In part three it became clearer that God has made, through Jesus Christ, a faithful remnant from Israel’s descendants one with those called and chosen Gentiles in the present age. This unity in Christ is based on faith – a gift from God. As a gift no man can boast that he has earned it.
In this article we want to delve deeper into the origins of this connection between Israel and the Gentiles. It may seem obvious where this will lead, but let’s let scripture and the Holy Spirit guide us. In this way we’re free to see what scripture reveals rather than what we’re expecting. One thought to keep in mind is the underlying presupposition that Paul shared in Romans 11. It’s very significant to how he views the old covenant, the new covenant in Christ, and the future of his people, Israel.
Romans 11:32 – For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all. (NKJV)
The Power of Presuppositions
Before we draw any conclusions, let’s be sure we understand the scope of what Paul is implying here. Let’s begin by looking closer at the context to fully understand what he means by all. I’ll reference the verses in Romans 11 and comment on them.
The following notes are taken from my book . . .
The Rapture Question: An Unfiltered View
Romans 11:25 – here Paul is speaking to the Gentiles. He was just reminding them that they have no basis for pride in their being called and grafted into the tree. Some in Israel were broken off, due to their disobedience, so that they could be grafted in. He proceeds to tell them further why they are not to think too highly of themselves; a partial hardening has come upon Israel (as a people), and that this is intended until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
The partial hardening of Israel we’ve already discussed. What is Paul referring to when he mentions the fullness of the Gentiles? Note this. We’ll cover it in a subsequent article.
When is the Mystery of God Fulfilled? Discover more.
Now the thing to note here is that there are two groups of people Paul is discussing; Israel – which includes those who were broken off through unbelief and those who remain in faith, and the Gentiles – the other nations of the world.
Romans 11:28-29 – Paul continues to show Israel’s state and how it is seen from God’s perspective, not man’s. In regards to the gospel which Paul proclaims – the gospel of Jesus Christ, they are enemies. So in what way are they enemies of the gospel? Because of their unbelief (vs 23). To anyone who does not believe in the Son of God, the gospel is foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 2:13-15).
Paul goes on to point out that the gifts given to Israel and their calling from God are irrevocable. What gifts? What calling? These are very important questions. We’ll need to follow them to understand the origins of the mystery of God. For the moment, note them and set them aside. We’ll come back to them.
Romans 11:30-31 – Paul now contrasts the state of the Gentiles before they were called with the current state of those in Israel who’ve been broken off. Each is in a state of disobedience. You Gentiles, before you received the mercy of God and the gift of faith, were in the state of disobedience.
What Paul is clarifying is that the reason behind the Gentiles being called to mercy is directly connected to the disobedience of those in Israel who’ve been broken off due to unbelief.
And because Gentiles received mercy from Israel’s disobedience, those disobedient in Israel will also receive mercy (vs 26). If you recall Paul noted earlier that the faithful remnant have already received the promises (vs 5-7).
That brings us back to verse 32 where we started. Clearly the two groups of people Paul is discussing in this chapter are Israel and the Gentiles. Israel – which includes those who were broken off through unbelief and those who remain in faith, and the Gentiles – the other nations of the world. This comprises everyone in the world does it not?
From Paul’s viewpoint we can clearly see that when he says all in verse 32 he means all humanity. This seems very fitting within the context of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As the Lamb of God his death and resurrection were sufficient to atone for the sins of the world, not just for the sins of some. Let’s look at verse 32 again and we’ll add verse 33.
Romans 11:32-33 – For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! (NKJV)
This realization by Paul of the work that God was completing in Christ was significant enough for him to relate it to the depth of riches of both the wisdom and knowledge of God. Even though he states they are beyond finding out, clearly he has succeeded in doing so. Or more rightly said, he has been the recipient of such knowledge and wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:6-16; 4:1-2).
All of this leads us to some very challenging questions. The nature of these questions will depend on other presuppositions we hold. For example due to scriptures like Romans 9:21-24; 8:28-30; 1 Corinthians 2:6-8; Ephesians 1:3-10; 1 Peter 1:19-21, it is apparent to this reader that the work of Christ, as the Lamb of God, is not an afterthought.
How can the God of the universe, the creator of all things seen and unseen, find himself backed into a corner when Satan deceives Eve who then leads her husband Adam into disobedience? Are we to believe that God, who sees the beginning and the end, is left with plan-B as his means to redeem his creation from his own righteous judgment? Rubbish!
Yet if we accept Romans 11:32-33 for what it is, we come away with an altogether different perspective on the work of Christ and the will of God:
- We see that God is intentional, purposeful, and proactive
- He established his covenant of faith with Abraham, whom he called out of his own land to give him and his descendants another land
- Within this covenant are the promises of blessing for his descendants and the nations of the world
- This covenant and these promises were passed on to Isaac, then to Jacob (Israel)
- Through his chosen people Israel, the mystery of God in Christ Jesus would become manifest to the world (Isaiah 42:1-9)
- In him, the nations of the world would find hope (Matthew 12:15-21; Romans 15:8-13)
- The Gentiles are now the recipients of his grace. They too have received the gift of faith and the promise of glory brought to them through Jesus Christ.
- In Christ, those faithful in the covenant with Israel are united with those faithful under the new covenant. They are the recipients of greater promises, the inheritors of the kingdom and eternal life.
This is the work of Yeshua, the Christ, to lead the disobedient through his righteousness judgment and into God’s mercy. This reaches beneath God’s redemptive work on humanity’s behalf because that redemptive work is built upon Christ’s righteous judgment.
Israel’s Irrevocable Gifts and Calling
Earlier in our review of Romans 11, we noted Paul’s declaration that the gifts given to Israel and their calling from God are irrevocable. We’ll need to dig into Israel’s past to understand these more fully. Paul reviewed it briefly in Romans 9.
3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
Paul covers the many attributes of the children of Israel, especially as the source of the Messiah according to the flesh. Let’s focus on two key attributes for our discussion; the adoption and the promises.
Adopted as Sons and Daughters
Like those of the new covenant, Israel too, being the son of Isaac, is likewise adopted since they are the children of promise (Galatians 4:22-26, 28). This is reaffirmed by God through Moses. It was proclaimed in Egypt before the Pharaoh that Israel is the firstborn son of God (Exodus 4:21-23). Hosea also echoes this description of Israel in spite of their behavior.
1 When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
2 The more they were called,
the more they went away;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals
and burning offerings to idols.
Repeatedly as the covenant relationship between God and Israel unfolds there is an underlying goal toward which God is working – I will be your God and you shall be my people. Most often this is echoed in a prophetic sense, reaching to the future when his work in Israel is completed (Jeremiah 30:21-24; 31:1, 31-33; 32:37-41; Ezekiel 11:16-20; 14:10-11; 36:22-28; 37:21-28; Zechariah 8:1-8).
It’s important to clarify that this parental view of Israel is primarily from God’s perspective. There are few claims of the children of Israel being anything more than the children of Israel (Jacob). However, being God’s people was only one leg of a multifaceted goal which God would accomplish for them. It also involved bringing them into God’s place and under God’s rule – where they would finally find rest and peace.
Israel’s expectations for the kingdom could be said to begin with Moses and the establishment of the temple and the sacrificial system. This sacrificial system was one of cleansing and purification, through the blood of animals, in order to approach and dwell in God’s presence and light. Surely there was the awareness that these types would find their fulfillment and completion at some future time. Isaiah speaks to the source of this light and the promised “King of Righteousness” who would lead them; a Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:2-7).
Yet when he came they did not recognize or receive him. They sought a righteous and heavenly king who would free them from the oppression of these earthly rulers and reestablish their national prominence (Isaiah 9:2-7; 11:10-16; 65:17-25; 66:18-23; Ezekiel 34:20-24; 37:24-25). Yet Yeshua came first as a Redeemer; putting the cross before the crown.
For God’s purposes this was fitting since the king and the kingdom they sought was always a prerequisite to their complete salvation (Romans 11:1-11). It was never intended to be only national, but personal, individual, and eternal. The kingdom is essential to the complete work of salvation for Israel and for the world. It is both the means of completing that work during Christ’s 1000-year reign and then experiencing it in its fullness in the age to come. In the kingdom, Israel will experience the fullness of God’s rest to which the sabbath was always a pointer and a type.
Though the scriptures clearly teach otherwise, Israel, and the Jews especially, focused on the kingdom and the salvation that accompanied it as a collective national matter. Restoration of their national prominence was fundamental to their thinking (Jeremiah 50:17-20; Ezekiel 34:25-31; Daniel 2:44-45; Zechariah 10). This was especially evident in the relationship of Christ and his disciples. These Jews expected one thing from their Messiah but were shown something altogether different. Though national prominence is certainly an important aspect of their future kingdom experience, there is clearly more in store for Israel than just national restoration. They are to be the recipients of God’s Spirit as an act of individual redemption (Isaiah 59:20-21) and as part of the New Covenant promised to them (Ezekiel 37:12-14; Jeremiah 31:31-34). Yet the light that comes to Israel is not merely for their own benefit but for the benefit of the nations (Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 18:16-19; Genesis 22:15-18; Isaiah 60:1-3).
Yet before Israel can come to experience that kingdom they must first come to know and accept their “King of Righteousness;” the Son of God. They must be willing to let go of their righteousness and embrace instead God’s righteousness in Christ Jesus his son (Romans 10:1-4). We know that God will accomplish this in them (Isaiah 59:20-21; Jeremiah 31:31-34).
3 Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord. 5 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
It is in Christ’s kingdom, under God’s rulership, that Israel will finally enter into God’s full rest. This is the rest to which the Sabbath always pointed, and in it they shall find peace.
The Promise of Peace
Though mostly unaware of their part, Israel has played a vital role in establishing the kingdom. They will likewise play a vital role in fulfilling that kingdom and its purpose. The apostle Paul outlines clearly for us in the book of Romans Israel’s role in building the kingdom. Theirs was a preparatory role for the one to rule as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We saw the first hint of this in Romans 9 above.
Paul goes on to explain how this began with Abraham, a Gentile, and continued down through King David (Romans 1:1-4). How it is God who establishes the role of one or many in his plan of redemption.
6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. . . . 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. . . . 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
Paul is establishing the purposefulness in God hardening Israel as a whole. They failed to accept the kingdom offered them by their Messiah because they failed to accept the Messiah. Based on their unbiblical theology, they could not accept Christ’s claim of being from God and one with the Father. Nor could they accept that God would humble himself to dwell in the flesh. In their minds God was far too holy to occupy flesh and blood.
1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own (righteousness), they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
They are unknowingly a vital part in God’s plan of redemption for the world – a world consigned to the knowledge of good and evil in which the darkness must dwell so that the light may overcome it. However, they and their leaders did not act in a way in which they could be that light to the nations. They instead succumbed to the darkness through unbelief (Romans 11).
As we saw previously, Paul goes on to reveal a more astonishing truth; that a faithful remnant in Israel, elected by grace, has obtained and continues to obtain access to the kingdom. It is this faithful remnant of Israel who have obtained what Israel as a whole sought but did not obtain (Romans 11:2b-7). Is it difficult to imagine what the role of this saved remnant will be in relationship to a restored nation of Israel?
Like the faithful remnant, the dispersed remnant of Israel will be the recipients of this grace in the future and they will serve Christ in his earthly kingdom as a model to the nations. There are numerous scriptures that declare the physical nature of their involvement in Christ’s kingdom rule (Isaiah 60; 61; 62; 66:10-14; Jeremiah 3:12-18; Ezekiel 34; 37).
And finally they will dwell in peace. Jeremiah 31:1 – “At that time, declares the Lord, I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they shall be my people.”