May 4, 2003
HAS GOD CAST AWAY HIS PEOPLE?
Romans 10 ended with God stretching forth His hand toward a disobedient and gainsaying people. This brought forth the question, "Has God cast away his people?" Paul answered, "By no means!" and offered himself as proof, "For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin." To this he adds, "God has not cast away his people which he foreknew" and for a second proof recalled Elijah "how he made intercession to God against Israel, saying, 'Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life" (Romans 11:1-3). So far as Elijah knew, he stood alone. Had they succeeded in killing him, that would have ended God's testimony on earth! But God said to Elijah, "I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal." What a pleasant surprise!
From this Paul reasoned, "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace." This God-preserved remnant was composed of Israelites, but not exclusively, for "there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him" (Rom. 10:12).
Paul continued, "And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work" (11:6). Grace and works are mutually exclusive, and Israel had "been going about to establish their own righteousness" while "not submitting themselves unto the righteousness of God" (10:3). Little wonder that " Israel has not obtained that which he seeks for; but the election has obtained it, and the rest were blinded" (11:7). Israel had been warned in the Law (Dt. 29:4), the Psalms (69:23), and the Prophets (Isa. 6:9-10; 29:10) of God's judicial blinding. Most stunning of all is that verses forewarning blinding are quoted in each of the first six books of the New Testament. See Matthew 13:14, Mark 4:12, Luke 8:10 & John 12:40. In three of these four places they had just counseled to kill the Lord. Acts 28:26-27 follows Israel's final rejection of the kingdom and lastly our passage, Romans 11:8-10, explains God's action setting aside Israel that "He might be justified in His sayings, and might overcome when He is judged" (Romans 3:4). Surely He hath done all things well!
Ivan L. Burgener