Romans Bible Study Lesson 43

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Israel not rejected

Romans 11:1

Paul has just finished describing Israel’s spiritual condition and how they got there in 9:1—6. He then shows how God can choose anyone He wants to so that His will is accomplished in 9:6—33 (Israel, Jacob and Esau, Pharaoh, King Cyrus, little flock within Israel, Gentiles). Romans 10 opens with Israel’s main problem, having have zeal for God but without knowledge. They wanted to come to God on their terms—works instead faith. Even though Israel had the Word of God right in front of them they ignored it and remained a disobedient and obstinate people.

Because Israel rejected God there are many who believe God has completely rejected Israel. Since God turned His back on Israel many believe Israel’s blessings are now going to the church (replacement theology or supersessionism). Some who believe this also believe we should have nothing to do with Israel (Punitive supersessionism includes Origen and Luther). This twisted thinking leads to the idea that the church has replaced Israel. (There are Covenant theologians who view the Church as having taken over the role Israel was playing of being the entity that God speaks through. There are some who believe in replacement theology but also believe God has plans for Israel in the future.)

As Paul continues to address his Jewish kinsmen, explaining why God’s promises to them are not being fulfilled, he will make it very clear that Israel has a future. As we study chapter 11 we will also get a clearer idea of how God dealt with Israel’s rejection of His Messiahship and how the Church, the Body of Christ fits into God’s plan.

Verse 1

In answer to the previous two chapters, Paul says that Israel does have a future. If Paul stopped at the end of chapter 10 we would think that God has turned His back on Israel. However, even the last verse in chapter 10 gives Israel some hope as we are left with the image of God stretching out His hands in love towards Israel in spite of their rejection of Him.

If you look at the promises given to Israel in the Old Testament (safety from enemies, land inheritance, David ruling, riches of the nations coming to them, the Holy Spirit, innate knowledge of God’s Word, the ability to obey His commandments) we see that nothing has been fulfilled since Acts 2 when Peter announced that the events happening were in fulfillment of what was recorded in Joel 2. Since that time Israel has not seen God at work. Is it any wonder that many think God will now fulfill the promises made to Israel through the Church? Instead of Christ sitting on the throne in Jerusalem they would say He is now sitting on the throne in heaven or on the throne of my heart. Instead of a literal Jerusalem or Promised Land in the Middle East, they spiritualize Zion or Canaan to mean heaven with the Jordan River separating us from the Promised Land. They would say that when we die we cross the Jordan into the Promised Land.

Once you get away from understanding Scripture to mean what it says, you can make it say anything you want it to. Imagine if you promised your older son that you are going to take him to a basketball game but you took your youngest son to a football game instead. Could you tell the oldest son that you fulfilled what you promised him? Of course not! Why would we expect that God would do this to Israel? If God operated in this manner, how could we even trust Him for our salvation? Perhaps He could fulfill His promise of eternal life to us by giving it to some of the fallen angels!

In verse 1 Paul emphatically states that God has not rejected His own people. Notice Paul refers to them as His people. The word rejected means to cast aside, to push out of the way. In Acts 13:46 the words spoken by Paul were cast away by those hearing in Pisidian Antioch. Also used in 1Timothy 1:19 concerning some whose faith had been shipwrecked because they pushed aside the faith. The term implies a permanent rejection.

Paul is proof that God has not completely rejected Israel

Paul uses himself as proof that God has not rejected Israel. Paul was not just an Israelite but a leader of the nation of Israel. God put him and others of the Sanhedrin in charge of the nation of Israel. If God had actually completely rejected Israel, as some argue, then it would be impossible for a Jew to become saved. Paul points to himself as proof that God is still working with individuals (a remnant) within Israel even though the national promises have been temporarily abrogated.

Israel was promised that God would bless her if she followed Him. Israel was also warned that if she went her own way and did not follow the commandments of God that He would curse her (Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28). We know from history that Israel followed after other gods and as a result experienced hardships and trials and have been scattered even to this day.

We know from Scripture that Israel will not stay scattered but will be gathered together again. Deuteronomy 30 promises that God will restore them and bring them to the land of their fathers. This will happen if they return to the Lord and obey His commandments. Since on their own they will follow their own sinful nature, God will take a hold of them and put in them a new heart and spirit making it possible for them to obey Him and thus to obtain the promised blessings.

Ezekiel 36:24—28 24“For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. 25“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27“I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. 28“You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God.

So why doesn’t the Church, the Body of Christ, have a promise like this? Those who see Israel’s blessings transferred to the Church would say the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 is in fulfillment of a promise that He would be given to the church. But this promise was given directly to the house of Israel (verse 22). It is very hard to take prophesy that applies to Israel and apply it to the church. How is He going to gather us from all the lands and bring us into our own land and then cleanse us? To apply this to the Church we would have to say that God will gather those who will be saved, bring us to heaven, cleanse us and give us a new heart and spirit. This doesn’t make sense and contradicts what Paul says:

1 Corinthians 6:11 but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

2 Corinthians 1:22 who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.

Ezekiel 36:24—28 works for the nation of Israel but not for the Body of Christ. Those who remain at the end of the Tribulation will be gathered to the Promised Land at the Second Coming. He will cleanse them and put within them a new heart and spirit and cause them to walk in His statutes. Here’s how Jeremiah puts it:

Jeremiah 31:33—34 33“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34“They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

During the Millennial Kingdom Israel will be ruling the world. All earthly governments will be in subjection to Christ who will be delegating His authority to King David, the 12 Disciples and to all of Israel. In order to be able to do their job, Israelites will supernaturally be given the perfect knowledge of the Law and the ability to obey it to the letter. The manifestation gifts of the Spirit will also be revived giving Israel the ability to speak and interpret foreign languages and having supernatural knowledge to know if someone is being devious (like Ananias and Sapphira in Acts) or hiding some illegal activity. I believe the other Spiritual gifts will also be in use (1 Corinthians 12:7—10).

The Holy Spirit was beginning to be poured out on Israel in early Acts in fulfillment of Joel 2. This manifestation of the Holy Spirit was to begin in Jerusalem, extend to Judea, Samaria and the rest of the world but because national Israel rejected their Messiah, the rest of Joel 2 did not happen. If Israel had accepted her Messiah, Joel 2:28—29 would have been fulfilled completely and the Tribulation of Joel 2:30—32 would have been ushered in. With the rejection of her Messiah, God changed His dealings with mankind. Instead of revealing Himself though Israel, He is now dealing with the Gentiles, putting Israel’s program temporarily on hold.

Joel 2:28—32 28“It will come about after this

That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;

And your sons and daughters will prophesy,

Your old men will dream dreams,

Your young men will see visions.

29“Even on the male and female servants

I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

30“I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth,

Blood, fire and columns of smoke.

31“The sun will be turned into darkness

And the moon into blood

Before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.

32“And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD

Will be delivered;

For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem

There will be those who escape,

As the LORD has said,

Even among the survivors whom the LORD calls.