Israel's Current Spiritual Condition - Part 1

Romans 11:1-10

Tom Pennington  •  May 5, 2019
Audio   •  PDF
  • Share:
  • Today, we begin a new chapter in Paul's letter to the Romans. But before we get into the details of this magnificent chapter, I want to lift us again above the tree line so that we can see the entire forest. Romans, as we've discovered over the years we've been studying it together, is about the gospel of God. And at the center of the gospel is the great truth of justification by faith, that God declares believing sinners to be right with Him by grace alone, through the work of Christ alone, received through faith alone.

    Now with that in mind, let me just remind you of how this great letter to the Romans unfolds. You have, in the first seventeen verses, an introduction; and then after that, beginning in chapter 1, verse 18, running through the end of chapter 4, you have "The Gospel Explained," as Paul unpacks this great truth of justification by faith alone, both the need for that gospel and exactly what that gospel is.

    The second major movement of this letter, I've entitled "The Gospel Experienced." It's the effects of justification. Chapters 5 through 8 describe the immediate effects of our justification and the long-term effects as well.

    Now, we are studying the third great section of Paul's letter and it's "The Gospel Defended; Election, Israel, and God's Promises," in chapters 9 through 11.

    Again, let me remind you of how those three chapters, chapters 9 through 11, unfold. Here's the argument that sort of unfolds in these great chapters. You have first of all, in chapter 9, verses 1 through 5, "An introduction: Israel's Rejection of God's Gospel." In those verses, Paul poses a very simple but profound question, "Why have so many of God's chosen people rejected their Messiah and His gospel?" In response to that question, Paul gives three answers.

    The first answer is, "The Reality of Divine Election," in chapter 9, verse 6 through verse 29. Here we learned that not all of the ethnic descendants of Abraham have ever or will ever be saved. And that was never God's plan and that's demonstrated by, "The Reality of Sovereign Election," as Paul unfolds it through several generations of the descendants of Abraham.

    The second answer that he gives to this question of why so few Jewish people have believed is "The Reality of Human Responsibility," beginning in chapter 9, verse 30, running through the end of chapter 10. And here he reminds us that the reason people are saved, earlier in chapter 9, is because of election, but the reason people are lost is because of human responsibility. The reason they have not believed is their own responsibility; they have chosen to reject God's gospel and to embrace a false gospel.

    His third answer to the question is, "The Reality of God's Faithfulness," and that brings us to the passage we begin to study today, chapter 11, verses 1 through 32. In this chapter, Paul concludes his arguments by explaining that God is always faithful to His promises, and that means that He still has a plan for Abraham's ethnic descendants.

    Although the Jewish people, as a whole, have not recognized their Messiah, they have not embraced His gospel; still God remains faithful to His promises to them. He will continue to treat the nation as a whole, all the physical descendants of Abraham, as His special people, and He will preserve a remnant of them as true believers; and someday in the future, as he says in chapter 11, "All Israel will be saved."

    Now let me show you how Paul develops this idea of God's faithfulness in chapter 11, verses 1 through 32. There are two large sections in this passage, two major sections within this answer regarding God's faithfulness. And they're easy to see; each of them begins in exactly the same way. Look at verse 1, and notice the syntax, "I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be!"

    Now go down to verse 11, you see exactly the same approach, "I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be!" Those two questions and negative responses divide this answer that Paul gives about God's faithfulness. Each of the sections also draws to a close, in the same way, with a series of quotations from the Old Testament. If you have a Bible that somehow marks out Old Testament quotations, you'll notice verses 8 through 10, at the end of the first half, clearly are Old Testament quotations, and then you'll also see verses 26 and 27, are Old Testament quotations. So there are these two large sections then.

    Let me explain to you their point. The two sections are verses 1 through 10, "Israel's Current Spiritual Condition," and verses 11 through 32, "Israel's Future Spiritual Salvation; Israel's Current Spiritual Condition and Israel's Future Spiritual Salvation."

    Today, we begin to consider the first of the sections, verses 1 through 10, "Israel's Current Spiritual Condition," let's read it together; you follow along, Romans, chapter 11, beginning in verse 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. 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 Israel? "Lord, THEY HAVE KILLED YOUR PROPHETS, THEY HAVE TORN DOWN YOUR ALTARS, AND I ALONE AM LEFT, AND THEY ARE SEEKING MY LIFE." But what is the divine response to him? "I HAVE KEPT for Myself SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL." In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; just as it is written,

    "GOD GAVE THEM A SPRIT OF STUPOR,

    EYES TO SEE NOT AND EARS TO HEAR NOT,

    DOWN TO THIS VERY DAY."

    And David says,

    "LET THEIR TABLE BECOME A SNARE AND A TRAP,

    AND A STUMBLING BLOCK AND A RETRIBUTION TO THEM.

    LET THEIR EYES BE DARKENED TO SEE NOT,

    AND BEND THEIR BACKS FOREVER."

    Now these 10 verses describe for us Israel's current spiritual condition, and the description falls under two headings. In verses 1 through 6, we learn that, "A Remnant is Saved by Grace;" and in verses 7 through 10, "The Rest are Hardened by Sin." Let me say that again; in verses 1 through 6, we learned that "A Remnant is Saved by Grace;" and in verses 6 through 10, "The Rest are Hardened by Sin."

    First of all then, as we begin our study of the section, Paul reminds us in verses 1 through 6 that a remnant is saved by grace. But Paul doesn't begin by making that affirmation. Instead, notice he begins with a rhetorical question. What is the question? Here it is, "Has God permanently rejected Israel?" Notice verse 1, "I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He?" Paul begins with this rhetorical question in order to introduce the next part of his argument. But the question is, "What prompts him to ask this question in the first place?" Why would he even anticipate this objection?

    Notice the word 'then,' "I say then." That Greek word is a very familiar word to students of the Apostle Paul; it's usually translated 'therefore.' In other words, Paul introduces the question in verse 1, 'Therefore,' generally because of all that he has said back in chapters 9 and 10, but specifically because of what he just said at the end of chapter 10. Remember verse 21 of chapter 10? God describes Israel as "disobedient and obstinate." And then you go to the couple of verses before that, and Paul tells us that God has made those who were not His people, the Gentiles, His people.

    Now, when you understand that, what's the logical response; what's the first question you have in response to, "God thinks Israel is obstinate and disobedient and He's now saving Gentiles?" Well, it's perfectly logical then, verse 1, "I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He?" The question is perfectly understandable in light of Israel's rejection of Jesus Christ, her Messiah, and her equally violent rejection of the righteousness based on faith. In light of that, has God rejected His people?

    The answer comes in verse 1, "Absolutely not!" Paul puts it in verse 1, "May it never be!" Paul loves that expression; we've already seen it a number of times in the book of Romans. It's the strongest polite way to say, "Never, not going to happen." It speaks of what is repugnant, even unthinkable! Paul says, "It is unthinkable that God would reject His people." But Paul isn't content here to deny this idea in the general terms of that expression, "May it never be!"

    Notice in verse 2, he denies it directly by using the same wording and affirming the positive. Notice what he says, "God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew." In spite of her sin, in spite of her disobedience, in spite of her rejection of the Messiah and His gospel, listen carefully, Israel remains the people of God.

    Now the first half of verse 2 has more to say, and we'll come back to it shortly. But notice again the question, Paul has raised the simple question, "Has God permanently rejected Israel?" His answer, "Absolutely not!"

    But Paul doesn't stop there. He goes on to provide us with the proof of that assertion, the proof. Paul doesn't ask us to take his word for it, although obviously as an apostle of Jesus Christ, he could have done so. Instead, he puts forth here, in this passage, several convincing pieces of evidence to prove to us that God has not rejected His people.

    The first piece of evidence is personal, and it's Paul's own conversion to Christ, Paul's own conversion to Christ. Notice what he says in verse 1, "For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin." Now, we've talked about this before, but the word 'Jew' is a political or a national description of the Jewish people. But the term 'Israelite' describes the special spiritual and religious position of the Jewish people.

    You see, Israel was the name that God gave to Jacob in Genesis 32, which means 'a prince with God.' And later in that same chapter, God described His descendants that way; and specifically, He uses this word to describe them as those God specially chose, like Jacob, to belong to Him and to be a part of His plan of redemption. Paul says, "I'm an Israelite, I have that special spiritual position." And then he adds, notice, "A descendent of Abraham." Literally, the Greek text says, "out of the seed of Abraham." Paul says, "Listen, I'm no proselyte to Judaism; I am a physical descendent of Abraham." And then he adds, "And I am of the tribe of Benjamin." To all of us Gentiles sitting here, that doesn't mean much, but it meant a lot to the Jewish people because Benjamin had a special heritage; that tribe did because the person Benjamin was the only son of Jacob that was born in the Promised Land. In addition, the city of Jerusalem, Israel's capital, was within the territory given to Benjamin, and only the tribe of Benjamin stayed faithful to the covenant promises that God made to David and to the tribe of Judah.

    You remember after the division of the kingdom, after the death of Solomon's son and the ten tribes in the north, they followed after the idols that Jeroboam built and created. But there were two tribes in South; Judah from which David had come and from which the Messiah would come; and guess the other tribe that remain faithful; it was Benjamin, Benjamin. So Paul obviously had a stellar Jewish pedigree.

    But the question is why? Why does he say all of this about himself? Well, notice the little word 'for.' When you read your Bible, understand that often it's the little words that carry the biggest and greatest meaning and that's true here as well. That little word, "f-o-r," in other words, what Paul describes about himself is one of the reasons that he's giving us that God could not have rejected His people.

    But what's the point he's making? Well, there are two ways to understand Paul's point here. He could be denying that God has rejected Israel in the simple light of his being Jewish. In other words, it could be something like this, you could even read verse 1, like this, "Listen, since I'm Jewish and I could never in light of that entertain the idea that God has cast off His people, so of course, He hasn't abandoned His people." That's possible, but it's more likely that he's making another point.

    In the second half of verse 1, Paul is denying that God has rejected Israel, not in light of his being Jewish, but in light of his being a Jewish Christian, his being a Jewish Christian. As a Jewish Christian, Paul is living proof that God has not abandoned His people, Israel; because if there's just one believing Jew, no one can say that God has rejected Israel completely. Paul alone is a remnant; but of course as he will show us in the next few verses, many other Jewish people were and still are being saved by believing in their Messiah and embracing His gospel.

    And think for a moment about Paul himself, just think about this; if you wanted to prove that God was still faithful to His people, Israel, could you pick a better example than the Apostle Paul? What greater proof could there be that God had not abandoned Israel because of her unbelief than saving Saul of Tarsus? No one, in the first century, more powerfully exemplified Israel's unbelief than Saul before the Damascus Road experience. That God showed him mercy proves that God has not abandoned Israel because of her unbelief. In fact, Paul uses himself as an example of this.

    If you're here this morning and you're Jewish and you have not believed in Jesus as your Messiah, or you're here this morning and your Gentile and maybe you've heard the gospel many times, but you are not a genuine follower of Jesus Christ and you know it, and you've ever wondered, "Would God even accept me in light of my sin, in light of my life of rebellion; maybe I've lived decades in rebellion against God or even worse, in self-righteousness, thinking I didn't need the Redeemer, I didn't need the Messiah, how would God respond to me?

    Paul says, listen carefully, "God saved me to prove that He'll save anyone." Turn to 1 Timothy; 1 Timothy, chapter 1, this is exactly what Paul says; 1 Timothy, chapter 1, verse 15, he says, "It is a trustworthy statement," 1 Timothy 1, verse 15, "It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ (That's 'Christos' in Greek, that's Messiah, that Messiah.) Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am the foremost of all."

    Now listen, Paul is not being self-effacing here; he's not saying, "Yeah, Yeah, yeah, I'm a really bad sinner." No, he means it. I mean, go back and look at how he describes himself in verse 13, "I was formally a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor." Paul was a man given to violence; he tortured Christians; he went to other cities to arrest them; he killed them, and he blasphemed the true God by all of his behavior. He says, verse 15, "I am the worst."

    Now watch verse 16, "Yet for this reason (Notice, here's the reason I found mercy; here's the reason Jesus Christ saved me. I love this. Notice what he says.)…so that in me as the (worst), Jesus (Messiah) might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life." Paul says, "You want to know why God saved me?" Have you ever wondered, "Why in the world would God pick Saul?" It wasn't because he was great material to work with; it was because he was the worst material to work with, and it was to prove to every single person who wonders how God would receive them if they came in repentance and faith like Paul did. Listen, if He'll take me, if He will save me, then He will save you, that's the point. So Paul says, "Listen, you want proof that God hasn't abandoned His people? Well, just look at me; look at my conversion; look at what God did with me; look at my unbelief, and God didn't reject me for that unbelief; He sought me out and redeemed me, amazingly, graciously!"

    There's a second piece of evidence back in our text, Romans 11, and it's biblical, and specifically, the evidence is God's Old Testament promises not to forsake His people. Now, this is not directly stated, but it is implicit; it is implicit in the question Paul asks and in the answer he gives, because in both the question and the answer, he borrows Old Testament language, explicitly, directly. Look at the question in verse 1, "God has not rejected His people, has He?" And look at the answer in verse 2, "God has not rejected His people."

    Now, the wording of both of those comes from the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, God explicitly states that He will never forsake or abandon His people. Let me show you. Go back to 1 Samuel; 1 Samuel and here's what I want you to see. If you could read Greek and you could compare the Greek of our text, both the question and the answer with the Greek of the first two passages I'm going to give you, you'll see they're identical. Paul is borrowing Old Testament language here, and what's remarkable is the context from which he borrows it. Look at 1 Samuel, chapter 12, beginning in verse 19; the context here is the people have, contrary to God's purposes and really in rejection of God Himself, they said, "We don't want this ethereal, spiritual king who comes in the Shekinah glory cloud; we want a real king like the other nations around us." Verse 19, when Samuel has confronted them, they all, verse 18, "feared…greatly." "Then (verse 19) all the people said to Samuel, 'Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, so that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil by asking for ourselves a king.'"

    Samuel said to the people, "Do not fear. You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart." In other words, "Repent and get back on the path of following the Lord," that's great advice always. Verse 21, "You must not turn aside, for then you would go after futile things which can not profit or deliver, because they are futile."

    Now watch verse 22, this is why Samuel is saying, "I want you to turn and repent and come back to the Lord in spite of your sin, your rejection of Him," verse 22, because "the LORD (Yahweh) will not abandon His people (Why?) on account of His great name, because the LORD has been pleased to make you a people for Himself." And he uses exactly the same wording as in our text. "The Lord will not reject His people, (can't happen)."

    Turn over to Psalm 94; Psalm 94. Again, the same wording in the Septuagint, in the Greek text of the Old Testament; Psalm 94, verse 14, "For the LORD will not abandon His people, (the Lord will not reject His people.) Nor will He forsake His inheritance."

    I think the strongest, however, of all the Old Testament passages, is over in Jeremiah. Turn over with me to Jeremiah 31; Jeremiah 31, verse 35. Here the wording is not completely identical but it is very close, Jeremiah 31, verse 35:

    Thus says (Yahweh),

    Who gives the sun for light by day

    And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night,

    Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar;

    (Yahweh) of hosts (or of armies) is His name.

    Now watch verse 36:

    "If this fixed order departs

    From before Me," declares the Lord,

    "Then the offspring of Israel also will cease

    From being a nation before Me forever."

    In other words, if I let the world slip into the chaos, then I'll abandon my promises to Israel. Verse 37:

    Thus says the LORD,

    "If the heavens above can be measured

    And the foundations of the earth stretched out below,

    Then I will also cast off the offspring of Israel

    For all that they have done," (for all their sins) declares the LORD.

    God says, "Listen, if you can measure the universe, then I'll cast off Israel." It still hasn't happened, won't happen. You see the point? God, categorically, in the Old Testament, promised that regardless of what His people did, He would never cast them off.

    Now, go back to Romans, chapter 11, because in light of what we've learned from these explicit Old Testament statements, we can legitimately then paraphrase the question in verse 1 like this, "Has God broken the explicit Old Testament promises He made not to reject His people?" That's what he's saying. And Paul argues, "That's unthinkable; can't happen, never will happen. If God made promises, He cannot fail to keep them." Why? Because, to do so would be a violation of His own nature!

    You remember, I love these verses that tell us what God is like. Numbers, chapter 23, verse 19:

    God is not a man, that He should lie,

    Nor a son of man, that He should repent;

    (That is that He would change His mind about promises He's made.)

    Has He said (it), and will He not do it?

    Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? (This is God!)

    Titus, chapter 1, verse 2, simply says, "God cannot lie." He is not able to lie. In the text we read for our Scripture reading just a few moments ago in Hebrews, chapter 6, verse 18, it says, "It is impossible for God to lie." You know, theologians debate, "Are there things God can't do?" And the answer that question is, "Yes!" There are two things God can't do. Number one, God can't do the illogical and irrational because God is by nature rational; He defines rationality. So all those stupid questions that are asked about, "Can He do this or can He do that?" Of course He can't because God can't do the irrational. And secondly, God cannot act contrary to His nature; it's impossible! And so He can't lie because He is truth itself. If God failed to keep the promises, here's the point, if God failed to keep the promises that He made to the Jewish people or to us, He would cease, by definition, to be God.

    Now there are a couple of important implications of this point to us. Let me just draw them out at this point. First of all, it's important to understand that the ethnic descendants of Abraham, Jewish people, are still, as a people, the special objects of God's care. And that means, secondly, there is no place in the Christian church or in the heart of a true Christian for anti-Semitism because to do so is to act against God Himself. Thirdly, another implication that we draw out of this point is that God, and this is intensely personal, God will keep His promises to you because God is like this; He will keep His promises to you.

    And you know what? That's a little surprising to us because the world we live in, because we're surrounded by people who don't keep their promises. Maybe people in this life have been unfaithful to you and to the promises that they've made to you. Maybe parents or children have made promises to you and have broken them. Or, perhaps your spouse stood at a marriage altar and promised to be faithful to you and to love you and to keep only to you until death, but he or she has failed to keep that promise. Maybe a really close friend has turned on you or perhaps you've had an employer who, in those early days when you were deciding to go with the company, made this long list of wonderful promises of what they were going to do for you and on your behalf only to break them. Because that happens to us all the time in this life, it's easy for us to begin to think of God like that. It's easy for us to begin to look at God with jaded eyes and to imagine that maybe God will end up proving to be no more dependable than other people in my life. Listen, God has never lied! God has never broken His Word! God has never failed to keep a single promise and He never will! Why? Because He simply can't; it is contrary to His nature not to be faithful.

    The third piece of evidence that Paul provides in Romans 11 is theological. It's God's electing love of the nation, God's electing love of the nation. Look at verse 2, "God has not rejected His people (That really comes from the wording of the Old Testament and then he adds this phrase.) whom He foreknew," whom He foreknew.

    Now, we've met this word before back in chapter 8, verse 29; there we're told that God foreknew us. And there we discovered that this Greek word translated 'foreknow' is made up of two Greek words, just like the English word. The first Greek word is 'pro' meaning 'before,' and the second Greek word is 'ginosko,' meaning 'to know.' So literally, the word means 'to know before,' but it's not quite that simple. As etymologies often can mislead us, it's true with this word; because when you go back to the Old Testament, the roots of this word are laid there, because the Hebrew word for 'know' is often used in the Old Testament in the sense of 'choosing before to have a relationship with someone,' in other words, a predetermined relationship. This word means that God set His love on someone specific because He had predetermined to have a relationship with him; He knew him before; He decided before to have a relationship with him.

    Now, here's where we get to a serious disagreement in verse 2. In fact, there's a whole lot of ink spilled in commentaries on this question because there's a serious disagreement about who these people are. There are two basic views about the identity of this group in verse 2, called "His people whom He foreknew;" two basic views.

    The first view says that Paul has changed from the first verse and now he's talking about a different group, and when he says, "His people whom He foreknew," he's talking about the elect within Israel whom God chose to spiritually save, that's one view.

    The second view is that, no, Paul hasn't changed from verse 1; he's still talking about the same group, and he's talking about the entire nation of Israel. Which is right? Well, I believe the second has to be right; he has to be talking about the entire nation of Israel for couple of reasons. One, this view best fits the immediate context because look at the question again in verse 1. In verse one, the question "His people" there obviously refers to the nation. "Has God?" He's not asking, "Has God rejected the elect?" He's asking, "Has God rejected the nation Israel?" And his answer in verse 2, it would be illogical and unreasonable for him to change the meaning of the term. So "His people" in verse 2, is the same as "His people" in verse 1, and it's the nation Israel. Also, this view that it's the entire nation of Israel best fits the entire context of chapter 11. In chapter 11, he will talk about the elect, we will see that; but the focus of this chapter is not on the elect; the focus of this chapter is on Israel and God's relationship to the nation.

    Notice verse1, "God has not rejected His people, has He?" Talking about the Israelites; in fact, Paul makes that clear in verse 1, by saying, "I…am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin." In verse 2, Elijah pleads with God against Israel, the nation. In verse 7, again you have Israel, "What Israel (the nation was) seeking, it has not obtained." In verse 11, you have Israel versus the Gentiles, making it clear we're talking about Jewish people and that's throughout the section that follows.

    But look at verse 25, he says, "For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery--so that you will not be wise in your own estimation--that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in." Clearly, he's talking about the nation, the physical descendants of Abraham. And then notice especially verse 28, because in verse 28, Paul ascribes national election to the nation of Israel. Notice what he says in verse 28, "From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God's choice (God's election) they are beloved for the sake of the fathers." He's not talking about a small remnant within Israel who are elect; he's talking about the nation.

    So then clearly, this chapter is about God's relationship to the physical descendants of Abraham. So go back to verse 2; in verse 2, when Paul talks about God's people "whom He foreknew," He's talking about the nation of Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham. God set His love upon them; and in verse 2, he says, "…whom He foreknew," He pre-determined to have a relationship with them. This is what the Old Testament teaches.

    For example, in Amos, chapter 3, verse 2, God says this to Israel, "You only, (Listen to how He puts it.) You only have I (known) among all the families of the earth." That doesn't mean God didn't know about Pakistan or God didn't know about the United States. Of course not! He's not saying I don't know about the other nations; He's saying, "I know you in a special sense; I've initiated a relationship with you; I have a predetermined plan to have a relationship with you among all the nations of the earth." This was God's plan. Israel has a special place in God's plan.

    Go back to chapter 9, verse 4, he's talking in verse 3, about his kinsman according to the flesh, Jewish people. And then he describes them and their advantages in verse 4, "who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons." There is this 'foreknowing,' God setting them apart as a nation and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the law and the temple service and the promises, "…whose are the fathers, and from whom is the (Messiah) according to the flesh, who is over all, God-blessed forever. Amen." Paul is saying, "Listen, the Jewish nation enjoyed some unique privileges from God; they were the recipients of the divine revelation and they distributed them; they had in their presence the physical manifestation of God in the great glory cloud, the Shekinah! They had all of those sacrifices that would have pictured what Christ would do when He came, and out of the Israelite nation came the Messiah, according to the flesh. God chose the nation.

    Turn back to Deuteronomy. Let me show you this in the Old Testament, Deuteronomy, chapter 7, verses 7 and 8, Moses, talking to the children of Israel gathered on the plains of Moab just before they go into the Promised Land, he says in verse 7:

    The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

    Go over to chapter 10; chapter 10, verses 14 and 15:

    Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. (Verse 15): Yet on your fathers did the LORD set His affection to love them, (And then notice this.) and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples. (Notice the national flavor of this. He chose you above all people groups, just as it is today.)

    Go to Deuteronomy 32; Deuteronomy 32, and verses 8 and 9; this is in the Song of Moses as he concludes his life, he writes this, 32:8:

    When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance,

    When He separated the sons of man,

    He set the boundaries of the peoples

    According to the number of the sons of Israel.

    For the LORD'S portion is His people;

    Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance.

    God gets Israel, that's what he's saying; that's His special people. God chose Israel. Israel was special to God; and in Romans, chapter 11, Paul says she still is; she still is.

    Now don't misunderstand. We're not talking about the current modern nation of Israel in and of itself. Doesn't mean that they are all believers, and we should treat like believers; they're not, they need the gospel. Most of them are unbelievers; they've rejected their Messiah. Doesn't mean everything they do as a modern nation is right and should be supported. As a people group, they should be loved and supported, but you also need to understand that God did not intend to save every Jewish person. He's just argued that back in chapters 9 and 10, right? Even out of the immediate descendants of Abraham, He didn't choose everyone. Instead, God chose Israel as a nation to be His witness nation, not for the spiritual salvation of every person, but as a whole to be His special people, to be His witness nation to the world, to bring the Law into mankind, to bring the Messiah to mankind. God's choice of Israel guarantees the people as a whole will enjoy certain privileges and responsibilities, but the choice of the nation does not guarantee the salvation of individuals. Israel then is God's people whom He foreknew; He pre-determined to have a relationship with her.

    Why does that matter? Well, here's what Paul is arguing. He's saying, if God deliberately and graciously predetermined to have a relationship with Israel, if He set His love upon her to be His people, if He foreknew her, then it is impossible for Him to reject her! Human sin doesn't cancel out God's promises. Aren't you grateful for that?

    Go back to chapter 3; Romans, chapter 3, and look at verse 3, this is exactly what Paul says:

    What then? If some did not believe, (He's talking about the Jewish people here.) If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? May it never be! (It's unthinkable.) Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar.

    God will be faithful to Himself; He will be faithful to His promises, and human sinfulness doesn't change that!

    Now, I've argued with you that in verse 2, Paul is talking about God choosing the nation as a nation and setting His love upon them, but let me apply this on a personal level because Paul, remember, used the same word 'foreknow' back in chapter 8, verse 29, to talk about individuals, to talk about each of us who are in Christ. God has also set His love upon us as individuals and here's the point, here's the application, once God chooses to set His love, whether on a nation, the nation of Israel to make them His witness nation, or on an individual to bring them to spiritual salvation, He never waivers in that decision. He never waivers!

    Listen, He loves you because it is His nature to love; and out of His nature that's prone to love, He decided to set His love on you and nothing will ever change that reality. "God (cannot reject) His people whom He foreknew."

    Now this really brings the main application of this chapter home. Why does this section matter? Why did it matter to the Roman Christians? Most of them were Gentiles; it's like, "Paul, really, I mean, why would you take so much time and spend so much effort to talk about this to a bunch of Gentiles?" And closer to home, "Why should this section matter to us, sitting in 21st century Dallas, when most of us are Gentiles, what's the point?" Listen, there is a clear and obvious connection, a logical connection between chapters 9 through 11, and what came before it, and specifically chapter 8. Because at the end of Romans, chapter 8, (Do you remember?) at the end of Romans 8, Paul argues that the believer's future glorification is certain and that we are absolutely secure because we've been justified and because God foreknew us; He foreknew us! And that means He set His eternal electing love upon us, and that means nothing can ever happen that separates us from the eternal love of God.

    But if that's true, what happened to Israel? What happened to God's chosen people in the Old Testament, the Jewish people? After all, He foreknew them as well, so why have a majority of them rejected their Messiah; rejected His gospel? Is it possible, is it possible that God has broken His Covenant with them, that He has rejected them, that He has abandoned them? And here's the real question. "If God did that to them, then what makes you think God won't do that to you? If He's abandoned them, if He's rejected them because of their sin, because of their unbelief, then what makes you think that you will stay in His favor?"

    Paul's answer to us is that God has never rejected His people whom He foreknew. He can't; He simply can't do it; it's contrary to His nature. It is one of those things that is impossible for God to do. He is truth itself; and when He makes promises, He never lies when He makes them, and He always has to keep them because He is immutable; He is unchangeable, and He is everlastingly faithful to His word. Christian, let this sink into your soul. "God has (never) rejected His people whom He foreknew, (and He will never reject you.)"

    There's one more important piece of evidence that God has not rejected Israel and it's also biblical. It's God's response to Elijah in verses 2 through 4; and Lord willing, we'll consider it next week.

    Let's pray together. Our Father, we are overwhelmed by what we have been reminded of today. Lord, we knew these things, those of us in Christ. We know that you are faithful. But, oh, God, we thank you that you have only affirmed and reinforced and strengthened our understanding of, our confidence in, our security in your very nature; that you cannot reject the people whom you have foreknown. And you have foreknown us. Oh, God, we thank you! Thank you that you have not abandoned Israel because that means you'll never abandon us. Father, help us who are in Christ to find joy, comfort, security, encouragement, peace, in these great truths.

    And Father, I pray for those who may be here this morning who are not in Christ, may they see that you have made real promises in the gospel, that whoever will come in repentance and faith and believe in your Son, that to them, you will give eternal life, and they will never perish. Lord, help them today to see those rich gospel promises and to run to you in Christ; Father, to seek the forgiveness that only you can give because of what Christ did in His life, and in His death, and in His resurrection? May they find you to always be faithful to those promises. Lord, may that happen even today, we pray in Jesus's name, Amen.