The Remnant of Israel

I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel: “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”?  And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”  So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

Romans 11:1-6

As chapter 11 begins, Paul moves into his next supporting point in this main section comprised of chapters 9-11. Our working theory for this section is that he is trying to prove that God has been faithful in all of His dealings with Israel, which is an issue because Israel has for the most part, rejected Christ bringing condemnation upon itself. In these verses, Paul seeks to document the obvious fact that a remnant of the Jews of his time have received the message of Christ and thus have received the grace that seems to have eluded the majority of their brethren.

The existence of this remnant is obvious for Paul himself is part of it, and is thus living proof of its existence. The question comes down to this: Did God reject Israel? Paul’s answer is a resounding “no”. Sadly, Israel has rejected God.

Paul’s wording in verse 2a begs a question; here is what Paul said: God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. The question is: Did God foreknow only some of Israel, or did God foreknow all of Israel? I realize that there are at least two main teachings on this question, but I would suggest that Paul is making the point that all of Israel were chosen and foreknown by God, but when the time came, some chose to accept God’s grace and the majority chose to reject it and turn away from God, a view that is consistent with what Paul has been teaching all along in this section.

Verses 3-4 remind us of the story of Elijah from 1Kings 19. In those days, Israel had also turned away from God, had killed His prophets and were coming for Elijah, but then as in Paul’s time, there was a remnant of people who remained faithful to God. In verse 5, Paul says: So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. Personally, I prefer the rendering of the NASB: In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but the reason I prefer the NASB for this verse is that they translated all of the Greek words, while the NIV left one out. The word they left out is ginomai meaning “came into being”. It may seem like a very small matter, but I think it makes “God’s glorious choice” much easier to follow, for we are once again facing the question of whether God selected some for grace and rejected others. You might recall that in earlier sections we discovered that God called all of Israel (descendants of Abraham) to serve His purpose. We also saw that all of Israel has served God’s purpose, even though within Israel some people followed God and many others did not both in Paul’s day, and all through Israel’s history. Paul’s point in these verses is entirely in harmony with previous sections of Romans: God knew in advance that some Israelites would choose to follow Jesus and that others would reject Jesus. He knew that in Paul’s day, there would be a remnant of Israelites remaining faithful, while most went their own way, in other words, and there was nothing new in this situation. God had never excluded anyone from following Him, and He wasn’t excluding anyone now; quite the opposite in fact.

Finally, verse 6: And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. Once more, Paul points out the contrast between the two camps within Israel, those who follow God by faith and those who follow by Law. Those who follow God by faith have believed His message of grace and have been saved. Those who believe in Law and their own works have not believed God’s message of grace and have rejected it and God as well.

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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10 Responses to The Remnant of Israel

  1. Dearest brother, I think it also elevates the opportunity of choice that we have in our Heavenly Father. No matter whether Jew or Christian, our Lord NEVER takes the ability to choose from us. We CHOOSE whether to follow after Him in faith or we CHOOSE to reject Him and His words. The children of Israel, even to this day have not lost that ability to choose and in fact, it was in God’s Grace and Will to allow us to be grafted into the very same lineage because of the choices they made at the time they made them!
    I for one am thankful that the Children of Israel and those who choose the promises of God will be my brothers and sisters in eternity for our Heavenly Father is TRUE to all of His promises! I love Paul’s writings because he explains WHY (in so many instances) why he writes and states what he does.
    As a side note, I agree with you on the NASB version. I have used it along with the NKJV for years and years because of the thoroughness of its translation and the retaining the context and thought!
    Great article Brother Don!

  2. I have been writing more generally about the choices God gives us and His choosing us. This gives me some more food for thought. I am also becoming Molinist (I think), believing that God has”middle knowledge”, in that He knows the outcomes, but He does not determine them. He knew from the foundation of the earth that some of Israel would reject Him and only a remnant in most ages would accept Him, but He chose to go forward with the world anyway. In that sense, He chose those He knew would choose Him.

  3. Pingback: Does God Choose Those Who Choose Him? | Navigating by Faith

  4. Grace or law? I choose grace.

  5. Kristi Ann says:

    United We STAND with Israel-Yisrael and our Judeo-Christian Nation United States of America, Divided We FALL!! I am Pro-Israel-Yisrael / Pro-USA / Pro-Life!!

    Please Pray for Israel-Yisrael / Christian Nation United States of America, and our Christian Earth Everyday “Pray Without Ceasing.” ( 1 Thessalonians 5:17 KJV )!!

    There is Only ONE TRUE GOD ( YAHWEH ) the FATHER who art in Heaven, ONE SON ( Yeshua-Jesus Christ ), and ONE HOLY GHOST – They’re All Three in ONE!!

    This Above is on my Website most every where!!

    God Bless All my Sisters and Brothers in Christ Jesus-Yeshua and Your Families and Friends!!

    Love Always and Shalom ( Peace ), YSIC \o/

    Kristi Ann

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