We open our study of Romans 11 with the last three verses of Romans 10. Why?
Because chapter 11 is a continuation of thought, and, as you will see, opens with what seems like an important.
If we have some form of Christian world view, one that is aware of the angry tones which accompany the voices of those who say, God is done with Israel, and their fate is hell. Is this question that Paul asks, “did the people of Israel really understand,” a valid one? Paul tells us that they did understand, and he uses himself as an example, but, as he says in verse 21, “they were disobedient and rebellious.”
Romans 10:19-21 NLT But I ask, did the people of Israel understand? Yes, they did, for even in the time of Moses, God said, “I will rouse your jealousy through people who are not even a nation. I will provoke your anger through the foolish Gentiles.” (20) And later, Isaiah spoke boldly for God, saying, “I was found by people who were not looking for me. I showed myself to those who were not asking for me.” (21) But regarding Israel, God said, “All day long, I opened my arms to them, but they were disobedient and rebellious.”
When we open chapter 11, we immediately we see Paul using another rhetorical question. Watch how he answers it analytically and insight-fully.
”I ask, then, has God rejected his own people, the nation of Israel?
Of course not!
I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham and a member of the tribe of Benjamin.”
(Romans 11:1 NLT)
Far too many have tried to answer this question; however, they would tell you that God has rejected His own people. How and why would you do that, when the Holy Spirit has seen fit to put an answer there on the page for you to see. A man I sat under for a short time, would say things that conflicted with the Word of God. Called on his error by showing him the truth in the Word, he would respond with, “that’s my opinion, and that is all that matters.”
So then, God has not rejected his people and the fact that Paul is speaking into our lives proves that point.
God didn’t turn his back on his people. After all, he chose them. Don’t you know what Scripture says about Elijah? He complained to God about Israel.
(Romans 11:2 NIrV)
Look at what Leviticus says,
But for all that, when they are in the land of their haters, I will not let them go, or be turned away from them, or give them up completely; my agreement with them will not be broken, for I am the Lord their God. (Leviticus 26:44 BBE)
I believe that 1Kings 19, beginning with verse 10, is what Paul is referring to when he speaks of Elijah’s complaint.
“Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:18 NASB)
It is evident that Elijah felt very alone,
“Lord, THEY HAVE KILLED YOUR PROPHETS, THEY HAVE TORN DOWN YOUR ALTARS, AND I ALONE AM LEFT, AND THEY ARE SEEKING MY LIFE.”
(Romans 11:3 NASB)
Paul pointed out in the ninth chapter of this letter to the church in Rome that only a remnant would survive; is God telling us, based upon the number that He gave to Elijah, that the remnant will equal 7000? I am not so sure, and here is why.
“It will come about in all the land,” declares the LORD, “That two parts in it will be cut off and perish, but the third will be left in it. (Zechariah 13:8 NASB)
Even though Zechariah speaks of a third that does not perish, a significant number of passages speak of only a few surviving. As of October 2019, Israel claims a population of 9,108,500 inhabitants. If a third survived what is coming, we could potentially be looking at somewhere around 3 million people; a tenth would be 900,000. To only have 7000 walking into the millennial reign is a shockingly small number.
But what is the divine response to him? “I HAVE KEPT for Myself SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL.”
(Romans 11:4 NASB)
Don’t we also sometimes feel alone, especially when we see the truth in God’s Word, and it conflicts with what is being taught from the podium and then professed by the lost sheep that we sit by in our churches? I have experienced this feeling on multiple occasions. A pastor of mine was trying to explain the communion, and it’s origins, in his closing comments to a men’s retreat. He said, “Jesus did not want to die for you.” Now, I can give the man some grace and say that he misspoke, but the damage was done, and he made no attempts to correct his error. If you are one of those lost sheep, and cannot, or will not read for yourself, then this conversation is pointless to you. However, I have studied my bible and know what it says,
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author, and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2 NASB)
The Apostle John tells us this about God and His attitude toward us.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NASB)
Does that sound like someone who did not want to die for you? No, I didn’t think so.
Now watch as Paul, speaking to an audience in which the majority are Jewish Christ-followers, says, it is not so different today. Remember, context is everything and may exclude me from applying this next verse to the time frame in which we live.
“In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice.”
(Romans 11:5 NASB)
Just as the story about Elijah lamented what appeared to be his solitary efforts to promote God, we too are not alone, and, though you may not see them, the others are out there. Many, not needing the spotlight, pray their tears out before God; they pray in this manner because they too feel alone.
The NLT translation does a better job of moving us through Romans 11:5, so let’s look at that.
It is the same today, for a few of the people of Israel have remained faithful because of God’s grace—his undeserved kindness in choosing them.
(Romans 11:5 NLT)
Note the phrase undeserved kindness.
And since it is through God’s kindness, then it is not by their good works. For, in that case, God’s grace would not be what it really is—free and undeserved.
(Romans 11:6 NLT)
“And since it is through God’s kindness, then it is not by their good works.” Who is the “they” in this sentence? The Jews, but as Paul already pointed out, anyone can jump on board.
But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. (Romans 3:21-24 NLT)
- “God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law”
- “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ.”
- “this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.”
- “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”
- “Yet God, in His grace, freely makes us right in his sight.”
- He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.”
What is Israel seeking?
What then [shall we conclude]? Israel failed to obtain what it sought [God’s favor by obedience to the Law]. Only the elect (those chosen few) obtained it, while the rest of them became callously indifferent (blinded, hardened, and made insensible to it).
(Romans 11:7 AMP )
So the question is, what is Israel seeking?
Some might say they are seeking a Messiah. Sadly, He came, and they would not recognize Him. Will they know Him when God’s wrath is poured out on them once again?
Have a look at Eugene Peterson’s translation.
Romans 11:7 MSG And then what happened? Well, when Israel tried to be right with God on her own, pursuing her own self-interest, she didn’t succeed. The chosen ones of God were those who let God pursue his interest in them, and as a result, received his stamp of legitimacy. The “self-interest Israel” became thick-skinned toward God.
Has Israel ever stopped trying to be right, pursuing her own self-interests?
If what Peterson sees is those who allow God to pursue His interests in them, do we see Israel as doing that? Apparently not.
2 Corinthians 3:15-16 NASB, But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
So Israel will have to turn to the Lord, and that day will come.
“as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, to this very day.” Romans 11:8 NET
Likewise, David said, “Let their bountiful table become a snare, a trap that makes them think all is well. Let their blessings cause them to stumble, and let them get what they deserve. Romans 11:9 NLT
Let their eyes go blind so they cannot see, and let their backs be bent forever.” Romans 11:10 NLT
Paul is quoting much of Romans 11:8-10 from Psalms 69, but he, like Jesus frequently did, is only taking a portion for Psalm 69 speaks of their homes being deserted. Now, this may be the destruction that is coming to Israel, but who would wish that on someone?
Psalms 69:22-25 NIrV Let their feast be a trap and a snare. Let my enemies get what’s coming to them. (23) Let their eyes grow weak, so they can’t see. Let their backs be bent forever. (24) Pour out your anger on them. Let them feel its burning heat. (25) May their homes be deserted. May no one live in their tents.
Do I mean that the people of Israel fell, never to get up again? Certainly not! Their failure made it possible for the Gentiles to be saved, and this will make the people of Israel jealous. Romans 11:11 CEV
Pay attention to this next verse.
But if the rest of the world’s people were helped so much by Israel’s sin and loss, they will be helped even more by their full return. Romans 11:12 CEV
Romans 11:12 Williams But if their stumbling has resulted in the enrichment of the world and their overthrow becomes the enrichment of heathen peoples, how much richer the result will be when the full quota of Jews comes in!
Consider this idea of a full quota. Quota means a just part or share; or the share, part or proportion assigned.
So God already has a number in mind, knowing full well that, regardless of the open invitation, only so many will come.
Paul now speaks directly to those who were among the nations, but are now a part of the flock.
Now I am speaking to you people who are not Jews. I am an apostle to the non-Jewish people. So while I have that work, I will do the best I can. Romans 11:13 ERV
Other terms for this people group are the nations and the Gentiles; it all works. The GW translation puts it this way.
(GW) Now, I speak to you who are not Jewish. As long as I am an apostle sent to people who are not Jewish, I bring honor to my ministry.
Question: was Saul/Paul an apostle to the Gentiles from the very beginning?
What evidence do we have that Saul/Paul was initially an apostle to the Jews?
(Acts 9:22 BBE) But Saul went on increasing in power, and the Jews in Damascus were not able to give answers to the arguments by which he made it clear that Jesus was the Christ.
Now some might try to argue that Paul was preaching to Greeks based on Acts 9:29, so let’s look at that for a moment.
(Acts 9:29 NASB) And he was talking and arguing with the Hellenistic Jews; but they were attempting to put him to death.
Two things to note from Acts 9:29: In the NASB, the word Jews are italicized, meaning it is not found in the original text, it was added for continuity and understanding. Based on the context, I would agree that the term fits the conversation. The other thing to pay attention to is that many of the audience were deemed Hellenists. The word Hellenistic means a Jew by birth or religion who speaks Greek; it is used chiefly of foreign Jews and proselytes whether converted to Christianity. That term, Hellenist might seem odd in Jerusalem, but there was a change, and under Roman rule, Greek became the acceptable language.
Could this term Hellenists just as easily apply to a Gentile who had converted to Judaism?
Certainly, because the definition of a Hellenist also includes those who are Jews by conversion.
Almost as though the writers of the CEV translation had been there in Jerusalem, they state,
(Acts 9:28-29 CEV) Saul moved about freely with the followers in Jerusalem and told everyone about the Lord. (29) He was always arguing with the Jews who spoke Greek, and so they tried to kill him.
In Acts 11, we see an interesting transition that eventually includes Paul.
(Acts 11:19-20 NASB) So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. (20) But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus.
Pay attention to verse 19, as it says, that those scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen, preached the Word to no one except for Jews alone. This persecution can directly be tied back to Saul (soon to be called Paul.)
And now follow verse 20, where it states, “But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus.” Who or what gave them the freedom or thought to speak to the Gentiles about Jesus, the Jew that will return to rule the world, is not clear, however, I suspect the Holy Spirit’s influence.
(Acts 11:22-26 NASB) The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. (23) Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; (24) for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord. (25) And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul; (26) and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year, they met with the church and taught considerable numbers, and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
At this point, there is no aversion on the part of Paul to speak to Gentile believers. The word church here is ekklēsia, and, in this instance, means an assembly of Christians gathered for worship in a religious meeting. (Thayer Definition)
The phrase, an assembly of Christians, has no stipulations on it, and may well have included Jewish and Gentile converts. If I am following this story, holding to a chronological timeline, I still find Paul headed to the Synagogue on the Sabbath.
(Acts 13:13-14 NASB) Now Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia, but John left them and returned to Jerusalem. (14) But going on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down.
(Acts 14:1 NASB) In Iconium, they entered the synagogue of the Jews together and spoke in such a manner that a large number of people believed, both of Jews and of Greeks.
When did his mission change based upon what we see in Acts?
Acts 13:46-49 NASB Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. (47) “For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.'” (48) When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. (49) And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region.
So here in Acts 13:46-49, Paul says, because you (Jews) judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we are turning to the Gentiles.
Was Peter prompted by the Holy Spirit to be an apostle to the Gentiles?
Did Peter pursue his calling to the Gentiles?
It would not appear so beyond the household of Cornelius.
So Paul made it his goal, “to make my fellow-countrymen jealous.”
Yes, I now am speaking to you who are a part of the heathen peoples. As I am an apostle to the heathen peoples, I am making the most of my ministry to them, to see (14) if I can make my fellow-countrymen jealous, and so save some of them. (Romans 11:13-14 Williams)
What would possibly make them jealous? God is showing grace, mercy, and acceptance to the nations.
For if the rejection of them has resulted in the reconciling of the world, what will the result be of the final reception of them but life from the dead? (Romans 11:15 Williams)
Since God has brought in the world under the same glorious terms He offered Israel, then life from the dead is also part of the deal.
If the first handful of dough is consecrated, so is the whole mass; if the tree’s root is consecrated, so are the branches. (Romans 11:16 Williams)
Then we are consecrated as well if we believe.
It is the rootstock that supports us.
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, (18) do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. (Romans 11:17-18 NASB)
You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” Consider, if this is something that could happen, such as being cut off, why then would anyone be comfortable saying such lousy things about Israel as God has cast them aside, losing out on His mercy? Romans 11:19-24 NASB, Williams.