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And, in addition, in more than one place in the Old Testament the explicit statement is made that God will not reject his people. For example, Psalm 94:14 says, “For the Lord will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage.” And 1 Samuel 12:22 says, “For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.”
II. The Pauline Answer (11:1b-6)
Now, let’s look at the Pauline answer.
A. Direct Denial (11:1b)
Paul directly denies God’s rejection of his people. “By no means!” (11:1b) is his emphatic reply to his own question.
If God were to forsake his people, then he would become a liar, and a covenant breaker. How could we possibly justify that in the light of his character as one who is absolutely honest and true?
B. The Case of Paul (11:1c-2a)
Paul further explains why God has not rejected his people. He says, “For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin” (11:1c).
God has not rejected his people, simply because Paul is himself a saved Israelite. His own salvation proves God’s faithfulness to his covenant promise.
He might have introduced others also, such as Simeon and Anna (cf. Luke 2:25, 38). They, too, were Israelites, and they had not been forgotten by a faithful God. By grace alone through faith in Christ alone they had also been saved by God.
Paul refers to himself as “an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin.” As commentator Matthew Black says, “The Benjamites were the Israelite ‘aristocracy.’” When the defection of the ten tribes took place after the death of Solomon, Benjamin stayed by the side of Judah in the south. They did not follow the ten tribes in the setting up of the schismatic altars, the alien priesthood, and the temples at Bethel and Gilgal. God had pronounced a curse on anyone who offered a sacrifice for sin anywhere in the world except at the door of the tabernacle of the Lord (cf. Leviticus 17:1-9). Paul claimed membership in the faithful tribe of Benjamin, the smallest of the tribes (cf. 1 Samuel 9:21).
But, as commentator Luthi suggests, someone might say of Paul’s salvation, “One swallow does not make a summer.”
So, Paul states positively what he is affirming in verse 2a. He writes, “God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.” The word “foreknew” means “to choose in love.” What Paul is saying is this: “God, in love, has chosen his people, and he has not rejected them.”
In other words, God is not fickle. He has, as my old Seminary professor S. Lewis Johnson says, “a plan within a plan. He intends to bring Israel to her promises, but the way includes the present time of Gentile blessing also (cf. vv. 11-15).”
C. The Parallel with Elijah (11:2b-6)
Paul now introduces Elijah as an illustration in verse 2b-6: “Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? ‘Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.’ But what is God’s reply to him? ‘I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.’ So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer
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