In this chapter, the Apostle to the Gentiles is dealing with a very important question: “Did God reject His people? ” – referring to the nation of Israel.
The Rabbi gives many reasons why God has not rejected His people. In the first part of this chapter, he gave us some. He answered his own question, not with a Replacement Theology yes, but with a very strong no. By no means!
God has not rejected His people because Paul himself was still an Israeli, and Israelis like Paul were an integral part of Israel.
God has not rejected His people because of His foreknowledge. God foreknew the Jewish people, including the majority’s rejection of the Messiah, and still chose us to be His people.
God has not rejected His people because throughout our generations, including the generations following the majority’s rejection of the Messiah, God remained committed to His people because of the faithful remnant. He did reject us because of the faithless majority.
God has not rejected His people because Israel’s fall from grace is temporary. We will most definitely rise again!
God has not rejected His people because a time is coming for the Jewish people when transgression and loss will be replaced by full inclusion and fulfillment.
God has not rejected His people because of the principle that what God starts well, He likes to end well, and since Israel had a good beginning, the nation will have a good end. If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches. In the Torah, we were instructed give the first piece of dough to God as an offering. If the first piece of dough was acceptable to God, the Lord would continue to provide dough for us to eat. In a similar way, a tree with a good root will produce a good tree with branches and fruit.
The dough and firstfruits and root and branches refer to the nation of Israel. The Lord gave His Chosen Nation a good beginning. He raised up good men – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and gave them great promises and made a great covenant with them. And, since what God begins well, He likes to end well, the Lord will make sure that His Chosen People will have a successful end. God has not rejected His people because we had a good beginning and will have a successful end.
The Rabbi extends this metaphor of the root and branches to reveal more truths. God’s choice of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and their faith, made them that good root that grew into an olive tree full of branches – the nation of Israel. When Messiah arrived, the majority of the Jewish people rejected Yeshua, which caused God to reject them. They were like branches which were broken off from the olive tree. Then, the Good News about Yeshua was proclaimed to other nations, and God began grafting in wild olive branches, Gentile Christians, into Israel’s olive tree of salvation. Peoples from the nations were able to share in the nourishing sap of the Jewish tree. They were able to enjoy the spiritual blessings that had been given to Israel. They entered the tent of Shem. They participated in the promise given to Abraham: in you all the families of the Earth will be blessed. The Gentiles became connected to the God of Israel, the Messiah of Israel, the salvation of Israel, the Bible of Israel, the prophets and apostles of Israel. This is not Replacement Theology, where the Church replaces Israel. This is Grafted In Theology, in which faithful Israel is the source of blessings to the peoples of the world.
Gentile Christians, who have been grafted into this special nation which is the source of spiritual blessing, a nation which God had been forming and sustaining and using for two thousands years, are to have a humble, respectful attitude toward the Jewish people. They are to be respectful to the natural branches which were not broken off, the faithful remnant of Israel, the Messianic Jews; and they are to be respectful to the natural branches which have been broken off, to unbelieving Israel. Do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. When Gentiles are saved, they are joined to Israel. They are connected to Israel’s root. Abraham becomes their father. They become his children. The root supports them.
The Church needs to understand their connection to Israel; and the primacy of Israel, that Israel came first; the Jewish roots of the Faith; that Israel is the root. The Gentiles don’t replace Israel but are grafted into Israel, with the Patriarchs as their root, Moses and the Prophets their teachers, the Jewish Messiah as their Savior and Living Lord, the apostles as their guides and the Messianic Jews as their elder brothers and sisters.
The Apostle to the Gentiles wants Gentile Christians to have a good attitude toward the Jewish people – even to those who do not believe. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. There is no place in the Church for anti-Semitism; no place for anger, resentment, hatred of the Jewish people. There is no place for arrogance toward the Jewish people – just humility, humble faith, fear of God, love for Israel accompanied by prayers for Israel and the commitment to bring us the Good News. Christians must be humble and fear God, knowing that if God rejected so many of the Chosen People who became arrogant and faithless, He will not hesitate to reject them if they become arrogant and faithless. And you know what? That’s exactly what has happened. Many who call themselves Christians have lost their fear of God and have become arrogant. They are in danger of experiencing God’s sternness, finding out that they have been cut off and will not be spared.
Just as God can cut off arrogant and faithless Gentiles from the olive tree of salvation, He can graft the natural branches, Jewish people who were cut off, back in. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree! If God could take wild branches, Romans and Greeks and others, who were far from the true God, pagans who worshiped many gods, and change them so that they became loyal to the God of Israel; and the Bible of Israel; and the prophets of Israel; and the Messiah of Israel – then He can take the natural branches, Jewish people, who have a connection to and have a natural affinity for these Jewish things, and graft us back into our own olive tree of salvation.
Note well that the Rabbi calls the olive tree “their own olive tree.” This tree that provides salvation to the world is Israel’s olive tree. It’s a Jewish tree. It was planted by the God of Israel. It was planted in Israeli soil. It’s roots are Jewish. It’s natural branches are Jewish. As the Son of God said: Salvation is of the Jewish people. It makes perfect sense for a Jewish person to follow the King of the Jews. It’s natural, it’s normal, it so right when a Jewish person becomes loyal to the Jewish Messiah. How much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree! In some ways it’s easier for God to save Jewish people than to save Gentiles!
The Rabbi gives us another reason why God has not rejected His people – and that is because it’s God’s plan to enable us to overcome our unbelief and be grafted back in. A time is coming when the majority of the Jewish people will turn to Yeshua and experience a great national salvation! I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. The Rabbi reveals a mystery regarding God’s plan for the Jewish people. When Paul uses “mystery,” he means something that had been hidden and that only recently was able to be understood.
Only after Messiah arrived did it became clear that only a remnant of the Chosen People would acknowledge the Son of God, and the majority would reject Him. Only after Messiah’s resurrection did it become clear that God would begin saving a remnant of the Gentiles, and uniting them in one community with the Messianic Jews. This situation will continue until the full number of people from the nations who have been chosen for salvation are saved. Then, when that happens, all Israel will be saved.
All Israel will be saved does not mean that every Jewish person who has ever lived will be saved. It does not mean that Jewish people who reject Yeshua will be saved. They will not be saved. All Israel will be saved means that the majority of the generation that is alive when Messiah returns will turn to the Deliverer, acknowledge Yeshua, and be saved. Until that time, this partial hardening of the Jewish people will continue. Only a remnant will believe. The majority will be hardened. But, this hardening is partial and is temporary. It will not last forever.
The Rabbi reinforces this teaching by doing what he has done so often – quoting from the Tenach; in this case, a prophecy from Isaiah. As it is written: “The deliverer (whom we know is Yeshua the Savior) will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob – meaning the Jewish people.
Israel’s great national salvation is absolutely sure because the God who cannot lie or break a promise has guaranteed it to us with a covenant. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins. Yeshua, Deliverer will come from Zion, who was born just outside Zion, who went to Zion every year, who was crucified and resurrected in Zion, who ascended to Heaven from Zion and will return to Zion and rule from Zion over Israel and the nations – is the One who enable us to turn from our godlessness. God will take away our sins – all of them. We will be forgiven. Cleansed. Restored. Renewed. Fulfilled. Blessed. Redeemed. Saved. This is a covenant that the Sovereign Lord has made with us. It will happen. It cannot fail to happen. Therefore it is utterly impossible for God to have rejected His people.
God has made a covenant with us to save us. Therefore God cannot be finished with us. The Church must understand this and have the right attitude toward the Jewish people, even while we are in unbelief. As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.
Jewish people who reject Yeshua are enemies of the Gospel. They are fighting against the message that He is the risen Messiah and Savior. Yet even Israel’s opposition to the Gospel is beneficial. It is for your sake. It brings benefit to those who are being saved. Israel’s opposition resulted in Messiah’s death, which made salvation available to the nations. And since Christians have benefitted by Israel’s opposition to Messiah, they must not hate us, but rather, thank God for what God has done through us.
The Rabbi adds that although the majority of the Jewish people are enemies of the Good News, we are not enemies to be hated, but to be loved. But as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Israel is the elect nation, the Chosen People. And He gave us a great beginning by raising up the Patriarchs. He called them and gave them gifts of a covenant that contained great promises. The Lord called them and their descendants to be His people. He called us to be His first-born son nation. He called us to be a light to the nations. He called us to be the source of blessing to all the nations of the world. Although people may want to take back a calling or a gift they have given to someone who has offended them, God will not take back the gifts and calling He has given to Israel, even though the majority have offended Him.
Israel has been chosen by God. And we are loved by God because we come from the Patriarchs whom He loves. When you love a man, you love his children. You are committed to them. You look out for them. You help them – even when they stray from the path. You try to bring them back to the path. Because of God’s love for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God loves His people; is committed to His people; is watching out for His people; is helping His people; will save His people. God has not rejected His people because of His love for the Patriarchs and because His gifts and His call to Israel are irrevocable.
The Rabbi gives us yet another reason why God has not rejected His people – and that is because it’s His plan to use the Jewish people to reach the Gentiles, and use the Gentiles to reach the Jews. Just as you (Gentiles) who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too (Israelis) have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. Humanity joined the rebellion of the fallen angels. We are in a state of rebellion against God. God has every right to destroy every rebel. But, He is willing to have mercy on those who were disobedient – not because they deserve it – they don’t, but simply because He wants to have mercy.
As part of His plan to have mercy on the disobedient, God used the Chosen People, who had become obedient, to help the Gentiles, who were disobedient, receive mercy; and then use those Gentiles who became obedient to help the Jewish people receive mercy and become obedient once again. Since it’s God’s plan to use the Jewish people to reach the Gentile, and then use the Gentiles to reach the Jews, God cannot be finished with His people. The Gentiles Christians have not helped us receive God’s mercy the way we will – yet. The Gentile mission is not complete yet. Therefore God can not have rejected His people.
Chapters 9-11 deal with the faithfulness of God; the sovereignty of God; predestination; election; God’s choosing some but not others; using the unchosen to reach the chosen; using the Jewish people to reach the Gentiles and vice-versa; God’s ongoing purposes for Israel – these are deep waters. These are profound truths. The Rabbi, wise as he was, ends this part of his letter with praise to the God who is supremely wise. Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
Again, as he has done so often, the Rabbi reinforces his teaching by quoting the Word of God. First, from Isaiah: “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” The answer? No mortal. The mind of the Lord is far, far, far beyond us. He is so much wiser than we are. We could never understanding the