From Theology to Worship

June 20, 2021 Series: Romans

Topic: Sunday Sermons Passage: Romans 11:1–36

Consider the questions Paul has dealt with thus far in Romans 9-11:
9: Does God’s Word Fail?
10: How can anyone be saved?
11: Does God reject His Covenant people?

The implications of these things are intended to shore up the foundation that we can build our lives upon as a sure foundation. We can have a full assurance of our faith in Jesus’ finished work. And as we’ll see today, God doesn’t turn his back, throw away or reject his Covenant people in Israel. Which means as his covenant people gathered today, he will not turn his back on us either.

God sees his covenants through. As his people our response is to praise him!

God sees his covenants through.

[1] I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. [2] God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? [3] “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” [4] But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” [5] So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. [6] But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. - Romans 11:1–6

Late in the year last year, during the season of Advent in our series on Sabbath rest, we looked at this account of Elijah, So I'm not going to give that as much time and attention today. Here Paul reaches back to that 1 Kings 19 account to draw his hearers attention to something very specific… A remnant that was already in place. And it was larger than Elijah could have imagined.

There’s always been a remnant (v.1-6)

Paul’s 4 Pieces of Evidence to back up that Israel is not a rejected nation:

  1. Personal: Paul himself is a Jew
  2. Theological (study of God): does God break an ‘unbreakable covenant’? NO! In answering this question Paul underlines this by describing them as “his people, whom he foreknew.” (v.2) Foreknowledge and rejection are incompatible with one another in God’s nature.
  3. Biblical: Although the doctrine of the remnant was not developed until Isaiah’s time, the faithful remnant already existed during the prophetic ministry of Elijah at least a century earlier.
  4. Contemporary: Just as in Elijah’s day there was a remnant of seven thousand, “so too, at the present time,” namely, in Paul’s day, “there is a remnant.” It was probably sizeable. The chief characteristic of this remnant was that it had been “chosen by grace.” Grace emphasizes that God has called the remnant into being, just as he had “reserved” for himself the loyal minority in Elijah’s day.

Why does Paul bring this type of evidence to this passage? His objective here is to insist that grace excludes works on our part entirely

[7] What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, [8] as it is written,

“God gave them a spirit of stupor,
eyes that would not see
and ears that would not hear,
down to this very day.”

[9] And David says,

“Let their table become a snare and a trap,
a stumbling block and a retribution for them;
[10] let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,
and bend their backs forever.”

[11] So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. [12] Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! - Romans 11:7–12

Here Paul begins by using the word hardened again - we looked at this over the past few weeks in more detail - but then he quotes from Isaiah 29 speaking of a ‘stupor’ - Isaiah is one of only two uses of this word in the greek old testament (Septuagint) - it’s a word that is used to add severity to something, additional emphasis. In the case of hardness of heart, this helps us understand that their ‘stupor’ was a spiritual numbness.

The Sting of Stupor (v.7-12)

What this hardening means in practice, Paul goes on to indicate from two Old Testament quotations, both of which refer to eyes that cannot see.

First, Paul quotes a combination of Deuteronomy 29 & Isaiah 29 telling Israel that the condition of seeing the wonders of God and not understanding so what results is - they have a loss of spiritual sensitivity - and Paul wants them to understand that continues to plague them today.

Second, from Psalm 69, a messianic Psalm, Paul applies it in this way: Instead of Israel being the persecuted, it has become -in its rejection of Christ- the persecutor.

So, as there has been before, there’s a remnant, but the majority are spiritually numb, hardened in a way that has been the nation’s spiritual norm all along.

But their condition is not permanent or hopeless… what a picture of God’s Merciful Providence when we read the last verse: [12] Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!

The ESV study Bible says it like this:

“Full inclusion looks forward to the fulfillment of God’s saving promises to ethnic Israel. Paul argues from the lesser to the greater: if Israel’s sin brought salvation to the Gentiles, then the blessing will be even greater”

Next, we’ll see how Gentiles are ‘grafted in’ to these blessings and promises through Jesus Christ.

[13] Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry [14] in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. [15] For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? [16] If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.

[17] But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, [18] do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. [19] Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” [20] That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. [21] For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. - Romans 11:13–21

I appreciate how John Stott helps us understand where we are in Paul’s thought process here:

Paul’s sequence of thought is like a chain with three links.

First, through Israel’s fall, salvation has already come to the Gentiles.

Second, this Gentile salvation will make Israel envious and so lead to Israel’s restoration or fullness.

Third, Israel’s fullness will bring yet much greater riches to the world. Thus the blessing ricochets from Israel to the Gentiles, from the Gentiles back to Israel, and from Israel to the Gentiles again.

The first stage has already taken place; it is the ground on which the second and third may confidently be expected to follow. - Stott, John.

In helping us understand what Stott just referred to as a chain’s links - Paul uses two metaphors, one taken from the ceremonial life of Israel, the other from agriculture. Both are clearly intended to justify Paul’s confidence in the spread or escalation of covenant blessings he has been describing.

Gentiles are grafted in (v.13-21)

Ceremonial Life
As when a representative piece of dough is consecrated to God, the whole belongs to him, so when the first converts believe, the conversion of the rest can be expected to follow.

As the Jewish patriarchs belong to God by covenant, so do their descendants who are included in the covenant. This picture of “root” and “branches” leads Paul to develop his allegory of the olive tree.

The cultivated olive tree is the people of God, whose root is the patriarchs and whose stem represents the continuity of the centuries.

The branches that have been “broken off” stand for the unbelieving Jews who have been temporarily discarded, and the “wild olive shoot,” which has been “grafted in among the others,” stands for Gentile believers.

The olive tree has experienced both a pruning and a grafting.

Some branches have been cut out of the cultivated tree; that is, some Jews have been rejected.

In their place a wild shoot has been grafted in; that is, some Gentiles have believed and have been welcomed into God’s covenant people.

The caution to believing Gentiles is clear. They should not become arrogant, for it is only “by faith” that they stand.

As his people our response is to praise him!

[22] Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. [23] And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. [24] For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.

[25] Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. [26] And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
[27] “and this will be my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.” - Romans 11:22–27

Quoting from Isaiah again - as we’ve mentioned before, Paul starts bringing the Old Testament to life in Romans 9-11, helping his Jewish hearers make connections to the stories of old, the Covenants and Laws they still may have been placing their trust in - Paul wants them to make the connection to who Jesus is as the promised Messiah.

And this is not some Pauline version of Universal salvation for Israel, this is Paul pointing all of this hearers to where they can place their hope and faith - that is in Jesus Christ Alone!

What does this all lead to? Hope in Jesus Christ! (v.22-27)

Consider the great salvation available through Jesus: The one representative of the true remnant of Israel, Pointing us to the truth that salvation - beginning to end - is all of grace. Jesus, choosing for himself who will be grafted into him as the vine.

It reminds me of Jesus’ own words in John 15

[4] Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. [5] I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. - John 15:4–5

By faith alone, By grace alone, In Christ Alone, For the Glory of God Alone in our praise - what helps us understand this, what is the light to our path of understanding? Scripture alone is… Scripture helps to point us to what we’ll see in verses 28-32, the foundation of our praise is Mercy!

A Foundation of Mercy (v.28-32)

[28] As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. [29] For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. [30] For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, [31] so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. [32] For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. - Romans 11:28–32

Paul here offers us 2 final statements of assurance:
God’s Election is irrevocable (v.29)
God’s Mercy is available to all (v.30-32)

It is because of disobedient Israel that disobedient Gentiles have received mercy, and it is because of this mercy to disobedient Gentiles that disobedient Jews will receive mercy too. We again detect the chain of blessing, as Israel’s disobedience has led to mercy for the Gentiles, which in turn will lead to mercy for Israel. - Stott, John.

As we’ve considered things in this passage like the deep truths of: Remnant Theology, Spiritual Stupor / Hardening, Implications of the Doctrine of Election, The New Covenant representing the culmination of all of the other covenants through Jesus Christ

Q: How then should we respond as a church today to all of this, how should we live in light of these truths?

“Followers of Jesus Christ must both think and act biblically. We must avoid undevoted theology and untheological devotion.” — H. B. Charles Jr.

A: We Worship

Doxology (v.33-36)

[33] Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

[34] “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
[35] “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”

[36] For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. - Romans 11:33–36