11:1 So I ask, God has not rejected his people, has he? Absolutely not! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin.
In previous chapters Paul described Israel's rejection of God's way of salvation. In other passages he shows how they were responsible for the death of Christ and the persecution of the church. 1 Thess 2.15-16.
After all that, one may have thought that Paul would conclude by saying that God had disowned and rejected the nation of Israel. Instead he asserts that God has not cast the nation away. When God chose them to be his own special people he did so by grace. Deut 7.7,8 Though the majority of Israel has rejected God, God has not rejected them and He still has a purpose for Israel.
The Reality of God’s Purpose for Israel is shown by:
His past and present dealings with the Jewish nation
11:2-5 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew! Do you not know what the scripture says about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? "Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars; I alone am left and they are seeking my life!" But what was the divine response to him? "I have kept for myself seven thousand people who have not bent the knee to Baal." So in the same way at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.
To illustrate his point, Paul appeals to God’s dealings with Israel in the past. Take the case of Elijah. When he ran away from Jezebel, he made intercession to God against Israel. The words mean that Elijah brought charges to God against Israel. He tells God their crime and awaits God's judgment. The answer he received may have surprised him. Though idolatry was widespread and God’s servants were murdered, God says that 7000 remained faithful to him and that this was sufficient for the nation to continue before him. So gracious is God that when Abraham pleaded with God for Sodom, God said that if there were just ten righteous men in the city, he would not destroy it (Gen18.32)
To further illustrate that God has not rejected Israel, Paul refers to his dealings with Jews in the present. Just as there were 7000 faithful Jews in Elijah’s time, so at the time of Paul’s writing there were a number of Jews who had received Christ as Saviour. Paul is one example. If God had rejected the Jewish people, so that salvation was no longer offered to them, how was Paul saved? Not only was Paul a thoroughbred Jew, he had opposed Christ and persecuted the church of Christ to death. Phil 3.5,6 Was there mercy for such a man? Yes, and if God in his grace was willing to save the chief of sinners, he is willing to save those who in their ignorance rejected and crucified his son - the Jewish nation.
Right up to the present day, there are faithful Jews, who like Paul have received Christ as Saviour. Their acceptance with God is not because of their Hebrew pedigree or law keeping, but is by the grace of God through faith in Christ. v6 Realizing that it is futile to depend on good works, and that God offers them eternal life by his grace, they have abandoned works to receive righteousness in Christ. For there is no in between - either a man is saved by his own law keeping or by God’s grace shown to those who realize they are law breakers.
The Nature of God’s Purpose for Israel Is seen in:
The Salvation of Believers
11:7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was diligently seeking, but the elect obtained it. The rest were hardened, as it is written,
Although there are still a great number of Jews who reject God's grace, God has not utterly rejected his covenant people. This fact is demonstrated whenever a Jew receives Christ. For all who receive Christ - the election- obtain the promised blessings of eternal life.
The Hardening and Condemnation of Unbelievers
11:8 "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, to this very day."
If those who receive Christ obtain the promised blessings, those who seek these blessings by law keeping fail to do so. Those who reject Christ and refuse God's grace harden themselves, and God gives them over to that hardening, that they may fail to understand the gospel and so be saved.
11:9-10 And David says, "Let their table become a snare and trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them; let their eyes be darkened so that they may not see, and make their backs bend continually."
David's petition that those who harden their hearts and reject God's grace be repaid in good measure, means that they will be eternally punished "bow down their back" i.e. afflict them always = forever. This is the result of rejecting Christ. Are you rejecting Christ? Beware lest your back be bent forever in hell.
His Provoking them to Jealousy
Just as there is hope for any Christ rejecting individual, so there is hope for the Christ rejecting Jewish nation. Paul explains how Christ rejecting Jews can be “grafted in” again.
11:11 I ask then, they did not stumble into an irrevocable fall, did they? Absolutely not! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make Israel jealous.
God has not finished his dealings with the Jewish nation. In his grace he still has an amazing plan for them, carefully intertwined with his plan for the whole earth. Through Israel’s rejection of the gospel, God brought his salvation to the Gentiles. This had always been God's plan. Gen 22.18.
Yet most Jews failed to understand it. As the gospel rejected by the Jews was given to the gentiles, God intended to make Israel jealous so that when they saw His blessing poured out on the Gentiles they might want it for themselves. In this way God purposed to bring salvation to as many Gentiles and Jews as possible. Paul is happy to cooperate v13,14 by pointing out that he is a Jew ministering God's word to the gentiles. V12 After all, if, in God’s amazing purposes, their fall led to the salvation of the world, what would be the result of their salvation? V15 It would be, as every conversion is - life from the dead - a reunion with a long lost brother thought dead (Luke 15). Of course, Paul is not talking here of an individual dead in sin but of a nation that is dead in that it presently fails to fulfill the purpose of God.
The Fulfillment of God’s Purpose for Israel
Israel can be restored to the purposes of God
11:6 If the first portion of the dough offered is holy, then the whole batch is holy, and if the root is holy, so too are the branches.
The Jewish people were set apart to God, and were regarded as holy by him because of his promises made to their ancestors.
11:17 Now if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among them and participated in the richness of the olive root,
Just because some Jews were broken off from the privileges of a covenant relationship with God, because of their unbelief, that does not mean that God has finished his purpose for the whole nation. On the other hand, when a Gentile believes in Christ he is “grafted in” in the sense that he shares the fulfillment of the blessings which were promised to Abraham. The “richness of the olive tree” are the spiritual blessings promised to Israel in Christ.
11:18 do not boast over the branches. But if you boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.
Paul warns his Gentile converts against the idea that God has abandoned Israel in favour of them. We are no better than they. We are saved by grace. We cannot boast - but if we do boast it must be in the root which upholds us and makes us secure in God’s grace - that root is Jesus Christ. Since we now in Christ, share in the gracious promise God made to the Jew's ancestors, and since Christ came from Israel after the flesh, we must remember in that sense that salvation has come to us from the Jews. (John 4.22).
11:19-20 Then you will say, "The branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in." Granted! They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but fear!
We are not to despise Israel. We stand firm and have received the blessings of God by faith in Christ. Unbelieving Jews were broken off because they did not receive God's free grace. So the only difference between an unbelieving Jew and a believing Gentile is the grace of God.
11:21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, perhaps he will not spare you.
If God did not spare the natural branches i.e. the Jews when they did not believe, neither will he spare us if we are unbelieving. In that sense, Christ becomes synonymous with the root, and so describes himself as the true vine and believers as the branches. This is not surprising, for Christ is the fulfillment of all the promises made to Israel. He is the promise, the blessing and the glory of his people Israel. Luke 2:32 Rom 15:8 2 Cor 1:20. The warning Paul gives in v21 about falling from God’s grace and being lost eternally must not be overlooked. In his teaching about the vine (John 15) Christ warns that if a branch does not abide in him it is cut off and burned. Heb 6.4-6.
11:22 Notice therefore the kindness and harshness of God — harshness toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness toward you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.
Hence Paul has a solemn warning for the Gentile converts. There is no partiality with God. He shows goodness to all who are willing by faith in Christ to receive it but severity to all who provoke his anger by rejecting His goodness. Believers must continue in God's grace, for those who do not shall be cut off.
11:23-24 And even they — if they do not continue in their unbelief — will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree?
Hence it stands to reason that those who are Jews cut off by unbelief will be grafted in again when they believe in Christ, for if God can graft a wild plant onto a root stock then he can certainly graft in a natural branch of that root. Hence our heading: Israel can be restored to the purposes of God.
Israel shall be Restored to the purposes of God
11:25-26 For I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: A partial hardening has happened to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion; he will remove ungodliness from Jacob.
Gentile converts should understand the nature of God’s purposes for Israel, lest they become big headed. The blindness of Israel was partial i.e. It was only some Jews who did not believe, not the whole nation. When the last Gentile convert is gathered in, God will fulfill his purpose by saving the whole nation who are alive at that time, as through a period of great trouble all Israel shall be converted to Christ. It is not that every Jew who ever lived will be saved. Matt 8.11,12. But a time will come when the whole nation alive at that time will be converted. The nation at that time will be greatly reduced. Matt 24.22 I suggest the number of Jewish survivors will be 144,000.
11:26-27 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion; he will remove ungodliness from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins."
Paul sees in this the fulfillment of God's promise that the deliverer - Christ - will remove ungodliness from the nation of Israel (v27 removing their sin). What Christ has done for every individual believer, he will one day do for the whole nation of Israel at once.
11:28 In regard to the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but in regard to election they are dearly loved for the sake of the fathers.
Till then, what is to be the Christian attitude to the Jew? In Paul’s day they persecuted the church. Today they continue to oppose Christ's teaching. Yet God chose their fathers that Israel might be His own special people. All the promises He has made concerning Israel will be kept. God will continue to have a special concern and interest for the Jewish people until those promises are fulfilled. Christian believers are to love the Jews as a nation with whom God will still have future dealings.
11:29 For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.
For God never reverses or annuls his purposes. He has shown grace by choosing Israel which he will not revoke. After all, if he could do it to Israel he could do it to the church -but he does not and will not. The re gathering of Israel to their homeland proves God has not abandoned His covenant people.
11:30-31 Just as you were formerly disobedient to God, but have now received mercy due to their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy.
Just as through the nation’s rejection of Christ God brought salvation to the Gentiles, so by having mercy on us He will show himself just in having mercy on them. v32 For God regards all men to be in unbelief so that He might have mercy on them all. This glorious fact leads to a exclamation of praise to God for his goodness and wisdom in designing and performing his great plan for the salvation of men, a doxology.
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