- 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 21-32
Romans 11:21-22 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. (22) Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.
The Phillips translation catches the essence of these verses: “But if some of the branches of the tree have been broken off, while you, like shoots of wild-olive, have been grafted in, and don’t share like a natural branch the rich nourishment of the root, don’t let yourself feel superior to those former branches. (If you feel inclined that way, remind yourself that you do not support the root, the root supports you.) You may make the natural retort, “But the branches were broken off to make room for my grafting!” It wasn’t quite like that. They lost their position because they failed to believe; you only maintain yours because you do believe. The situation does not call for conceit but for a certain wholesome fear. If God removed the natural branches for a good reason, take care that you don’t give him the same reason for removing you. You must try to appreciate both the kindness and the strict justice of God. Those who fell experienced his justice, while you are experiencing his kindness, and will continue to do so as long as you do not abuse that kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off from the tree.“
In other words, always rest upon your faith in Christ to uphold you as a wild engrafted shoot. It is that faith that sustains your sustenance from the root. You (and I as Gentiles) must not think that we have done anything to sustain ourselves. That is what the unbelieving Israelites did; they depended on their upholding of the law for their sustenance. That is why some of the natural braches were broken off. Let us keep the faith, and let us not boast that we are somehow responsible for our position in Christ. Let us never feel superior to the natural branches that were broken off because of unbelief. That is God’s department. He will deal with them. We need not give God any reason to treat us as He did the unbelieving Israelites. If we trust in Him for our salvation always, then we will please Him and not give Him any reason for removing us.
Does this mean we can lose our salvation? I do not believe so. GotQuestions.org has an excellent answer to this question from the book of Hebrews. I reproduce it here with their permission:
Question: “Does Hebrews 6:4-6 mean we can lose our salvation?”
Answer: Hebrews 6:4-6 states, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.” This is one of the Bible’s most difficult passages to interpret, but one thing is clear—it does not teach that we can lose our salvation. There are two valid ways of looking at these verses:
One interpretation holds that this passage is written not about Christians but about unbelievers who are convinced of the basic truths of the gospel but who have not placed their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. They are intellectually persuaded but spiritually uncommitted.
According to this interpretation, the phrase “once enlightened” (verse 4) refers to some level of instruction in biblical truth. However, understanding the words of scripture is not the same as being regenerated by the Holy Spirit. For example, John 1:9 describes Jesus, the “true Light,” giving light “to every man”; but this cannot mean the light of salvation, because not every man is saved. Through God’s sovereign power, every man has enough light to be held responsible. This light either leads to the complete acceptance of Jesus Christ or produces condemnation in those who reject such light. The people described in Hebrews 6:4-6 are of the latter group-unbelievers who have been exposed to God’s redemptive truth and perhaps have made a profession of faith, but have not exercised genuine saving faith.
This interpretation also sees the phrase “tasted the heavenly gift” (Hebrews 6:9) as referring to a momentary experience, akin to Jesus’ “tasting” death (Hebrews 2:9). This brief experience with the heavenly gift is not seen as equivalent to salvation; rather, it is likened to the second and third soils in Jesus’ parable (Matthew 13:3-23), which describes people who receive the truth of the gospel but are not truly saved.
Finally, this interpretation sees the “falling away” (Hebrews 6:6) as a reference to those who have tasted the truth but, not having come all the way to faith, fall away from even the revelation they have been given. The tasting of truth is not enough to keep them from falling away from it. They must come all the way to Christ in complete repentance and faith; otherwise, they in effect re-crucify Christ and treat Him contemptuously. Those who sin against Christ in such a way have no hope of restoration or forgiveness because they reject Him with full knowledge and conscious experience. They have concluded that Jesus should have been crucified, and they stand with His enemies. It is impossible to renew such to repentance.
The other interpretation holds that this passage is written about Christians, and that the phrases “partakers of the Holy Ghost,” “enlightened,” and “tasted of the heavenly gift” are all descriptions of true believers.
According to this interpretation, the key word in the passage is if (verse 6). The writer of Hebrews is setting up a hypothetical statement: “IF a Christian were to fall away . . .” The point being made is that it would be impossible (IF a Christian falls away) to renew salvation. That’s because Christ died once for sin (Hebrews 9:28), and if His sacrifice is insufficient, then there’s no hope at all.
The passage, therefore, presents an argument based on a false premise (that a true Christian can fall away) and follows it to its senseless conclusion (that Jesus would have to be sacrificed again and again). The absurdity of the conclusion points up the impossibility of the original assumption. This reasoning is called reductio ad absurdum, in which a premise is disproved by showing that it logically leads to an absurdity.
Both of these interpretations support the security of the believer in Christ. The first interpretation presents unbelievers rejecting Christ and thereby losing their chance of salvation; the second interpretation presents the very idea of believers losing salvation as impossible. Many scriptures make it abundantly clear that salvation is eternal (John 10:27-29; Romans 8:35, 38-39; Philippians 1:6; 1 Peter 1:4-5), and Hebrews 6:4-6 confirms that doctrine. (© Copyright 2002-2009 Got Questions Ministries – All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.)
I wholeheartedly concur with this answer. I espouse the second interpretation that the statement is hypothetical. However, I would not discourage anyone that holds to the first interpretation that this does not refer to born again believers. Here is what I have written on the subject (from The Bible Church, https://www.bibleword.org/wp/bible-study-series/hebrews-chapter-6/#H64):
Hebrews 6:4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
Some teach that this verse is talking about backsliders or those who, though making a profession of faith, are not saved at all. But neither of these ideas is correct. It most certainly and assuredly refers to the saved. Enlightened means “to be made fully aware of.” By itself, enlightened could mean those who have been fully taught the basics of Christianity yet do not believe. But taken together with tasting the holy gift and receiving the Holy Spirit, then it is absolutely certain that the saved are in view here. Tasting the heavenly gift refers to the gift of salvation (For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:) (Ephesians 2:8. See also Romans 6:23) It may also refer to the gift of the Holy Spirit (And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;) (John 14:16. See also Acts 8:20). To taste of the gift of salvation by itself may refer to someone who has seen a bit of what salvation is all about without being really saved. Grouped together, to have tasted of salvation and to have partaken of the Spirit and to have become enlightened equal true salvation. To partake of something is to receive it. Only the saved receive the Holy Spirit. No this does not refer to those who “are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.” (Mark 4:16-17). It refers to the truly saved. Let us save the “for it is impossible” for later.
Hebrews 6:5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
The good word of God is, of course, the Scriptures, which are not discernible by the unsaved. In order to taste the goodness of the Word, one must be able to understand it. The unsaved cannot. The powers of the world to come most certainly refer to those miracles wrought by Christ and the Apostles. Having seen them does not necessarily bring salvation. But in conjunction with all of these evidences Paul has listed, there can be no doubt that he refers to one who is truly saved.
Hebrews 6:6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.“If they should fall away” does not mean that they did or will, it begins a supposition. The suggestion is that if it were possible for one who is saved to fall away, then there would be no return for that one for it would re-crucify Christ, which would be a shame. Verse 9 lets us know that Paul is not saying this could happen, but is simply painting an scenario that tells us what would be the outcome of losing one’s salvation: he could never regain it.
Let me quickly say that the Greek is more properly rendered “and having fallen away” according to several commentators.
The whole essence of this passage beginning with Hebrews 5:11, “Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing,” is the lack of spiritual maturity among some in the church. Paul has taken great care to decry the repetition of preaching the basics to the saved. Once a person is saved, then he or she must go on and mature spiritually. The new convert must graduate from the fundamentals of salvation (milk) and go on to the advanced doctrines of Christ (solid food). If not it is as though they had lost their salvation and had to be resaved over and over again. Extreme Arminianism teaches that one may lose his salvation and be in need of being resaved. But Paul is not saying that. He is saying that since it is impossible for one fallen away from the faith to be resaved, then why are those fundamentals preached over and over again to the saved? He is not talking about any who had actually fallen away. He is simply using a supposition to make his point.
Re-crucifying Christ would be contemptuous. John Gill said,
He was once crucified, and it is both impossible and unnecessary that he should be, properly speaking, “crucified afresh”, or “again”; it is impossible, because he is risen from the dead, and will never die more; it is unnecessary, because he has finished and completed what he suffered the death of the cross for; but men may be said to crucify him again, when, by denying him to be the Son of God, they justify the crucifixion of him on that account;
Romans 11:21-22 simply means to live a life set apart to God and “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).
Romans 11:23-24 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. (24) For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?
The Israelites rejected Christ as their Messiah and were thus as branches broken off from the domestic olive tree that is a metaphor for Israel. They rejected Christ and therefore they have been removed from the promises of God. But such exclusion is permanent by no means. God is omnipotent, that is, all powerful. He is Sovereign. He has the power and the will to graft the natural branches back onto the root. He will do so when they come to belief in Christ. Every year, multitudes come to faith in Christ as their Savior. Included in these multitudes are many Jews. As these Gentiles and Jews trust Christ as their Lord and Savior, they are grafted in to the tree, the Gentiles as wild olive shoots into a cultivated olive tree; the Jews as natural braches, are grafted back into their own olive tree. Both believing Jews and believing Gentiles are grafted into the same olive tree. However, the Jews are re-grafted into the tree from which they were broken off due to unbelief. It is far simpler to graft cultivated shoots into a cultivated tree than to graft wild shoots into a cultivated tree.
Romans 11:25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.
The mystery here is the plan that God has for Israel. At the current time, unbelieving Israelites are blind to the Gospel, at least in part, that is. Some are no longer blind and have found their Messiah in Jesus the Son of God. But Israel, for the most part, is blind to the Gospel. Just because you and I are not blind to the Gospel is not reason to become smug. Israel is only temporarily blinded.
The question is, what in the meaning of “the fullness of the Gentiles?” May I refer you to our previous discussion?
- 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.
When the fullness of the Gentiles occurs, Israel will be given its sight. Then they will recognize their Messiah.
Romans 11:26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
Let us review some prophecy texts to help our understanding.
Referring to the soldier piercing Jesus’ side at His crucifixion, John said, in 19:37, “And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.“
He quoted Zechariah 12:10, “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.“
Jeremiah 50:4 In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go, and seek the LORD their God.
Ezekiel 39:29 Neither will I hide my face any more from them: for I have poured out my spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.
Isaiah 59:20-21 And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD. (21) As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and forever.
In the future, Israel will see their Messiah and believe. Then the house of Israel will be saved. This is the time when the Messiah returns to receive his people. It is the Second Advent that we all look forward to. At that advent all of God’s people, that is, believers in Christ, both Jew and Gentile, will be together as God’s children. Then all of Israel, that is, all of God’s people, which is Spiritual Israel, will be saved at that point. This does NOT include natural Israel, that is, those Israelites not saved by the blood of Christ (Rom 9:5, 6)—it only includes people saved by the blood of Christ (Rom 9:7, 8), which is Spiritual Israel. There will undoubtedly be Jews and Gentiles at that time that will not believe. So, “all Israel will be saved” cannot be applied to each and every individual, for each individual must believe in Christ independently in order to be saved. Therefore it does not apply to every individual, yet it does apply to all of God’s people as a whole.
Romans 11:27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
Here is the exact wording of that covenant: Jeremiah 31:31-34 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: (32) Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they broke, although I was a husband unto them, saith the LORD: (33) But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. (34) And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
This covenant is available to both Jews and Gentiles. Everyone that trusts in Christ as their Savior will fall under the new covenant (Romans 10:12; Hebrews 9:5; Hebrews 10:17; see Hebrews 8:8-9:28).
Romans 11:28-29 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. (29) For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
The unbelieving Israelites are currently enemies of the Gospel. That works for our benefit. They rejected the Gospel and put Christ to death. Because of His death and resurrection, the free gift of salvation was given to us, and, of course, to those Israelites that believe. We are indebted to the Jews.
But even though they are still enemies of the Gospel, God still loves them and still has a plan for them because of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, David, etc. God made promises to the fathers of the Israelites that He plans to keep in spite of their rejection of Messiah. God’s promises are not breakable. God’s promises were of gifts to the Israelites and He called them to be His people and to be their God. His gifts and his calling are still in effect to this very day.
Romans 11:30-32 For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: (31) Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. (32) For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.
The Phillips translation has captured the essence of these verses as well: “Just as in the past you were disobedient to God but have found that mercy which might have been theirs but for their disobedience, so they, who at the present moment are disobedient, will eventually share the mercy which has been extended to you. God has all men penned together in the prison of disobedience, that he may have mercy upon them all.“
The word, conclude, in this context, means to enclose or confine. All people are sinners in need of salvation and God will have mercy on all through the shed blood of Christ. We are or were all unbelievers. Many Jews still are because of their rejection of Christ and Savior. Many Gentiles have received the grace of God and are released from their prison. Here is how Adam Clarke sums it up:
This refers to the guilty state of both Jews and Gentiles. They had all broken God’s law – the Jews, the written law; the Gentiles, the law written in their hearts. They are represented here as having been accused if their transgressions; tried at God’s bar; found guilty on being tried; condemned to the death they had merited; remanded to prison, till the sovereign will, relative to their execution, should be announced; shut or locked up, under the jailer, unbelief; and there both continued in the same state, awaiting the execution of their sentence: but God, in his own compassion, moved by no merit in either party, caused a general pardon by the Gospel to be proclaimed to all. The Jews have refused to receive this pardon on the terms which God has proposed it, and therefore continue locked up under unbelief. The Gentiles have welcomed the offers of grace, and are delivered out of their prison. But, as the offers of mercy continue to be made to all indiscriminately, the time will come when the Jews, seeing the vast accession of the Gentile world to the kingdom of the Messiah, and the glorious privileges which they in consequence enjoy, shall also lay hold on the hope set before them, and thus become with the Gentiles one flock under one shepherd and bishop of all their souls. But the Scripture hath concluded συνεκλεισεν, locked up all under sin, that the promise, by faith of Christ Jesus, might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept, εφρουρουμεθα, we were guarded as in a strong hold, under the law; shut up, συγκεκλεισμενοι, locked up together unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. It is a fine and well chosen metaphor in both places, and forcibly expresses the guilty, helpless, wretched state of both Jews and Gentiles.
Thus Jew and Gentile believers will all be of one group-the group of the saved by faith in Christ. There will be no separate plan of salvation for Jews and Gentiles. We will all be saved by the one plan of salvation, which is belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.
The conclusion of Paul’s discussion of Israel is this: true Israel (Rom 2:29; Phil 3:3) consists of all believers in Christ, both Jew and Gentile (Rom 1:16, 10:12; Gal 3:28; Col 3:11). Natural Israel (Rom 2:28, 11:21) consists of the blood descendants of Abraham. However, only those descendants of Abraham that believe in Christ as Savior are a part of true Israel (Rom 3:21, 22, 28, 29, 30). This is not Replacement Theology; it is simply what Paul is telling us in this and other passages of Scripture. The church has not replaced Israel; it is a part of Israel. Yes, the church, beginning at Pentecost, has always consisted of those who have faith in Christ and most of those believers in Christ at Pentecost were Jews. But remember, salvation by faith goes all the way back to Abraham, who believed God and because of his belief, God counted it to him as righteousness (Rom 4:3; Gal 3:6; Jas 2:23).
Again, in the future, Israel will see their Messiah and believe. Then the house of Israel will be saved. This is the time when the Messiah returns to receive his people. It is the Second Advent that we all look forward to. At that advent all of God’s people, that is, believers in Christ, both Jew and Gentile, will be together as God’s children. Then all of Israel, that is, all of God’s people, which is Spiritual Israel, will be saved at that point. This does NOT include natural Israel, that is, those Israelites not saved by the blood of Christ—it only includes people saved by the blood of Christ, which is Spiritual Israel. There will undoubtedly be Jews and Gentiles at that time that will not believe. So, “all Israel will be saved” cannot be applied to each and every individual, for each individual must believe in Christ independently in order to be saved. Therefore it does not apply to every individual, yet it does apply to all of God’s people as a whole.