Israel Still Can Be Saved
There is a remnant in Israel (Romans 11:1-6)
People tend to go to extremes. If God rejected Israel, then He must have rejected every Jew. If God had cast away all of Israel, then Paul and the other apostles would be lost as well, and that is not the case.
All through Israel’s history of rebellion, there has been a small portion who have clung to God. Paul reminds them of the time when Elijah thought he was the only one left and God informed him that there were 7,000 faithful in Israel – to be sure a small percentage, but it wasn’t zero (I Kings 19:14-18). In the same way, a small portion of Israel was being saved because God chose to do so – not because Israel deserved to have even a portion saved.
Again Paul emphasizes that salvation comes because God chooses to give a gift and not because people are owed salvation because of the things they have done. If a person was owed salvation because of their deeds, then salvation would not be a gift. Instead, those who obey God have found favor in His sight and have received salvation through God’s Son.
- Speaking of going to extremes. Does the fact that God gives salvation because He wants to mean that nothing is expected from those who are offered His gift?
- Can a gift have conditions placed on who can receive it? Give some examples.
- Does meeting those conditions mean the gift is earned or owed to the person so that it is no longer a gift?
Most are seeking salvation the wrong way (Romans 11:7-10)
The Jews, as a whole, did not gain the salvation they claim to seek. Not all Jews failed because a portion, the elect, have obtained salvation, while the rest remains blind to the truth or hardened from accepting the truth (Mark 6:52; John 12:40). Once again, Paul is talking about groups of people and not individuals. II Peter 1:10 shows that being elected is not on an individual basis because if it was then nothing a person does could make that election more sure. Though the result is stated, note that Paul does not say how it was accomplished.
Again Paul proves that the Law prophesied their reaction. Referring to Isaiah 29:9-10, Paul said that God poured a deep sleep, stupor, or apathy, over Israel, but it is not until you read Isaiah that you find out how – God stopped talking to them through the prophets. Other passages talk in similar terms (Deuteronomy 29:4; Isaiah 6:9-10). As with Pharaoh, God took advantage of their inclination to sin.
Quoting Psalms 69:22-23, Paul shows that their satisfaction with how things were had become a snare (Deuteronomy 6:10-12; 8:11-14; 32:15; Ezekiel 16:49). The very pride they had in being God’s people made them reject their salvation (I Peter 2:7-9; II Corinthians 3:12-16).
How did this happen? Sin crept into Israel. Satan blinded them (II Corinthians 4:4). Then, when one refuses God, God allows sin to further deceive him (II Thessalonians 2:10-12). In other words, the very thing that happened to the Gentiles also happened to the Jews through a different route (Romans 1:21-24). They sought God by trying to make Him obligated to them, and it didn’t work.
Their stumbling does not need to be permanent (Romans 11:11-12)
God had not caused Israel to fall permanently. Israel’s transgression gave room for the acceptance of the Gentiles (Acts 13:46; 18:6). One stumbles over a stone, but he is still about to get back up. While the law stood, it remained a barrier to the Gentiles (Ephesians 2:12-16). The Jews broke the covenant, allowing God to establish another (Hebrews 8:7-9) and that new covenant included the Gentiles and the Jews. Their fall, the killing of God’s Son, brought salvation to the world (John 12:32).
The offer of salvation to the Gentiles was to provoke the Jews to jealousy and perhaps turn some back to God (Deuteronomy 32:21).
If the Jews managed to bring salvation to the world through their stumble, imagine what more could be accomplished by their acceptance of Christ.
Paul and the Gentiles’ role in the return of the Jews (Romans 11:13-15)
Though Paul has been focusing on the Jews and why they, as a whole, were lost, these comments were actually directed to the Gentiles because they have a role to play in bringing at least some of the Jews back to God. Paul was sent to preach to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15; Galatians 2:7-9), and Paul was honored to so serve (Ephesians 3:8). However, Paul also saw this duty as an opportunity to provoke his fellow Israelites, even if it is due to jealousy, to look into Christianity and perhaps be saved. Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles but his ministry was not limited exclusively to the Gentiles (I Corinthians 9:19-22). Still, the more Gentiles who came to Christ, the more the Jews would be stirred up about it.
If the rejection of the Jews by God because of their unbelief resulted in salvation being offered to all the world (Acts 13:46), then how much greater will be their return to God? Paul did not see this as either the Jews or the Gentiles would be saved, but a goal that resulted in the saving of both to the greater good of both groups (II Corinthians 5:18-19). Paul saw this as something as grand as the resurrection of the dead (Ezekiel 37:1-14).