Read or listen to Romans 11
Is there sin in the world?
This is going to be a simplistic message. Of course there is sin in the world. You would have to be blind and deaf to miss it.
Why is there sin in the world?
So much for simplistic.
Let’s come back to that one.
Did God reject his own people?
Did God’s chosen people mess it up so badly that God orphaned them?
Surely they deserved to be kicked to the curb.
How many times have we read in the Old Testament, they did evil in the sight of the Lord?
And then they rejected the Messiah himself. They killed him.
They do not recognize him when he rises from the dead.
Have they blown it?
Is this the final straw?
Paul says no.
Paul is a Jew.
Descended from Abraham.
Tribe of Benjamin.
His people have wondered if their number was up before.
Elijah thought that maybe he was the last of his people faithful to God.
God told him that he had set aside 7,000 as a remnant.
Pauls tells us that so too at the present time there is a remnant.
Chosen by grace.
Good for them.
Stinks for the rest of Israel.
Chosen by grace.
Grace would not be grace if this election, selection, and rejection process were by works.
What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain.
The elect did.
The others were hardened.
You’ve got to love the reverence in syntax here.
Paul won’t say that God hardened them.
It’s the equivalent of the passive voice—they were hardened.
To say that God blinded his own people to the Messiah would be profane in Paul’s eyes.
God permitted the hearts of his people to be hardened.
So they had eyes that they could not see and ears that they could not hear.
Paul finds antecedent in Matthew 13.
In Matthew 13, Jesus found antecedent in Isaiah 6.
Again it is in the passive voice—their hearts will become calloused.
Again there will be a remnant.
That’s good if you are part of the remnant.
It stinks if you’re not.
So did Israel miss the boat altogether, except for this remnant?
Did they stumble beyond recovery?
Did God un-choose his people?
You’re going to love this part.
Their transgression enabled salvation to come to the rest of the world.
Israel’s loss, your gain: maybe they should get martyr points.
No, they will receive fullness.
The world receives such a bounty from their rejection.
How much more will Israel receive when they come to salvation?
Israel missed the mark and we were given a path to salvation.
Our salvation will make Israel jealous and they will come to fullness in the Lord.
How rich will this be when God’s own come home!
Paul uses the example of an olive tree.
Some branches were broken off (Israel).
Some were grafted in (Gentiles).
That’s the part we like and remember.
But Paul says that if we can be grafted in, and we are on the wild side, how much easier will it be for the tree’s own branches to be grafted back in.
But we have nothing to brag about.
We must not become conceited.
Part of the reason and surely the duration of Israel’s hardening is so that the full number of Gentiles come to the Lord.
All Israel will be saved.
A deliverer will come and clean out the ungodliness that has tormented God’s people.
God’s solemn promise is to take away the sins of Israel.
So just who is Israel?
In the short range perspective, they were enemies of the good news.
In the fuller context, they are still God’s chosen people and he loves them very much.
They will always remain God’s chosen people.
That calling, that designation, that appointment cannot be revoked.
It is irrevocable.
Remember back to God’s promise to Abraham.
His descendants would be blessed.
Through them the world would be blessed.
Jesus fulfilled part of this promise.
His lineage went back to Abraham.
What greater blessing than One who gave his life to restore God’s relationship with his people?
How about a people who would enable this reconciliation to go out to the entire world.
Not by their evangelism.
But by their stubbornness.
A few of God’s chosen people were preserved.
These few would carry the good news to the world.
God’s chosen people have become disobedient.
This is so that they may obtain mercy.
Anyone ever watch the TV show Home Improvement? In every episode, the Taylor’s neighbor—Wilson Wilson—would explain whatever quandary the Taylors were having in coherent verbiage and superb syntax. Tim, the husband, would explain to his wife, Jill, with a string of parallel malapropos.
Wilson’s paradox becomes a pair of ducks.
A paradigm becomes twenty cents (though Joel Barker claimed this first).
Concepts such as gestalt end up as an assault upon geese or something just as bizarre.
Surely at this point in Paul’s letter, he realizes that extended discussions are hard to grab hold of. His readers need something they can wrap their minds around.
He gives it to them.
God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
All have disobeyed.
All have fallen short.
No one will come to God based upon goodness, works or deeds, human righteousness, or any other way but mercy.
The salvation of all men comes from God’s mercy.
Why is there sin in the world?
That’s still a tough question.
It’s not that God can’t get rid of it.
The Greeks did wonderful things for the first century world by providing a common language through which the good news could be spread without endless translations.
The Greeks did terrible things for the first century world by infusing the Christian mind with dualism. That is that it’s God versus evil or Jesus versus Satan.
It’s not that way at all.
God is above all.
God does not battle evil.
The future of creation is not in jeopardy.
God permits evil to continue in the world, so we may receive his mercy.
God permits the disobedience of humankind to continue so that he may have mercy on all.
The struggle is not with God.
He is sovereign.
His election of Israel comes with an eternal guarantee.
His love for us does not expire.
He will let us struggle in a sinful world so that he can have mercy on us.
He will endure our disobedience so we can realize his grace.
Think back to the beginning of this much extended discourse.
God foreknew us.
He predestined us to be made in the likeness of Christ.
He knew that our free will would get the best of us.
He allowed us to discover that on our own.
So he could overwhelm our free will with love.
It’s probably not the way we would have designed creation.
It’s probably not the way we would have set up salvation.
It’s probably not the providence we would have wrapped around life.
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
36 For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.
God’s desire is for none to perish.
God’s heart is to have mercy on all.
God’s plan is to shape us in the image and likeness of Christ.
How much more real our salvation,
How much more incomprehensibl
e the grace given to us,
How much brighter will we shine in the glory given to us,
When God’s love overwhelms us and we are rescued from disobedience.
Both Jew and Gentile will be saved by mercy.
So much so that we are only Jew or Gentile in our disobedience.
There are no ethnic differences in God’s mercy.
God’s mercy and his grace have made us his children.
Jesus called us friend.
He is the firstborn of many brothers and sisters.
Some of whom were once Jew or Gentile.
We will know each other as children of God’s mercy.
Paul has wrapped up this discussion on foreknowledge, predestination, and election.
We know this is the end of this particular discussion because Paul chose to conclude with a doxology.
These final words of this chapter are praise to God.
He praises God for knowing what we need.
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
We too should praise God for both his wisdom and his provision for us.
To God be the glory forever!