Romans Chapter 11
KLMX December 2009
1st Baptist Church
Des Moines, NM
I am working through Paulís letter to the Romans and this week Iím in chapter 11 of that letter. Again, remember that our modern chapter and verse divisions are a fairly modern invention. Nevertheless, theyíre useful for identifying sections and places in the Scriptures. Itís actually kind of interesting reading early church fathers where they just quote the words and donít have chapter and verse to refer to. But, anyway, here we are in whatís called Chapter 11.
In this section, Paul is addressing the question of whether or not God has forgotten or set aside the covenant he made with the Israelites. If faith in Christ is now required for salvation or for right standing with God, then where does that put the old covenants? Put in another way, if we now have the New Testaments, where does that place the so-called Old Testament?
Paul has shown all along in Romans that Jews and Gentiles alike are guilty of transgressing Godís law. If thatís the case, then atonement needs to be made for both. Heís arguing that this atonement is fully and completely satisfied in Christ and now that Christ has been made evident or manifest, that all, Jew and Gentile, must come to Him. Paulís constant theme in his teaching is that of grace; specifically, that it is by grace through faith that we are saved, not by works of the law. You might think that this teaching goes against Jewish law, but Paul has been trying to show us thatís not the case at all, but rather that true faith was required all along and that no one is saved by their works.
But, letís get back to our question of whether or not God has forgotten His covenant with the Israelites. At the beginning of chapter 1, Paul has shown that only a remnant of Israelites will be saved and that it has been that way all along. Because salvation is by grace thru faith, not all are saved- the application of grace depends entirely upon the mercy of God. In todayís passage, heíll discuss that point a little further. He says:
Romans 11:6-12 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. (7) What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. (8) Just as it is written: "GOD HAS GIVEN THEM A SPIRIT OF STUPOR, EYES THAT THEY SHOULD NOT SEE AND EARS THAT THEY SHOULD NOT HEAR, TO THIS VERY DAY." (9) And David says: "LET THEIR TABLE BECOME A SNARE AND A TRAP, A STUMBLING BLOCK AND A RECOMPENSE TO THEM. (10) LET THEIR EYES BE DARKENED, SO THAT THEY DO NOT SEE, AND BOW DOWN THEIR BACK ALWAYS." (11) I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. (12) Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!
First, Paul makes it very clear that grace and works are incompatible with each other when he says "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." How much clearer can he be than by saying "if by grace, then is it no longer of works"? And yet, I constantly read or hear of things like "God has done 99% of the work- the rest is up to you" or "God waits patiently for those who will come to him". Itís hard- actually, I think itís impossible- to reconcile the idea of us doing anything to earn our salvation with the idea of grace. "If it is of works, it is no longer grace". Now, thatís faith- what does come from works is obedience. We need to be obedient to the faith given to us. But even then, this passage should make us pause and think about where even the ability to be obedient comes from:
Philippians 2:13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
So, think carefully about grace and be careful to acknowledge the source of your salvation and of your will.
Having said this about grace, Paul returns to the subject of the Israelites and begins showing from the scriptures why some do not come to faith.
Romans 11:7-10 What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. (8) Just as it is written: "GOD HAS GIVEN THEM A SPIRIT OF STUPOR, EYES THAT THEY SHOULD NOT SEE AND EARS THAT THEY SHOULD NOT HEAR, TO THIS VERY DAY." (9) And David says: "LET THEIR TABLE BECOME A SNARE AND A TRAP, A STUMBLING BLOCK AND A RECOMPENSE TO THEM. (10) LET THEIR EYES BE DARKENED, SO THAT THEY DO NOT SEE, AND BOW DOWN THEIR BACK ALWAYS."
These are loose quotes from Isaiah 29 and Psalm 69, respectively. Note carefully the wording- "God has given them a spirit of stuporÖ" This statement goes right along with a passage we looked at several weeks ago:
Romans 9:15-18 For He says to Moses, "I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOMEVER I WILL HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOMEVER I WILL HAVE COMPASSION." (16) So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. (17) For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, "FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I HAVE RAISED YOU UP, THAT I MAY SHOW MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MAY BE DECLARED IN ALL THE EARTH." (18) Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.
A few minutes ago, I quoted part of a verse from Philippians. Hereís the rest of that verse:
Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; (13) for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
After seeing that "God has given them a spirit of stupor" and seeing that "He has mercy on whom He will, and whom He wills He hardens", then perhaps we can understand why Paul says in Philippians "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling". Maybe we can understand why Jesus used the example of a tax collector in Luke 18:
Luke 18:13-14 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!'
And why He then said:
(14) I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
We have lost a fear of God, we have lost respect for the power of an Almighty God, and we have lost the sense of the preciousness of salvation. We think that salvation is something that God sets on the shelf and whoever feels like it, can just reach up and take it. I donít see that in the Scriptures. What I see is Paul returning over and over to the concept of salvation "by grace through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." (Ephesians 2:8) Is there fear and trembling anymore? Or do we seek, humbly, the grace and mercy that is Godís to give to whom He chooses?
The Israelites seemed to think that Godís grace was something to be expected, and when something is expected, do we not start to take it for granted and lose sense of the preciousness of that thing? This is part of what Paul is pointing out. Heís pointing out that salvation has never been guaranteed to each and every individual Israelite, but that a remnant, and only a remnant, is saved. As weíll see tomorrow, this statement is true of the modern church, too. Going to church doesnít save you, your parentís donít save you, and your good works definitely do not save you.
Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (9) not of works, lest anyone should boast. (10) For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
I urge you to examine your salvation and see if it is of God or of your will.
Romans 11, Part 1