God’s promises stand.
Romans 11:16 “If the dough offered as first fruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.”
It is quite easy to breeze right over many of these verses in Romans 11—they are very confusing! However, each word is God’s Word, and therefore believers must commit themselves to careful study in order to glean His meaning in each of them. Paul had just written that it will be glorious on the day when all of Israel is redeemed. This bears the question: On what basis can this promise stand if they have rejected Jesus as Messiah? Paul reminds us of God’s promise to “set apart” or “make holy” Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They were the “dough offered as firstfruits” or the “root.” Consequently, if the dough (forefathers) is holy (set apart), then so is the whole loaf (Israel); if the root (forefathers) is holy (set apart), then so are the branches (Israel). In other words, Paul is saying that God’s promises to Israel stand, even in their present rebellion, in that the nation will eventually come to salvation in the future. God has a future for corporate Israel. What does this mean for everyone? It means that God’s elective salvation has nothing whatsoever to do with nationality or ethnicity. He set Israel apart—the Israel that would eventually believe on Jesus Christ—, and He set Gentiles apart—the Gentiles that would believe on Jesus Christ. His promises to all of His children stand.
Study/Meditation: Read Jeremiah 31:31-34. How do these words reflect what Paul is teaching in Romans 11:16? What does this promise mean for all of God’s children?
*Father, You are faithful and true and Your promises stand through all eternity. Amen.
In a world where it is easier to stay silent, sing jubilantly of our Savior!
Romans 11:13-14 “Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.”
Any time an American holiday approaches, the country is awash in national pride, as is true in most any country. Flags fly and anthems are sung, all to the theme of “Proud to be an American.” Identity and pride attached to one’s nationality is a very human condition. However, when that identity and national pride over-reaches the desire to bring salvation to all ethnicities, it truly becomes nothing more than idolatry. Paul was Jewish, though his ministry was to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to Gentiles. Consequently, national and ethnic pride threatened to pit one group against the other, simply based on their heritage. That is still unfortunately often the case today. As Paul reminded the Gentiles believers in these verses, his end goal, which should also be our end goal, is to say and do whatever is necessary so that God might “save some of them.” Our goal is not to make everyone American or Jewish or any other nationality or ethnicity. Our goal is to see them become Christians, true followers of the one true Lord unto salvation. Our anthem should be as Paul’s was in 2 Timothy 2:10, “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
Study/Meditation: In what ways can you enlarge your own personal boundaries so that you bring the Gospel to more people? What stands in your way?
*Father, give me the courage and the wisdom I need to reach more people for Christ. Forgive me for the moments when I fail and grant to me more opportunities to share my Savior with the world. Amen.
God is on His throne; His work isn’t finished until He says it’s finished.
Romans 11:12, 15 “Now if their (Israel’s) trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!…For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?”
Often we think the greatest things that God has done are in the past. Theologians sometimes longingly look back at the times of Calvin and Knox and think that the Great Awakening was the most amazing time of God’s grace and that it will never be like that again. Even in our everyday lives we reminisce about the “good ole days” and mourn that things will never be that good again. Paul is reminding us in these verses that God’s grace, His mercy, and His tremendous purposes not only continue, but they expound upon one another in succession! God’s power gets greater and greater with every amazing thing He does. Paul is using the example of the Jews’ rejection of the gospel, saying basically, “If you think their rejection which brought salvation to the rest of the world was amazing, just wait! Just wait until God brings them back, too! That will be glorious!” God is not finished yet. Don’t despair, Christian. Don’t despair the state of society or of the world. God is on His throne and His great work isn’t finished until He says it’s finished. Therefore His greatness continues to increase. Hallelujah!
Study/Meditation: In what ways can the church plainly see God’s greatness expanding, even in today’s fallen world? Why is it important that we focus on those things?
*Father, You are great and mighty and ever-working in this world. Forgive me for the times I despair, even in the face of this truth. Amen.
God works all things together for the good of His people and to His glory.
Romans 11:11 “So I ask, did they (Israel) stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.”
As believers, we hang onto such promises in God’s Word as Paul gave in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” God is never absent from His own work, and He is certainly not negligent in His own purposes. When Paul asks the rhetorical question as to whether or not Israel’s rebellion occurred so that the Jews might be excluded from God’s kingdom, Paul reminds us that this is certainly not the end of the story. As a matter of fact, he speaks to us of two wonderful things that God is doing through this tragedy: the Gentiles have been grafted into God’s family, and the Lord is not finished with the Jewish nation. Fellow believer, we must continually allow God’s Word, as well as our own histories, remind us that He has a purpose in all things, and in all things He is working for His glory and our good. We should always remember Joseph’s words to his brothers after years of their abuse in Genesis 50:20, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” God didn’t “turn it into good.” God “meant it for good.” He purposed that evil for good, and He is at work still today toward the same end.
Study/Meditation: What instances in your life can you remember where God worked something seemingly horrible for His glory and your good? Where in your life now must you apply this remembrance so as not to despair your circumstances?
*Father, forgive me for the times that I doubt Your goodness and Your sovereign working purposes. Thank You for giving me experience and Your Word as reminders of this great truth. Amen.
God’s grace is all the more glorious in the fact that it is given to any of us.
Romans 11:7b-10 “The elect obtained it (salvation), but the rest were hardened, as it is written, ‘God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.’ And David says, ‘Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them; let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs forever.’”
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33) If there was anyone who knew that what he was claiming was hard to understand, hard to accept, it was the apostle Paul. And yet he did not hesitate to recognize all of God’s “god-ness,” holding none of His holy attributes at bay in favor of human sensibilities. Just as God draws His elect out and makes them His, He will give others over to their sinfulness and harden their hearts. We may not understand fully why, truly we cannot understand fully why, but we likewise cannot deny that it is so. God does all that He does to display His glory, and we simply must not ignore the most important aspect of this: the fact that any of us are His is fully and completely owed to His grace. All of us deserve to be left in our sin, to be left to hearts that are hardened already, but God bestows on His children the gift of salvation. The fact that He gives this grace to any of us makes it all the more glorious. He has reserved for Himself a remnant. In that we must rejoice as we pray for those who do not know.
Study/Meditation: Where in the Bible have you read that God hardened the hearts of some in order to display His glory? (Hint: Read Genesis 6-14) What does this tell you about God’s purposes in all things?
*Father, give me a heart of humility when I don’t understand Your ways. Your ways are marvelously higher than mine. I praise Your name! Amen.
In all things, including salvation, it is always God first.
Romans 11:7a “What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it.”
In this one simple verse Paul speaks to three very important things. First, he reiterates that the nation of Israel failed in their attempts to earn salvation by keeping the Law. There is no way, no matter how many rules and regulations one keeps in trying to be righteous in God’s eyes, can any person keep them all. Why? As Paul wrote in Romans 3:10, “None is righteous, no, not one.” The first point is that Israel, and anyone else in this category, failed to gain salvation through works. The second point is in calling God’s children “the elect.” Those whom God has chosen, His “drawn out” ones, are saved. God is sovereign, and He is sovereign over salvation. He elects. But there is activity required by the elect, and that is the third point—the elect can then “obtain” salvation. The dictionary defines “obtain” as “gaining possession of; to get or to procure something.” (dictionary.com) All those who believe on the name of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and as Savior will be saved. Belief is absolutely necessary and it is the avenue by which we “obtain” salvation, not works. However, it is the elect who can obtain. God first; man second. Once again Paul simply says that salvation is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, and not a matter of works. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Study/Meditation: How might you explain to someone the “order of salvation”? What is the significance of man’s belief?
*Father, You are holy and blameless in Your ways. You are my Lord and my God and I praise You in Your love and in Your sovereign rule. Amen.