Through the letter to the Romans – Part 17. We are all in the same boat

In Chapters 9 and 10 of Romans, Paul finally dealt with what could seem a paradox to an outside observer: That the very people who had, in writing, all the story about God’s plan and the Messiah could actually choose to reject Him. This was a very personal pain for Paul. But Paul took the opportunity to preach the Gospel: to point out that bloodlines or circumstances of life do not determine our choices. We all hear the call and we are all responsible for how we respond. That allows him to bring the conversation back, full circle, to the conflict at hand: Gentile Christian versus Jewish Christian.

As far as the Gospel is concerned, what applies to one applies to the other because we are all human. We will see soon enough (when we get to Chapter 12) more details on the details of the conflict. And there, he will give us practical guidelines on how to deal with such conflicts in the Church. But right now, he is going to turn around and show the Gentile Christians that they were falling into the same error as the Jewish Christians. Namely, to focus on the path God used to reveal His salvation instead of focusing on the salvation itself.

The Jewish Christians were in danger of relying for their merit on the fact that the Promise of God was brought to fruition through the Jewish nation and its Law. The Gentile Christians were in danger of dismissing that nation because their very leaders, who best of all knew the implications of that Law, were the major instigators of the rejection of the Messiah.

Whatever it takes

As I paraphrased in the discussion between Jesus and the woman at the well, God chose a path for His salvation but that path was not the point. The salvation was the point. So, the path cannot be used in the argument, neither pro nor contra. The fact that many Jews rejected Jesus doesn’t prove a thing because many Jews also believed, Paul is clearly an example.

Romans 11:1-4 I say then, Has God cast away his people? Far be the thought. For *I* also am an Israelite, of [the] seed of Abraham, of [the] tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away his people whom he foreknew. Know ye not what the scripture says in [the history of] Elias, how he pleads with God against Israel? Lord, they have killed thy prophets, they have dug down thine altars; and *I* have been left alone, and they seek my life. But what says the divine answer to him? I have left to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed knee to Baal.

Now Paul will acknowledge that those saved from the Jewish nation were indeed prophesied to be a remnant (a small fraction) but, since all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, in all likelihood those saved among the Gentiles will also be a remnant. Because only those that humble themselves and cling to the Grace of God can be saved.

Romans 11:5-6 Thus, then, in the present time also there has been a remnant according to election of grace. But if by grace, no longer of works: since [otherwise] grace is no more grace.

Yes, we could say that it was to the shame of Israel that they rejected their own Messiah. But then we would have to say that it is to the shame of the Gentiles that it took the Jews’ rejection for them to take notice. After all, God had revealed Himself to them also since ancient times (see Chapter 1).

Romans 11:7-11 What [is it] then? What Israel seeks for, that he has not obtained; but the election has obtained, and the rest have been blinded, according as it is written, God has given to them a spirit of slumber, eyes not to see, and ears not to hear, unto this day. And David says, Let their table be for a snare, and for a gin, and for a fall-trap, and for a recompense to them: let their eyes be darkened not to see, and bow down their back alway. I say then, Have they stumbled in order that they might fall? Far be the thought: but by their fall [there is] salvation to the nations to provoke them to jealousy.

The point is that God’s goal is to bring salvation to a stubborn humanity. And He will do whatever it takes. No human being can take any pride in that. So, the fact that many Jews rejected and some Gentiles believed is neither here nor there. It is just the path that God chose to take. In fact, God chose to use the Gentiles’ response to God, as a result of the Jewish rejection, to wake his people up.

The remnant of true Israel

But they will come back again, because, remember, God promised a remnant and you don’t know the size of that remnant. In the end God’s path brings Him glory:

Romans 11:12-15 But if their fall [be the] world’s wealth, and their loss [the] wealth of [the] nations, how much rather their fulness? For I speak to you, the nations, inasmuch as *I* am apostle of nations, I glorify my ministry; if by any means I shall provoke to jealousy [them which are] my flesh, and shall save some from among them. For if their casting away [be the] world’s reconciliation, what [their] reception but life from among [the] dead?

Therefore, the Gentiles should be careful not to get prideful and fall:

Romans 11:16-21 Now if the first-fruit [be] holy, the lump also; and if the root [be] holy, the branches also.  Now if some of the branches have been broken out, and *thou*, being a wild olive tree, hast been grafted in amongst them, and hast become a fellow-partaker of the root and of the fatness of the olive tree, boast not against the branches; but if thou boast, [it is] not *thou* bearest the root, but the root thee.

olive tree

     Thou wilt say then, The branches have been broken out in order that *I* might be grafted in. Right: they have been broken out through unbelief, and *thou* standest through faith. Be not high-minded, but fear: if God indeed has not spared the natural branches; lest it might be he spare not thee either.

That Paul has to give such a stern warning tells us there was a real problem brewing in the Roman Church. So, He tells them, remember how you were saved: By the goodness of God. So, live that way!

Romans 11:22-23 Behold then [the] goodness and severity of God: upon them who have fallen, severity; upon thee goodness of God, if thou shalt abide in goodness, since [otherwise] *thou* also wilt be cut away. And *they* too, if they abide not in unbelief, shall be grafted in; for God is able again to graft them in. For if *thou* hast been cut out of the olive tree wild by nature, and, contrary to nature, hast been grafted into the good olive tree, how much rather shall they, who are according to nature be grafted into their own olive tree?

Let God be God. If He planned His path of salvation to come through the Jews, it would be the height of hubris for you, as a human being, to disdain them…

Romans 11:25-27 For I do not wish you to be ignorant, brethren, of this mystery, that ye may not be wise in your own conceits, that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the nations be come in; and so all Israel shall be saved. According as it is written, The deliverer shall come out of Zion; he shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. And this is the covenant from me to them, when I shall have taken away their sins.

Notice how Paul has reminded the Gentiles here of the argument he used back in Chapter 2: Saved Gentiles are part of the true Israel! And God will save Israel

Romans 11:28-29 As regards the glad tidings, [they are] enemies on your account; but as regards election, beloved on account of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God [are] not subject to repentance.

God is God, and we are not

We have to humbly accept the path He takes to work this Salvation. Because He knows what He is doing; even if we would have never thought of doing it this way. Remember, all were slaves to sin, so that all could be saved together.

Romans 11:30-36 For as indeed *ye* [also] once have not believed in God, but now have been objects of mercy through the unbelief of *these*; so these also have now not believed in your mercy, in order that *they* also may be objects of mercy. For God hath shut up together all in unbelief, in order that he might shew mercy to all.

     O depth of riches both of [the] wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable his judgments, and untraceable his ways! For who has known [the] mind of [the] Lord, or who has been his counsellor? or who has first given to him, and it shall be rendered to him? For of him, and through him, and for him [are] all things: to him be glory for ever. Amen.

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