As we near the end of Romans 11, we see that Israel’s rejection of the gospel was ordained by God so that the gospel would go forth in power among the Gentiles. Thus, in terms of the gospel, they are God’s enemies for our sake. Yet they are also beloved from the standpoint of God’s election. Though Israel has been unfaithful, because of God’s promise to their fathers, His love for them will ultimately be demonstrated and vindicated in their final restoration. This will all take place according to God’s sovereign plan to exalt His mercy in redemption.
On the heels of verse 22, Paul continues to reveal God’s purpose for the salvation of Israel. Through this text, we find that not only is it possible that there will be an ingathering of the Jews in the last days, it is a certainty guaranteed by God Himself. He is able to save all whom He desires, He has appointed the times of redemption, and He will most definitely keep His covenant commitment to Israel.
At this point in Romans 11, Paul is explaining that God has an ultimate purpose in both the rebellion and restoration of ethnic Israel. In verse 22, he reminds us that we must vigilantly guard ourselves against pride and apathy by both loving and fearing God. If we see unbelief rising in our hearts, we must fear God and fly to Christ. Thus, we are to be people regularly in God’s Word, setting before ourselves the kindness and severity of God so that we are properly informed and motivated as we press on in sanctification.
In Romans 11:17, Paul likens the people of God to a lovingly cultivated olive tree and acknowledges that some of the branches of this tree were broken off. These broken off branches represent the Israelites who rejected Jesus and thereby forfeited their true spiritual heritage. The wild olive branches represent the Gentiles who “became partakers with them of the rich root.” Unfortunately, some Gentiles take this truth as an occasion to exalt themselves over their Jewish brethren, so Paul responds to such pride by reminding us all of the grace by which we stand.
In Romans 11:1-6, we saw that God has sovereignly maintained a believing remnant in Israel even through her worst times of apostasy. In verses 7-10, we saw that Israel’s rejection was not complete, but only partial. In this sermon on verses 11-16, Paul helps us understand that Israel’s rejection is not final, but only temporary. The rejection of God’s own chosen people has resulted in the Gentiles being reconciled to Him. If we receive this incredible blessing through Israel’s rejection, how much greater will the blessings be when Israel is once again accepted in God’s sight on the basis of their faith in Christ!
There is a right way to seek righteousness and a wrong way to seek righteousness. Unfortunately, the largest portion of Israel chose the wrong way. They misconstrued the purpose of the law and sought to justify themselves before God on the basis of works. In response, God hardened their hearts and made them fit for destruction. Yet, the calling of God is irrevocable, and according to His sovereign purpose, those who were chosen by Him did receive the gift of righteousness.
The final image we were left with in Romans 10 is that of God reaching out in compassion to Israel only to find them stubbornly and defiantly rejecting His offer of salvation. We are thus left with the question: “Will God wash His hands of them?” Paul’s emphatic answer is “May it never be!” Drawing upon his own personal testimony as well as the experience of the prophet Elijah, Paul reasserts that God will secure the remnant he has chosen for Himself among ethnic Israel.
In Romans 10:15, Paul had built up to a crescendo of praise to God for how He sent out preachers of the Word. But it is that triumph of the ministry of proclamation that makes the plight of lost Israel all the more grievous. Here in Romans 10:16-21, Paul returns the the subject of why Israel rejected their Messiah, and in their plight, we find the rebellious heart of all sinful men exemplified, as well as the compassion of God to save all who will respond to outstretched arms.
As Paul wrote to the church at Colossae, his heart for their well-being and spiritual health bled through every word. These verses are a prayer of sorts for their deepening love and burgeoning knowledge of Christ, who Himself is the Christian’s and the church’s greatest wealth and treasure. As Morningview stands on the cusp of a significant capitol campaign for the renovation of our building, the focus is set upon drawing near to, depending upon, and treasuring Christ.
John Murray has rightly noted that calling upon God’s name for salvation does not occur “in a vacuum; it occurs only in a context created by proclamation of the gospel on the part of those commissioned to proclaim it.” What Paul does here with this series of questions in verses 14 and 15 is walk us backwards from the sinner calling upon the Lord to the original cause of God sending His messengers to preach. What we are meant to understand is that the proclamation of God’s Word is God’s ordained means to draw His people to Himself in saving faith.