Monday, January 22, 2024

2024.01.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 11:1–6

Read Romans 11:1–6

Questions from the Scripture text: Who now says something (Romans 11:1, cf. Romans 10:19a, Romans 10:20a)? What does he ask if God has done? How does he answer? What evidence is there that Israel has not been cast away? Which, specifically, of His people has God not cast away (Romans 11:2)? To what does he now refer? Of whom did the Scripture speak? With whom did he plead? Against whom? What did Elijah say about Israel at that time (Romans 11:3)? Who responded (Romans 11:4)? What had God done? For Whom? How many had He reserved? In what did this reserving result? At what other time had God reserved people for Himself (Romans 11:5)? What does v5 call these reserved people? According to what had they been reserved? What does election by grace exclude as a cause for election (Romans 11:6)? Why? What two types of election are mutually exclusive?

Has God cast away Israel? Romans 11:1–6 prepares us for the sermon in the midweek prayer meeting. In these six verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God reserves for Himself a remnant of Israel (and of every nation) according to the election of grace. 

Amazing grace. We are not like God in our view of sin and sinners. With our remaining flesh, we find it difficult to say “let God be true and every man a liar” (cf. Romans 3:4), so that God is still good even if He saves none (cf. Romans 3:3). So, we are not amazed enough by His grace in saving just one. That’s why we might ask a question like “has God cast away His people?”

Paul adds his voice (“I say then,” Romans 11:1) to the voices of Moses (“First Moses says,” Romans 10:19) and Isaiah (“Isaiah is very bold and says,” Romans 10:20). He knows that he is writing by the Spirit as they did. But he also knows that he is writing under marvelous, saving grace. His answer to the question is “Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite” (Romans 11:1). What an Israelite he was! The rest of verse 1 is an abbreviation of Philippians 3:4–6. There, we remember that he wasn’t just the prototypical Israelite, but also the prototypical sinner. He had persecuted the church. 

God certainly hadn’t cast away Israel, if He is saving such sinful Israelites as Paul! The real question is, “why is He saving any?”—especially any like Paul? And Romans 11:2 answers, “God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew.” The answer is that electing love that we considered in the same words in Romans 8:29, “those whom He foreknew.” 

Unchanging grace. The apostle, then, has us open our Bibles to 1 Kings 19 to see that it has always been this way. Elijah’s own assessment of the situation is in Romans 11:3, “I alone am left.” He had pretty convincing evidence for that: “they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and […] they seek my life.” Our knowledge is finite, so it’s too easy for us to draw conclusions based upon what we see and what we think we know. But even if we knew everyone and everything on earth, and all that is done, we would still be missing data that dwarfs all of this: what is in the mind of God. 

“divine response” here translates an unique word that borrows from classical Greek works to refer to an oracle: speech that is absolutely true and beyond man’s reach (even above their false gods). Why was there “a remnant” (cf. Romans 11:5) of “seven thousand men” (Romans 11:4)? Because God says, “I have reserved for Myself” (verse 4). They don’t continue to be His because they “have not bowed the knew to Baal” (verse 4). They have not bowed the knee to Baal, because He has reserved them for Himself! 

Electing grace. Paul knows this doctrine quite personally. He had turned from persecuting the church to preaching the gospel because God had reserved and saved him for Himself. This is the story of every Israelite at the time who was believing in Christ: “even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace” (Romans 11:5). Indeed, at that time, many tens of thousands of Jews had converted (cf. Acts 21:20), and each and every single one was a marvel of amazing, electing grace.

Finally, the apostle reminds us that this is the case with not only Jews but also Greeks, and not only at that time but at all times. Election by grace and election by works (let alone salvation by works) are mutually exclusive: if it is the one, then it cannot be the other, and if it is the other, then it cannot be the one. We had seen this about Jews and Greeks together back in Romans 3:29–4:4. Now, the Spirit emphasizes it all the more, “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work” (Romans 11:6). 

O, dear reader, if you are saved it is because God decided to know you and love you before He made the worlds. And, in that love, He has determined that by His grace (what is in Him, over-against what fails to be in us!) He would reserve you for Himself. This is the story of every believer. God has not rejected His people, for He is still saving among them by election-driven grace! And He has not rejected the nations, for He is still saving among them by election-driven grace. This should open our mouths to God in praise for our redemption and to others in preaching of that grace by which He might save them.

Have you come to faith? What determined that you would? How were you brought to it? For whom are you praying to believe the gospel? To whom are you telling the gospel? How can they come to faith?

Sample prayer:  Lord, truly You are faithful to Your people. After all that Israel had done, You have not cast them off but continue to save according to amazing, electing grace! And how abundant is the generosity of Your goodness! For, You send Your gospel to the nations, because You have reserved for Yourself a multitude among them according to the foreknowledge of electing grace. And, by Your almighty power, You bring that multitude to faith by redeeming grace. Thank You for our salvation, Lord. Grant it to those specific ones for whom we have been praying, and to whom we have been telling the gospel. And gather in the whole remnant of those whom You have foreknown, that Christ, Who is glorified in them, may return, and the whole of Your work of salvation be completed. For, we ask it in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH438 “I Love to Tell the Story” 

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