Today: [Romans 11:] Is Christianity Too Big to Fail? In Romans 11 Paul points out the Judaism has descended into blindness and a spirit of slumber because they did not know the day of their visitation. They fell into declension Paul says so that the gospel might be made known to the Gentile nations. What of our day? The warning from Paul is if God broke off Judaism as a natural branch in Himself what makes us think that Christianity as a wild olive branch is unconditionally secure?
[Rom 11:1-18 KJV] 1 I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, [of] the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, 3 Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. 4 But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to [the image of] Baal. 5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 6 And if by grace, then [is it] no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if [it be] of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. 7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded 8 (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. 9 And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them: 10 Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway. 11 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but [rather] through their fall salvation [is come] unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. 12 Now if the fall of them [be] the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? 13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: 14 If by any means I may provoke to emulation [them which are] my flesh, and might save some of them. 15 For if the casting away of them [be] the reconciling of the world, what [shall] the receiving [of them be], but life from the dead? 16 For if the firstfruit [be] holy, the lump [is] also [holy]: and if the root [be] holy, so [are] the branches. 17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; 18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.
Because of Paul’s strong words concerning the Jew’s rejection of the Messiah, his opening remark in Rom. 11 is “has God cast away His people?” The answer, of course, is no, and then Paul goes a step forward to remind his readers that he likewise is an Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin. He tells us that Elijah complained about the opposition to the things of God that existed among His people to which God’s reply that there were 7000 that had not bowed their knee to Baal. Even so at the time of this writing, Paul maintains there was a remnant of Jewish people who did, in fact, accept and follow the teachings of Jesus as the promised Messiah. How are they identified as God’s remnant? By grace, not by ethnicity or religious legacy.
This is an important point to make because grace is personal and must be personally laid hold of. We don’t inherit our walk with God or our relationship with God from our family or our culture. You must be born again, and that is a personal matter between you and God. What happened to those in Israel who did not or have not accepted Jesus? Verse 7 tells us they were blinded, that God (v. 8) had given them a spirit of slumber. King David spoke against them from his day saying (v. 9) let their table be made a snare, let their eyes be darkened that they might bow down their backs always. Is this an anti-semitic statement? Modern Jewish scholarship dismisses Paul as a man deluded by self-hatred. But Paul goes on to point out that God’s ultimate purpose continues unhindered.
In verse 11 the question is, have the Israelites stumbled at the message of the cross for the purpose of their total dismissal? God forbid. We are not to think such things. Instead we are to conclude that the resistance of the Jew to the message of Jesus opened the door for the Gentile nations to come to Christ as a means of provoking the Jews to jealousy because the Gentile nations have taken the message of the gospel and the Hebrew scriptures and coopted them for their own benefit. So (v. 12) the failure of the Jew to accept Christ became the enrichment of the world. This is an affirmative statement few could deny. The world as we know it would not exist were it not for the life, death, and resurrection of this man named Jesus.
Now Paul turns his attention to those who are not Jewish. He says in v. 13 that he magnifies his office (or extends his apostolic authority to speak to the remainder of the nations of the earth). He asks the question if God casting away of the Jews brought about the reconciling of the world to Christ, how much greater would be the eventual restoration of the Jewish people to the economy of God? Will the Jews as a people ever accept Christ? Zech. 12:10 says they will look upon him whom they have pierced and repent for their sins. Yes, one day there will be a move of God that will sweep Jewish culture and bring many of them into the body of Christ.
[Romans 11:19-36 KJV]
19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. 20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: 21 For if God spared not the natural branches, [take heed] lest he also spare not thee. 22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in [his] goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. 23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. 24 For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural [branches], be graffed into their own olive tree? 25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. 26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: 27 For this [is] my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. 28 As concerning the gospel, [they are] enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, [they are] beloved for the fathers’ sakes. 29 For the gifts and calling of God [are] without repentance. 30 For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: 31 Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. 32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. 33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable [are] his judgments, and his ways past finding out! 34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? 35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? 36 For of him, and through him, and to him, [are] all things: to whom [be] glory for ever. Amen.
Having addressed the posture of heaven toward the Jews Paul gives a warning. If God caused Israel (as a natural branch) to be broken off because of unbelief, it would be wise for us not to boast against them. If Judaism was rejected because of unbelief is it not entirely possible that Christianity could likewise be dismissed if they also fall away because of unbelief. In verse 20 we are cautioned not to be high minded but fearful. We are to take heed to ourselves as a people (v. 21) if God spared not the natural branches we might likewise not be spared if we sin after the similitude of the transgression of the Jew.
What is Paul saying to us? He is warning against Christian conceit that we should not think in terms of the purposes of God that Christianity is too big to fail. When I first got into the ministry I was praying one day, and the Lord asked me a question:
Is there any difference in character or tone between the religious system that crucified Jesus and Christianity as you know it?
My answer was “Lord there is very little difference…” History has proven that when Christian leaders have held the power of the state, blood runs red in the streets. The answer God gave me was this:
“I am coming to restore My people to My purpose, but I am NOT coming to restore the Christian religious system.”
Those are sobering words. They suggest that Romans 11 is not mere conjecture but actually prophetic intimation that one day Christianity will fall after the example of unbelief just as Judaism fell and for the same reason. The beginning of the spirit of error among the Israelites is that they wanted a king like other nations. Christian culture clamors for a political savior these days. Populism contaminates our pulpits to a significant degree. What is to be our response? Remember the words of Zechariah 4:6
…Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord.
What ultimately becomes of Israel? There will come a time that v. 25 calls “the fullness of the Gentiles…” What does this mean? There are time frames of indulgence that God works in. For 2000 years the Spirit of God has poured Himself into the Gentile nations holding out the message of grace and salvation. There will come a day that a shift will take place and the question be what will be our stand at that time? Are you willing to go out – to go ALL THE WAY OUT to Him outside the camp of the prevailing religious system if that is what it takes to follow Jesus? I was asked that question once, and my answer was “yes, Lord.” The reply came back “we will test that theory….”
Verse 25 says that the day will come that all Israel will be saved. The gifts and callings of God are without repentance, v. 29 tells us. That verse gets applied in different ways but what it means is that God is a loving God and never casts us off forever. Even in our unbelief v. 30 tells us God is merciful, always working to bring us to a place of faith and transformation.
Verse 33 praises the depth of the riches and wisdom of God whose mind is ever working according to His own counsels that are unsearchable to us. We can seek to know the mind of God, but we can never be His counselor. Many people say “God will never do this or that” but God can do anything He wants, any time He wants, and He doesn’t have to check with anyone. The very thing you insist God will never do is the same thing He will confront you with because you thought you understood perfectly what His plan was. God doesn’t answer to us but He does love us, and He loves the sinner whether he be Jew or Gentile. To that Paul concludes “For of him and through him and to him are all things…” What does that mean? God is always working in all things and all people and all places. To what end? To bring forth and establish His glory.
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