A. What, if any, place does Israel have in God’s world plan?
B. This question is answered in various ways by Christians.
1. One’s millennial view (end time understanding) often determines the answer.
2. Those considered premillenialists believe God will again deal with Israel at some point in the future-possibly during the thousand year reign of Christ, and that many-perhaps all, of the Jews will accept Christ as the Messiah at that time.
3. The creation of Israel as a state in 1948 reinforced the belief for many that God was not finished with them.
4. Others focus on Paul’s teaching that one is not a Jew simply because they are a descendant of Abraham but are spiritual Jews when they trust Christ.
5. America seems to believe Israel is important as seen by our continual attempts to support them as our allies and work with them as opposed to the Arab countries. As time continues, however, we see a lessening of this policy.
C. This leads to a further question: “Is God’s dealing with Israel as a chosen people finished since the church has been born?”
D. Our conclusion concerning this answer is not a reason for division but simply an acknowledgment that believers do disagree in their interpretation. What I believe about God’s future plan for Israel has nothing to do with what I believe about the method of salvation or mission endeavors.
I. Israel’s Place In God’s Plan (vv. 1- 10)
A. God has not rejected the Jews.
1. Making this statement does not require us to believe in a future time when many or all Jews living will be saved.
2. Remember God’s plan and purpose in choosing Israel in the beginning.
3. He brought Abraham from a pagan land to another pagan land and promised to make him a great nation, which he did.
4. God’s purpose in choosing this nation and giving them his Law was for them to influence other nations around them by pointing them to the one true God.
5. Just because they failed on so many occasions does not mean God rejected them completely.
6. Nor does it mean their failure led God to reformulate his plan and bring the Church into existence. This was always part of his plan. The Church was not an afterthought. Remember God does not reformulate his plans based on our fickle decisions. We respond to him. It may appear he is responding to our actions but this is only because we cannot see his entire plan. He is sovereign and omniscient.
7. Israel had her time in history, and presently the church is enjoying hers.
8. However, God has not totally rejected the Jews just as he has not the Gentiles.
9. The way of salvation is still open to Jews as it is to Gentiles. However, they must come the same way-by faith.
B. Paul’s Example (v. 1)
1. Paul was living proof of his conclusion.
2. Being a descendant of Abraham, Paul was a literal Jew who was now following and espousing the way of salvation God had revealed to him.
3. In past discussions, he had gone to great lengths to show the way was always faith-before as well as after the giving of the Law.
C. Elijah’s Example (vv. 2-4)
1. Elijah was a great reforming prophet during the period of the kings.
2. He had predicted a three year drought as God’s punishment for the people’s sin.
3. In the third year of the drought, God told Elijah to go see King Ahab (married to the wicked Queen, Jezebel), and tell him rain was on the way.
4. Obadiah was also involved in this scene. Though he was in charge of Ahab’s palace, he was a devout follower of God. When Jezebel tried to kill the Lord’s prophets, he had hidden one hundred of them in two caves. There were Jews who believed.
5. Then we come to the Mount Carmel episode where Elijah confronted the pagan prophets of Baal in a contest to see which God would answer by fire and thus be declared the true God.
6. God answered, but Jezebel put a death sentence on Elijah causing him to flee to the wilderness in fear and even request death. He was tired.
7. Elijah complained to God that he was all alone. No one else was following the Lord.
8. God reminded him, “Yet I will preserve seven thousand others in Israel who have never bowed to Baal or kissed him.” (I Kings 19:18)
9. Based on these two examples-himself and Elijah, Paul concludes God has not totally rejected his people.
10. After all, Jesus’ disciples were Jews.
11. God certainly tired of his people-whom he had done so much for, being disobedient to his commands. He reacts the same in our case. His grace, however, will not allow him to throw us away when we fail.
12. There is always a remnant-whether Jew or Gentile, who will follow God and witness of his love.
D. The Present Example (vv. 5-10)
1. In Paul’s day, there was also a remnant.
2. A great many of the Jews had and were rejecting his message that Jesus was the Messiah sent to provide forgiveness of sins.
3. But in spite of the many who were rejecting his message-and some who were trying to kill him and silence the message, some believed.
4. It is easy to become pessimistic in our work for Christ as Elijah did. Paul could have too. A perusal of the world scene shows more wickedness than goodness, more unbelievers than believers. We cannot know at any given time how many are trusting Christ but there is a great multitude. It is witnessed more in third world countries than in ours. It is ironic how countries we once sent missionaries to are now sending them here.
5. Paul also alludes to the matter of God’s choice or election. This is a subject we’ve already broached.
6. The Jews who are accepting Christ are the ones who have been chosen as a result of God’s kindness.
7. This again relieves them of any grounds for boasting that they had some part in the process. God’s kindness in election is free and undeserved, so we cannot boast about having any part in our salvation.
8. While a few have responded, the rest were made unresponsive by God.
9. This is similar to the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart that is variously attributed to God and Pharaoh. When we stubbornly choose to reject God and go our own way, he gives us the desires of our heart and it becomes hardened to spiritual things. We have probably all known people this happened to.
10. Paul uses O. T. scripture to prove his conclusions. (Isaiah 29:10 and Psalm 69:22-23)
11. The blessings Israel received-rather than leading them to God, had led to pride in who they were. They focused on the physical descent rather than the relationship.
II. The Paradox Of God’s Plan (vv. 11-24)
A. God rarely works in ways we might imagine he would. (v. 11)
1. Isaiah reminds us God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours and often beyond our understanding. (55:8)
2. Israel’s fall is not beyond recovery. Any individual Jew can still come to Christ if they so choose.
3. They are not forced to remain in their lost condition.
4. Their overall rejection of Christ did however serve a further purpose of God-to make his message of salvation known to the Gentiles.
B. God’s plan for the Gentiles (v. 11-12)
1. Paul himself had been commissioned by God as a missionary to the Gentiles.
2. A side effect of this is God’s plan that by offering salvation to Gentiles the Jews will become jealous and accept his offer after all.
3. If this happens, the world will receive a great blessing. Imagine having a multitude of Jewish people working alongside our efforts to tell of Christ’s love. Or even a multitude of Arab people.
4. As Gentiles became predominant in the early church, they began to reject and persecute the Jews. If you will study our history and that of other countries, you will discover the practice has continued. Even the word Jew itself has taken on negative connotations of being untrustworthy.
5. Paul’s normal practice was to present his message to the Jews first. We read of his and Barnabas’ practice in Acts; “It was necessary that this Good News from God be given first to you Jews. But since you have rejected it and judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life-well, we will offer it to the Gentiles.” (13:46)
6. Paul’s vision of the church often contradicts and challenges ours. He envisioned a church composed of Jew and Gentile, which included people of all races, genders and social classes. As we do God’s work, we need to keep in mind God’s plan and vision for the church. It doesn’t include exclusivity but inclusivity whether we like it or not.
C. Paul’s interpretation of God’s plan. (vv. 13-16)
1. Paul uses the pruning and grafting procedure to explain what God is doing with Jews and Gentiles.
2. Though appointed an apostle to the Gentiles, Paul had not lost his love for his own people and had an intense desire for them to know Christ.
3. He hoped his work with the Gentiles would aid in that process.
4. He wanted to find a way to make his fellow descendants want what he had and what many of the Gentiles were accepting.
5. While speaking about the Jews specifically, Paul is again showing his intense love for unbelievers-the same intensity we should have.
6. He envisions the time when many Jews will accept Christ and how wonderful that world will be.
7. But he warns the Gentiles not to get proud over the gospel coming to them as the Jews had over being God’s chosen people.
8. He compares the bottom line of faith to the roots of a tree and its branches.
9. Abraham was declared righteous because he believed by faith. His faith is like the root of a productive tree. Since the roots are good, the branches cannot help but produce fruit.
10. The emphasis is on a proper foundation. Jesus told such a story about the wise and foolish builders. (Matthew 7:24ff)
11. Jesus also referenced the faith relationship in his story of the vine and branches and how one must abide in the other to live. (John 15:5ff)
D. God’s Process (vv. 17-24)
1. Some of the Jews (the branches) have been broken off. It wasn’t because God stopped loving them. They simply began depending on heritage, culture and physical descent rather than faith.
2. Gentiles (branches from a wild olive tree) who were willing to come by faith were then grafted into the tree so they could enjoy what the Jews rejected.
3. Grafting involves inserting a bud or shoot from another plant into a slit of another plant or tree. In doing this, the inserted shoot begins to receive nourishment from the foreign tree.
4. Paul then warns the Gentiles not to make the same mistake the Jews did lest they too be broken off. Christianity was born from Judaism.
5. This is not an indication that individual believers can lose their salvation. Paul is speaking in general tones to the Gentile nation as a whole.
6. If God did not spare his originally chosen people, he would not spare them either.
7. Whether Jew or Gentile, the nourishment coming from the roots is faith not culture, heritage, the Law or physical descent.
8. But the Jews are not without hope. If they believe, they can be re-grafted into the tree.
9. God is powerful and kind enough to save all who request it.
A. God’s message of love is for all people regardless of race, culture or physical descent.
B. Our vision of the church should be similar to Paul’s-it is a place for all who are willing to accept Christ by faith.