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(2 Timothy 2:15)
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Timothy 2:3-4
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We completed our study of Romans 10 last week and now we’re going to turn our attention to Romans 11 which deals with God’s future plan for Israel. God has an eternal plan for His people (always has) despite what you may have heard or been told.
The majority of Christendom holds that the benevolent God is finished with Israel mainly because this is what they have heard or been taught. Someone somewhere told these folks that when Israel cried out in unison for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ God the Father said, “You’re done” despite scriptural evidence to the contrary.
The proponents of Replacement Theology believe and teach that the church of God has “replaced” the nation of Israel in God’s eternal plan. They say the Jews are no longer God’s chosen people and that He has no specific “future” plans for that nation.
In addition, they say all God’s prophecies concerning Israel are null and void. All the promises God made to Israel will be fulfilled in the church, not in Israel. They go on to say all the passages in the Bible about Israel being present at the “end” don’t mean what they say; and this includes Romans chapter 11.
However, major problems exist with their theory, such as God’s word to the contrary, the continuing existence of the Jewish people throughout the centuries, and the revival of the nation of Israel, according to prophecy, which continues to thrive today despite the constant harassment by its enemies and their allies.
Antisemitism has existed for generations. Nations and peoples have been discussing or planning Israel’s destruction for centuries and millions of Jews have perished but don’t overlook the obvious. They are still here and they are not going away.
In fact, when asked how he could be so certain there was a God, one theologian replied, “The Jew.” The continued survival of the Jewish people, no matter where they may live in this world today, despite the numerous attempts to exterminate, them clearly demonstrates God’s existence, His presence in the world, and His involvement in Israel’s affairs (Isaiah 42:8-9, 43:10-13, 44:6-8, 49:3, 49:5-13).
Let’s begin. Please open your Bible at Romans chapter 11.
Israel Is Not Cast Away
Paul often responds in his letters as if he’s answering a question from his audience and he is - just like here in verse 1. After preaching to his brethren in chapters 9 and 10, with a sorrowful heart, rest assured that “doubt” crept in where certainty once dwelt. His countrymen were asking, “Are we not God’s chosen people? Has God forsaken us?” To which Paul now responds:
1: I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
Here our Apostle Paul answers emphatically that God has not rejected all Israelites, although, as He has pointed out in chapters 9 and 10, God has rejected most of them:
“THOUGH THE NUMBER OF THE SONS OF ISRAEL BE LIKE THE SAND OF THE SEA, IT IS THE REMNANT THAT WILL BE SAVED; (Romans 9:27).
Only a remnant will be saved and Paul is saying he is included in this assembly. By this we understand the remnant is all those who put their faith in the risen Lord Jesus Christ for their salvation. Salvation by grace (alone) means that you and I can do absolutely nothing to earn or merit God’s free gift of grace. God receives the glory; no man may boast.
Here are a few O.T. Scripture passages that speak of God’s Jewish Remnant:
Micah 7:18 - Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity And passes over the rebellious act of the (who) remnant of His possession?
Isaiah 10:21-22 – A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. For though your people, O Israel, may be like the sand of the sea, Only a remnant within them will return; A destruction is determined, overflowing with righteousness.
Jeremiah 50:20 – ‘In those days and at that time,’ declares the LORD, ‘search will be made for the iniquity of Israel, but there will be none; and for the sins of Judah, but they will not be found; for I will pardon those whom I leave as a remnant.’
Zechariah 8:12 – ‘For there will be peace for the seed: the vine will yield its fruit, the land will yield its produce and the heavens will give their dew; I will cause the remnant of this people to inherit all these things.
I was wondering why Paul mentioned that he was from the tribe of Benjamin in this verse, so I dug a little deeper. I discovered this tribe almost disappeared from among the twelve tribes of Israel because they refused to judge evil (Judges 21). However, “almost” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades as they say…Paul presented himself as a physical and spiritual example of God’s remnant. This may be why he added it to his statement.
Let’s go to verse 2.
2: God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against (rebellious) Israel?
The Greek word for known is Ginosko (a verb) and means: come to know, perceive, feel, to become known, understand, have knowledge of, to become acquainted with, and it’s a Jewish idiom for sexual intimacy between a man and a woman.
Here Paul defines the Israel (remnant) that God has not rejected: His people whom He foreknew, or “You only have I known.”
God is not speaking of knowing the intimate details of their affairs, or of pre-selecting those He wanted to preserve while casting others aside, but of the fact that to them only had He made Himself known because they were foreknown of Him; that is acquainted with Him beforehand (before the foundations of the earth).
Please turn to Amos at chapter 3. This will give us a better idea of what Paul is saying.
1: Hear this word that Jehovah hath spoken against you, children of Israel, against the whole family that I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying,
2: You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore will I visit upon you all your iniquities. (The Darby Bible)
In the preceding chapters there are a series of messages of judgment concerning the various nations surrounding Israel. The LORD God gives a reason for each of these judgments beginning with Damascus (Amos 1:3); then Gaza (Amos 1:6); then Tyre (Amos 1:9); then Edom (Amos 1:11); then Ammon (Amos 1:13); then Moab (Amos 2:1); then Judah (Amos 2:4); ending with the northern kingdom of Israel (Amos 2:6); all of this demonstrating that the LORD God knew or had foreknowledge of their evil behavior.
Therefore, when God says concerning Israel, “You only have I known.” He is referring to a “fore-acquaintance” with Israel. This foreknowledge is best described in Romans 8:29, and therefore must include the foreknowledge of the Jewish remnant, according to the election of grace.
The Apostle Paul conveys this same message to the church at Galatia: but now, knowing God, but rather being known by God, how do ye turn again to the weak and beggarly principles to which ye desire to be again anew in bondage? (Galatians 4:9) (See also Romans 8:29)
When Paul speaks of the Jewish remnant, he is contrasting Jews who believe and Jews who do not believe. Put another way, he is saying there is a subset of true Israel within the nation of Israel. Although Israel in its entirety is obviously the physical seed of Abraham, meaning Jewish, not every individual Jew is considered by God to be the authentic spiritual seed of Abraham as well. For this to be true faith is required! (See Romans 2:28-29).
Let’s move on to verse 3.
3: “Lord, “THEY HAVE KILLED YOUR PROPHETS, THEY HAVE TORN DOWN YOUR ALTARS, AND I ALONE AM LEFT, AND THEY ARE SEEKING MY LIFE.” (1 Kings 19:10, 14)
4: but what is the divine response to him? “I HAVE KEPT (preserved) for Myself SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL.”
(1 Kings 19:18)
Israel had turned away from worshipping the LORD God under King Ahab and Jezebel to worshipping the pagan god Baal. They killed His prophets, and destroyed His altars. In fear Elijah fled believing that he alone remained and they were seeking to kill him!
However, the LORD responded to his prayer at Mt. Horeb telling him, “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)
At that time in history, there were approximately 7-8 million Israelites living in the land and out of that number the LORD God preserved 7,000 faithful men. Now that’s not very many. By my calculations that works out to be .001%. But as Scripture teaches us the faithful have always been low in number. For example: after God destroyed the population of this planet with the flood, He worked with Noah and his family; they numbered 8 people. When the LORD called to Abram of the Caldees out of all the people on the earth, he was but one man and the remnant. After Jesus Christ’s ascended, all of His followers were gathered together as He commanded them waiting for the promised Helper. Although He had miraculously healed and fed thousands of people during those 3 years, even though He had taught the Scriptures to just as many, even though He had performed countless miracles, signs, and wonders before the chief priests, and elders, how many of His followers were there to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost: At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), (Acts 1:15). These 120 people give or take, were the remnant.
Scripture also teaches us that God chooses to accomplish His work here on earth through His remnant. Elijah is an example of this truth. He opposed the false prophets who claimed Baal was the only god - with the people watching. Elijah gained a great victory for the LORD on that day, and the people shouted, “The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God.” (1 Kings 18:39)
Paul follows up on this thought in the next verse:
5: In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a (what) remnant according to God’s gracious choice.
6: But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.
I’ve been teaching God’s Word to people of all ages for 18 years and I’ve learned a few things during that time. One common characteristic many people share is they don’t understand God’s grace. For example: I worked side-by-side with a gentleman in BSF who admitted to me that he didn’t understand God’s grace or its implications and we were teaching the book of Romans that particular year. As I’ve pointed out to you many times during this study, the book of Romans is Paul’s masterpiece on the subject of God’s Grace. But he struggled to understand it while teaching it. Each one of these individuals were absolutely convinced they had to do to “something,” “they needed to keep busy,” in order to earn God’s favor so as to gain salvation despite what this book says - that grace is a free gift from God.
Therefore, I’m going to spend some time on the “ABC’s” of this subject.
The channel of grace is Jesus Christ: grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17b; 14:6)
The instrument of grace is faith: For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is (what) the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
From these two Bible passages we understand that salvation is centered on the cross and Jesus Christ’s resurrection; and God’s Grace is a free “gift.”
If a person received salvation in exchange for doing good deeds (works), then salvation is just another word for “wages.” If salvation is given in exchange for “benefits” bestowed, then it is merely a “reward.” It goes without saying then, if a person received salvation as wages or as a reward, then salvation wouldn’t be a free gift but something that they were entitled to, and therefore is not Grace.
The definition of Grace is “undeserved mercy.” Jesus Christ died in our place; He paid a debt He did not owe so that all those who choose to believe in His death, burial, and resurrection, according to the Scriptures (plus nothing) will be saved (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). I know it sounds too simple, but that’s it.
It is human nature to want to “add” something to God’s plan of salvation. There is this “sense” based on our human logic that we must do something to earn God’s favor, to be accepted, or to even be noticed by Him, so that we may gain access to His heaven.
However, if you think like this you’re missing it just as the nation of Israel did and still are actually. The Gospel of Jesus Christ declares that Jesus is absolutely essential for salvation, and that He is enough for salvation. To come back and say, “Yes, I know Jesus Christ died for me, but I have to ___________ (Fill in the blank) in order to be right with God.” Those who believe that “works” are necessary for salvation are in effect saying to God, “Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was incomplete or unsatisfactory.” They’re saying Jesus’ final words, “It is finished” have no particular meaning as it pertains to them. They are stripping the Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator God, of His deity and glorifying humanity. They are declaring themselves to be their own savior before God the Father who sent His Son to die for their sins.
(To be continued)
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