Concern of God
Explore the Bible Series
December 18, 2005
Background Passage: Romans 11:1-36
Lesson Passage: Romans 11:1-2;5-6;11-15;25-26;28-32
Introduction: We take our final look at this great section of the New Testament, Romans Nine, Ten, and Eleven.† Two fundamental principles characterize these chapters.
These chapters indicate Paulís careful obedience to the directives of the Lord in Luke and Acts.† Luke 24:45-49 records some of the last words of the Savior to his disciples, ďÖand that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem.Ē† Acts 1:8 continued this theme of the concentric advancement of the Gospel, ďÖand you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.Ē
The Gospel, very often, follows along the line of human relationships.† When these relationships are broken, the Holy Spirit is grieved (See Ephesians 4:30f) and evangelism cannot take place without the work of the Holy Spirit. Effective evangelism, of course, is grounded in the eternal purposes of God, but the Lord has degreed the means as well as the end of salvation.† Therefore, evangelism requires that soul-winners invest themselves in the lives of others.† This costly and difficult work calls for a willingness to identify with those we seek to win.† This is the way of the Savior, and faithful disciples must find themselves among the lost to act as salt and light in the world.
Acts 13-28 gives some indication of Paulís missionary strategy.† Most often, he went to the local synagogue first.† Afterwards, he turned his attention to preaching to the Gentiles.† This approach, of course, did not universally characterize the apostleís evangelism efforts, but even a casual reader can discern a certain pattern to his work.† Paul focused much of his work on reaching people with whom he shared a common cultural heritage.† When he determined to evangelize the Gentiles, he became ďall things to all men.Ē† Preaching the Gospel is not a mere dogged determination to disseminate information.† It is the proclamation of the Gospel to people whom we love.†
We should not forget the cost of ministering to people with whom we share a cultural bond.† Paul paid an awful price for his activities among the Jews.† Examine the Book of Acts to discover how Paulís kinsmen treated him.† They persecuted, flogged, imprisoned, and tried to kill him.† Yet, the apostleís resilient love for the Jews drove him, again and again, to continue to his labors for the sake of their souls.
I. Godís Sovereignty and the Remnant of Israel (11:1-10): Paul did not miss the implications of his own writing.† He realized that some readers might question his teaching on divine sovereignty, in light of the rampant unbelief of Israel. Had Godís purpose of grace failed?† The apostle began to formulate his answer to this important question by using of two illustrations of Godís purpose for the Jews.
A. Paul himself (vv. 1): Paul reminded his readers that he was a Jew.† God had shown him mercy by revealing the Son of God to the former blasphemer and persecutor of the church.† The apostle thus asserted that he, himself, served as a token of the steadfastness of Godís redemptive mercy toward the people of Israel.
B. Seven thousand in Elijahís day (vv. 2-4):† The cause of God declined terribly in the days of Elijah; yet, the Lord preserved a remnant of his people.† In the dismal days after the Mount Carmel episode, Elijah expressed profound dejection.† His despair had a personal dimension, but he centered his attention on the covenant unfaithfulness of Israel.† Despite these failings, God remained faithful to his purpose and promises.† The Lord, according to Paulís theological understanding, chose a group of people, within the nation of Israel.† They remained faithful to God as a result of his preserving mercies.
Theological Application (vv. 5-10):† Paul concluded this section by comparing Israelís situation with Elijahís day.† Just as the ancient Jews saw a remnant of the people remained faithful to God (thus demonstrating Godís electing and redeeming grace); so, in Paulís day, it pleased the Lord to bring a people to himself and preserve them in faithfulness and holiness. Furthermore, God displayed his sovereignty by hardening those who remained in their sins.† This doctrine of reprobation, of course, needs careful handling.† Paulís language seems to depict the lost as already engulfed by sin and darkness. They have chosen this condition, and God judicially blinds and hardens them in their disobedience.† As I understand these kinds of passages, they indicate that sinners bear responsibility for their rebellious condition.† Reprobation, it seems, judicially seals them in a condition in which they take delight.† Sinners are not, then, chosen to sin; rather, God just blinds them to the glories of a Savior they already despise.
II. Godís Sovereign Purpose in Saving the Gentiles (11:11-32)
A. Paulís principle stated (vv. 11-12): God will use the salvation of the Gentiles to provoke the Jews to jealousy. This statement indicates that God still has a sovereign plan for the conversion of many of the people of Israel.
B. Two analogies of Godís purpose for the Gentiles (vv. 13-24): Paul relished his labors as the apostle to the Gentiles.† His was, it seems, a double blessing.† First, he saw many Gentiles come to saving faith in Christ.† The apostle, ever a faithful student of the Old Testament, would have found great comfort in the fulfillment of Godís promises to bless the nations with the goodness of Godís grace.† Second, Paul understood that the conversion of the Gentiles provoked the elect Jews to faith in Christ.
1. The analogy of the bread dough (v. 16a): Paul referred to Numbers 15:17-21 concerning the heave offering.† The Lord gave a directive to Israel to give an offering of the first grain of the harvest.† Certainly, the Lord intended this offering to serve as a grateful acknowledgement of Godís blessing in the gathering of grain.† Moreover, the offering of the first grain sanctified the entire harvest.† The entire ingathering was made holy by the sacrifice of the first fruits and anticipated further fruitfulness from the hand of the Lord. Paulís meaning centers on the ďfirst fruitsĒ of mankind.† Godís early overtures to the Hebrews foreshadowed the outpouring of divine blessing on the nations of the earth.† What great encouragement for those who bear witness to Christ in the world.
2. The analogy of the grafted olive branch (vv. 16b-24): Paul compared the Gentiles to a wild olive branch that the husbandman grafts into a domestic olive tree.† God broke off the unfruitful branches and grafted in the wild limbs.† The wild branches benefited from the roots and trunk of the ďnaturalĒ branches; therefore, the Gentiles (wild branches) should remain humble toward the branches that the husbandman cut off from the tree.† Indeed, the engrafted branches might be cut off as well, if they do not bear fruit.††
†††††††††††††† Application (vv. 25-32): Paul gave an extended appeal for the Gentiles to remain humble. He reminded his Gentile readers that the Jews enjoyed great blessing and promises form God.† Godís election of a people, from among the Hebrews, remains inviolate.† Jehovah will save his people, and the nations of the earth will marvel at the excellence of his design of grace for Jew and Gentile alike.† Verse Thirty-two seems a bit difficult.† I understand the text to means this. ďGod has committed them all (the Jews) to disobedience, that he might have mercy on all (the nations).Ē
III. A Final Doxology (11:33-36): Paul extolled the excellence of Godís character in at least three ways.
A. Godís wisdom and knowledge (v. 33a): The apostle compares the Lordís excellence to great riches.† He who possesses the mind of the Lord has acquired a great fortune.
B. Godís inscrutability (vv. 33b-35): Godís wisdom and ways bring faithful men to their knees.† Who can understand the depth of these mysteries? A neo-rationalism that occasionally† grips modern evangelicals needs to bring itself to the feet of this passage.†
C. Godís preeminence (v. 35):† All things exist and occur to the greater glory of God.† All things begin and end with him.