Summary: Have you ever wondered whether the Jews are still God’s people? Has He rejected them after they rejected His Son Jesus? Have you ever wanted to reach out to a Jewish friend with the gospel? Study Romans 11 to get answers!
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Here’s a question – if our faith is based on the teachings and actions of Jesus Christ – why do we have the Old Testament? I mean, isn’t it just a bunch of laws and prophecies of destruction focused on the nation of Israel? Didn’t God reject the Jews when they rejected His Son Jesus?
Good questions – and we have the very Jewish Rabbi and Apostle Paul here to explain it to us in Romans chapter 11. Look back at the end of chapter 10 to pick up the thought – remember, chapters and verse numbers were added later, originally this was one long letter.
Romans 10:21 But concerning Israel he says, "All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people."
You picture God throwing up His hands – “Oy veh!” From Genesis through Malachi God pictured a savior, told about a savior, promised a savior – but at just the right time the savior came, He was rejected and killed by His own people. We talked last week about the obstinate heart that God enhances by hardening it.
Right after the resurrection, almost all of the church was made up of Jews who believed in Jesus as the savior, the promised Messiah. In fact, there was a great controversy about whether gentiles could even be a part of this new Way. After God revealed to the Apostle Peter (Acts 10:15) "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." And the door was opened to the gentiles.
But the more time went on, the more opposition arose from the Jews. The Apostle Paul got so fed up with them that at one point he said (Acts 18:6) But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles."
One thing led to another, and pretty soon the Jews were rioting against Christians – Jews who became believers were thrown out of fellowship and out of families.
So in chapter 11, Paul talks to the conclusion that God has permanently turned His back on the Jews because they turned their back on Jesus. There are 7 paragraphs in this chapter – and 7 points Paul makes to help us understand what place the Jews have in God’s heart.
Point 1 – God didn’t reject His people, many of them rejected Him (1-6)
I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah-how he appealed to God against Israel: 3 "Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me"? 4 And what was God’s answer to him? "I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal." 5 So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. 6 And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
You may know the story of Elijah, in 1 Kings 19 – this prophet had won a huge victory over 400 prophets of Ba’al. Then he ran from one angry woman – Jezebel. He hid away in a cave until God coaxed him out and asked him what in the world he was doing there. Elijah told him, maybe with a little whine in his voice, (1 Kings 19:14) "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."
God replied to Elijah: (1 Kings 19:18) Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel-all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him." Just as there was in that time an unseen remnant of the faithful, God knows the faithful remnant today that has not bowed the knee to righteousness by good works, but righteousness through the grace of God through Jesus Christ. Elijah needed to open His eyes to the work God was really doing – just as the Jews needed to open their eyes to see the work God did through Jesus.
But as a nation they were so caught up in external righteousness by obeying the law, that they missed the internal righteousness God offered through Jesus. And even as God told Elijah to anoint another to take his place, the Jews found themselves unable to obtain God’s favor through their own merits, and that rejection brought with it a result.