God’s Blueprint of Blessing – All Israel Will be Saved (Romans 11)

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au

I wouldn’t make a good builder. My skills with wood are very limited and when it comes to looking at plans for designs of houses etc. Well let’s just say that Larissa has some skills in this department that I don’t. Larissa can look at the architectural plans or blueprint and straight away understand if that is what she had asked for and how it will look when built. As for me I am left scratching my head. I need someone to take me through the plans step by step. In a similar way Paul in these three chapters of Romans 9-11 unpacks for us in a step by step fashion the question of God’s relationship with Israel and their place in God’s story and at the same time any question of God’s character being tarnished are dealt with. And at least part of the answer is perhaps a little surprising.

A quick recap of the last couple of weeks. Pastor Matt showed us in Romans 9 that not all Israel is true Israel. True Israel are those that God has chosen to save, and this is through faith. Philip showed us last week in Chapter 10 that Israel not being saved was indeed their own fault. They refused to listen to the Gospel and were disobedient and obstinate (10:21). This makes it clear that it was Israel’s unbelief that has been the problem. Specifically their unbelief that Jesus is the promised Messiah. They rejected the Gospel. They rejected the only way to be made right with God. Romans 10:1-4. They wouldn’t submit to Christ.

You could get to this point in Romans and think that well God really made a mistake with Israel. From what have we seen so far the present situation seems dire. But God is perfect, his Character is without fault and His plans are perfect. Chapter 11 answers a few of the questions that come up throughout Romans 9 & 10. In fact Chapter 11 answers the big question of Jews and Gentiles and Christianity and how it all fits together. So let’s dive in.

Romans 11:1-6 Did God Reject Israel?

I ask then 1-6

In light of Paul’s anguish over Israel’s unbelief, their rejecting Jesus from Chapter 9 and their obstinate hearts. Paul starts Chapter 11 with an obvious question. “Has God Rejected Israel?” We have read in the last two chapters that clearly Israel has rejected God, of course if you read the OT you will see a pattern here of Israel’s rejection of God, God’s Judgment and then God’s Grace and Mercy on his people Israel. So let’s look at Paul’s first hypophora, where he asks a question and then straight away answers it. At the beginning of Chapter 11. Paul says:

“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. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what 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. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

So Paul is emphatic in his assertion that God hasn’t rejected his people Israel. He couldn’t be clearer. This isn’t a case of out with the old and in with the new. God has not failed; God’s promises are true and lasting. In at least three different ways Paul shows that Israel are not rejected by God.

Paul’s Faith in Christ

Firstly Paul appeals to the example of himself. He is an Israelite. He then sets out his own Jewish credentials. He is a descendant of Abraham. His family tree when you go back roughly 42 generations begins with Abraham. Now I’m not sure if you have ever watched that show on TV ‘Who do you think you are’ But it takes a celebrity and try’s to piece together parts of their ancestry. Paul however didn’t need this; he didn’t need someone else to dig into his family history. He knew exactly where he had come from and to which tribe of Israel he belonged. He was from the tribe of Benjamin. He was living proof that God hadn’t rejected his chosen people Israel. He and the other apostles are in fact all great confirmation and demonstration of Israelites who have believed the Gospel message and come to faith in Christ.

Israel are God’s People

Secondly, Paul’s wording shows that Paul was convinced that God’s word hadn’t failed. In v1 and v2 Paul calls Israel “his (God’s) people” and in v2 “whom he (God) foreknew”. Paul however doesn’t leave it here.

God has always kept His Promise

He directs the reader to Scripture.1 Kings 19:10, 14 where Elijah cries out to God against Israel. Yet God answers Elijah with the words of 1 Kings 19:14 “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” This was proof of the fact that in the past God hadn’t rejected Israel and had always keep a remnant as to keep his promise. Also now as Paul and other Jews who have put their faith in Jesus show, God has not rejected His people.

Chosen by Grace

Paul then finishes this section by reminding the church in Rome and us here today that this remnant of Israel (and indeed every believer in Christ) is chosen by grace. And he is almost at pains to again remind the reader that grace is God’s gift and can’t be earned. It is not works, it is God’s grace that saves. This week I was teaching scripture at Chatswood Primary and we were discussing grace. It is a concept that needs some unpacking. God freely rescues us by faith in Christ and this is undeserved favour. That is what grace is. It is a gift from God that we don’t deserve, we can do nothing to earn and it is only received by faith. Paul is making it clear that those Israelites who are saved are saved by grace alone.

What then has happened? 7-10

So after showing that God hasn’t rejected his people Paul goes on to explain in this next section starting in v7 exactly what has happened. For while we can see that God hasn’t rejected his covenant people, there aren’t a whole lot of Jews coming to faith in Jesus. Verses 7-10 give us an answer to this puzzle.

“What then? What the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened, as it is written:

“God gave them a spirit of stupor,

eyes that could not see

and ears that 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.”

Israel Hardened

So to cut to the chase what we see here is that Israel as a whole was hardened. That is God has given them over to their unbelief. We saw this last week in Romans 10. Israel are a disobedient and defiant people (10:21). They have not accepted the Gospel and so God now hardens their hearts at this present time. The remnant has believed, including Paul and the thousands of Jews who had come to faith, yet the rest of Israel had been hardened. Yet God hasn’t abandoned Israel, far from it as we will see.

Romans 11:11-16 The Blueprint of Blessing

 Israel hardened but not finished.

So Paul now dives into the timing and the reason for Israel’s hardening and specifically talks about the present and the future. Paul now starts to unpack and explain how God’s blueprint of blessing works in verses 11 & 12. Paul here uses another hypophora where he poses a question and answers it.

“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 full inclusion bring.

The Blueprint of Blessing

Now a blueprint is a detailed plan of action. There is nothing that God does that is by chance. God is the creator and sustainer of all things and His plans are perfect.

Israel Rejects the Gospel

Firstly Israel has transgressed by rejecting the Gospel. Yes as we saw in verse 5 there is a present remnant that have been chosen by grace, which includes Paul. But the vast majority have rejected Jesus.

Israel’s Rejection Leads to Gentile Salvation

Secondly, we see the verses quoted from Hosea in Romans 9:25 come to fruition “I will call them my people who are not my people.” The gentiles are not part of Israel by birth, yet some of them now become part of God’s people.  And Paul’s explanation of how this happens is as follows. Israel’s rejection leads to Gentile Salvation. This is the first part of the Plan. We see this in action throughout the book of Acts. Do you remember what the Apostle Paul would do when he entered a town. He would firstly go to the synagogue and preach there. In Acts 13 Paul and Barnabas entered the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch for the second time (v44) and the Jews heaped abuse on them and contradicted what Paul was saying.

And then Paul responds

Acts 13:46-49

“Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.”

On at least four occasions in the book of Acts this patten is repeated. The Jews wouldn’t listen to the message and then the Gospel was taken to the Gentiles. It was Israel’s rejection of the Gospel that led to the message being shared with the gentiles and in that way salvation coming to the gentiles. The theology here of Paul matches the lived experience.

Gentile Salvation Will Make Israel Envious

This is not the end though of Paul’s argument. Salvation to the Gentiles has a two fold effect. Firstly, yes salvation has indeed been made available for non-Jews by the sharing of the Gospel. What great news. What great riches! Those of us here who have put our trust in Jesus have had the opportunity because of Israel’s transgression, their rejection of Jesus. Yet that is not the end of the story. The second effect of our  (gentile) salvation is that some of Israel will be saved because of our faith in Jesus. They will be envious (but in a right way). Although it is not spelt out, the envy that Paul talks of would seem to be most likely when talking about the Jews seeing what faith in Christ means. For when we put our trust in Jesus. Or as Romans 10:9 says. When we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, we are saved. We are born again, and we are now sons and daughters of God. Co-heirs with Jesus. And being a Christian is living as a light in this dark world and that can be very attractive. I personally think that this is what Paul is talking about when he says in verse 14 that he hopes that his own people Israel may be envious. That they may be envious of the blessings that are available in Christ alone. That they may see the relationship with God that can only come through faith in Christ and so then put their trust in Jesus as well.

The Blueprint of Blessings

This is God’s plan. Israel’s rejection of Jesus = Gentile salvation = Israel’s envy = Israel full inclusion and blessings for the whole world. We can see and understand the first three parts of this plan at this stage. Israel’s full inclusion we will shortly look at. As for the greater riches we can but hypothesize, we do know that there will be unimaginable blessings for the whole world when Israel is included.

The Patriarch’s and the Promise

Paul then finishes this section with verse 16.

“If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.”

This is no doubt a lead into Paul’s following section of this chapter where he speaks of the Olive Tree as these verses have an impact on our understanding of the allegory of the olive tree to come. While the meaning of “firstfruits” and “root” in verse 16 have been somewhat debated as to their whether this means Christ or the Patriarch’s. In it usage here I concur with the majority of commentators including John Stott who see “firstfruits” and “root” as speaking of the Patriarch’s and therefore the “whole batch” and “branches” meaning Israel. So then when looking at the Olive Tree which was often used as a picture representation of Israel the “root” is Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who belong to God by covenant and the “branches” are their descendants.

Romans 11:17-24 The Olive Tree

Paul now illustrates this blueprint of blessing using the Olive Tree.

Gentiles are grafted into God’s people because of their faith. Much of Israel is cut out of the olive tree because they don’t have faith. They have been pruned, cut off, yet those natural branches (Israel) can be grafted in again if they have faith. These branches that had been hardened were the same branches that Paul talks of here as having been broken off. Paul uses the Olive tree as a warning to gentiles and a promise to Israel.

Gentile Arrogance Admonished

We do not know exactly what the tension was between gentile believers and Jewish believers. But we can surmise that the Gentile believers were taking a posture of supremacy over their brothers and sister of Jewish heritage. Paul admonishes them in three different ways v18 do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. v19 but branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.. broken off Again trying to use a superior argument. Yet Paul reminds them that it was a lack of faith and indeed they should be careful themselves. Finally in v20 Paul tells them plainly do not be arrogant, don’t boast. No the right way for you to act is to tremble. For if God is prepared to cut off some of his own people Israel, he will cut you off if you stop believing.

So do not boast that God has currently rejected most of the Jewish people, but be thankful that God has been kind to us. A posture of thankfulness is what is required.

Romans 11:25-32 All Israel will be saved

Final explanation

Paul now brings these 3 chapters to their conclusion. He once again shows us the blueprint, the mystery, yet it is expanded. Let’s read 25-27

“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written:

“The deliverer will come from Zion;

he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.

And this is my covenant with them

when I take away their sins.”

So what can we say for certain and what can we hypothesise on for this part of Romans. Firstly, we can look at the expanded explanation in verse 25 & 26 and see that it conforms to what we had already seen in verses 7 & 8 of chapter 11 as well as verse 12. Israel was hardened so that some of the gentiles may be saved. But the expansion of this here is that once the full number of gentiles Christians has been reached, has come in, then all Israel will be saved. We had already heard from Paul in verse 2 that God did not reject his people, and likewise in verse 11 that they have not fallen beyond recovery. Now in verse 26 Paul states that not only have they not fallen, but that God’s word and his promises and his character are true and in the future All Israel will be saved. Paul then backs this up with Scripture taken from Isaiah 59:20-21 and Jeremiah 31:31-34. Paul is clear that Salvation here means the forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ. There is only one salvation.

Who is All Israel

Another debate in this chapter is around what Israel in verse 26 means. I don’t have time today to go into the ideas that some church Fathers and commentators have around this. The main point I want to make this morning is that Israel in verse 26 is exactly the same Israel that we saw in verse 25. The same Israel that had been hardened which was the majority of Israel, will in the future be saved. It would hardly make sense to use a word in one sentence to mean something that it doesn’t in the very next sentence.

‘All Israel’ can only mean the great mass of Israel who are alive and turn to Christ after the full number of Gentiles have been saved.

One People in Christ 

Israel and the Gentiles are not interdependent. They are both part of God’s purposes in salvation. Without Israel there wouldn’t be salvation for the gentiles and in the end All Israel come to salvation because of the Gentiles. This brings me to the point that there is only one church, there aren’t two ways to salvation. It is for Jew and Gentile through faith in Christ. As we read in Chapter 10 last week

12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

There is indeed a clear application for us. God’s promises are true, they are certain, and we can trust in them. Indeed all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. There is no other way to salvation, but through faith in Christ.

So to finish we can only glorify God. And Paul has given us the words to do this as well.

Doxology

33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and[i] knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”[j]
35 “Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”[k]
36 For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Let’s Pray