A few months ago I preached a sermon entitled “In the Presence of King” in John 18. In verse 35, Pilate answers Jesus by saying,
“Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?”
Pilate’s statement was emotionally rude but factually true. The great majority of the nation of Israel rejected Him as their promised Messiah. They chose to forget all the incontrovertible miracles that he performed and ignored his great teachings. John 1:10, 11 declare this in an even more explicit way:
“He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.”
A popular saying affirms that “one man's junk is another man's treasure.” The Jewish nation rejected Christ and this exclusion opened the way for the Gentile nations of the world to receive the Good News of salvation in Christ.
This is what I call “Second Place Grace.” Christ came first and foremost to save his chosen nation (Israel), but as they rejected Him, He poured his salvific grace upon his chosen from among the rest of humanity.
This second place grace is illustrated in Romans 11:11-22, where Paul tells us,
“…through their fall… salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! For I speak to you Gentiles… if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?...you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.’ Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear.”
This is what second place grace is all about! The people of Israel were that natural branches, but we were grafted in; adopted by grace and added to the number of the people of God. I would like to clarify, however, that our election and grafting into the family of faith was done before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). Our salvation is not God’s plan B and God did not choose us after Israel’s rejection; but He did come first to the Jewish people.
God’s second place grace is more than enough to save all those who believe in the name of Jesus. His grace excludes all human boasting and destroys pride. I am glad that I was able to return to the United States on a boat (instead of a plane) and I rejoice in the “crumbs” (Matthew 15:26-28) of grace that saved my soul from sin, death and hell.