Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Romans 11:25-36 All Israel Will Be Saved

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Romans 11:25-27 (HCSB) So that you will not be conceited, brothers, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery: A partial hardening has come to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.  And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The Liberator will come from Zion; He will turn away godlessness from Jacob. And this will be My covenant with them when I take away their sins.
Last week we saw that Paul turned his attention explicitly to the Gentiles in the church at Rome. He argued that Gentiles have no cause of boasting, as it was grace that grafted us into Abraham’s spiritual promise just as it was for the Jews – perhaps more difficult for us as we were not in the covenant people to whom the oracles of God were given. Verse 25 continues in this thought, plainly revealing a mystery to us so we will not be conceited. The mystery, that had confounded many Jews and, no doubt, caused many Gentiles to get the big-head, was that the rejection of Israel was complete; it was a partial hardening. There has always been a remnant in Israel, the 7,000 who did not bow the knee to Baal, who were brought from spiritual darkness that enveloped the nation into the glorious light of Christ that all His redeemed enjoy. As with much of Paul’s use of the word “mystery,” here it does not mean something difficult to understand, it means something revealed that had been hidden. Jew and Gentile both thought national Israel was God’s chosen people, just as the Pharisees demonstrated – through trust in their flesh. The mystery is that most of Israel’s people were hardened and only a small number were reconciled to God. For from the beginning, God made clear that ALL nations would be blessed in Abram – not only national Israel. This partial hardening continues until all the Gentile elect – people from every nation, tongue, and tribe – have been brought into the sheepfold of Christ. As one commentator put it, “until all elect Gentiles come into Israel.” And in the same way, all Israel will be saved. What does he mean, “in the same way”? How are Gentiles saved? Paul explained to us in chapter 10 how one calls upon the Lord and is saved. In the same way means that those Jews who will be saved, the ones who were not hardened, will be saved in the same way as us Gentiles are saved. They will call upon the name of the Lord! Every one of His elect will call upon His name and be saved.

Paul then does what is fairly common in the New Testament – he cobbles together a “quote” from the Old Testament from several fragments that his audience would have been familiar with. Not a precise citation as we are accustomed to when we read books. He grabs part of Isaiah 59 (which has connections with Psalm14, Micah 4, and Isaiah 2) and Jeremiah 31. The Liberator will come from Zion; He will turn away godlessness from Jacob. And this will be My covenant with them when I take away their sins. These were promises of the Messiah coming to redeem Israel. Paul applies these promises the work of the Spirit that was going on as he was writing to the Romans, and will go on until the full number – all Israel and Gentile – are saved. Those who were by nature captive to the sin we hold so dear will be liberated by the King of Zion. Freedom does not come from Sinai! This King will turn His people away from godlessness, take their sins away, and bring them into the New Covenant. All this action is of God. Our part is godlessness and sin. His part is to take those away and make us new creatures in Christ. 

Romans 11:28-29 (HCSB) Regarding the gospel, they are enemies for your advantage, but regarding election, they are loved because of the patriarchs, since God’s gracious gifts and calling are irrevocable. 

Returning to his argument to keep Gentiles from getting self-important, Paul says the Jews, being partially hardened, were our enemies regarding the gospel – and this was for our advantage! Recall how in Acts 13 and 18 different apostles were rebuffed by the Jewish leaders and announced they were turning to the Gentiles. Recall how Jesus told the 70 to knock the dirt off their sandals if they were not welcomed in a town. Enemies of the gospel were used for advantages to the Gentiles just as the evil deeds Joseph’s brothers did worked to his – and their – advantage. But the remnant within Israel are beloved because of the patriarchs. This due to election, he says. Which tells us he is speaking of the remnant within Israel and not all the Hebrews. This is tied to the patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We know that Abraham is the father of all the elect (in him all nations will be blessed, if you belong to Christ, then you are indeed true descendants of Abraham, and are heirs in fulfilment of the promise. If you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to promise.) And these three men are tied together very tightly in Jewish and Christian theology. Note how Peter ties them all together in his sermon to Jews; and ties them to Christ. Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this? Or why do you stare at us, as though we had made him walk by our own power or godliness? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His Servant Jesus. Acts 3:12 & 13 (HSCB) This identification is also found in Exodus 3:6 & 15; 4:5; Deuteronomy 9:27; 2 Kings 13:23; Matthew 22:32; and others. A quick survey of the key promises to each of these three patriarchs will show why they are tied together with more than a human bloodline. While only of one of them was named Israel, they are each and all together the foundation stones of that nation, which had Moses as its prophet and the faith that has Jesus as its prophet.
Promises Made
Nations would be blessed – Gen 12:1-3
Nations would be blessed – Gen 26:3-5
Nations would be blessed – Gen 28:14
Father of many nations – Gen 17:1-7

Descendants would be as the stars in the sky – Gen 15:5
Descendants would be as the stars in the sky – Gen 26:3-5
Descendants would be as the dust of the earth – Gen 28:14
The promise was to his seed – Gen 12:7; Gal 3:16
Isaac’s seed would be blessed – Gen 26:24
Jacob’s seed would be blessed – Gen 28:14

Although there are some differences, and a critical promise is made to Abraham that is not given to Isaac or Jacob, we do see commonality in the essentials among these three patriarchs of the Jewish and Christian faiths. Each of them were heirs to the same promise (Hebrews 11:9), each of them knew what God had promised was better than the picture of the promise seen in Canaan (vs 16). Their descendants were numerous, as promised (vs 12) as YHWH counted the heirs according to promise (Galatians 3:29). Fulfillment is found in Christ, not in the flesh. Through each of them the promised seed would pass.

Because of His promise to these three men, and because of His indelibly holy character, God’s gracious gifts and calling are irrevocable. Abraham was called out of the post-flood mass of humanity. Everyone who believes is called of God to do so. I’ve mentioned this next passage several times during our study; it is a deep truth that we need to keep in mind: 2 Timothy 1:9-10 (HCSB) He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. This has now been made evident through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who has abolished death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. See how this parallels what is found in our passage? God’s calling and gracious gifts are irrevocable – His purpose and grace were given to us in Christ before time began. God would have to deny Himself and be like a man in order to allow any promise to fail.

Paul shows us the other side of this argument. One side is all about YHWH – He is faithful, He will not fail. This side is about us – Jew and Gentile. Verses 30-32: As you once disobeyed God, but now have received mercy through their disobedience, so they too have now disobeyed, resulting in mercy to you, so that they also now may receive mercy. For God has imprisoned all in disobedience, so that He may have mercy on all. Paul observes that we Gentiles once disobeyed God, meaning we were a law unto ourselves (chapt 1), hostile towards God (chapter 5). But now, as Paul was preaching and writing, Gentiles were finding mercy – God had turned His attention away from national Israel and was bringing Gentile sheep into His fold. As we’ve seen elsewhere, national Israel’s disobedience was the proximate cause, the reason identified, for the apostles turning to the Gentiles. Their house having been left to them desolate, the temple veil torn; first century Jews were without hope – unable to even pretend to keep their own laws. Having turned the temple into a den of robbers, they were now turned out of the temple. Their long string of disobedience appeared to be complete, but it was not. Hence the apostle’s insistence that God had NOT rejected them! And now that the Gospel is going out to the Gentiles around the world, Jews were and are being raised up and returned to the sheepfold of Christ. Both Jew and Gentile have long-standing histories of rebellion against God – it is our nature as men. In making this imprisonment known to them, those to whom God have ears to hear, He gives mercy in time of trouble, saving all – Jew and Gentile; those who are called.
Just writing this letter, proclaiming the glorious truths about God’s saving grace and mercy towards sinners in both camps, Paul brings out in one of the most God-exalting hymns of praise known to man.

Romans 11:33-36 (HCSB) Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments and untraceable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Or who has ever first given to Him, and has to be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

The vast difference between God and man are repeatedly shouted from the Scriptures. YHWH told rebellious Israel that one of their main problems was that they thought He was altogether much like them. Job was a humble man who refused to blame God for his trials and in a blast that goes on for 4 chapters, He questions Job so that he might better grasp the immeasurable distance between creature and Creator.

God’s judgments and ways are unsearchable – this means we do not imagine we can understand the whys of what God does: why does He save this one but not that one, what is the good purpose behind these horrible circumstances, how can life go on when loved ones die? As He made known to Job, He made known to Paul – no man can comprehend the awesomeness of God’s mind. We stand in awe of some bright people in our day. Mere men. Nations are dust in the hands of God – really bright people are like burnt-out light bulbs in comparison to Him. Our language does not have the words to provide a stark enough contrast!

When Paul spoke to the Oprah Winfry crowd in Acts 17, he told them God did not live in temples made by human hands as though He had need of anything human hands could do for Him. As he wrote to the Corinthians, For who makes you so superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? (1 Cor 4:7) All things are from Him, through Him, and to Him – meant to bring Him glory. This is how the apostle preached this idea to the Colossians:

Colossians 1:15-20 (HCSB) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For everything was created by Him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together. He is also the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile everything to Himself by making peace through the blood of His cross— whether things on earth or things in heaven.

Dear saints, the praise due our God springs from the same overwhelming awe Paul experienced. He was not caught up in praise because every Jew would one day be saved. He was caught up in exultation because sinners from the Gentiles and Jews would be saved in his day and until the great day when He returns.