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Day 298 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue in Romans.
Romans 11 – This chapter continues to look at the question “Has God’s word failed?” but from a fresh vantage point. Paul has shown that God’s Word has not failed (Romans 9–10). Perhaps, then, God has rejected His people. Paul rules out that notion categorically (verses 1–2).
Once again he turns to Scripture to explain Jewish disbelief of the gospel: it was like that in Elijah’s time. There was much rejection of God among Israel, and Elijah despaired. But things were not as hopeless as Elijah supposed. God’s redemptive purposes of grace cannot be thwarted, whatever appearances may be. So it is in Paul’s own time: “there is a remnant [like Paul himself], chosen by grace.” The mention of grace, not works, echoes Romans 9:32 and becomes a transition to verse 7.
For grace to remain grace, works must be wholly excluded! Grace plus works as a way to God’s favor is no grace at all. Grace is all or nothing!
The gospel offers pardon and new life by grace. “Israel” throughout its history was often “hardened”. In Paul’s time this occurred because they “pursued a law that would lead to righteousness” (Romans 9:31). But there is no such law. The gospel proclamation is not only a word of liberation; to those who refuse it, it is a word of judgment (2 Corinthians 2:15–16).
God has not rejected His people, the Jews, even though they have stumbled. This stumbling (which Paul has already lamented; Romans 9:2–3; 10:1) has a bright side. Gentile reception of the salvation Israel refused might make the latter jealous (Romans 11:11). Without question, Jewish disbelief of the gospel is sad, but in their “trespass” lies a benefit in the form of Gentile redemption. By “full inclusion” Paul probably envisions a coming time when Jewish reception of the gospel will increase dramatically. The next few verses (13–16) restate and extend verses 11–12. “Dough” and “roots” refer to God’s remnant people in Old Testament times, within whose heritage believing Gentiles now stand.
God has not uprooted His people; “the root” remains “holy”. But He has grafted Gentiles into “the olive tree” of God’s covenant people. Paul warns of arrogance in the form of Gentile disregard for the Jews, or perhaps disdain for the church’s Old Testament heritage (which he emphatically commends; Romans 9:4–5).
Christian complacency has a long history, and Paul foresees it. He also warns of its consequences. Those Gentiles who suppose they stand fast should not be proud, but should be reverent. Gentiles who get cocky will find that God deals with them just as He dealt with hard-hearted Jews (verse 22). God is both kind and severe, depending on how we approach Him; to approach Him with presumption to is risk His judgment. God can certainly pour out His blessing on those who might seem to have turned away forever, just as He can pull the rug out from under the prideful.
Paul hints at how he understands the big picture of the gospel’s rejection (by most Jews) and acceptance (by many Gentiles). Jewish “hardening” is only partial. It will one day cease (verse 25). The statement that “all Israel will be saved” may foretell a mass conversion of Jews, or it may assert the salvation of all the “remnant” of God’s people, that is, “Israel” in the spiritual sense (see Romans 2:29; 9:6–8). Whatever the case, the effects of God’s “election” of Abraham’s descendants—however they are defined—are permanent.
There is a mysterious symmetry and reciprocity in God’s judgment and mercy to both Gentiles and Jews (verses 30–32). The bottom line is that God desires to “have mercy on all” (both Jews and Gentiles). Mercy is His heart (Matthew 11:28–30); it is who He is.
With high praise and lofty Scripture citations, these verses sum up Paul’s arguments in Romans 9–11. God’s Word has not failed (Romans 9–10); God has not abandoned His people (Romans 11). Not that humans, including Paul, can understand and explain everything—but at the limits of our understanding of the gospel, there can be awe and joy and hope and wonder. God is working things out despite any appearances to the contrary, and His glory will endure (verse 36). His people can rejoice and rest secure in His gospel promises. The end result of Romans 9–11 is not academic dissection or theological argument, but worship.
How has God shown His mercy towards you?
Romans 12 – Following numerous and important doctrinal explorations of God’s plan of redemption in previous chapters, Paul appeals to his readers “by the mercies of God” (mercies that make believers “holy and acceptable to God”) to let all he has said about the gospel do its glorious work. The ethical vision of these later chapters of Romans flows from the grand vision of divine grace in the first 11 chapters. Giving glory to God (Romans 11:36) is worship, and that is what the gospel enables (verse 1) as people present their whole selves and lives completely to God. Part of this is a break with “this world” in its negative aspects, allowing renewal and discernment, resulting in life that is “good and acceptable and perfect” (that is, “complete,” fulfilling God’s purposes).
The aim of the gospel is not merely doctrinal truth but lives that connect with God, delight in His will, and further His interests in glad communion with Him.
Faith in Jesus brings humility, but it also brings an active resolve to live to the full measure of one’s faith. This is a growing and not static self-assessment, far removed from self-absorbed and passive piety. There is both unity and individuality in the household of faith that the gospel produces. We are indebted to the larger body—Jesus’ body, the church—and we owe our fellow Believers the fruit of the grace God has given us. Our God-given strengths may involve gifts of a “public” nature (prophecy, teaching, exhorting), or we may find ourselves using our gifts in a more non-public way (serving, contributing, leading, showing mercy). In either case, God has assigned each Believer a faith-capacity that begs for expression in serving God and others.
The gospel does not produce perpetual spectators but mobilizes hearers to make a difference for others as God has made a difference in them. We love as He has loved us (Ephesians 4:32–5:2). We serve as He has served us (Mark 10:45).
“Let love be genuine” may be the heading under which to understand the rest of this chapter, and perhaps beyond. Love combines with faith and hope (1 Corinthians 13:13) to describe the highest fulfillment of God’s saving Word to His people (Romans 13:8–10). Genuine love, produced by the gospel through which God’s love is “poured into our hearts,” detests evil and pursues good. It spawns mutual affection in the church and promotes others. It is zealous, fervent, and selfless. In the most difficult of circumstances, love overcomes through hope, steadfastness in suffering, and prayer. It is openhanded and openhearted to others and their physical needs.
These things describe the love shown to us by Jesus Himself in the gospel. To love genuinely is to live compassionately toward others in the way that Jesus has already treated us.
A catalog of loving acts and strategies continues. Much here echoes Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels, as it also reflects the way He lived on earth. This includes love even for detractors or opponents. Faith in Jesus through the gospel message activates love full of empathy, harmony, and noble deference to others, even enemies. Where conflict can possibly be avoided, the gospel mandates peaceable relations with others, not rivalry, contention, or apathy. A strong sense of God’s presence, faithfulness, and ultimate justice means that vengeance can be left in His sure hands.
Those united to Jesus imitate their Master not in dutiful, self-generated efforts but in light of the great love with which He has loved us.
How has the Gospel motivated you to make a difference?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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