Romans Bible Study Lesson 46

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The Diminishing of Israel

Romans 11:11—15

Israel stumbled over the Rock of Offense (Jesus Christ) as prophesied in Isaiah 8:14; 28:16. Both Peter  (1 Peter 2:7) and Paul (Romans 9:33) point out the Old Testament prophesies as having been fulfilled. Peter points to Christ as the Stone in Acts 4:11 but does not refer to Israel tripping over the Stone. That is because Israel has not rejected the testimony of the Holy Spirit through Stephen as God’s final outreach to Israel. They had rejected the testimony of God the Father in the Old Testament by killing the Father’s messengers—the prophets (Luke 11:47; Acts 7:52). They rejected the testimony of the Son by killing Him and finally they rejected the testimony of the Holy Spirit by stoning Stephen. Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit when he testified against Israel so the leadership of Israel did not reject Stephen but the Holy Spirit. This blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was unforgivable and resulted in Israel’s temporary fall from God’s favor (Matthew 12:31). Israel could blaspheme the Father (Ezekiel 20:27) and not live in fear of eternal condemnation and they could blaspheme the Son, (Matthew 12:32) but the Holy Spirit was the last means by which God would reach out to Israel.

It should be remembered that Jesus had said that sin against the Son of Man would be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit would not be forgiven. The Jews at Jerusalem had blasphemed, and God had raised up Paul to go first to the Jews of the dispersion. The Jews in Pisidia had blasphemed (Acts 13:45), and Paul had turned away from them to the Gentiles. Now the Jews of Greece have blasphemed and for the second time Paul turns to the Gentiles. And, as we shall see, when Paul reached Rome the Jews again blasphemed (Acts 28:25-28) and for the third and final time Paul pronounced blindness upon them and declared that the salvation of God had been sent to the Gentiles. This brought the Transition Period to an end, as well as the book of Acts, the purpose of which was to explain the fall of Israel and the transition to the gospel of the grace of God among the Gentiles.

Charles F. Baker, Understanding the Book of Acts page 107

This last rejection of God by Israel was to result in the start of the Tribulation as evidenced by Jesus Christ standing as Stephen is looking into heaven. Standing indicated Jesus is no longer sitting at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19) and that indicated He was ready to come to rule on earth after His enemies were destroyed (Psalm 68:1; Matthew 22:43). National Israel’s sin of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit resulted in a national blindness. Individual Israelites are still capable of being saved but it became impossible for national Israel to go back to accept the offer of the Kingdom.

Verse 11

When Israel stumbled over their Messiah, they started a downward slide from which they have never recovered. The once great nation (during the time of kings David and Solomon) had a history of rejecting God’s pleadings to come back to Him. They went in and out of captivity and were scattered all over the known world. The rejection of Christ and of the Holy Spirit was a stumble that lead God to temporarily put His prophesied plans for Israel on hold and to turn to the Gentiles. This certainly was bad news for Israel but great news for the Gentiles. Before this the Gentiles were on the outside looking in, without hope, but by Israel’s transgression salvation came directly to the Gentiles. Even this was done for Israel’s benefit—to make them jealous.

Ephesians 2:11—16 11Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands– 12remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.

Verse 12

The word failure can be interpreted diminishing. Through Israel’s diminishing came riches for the Gentiles. With Israel’s stumbling over the Stone of Offense (with the stoning of Stephen) came the inability for Israel to repent and believe in their Messiah so that the Millennial Kingdom would be set up. This will now happen at the end of this Age of Grace signaled by the Rapture. After the seven-year Tribulation, Christ will come and set up His Kingdom. Israel’s diminishing refers to the 30-year period that God was cycling down Israel’s program of prophecy while cycling up the Mystery program. This period runs from their fall to the end of the book of Acts. Even though there were clean breaks from one program to the next, there was a mixture of the two until the end of Acts often resulting in a confusing conglomeration of Kingdom and Grace. This is one reason we should not extract our theology from the book of Acts. You get Kingdom theology from the Gospels and Body theology from Paul’s 13 books. Acts can be understood with a proper understanding of the separation of Kingdom and Grace.

Paul continues by saying that if even now the world is blessed by Israel’s fall, how much more blessed will the world be when Israel is glorified. The assumption is that there is a future for Israel. These Gentile blessings were prophesied to come through Israel (Zechariah 8:13, cf. Matthew 15:21—28) and were designed to make Israel jealous. This jealousy would bring individual Jews to faith in Christ but was not done so national Israel would recognize Jesus Christ as their Messiah and repent since the Kingdom program was now temporarily defunct.

Zechariah 8:13 ‘It will come about that just as you were a curse among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so I will save you that you may become a blessing Do not fear; let your hands be strong.’


Verse 13—15

Paul affirms his position as Apostle to the Gentiles and, unlike Peter and the 11, he magnifies his office. Contrast this with many present-day churches that magnify Peter’s office and, for the most part, ignore Paul’s. Paul’s authority came directly from God, through personal contact with the glorified Jesus Christ, and superseded the ministry of the 12. We can see this concept in action in Galatians 2:11 when Paul called out Peter for withdrawing himself from the Gentiles. Peter put himself under Paul’s authority. We can also see Peter’s diminishing ministry through Acts, mirroring the diminishing of Israel. Another proof that God’s dealings with Israel have changed is in not choosing a replacement Disciple after James had died (Acts 12:22).

Verse 15 again presupposes that Israel will become great. Many Old Testament passages show Israel’s glorious future with the world serving her.

Isaiah 60:10—12 10“Foreigners will build up your walls, And their kings will minister to you; For in My wrath I struck you, And in My favor I have had compassion on you. 11“Your gates will be open continually; They will not be closed day or night, So that men may bring to you the wealth of the nations, With their kings led in procession. 12“For the nation and the kingdom which will not serve you will perish, And the nations will be utterly ruined.

Isaiah 61:6 But you will be called the priests of the LORD; You will be spoken of as ministers of our God You will eat the wealth of nations, And in their riches you will boast.