Romans Chapter 11
KLMX December 2009
1st Baptist Church
Des Moines, NM
Weíre continuing on in a study of Paulís letter to the church at Rome. This letter is an incredibly rich presentation of Christian theology and thereís absolutely no way weíll begin to do it justice in this study. People spend their whole lives studying Romans, studying a single chapter even!, and donít come to the end of it. All we can hope to do is scratch the surface, but even that scratch will keep us plenty occupied this week.
Chapter 11 of Romans focuses on the role of the Israelites now that Christ as come. According to James Montgomery Boice, there are three terms we might use for this group of people:
Hebrews- the origin of this name isnít known for sure, although it may come from the name "Eber" found in Genesis 10:21. In that case, this would be a larger group of people than ethnic Israelites.
Jews- this name comes from the tribe of Judah and stresses the ethnic background of the people.
Israelites- this name comes from Godís new name for Jacob after he wrestled with God and received the covenant. We find that story in Genesis 32:28. This name, therefore, is a covenantal name.
With that in mind, letís look at Paulís writings.
Romans 11:1-5 I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. (2) God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, (3) "LORD, THEY HAVE KILLED YOUR PROPHETS AND TORN DOWN YOUR ALTARS, AND I ALONE AM LEFT, AND THEY SEEK MY LIFE"? (4) But what does the divine response say to him? "I HAVE RESERVED FOR MYSELF SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL." (5) Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
In verse 1, Paul says "has God cast away His people?" With this statement, he is asking the question "Has God gone back on His covenant?" If youíve followed Paulís points up to now, you know that heís arguing that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Heís arguing that everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, must come to Christ. If thatís the case, then has the covenant with the Israelites been set aside? If so, then that means that God broke His promise.
But, as Paul shows us, this is not the case at all. In response to the question "has God cast away His people?" He replies "Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin." Paul himself is an Israelite- by using that term, instead of Jew or Hebrew, heís associated himself specifically with the covenant- and as we surely should know, Paul was saved in Christ.
God, therefore, has NOT cast away His people. The mistake that the Israelites make, as Paul shows, is in assuming that ALL of them are saved. But, thatís not the case. It has always been a remnant that is saved, not every single person of the Israelites. We can easily see this by reading Exodus in which thousand after thousands are removed from the congregation because of their disobedience. And yet, a remnant does reach the Promised Land, just as God said. In Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Amos, Micah, Zephaniah, and Malachi, we can find numerous passages discussing the remnant of the Israelites. For instance:
Isaiah 10:20-23 And it shall come to pass in that day That the remnant of Israel, And such as have escaped of the house of Jacob, Will never again depend on him who defeated them, But will depend on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. (21) The remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, To the Mighty God. (22) For though your people, O Israel, be as the sand of the sea, A remnant of them will return; The destruction decreed shall overflow with righteousness. (23) For the Lord GOD of hosts Will make a determined end In the midst of all the land.
As to how large this remnant is, only God knows but the fact that Paul, an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin, was saved, shows that God has not entirely cast away his people. At least one- Paul- was saved in Christ. What they are not saved by is their works or by their heritage (which is a form of works). Weíll see more on that topic later when Paul starts talking about grace.
For now, though, Paul answers his own question and shows us an example from 1 Kings:
Romans 11:2-3 God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, (3) "LORD, THEY HAVE KILLED YOUR PROPHETS AND TORN DOWN YOUR ALTARS, AND I ALONE AM LEFT, AND THEY SEEK MY LIFE"?
This is the story where Elijah invited the prophets of Baal to come and show their power. They set up twin altars and the followers of Baal danced around and invited their gods but nothing happened. Elijah then asked them soak his altar in water, run water all around it, and then he asked God to show His power. The result was God frying the water-soaked altar in a column of fire. And as a result of this, hundreds of false prophets of the false god Baal were killed. But, then, King Ahab and his wife Jezebel heard of the event and the wicked Jezebel put a price on Elijahís head. Elijah hid in the wilderness and this is the situation when he gave his lament "I alone am left, and they seek my life." Godís response is used by Paul to show that God always has a remnant in reserve.
Romans 11:4 But what does the divine response say to him? "I HAVE RESERVED FOR MYSELF SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL."
The wording here is particularly important. Note that the passage does not say "There are seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." If the passage said that, then the 7,000 men could pat themselves on the back and say "We deserve a little credit for not worshiping Baal!" This would be salvation by works. What the passage does say is "I have reserved for myselfÖ", making it clear that it is by Godís power that these men- who may not even know their status yet!- have not worshipped Baal. It is by Godís own power that these men are reserved for God Himself. In other words, it is God who preserves a remnant. Paul tells us as much:
Romans 11:5 Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
Thereís a word thatís often avoided in modern church- "election". Itís easy to discuss Godís mercy and grace and love and longsuffering, but the word "election" is so often danced around. And the reason is that itís offensive to man. Men really, really want to think they have something to do with their salvation. We really like to think that God chose us because of some characteristic we have- I mean, itís fine if He chooses me, but shouldnít God me choose because of some value I have? Doesnít God look forward in time and say "Iím going to choose this one because heíll choose me" or "Iím choosing this one because he really has a heart for me"? Well, you can think that, and I certainly used to, but hereís what the Bible says:
Romans 3:10-12 As it is written: "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NO, NOT ONE; (11) THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS; THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS AFTER GOD. (12) THEY HAVE ALL TURNED ASIDE; THEY HAVE TOGETHER BECOME UNPROFITABLE; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, NO, NOT ONE."
Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; (13) for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
John 1:13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
And hereís what Paul says in the very next passage:
Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.
If God chooses a man for salvation based upon some inherent property in that man, then we are looking at salvation by works. The man has done something or has something that qualifies him for respect. Paul makes it very clear that works and grace are incompatible. "if it is by works, it is no longer grace." Weíre talking about the remnant of the Israelites here and in speaking of the Israelites and why He chose them in the first place, God says:
Deuteronomy 7:6-8 "For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. (7) The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; (8) but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
The Israelites were not chosen because of any characteristic they, themselves, had, but simply because the LORD loved them. That, folks, is what grace is all about. Thatís what grace is all about and grace is what itís all about. Weíll pick up here again tomorrow.
Romans 11, Part 2