Summary: Those who have been called and who have responded to the gospel in faith have become both the remnant of Israel who were God’s elect in ancient times and the new Israel God has created in Christ.
A woman was talking to her minister after church one Sunday. She said, “I hope you didn’t take it personally, Pastor, when my husband walked out during your sermon.”
“I did find it rather upsetting,” the minister replied.
“It’s not a reflection on you, sir,” the woman insisted. “Ralph has been walking in his sleep ever since he was a child.”
Have you ever thought that you were alone on your walk of faith? Have you ever thought that you were the only Christian in the world? If so, you are not alone. Many of the Old Testament prophets felt that they were the only Christians in the world. Many Christians today sometimes fee that they are the only Christians in the world. They even feel that they have been rejected by God. At the end of Romans 10, it seems that the people of Israel have been rejected. It seemed that God’s plan and purpose for Israel had ended, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth as Paul argues in Romans 11.
God knew that the Israelites would reject him, but he chose them anyway and made a covenant with them. He could not make a covenant with them and then abandon them because they turned away from him in sin. To do so would go against his nature, because he does not go back on his world. God did have a “loophole” in his covenant. He was not bound to save the whole nation of Israel. He was only bound to save those who remained faithful. Those few that were faithful are the remnant referred to in Romans 9:27. Just as God reserved a remnant of his people when Elijah thought in 1 Kings 19:1-8 that he was the only faithful person left when in fact he had over 7,000 brothers and sisters in Christ, God has preserved a remnant of Christianity for Paul and for all of eternity. This remnant has been preserved by God’s grace.
Sometimes God uses the disobedience of one group of people to show mercy to another group. The people of Israel rejected God, so God decided to show mercy to the Gentiles by calling on the most hated, hardened Jew-Paul-to spread the Good News to the Gentiles. God surrounds his people with their sin with no means of escape so he can show his people grace. God stands off from his people when they rebel against him, but he never ignores people who cry out to him in faith. When we look beyond the struggles of this life we will see him waiting for us with open arms. When the lost cry out to him, he hears their cries and joyfully carries them to eternity.
God showed mercy to the Israelites even though they were ungrateful. Why? It can’t be explained. Such is the nature of grace. It can only be received with gratitude just like the Gentiles received God’s grace with gratitude.
The apostle Paul is proof that God is not finished with Israel. Paul was from the tribe of Benjamin and he believed in Jesus after his encounter on the road to Damascus. In Romans 11:1-2, 29-32 Paul uses various texts in Scripture to prove that God keeps the promises he makes to believers, unbelievers, disobedient and contrary-minded people, and this is a key part of Paul’s theology. After all, if God was not faithful to the people of Israel, Christians would not have a good reason to repent. God has the power to bring the Gentiles and the Israelites into his kingdom. Paul warns the Gentiles who have received salvation not to become proud and boastful because they can also be punished. The Gentiles were tempted to hate the Israelites because God found them to be unworthy, but Paul reminded the Gentiles that they needed to understand that they were the beneficiaries of Israel’s unfaithfulness. God made the same promise to the Gentiles, including the “loophole” that only the Gentiles who were faithful to God would be saved. These faithful Gentiles are also part of the remnant referred to in Romans 9:27. The Israelites also benefitted by Gentile obedience, because it caused the Israelites to become faithful to God.
God’s grace preserved people of faith throughout history. Noah and his family were preserved during the Great Flood thanks to the Ark. Joseph was preserved by God during years of hardship and imprisonment in Egypt, and in turn Joseph preserved his family and the people of Egypt during the famine. Daniel and his friends were saved from the lions’ den. Jonah was preserved even when he was in the belly of the fish. God always saves a remnant of his people when he punishes his people for their disobedience because this remnant consists only of people who have obeyed God in faith. God’s compassion is the last word when he is dispensing justice. His justice is always balanced by mercy for the people who obey him.