Romans Chapter 11
KLMX December 2009
1st Baptist Church
Des Moines, NM
Weíre about halfway thru chapter 11 of Paulís letter to the Romans. The general theme of this section of his letter is "Has God cast away His people?" In other words, if faith thru Jesus Christ is required for salvation, does this mean that God has broken his covenant with Israel? This really is a very important question because the Bible tells us that God cannot lie. If He has broken his covenant with Israel, then God has lied and we have a problem. Paul is ultimately qualified to answer this question from the perspective of a covenantal Jew, as he states at the beginning of this section:
Romans 1:1ÖFor I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
Those 3 qualifications- an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, and of the tribe of Benjamin make Paul an Israelite of the highest degree. All thru this chapter and indeed throughout the entire letter to the Romans, Paul is making the case that salvation is and always has been by Godís grace alone, and not through any works of man.
Yesterday, we left off with a discussion of grace vs. works. Today, weíll see how it is that the Gentiles- that is, non-Israelites- come into the family of God. Here is todayís passage:
Romans 11:13-25 For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, (14) if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. (15) For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? (16) For if the first fruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. (17) And if some of the branches were broken off, and 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, (18) do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. (19) You will say then, "Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in." (20) Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear
When Paul says
Romans 11:19-21 You will say then, "Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in." (20) Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear.
Heís bringing up several points. Maybe the first and foremost is "donít get haughty and start thinking yourself to be better than the Israelites". Donít say "Oh, they didnít believe and were therefore broken off. I, of course, am not like that." Thatís the kind of thinking that got them cut off and Paulís point is that God is absolutely capable of cutting you off, too, if you think like that. Grace is not something to be taken lightly. Grace is amazing. Note why the Israelites were cut off- because of unbelief. Early in Romans, we saw this passage:
Romans 9:31-32 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. (32) Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.
And so, Israel, in pursuing righteousness by works, missed the righteousness that comes by grace through faith. Well, Israel, as a nation, as a group of people, missed the point but certain individuals certainly saw the light, Paul and all the early disciples being among them. Recall that Paul started off this section by asking:
Romans 11:1 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.
Once again, Paul is pointing out that he was extremely qualified as an Israelite, God called him to faith in Jesus Christ, and therefore, God cannot be accused of casting off all of his people. The majority of them, maybe, but God has always saved a remnant and we discussed that point a few days ago.
The Gentiles to whom Paul is speaking, on the other hand, stand by faith. They never had the law in the first place, and never had any hope of obtaining righteousness by it. In a way, they have an advantage since they donít have to overcome religion in order to obtain faith. Faith is a gift of God, not something obtained by works.
What of the Israelites? Paul says they were broken off so that the wild branches could be grafted in. Does that mean they are lost forever? Look at Paulís statement here:
Romans 11:22-23 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. (23) And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
Therefore, the Israelites, as soon as they are granted the ability to see the light that is Jesus Christ and have subsequent faith in Him, will, as a nation, readily be grafted back into the vine. Remember how Paul started off chapter 9 of Romans?
Romans 9:2-5 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. (3) For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, (4) who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; (5) of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.
Paul would be willing to separate himself from Christ if it meant his fellow Israelites being brought to faith. Thatís how deeply concerned he is for them. What a sad thing it is, then, for people in Christ to look down on the Israelites. After all, remember Jesusí words to the Samaritan woman at the well:
John 4:21 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.
Salvation is of the Jews. As Paul said in Romans 9, the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises were all give to the Israelites and it was from them that Christ came. Never look down at them and think yourself better.
To confirm an eventual awakening of the Israelites to Christ, Paul says this:
Romans 11:11 I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.
In this passage, their first "fall" is not a total or absolute fall. They have not utterly fallen, in other words. But they have just stumbled and it is thru this stumble that the door was opened to the Gentiles, as Paul shows. Thereís another reason for this stumble, which Paul has already pointed out in:
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Looking ahead in Romans 11, we find this passage:
Romans 11:32 For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.
Now, if youíre with me on this, you might wonder why it is that God allowed them to stumble so that He could have mercy on them. Thatís a great question and it really is at the heart of the gospel message. Letís think about itÖ if God does not show mercy upon a person, then that personís works will need to stand for themselves. In other words, if the God is unmerciful, then youíll come before God Almighty with your good works in one hand and your bad works in the other. The trouble is that God cannot allow anything unholy in His presence. Suppose you come to God with 90% good works and 10% bad works. Are your works perfect and holy? I mean, thereís 90% good! Thatís pretty good right? Suppose you have 99% good and just 1% bad works. Are your works perfect? No. They are not. They are very, very good works, but theyíre not perfect. They fall short of the glory of God, in whom there is no error.
Suppose that, on the other hand, God does have mercy on you. He looks down at you and recognizes that you are dust as Job 34 and Psalm 103 state. He knows that you are a created being and as such can never attain the lofty heights of the Creator Himself. Can the pottery ever equal the potter? And yet, because we are made in His image, He loves us. John 3:16 tells us that. And so, God comes to earth Himself to do the works that we cannot do. Heís born of a woman, born of the flesh. We just celebrated the Christmas holiday and that is what Christmas is all about- God becomes a man. While in the flesh, He accomplishes perfection. As an innocent and perfect being, He is sacrificed and becomes the perfect Passover Lamb of God. This sacrifice, applied to our account, is able to pay for our imperfections. God is merciful, but He is also the righteous judge and justice must be done. Our sins and failures must be paid for- that 1% of bad works must be paid for, and, of course, most of us have more like 90% bad works. This payment is totally sufficient when applied to our account and there is nothing more we can add to it.
Given these two scenarios, which would you prefer? Would you prefer to stand on your own works? Or would you prefer to have the righteous works of God applied to you? This is why itís really better for God to commit all to disobedience, so that He might have mercy on all. And that is the gospel message. Jesus Christ is not about religion. Religion is man drawing near to God. Jesus Christ is about God drawing near to man. Jesus Christ draws near to man because of Godís grace. Grace is a free gift that cannot be earned or bought.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Why would anyone refuse this gift?
Romans 11, Part 2