Grace For The Journey
This morning we come to a very important theological truth . . .
God keeps His promises.
He has not cast away the nation of Israel. He still has a plan for that nation’s future. Obviously, this is very important to those who are Jewish. To those of us who are Gentiles, that may not seem very important, yet it is. Why? Because . . .
God’s faithfulness to the nation of Israel
Is a demonstration of His trustworthiness.
If God keeps His promises to Israel,
Then we can also trust Him for the promises
That He has made to us as followers of Jesus Christ.
If God will not keep His promises to Israel,
Then we cannot trust Him to keep His promises to us.
Being able to trust God is a very important issue.
There is also another important point that comes from this theological truth, and that is our response to both the individual Jew and to the nation of Israel. If God has rejected them, then we would have a basis for rejecting them too. If God has not rejected them, then neither can we who profess Jesus as our Savior.
We have seen in our study of Romans 9, 10, and 11 that it is clear that God has not rejected His people (11:1). God has broken off some of the branches of Israel from the root (11:17), but He has not broken off all the branches. There always has been and still is a remnant of Jews that are faithful to God (11:2-5). In addition, Paul states plainly that even those branches that have been cut off can be grafted back in again (11:24).
The tragedy is that there are many Christian groups that have failed to recognize the truths of these chapters. They believe that Israel has been cast away and that the Church has replaced Israel. The church has not replaced Israel. We have been grafted into the rootstock of faith even as we saw in our study of Romans 11 yesterday, but we have not replaced the nation of Israel.
Some groups, such as those holding to “British Israelism” even go so far as to claim to be the so called “lost 10 tribes of Israel” that were carried into captivity by Assyria. While the destruction of all the records may make it impossible for a Jew to prove his lineage, many of them still know which tribe they belong too. And even those who do not themselves know what tribe they belong to, God does know. Other groups may not carry the claim of the Church replacing Israel to that extreme, but they do claim all of Israel’s promised blessings. Now a curious thing to me is that consistently, these groups that claim God’s promised blessings to Israel, never also claim God’s curses on them for disobedience. Some groups even include the land that belongs to Israel as part of their claim. That was a reason for the Crusades in the Middle Ages. They were going to reclaim Jerusalem for the Church from not only the Muslim, but also the Jew. The crusaders slaughtered Jews across Europe as they made their way to the Holy Land, and then they slaughtered more Jews when the got there.
You see, tragically the rejection of the Jews has often turned into outright persecution and slaughter. It did in the Middle Ages. It did in Russia in the 18th and 19th centuries. It did in Europe in the 20th century culminating the Holocaust during and after WW II. It continues today in the world’s enmity toward that tiny nation. The world wants the blessing that God promised to them including the land, but God has promised it to Israel and to no one else.
If a Gentile wants God’s blessing,
Then it only comes through being
Grafted into the rootstock of faith
Through salvation in Jesus Christ.
It does not come by trying to
Replace Israel with themselves.
A Partial Hardening.
In the first part of Romans 11, Paul has given three reasons that God has not rejected Israel. First, Paul was a Jew who was saved and therefore was living proof that God had not rejected Israel (11:1). Second, God keeps His promises and has not rejected the people whom He foreknew. God always keeps a remnant (11:2-6). Third, God would not be disciplining Israel, as He was currently doing, if He had rejected them (11:7-10). Then in verses 11-24, Paul warns the Gentiles about becoming conceited lest they also be broken off. This is the introduction to verses 25-32 in which Paul reveals the fourth reason God has nor rejected Israel. God still has a specific plan for the nation’s future. There is a partial hardening at present, but there is future salvation for all the remnant.
Verses 25-27 state, “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in; and thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.’ And this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.’” Springing off of what he said in the previous verses, Paul states directly that the reason for his revealing what had been a mystery to this point was so that they would not become wise in their own estimation. That is a constant problem with people. We gain a little knowledge and then tend to think of ourselves as better than other people. Perhaps the classic case of this is the High School or college student that think they know more than their parents because of their education. Usually by the time they have put a few years into supporting themselves in the real world they realize how smart mom and dad really are.
The same thing is true in the religious realm. These Christians were in danger of setting up their own standard and declare themselves to be wise by that standard. They had learned wonderful truths and had come to Christ for salvation. If they considered the lost state of most Jews, they could have concluded that they were better or smarter since they had learned some wonderful truths and come to Christ for salvation. The same thing still occurs today. But there is no basis for pride. Many of those who seek to replace Israel with the Church do so out of intellectual pride. They ignore the plain reading of the text in order to come up with an interpretation that will match what they think is a superior theology. There is a mystery that they overlook. It is only a partial hardening that has occurred to Israel, and that will continue only until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in.
A mystery is something that had not been fully revealed prior to that time.
- The nature of the kingdom of God was a mystery that Jesus revealed to His disciples, but everyone else only got parables (Mark 4:11).
- There was the mystery of the Gospel message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ that was proclaimed by the apostles (Colossians 4:3).
- The mystery of the husband-wife relationship being a picture of the relationship of Christ to His church (Ephesians 5:32).
- There is the mystery of the rapture and being instantly changed and caught up with Christ at His coming (1 Corinthians 15:52).
- Here Paul is speaking of the mystery of God’s dealing with Israel in the present time.
There is only a partial hardening that has occurred to Israel, and that will continue only until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in.
The idea of hardening here is the same as what Paul has been saying throughout this section. This is God hardening the hearts of those who have already rejected Him just as He had done with Pharaoh at the time of the Exodus. God has graciously chosen a remnant of the nation that will not be hardened, but are sovereignly called to walk by faith with God.
The idea of the “fulness of the Gentiles comes in” is a reference to that point in time when the complete number of the Gentiles that will be saved will have come to faith in Jesus Christ. The word for “come in” here is consistently used to describe entering into the kingdom of heaven or into eternal life. When will this occur? It will be at the end of the Tribulation period just prior to the Lord’s return as conquering King. Until that point,
there will be Gentiles that will be saved. This also corresponds to the end of the “time of the Gentiles” in which they continue to have control over Jerusalem (see Luke 21:24). Even in the present time, the nation of Israel continues to bow under the pressure of the Gentile nations. That does why the Mosque, The Dome of the Rock, sits on the Temple Mount instead of a Jewish Temple.
At whatever point the ”fulness of the Gentiles has come in” a great change will occur in Israel. The Bible declares, “All Israel will be saved.” The ungodly and unrighteous among them will be separated out by God’s judgement during the Tribulation period and all those left of the nation will be saved. There is no room in the text here for a limitation placed upon it by Amillennialists that the “all” is only a part of the whole, a “remnant” saved and joined to the Church in the present age. Robert Haldane comments on this verse, “But as no Scripture demands any limitation of this expression, and as the opposition here stated is between a part and all, there is no warrant to make any exception, and with God this like all other things, is possible.”
Paul goes on to give a free quote from Isaiah 59:20-21, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob. And this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins,” to support this claim that “all Israel will be saved.”
There are actually quite a few Old Testament passages that refer to this happening . . .
- Jeremiah 31:31-34 records the “New Covenant” that God was going to make with His people, Israel.
- Jeremiah 32:36-42 describes what God will do when they will be restored.
- Isaiah 54:6-10 speaks of God’s eternal compassion toward Israel.
Many of the branches of Israel are currently broken off and most of the people are hardened, but God still has a plan for them. Most of Israel is still scattered around the world, but Isaiah 11:12 speaks of God’s actions towards them saying, “And He will lift up a standard for the nations, and will assemble the banished ones of Israel, And will gather the dispersed of Judah From the four corners of the earth.” This has actually been happening in our own time. The modern nation of Israel was established in 1948, and Jews from around the world have been immigrating there ever since.
That “all Israel will be saved” does not mean that they will escape God’s judgement for their unbelief. Ezekiel and Zechariah reveal that they will go through great hardship and the ungodly among them will be purged out before all Israel is saved.
Ezekiel 20:33-38 states, “’As I live,’ declares the Lord God, ‘surely with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out, I shall be king over you. And I shall bring you out from the peoples and gather you from the lands where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out; and I shall bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I shall enter into
judgment with you face to face. As I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will enter into judgment with you,’ declares the Lord God. And I shall make you pass under the rod, and I shall bring you into the bond of the covenant; and I shall purge from you the rebels and those who transgress against Me; I shall bring them out of the land where they sojourn, but they will not enter the land of Israel. Thus you will know that I am the Lord. ‘As for you, O house of Israel,’ thus says the Lord God, ‘Go, serve everyone his idols; but later, you will surely listen to Me, and My holy name you will profane no longer with your gifts and with your idols. For on My holy mountain, on the high mountain of Israel,’ declares the Lord God, ‘there the whole house of Israel, all of them, will serve Me in the land; there I shall accept them, and there I shall seek your contributions and the choicest of your gifts, with all your holy things. As a soothing aroma I shall accept you, when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you from the lands where you are scattered; and I shall prove Myself holy among you in the sight of the nations. And you will know that I am the Lord, when I bring you into the land of Israel, into the land which I swore to give to your forefathers.’”
Zechariah 13:8-9 gives more description to this purging, “And it will come about in all the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘That two parts in it will be cut off [and] perish; but the third will be left in it. And I will bring the third part through the fire, refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them;’ I will say, ‘They are My people,’ And they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”
Zechariah goes on to give more detail of these events which will take place during the Tribulation period after the church is raptured (taken to Heaven to be with Christ). The world gathers against Israel and massacres two thirds of the Jews as the means by which He purges Israel. The Lord then intervenes and brings salvation to the Jews and judgment to all who rose up against her. This is then followed by Him setting up His Millennial kingdom on David’s throne in Jerusalem.
If the Church is raptured, how will the Jews hear the Gospel? Revelation tells that God sets aside 144,000 Jewish people, 12,000 from each tribe to declare it (7:1-8; 14:1-5), there are other converts (7:9), He sends the two witnesses (11:3-13) and then an angel who pronounces it (14:6).
Beloved of God.
Why does God do all this? Because He keeps His promises, and Israel is beloved. Verses 28 and 29 declare, “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; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”
There are several important points here . . .
First, most of the Jews at that time rejected the Gospel and were its enemies. Paul had many first-hand experiences with their opposition to the gospel and had been such an enemy of it himself when he was Saul the Pharisee. Yet, as Paul has already explained (10:12-15), that was for the benefit of the Gentiles because it was the basis for the Gospel going to them.
Second, from the perspective of God’s sovereign choice, Israel was still
His beloved for the sake of the fathers. God extended His love to them, not on the basis of what they were doing, but because of the promises that God had made to their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Third, Israel would continue to be God’s beloved because “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” God keeps His promises. The “gifts and the calling” refers to what Paul had said back in 9:4,5, “To whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever.” These are the things that God gave to Israel because He sovereignly choose to bless Abraham and his descendants, Isaac and Jacob, with certain promises and through them to bless the world. God promise and choice are irrevocable. They cannot be altered, rejected, or fail for any reason.
Disobedience and Mercy.
In verses 30-32, Paul declares that all of what both the Jews and Gentiles have experienced, is due to nothing other than God’s mercy.
Everyone should be very glad that
God’s gifts and calling cannot be revoked.
That makes His mercy sure.
These verses state, “For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, in order that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all.” Again, remember that Paul is specifically addressing the Gentiles in this section (11:13). He reminds them again that they were once disobedient to the Gospel and God, yet God extended to them His mercy because the Jews had become disobedient. The Jews were now disobedient and so the nation has been partially hardened and broken off because of their unbelief. But this same mercy that God has shown to the Gentiles in their disobedience, God would also show to these disobedient Jews. They have a hope for the future.
In verse 32 Paul gives us a glimpse into the purpose that God has allowed His creatures to rebel against Him. We do not have a full explanation for God’s current tolerance for the existence of evil, but this is a partial explanation.
The disobedience of His creatures
To demonstrate His mercy.
All the world, Jew and Gentile, is disobedient to God and therefore guilty before Him. Yet . . .
God extends to the world mercy.
He extends it in both His current
Patient endurance of an
Ungodly and unrighteous world
Instead of wiping it out instantaneously.
God also extends it in His compassion
That extends to the world the means by
Which their need for forgiveness can be met
Through Jesus Christ paying the penalty
For them and offering His righteousness
To those that would believe upon Him.
Everyone is in need of God’s mercy.
The Character of God.
As Paul considers this, he reflects on the character and nature of God Himself and breaks into a doxology to finish the chapter. Verses 33-36 declare, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him [be] the glory forever. Amen.”
God is an infinite being
That is incomprehensible
To our finite minds.
Paul, and we, can only stand in awe of God. The picture here is of a deep sea that is full of the riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge, but we have no means by which to search out the depths of God’s judgements or even follow the footprints of His ways. The word “unfathomable” means “non-trackable, or untraceable.” God is beyond us. His ways and thoughts are higher than our own (Isaiah 55:9), or as David put it in Psalm 139:6, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain it.”
Though the Christian has been given the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), and therefore have discernment of spiritual things unknown to the non-Christian, we do not know the fullness of God’s mind.
We can only know what He has revealed to us,
But that is more than sufficient to understand
The Gospel and how He wants us to live our lives
(2 Peter 1:3).
Paul’s quote in verse 34 from Isaiah 40:13 is a common theme in the Old Testament used to humble men before the mighty God (see also Job36:2; Jeremiah 23:18). No one, not even the most mature Christian understands everything about God or can in anyway give counsel to God. God is omniscient. There is nothing He does not already know in its fulness.
Paul’s quote in verse 35 is a paraphrase of Job 41:11. There is nothing that a man can offer to God. God is not only sovereign, but also self-sufficient. He has no need for anything outside Himself. He has no obligation to anyone or anything except what He has placed upon Himself. As Job 35:7 puts it, even “If you are righteous, what do you give to Him? Or what does He receive from your hand?”
- All things come from God, for He is the creator of all things (Genesis 1; Colossians 1:16).
- All things exist through God, for He is the one that sustains and holds together all things (Acts 17:28; Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3).
- All things belong to God, for all things were created for His own purposes (1 Corinthians 15:14-28).
The twenty-four elders in Revelation 4:11 fall down before the Lord saying, “Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were created.”
Our salvation is wrapped up in this.
It is not about us.
It is about God’s glory.
When we consider all of who God is, what He is like and what He has done for us in Jesus Christ. Could there be any more fitting conclusion that what Paul says here in verse 26, “To Him be the glory forever! Amen.”
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”