Summary: This is the 20th of 30 studies on the Book of Romans
God Hasn’t Totally Rejected Israel
For the Audio Version on YouTube, click here – Romans 11:1-18
For the Audio Version on SoundCloud, click here – Romans 11:1-18
“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. 2 God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, 3 “LORD, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life”? 4 But what does the divine response say to him? “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 6 And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.”
In our previous study we had seen saw how Paul said that God had stretched out his hands to the Israelites all day long but they were a rebellious and contrary people who rejected Him. Paul then asks a very valid question. “Has God cast away His people?” And he answers with a resounding “Certainly not.” He goes on to explain why not. He reminds his readers that he himself was one such Israelite – a descendant of Abraham, and of the tribe of Benjamin, indicating that he too had initially rejected God’s plan of salvation. He goes on to say that God has not cast away His people, whom He had foreknown a long time back. God knew that some people would believe, and be saved.
He then goes on to remind his readers about God’s election (how He chooses people whom He wants to serve as channels, through whom He seeks to fulfil His purposes for mankind). He reminds them from Scripture about Elijah, who thought that he was the only prophet who remained alive, while all the other prophets has been killed. All the altars had been torn down, and they were seeking to take his life as well. He tells how God had responded to Elijah by saying that He had reserved for Himself seven thousand, who had not bowed their knee to Baal.
Paul uses this reminder to illustrate the fact that even at the present time, God had chosen a few people, purely based on grace. He then clarifies that the choosing by God had nothing to do with the persons’ works, but was purely by God’s grace. God showed His unmerited favour to people and it was therefore not dependent on their works in any way. He reiterates that if it was based on works, then grace can’t be called grace. He further states, that if God’s choice were based on works, then it wouldn’t be by grace, and in that case, works can no longer be called works. What Paul seems to be saying is that God’s election has nothing to do with people’s good works but is purely based on His grace or unmerited favour.
“What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. 8 Just as it is written: “God has given them a spirit of stupor,
Eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear, to this very day.” 9 And David says: “Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a recompense to them. 10 Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see, and bow down their back always.”
So here’s what’s happened; the Jews did not receive the righteousness they were searching for, but just like in the times of Elijah, where God had reserved for himself seven thousand people who had not bowed their knee to Baal, today the Lord has chosen those Jews who believe in Christ, to receive this gift of God’s own righteousness. The other Jews who did not believe were blinded. Paul then quotes from Isaiah 29:10, when he says that God has caused the Jews to fall into a deep sleep, so that they were not aware of what was happening around them. They have eyes but they don’t see the truth of God’s Word, they have ears but they don’t listen to God’s word and get saved. That’s how it was, not only until when Paul wrote this letter, but it’s still true of most of the Jews even today. Most of them continue to reject the gospel, and remain waiting for the Messiah to come and save them.