20, is based on what He said in verse 30 of Matthew 19;

“But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Jesus continues, elaborating in Matthew 20 using terminology the disciples would have been very familiar with and which needed no explanation as it comes from the Prophets, in the Tanakh (Old Testament).

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard…”

Matthew 20:1

Jesus is playing off of imagery proscribed to God as a Vineyard-Keeper outlined in Isaiah 5:1-7 (which would be helpful to read, if you don’t already know it well). Verse 7 of Isaiah 5 reads;

“For the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts

is the house of Israel,

and the men of Judah,

the vines He delighted in.”

~Isaiah 5:7

The Vineyard-Keeper is God and the vineyard is the house of Israel and the disciples would have understood Jesus’ parable in this context.

Knowing this, let’s look at the parable, itself.

A landowner went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard.  He agreed to pay them a denarius (a day’s wage) for the day and sent them into his vineyard. It is important to understand that a standard workday was 12 hours, from 6 am – 6 pm, so this would have been at 6 am.

Another thing that is important to understand is that the landowner told the first group of labourers exactly what He was going to give them in advance. There were no surprises.

In verse 3, the landowner goes to the market-place again at 9 am and hires more workers and says to them that he will pay them “whatever is right.”  So the workers went.  Then he goes to the market-place again at noon and again at 3 in the afternoon and does the same thing.  There is nothing remarkable about these 3 groups, which is why it is phrased that way.

Finally, at 5 pm (an hour before the workday ends), the landowner went to the marketplace one last time and found others standing around not working and asked them why they have been standing around all day doing nothing.  They reply “Because no one has hired us”.  These were the workers that no one wanted. This group, like the first group he hired were highlighted, because there is something unique about the first group and the last group.

The landowner says to this last group;

“You also go and work in my vineyard.”

An hour later at 6 pm, the workday was over.

Then the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.” This is the focus of the whole parable.

Going back to what Jesus said at the end of Matthew 19, at the restoration of all things, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, those who come into the kingdom of heaven last will be rewarded first and those that were in the kingdom from the beginning will be addressed last. Hence, the 12 disciples will receive their reward and be sitting on their 12 thrones before the 12 Tribes of Israel are addressed.

Picking up the parable at verse 9, the workers who were hired at five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. These are the Gentiles; who in the history of the nation of Israel, were invited in at the very end.

Those who were hired first came and expected to receive more are the Jews that have been in the kingdom from the very beginning; that is since 6 am.  But each one of them also received a denarius, just like those that came at the very end (the Gentiles) and as a result those that came first began to grumble against the landowner.

These who were hired last worked only one hour,” they said, “and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.” They were angry.

Yes.  The Gentiles who came last are equal to the Jews that have been chosen of God since Sinai and the Gentiles are full heirs in the commonwealth of Israel, the vineyard, not second class citizens.

Jesus addresses the Jews, saying;

“I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous? ‘So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’”

~Matthew 20:13-16

Jesus again is referring to something the disciples, as Jews were very familiar with and which needed no elaboration and that is that God said way back to Moses that because the Jews made Him jealous and angered Him by serving worthless idols, that He would make us envious and angry by choosing the Gentiles. Look at Deuteronomy 32:16-21, especially verse 21;

“They made Me jealous by what is no god

and angered Me with their worthless idols.

I will make them envious by those who are not a people;

I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding.”

Deuteronomy 32:21

In fact, Paul affirms that salvation of the Gentiles in the first century is exactly that and says this clearly in Romans 10:19. The Gentiles are those “who are not a nation” that God chose to make the Jews envious and “the nation with no understanding” that will make the Jews angry.

Don’t miss this; those brought into the vineyard at 6 am (the Jews) were angry and envious of those who were brought into the vineyard an hour before the end of the day (the Gentiles) because God had given these same as God gave them. The Jews felt they deserved more because they “have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day”.

What right did those who were brought in first have to complain? Did the landowner not tell them exactly what He was going to give them in advance? Did they not agree to the terms? Is it not God’s right to give the ones who were brought in last (the Gentiles) the same as He gave us, the Jews?  This is what He says in this parable.

Salvation of the Gentiles has been part of God’s plan since the calling of the nation of Israel and any anger on our part is rooted in a sense of entitlement that stems from pride.  If you’ve ever read the Prophets, you’ll  know that this has been a long standing problem with us and since the covenant at Sinai, God has referred to us many times as a proud and stiff-necked people. 

God’s choosing of those “with no understanding” of Him or His ways (expressed in the Law) does sometime elicit the kind of self-righteous anger and jealousy and grumbling against the God that Jesus speaks about in this parable. It ought not to.  It is God’s prerogative to bring anyone He desires into His kingdom and “make them equal” to us and “give them the same as He gave us”, for it is His vineyard. Jesus says in this parable that we have no right to be envious because God is generous.

As He said He would do, God brought the Gentiles into the kingdom after 2000 years of Jewish history, at ‘one hour before the end of the day’, so to speak in terms of our history — as referred to in this parable.  Even though we, as Jews have “borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day, the terms of the agreement were clear from the beginning. There are no surprises.  It is God’s right as God to ‘give the one who was brought in last the same as He gave us‘.

This is the parable of the Vineyard Workers and as those who have come last, we want to welcome you to the Vineyard.