Romans 11 - Remnant By Grace

INTRODUCTION: Paul was known as the apostle to the Gentiles, but that did not supplant or supersede his love for the children of Israel. He was part of Israel by birth, and he wanted to demonstrate that the LORD never abandoned his chosen people without leaving a remnant of those who trusted God. But the way of faith to salvation was opened for Gentiles through the trespasses and offences of Israel; and salvation to the Gentiles could by faith draw some from Israel back to God. This chapter of Romans is in my own paraphrase, to some extent in an amplified style, prepared by examining several translations, and with some use of Greek and Hebrew lexicons.

NOTE: Verses in the comments are from the 1769 King James Bible.


A - A REMNANT BY GRACE

Romans 11 "1 I ask then, Has God rejected or denied his people? God forbid. For I also am a descendent of Abraham, an Israelite of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people that he knew and chose even before they existed. Don't you know what the scripture said of Elijah's intercession to God for Israel when he spoke to God? 3 Lord, they have killed your prophets, and destroyed your altars; and I am left alone, and they want to kill me as well. 4 But what was God's response to Elijah? I have kept back for my future purpose seven thousand men, who have not bowed before the image of Baal to worship. 5 As it was then, also at this present time there is a remnant, a small reserved number, according to the election through the undeserved favor of grace. 6 And if by God's grace, then it is not of righteousness by works: otherwise grace is not truly grace. And since it is of grace, then righteousness cannot be obtained by works."

COMMENTS: Paul was a descendent of Benjamin, and thus a member of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Since he had a secure belief in his heart that the Lord had not rejected him, he was convinced that others of Israel were also not rejected from the call of the Lord. Even though he had been a fervent persecutor of the church, the Lord Jesus had turned him around to have tremendous zeal to spread the name of Christ for salvation to Jews and Gentiles for the rest of his life. God had chosen a people group through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and though many of them did not turn to the Lord in faith, there were others of Israel over many generations who followed the Lord faithfully.

The reference Paul made to Elijah dealt with a time when the northern kingdom of Israel had been very idolatrous under many kings, and Elijah fled to the wilderness because his life was threatened by Jezebel, the wife of King Ahab. But under such desperate circumstances, it was the LORD who had separated for himself those he chose by grace, and at Mount Horeb he assured Elijah of that fact. Paul asserted that the Lord is continuing to reserve a remnant for his purposes by grace, and not according to the work of any person to gain righteousness before God.

1 Kings 19 "13 And it was [so], when Elijah heard [it], that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, [there came] a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? 14 And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, [even] I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. 15 And the LORD said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael [to be] king over Syria: 16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint [to be] king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint [to be] prophet in thy room. 17 And it shall come to pass, [that] him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. 18 Yet I have left [me] seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him." So, Elijah was instructed to go near to Damascus, then to Israel, to anoint two new kings to bring judgment. then he was to anoint Elisha to carry on the work of the LORD. After those instructions, the LORD told him there were seven thousand preserved who had not worshipped Baal.


B - SALVATION HAS COME TO THE GENTILES

Romans 11 "7 What then? All of Israel have not obtained that for which they search; but the chosen of God have obtained it, and the rest were hardened to blindness of the heart. 8 According to what has been written, God has given them a spirit of stupor and insensibility, causing them to see but not truly perceive, and to hear but not comprehend the meaning, even to this day. 9 As David wrote, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling block, and a repayment to them: 10 Let their eyes be veiled , that they may not see, and load burdens upon them always. 11 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should be completely condemned? God forbid: but rather through their trespass and offence salvation has come to the Gentiles, to provoke them to jealousy."

COMMENTS: Paul wrote that only the chosen of God within Israel obtained the righteousness they searched for, but all the others were hardened to have blindness in their hearts. He referred to part of a Psalm written by David to show that scripture verified that to be true even during the early period of the kings in Israel. By looking at more of that passage from Psalm 69 than Paul's brief reference, we can see that there is an allusion to Christ on the cross. Psalms 69 "21 They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. 22 Let their table become a snare before them: and [that which should have been] for [their] welfare, [let it become] a trap. 23 Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake. 24 Pour out thine indignation upon them, and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them." So, what should have been for their welfare became a snare and trap to them because they did not accept the righteousness that comes only from God by grace. And in Paul's lifetime when Jesus the Son of God came to them he was also rejected to the point of death on a Roman cross.

There is a common expression used often today about working to "put food on the table." If we depend on our own work to meet our every needs, that will prevent us from depending on the Lord who leads us in the paths of righteousness for his namesake. We need to appeal to the grace of God by faith so we can experience his table. Psalm 23 "5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever." But Paul said that Israel has not been totally rejected, and they can be moved to seek God as they are made jealous by the grace given to the Gentiles.


C - NATURAL OLIVE BRANCHES CAN BE GRAFTED BACK IN

Romans 11 "12 Now if their trespass and offence becomes riches for the world, and the loss to Israel becomes riches for the Gentiles; how much more will their completion bring about? 13 For my words are for you who are Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles. I celebrate and hold in honor my office: 14 If by any means I may cause envy in those who share in my ancestry as descendents of Israel, that some of them might be saved. 15 For if their rejection offers reconciliation and restoration of the world to God, what shall the acceptance of them be, but life from spiritual death? 16 For if the first fruit is holy, the whole mass is also holy: and if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17 And if some of the branches are broken off, and you, being from a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them receive from the root sumptuous fruit of the olive tree; 18 Do not boast as if you are exalted over the branches. If you boast, you do not realize you didn't produce the root, but the root sustains you. 19 You will say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. 20 It is true; because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Don't be proud, but be afraid: 21 For if God didn't spare the natural branches, he also will not spare you. 22 Know this therefore, the goodness and severity of God: on those who lost their share, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you persevere in his goodness and kindness: otherwise you also shall be cut off. 23 And they also, if they don't remain in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which are the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?"

COMMENTS: Paul was known as the apostle to the Gentiles, and he wanted them to know though not all of the children of Israel are part of God's kingdom, their rejection in part had become a blessing to the other nations and people of the world. But Paul desired that as he preached to Gentiles, a jealousy might develop among those of Israel in order that they might be saved. That could bring to fullness the total number of those who have been brought from spiritual death to spiritual life to be children of God.

Paul began to speak of Israel as the firstfruits for God, and a passage in Jeremiah seems appropriate to Paul's application. Jeremiah 2 "1 Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land [that was] not sown. 3 Israel [was] holiness unto the LORD, [and] the firstfruits of his increase: all that devour him shall offend; evil shall come upon them, saith the LORD." As the LORD sanctified that "firstfruit" portion within Israel, all who are added to it shall be made holy in the same way. In the letter from James we have this passage. James 1 "17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. 18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures."

Paul used a metaphor of a natural olive tree designated as holy to represent Israel, and one that has grown wild to represent Gentiles. Those branches (people) of Israel who don't produce holy fruit are separated from God, and the Gentiles can be drawn in to hear and have some response to the Word of God. But those Gentiles who are boastful and proud knowing Jews were rejected, can be set aside if they have not placed their complete faith in the love of God. And Israelites can be brought to that saving faith in Christ to be restored to their intended blessing. Paul warned the Gentiles to be aware of the goodness and severity of God. Those who lost their share experienced the severity, and the Gentiles who have been saved experienced the goodness of God if they persevere in his goodness and kindness, otherwise they can be cut off. If there are Jews who do not remain in their unbelief, they can be brought into the blessing of God.

Jesus used a metaphor with him as the vine and believers as branches that will produce fruit as long as they abide in him. John 15 "5 I am the vine, ye [are] the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast [them] into the fire, and they are burned."


D - GRACE TO GENTILES WILL RESULT IN GRACE TO ISRAEL

Romans 11 "25 Brothers, I would not want you to be uninformed about this mystery, otherwise you might think you are wise, based on your own understanding; but hardness of heart has happened to some Israelites, until the full number of the Gentiles becomes complete. 26 And to whosoever of Israel shall be made whole: as it is written, the deliverer shall come out of Zion, and shall turn ungodliness away from Jacob: 27 For this is my covenant to them, when I shall take away their sins. 28 In regard to the gospel, they are rebellious for your sakes: but in considering the elect, they are beloved because their patriarchs were chosen. 29 For the gifts and the call of God cannot be revoked."

COMMENTS: The scripture references Paul makes in this section again seem to be somewhat of a composite of more than one passage in the Old Testament. His point to the Gentiles is that Israel will continue to be a part of those chosen by God to have eternal life by grace through faith. Isaiah 59 "20 And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD. 21 As for me, this [is] my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that [is] upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever."

The LORD provided another covenant for those of Israel, and he has graciously opened the door of faith to many Gentiles as well, because his law is now written upon the heart of each one who believes. Jeremiah 31 "31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day [that] I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 33 But this [shall be] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."


E - UNBELIEF IS OVERCOME ONLY BY THE MERCY OF GOD

Romans 11 "30 For as it was that you did not believe God in the past, yet now you have obtained mercy through their unbelief; 31 in a similar manner they now have not believed, that through the mercy given to you, they also may receive mercy. 32 For God has judged all people to be in unbelief, that his mercy might be extended to all. 33 Oh how abundant is the magnificence both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! His judgments are far beyond any searching to understand, and his ways are past discovering! 34 For who could ever comprehend the mind of the Lord? or who could ever counsel him? 35 Or who could ever have anything to give to him, that God would then need to repay? 36 For all things are of him, and through him, and to him: to whom is glory forever. Amen."

COMMENTS: The LORD knew in advance that many from Israel would not believe, and he used that to draw many to faith from all other nations. Then he used the expansion of his mercy and kindness to draw some Israelites back to him as well. God had designed all of these events because he knew that every person begins in a condition of unbelief that can only be remedied through his mercy. This is another demonstration that the wisdom and knowledge of God is so far above ours that we could barely even begin to imagine the scope it covers. Who could ever offer counsel to God, that he might improve his ways! And since all things are from God, there is nothing that we could give to him that would obligate him to us in any way!

I have included two of the numerous passages of scripture that speak to this point about the LORD God. Deuteronomy 10 "14 Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens [is] the LORD'S thy God, the earth [also], with all that therein [is]." Psalm 24 "1 {A Psalm of David.} The earth [is] the LORD'S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. 2 For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods." Knowing these things to be true, we should be very hesitant to question how or why various events occur in the world since God is the creator of all things, and the creator of all people. We who have received his mercy and love owe him all of our praise, honor, and worship forever!

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

I thank you, LORD, for the remnant of the people of Israel by your grace, including Paul, who became a tremendous blessing to Gentiles while not abandoning his love for his own people. By your design the unbelief in the Israelites spread the gospel to all other people, and in my lifetime that has included me to be saved by your grace through faith. Knowing that you, my Savior, have grafted me into the natural olive tree, I want to humbly give all my honor and praise to the Lord in thanksgiving. I pray for fulfillment of the heart's desire of Paul to see more of the children of Israel come to faith because of the grace given to the Gentiles. LORD, I believe that the only way any person at any point in human history can come to true faith is by your mercy, for all are lost without your grace. I look forward to the time when all of your unsearchable plans reach fulfillment and believers will be with you to give you praise, honor, and glory forever. Amen.

Published 29 June 2016