As I always mention, an introduction is always in order. In chapter 1, after Paul introduces himself, his credentials, and his audience, he begins to speak about the subject that we have now termed in our understanding, RADICAL DEPRAVITY, detailing it in 1:18-32, giving both reasons and examples regarding the terrible and approaching wrath of God.
Chapter 2 becomes a little more specific, addressing a specific target audience – the Jew in their midst – that perhaps had come because of some kind of agreement that Jesus was a man to follow, but still relying on their own Jewish ritual, rite, sign, or even membership of the specific group for their salvation. Paul went on to explain that there is no ritual, rite, sign, place, set of words or actions, or membership of any specific earthly group that has salvific effect. That salvation [soteria] only comes from one source for everyone – from Christ alone, by grace alone through faith alone, as the theologians of the Reformation put it. Romans 3 talks about the straight up gospel, and tells us not only why we need to be saved from that coming wrath, but the hows and the whens and all of that.
Then in Chapter 4. we saw Abraham, the Old Testament example of justification by faith. The chapter discussed in detail that Abraham was not justified by following the Law, which came 430 years after Abraham, or by circumcision, because this covenant was a unilateral covenant that God performed all by Himself before circumcision was ever given as a symbol of the Abrahamic Covenant – and certainly WELL before the Mosaic Covenant. Then in Chapter 5, we saw how that extended to all of us who believe now, and talked about how this “justified” us before God, or “acquitted” us before God of the unrighteousness by our great Substitute that took our place to pay for our sins, having lived a perfect life before God and then knowingly and willingly surrendered it. That’s right, Jesus was no victim – he was an active participant – as was the rest of the Godhead in this plan. However, the chapter briefly spoke about something else that will be the subject of chapter 6 – sanctification – the process whereby God uses the difficulties that He allows (I argue engineers) in our lives to make us more like His son; this will literally take the rest of your life. But we must choose to yield to God and His work in our lives through the Holy Spirit within us, and that is the problem.
Although we have been born again, or redeemed, or saved, or regenerated – whatever term you are comfortable with here – and although we are renewed in our spirit by the indwelling Holy Spirit, we still live in the flesh and in the world system that is controlled by the father of lies. Our own flesh is what we are to consider as dead – but it isn’t easy, because it for now is still alive and it fights us, being still enslaved to sin through death. And that is what the entire subject is in chapter 7, which then breaks into chapter 8, where Paul starts to talk about the implications, but more, the power behind this new life in Christ, the Holy Spirit, also known as the Spirit of Christ, also known as the Comforter, the third person of our Godhead Trinity. Last time, in chapter 8, we talked about how Christ set us free and how the Holy Spirit has assisted in every aspect of our salvation, and how a person’s changed behaviour is the evidence that Christ has saved said individual – that they no longer focus their minds on the things of the world, or the “flesh” according to Paul, but instead they focus on the “Spirit,” or rather pleasing the One that has set them free from the penalty, power, and someday the presence of sin in their lives. The next thing he talks about in the second part of chapter 8 is that there is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus, and then he defines exactly who that group of people is in verses 29 and 30 – and we need to have a theological understanding of that text – that those that God foreknew, he predestined to belong to His Son, and he called them, and then He justified them, and then He glorified them (all in the past tense, that is, the action has already been completed, which infers an eternal security among other things). It is this group of individuals that God Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit will lead all the way to glory to be with and to be like His Son Jesus Christ. We may not know what that looks like, but we can be sure that it will be – glorious!
In chapter 9, we dealt with the topic of Sonship of believers from a perspective that as we discovered left it not in the hands of the seed of Abraham, or of any of the other fathers, or of the will of man, or actions of man, but in God’s almighty hand alone. The perspective was that of Paul, speaking specifically of those that were given the promises of adoption as Sons, and the Law, and all the blessings and all that – that all those that God chose as Sons are to inherit, and that there is in fact no difference, which became his stated topic in chapter 10. There Paul talks about how there is now only one way for EVERYONE to come to the salvation we have been considering through the whole book. There is not one way for Jews and another way for non-Jews. No, ALL must come by faith that is strong enough to motivate public confession. That brings us to Chapter 11.
I subdivided the chapter as follows:
KV2a: God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew
1-10: God always has a remnant of believers
11-24: Grafted in or out, God is the one grafting
25-36: Salvation will come to the remnant
I remember a couple of years ago when we first started livestreaming our then Saturday morning Bible studies that we had a couple of guys that liked to ask questions that I considered to be dumb questions. One guy on YouTube “comment-questioned” me – “Are you saying that Israel is a physical nation?” At the time, I chose to let it hang unanswered, and later I just disabled the comments, because it is too easy for me to get caught up into useless debate. Yes, Israel IS a physical nation. It’s there today. It’s modern capital is Tel-Aviv I think. The way the question was asked, I got the impression that the guy was trying to make me answer stupidly so he could mock me, so I just didn’t engage. I think the real question he was trying to ask is, “Are you saying that all of physical Israel will be saved?” If that’s the case, I have to answer no, because already members of the physical nation have gone unsaved, like the High Priest that had Jesus crucified, and men like that at a minimum. I can go back to how Paul intimated that not all of those who are called Israel are actually included in “The Israel of God,” which is a phrase from Galatians 6, though the concept is elsewhere, and I believe that it is synonymous with “The Saved,” The Elect,” or “The Church.” I’ve already explained that I do not agree with “replacement theology” where the “church” has taken the place of Israel today, and it is the church that will gain those promises alone. That does nothing but engender antisemitism and promote a lie.
You see, just because SOME of “Israel” abandoned the Lord to their own everlasting sorrow, does not mean the ALL did, and some were believers, like David, Samuel, all the Judges, Joshua, Moses, Aaron, like that. There are more, and we don’t know all their names, I’m thinking. God still has people from the nation of Israel today that have become believers in their very Jewish Messiah, Jesus. Over the years, I have been privileged to meet a couple – One was married to a very good friend of mine (also a had a biology degree) and was confined to a wheelchair. He knew he was a Levite, too, though that’s about as intense has he ever got with lineage. Another fellow was named Enoch, and he didn’t know what Tribe he was from, but his mom was Jewish, and that made him so. Enoch once gave me a ride from where I was staying in Placentia, CA to LAX airport – usually a 45-minute drive – in 12 minutes, in morning rush-hour traffic, on a Monday! I think I left permanent fingerprints in his passenger-side dashboard. He was my right-side crutch when I (very badly) sprained my ankle in a Christmas-day volleyball game in some random park in Los Angeles. I iced it all night, and then wrapped it in a tensor and stuck it in my cowboy boot for the rest of my stay with friends.
God HAS saved some of them. You see, He has not rejected those whom He foreknew.
KV2a: God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew
I think it is a fair statement that “Jewishness” or “Gentileness” or any other human way of dividing people is irrelevant. God chose His people that He would make holy [set apart] to serve Him, and we considered that in Romans 8:29-30 when we considered what is known as “the golden chain” of salvation. None of those chosen, or Elect, or Israel of God, or Saints, were, are, or ever will be lost. God will preserve them to the end as the remnant of humans that He foreknew before the beginning of time. None of these will ever be rejected from the Plan that God has for them (which we trust includes us).
1-10: God always has a remnant of believers
God always has a remnant in the wings that we may know nothing about. Just as God chose for His own reasons that He has not seen fit to tell us, He also sees fit not to tell us who they are, probably to help us be faithful to share the Gospel with everyone according to His plan and purpose. He does not need us to do this, but He has chosen to involve us in His work, and it is the highest work in which we can be engaged. We are, as Paul put it elsewhere, ambassadors for Christ, charged with representing the King of the Universe in everything we do and with everyone we meet (2 Cor. 5:20, Eph. 6:20), all in the overall mission Christ gave us in Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15 – preach the gospel to all people, making disciples of Christ everywhere we go – all to uncover those whom God chose before the foundation of the world. What does that mean? Let’s see.
1: I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
- You see, God has NOT rejected His people. Now Paul is speaking specifically of Israel, judging by his reference to how he too is an Israelite, a physical descendant of Abraham, and of the tribe of Benjamin, one of the two tribes (the other being Judah) that held fast to God’s covenant when the other ten norther tribes departed to follow Jeroboam, which ultimately led to them going into an Assyrian captivity and never returning from that.
- I should mention here that this does not mean that there are ten missing tribes, as followers of Herbert Armstrong believe. Many that still valued the Word of God and the Testimony of Yahweh, and moved into the Southern Kingdom, and likewise there were those among Benjamin and Judah that would have moved north to a more culturally friendly environment. We see this today with the flood of immigration to the west from all over the globe. Comedian Russell Peters makes a living off of the humour of these immigrants trying to hold onto their culture, even though they left it in their respective homelands! The point is, people will go where they feel like they will flourish with their beliefs, even today. And guess what? No one knows who is descended from whom since the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 anyway. But moving on.
2: God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?
- Here is where I took the title for my textual analysis. God has NOT rejected His people whom He foreknew. Who are these people? I think this is a reference to “The Israel of God” in Gal. 6:16. That is, these are a mixture of OT and NT believers, and a mixture of Jews and Gentiles. Why do I think this? Because of Paul’s thought in Romans 8:29-30 regarding His chosen people, His Elect. That is “The Israel of God.” God has never rejected them.
- Paul then references the passage where Elijah prays against Israel in utter despair, believing himself to be the lone voice of Yahweh to remain in the Northern Kingdom in the days of Ahab and Jezebel. Let’s look at that passage in 1 Kings 19 for a moment. Look here in verse 9: “Then he came there to a cave and lodged there; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?'” It isn’t that Elijah wasn’t where he was supposed to be, the question was more about what Elijah was doing. Verse 10 says, “He said, ‘I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.'” Wow. That’s depression, and there was little wonder that he struggled with it – many pastors do, myself included. “Is the message being heard? I never see any fruit! Why are there only three people that consistently show up?” Elijah’s thoughts were like that. “I just proved that Yahweh, HE is God with a great miracle, and those 450 false priests of that false religion got what they deserved – and now the King’s wife, Queen Jezebel, wants to put me to death! What is it going to take? I feel so alone!” I can imagine.
3: “Lord, THEY HAVE KILLED YOUR PROPHETS, THEY HAVE TORN DOWN YOUR ALTARS, AND I ALONE AM LEFT, AND THEY ARE SEEKING MY LIFE.”
- See? Elijah looked at the very real happenings around him, and it drove him to despair! Think now about how that made God feel. First think about the events done by those who were supposed to be His covenant people. Then how Elijah was responding to it. Thank God that He is not ruled by His emotions. He does have them. And it gives a little context to His answer to Elijah.
4: But what is the divine response to him? “I HAVE KEPT for Myself SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL.”
- You see? God has a group of people in the wings, a remnant of those that are and will remain faithful to Him. And there is something critical to notice in the text here – HE kept them. They weren’t giant paragons of virtue, they weren’t the guys standing against the wickedness of King Ahab (or we would have read about them). Their names weren’t even recorded for us for the most part, just like we do not know the names of those who have quietly stood for the Lord throughout the troubled history of the world. But God kept them nonetheless, by His own power, through His own grace, for His own reasons, which He is under no obligation to share – not any of it. But there they all were, and Elijah didn’t know. And we won’t always.
5: In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice.
- And what God said to me specifically in His word right here is this – Gerry, I have a great number of people in this city that I have preserved for Myself. I know I didn’t tell you. That’s because I’m in charge, and you are carrying out the part of My plan that I have assigned to YOU. Just be faithful with that. You are a part of my remnant and so are they. Just keep on being faithful with what I tell you!
- You see, there is at this time, a simple extension of Paul’s time, a remnant of God’s gracious choice, and it is up to GOD to keep them for Himself. This is the final Doctrine of Grace seen very clearly.
6: But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.
- If you are familiar with the TULIP acrostic, this is the P – the Perseverance of the Saints. I actually prefer the PRESERVATION of the Saint because of this passage – the emphasis is better on God doing the preserving as opposed to the people doing the persevering. That makes it a work if you ask me, and I think the WORK is all God’s and not ours. This is a very clear statement of how this grace works in us.
7: What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened;
- With the question, “What then?” Paul is asking, “So what is really going on here?” After that question, he moves directly to explanation. Israel is looking for something – which we have already over several chapters identified as the righteousness of God that comes by faith – and has not obtained it unless they were chosen by God to do so, speaking to the Doctrine of Grace we have called Sovereign Election.
- The rest were hardened, and this speaks about another doctrine that has today become very unpopular. It is called the Doctrine of Reprobation. We’ve talked about it before, but it is the hardening of the hearts of those who have really chosen not to have the saving knowledge of the Christ. This can happen all at once, or it can happen a little at a time, but God does allow it.
- The best example I can think of is Pharaoh in Egypt as Israel was departing to become its own nation. We have talked about this before as well – how Pharaoh hardened his heart multiple times before God finally hardened it for him permanently. Pharaoh in the end wanted nothing to do with the God of the universe that killed his own son in the plague of the death of the firstborn. And God gave him what he wanted. (Remember, no violence is ever done to the will of the creature.)
8: just as it is written, “GOD GAVE THEM A SPIRIT OF STUPOR, EYES TO SEE NOT AND EARS TO HEAR NOT, DOWN TO THIS VERY DAY.”
- Remember, we are talking about the Jews that were hardened through unbelief. What did God do? He chose those that pleased Him and passed over the others. This wasn’t new, either. Deut. 29:4 says, “Yet to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.” And Isaiah tells us that happened at a very high level: “For the LORD has poured over you a spirit of deep sleep, He has shut your eyes, the prophets; And He has covered your heads, the seers.” I mean God hid these things from the prophets and the seers! And as the verse says, “down to this very day.” MOSES wrote Deuteronomy.
9: And David says, “LET THEIR TABLE BECOME A SNARE AND A TRAP, AND A STUMBLING BLOCK AND A RETRIBUTION TO THEM.
- David recorded this in Psalm 69, one of the Messianic Psalms. Verse 22 says, “May their table before them become a snare; And when they are in peace, may it become a trap.” Verses 20 and 21 for context: “Reproach has broken my heart and I am so sick. And I looked for sympathy, but there was none, And for comforters, but I found none. They also gave me gall for my food And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” When did that happen? How about when Jesus stood alone at his illegal trials (3 of them)? How about when He Himself hung on the very cross?
10: “LET THEIR EYES BE DARKENED TO SEE NOT, AND BEND THEIR BACKS FOREVER.”
- Psalm 69:23 is even worse from this perspective: “May their eyes grow dim so that they cannot see, And make their loins shake continually.” This is an imprecatory prayer of David, and also by reference a Psalm we can take to reflect the thoughts of Jesus against His enemies, with His cross in full view.
What Paul is explaining here is that a sovereign God will get what He wants every time. God chooses, God forms, God saves, God hardens. People are somewhat put off by that, because they want to see God as not being fair or just. The thing however that needs to be remembered is that God is not dragging people against their will into deeds or works that the person does not want. Remember, no violence is ever done to the will of the creature. Ultimately, everyone will get what they want. What that is and why they want that are separate questions for now.
11-24: Grafted in or out, God is the one grafting
What I started to realize as I considered this second paragraph is that all of this is taking place by the willing and the working of the one true sovereign God. Paul writes about one group’s fortunes diminishing while another’s ascends, one group is grafted into the vine, one group is grafted out, but no matter what is happening, it is God behind it, and this is critical to remember. As I started to say before, this will cause some people to take the view that God is not fair and unjust, and some have even dared to call Him a psychopathic monster, which I don’t think is a fair label. All of us are flawed by sin and disobedience to His will, and have no real ability to tell a perfect and holy God what He is doing is incorrect, and we’ve talked about that before. He has a standard that He placed, and we all universally would choose to go our own way because it is simply who we are. What is truly amazing here is that God uses people that choose to be His enemies to accomplish His perfect will although they choose against Him time and time again, and that He wondrously saves some as a result.
11: I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.
- Paul here asks if their stumbling has caused them to fall. The word used for “fall” means to fail, or to fall down, or in some uses to light upon. What Paul is asking is, has their stumble caused a “final failure?” Has Israel figuratively hit the ground in flames? We are familiar with his answer, by the way! NOT EVER!
- Their stumble, caused by their transgression and sin, has caused salvation to come to the Gentiles, as the Word has spoken from since before Abraham’s day, indeed right from the very fall of man in the garden, when God promised the seed of the woman would ultimately crush the serpent’s head, while the serpent would merely scratch or bruise His heel. God even had a purpose to salvation coming to the Gentiles – to make His chosen people jealous and motivate them to turn to Him.
12: Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be!
- Wait, really read that. If the transgression of the Jews can be seen as riches for the rest of the world, and their failure as riches for everyone else that is not of Jewish descent, then how much better is their fulfilment going to be? Paul is saying that they have a future yet to play as a nation, and that their part of the script will be a fantastic and glorious part, to use an analogy. They stumble, the world is blessed. They fail, all non-Jews are blessed. When they finally get it right (which you will recall is when God says), it’s going to be awesome to be a Jew. I really don’t know how else to read that! Those guys that teach replacement theology need to explain this. This cannot be all just poetry either – this has to be something happening to restore the fortunes of Israel as a nation. Or do I need another toke of the Ganja? I think not – it is because God will not go back on His word, but we’ll come to that in a few verses.
13: But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry,
- This is a multi-verse sentence. Paul is saying that he is explaining this to us because we are those Gentiles that benefit by the failure of Israel to recognize their Messiah, that is Jesus Christ, who as it turns out became OUR Lord and Saviour. So because of Paul’s ministry being to the Gentiles, he is making a big deal out of this. But why? Next verse.
14: if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them.
- Paul is using this as a Gospel tool. He is using the failure of the Jews and subsequent blessing of salvation going to the Gentiles as a means to make his own people jealous, to provoke them to turn and look at the Messiah again and examine the scriptures, like the did in the city of Berea and see if these things are in fact the truth! Isaiah 52 and 53 are always clear on this topic for any who will read and understand, for example.
15: For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
- So if the mistake of the Jews in rejecting their Messiah resulted in the reconciliation of the rest of us, what joy will it be when they finally accept their Messiah Jesus and are given that spiritual life to replace that spiritual death that all reprobate mankind is under by default?
16: If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too.
- I have to admit, I puzzled with this for a while. What I ended up having to do was to go back in the Scriptures and see what this was talking about. It appears in Numbers 15:18-21 and says, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land where I bring you, 19 then it shall be, that when you eat of the food of the land, you shall lift up an offering to the LORD. Of the first of your dough you shall lift up a cake as an offering; as the offering of the threshing floor, so you shall lift it up. From the first of your dough you shall give to the LORD an offering throughout your generations.'” This is a kind of offering of first fruits, where a portion of the first dough produced from a wheel is to be given to the Lord as an offering. It was commonly understood that this little lump represented the whole, and that as an offering, it was holy.
- The second part of the verse is a bit easier if you know about that. If the root, that is the thing which gives life to the plant, is holy, then the branches of the tree are as well. What both of these speak of is that if you are a part of that group, you are holy if your beginning was Christ, the One that makes us holy (sanctifies us). In context, if the Jews will only see their Messiah really was Jesus and that He still is, they will also be saved and find that righteousness they have been searching for over the millennia now.
17: But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree,
- Again, a multi-verse sentence. Paul begins another analogy, this time with all of the human race as the fruit of an olive tree. The natural olives are the Jews, who we saw last time were those that were actually given in covenant the adoption as sons, the promises, all that. Some of those branches were broken off. He doesn’t say anything about that here, but he will momentarily. New branches from wild olive trees are grafted in, presumably by a master husbandman, and I know a little about that process – it is complicated, difficult, and not at all guaranteed unless you know what you are doing – and they become partakers of the healthy and rich olive tree.
18: do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.
- Do NOT be arrogant toward the branches. This to me says that we must love our Jewish brothers (the ones that have become believers in Jesus Messiah). They are as much partakers of all of the promises of God as we are, and perhaps more so. We cannot therefore adhere to “replacement theology” that teaches that God is done with the Jewish nation when Paul is telling us here that He clearly is not.
- And if you are even tempted toward that arrogance, you need to remember that it is the root, Jesus, that supports YOU, and NOT the other way around. No one is saved without Him, and He is the one that tore down the wall of partition between us and made of the two, one new man, the corporate man, the Church (Ephesians 2:14-16).
19: You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”
- To me, this is doing away with the determinist argument that says God broke the branches off to make room to graft in new ones, and isn’t it funny that those branches always somehow include you and your thing somehow. Okay, you’re right, God broke some off so He could include you. Paul even says so.
20: Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear;
- See? He says so. But God didn’t deliberately “make room” like there wasn’t enough for the Almighty God to do both, like you suggest. These old branches were broken off because of unbelief, which in the Hebrew language is directly connected to the concept of disobedience. Now YOU stand by your belief, and as you might suspect, that in the Hebrew language is directly connected to the concept of obedience to the Lord. What’s that Ger? Faith alone, by grace alone, in Christ alone. Don’t be conceited. Let me rephrase. Don’t get too big for your britches, brother. Fear. Be alarmed! Why?
21: for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.
- Do you understand that? If God did not spare His own chosen people as a nation, those who were given the adoption as sons, the oracles of God, the promises of God, the service of the Temple, and all that because they disobeyed, and not just one time but continually and right from the very beginning, do you really think just because YOU call yourself His, that He will spare you? Because God is all love and now wrath, right?. No. If your life is not changed, You. Are. Not. His. You are no Christian if you do not show obedience – and in fact you are not able because you are not filled with the Holy Spirit of promise that comes to live in and change every person who IS His.
22: Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.
- Now it is starting to sound like I am saying that someone can lose their salvation from these verses, does it not? Relax, I’m not. I’m saying that Paul is addressing those on the fringe – these people are not saved yet – these are the ones that come 95% of the way, but something (usually pride of some kind) is stopping them. In saying these things, Paul is saying Look, we know that some of the nation of Israel was cut off because of unbelief. But instead of being all “proud to be a Christian” like the name of a Facebook group I once encountered, rather bear fruit so that you will have no reason to be cut off with the rest of the kindling when Jesus returns.
- So in this, we see both the kindness and severity of God. We see His attribute of mercy, and we see His attribute of divine justice. To those who lived disobedient lives without repentance, they got what they deserved, the justice of God. However, to those of us who will live in submission to His Holy Spirit and therefore obey Him, we will see His mercy if we will continue the way we started.
- The alternative, being cut off and becoming kindling, is to horrible to think about for me. But there are those that will still refuse it. Does their refusal spell the end for them?
23: And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
- Not if they will repent at the call of God. Does that mean that I can go away for a while and return? The prodigal son did, didn’t he? Well, yes, I suppose, but I don’t think there is any kind of guarantee that if you come in and taste the mercy of God and then turn away, thus rejecting His light, that you will ever want to return. Hear what the Apostle says in Hebrews 6:4-9: “4 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. 7 For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; 8 but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned. 9 But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way.”
- But if you do “backslide” for a period of time and then turn again to the Lord, He WILL return to you, because He is able to do so. I think that means He knows how and that He has the ability and the desire to do so. In His mercy He’s had to come after me and more than once.
24: For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?
- Completing the analogy here, Paul is putting the whole issue like this: Think of this like a horticultural issue that involves the complicated grafting of wild olive branches onto cultivated olive trees. Grafting of olive trees is usually performed by a horticulturalist known as a husbandman (this used to be called husbandry). One grafts to improve the tree as a whole, whether it be to preserve the root stock, to improve the size, flavour, or hardiness of the olive through a sharing of the genetic characteristics of the olive as the grafted branch and the cultivated tree heal and grow together. A branch foreign to the tree (a wild branch) is more difficult to graft than the branch that came off that tree in the first place (a natural branch). Beloved, if you think we know and grow in the vine, just wait until you see what happens when Israel finally receives her long-awaited Messiah.
Remember, whether a branch is being grafted in or cut off of the tree, it is God that is performing the husbandry. He is building for Himself a glorious “olive tree” in this analogy, and he is taking all branches from everywhere to literally build Himself the best olive tree around, and He knows what He is doing. If you want to be a part of it, you have to be grafted into the tree, and once you are there, you have to produce the best fruit you can. Remember Galatians 5:22-23. (“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”) Now before you accuse me of being legalistic, we should also recall that these things are evidence of your already-changed life. If you come by these things with dificulty and it’s just getting harder all the time, you may need to turn to Christ as your Saviour, repent of your sins, and start walking with Him once and for all. Contact me privately if you think you may need this in YOUR life.
25-36: Salvation will come to the remnant
Salvation MUST come to the remnant of Israel. If it does not, that would mean God did not fulfil all His word and could not be trusted at all for anything. We have just considered that the falling away of the nation of Israel of the past was part of the plan to bring salvation to the rest of the planet, so why should it surprise us that God will return to the subject of His chosen earthly people Israel to restore its fortunes and status before Him?
It doesn’t seem to matter how long this passage is around though, there are still those that will wrongly assert that the church has replaced Israel. Although God has utterly rejected the religion that the nation created for itself about 400 years or so before the birth of Christ, they are still His chosen people, and He still has plans for them – to save them by the same way we are all saved – there is no shadow of turning in Him – and He WILL execute those plans when He is ready to do so. Let’s see what He has to say about it in His word.
25: For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in;
- What do you know? God actually wants us to be aware of this, and so did Paul! Why? Well, He knows it will go to our head (and we will start to believe that we have taken Israel’s place today maybe), and He would rather we stayed HUMBLE. Not wise in our own estimation, that is, proud – especially for the non-reason we had nothing to do with creating.
- Paul states the point very plainly, and it does have some connection to the eschaton, or last things. A partial hardening of Israel has happened. It has a limit to it, as well – until the “fulness of the Gentiles” or [the completion of the Gentiles] has arrived on the scene. It is unclear at this point about what exactly that means, but one way I have often heard this viewed is the completed number of actual Gentile believers has been achieved. It is easy to think in those terms, in fact, but no one but the Father knows that number, so good luck with forming doctrines around that one. It never is stated more specifically than this, either. When will this be? Again, no one knows but the Father. To be transparent about this, I am Premillennial in my eschatology, but traditional in my views, and I am covanental, not dispensational (please please please don’t send me your charts, I have no use for them). I don’t set things in my mind like dates for the Rapture. I think that whatever and however and whenever the Lord returns, we had best be as ready as we can be, and we need each other for that.
26: and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB.”
- So the question arises, which Israel is Paul talking about here? Is it the ancient nation? Is it the church, as replacement theologians would tell us? Or is it the Israel of God, as Paul defines it in Galatians 6:16? Or is it something else all together? We may be able to tell by examining the Old Testament quote Paul is exegeting here to make his point.
- The quote Paul uses is taken from Isaiah 59, and it is clearly about the coming of the warrior Messiah to visit wrath and recompense on His enemies and mercy on those who will turn from sin in Jacob (the original name of the man God renamed Israel). So this is an eschatological quote, one dealing with the return of Messiah in the Jewish Scriptures. It is verse 20 of the chapter which reads, “‘A Redeemer will come to Zion, And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,’ declares the LORD.” Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, interprets the passage as in the verse here. He equates the “redeemer” in Isaiah with the Deliverer coming to Zion, and the Paul equates “those who will turn from sin” with God removing ungodliness from Jacob.
- I find the use of the original name of Jacob being used at least noteworthy, if not important. “Jacob” has the Hebrew meaning of “The supplanter,” or “the rascal.” The word “Israel” has a more royal meaning – it can literally be translated, “Prince of God.” God is not saving the prince in either place, he is rescuing the rascal by causing him to turn from his own sin and thus removing the ungodliness from him.
27: “THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS.”
- And Paul continues with Isaiah 59, moving into verse 21 which reads, “‘As for Me, this is My covenant with them,’ says the LORD: ‘My Spirit which is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your offspring, nor from the mouth of your offspring’s offspring,’ says the LORD, ‘from now and forever.'”
- You may notice that there is a textual difference here, and that’s okay. It isn’t because Paul riffed the quote, either. The New Testament writer under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit can “interpret” the passage which was written by Isaiah, who was ALSO under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In such cases, both writers wrote exactly what God wanted them to write. In our study as Christians, we can be instructed in what the New Testament writer was intending when we examine the Old Testament quote.
- In this instance, Paul starts with repeating the words, “This is My covenant with them,” and then he alters what the text says – or does he? It is my contention that he does not. What does Isaiah say will happen? The Lord’s Spirit will be upon them (that is the Holy Spirit will be living in them like He does with all believers). He will put words in the mouth of those believers. Those words will not depart (abandon) those believers, their children, or their children’s children – to eternity. What does Paul call that? The removal of their sins, which to me speaks of that salvation that we have been closely examining in Romans – justification, sanctification, and glorification – complete salvation. This is God’s covenant with “Israel.”
- So which Israel is Paul talking about? Is it the ancient nation? Well, certainly that MUST logically include some of them. Will it include all of them? No, as we said earlier, it cannot, because we already know it does not – certain Jews who were His enemies have already had wrath visited upon them after their deaths.
- Can it be the Church? The body that has been said by some to replace Israel as regards the promises of God? Again, it cannot be. The Church proper is ONLY made up of obedient, redeemed and renewed believers can by definition not be an enemy of Christ, and their sins are already taken away by Jesus on the cross.
- Can it be anything else? I cannot think of a single other thing.
- Then it must be the completing of the Israel of God. For the last group of believers that will be joining the Israel of God, those of the Jewish nation that God partially hardened after the resurrection and ascension of Christ, they also must be justified, sanctified, and subsequently glorified. Behold the Israel of God.
28: From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers;
- Paul has more to say about the subject. This isn’t exactly news. The unredeemed, especially the religious sort, are from a gospel standpoint enemies. Every Monday evening, we pray for more love for our enemies, and this is the reason why. Because some of them are beloved. Now Paul is specifically speaking about his own Jewish brethren here. They are beloved by God for the sake of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For that reason alone, God will not simply abandon them all, not even as a nation. You know how we can know that? Because for about 1900 years, they were a nation without a homeland! If that had happened to any other nation, they would have assimilated into the countries where they went. This is nothing other than a supernatural preservation of their nationhood, if that’s a word.
29: for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
- I have had conversations about this since I was saved in high school. One of my high-school friends was then of the opinion that God was a god of wrath in the Old Testament, and then in the New Testament, He “changed His mind” and “got all nice and stuff.” He specifically used the nation of Israel as an example. Now remember, at that time, the nation was something like 35 years old, if you listened to him (or his dad, where I think he really had his beliefs formed). I had to tell him what Paul said. So I flipped open my Bible one day in the high school library and showed him this passage. Because he was being reasonable with me and we were friends, it changed his mind about God changing his mind. He still isn’t a Christian to my knowledge, but he is still a reasonable person, and whenever we talk, I share Christ and his need to turn from his sin and believe Him. He listens. Maybe one of these days. I haven’t seen him in a couple of years now, however.
- My point, and Paul’s here, is that God doesn’t say things and then take them back 10 seconds later like our current federal politicians of any political stripe. He made promises concerning the seed of Abraham, and He made them to Isaac, AND He made them to Jacob. And if God simply abandoned Israel because He was done with them because He had His Christ now, He would be breaking His own promises to at least those men. And if you will break one promise, you can break any of them. That seems to be something God simply will not do. He will not take back a gift given, and He will not break a promise.
30: For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience,
- Paul seems to feel he must explain, so we will. At one time, these people that God called were once disobedient to Him. But because He foreknew, predestined in His Son, called, justified and glorified them once and for all (see Romans 8:29-30…again…), these people, specifically from the nation of Israel, have been shown mercy by God because they didn’t have a clue about what they were doing either.
31: so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy.
- And these Jewish individuals that were chosen by God, because they had no idea, and were disobedient in their lifestyles, were given the very same Messiah that YOU were for the very same reasons, and God can save them ALSO, and He will save the ones He chose from before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4).
32: For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.
- This is best viewed as involving the whole world. ALL people everywhere have been “shut up” under disobedience, that is, they are condemned for it by default of being human. Now, because of the death of Christ at Calvary, this mercy is shown to all the world, and all those that will turn from their sin and accept the price Jesus paid on their behalf there, will receive that mercy.
- NB: This is a special note here. There is a difference between seeing the mercy (being shown) and actually partaking in it (receiving). Only those who will receive it as the gift it is will enter into it. Salvation from God is a gift. When He hands it to you, you must receive it, or you are not saved.
33: Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!
- Paul is getting so deep into this subject now that as he does in so many other places, he cannot help but break out into some kind of doxology about God. He describes the wisdom and knowledge of God as both deep and rich. He then proclaims that they are so much so that they are unsearchable and past finding out (KJV).
34: For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR?
- As part of his doxology here, Paul quotes Isa. 40:13. The context Isaiah is giving this passage is about the Creator, and who is smarter or wiser than He so that such an individual could counsel Him? It is a rhetorical question, of course, not needing an answer, if you are one if His. If you are not, no answer can satisfy you.
35: Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN?
- Then He quotes Job 35:7. In that passage (and also Job 41:11 which is in the same context), God is asking Job the question. If you will recall when we went through Job, you will recall that God was challenging Job to find someone that could give God anything that He didn’t already have, or someone with greater resource than Him. Again, that question is rhetorical, in that it answers itself.
36: For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
- Paul here seems to be going back to the “who are you to question God,” but in longer and more poetic form here. From Him. He created everything. There is nothing, no one, nowhere that God did not create, and the one that did the creating work was the Word of God from John 1:1-3, also known as God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. He needs nothing from us. Ever!
- Through Him. Anything God ever gave His children, He has given through Christ. We could not save ourselves, so Christ did it. We could not even die to pay for our own sins – so Christ did it for everyone that will believe. We had no faith, so God gave us Christ’s. EVERYTHING comes through Him. Even bad things have good purposes (Rom. 8:28).
- To Him. Everything that has been made has a purpose, and that purpose is manifest in Christ. Even the wicked that will be destroyed will have the honour of showing God’s wrath to the universe. Attributes must be displayed. Every purpose under heaven will have its reason and its conclusion in Christ.
- To HIM be the glory forever. There is no one more worthy, there is no one more able, and there is no one who has better position to receive all the praise that we can give. Let it be so! (Amen!)
And remember – the thing that was coming here is the salvation of the remnant. What remnant? The Israel of God. The Elect. The Bride of Christ. The One New Man. The Church – all believers from all time.
And that’s chapter 11!