Romans 11:1-3 (HCSB) I ask, then, has God rejected His people? Absolutely not! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or don’t you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he pleads with God against Israel? Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars. I am the only one left, and they are trying to take my life!
Last week, we learned a little more about how bad off national Israel was. It was a gloomy picture that Paul started painting in chapter 2. So he asks another rhetorical question – Has God rejected His people? By this, the apostle clearly refers to ethnic Israel. He has been locking them, locking them out of the kingdom of God, putting their very identity as God’s people in question. Natural means cannot beget spiritual life – this is the essence of all that has gone before. This is a major point for this chapter, same as he taught in chapter 9 – Israel as a nation has no standing before God. But God has always kept a remnant and Jewish people will continue to be brought into the kingdom until New Jerusalem is complete. Has God rejected His people? Is there no hope for Abraham’s children of the flesh?
Paul rushes in to answer this rhetorical question, wanting to make sure his fellow Jews understand that they have NOT been rejected by God. His proof is himself - Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. His evidence that God has not rejected his people is simply that he, Paul, was redeemed by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This evidence is indicative of one thing – God does not save groups of people, He saves individuals from every group of people. He always has His people present, in every generation – to be a witness to the world of His power and authority and redeeming love. So Paul goes back to the Scriptures to provide his support – Don’t you Jews know about Elijah, how he cried out about Israel’s disobedience, holding himself out as the ONLY one left? This is the human condition – we think we are alone.
When we moved up here from Houston, in the summer of 2014, I was called to serve as pastor in a small church near our property. 4 weeks into the arrangement, I was fired – because I preached according to how I told them I would and because I did not go along with extra-biblical traditions without explanation. People who have lived in that part of Latimer County all their lives told me they had never met a Calvinist before. We visited church after church, looking for a gathering of God’s people who know salvation is of the Lord. There were times I wondered if we were the only people in SE Oklahoma who accepted God at His Word. And these others who claimed the same Savior I do didn’t want us around. Some were angry simply knowing we believed things differently than did they. But in due time, God showed me there was a small gathering, not so close to our home, where sovereign grace was preached and taught. There was a remnant in SE Oklahoma!