Paul devoted all of Romans 11 to presenting proof that God is not through with Israel. We must not apply this chapter to the church today, because Paul is discussing a literal future for a literal nation. He called five witnesses to prove there was a future in God’s plan for the Jews.
Paul Himself (11:1) “Has God cast away his people? God forbid! For I also am an Israelite!” If God has thrown away His people, then how can the conversion of the apostle Paul be explained? The fact that his conversion is presented three times in the book of Acts is significant (Acts 9, 22, 26). Certainly Dr. Luke did not write these chapters and repeat the story just to exalt Paul. No, they were written to show Paul’s conversion as an illustration of the future conversion of the nation of Israel.
Paul called himself “he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” (1 Cor. 15:8). In 1 Timothy 1:16 he stated that God saved him “But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.”
Paul used himself as the first witness. The fact that he was saved does not prove that there is a future for Israel. Rather, what is important is the way he was saved. God has not given up on Israel.
Israel is God’s elect nation; He foreknew them, or chose them, and they are His. The fact that most of the nation has rejected Christ is no proof that God has finished with His people. In his day, Elijah thought that the nation had totally departed from God (see 1 Kings 19). But Elijah discovered that there was yet a remnant of true believers. He thought he was the only faithful Jew left and discovered that there were seven thousand more.
Note that this remnant is saved by grace and not by works (Rom. 11:5–6). Note also the parallel in Romans 9:30–33. It is impossible to mix grace and works, for the one cancels the other. Israel’s main concern had always been in trying to please God with good works (Rom. 9:30—10:4). The nation refused to submit to Christ’s righteousness, just as religious, self-righteous people refuse to submit today.
Lose self. Gain all the benefits of being saved by grace, not works, or we are back to self again. Only by grace are we saved from our sins through repentance to Jesus Christ our Savior. The question becomes, Is He our Lord?
ROMANS—OUR CARE AND CALLING
Romans 11:1-2, The Message
The Loyal Minority
1-2 Does this mean, then, that God is so fed up with Israel that he’ll have nothing more to do with them? Hardly. Remember that I, the one writing these things, am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham out of the tribe of Benjamin. You can’t get much more Semitic than that! So we’re not talking about repudiation. God has been too long involved with Israel, has too much invested, to simply wash his hands of them.
2-6 Do you remember that time Elijah was agonizing over this same Israel and cried out in prayer?
God, they murdered your prophets,
They trashed your altars;
I’m the only one left and now they’re after me!
And do you remember God’s answer?
I still have seven thousand who haven’t quit,
Seven thousand who are loyal to the finish.
It’s the same today. There’s a fiercely loyal minority still—not many, perhaps, but probably more than you think. They’re holding on, not because of what they think they’re going to get out of it, but because they’re convinced of God’s grace and purpose in choosing them. If they were only thinking of their own immediate self-interest, they would have left long ago.
7-10 And then what happened? Well, when Israel tried to be right with God on her own, pursuing her own self-interest, she didn’t succeed. The chosen ones of God were those who let God pursue his interest in them, and as a result received his stamp of legitimacy. The “self-interest Israel” became thick-skinned toward God. Moses and Isaiah both commented on this:
Fed up with their quarrelsome, self-centered ways,
God blurred their eyes and dulled their ears,
Shut them in on themselves in a hall of mirrors,
and they’re there to this day.
David was upset about the same thing:
I hope they get sick eating self-serving meals,
break a leg walking their self-serving ways.
I hope they go blind staring in their mirrors,
get ulcers from playing at god.
Pruning and Grafting Branches
11-12 The next question is, “Are they down for the count? Are they out of this for good?”
WHAT WE LEARN
Romans 11:9–10 are cited from Psalm 69:22–23. This psalm is one of the most important of the messianic psalms and is referred to several times in the New Testament. (Note especially Romans 11:4, 9, 21–22.) Their “table to become a snare” means that their blessings turn into burdens and judgments. This is what happened to Israel: their spiritual blessings should have led them to Christ, but instead they became a snare that kept them from Christ. Their very religious practices and observances became substitutes for the real experience of salvation.
Sad to say, this same mistake is made today when people depend on religious rituals and practices instead of trusting in the Christ who is pictured in these activities.
“Are they down for the count? Are they out of this for good?” We will discuss the answer to that last question tomorrow! Consider this to be part one of three that we will walk through with Paul as he speaks to his Jewish counterparts.
May the customs, rituals and religious practices of this Christmas season give you all the glory and praise and lead us to a closer walk with you by helping us know you more. May all we think, say or do draw us closer to the realization of your powerful love, compassionate mercy and victorious grace that is found only in you. There is no one like you. Thank you for your longsuffering patience and goodness as we mature in your ways.
In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen