Paul is ready to explain something about this relationship between Jew and Gentile, in light of what we have learned through Chapters Nine and Ten. We know that Israel was given the express opportunity to bear the Oracles of God and that by being a vessel of mercy, they would be able to pour God’s mercy upon the world. However, throughout their history, many would find themselves acting as vessels of wrath rather than the vessels of mercy they were fashioned to be. Therefore, Israel often was not pouring out the sure mercies of God upon the world, but rather were pouring out the sound of their own pride.
Paul demonstrated how that God, who was still going to carry out His purpose, would simply use Gentiles to fill the void where the unbelieving Jews were. By this, God created a ‘new nation’, in which “Jew” and “Gentile” are no longer the national distinction, but rather is a distinction of one citizenry. Even though this predominately impacts Gentiles (as the world ratio of non-Israelites to Israelites is very much in favor of non-Israelites), Paul makes sure to explain that the believing portion of Israel still exists and is no less important.
Romans 11:1 I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 11:2 God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, 11:3 Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. 11:4 But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.
Paul reminds them that God has not cast away His people just because the vast majority were knuckleheads. Paul shows that he himself is a prime example, being of the tribe of Benjamin. For, if God had cast away His people, Paul would have had no purpose. And, this is something worth noting as well. There are some who might suggest that God fully set aside Israel in favor of the Gentiles, but I think we see Paul makes comments to the contrary.
Paul reminds them of what happened during the time of Elijah (1Kings 18 and 19), where after Elijah confronts the prophets of Baal, God reveals that not all of Israel bowed to Baal, for God had reserved 7,000 men who had not bowed to Baal’s image. Why would Paul be using this as a contemporary example?
Romans 11:5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
That’s why! God has not cast away His people but has, at the time of Paul’s writing to the Romans, reserved those who were of grace even though the majority of Israel were effectually bowing to Baal.
Baal was the male deity of the Phoenician and Cannanite people. It was the god of Jezebel. Baal means “lord” or “master”. It was the lord or master of the heathen and unfortunately was also worshiped within Israel. Israel did not regard Jehovah as Lord alone, but looked to another lord, Baal.
Nehemiah 9:6 Thou, even thou, art LORD alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee.
This is why Jesus Christ tells Israel,
Matthew 6:24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
This remnant of God was recognized as such not on the basis of their performance, but on the basis of His grace. For if, Paul says, it were of works, then it would not have been of grace. And, the inverse is true as well – if it is of grace, then it cannot be of works.
This should teach us something very important about grace – that it isn’t something worked for, whether out of debt or obligation or perceived need. Grace is not the means by which God brings you into a world where you now have to live up to your end of the deal. The fact is, because it is grace, the only end of the deal is His. Just as God predicated the covenant with Abraham upon Himself, so too does God extend grace through Jesus Christ, having predicated all that was necessary and all that will be bestowed solely upon Himself. We become instant beneficiaries of HIS grace the moment we believe Him.
Romans 11:7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded 11:8 (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. 11:9 And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them: 11:10 Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.
Israel was seeking for something and that was righteousness, however, the vast majority did not obtain it. Why? As Paul wrote at the end of Romans Chapter Nine, Israel stumbled because they sought righteousness as a product of law-keeping rather than a product of faith.
Romans 9:31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. 9:32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;
Those who obtained righteousness did so by faith and were counted therefore worthy to enjoy the blessings of His grace. The rest, however, were blinded. Those who did not obtain righteousness by faith but rather chose to keep attempting to obtain it through their performance under the law, God gave them over to the foolishness of their own thinking. (We saw God do this very thing to Israel in Romans Chapter 1).
In Deuteronomy 29 and Isaiah 29, we find God promising to give Israel the means to be able to stay victim to their own stupidity. Even though they have eyes to see and ears to hear, God effectually put them in a stupor so that their senses would continue to promote their thinking. As David wrote (Psalm 69), the table of Israel would not be a welcoming feast, but a snare and a trap. They would continue to wallow in their own blindness. But, is this the end? Is this blindness perpetual? What of this remnant of grace? What of the Gentiles?
Our story continues…