Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Romans 11:1-24 Men's Bible Study Primer

Here is the text for our study next week, Romans 11:1-24 (The Remnant of Israel), along with some thoughts to consider:

1I ask then: Did God reject His people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. 2God 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'? 4And what was God's answer to him? 'I have reserved for Myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.' 5So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. 6And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

Remember that Paul is addressing the question, "Why aren't all the Jews being saved?" with a three-part answer in chapters 9-11 in Romans. In chapter 9, he gave the answer regarding God's sovereign election to salvation of specific individuals (the invisible church) within the community (the visible church). This answer was not hard to understand, just hard to accept. In chapter 10, Paul explained that the Jews, despite the multitude of clearly received benefits, failed to believe the Gospel. They were fully accountable for this failure to believe. This second answer that Paul gave was neither hard to understand, nor hard to accept. It makes perfect sense, and we see it lived out today. Now in chapter 11, we get Paul's third answer. And it's hard to understand and hard to accept. It's hard to understand, because it deals with God's sovereign purpose in working with an entire nation - Israel. We're not just talking individual election here. And it's hard to accept, because God not only uses individuals to bring to pass His sovereign will, but He also uses entire nations and people groups to do the same. And we, living in the 21st century with a physical nation called Israel present in the world, may have difficulty figuring out exactly what Paul has intended to say with this 11th chapter of his letter to the church at Rome. Paul begins by re-asking a question that he posed in Romans 9 about God and His people. Again he answers that God has not rejected His people. God's people are those God has chosen, of whom Paul is one. Evidence of God's non-rejection of His people is found in the existence of Messianic Jews even today. That reality is solely by the grace of God and not by anything those Messianic Jews have done.

7What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, 8as it is written: 'God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day.' 9And David says: 'May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them. 10May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.'

How would you have written v7? Paul could have easily avoided the issue of God’s election and reprobation (hardening), just like most people avoid it today. But Paul once again emphasizes that the source of salvation is in the grace of God. Paul is claiming that God’s grace makes distinctions. In fact, he offers three Scripture passages to prove his case: Deuteronomy 29:3-4; Isaiah 29:9-10; Psalm 69:21-23. Paul does not want his audience to forget the important truths he taught in chapter 9. So he brings them back to light in a corporate reality and not solely in an individual reality.

11Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. 12But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!

Paul perceives that his audience may have trouble understanding what he is saying, so he gets to the purpose of the national election and reprobation. There is a purpose beyond anything we can really even understand to why most Jews reject the Gospel – that the Gentiles could be included in God’s salvation. Read Matthew 8:5-13 and 21:33-46. These passages show Jesus' realization in His short time on earth of this reality. Paul is doing two things in v11. First, he is denying that God’s hardening of Israel so that the Jews reject the Gospel is intended to cause them to fall beyond recovery. And second, he is denying that God is done with Israel. V12 parallels v15. Paul is saying that if blessing resulted to Gentile Christians all over the world because Jews rejected the Messiah, how much greater blessing is going to result for the Gentiles when Israel embraces the Messiah! Amazingly, God’s works of grace in the present and future are going to be greater than His works of grace in the past.

13I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry 14in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. 15For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.

Paul is teaching Gentiles to have a heart of love for the Jewish people, including a longing to see them converted. Paul's intense love for his own countrymen is noted again here, as, although he recognized that his ministry was as "the missionary to the Gentiles," he saw his ministry to the Gentiles as a way to bless Israel. He was involved in the conversion of Jews as he spread the message of the Gospel to Gentiles. Brilliant!

17If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.

Israel is the olive tree, and God is the gardener. It’s an illustration that everyone with any biblical literacy would have understood when Paul was speaking. But as is typical with Paul's analogies, this one is unorthodox. Can you figure out what's wrong with it? Notice the phrase "contrary to nature" in v24. Here are 3 things we should display as a result of Paul’s teaching: (1) humility, (2) compassion towards Jews, and (3) awe towards God. Finally, what eschatological considerations regarding Israel and the Church do you notice here? Is there one entity or two entities with which God is working?

19You will say then, 'Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.' 20Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. 21For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. 22Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.

Picture a Gentile believer in the audience, unconvinced that he should be humble and compassionate, saying, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in. God chose me and not them. Why should I care about Israel, since it has been broken off so that I could be included?” Paul concurs with the fact, but he dissents regarding the attitude. He says, "If you have the right view of God, the God of grace, you now realize both the justice and mercy of God to the exclusion of neither." That’s what Paul shows in v22. Often times, the kindness (or mercy) and the sternness (or severity or wrath) of God are displayed simultaneously in the same event. Noticing both attributes of God’s character will drive us to “continue in His kindness.” It is a delight to fear the Lord.

23And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!

If God, in the salvation of the Gentiles, made those who were not His people become His people, and grafted those who were not part of His olive tree into His olive tree, then how much more can God graft branches that originally came from His olive tree back into that olive tree. Paul has tremendous hope for the salvation of Israel, because God is able to save. Take 3 truths from these last 2 verses: First, God is sovereign in salvation and we are responsible to believe. Second, faith is the way of salvation, and God’s sovereignty is not an argument against the fact that we must believe the Gospel with saving faith. Third, when God saves us, He brings us into spiritual unity, one family, one body, one tree, one church. That’s His eternal plan unfolding.

1 comment:

Brian and Heather Daniel said...

I'm thinking this lesson will take us to 10:30.... Brian