September 8, 2011

Readings and Commentary for Friday after the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

Friday after the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 94, 2 Sam. 5:1-10, Lk. 22:47-62
Evening - Ps. 103, Hab. 2:9-14, 19-20, Rom. 11:1-21

Commentary
Romans 11:1-21


Still continuing the issue of the relationship of the Jews to the doctrine of justification by faith, Paul poses an important question in11:1: "Hath God cast away his people?" This is important because Paul has been writing about election and predestination and the foreknowledge of God, and the issue at stake is, if these things are true, yet the majority of Jews reject Christ, then hasn't God rejected Israel, and doesn't that make Him a liar? For if He said He elected and preordained Israel to be His people, and now they are not, then, God is either unwilling or unable to fulfill His promise. Either way His willingness or ability to keep us in His good graces is suspect.

Verses 2-6 give the answer. God has not cast away His people, for it has always been a minority of the Jews who were the elect and true Israel. There have been times when it appeared to some, such as Elijah in 1 Kings 19:10, that all Israel had left God, but even in those times there have always been those who have remained true to Him (Rom 11:4, 1 Kings 19:18). As it was in the time of Elijah it was also in the time of Paul; "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace" (11:5). Three thousand Jews were converted on Pentecost (Acts 2:41). In Acts 4:4 the number is five thousand. By Acts 21:20 we read, "Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe," and many commentators have correctly noted that the Greek word used here, from which we derive our English word, "myriads," really means "tens of thousands." So the Apostles in Acts 21:20 were really saying, "See how many tens of thousands of Jews have believed in Christ." Thus, it is very possible that the New Testament Church, at the time of Paul's arrival in Jerusalem around the year 57 A.D., was still comprised primarily of Jews. Whether that is a correct assessment or not, large numbers of Jews did become believers in Christ, proving that God has not cast the Jews away, but has preserved a remnant for Himself.

Verses 7-10. The rest of Israel, "hath not obtained that which he seeketh" (11:7). The rest of the Jews were seeking righteousness by means of the law. Still believing it was the ceremonies and sacrifices that made them acceptable to God, they would not receive the righteousness that is apart from the law through faith. They are in the same category as those spoken of in Romans 1:24, 26, and 28: "God also gave them up," God gave them up," "God gave them over." Notice how similar the intent of these verses is to the intent of Romans 11:7-10. The point is that God simply gave unbelieving Jews what they want; the opportunity to attempt to justify themselves by means of the law, or to ignore God altogether.

The rejection of Christ by some Jews does not mean God has cast away the Jews as a people. A day will come when they will awaken to Christ (11:26). Meanwhile, their unbelief has worked for the redemption of the Gentiles. Verses 11-14 make this plain, Paul even refers to himself as the Apostle to the Gentiles (11:13). Paul did not start out to win the Gentiles. His established method of evangelism was to speak to the Jews in the synagogues. His message was not well received. Beaten, stoned, and rejected, he finally turned to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46). Thus, through the fall of the Jews, "salvation is come to the Gentiles" (11:11). It is Paul's hope, that Jews will see the Gentiles coming to the God of Israel and the Messiah of Israel, and be moved to seek Him also He hopes they will emulate the Gentiles (11:14).

The salvation of the Gentiles is no cause for pride among us. It is by the grace of God that we have been brought into the Kingdom, not by any worthiness we have achieved on our own. It is as though some branches of an olive tree have been broken off, and branches from a wild olive tree have been grafted to the tree in their places. Thus, the root, Israel, is still alive, and we are grafted into it. This does not mean we are to become Jews. It does mean we continue the faith of Israel as it is fulfilled in Christ.

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