- The Relationship between Israel and the Christian Church Segment 4
- The Relationship between Israel and the Christian Church Segment 3
- The Relationship between Israel and the Christian Church Segment 2
- The Relationship between Israel and the Christian Church Segment 1
Romans Eleven 1-20
Romans 11:1 I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
Last objection: Has God, then, abandoned His people Israel? Absolutely not! Paul himself is an Israelite and God has not cast Him away!
Romans 11:2-3 God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the Scripture saith of Elijah? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, (3) Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.
No, God has not forsaken His people. He chose them before the foundation of the world, not because they were great; not for anything they have done. He chose them because He is sovereign. It only matters that He chose them. God promised Abraham that His covenant would be everlasting to Abraham and to his seed after him (Genesis 17:7).
Paul uses a conversation between Elijah and God to illustrate this point. He asks, “Don’t you know what the Scriptures say?” First, Elijah prayed that God’s chosen, covenant people had reject God, killed his prophets, broken down His altar and generally rejected Him. “Now,” Elijah complained, “they are after me. Woe is me; I am the last person on earth who has not rejected You, Lord!”
Romans 11:4 But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.
“Not so,” God said, “There are at least 7000 believers that have not turned away from Me and worshipped Baal. They are Mine and I have set them aside to Myself.” This believing remnant was really God’s people. At my little country church, there is a core group of believers that make everything work. They are always there when a need arises. They are there for all the prayer meetings, business meetings, clean-ups, etc. They are the ones that are really sold out to God. Others in the church are saved, but the core group are the really dedicated Christians. They wish to please God and grow ever nearer to Him. The remnant were just this kind of folks-truly dedicated and sold out to God.
Romans 11:5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
In Paul’s time there was a remnant of Christians that were truly sold-out to God. Even today this is true. Amid all the turmoil in America and the world-markets failing, terrorism, rampant sexual perversion, abortion, and the degradation of morals in every venue-there is a remnant according to the election of grace. In the USA our sins have reached heaven, just like the sins of Sodom. God did not destroy Sodom because of a very small remnant, that of Lot and his family. God preserved Israel in Paul’s day because to the remnant and today he preserves us here in America and many other nations around the world for the very same reason, that of a believing remnant. But remember what happened. God led Lot and his family out of Sodom and destroyed the city. There is coming a time when God will protect His remnant while destroying the sinning nations.
It is unfortunate, but many people that attend church regularly are not saved. Recall this story: “Jesus answered: I tell you for certain that you won’t live unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man. But if you do eat my flesh and drink my blood, you will have eternal life, and I will raise you to life on the last day. My flesh is the true food, and my blood is the true drink. If you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you are one with me, and I am one with you. The living Father sent me, and I have life because of him. Now everyone who eats my flesh will live because of me. The bread that comes down from heaven isn’t like what your ancestors ate. They died, but whoever eats this bread will live forever. Jesus was teaching in a Jewish place of worship in Capernaum when he said these things. Many of Jesus’ disciples heard him and said, “This is too hard for anyone to understand.” Jesus knew that his disciples were grumbling. So he asked, “Does this bother you? What if you should see the Son of Man go up to heaven where he came from? The Spirit is the one who gives life! Human strength can do nothing. The words that I have spoken to you are from that life-giving Spirit. But some of you refuse to have faith in me.” Jesus said this, because from the beginning he knew who would have faith in him. He also knew which one would betray him. Then Jesus said, “You cannot come to me, unless the Father makes you want to come. That is why I have told these things to all of you.” Because of what Jesus said, many of his disciples turned their backs on him and stopped following him” (John 6:53-66).
In the passage above, Jesus was obviously not speaking of literally practicing cannibalism upon His body. He was speaking in a spiritual manner. He began this discourse by stating, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is My flesh” John 6:51. He came from heaven to earth to shed His blood and allow His body to be mutilated and to die on the cross as atonement for our sins. If we have faith in that shed blood and battered body as our substitute, and believe that God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved. We share in His suffering (Romans 8:17).
When we partake the elements of Holy Communion, we are symbolizing the eating of His flesh and drinking of His blood. We are not actually consuming His actual flesh and blood. Of course if you believe in the doctrine of transubstantiation, you believe we do actually consume his flesh and blood. I do not subscribe to that teaching, which, by the way, was the main point of contention in the Inquisition. I believe this is a symbolic action.
Yet, many of His disciples turned away from Him when they heard Him teaching this. To them it was such a hard teaching that they could not accept it. They were like the seed scattered into stony places. When things got hard those folks turned away from the faith. They were never grounded in the faith and never had any roots in the faith. They were not really saved. Unfortunately, may church attenders today will turn away when things get difficult or when persecution or tribulation arises. Then only the true remnant of grace will remain.
Let me make one point clear. Some early church fathers believed that the bread and wine actually became the body and blood of Christ. This was accomplished thus: since we are the body of Christ anything we put into pour bodies becomes the body of Christ simply because we are what we consume. As members of the body of Christ, the elements become a part of our body, and subsequently, a part of the Body of Christ (compare 1 Corinthians 6:16). That is an interesting take, but it is not the same thing as believing that the bread and wine actually becomes the flesh and blood of Christ when we consume them.
Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
The remnant is saved only by faith in Christ. They truly know that they cannot work their way to Christ, but that their salvation belongs only to Him and to no other. They know that they must depend solely on Him and Him alone for everything. Not one action they take, not one good work they do can save them. Jesus is the Lord of their lives and they depend upon Him for all their needs.
If there is any work involved in salvation then it is not of grace. A sinner’s prayer, for example, is an action, a work. It is not effective in salvation; if it were, the salvation would no longer be of grace. Walking the aisle at an invitation does not save anyone. It is a work, and if a work is involved in salvation, then salvation id no longer by grace. Baptism alone is an action; it is a work. If baptism can save us, then salvation is no longer of grace, but of works.
Let me explain that baptism is a result of saving faith. Salvation and Baptism go together, but the work of baptism can save no one. If you do not believe in Christ but get baptized, then you are not saved because the work of baptism can save no one. If you say you have faith and then do not get baptized, your faith is suspect, for now you are not following your Lord’s command to be baptized. They go together, but baptism apart from salvation will not cause you to be saved.
You cannot be saved because your father, grandfather, uncle, or any relative is a pastor. You cannot be saved by attending church; you cannot be saved by reading your Bible, though reading it can lead to salvation. You are not saved by the rosary; you are not saved by confirmation; you cannot be saved by any works. We should read our bibles, attend church, and do good works. They are required of us. But they do not lead to salvation. They are a result of salvation.
Romans 11:7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.
Here is the crux of the thing. Israel has been seeking salvation through obedience to the law, yet they have not found it to this very day. At least not all have found it. The believing remnant has found salvation through their belief in the Messiah. Those who have not believed in Christ are blinded. Hence only the Holy Spirit can open their eyes. Additionally, all Gentiles who have not received Christ as Savior are also spiritually blind and the Holy Spirit must open their eyes to the truth as well.
Romans 11:8 (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.
Deuteronomy 29:4 says, “Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.” Isaiah 29:10 says, “For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.” This verse is a compilation of the two. This is not inaccurate. It was written his way for brevity and for effect. The brevity is obvious. The effect is that Paul more easily made his point with the compilation. The blindness was present even unto Paul’s day, and yes, even unto today. As we said before, if anyone will seek God he will find Him. Many Israelites have found the Messiah and are believers. Their eyes were opened.
This is not an eternal condition. There is coming a time when, as Paul says in verse 26, that Israel as a whole will be saved. The blindness of the Israelites will remain until “the fullness of the Gentiles.” For something, such as a drinking glass, to be full, it must be filled to the top with liquid. To be completely full it must be to the absolute brim, with no air space left between the liquid and the top rim of the glass. For the fullness of the glass to occur, it must be filled to capacity.
In out context, we are discussing the salvation of Gentiles and the Spiritual blindness of Israel. In this context, the salvation of the Gentiles, the fullness of their salvation does not occur until all of the Gentiles that will be saved are saved. This is not an arbitrary number, yet it is a number known to God, Who is omniscient.
Though I do not believe that He chose some to be saved and some to be damned, I do understand that He knows who will or will not be saved. He knows the future and the hearts of all. Though all are offered salvation, not all will receive it (narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it-Matthew 7:14). When those Gentiles that God knows will receive salvation have done so, then the fullness of the Gentiles will occur. I cannot say at what date or era that will occur, but God knows when. When that happens, the blindness will be lifted from Israel and they, as a whole (but not necessarily every individual), will be saved by their Redeemer.
Some teach that the Israel spoken of in this context is the church of Christ. When the church is complete, that is, when all the Gentiles that will be saved are saved, then that is all Israel being saved. Others teach that God has two separate and distinct plans, one for Israel, and one for the church and that Israel’s salvation is yet in the future and is on a different course than that of the church. The second option, the one that Dispensationalists believe, cannot be supported by Scripture. We will discuss this more when we study verse 26.
Romans 11:9-10 And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompense unto them: (10) Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back always.
Psalms 69:22-23 (LXX, Brenton Translation), “Let their table before them be for a snare, and for a recompense, and for a stumbling-block. (23) Let their eyes be darkened that they should not see; and bow down their back continually.“
Their bounty would prevent them from seeing the coming destruction. They would be, like we in America are, fat, dumb, and happy with the status quo. “We have all we need and more. Therefore why should we need God?” they ask. Their prosperity, like ours, prevented them from seeing the disastrous condition they were in with God. Like a snare quickly springs upon the bird it catches, so would destruction come upon them (and us if we don’t turn from our wicked ways and seek God’s face) suddenly. As a trap springs upon a wild animal, so the end of their prosperity would come quickly.
Since they were blinded by their prosperity, they would stumble over it-it would become a block to stumble over and fall. They would receive their just compensation for their sins when they thought their prosperity was the blessing from God. Their prosperity darkened their eyes and kept them from seeing the coming destruction and kept them in bondage to sin.
Though Paul addresses these things to his own people, they apply to all peoples that reject Christ as Savior. At this very moment the West is attempting to outlaw the worship of Christ. They are trying to pass laws (yes even the American Congress is in on this act) to relegate Christianity to the back alleys (to use the argument the abortionist crowd uses) and remove it from the mainstream. They are having some success.
Romans 11:11 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.
The first word translated “fall” is a word meaning condemnation. The second and third usage is a word meaning a lapse or deviation from the true course. The first is a permanent fall from which no recovery is possible. The second and third are simply lapses in good judgment. They could be called sins. To restate it a bit, “Have they stumbled so much that they will come under condemnation?” Or, “Have they fallen to a point that is beyond recovery?” “Absolutely not!” is the Apostle’s exclamation. Another restatement, “…but rather through their deviation from the truth has come salvation to the Gentiles through Christ.” The Apostle points out that the Gentiles’ salvation and sharing in the promises of God would certainly cause Israelites to become jealous and ultimately find Christ as their Savior.
Romans 11:12 Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness?
Again, their lapse or deviation from the truth has caused great riches to come upon the world. The riches of Christ and His Gospel, that is. Their loss was and is gain to the Gentiles. If their diminution caused great riches to come upon the world in the form of the Gospel, how much greater riches will result from their salvation? The implication is it will be an enormous benefit to the world.
Romans 11:13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:
The information Paul is going to give in the next few verses is specifically for the Gentiles. Since Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15), he would use this office to exhort them. Paul is stressing this information he gives to the Gentiles. It is important information and we must not miss out on its meaning.
I am a Gentile as are those in my local church family. If you are a Gentile, then this information is specifically for you and me. If you are not a Gentile, then, by definition you are an Israeli, or an Israelite, or a Jew. There is plenty of information you may be interested in these verses as well. They certainly are not covert words. But they are directed at Gentiles. If you are a Jew, then these verses will show how much those of us in the Gentile church should love and respect you.
Romans 11:14 If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.
I wish to use any means to provoke the Jews to emulate the Gentiles and believe in Christ as Savior. Now this certainly is an affront to Jews who believe they are saved because they are God’s chosen. They are His chosen, but God requires all who will be saved to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those that do not are not saved according to Yehovah God. Paul would do anything, anything, to have his brethren of the flesh, the Israelite race, come to faith in the Son of God, המשׁיח ישוע, Yeshua HaMashiach, Yah’s Anointed Savior.
Romans 11:15 For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?
What we have here is a seeming dichotomy. Yet these things are not mutually exclusive. The exclusion of the Israelites from salvation through Christ (because of their rejection of Him) has meant the inclusion of the rest of the world (to those that believe on Him). When their Messiah receives them, theirs will be eternal life. They rejected Christ and were cast away (in 70 AD). The world then benefited from their rejection and received salvation through Christ. Eventually, they will receive Jesus as their Messiah and that will result in their salvation. When this happens it will be like the dead coming back to life. Israel, once rejected of God and thus being like the dead to Him, will then be once again alive to Him. They were lost but will be found.
Romans 11:16 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.
Let us understand about firstfruits. In all harvests, God was given a portion of the best part of said harvest. Though it was a small portion compared to the entire harvest, its consecration to God made the entire harvest holy and blessed of God. Thus the offering of the firstfruits to God had the effect of saving the whole harvest. Jesus was effectively our firstfruit and His offering of Himself was sufficient to save the whole world.
The word rendered “lump” in the KJV is a batch of dough. Numbers 15:20 states, “You shall lift up a cake of the first of your dough as a heave offering.” The Israelites were required to take a small portion of their dough and make a cake for an offering to God. Whey they did this, the remainder of their dough was holy. If the firstfruit, which is that portion of the dough set apart to God is holy (and holy means “set apart”), then the remaining amount of dough is holy. If the root of a tree is set apart, then all its branches are as well.
Obviously, Paul is figuratively referring to Israel, to whom “belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple service, and the promises; the forefathers are theirs, and from them, by physical descent, came the Messiah,” (Romans 9:4b-5a, HCSB). Since God gave all of these things to them, they are the firstfruits. Because a small group of people, the Israelites, were set apart unto God as holy, then the entire world might be holy through them if they will trust in Jesus, Who came from the Israelites, as their Savior. Israel is thus referred to as the small portion of dough dedicated to God and as the root of a tree dedicated to God. Remember this illustration.
Romans 11:17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
The domestic olive tree, which is implied in the passage, is Israel; the root is Abraham; the wild olive is the Gentiles; the branches broken off are individual unbelieving Israelites; the branches grafted in are individual believing Gentiles; the fatness of the tree refers to the things Israel brought to us: the adoption as children of God, the glory of God, the covenants, the scriptures, the temple service, the promises, the forefathers, and the Messiah. We, as believers in Christ are adopted into the family of Abraham (Romans 4:16, Galatians 3:7, 4:5, Ephesians 1:5). We partake of the promises made to Abraham and we receive all the good things that Israel brought to us. We are partakers of the fatness provided for the children of Abraham, of whom we are a part by adoption. In other words, the church has become a part of Israel. The church has not replaced Israel. The church partakes of the root and fatness of Israel as brethren of the Israelites.
Romans 11:18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.
The CEV puts this well: “But don’t think you are better than the branches that were cut away. Just remember that you are not supporting the roots of that tree. Its roots are supporting you.” The literal rendering, from the Diaglott Interlinear is thus: “not do thou boast of the branches; if but thou doest boast, not thou the root sustainest but the root thee.” In other words, we (remember that Paul is addressing the Gentile Christians) are supported by the root, which is the house of Abraham and not the other way around. That is, the house of Abraham that is of the promise-through Isaac and Jacob, et al. To the Israelites came the promises and we Gentiles are included in those promises. Hence it is the promises and covenants made with Abraham that sustain us Gentiles.
Historically, the church has not always followed these scriptures. For example, during medieval times, anti-Semitism was rank in much of Christendom. The Jews were condemned as “Christ haters”, and “Christ-killers.” Thus condemned, they had given up their place as God’s chosen race, and the church had replaced them. In fact, Martin Luther advocated driving all Jews out of his country “like mad dogs, so that we do not become partakers of their abominable blasphemy…” (The Jews and Their Lies, Martin Luther, 1543).
I submit the error of this doctrine. The very Scriptures we are studying here belie the doctrine of anti-Semitism practiced by Martin Luther and others during his period of history. Certainly the unbelieving Jews are blinded as this scripture indicates, yet their blindness will be healed upon their belief in Jesus Christ as Savior. Their foundation, which is the promises God made to Abraham, is strong and upon it rests the Gentile church. They are like anyone else that is unsaved, no better and no worse. The unsaved are spiritually blind, whether Jew or Gentile. They need the Lord Jesus to save them.
Romans 11:19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.
Some might claim that God deliberately rejected the Jews so that the Gentile might be saved. Perhaps this would indicate that they would never be re-grafted. Those making that claim are incorrect. Paul foresaw this objection and answered it in the next verse.
Romans 11:20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:
Paul says, “OK, but . . .” It is not true that the Jews were broken off to make way for the Gentiles. The Jews were broken off because of unbelief. They did not believe that Jesus, son of Joseph of Nazareth was the Messiah. Conversely, because of the steadfastness of our faith, we are engrafted and allowed to receive nurture from the root. We need not allow that to make us smug. It was not for anything we did that we are engrafted. It was the work at Calvary that allows us to be the adopted children of Abraham. We are not better than the unbelieving Jews (or any unbeliever) because of ourselves. Jesus did the work and we need not boast. Not one thing that we did has made us whole. Only what Christ did at Calvary makes us whole. We should remain in the fear and admonition of the Lord.