Did God Reject His People?—Romans 11:1

"I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin" (Romans 11:1)

At the start of chapter 11, Paul asks an important question given the previous two chapters, did God reject his people? Did he finally get fed up at their obstinacy and hard heartedness? Was their rejection of His Son the last straw whereby he gave up on them? Paul's answer, absolutely not, may it never be!

Paul's response to this question was an emphatic no! In fact, the Greek words he used for this statement were the strongest meaning he could apply, indicating that it was far from the truth in case anyone tried to misinterpret what he was saying. By no means, literally meant there is an entire absence of possibility that God would reject His people. The King James Bible translated it as, "God forbid". It is inconceivable because these are the people that he foreknew since the beginning of time. He marked out and appointed them from the foundation of the world to be his chosen people. So it goes against God's entire nature to even consider the possibility that he would reject them after choosing them.

The book of Samuel gives us some insight into this. "For the sake of his great name the LORD will not reject his people, because the LORD was pleased to make you his own" ( I Samuel 12:22 ). We learn two important truths through this verse. First, it was God's pleasure to create a people for himself. Secondly, God won't reject His people for the sake of His name. His name carries the weight of who he is. His name is great and greatly to be praised. In fact his name is so wonderful that is was given to Jesus to be the name above every name. If God uses His name to exalt, honor and glorify Jesus because of the completeness of his redemptive work, then his name holds incredible power. Jesus is the only name given under heaven whereby we can be saved ( Acts 4:12 ). So for the sake of it, he will never reject Israel or those he chooses.

Paul uses his own testimony to validate his statement." I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin" ( Romans 11:1 ). Paul described himself as a Hebrew of Hebrews ( Philippians 3:5 ). He knew first hand that God did not reject his people because he had accepted the message of grace and he saw multitudes of people, both Jews and Gentiles, come to the Lord when he preached. Paul was speaking from firsthand knowledge that God still called the Jews. Jesus said that he was sent to the lost sheep of Israel first and foremost ( Matthew 15:24 ). This testified to the fact "that God's gifts and calls are irrevocable" ( Romans 11:29 ).

The Jews must come to God the same way we do, through faith in Jesus. This has not changed. In fact they always looked forward to the Messiah for salvation. This was God's promise to Israel, it had nothing to do with the Law which came 430 years later. ( Galatians 3:17-18 ). David also saw that God would justify them apart from works and this is why he said, "Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit" ( Psalm 32:11-2; Romans 4:6-8 ). David saw the righteousness that came through Christ and called those who lived after the time of Jesus blessed, happy and to be envied.  This promise was opened to the Gentiles as well, but it came through Israel, in the form of God's first born son, that the entire world would be blessed through them.

It is marvelous to know that God does not change his mind ( James 1:17 ). Those he has called he will not forsake. His salvation is open to all and to all who receive him, he gives them the right to be called children of God ( John 1:12 ). And we can rest assured that nothing can separate us from His love because of what Christ Jesus did for us ( Romans 9:38-39 ). Today, I pray that this message will settle in your heart and provide you assurance through Christ Jesus our Lord, amen! 

A Remnant Chosen By Grace—Romans 11:2-5

"God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don't you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah-how he appealed to 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 kill me"? And what was God's answer to him? "I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal." So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace" (Romans 11:2-5)

It says in the Psalms, "For the LORD will not reject his people; he will never forsake his inheritance" ( Psalm 94:14 ). God is pleased to call us his own. He has made for himself a people comprised of sons and daughters. It's marvelous to know that we are His inheritance. He has chosen and predestined us to be a part of his family. He foreknew us and accepted us on the basis of Christ. What a glorious thing. In today's passage Paul is explaining that this true even in the midst of Israel rejecting the Messiah.

In verse 1 Paul explained that it was against God's entire nature to reject those he has previously chosen. He concluded that this was impossible. 'May it never be.' Today's passage gives more insight to this truth. Paul reflected back to the scriptures about Elijah when he was faced with a similar situation. Elijah learned an important truth about God in the midst of these circumstances.

Jezebel was seeking Elijah's life because he has just defeated over 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel putting them to death by the sword. He then fled for his life because she had sworn an oath to kill him. He has just had an amazing victory with God as his backer. He spoke and acted in power and authority and proved to the entire nation that God was the God of Israel and not the "no count" Baal. But, at the threat of the queen he fled in fear. The Lord came to him and asked him what he was doing and this was his reply, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too" ( I Kings 19:10 ). Look at the Lord's reply to Elijah, "Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel-all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him" ( I Kings 19:18 ). What an amazing thing to tell and encourage him during the time he was afraid. There is a small number of Israelites who have not bowed to Baal. I have reserved for myself a remnant who have remained true to my covenant. In other words, you are not the only one left.

At this time, Israel had rejected God to worship idols. But God still did not reject them. He sent his prophets to them to remind them of everything that he had done for them. He spoke to them about their future and about what he would do for them. This is how wonderful our God is. He is so patient, loving, forgiving and encouraging. Some remained, walking in his covenant and some turned away, but neither of these things changed God. He remained the same; true to His promises.

Modern day Israel has rejected Jesus, wishing to remain in the Law and in the ritualistic application of its precepts. But still, this does not change God. He does not reject those he foreknew. Now, he sends his Holy Spirit to show them the way and to reveal to them the Christ. But still he reminds us that there is a remnant chosen by grace. There is a small believing minority in Israel who has accepted God's unmerited favor and graciousness through Christ Jesus. He is telling us that we are not alone.

Paul said in Romans 9, "not all who are descendants from Israel are Israel" ( Romans 9:6 ). He went on to say that true descendants are those who belonged to the promise ( Romans 9:8 ). The promise was Christ. Through Christ, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" ( Galatians 3:28-29 ). Through faith we join with the remnant of Israel that remained true to the promise and believed the message of grace. Like them, we have become heirs to the promise and have been grafted into this holy race of God's chosen people in the world today. May this truth speak to your heart and encourage you that God does not reject the people whom he foreknew. He is faithful to the promises he has spoken and watches over them to see their fulfillment ( Isaiah 55:11; Jeremiah 1:12 ), what a blessing this is!

It Is By Grace Not By Works—Romans 11:6

"And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace" (Romans 11:6)

Did you know that we can nullify the message of grace in our own lives by our works? If we feel we must earn favor with God and do things to stay in that position, then we have annulled His grace for us. We have taken the grace of God and exchanged it for a performance based system of self righteousness. The problem with that is we will never be good enough on our own accord.

Paul said in today's passage that it is either by grace or by works that we come to God. If we choose works then 'grace would no longer be grace'. Grace is unmerited, unearned favor and kindness towards us on behalf of Jesus. Ephesians says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast" ( Ephesians 2:8-9 ). Everyone is saved the very same way, by putting our trust in Jesus' gift of grace. Paul said it is not by works so that no one can brag about it.

If we choose to approach God on the basis of what we have done then we are approaching him in self righteousness as opposed to the righteousness He provides. Isaiah said that our righteousness is as fifthly rags ( Isaiah 64:6 ). Everything good, everything right that we could do all adds up to soiled garments before the Lord in comparison to His holiness. In other words, we will never be good enough to earn favor and right standing with the Lord on the basis of what we have done. Romans 4 says, "Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness" ( Romans 4:4-5 ). If we work to get in right standing with God then we are expecting a wage in return and not a gift. Paul said the "wages of sin is death" ( Romans 6:23 ), so that is the result of our work, death and eternal separation from God. Because as Isaiah already pointed out, we will not be able to stand before God covered in the filth of our self righteousness. However, the end of Romans 6:23 says, "but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" ( Romans 6:23 ). So the gift results in eternal life, not eternal separation. The gift comes by grace. The gift is through Jesus.

On this basis we can be justified before God because His righteousness is given to us through faith. This is the grace message, that what we could not do, Christ did this for us. Paul said in Romans 3, "But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe." ( Romans 3:21, Romans 3:22 ). Taking all of these things into account we can understand why Paul said in today's passage "And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace" ( Romans 11:6 ). We either choose one of two ways to God, our works or His grace. Works nullifies grace and grace nullifies works. When we understand that through his mercy we are highly favored in his sight then we will never try to approach him on account of anything we can do for him.

This is an important truth for us today. Even if we understand this concept concerning our salvation, many of us lay this down shortly afterward to pick up a lifestyle of busywork before God. We get emerged in doing things for him in order to please him. We forget this message of grace, that God is entirely pleased with us on the basis of Jesus. If we didn't do one thing after we were saved, God would love us no less. Remember there is nothing we can do to earn it, it is by grace. This is especially true after salvation and for the rest of our Christian walk. Colossians 2 says, "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him..." ( Colossians 2:6 ). If you received him by grace, it only makes sense to continue walking in grace; otherwise grace is no longer grace.

Today my prayer is that you understand the grace to which you have been called. Understanding his grace will forever change your life. You will experience the freedom in Christ to which you were called, sanctified and redeemed. May this revelation of grace bless you for the rest of your life, amen.

What Israel Did Not Obtain the Elect Did—Romans 11:7-10

"What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, as it is written: "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day." And David says: "May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them. May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever." (Romans 11:7-10)

I've often pondered why some people are so blind to the truth of Jesus. I see its evidence among those who are brought up under a system of religion that focuses on rules and traditions. Those teachings are so ingrained that they blind the individual to the possibility that there is another way to God, the way of grace through Jesus Christ. They fight against this truth arguing that salvation cannot be that easy, they must contribute to this end goal on the basis of everything they understand from their upbringing.

The Israelites experienced the same struggle. They had the Law which outlined the commandments, sacrifice guidelines, feast days among many other things. Their entire lives were incorporated into this system.. There was no distinction between their spiritual life and their regular live. It was both their lifestyle and their heritage.

In today's passage Paul concluded that even though Israel sought earnestly to win God's favor by obedience to the Law, they did not obtain it, because they became callously indifferent and hardened to the truth of God. The elect on the other hand did obtain righteousness of the Law through faith in Jesus Christ because they were not blinded by the Law.

Paul went on to quote several Old Testament passages about this very thing. "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day."  ( Romans 11:8, Deuteronomy 29:4, Isaiah 29:10 ). In other words their attitude blinded them to the truth of Christ. They could hear and see all of the things that he did, but this attitude of stupor kept them from believing this message. They were so self focused that they couldn't see past the Law to see its fulfillment in the Messiah.

David said concerning this, "May the table set before them become a snare; may it become retribution and a trap. May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever" ( Psalm 69:22-23 ). David saw what the Messiah would be and he was disgusted that the Israelites would stay focused instead on traditions, feasting and self righteousness. They only looked to themselves instead of looking to God. They only pursued their interests and not God's interests. The Law kept them blind to the truth of Christ.

This reality is difficult to understand. But Paul adds some clarity to it in II Corinthians. With the law came a veil. There was limited revelation of God through the law. He spoke to the prophets but no one completely understood these messages until after Jesus came. This is because we then had the Holy Spirit to reveal these things to us. Before this, we only saw an incomplete disclosure of them. Paul said in II Corinthians 3, "Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit" ( II Corinthians 3:12-18 ). The amazing thing about this is that all the mysteries and hidden wisdom of God are revealed to us by the Holy Spirit ( I Corinthians 2:6-16 ), so for those who are in bondage to the Law, or traditions, these truths are kept from them. They may read them in the scriptures but there is a veil covering their eyes so that understanding does not come. It is only through Jesus that the veil is taken away and the truth is revealed to our spirits.

The reason Israel missed Jesus and the veil of the Old Covenant remains blocking them from the truth is that they are only looking to themselves and their self-righteousness to fulfill it, instead of looking to God. Jesus said in Matthew 13, "For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.' But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. ( Matthew 13:15-16 ). It has always been the condition of the heart that keeps them from the truth.  "But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear."  What Israel did not acquire, the elect did. Those who have put their trust and hope in Jesus obtained the righteousness that Israel so desperately sought. This only comes through grace and it is offered to all.

Today, I am blessed to be part of the elect. God has chosen me because I have chosen him. I praise God that he has removed the veil from my eyes so that I can see who he is and understand what he has written to me. Through faith in Jesus these same truths apply to you. May you understand the truths written in his word and see him for who he is, amen.

Because of their Transgression Salvation Has Come To the Gentiles—Romans 11:11-12

"Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!" (Romans 11:11-12)

Part of the plan has always been this hardening in regards to Israel so that the salvation message would be opened to the Gentiles. John said, "He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God" ( John 1:11-13 ). In other words the Jews left the door wide open for the Gentiles to come to Jesus and be part of his chosen people.

The good news is that this is only a temporary thing for Israel. There is currently a believing remnant chosen by grace ( Romans 11:5 ). But as a whole they have not stumbled to the point of spiritual ruin. Paul said later on in this very chapter that "God's gifts and his call are irrevocable" ( Romans 11:29 ). Israel has a long standing relationship with the Lord and he has chosen and called them as his own. Eventually they will turn from their self-sufficiency towards Christ's redeeming love. Once they turn their eyes again towards him, their spiritual blindness will be removed and they will see Jesus clearly.

There is no doubt that the enormous number of Gentiles who turned to Jesus over the centuries has aroused the Israelites to jealousy. They look upon us and see and feel what they forfeited. But even in their jealousy they did not turn to the Messiah. This failure on their part has enriched and blessed the entire world. Because they rejected Jesus, his salvation was offered to all of mankind. Their loss meant riches for those originally outside of His covenants.

Paul spoke about this in Ephesians 2. "Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ" ( Ephesians 2:12-13 ). Israel's rejection of Jesus made it possible for us to be brought into the promise. Our condition before this was hopeless. We were aliens to God's covenants, we were excluded from his promises and we did not know God in any way. But by the blood of Jesus we who were far away were brought near and included in this new family.

Paul went on to say, "he came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household" ( Ephesians 2:17-19 ). Through Jesus we have been brought into the promises and have been joined together with Israel and reconciled to God. Jesus came and brought both the Jews and the Gentiles everlasting peace with God. Through faith we now have access to the Father by the Holy Spirit. Inclusion in the promise is the rich blessing that came to us because Israel rejected Jesus. If this is the case imagine what blessings will occur when they finally receive him as their Messiah.

Today, I am so thankful to be included in the promises spoken to the Israelites. I am thankful that Jesus provided the peace and hope that I live by through the blood of Jesus. Today, may you join me in a thankful heart for what Jesus has done for you, amen.

Juli Camarin

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