Pastor David B. Curtis

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A Chosen Remnant - Part 2

Romans 11:5-10

Delivered 05/13/2012

We are continuing our study of Romans 11 this morning. But before we get into it I want to share with you a quote from a letter I received this week. If you have been listening to me for a while you know that I occasionally harp on you to read your Bible through every year. I have had people come to me at a conference or write me and tell me that I challenged them to read through their Bible in a year. I have never had any one say to me, Reading through the Bible in a year was a waste of time, I got nothing out of it. They always tell me what a blessing it has been. I met a couple at our Spring Conference, Robert and Sunny, who challenged and convicted me, because they had taken my challenge to the nth degree. Sunny had read through her Bible 9 times in a year and a half. And she was so excited about what she was learning she could hardly contain herself. They told me at the conference that they were working on a program of reading that would take them through the Bible every 30 days. That’s about 40 chapters a day, about an hour to an and a half to two hours a day. Here is a quote from a letter they sent me this week. "We are 8 days into our new goal of reading the Bible through every 30 days. (This would mean they have read a fourth of the Bible, or 96 days worth of a one year program) It’s awesome and so rewarding. If people only knew what reading the Bible would do for them I fear we wouldn’t be able to afford one!" Robert. That is powerful, convicting and encouraging. Let’s dismiss, I can’t improve on that!

Okay, let’s get into Romans 11. I said last week that this chapter is a dispensational strong hold. Dispensational theology teaches that as part of the events leading toward the millennium, ethnic Israel must return to and be established in the Holy Land. Romans 11 is seen as the critical text in predicting the eventual salvation that will follow.

Ray Steadman writes,

"Anyone who teaches that the church has now inherited all the promises of Israel had better take a second look at the Scriptures, especially the eleventh chapter of Romans."

John MacArthur writes,

"No doubt the Jews in Old Testament times and the Jews in New Testament times understood that the promises existed would be fulfilled literally. They understood that there would be a real Kingdom and real blessing and real possession of the holy land."

"But as I said, for now they're rejected. As Jesus said in Matthew 23:38, "Your house is left unto you desolate." But the day will come when Israel will be brought back. And that's the message of Romans 11."

Bob Deffinbaugh writes,

"God had made promises concerning the nation Israel as a whole. What of these promises? Were they not to be honored? Are we to conclude, as some theologians teach, that God has no program for Israel as a nation, distinct from the church?"

Of all the things which dispensationalism teaches, the fundamental teaching of the system is that there is a distinction between Israel and the Church. According to dispensationalism, God has two differing peoples, who each respectively have differing covenant promises, different destinies and different purposes. Membership in Israel is by natural birth. One enters the church by supernatural birth. Dispensationalists view Israel and the church as having distinct eternal destinies. Israel will receive an eternal earthly Kingdom, and the church an eternal heavenly Kingdom.

What I believe and teach is that the "true Israel" is the Israel of faith, not birth; Israel is spiritual, not natural. This view has been called "replacement theology"—it is said that the Church replaced Israel. But a much better term would be "fulfillment theology"—the promises Yahweh made to Old Covenant Israel are "fulfilled" in the Church of Yeshua Ha'Moshiach, which is true Israel. Covenant, not race, has always been the defining mark of the true Israel. This view of "fulfillment theology" presents a major problem for Dispensational theology because they teach that there is a distinction between Israel and the Church. That Israel and the Church are not distinct can be seen in the fact that the promises given to Israel are received by the Church.

"Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, Jeremiah 31:31 NASB

What is promised here? A New Covenant. Who is this New Covenant promised to? The house of Israel and the house of Judah! Anyone disagree with that? No, Good. Then let me ask you this, what covenant is the Church under? Writing to the Church that was in Corinth, Paul said:

who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:6 NASB
What is the Lord’s Supper a symbol of? The New Covenant:

In the same way He took the cup also, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." 1 Corinthians 11:25 NASB

The New Covenant is particularly problematic for the Dispensationalist, as Jeremiah 31 is undeniably addressed to Israel. The New Covenant is the very heart of the Gospel, yet, if the Church is fulfilling the promise given to Israel under the New Covenant, Dispensationalism has some serious problems. Let me give you just one more:

"In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, And wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins And rebuild it as in the days of old; Amos 9:11 NASB

Amos is speaking to the Northern Kingdom of Israel, This text speaks of God's judgment and destruction of Israel, which is not complete, and which is not permanent. He promised to return and to restore Israel, rebuilding it as in the days of old. The dispensationalist in their wooden literal hermeneutic look for this to physically happen to Israel. But now let’s go to the New Testament, anyone know where this is quoted?

'AFTER THESE THINGS I will return, AND I WILL REBUILD THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID WHICH HAS FALLEN, AND I WILL REBUILD ITS RUINS, AND I WILL RESTORE IT, Acts 15:16 NASB

James is saying that Peters account of Gentiles being saved is a fulfillment of this prophecy of Amos. James was saying that the Messianic Kingdom had come, and Amos' prediction was completely fulfilled in the Church.

Who was the promise of Amos 9:11, "In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David" made to? Amos was writing to Israel, the Ten Northern tribes. And yet James is saying that this prophecy is being fulfilled in the Church. I believe that the Bible teaches the essential continuity of Israel and the Church. The elect of all the ages are seen as one people—true Israel, with one Savior, one destiny.

Apart from the New Covenant truth, we would no doubt view these prophesies of restoration as physical; God restoring, redeeming national Israel. But the New Testament writers give us the true meaning of these verses.

Let’s go to Romans 11. Chapter 11 subdivides into 11:1-10 and 11-32. 11:1-10 asks, Can any Jews be saved? And Paul’s answer is, Yes! Then 11:11-32 asks, Can any more Jews be saved? And again Paul says, Yes!

I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. Romans 11:1 NASB

Who are "His people?" — Is it the nation Israel? Many say that it is but I think it is a reference to the remnant within the nation Israel. Paul himself was a forceful argument against any claim that God had rejected the nation Israel. Paul was a believing Israelite.

This does NOT say, God has not rejected national Israel, has He? No, it does not. It says He has not rejected "His people". His people is not synonymous with national Israel, but refers to the remnant within national Israel.

God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? Romans 11:2 NASB

When we see the word "foreknew" in the Bible, we really have a word of divine election. Yahweh set his heart upon them in divine love and chose them, is the force of that word.

To further explain that God has not rejected His people called Israel, he gives an important historical example.

"Lord, THEY HAVE KILLED YOUR PROPHETS, THEY HAVE TORN DOWN YOUR ALTARS, AND I ALONE AM LEFT, AND THEY ARE SEEKING MY LIFE." But what is the divine response to him? "I HAVE KEPT for Myself SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL." Romans 11:3-4 NASB

Paul is quoting here from 1 Kings 19. Elijah thought he was the only man of God left in Israel. God corrected him, telling Elijah there were 7,000 followers of God in Israel. That is a lot more than one. Yet 7,000, even if Israel then numbered only 700,000, would only be one percent of the population. That’s a small group.

The point Paul is making is that even during one of the worst periods of apostasy in Israel’s history, Yahweh had still preserved a remnant for Himself. Yahweh always has His remnant. Some times the remnant was very small as in the time of Noah, when the remnant was how many? Eight people. Yahweh always has his remnant.

In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice. Romans 11:5 NASB

Paul says, "In the same way"—applying verses 3-4 to his present day. The words addressed to Elijah are typical of the way God works. "At the present time"—is at the time of Paul’s writing, not today. This is not written to us but to first century Roman believers.

"Remnant"—is from the Greek word leimma which means, the remainder. This word is only used here in the New Testament. Jewish remnant theology taught that Israel was being narrowed down to a point and the remnant are the few who remain after the rest have left. It was the remnant for who Torah still works as a covenant of national pride. Paul’s remnant is a remnant chosen by grace. When Paul says there is a remnant, he means a remnant of Israel.

A person can be part of national Israel, and yet not be part of remnant Israel. As Paul said in 9:6, "For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel." There is an Israel within Israel, a subset of physical-and-spiritual Jewish people (remnant Israel) among the group of physically Jewish people (national Israel).

In seeing the Jews who believed in Yeshua as a remnant, Paul is making a comparison with the remnant that refused to worship Baal. The logical conclusion of Paul’s argument is that he considers Judaism to be a pagan religion akin to Baal worship—a concept that would have horrified the orthodox Jews. Judaism is a religious system that has rejected the Messiah. In so doing she has become nothing less than pagan.

"Remnant according to God's gracious choice"—is literally: "according to the election of grace." This phrase sheds light back onto the work of God in Elijah's day. Paul says, God kept seven thousand men for himself in those days, and in the same way (houtos) there is a remnant "chosen by grace." So "chosen by grace" is what Paul saw when he looked at the sovereign work of God in Elijah's day. If it was God who caused them to be a faithful remnant, then God had chosen them.

The word "choice" is the Greek word ekloge, which means, divine selection, election, chosen. The remnant are saved not because they chose God but because Yahweh chose them and they responded in faith. They are saved because Yahweh elected them.

This is not an election of honor, or an election of reward, but the election of grace. The word "gracious" is the Greek word charis which means: "unmerited favor, or kindness shown to one who is utterly undeserving." God predetermined before the foundation of the world to choose some Israelites on which to set His saving love and His saving blessing which would be His remnant. And so they are elect according to His grace, not of works lest any man should boast. And salvation is as always the election of grace. Paul has been hammering this all through Romans:

being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; Romans 3:24 NASB

"Gift" is from the Greek word dorean, which means: "for nothing, gratuitously, or gift-wise." In the phrase "as a gift by His grace", the idea of "free" is redoubled to show that our justification is all of God.

Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. Romans 4:4 NASB

In other words, if you work for somebody, you don't get grace, you get wages. If you work for someone, what you bring about is not grace, but debt. They owe you wages. This is why it's an abomination to try to work for God. God cannot be put in anyone's debt. To live by grace is to recognize that in myself I bring nothing of worth to my relationship with God.

All of the Christian life is a matter of grace. We are brought into God’s eternal kingdom by grace; we are justified by grace; we are motivated to obedience by grace; we receive strength to live the Christian life by grace; and we receive both temporal and spiritual blessings by grace.

The entire Christian life is lived by grace.

The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, Romans 5:20 NASB

When he says, "Where the sin increased," he uses a word that speaks of addition. But when he says "Grace abounded," he uses a word that means multiplication. The word "increased" is pleonazo, which means: "to increase." But the word "abound" is huperperisseuo, which means: "to super abound, to abound beyond measure." Where the sin increased, the grace super abounded.

What grace has done is not merely to counteract exactly what sin has done. If the effect of grace had merely been to wipe out and to cancel all that had happened on the other side, we would have had reason to praise God through all eternity. But grace super abounds. It not only cancels our debt, it gives us the righteousness of God.

And so, Paul has been saying all along, salvation by grace, salvation by grace. And that is true in the case of the remnant as well. And Paul who was a member of that remnant gives his own testimony. He says,

who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, 2 Timothy 1:9 NASB

Just to make sure we understand what he means by grace he says:

But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. Romans 11:6 NASB

The KJV adds the words, "But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work." These words are not found in the better Greek manuscripts. A scribe, no doubt in the early days, copying the manuscript of the Epistle to the Romans, added this by way of an explanation.

Now notice that Paul does not contrast works and faith in this text, as he does elsewhere (e.g., Romans 3:28; 9:32). So the contrast is not between two kinds of human activity: faith and works. The contrast is between divine activity (grace) and human activity (works). The point is that if election is based on anything we do, it is not longer grace. If we provide the decisive act in causing our election, it is no longer an "election of grace."

but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, Romans 9:31-32 NASB

They pursued the law as though it didn’t bring the knowledge of sin and stop every mouth and make everyone guilty before God, but as though it were really possible to provide themselves with righteousness by keeping the commandments. They viewed their obedience to the law as the means to produce righteousness. And works and grace are mutually exclusive.

Grace is God acting on our behalf. Nothing motivates Him to do this other than His own kindness and purpose. Nothing in us, no actions on our behalf, not even foreseen faith motivates God, otherwise then it cannot be attributed to grace.

His choice has nothing to do with the will of man. Again, Paul leveled this argument that is so common in our day, in:

So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. Romans 9:16 NASB

Just think of it for a moment: What meaning could it have for election to be gracious if it depended on our decisive initiative? If God watches (even ahead of time in eternity with his foreknowledge) and waits, as it were, for us to act, and then in response to that self-generated act, he chooses us, then we are not "chosen by divine grace;" we are chosen by a decisive human act. God would simply be a responder. We would determine his action. And grace would no longer be grace.

for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, Romans 9:11 NASB

The reason for calling Jacob before they were born or had done anything good or evil is so that God's purpose according to election might stand. Election would not be free if it were based on what Jacob did. And grace would no longer be grace.

Believer, understanding that your salvation is all of grace should greatly humble you. You were dead in sin, blind, rebellious. And then, by grace alone, you were awakened to the beauty of Christ crucified for sinners. And, by grace alone, you believed. And when asked, Why are you saved and others are not. Your answer is not, I’m smarter, or it’s not even I believed and they didn’t. Your answer with tears streaming down your face is, because of the gracious choice of my loving God.

What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; Romans 11:7 NASB

Notice that it doesn’t say, "What ‘His people’ are seeking, they have not obtained." His people are the "chosen" and they have obtained it. But Israel has not.

The word "seeking" is from the Greek word epizeteo. It is much more emphatic than our translation intimates, denoting that they: "set themselves to seek" or "seek with all their might."And the present tense by the way indicates the constancy of their effort.

What was Israel seeking?

but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Romans 9:31 NASB

Israel pursued righteousness, covenant membership, but they never arrived at it because they sought it by works.

The ones who were chosen obtained it. Now may I remind you that here the word "chosen" or "election" doesn't have reference to the theocratic nation of Israel, nor does it have reference to the kingdom of Israel as a nation, it has reference to the believing Jews, the individual Jews chosen out of the nation.

Who did the choosing? The word allows no room for human choosing. The passive voice indicates that it was not the one obtaining that did the choosing but One chose him so that he might obtain. The Lord God did the choosing. That’s what’s involved in election.

Let’s look at this from an eschatological sense for a minute. The majority of Israel had not obtained what they were seeking. What was it that Israel was seeking? The kingdom? The resurrection? Salvation? Redemption? Sure, all of these things.

Now notice carefully what Paul says, "But the chosen obtained it!" The elect obtained what Israel was looking for! But there were none of the elect ruling in Jerusalem on a physical throne. There was obviously no physical aspect to what they obtained, but what they obtained was what Israel was seeking. The promise to Israel was being fulfilled in the remnant and it was to be consummated quickly:

Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, "THOUGH THE NUMBER OF THE SONS OF ISRAEL BE LIKE THE SAND OF THE SEA, IT IS THE REMNANT THAT WILL BE SAVED; FOR THE LORD WILL EXECUTE HIS WORD ON THE EARTH, THOROUGHLY AND QUICKLY." Romans 9:27-28 NASB

The full arrival of whatever it was the elect was receiving was about to arrive "quickly". All the promises of God to Israel were being fulfilled in the remnant. And in Paul’s day the remnant was receiving what Israel sought after. What was it that the remnant was receiving? Salvation in Yeshua! They were not receiving a physical kingdom, or racial superiority, or a physical redemption.

What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; Romans 11:7 NASB

"Hardened"—is from the Greek poroo which means, "to petrify." The form of it indicates that they were hardened by some outside power, some outside force. And that force is none other than God Himself. They were hardened by God. You say, "Does God harden people?" Well do you remember chapter 9 verse 18:

So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. Romans 9:18 NASB

Paul didn’t say, The believers obtained it, but the rest refused to believe. He could have said that, it would have been true. How easily he could have avoided the issue of God's election and hardening, just like most people avoid it today.

Here Paul takes up the issue of reprobation: God passing over the non-elect and hardening them as a judicial act so that they justly face the wrath of God. There is some debate, and rightly so, that some acts of hardening are partial and temporary, as God in mercy again grafts in unbelievers—both Jews and Gentiles (e.g. 11:17-31). But that is not the focus of these verses. Here Paul deals with those not elected by grace but instead, left to their own desires and sins. The text does not indicate that they were hardened because of unbelief but instead that the hardening produced unbelief.

Hardened is a divine passive, it is God who is the agent of the hardening . God has not rejected "His people" because He has always had a remnant. But He has rejected those whom He has hardened. Just as "were chosen" is a theological or divine passive so also is "were hardened." In other words, it is the Lord who chooses and the Lord who hardens.

God gives mercy to the elect by working faith in their hearts. He gives justice to the reprobate by hardening them in their own sins. One group receives mercy, the other receives justice. No one is a victim of injustice.

Tom Holland says this about hardened, "This was the description of the condition of Pharaoh’s heart (Exod 8:32; 9:12) as he sought to stop the Jews from leaving Egypt for the promised land. Paul is in effect saying that in the early years of the Christian church’s pilgrimage, the one who now plays the role of Pharaoh is unredeemed Israel. She is seeking to prevent the people of God from leaving the kingdom of darkness to follow the Davidic Messiah on his triumphant march to the promised land. To suggest such a startling reversal of roles would have left any orthodox Jew appalled."

Paul backs up the fact that they are hardened with the Hebrew Scriptures:

just as it is written, "GOD GAVE THEM A SPIRIT OF STUPOR, EYES TO SEE NOT AND EARS TO HEAR NOT, DOWN TO THIS VERY DAY." Romans 11:8 NASB

This comes from two different First Testament verses that are combined. The first half of the verse comes from Isaiah 29:10:

For the LORD has poured over you a spirit of deep sleep, He has shut your eyes, the prophets; And He has covered your heads, the seers. Isaiah 29:10 NASB

The second half of the verse comes from Deuteronomy 29:4:

"Yet to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear. Deuteronomy 29:4 NASB

Deuteronomy has Moses looking sorrowfully at Israel and seeing nothing but rebellion. And Isaiah 29 is closely related to one of the most quoted words of judgment from that prophet, 6:9-10.

So he takes a passage from Moses and a passage from Isaiah, which is the law and prophets. And these two are combined under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit here to indicate that Yahweh Himself has withheld spiritual understanding from His people.

What did the Jews call the First Testament? They called it the Tanakh, which is an acronym that identifies the Hebrew Bible. The acronym is based on the initial Hebrew letters of each of the text's three parts: 1.Torah, meaning "Instruction"- "The five books of Moses," also called the "Pentateuch". 2. Nevi'im, meaning "Prophets." 3. Ketuvim, meaning "Writings" or "Hagiographa". So in this text Paul cites a text from the Law, he cites a text from the Prophets, and then finally from the writings, the three divisions of the Hebrew Scriptures.

And David says, "LET THEIR TABLE BECOME A SNARE AND A TRAP, AND A STUMBLING BLOCK AND A RETRIBUTION TO THEM. Romans 11:9 NASB

Here he quotes Psalm 69. Paul sees Psalm 69 as fulfilled in the life and situation of Yeshua. David writes it and the final Son of David fulfills it. So in Psalm 69:9 David says, "Zeal for your house has consumed me," and John 2:12 applies that to Yeshua as he cleansed the temple. The psalm says, "The reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me" (69:9) and Paul quotes this in Romans 15:3 to refer to Christ. The psalm says, "They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink" (69:21), and Luke 23:36 applies this to Yeshua as he was offered sour wine on the cross.

Psalm 69 is one of the most marvelous Messianic Psalms. Along with Psalm 22 they are the two most quoted Psalms in speaking about the suffering of the Savior.

Psalm 69 is what we call imprecatory, it prays for judgment to fall on the enemies of Yahweh. It is a Psalm that is zealous for the holiness of Yahweh. It is a Psalm that calls down judgment on those who reject Yahweh, those who deny Yahweh His rightful worship.

"LET THEIR TABLE BECOME A SNARE AND A TRAP"—that's a remarkable statement, because it means that the very thing that ought to be a blessing, the place where the sacrifices were made has been made a snare. He may be suggesting through the use of "their table" that the Jewish sacrificial system has become a snare and a trap, preventing the Jews from seeing their need for Christ’s death.

The word "retribution" implies that punishment of wrong is involved, somewhere along the way, in the hardening. The point is they deserved the snare and trap and stumbling that they experienced.

"LET THEIR EYES BE DARKENED TO SEE NOT, AND BEND THEIR BACKS FOREVER." Romans 11:10 NASB

David’s prayer was for Yahweh to exact vengeance on his enemies, but Paul applies it to the Jews. "Bend their backs forever"—as in those held captive, bent under the burden of their captivity. Paul does not misuse the passage as those who sought to overthrow David were members of his own family.

To reject Yeshua, therefore, is to reject David and the covenant made with him (2 Sam 7.5-16). It is entirely appropriate to apply David’s cry in Ps 69:22-28 to the Jews of Paul’s day, for they persecuted their own countrymen who had turned to the Son of David for salvation.

What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; Romans 11:7 NASB

Israel, national physical Israel has not obtained, but the chosen remnant obtained it, and the rest of national physical Israel were hardened. These words should make us tremble and thank Yahweh for His marvelous grace. It is only by grace that we have obtained salvation in Yeshua.

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