May 23, 2004

Sunday Sermon Twofer: The Gospel and the Nation of Israel (Rom. 10:16-11:36)

[Playing a little catch-up with our pastor's Sunday sermon series. This is this morning's.]

Romans 1:16 tells us that the Gospel went out first to the Jews, then the Gentiles. The sad news is, most of them didn't receive it.

  1. Israel has rejected the Gospel.

    Paul quotes Isaiah 53:1: "Who has believed our report?" The implication is that no one has believed it. It stabs Paul in the heart to have to admit that his own people have overwhelmingly rejected the Gospel message.

    Could there be a reason for this? Perhaps they did not hear. Or perhaps they heard, but did not understand. Paul answers these two possible excuses:

    1. even though they had heard (10:18)

      Paul quotes Psalm 19:4 here. The messsage has gone out to all the earth - Jews included. They can't claim they have not heard.

    2. even though they could understand (10:19-21)

      It isn't a problem of comprehension. Paul quotes Moses (Deut. 32:21) and Isaiah (65:1-2) to show that since the Gentiles were able to understand, certainly the Jews were able to as well.

      The Jews' problem was not with their heads, but their hearts. They were not dull and stupid, but disobedient and stubborn (v. 21). Sadly, this is still true; many contemporary Jews, presented with the Good News, display an almost visceral rejection of it.

    This raises another question: If Israel has rejected God, does this mean that God has rejected Israel? Paul's answer: By no means!

  2. God has not rejected Israel. (11:1)
    1. God has chosen a remnant in Israel in the present. (11:1-6)

      This remnant is those who believe in Christ, a people God has chosen out for himself, small in quantity, but not in quality. Paul proves this by pointing to himself, a believing Jew. He quotes from the story of Elijah to show that God has always had his remnant.

    2. God has hardened the rest of Israel for a time. (11:7-10)

      We were introduced to this idea of "hardening" back in chapter 9. Hardening a clay pot does not change the shape of the pot, it simply solidifies it in whatever shape it is in. Israel was disobedient and obstinate, so God solidified them in their disobedience and obstinacy.

      There is a warning here to anyone who thinks they can play fast and loose with God's standards. Who can truly say that they can do what they want now, and that if they repent later God will forgive them? Perhaps God will harden their hearts too. This is why the author of Hebrews warns his readers not to harden their hearts (Heb. 3:7-8).

    3. God will save the nation of Israel in the future. (11:11-36)

      Is Israel hardened in its unbelief forever? Not at all! Israel's rejection of the Gospel opened the door for the Gentiles to receive it. This is a great blessing for the Gentiles. But the fulness of Israel's repentance will bring an even greater blessing; the nation that was hardened will be the nation that is restored.

      Why is this important? Because there are some Christians who say that God is completely finished with the Jews. However, Paul is saying that God still has plans for Israel.

Two personal applications for this teaching:

  • It provides solid ground for believing in God's promises. God's promises to Israel are irrevocable (11:29). If God will keep his promises to Israel, we can be sure that he will keep his promises to us as well.
  • It provides a good reason to hope in the saving mercy of God (11:32).