Read Romans 11:1-12
1I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. 2God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don't you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah — how he appealed to God against Israel: 3"Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me"? 4And what was God's answer to him? "I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal." 5So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. 6And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
7What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, 8as it is written:
"God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see
and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day."
9And David says:
"May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them.
10May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever."
11Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. 12But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring! (NIV)
Paul will often put an unasked question in his letters so that he can answer that question to make a point. We see this more in Romans as Paul is not addressing any direct concern of the people. He is trying to outline his theology to the congregation that will receive the letter.
And he anticipates a response from Jews who might here his thoughts. So he inserts the questions from a factious Jew, “Has God rejected the Jews then?” One might get that idea from Paul’s writing on one level. Paul’s answer is to say that God has not rejected the Jewish people, but that the Jewish people had missed God’s acceptance of them.
This is really a deeper question being asked. Can one be saved by simply being a part of a nation or a church? Does God save in masse? Paul’s answer is no. Simply being a “good” Jew was not enough for salvation. Just following the rules is not enough. This is what Paul refers to in verse 7. For Paul, he realized that the Jews had put obedience to God’s laws ahead of God’s intent and Grace. For Paul it is God’s Grace that is what saves us.
And we receive that Grace when we accept Christ as our Savior. For Paul, works are a by product to our acceptance of Christ. They are our response. This is what he writes to clearly to the Ephesians in 2:8-10 which reads: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (NIV)
Paul wants to point out also that while the Jews failed, God has used their failure to open the doors to the Gentiles. But Paul also then says, that same door is available for the Jews to walk through. It is an individual choice, not a collective choice.
And this is where it comes down to us. It is not about what our family believes, our spouse believes, our nation believes, or about how anyone else believes. It is all about what do you believe. When Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say I am?” he was getting at the point. After all their answers, he asks a follow up question: “But who do you say I am?”
Who is Jesus to you? Where is your faith in Christ standing today? What is your understanding of God’s Grace in your life?
Blessings and Peace