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Summary: Not all Israel is Israel

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Romans 11:1-10

John Shearhart

December 5, 2010

Not too long ago Jenny said to me, “I’m bursting today, so I won’t get to color.”

At least that’s what I heard.

What she actually said was, “It’s your mom’s birthday, so don’t forget to call her.”

It’s very important in communication to understand what’s being said! It can mean a big difference.

The eleventh chapter of Romans is full of statements that have been misunderstood, and a lot of false doctrines (such as dispensationalism) find their support in misunderstanding them.

But probably most people do as I’ve done for a long time and just skim over it with no real understanding.

But I don’t want to do that tonight.

Paul is preaching to both Jews and Gentiles, and he’s showing that there’s no difference between them in the eyes of God—He has elected people from both groups to salvation (Rom. 2:11; Gal. 3:28).

The nation of Israel has been given national advantages in that they have the Law and the prophets, but as far as salvation is concerned they’re all the same.

Tonight he continues along these lines, and to help us understand the terms he uses in chapter 11, I want to revisit a couple of passages. First concerning the definition of “Israel” in regard to genealogy:

They are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; 7nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants (Rom. 9:6-7).

So, being a part of Israel isn’t based on genealogy; lineage isn’t a factor in salvation. Neither is being a circumcised Jew:

For he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God (Rom. 2:29).

Paul has been arguing against nationalism because the Jews thought they were saved because of their DNA. True “Israel” and true “Jews,” Paul says are those who are inward Jews, not outward and physical Jews.

These inward Jews, as we’ve read in Romans 8-10, and as we’ll read tonight, are according to God’s sovereign choice in election.

Chapter ten ends by saying that the people of Israel did hear and know, but they rejected. They’ve rejected because they are only Jews outwardly; they were not given the gift of faith, and they were not chosen by God for salvation. He declares that “all the day long I have stretched out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people” (10:21).

This isn’t a weak god who waits with open arms hoping that someone will love him back. This verse shows us that those who are rejected by God are judged in righteousness because they reject God.

I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He?

This is a question the listening Jews are asking. If God totally rejects the Jews, then He hasn’t kept His promise to Abraham, has He?

So look what he says:

May it never be!

No way. God would never go back on His faithfulness. Paul uses himself as evidence that God hasn’t terminated the covenant with Abraham:

For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

God promised that Abraham would be the father of many nations, and Paul is just one example of the fulfillment of that promise. But then look at what he says:

2God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew.

Israel is divided into two different groups: carnal Israel is those who share in the genealogy of Abraham—they are natural descendants and nothing more.

But spiritual Israel is all those whom God foreknew—Jew and Gentile alike.

Remember, not all Israel is Israel (Rom. 9:6). Just being a Jew isn’t salvation, and just being a Gentile isn’t rejection, because God hasn’t rejected or chosen anyone for salvation based on genealogy. Jews and Gentiles alike are accepted according to foreknowledge. God knew us beforehand!

Then he uses Scripture as evidence:

Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? 3"Lord, THEY HAVE KILLED YOUR PROPHETS, THEY HAVE TORN DOWN YOUR ALTARS, AND I ALONE AM LEFT, AND THEY ARE SEEKING MY LIFE."

Do you remember this story? Ahab was an exceedingly wicked king of Israel who did more evil than all those before him and considered it trivial to walk in sin. He married a woman named Jezebel, and together they worshipped a false god named Baal, (I Kings 16:29-31), and Jezebel persecuted the prophets of the Lord and had them destroyed (18:3-4).

Elijah, instructed by the Lord, confronted Ahab over the matter and commanded him to gather all the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. There they would have a contest to see whose god is really God. The prophets of Baal put a sacrifice on an altar and prayed for fire to consume it—they prayed and cut themselves and cried out, but no one paid attention.

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