Disclaimer: Before beginning this chapter, it is especially important to understand that context drives meaning of words as much as the definitions of words drive the meaning of words. In other words, word studies in Romans 11 are more likely to do harm to our study than good, therefore we shall keep an ever watchful eye upon our presuppositions and theological tendencies as we go through this text.
As the greater context demands, our present subject is, as it has been since the beginning of Romans 9, the disbelief of physical Israel. Since beginning this discourse, the apostle has taken us on the pertinent side paths of God’s election of individuals (v. 9:11), God’s sovereign will and decree over the destination of souls (vv. 9:19-24), the necessity of the proclamation of the Gospel for salvation (vv. 10:14, 15), and the creation of faith by God in the individual soul to embrace and see “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2Cor 4:6; cf. Rm. 10:17). Thus our understanding as we begin Romans 11 is that, though there is a perceived problem with Israel’s rejection of the Messiah, God if faithful and has a sovereign and perfect plan.
As we look at the end of Romans 10 and as we in our position casually survey the world, the situation for the nation Israel looks impossibly bleak. The question then becomes, “Has God rejected the nation Israel? Have they stumbled in their disbelief so that they might fall?” Paul, who is himself a physical Jew, responds strongly and with this defense, “By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin” (11:1). Therefore, Paul by using himself as an example as one who is descended by blood from Abraham and also believes in Jesus Christ, demonstrates that God has not rejected Israel.
The phrase that might throw one off in Paul’s statement is, “God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew” (v. 2). This word, “foreknew,” as is hard not to notice, is the same that is used in Romans 8 in the glorious chain of God’s work in the lives of the saints, viz. “Those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (vv. 8:29, 30).
This use for forknew is one of the reasons for my opening disclaimer to this post. For it is quite certain that by the context that God’s foreknowledge of physical Israel is by necessity different than God’s foreknowledge of his saints. In the case of physical Israel, God’s foreknowledge is his singling them out of all the nations and blessing them with the “adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, etc.” (v. 9:4), and in the case his particular saints, God’s foreknowledge if necessarily demands faith in and conformity to Jesus Christ. To confuse these points or to demand that God’s foreknowledge of Israel and of his saints must be the same, will lead to some very strange if not heretical doctrines. Forknowledge must be allowed some flexibility in this text, and I believe the text will clearly demonstrate what that is.
To Be Continued…
Categories: Fridy Night Bible Study