Romans (Part 13) - Chapters 9-11: God's Covenant People
We learn from the last part of Romans 9 that God will keep a remnant of Israel although He cries out in Hosea that they (the nation) are no longer His people. Understanding the reason for the dismissal of the nation and the election of a remnant is not only the focus and climax of the Romans letter in chapters 9 through 11, but it is the very conjoining bridge of the old covenant and the new.
The old covenant, made with Abraham and his offspring (specifically through Isaac and Jacob) was broken by every physical descendant of Abraham who ever lived. God declares it broken in Jeremiah 31:31-32. God declares the nation no longer His in Hosea 1:9. Yet, even with these firm, all-encompassing declarations, we know that when the covenant was first established, God made it clear that He would fulfill its obligations by passing through the cut animals of the covenant by Himself (Gen 15:17; see also post “Covenant Theology – 5/15/08”). How was this accomplished? It was accomplished by the one descendant of Abraham who did not break the covenant but rather fulfilled it in every aspect. That one is Christ. Christ, who is God, fulfilled the covenant as God promised to do.
Christ, then, through the new covenant and His atoning sacrificing of Himself, provides the righteous covenant fulfillment to His elect—those God chose by faith. These elect, joined to Christ through the new covenant, become heirs with Christ of the old covenant blessings of life, land, law, and leadership. This is the focus of Romans 9-11.
Chapter 10 continues to show that the national Jews failed to attain covenant perfection because they attempted to do so through works. But then the chapter changes focus to the Gentiles. Paul wonders for the Jews, how are the Gentiles—people who did not believe in Him as the Jews had—ever going to be able to know Him enough to call on Him? Paul then cites Old Testament references to show that God has worked through the world to make Himself known while the people of Israel continued to be disobedient.
But there is hope for Israel too—not as a nation, but as a remnant of that nation—as individuals who, just like the Gentiles, can turn to Christ. The great olive tree analogy shows us this remarkable uniting of the people of God. The olive tree is the covenant. The Jews had been broken off because of unbelief (failure to keep the covenant obligations). Gentiles—who had not initially been part of the covenant—have been grafted in through Christ, the only covenant-keeper. But the broken off Jews can also be grafted back in through Christ. The emphasis here concludes Paul’s argument to the Jews since the opening of the book. It is not heritage, nationality, works, or any other physical means whereby they can receive the covenant blessings; it is through Christ and Christ alone. Through Him the remnant partakes. Through Him the Gentiles receive covenant blessing.
And God’s calling and election are sure. The fullness of the Gentiles (all those to be saved) will come about (11:25). Likewise, the fullness of Israel (all those to be saved) will come about (11:26). How exactly do these things come about? They are realized as Romans 11:27 says—by the Deliverer (Christ) taking away their sins. Notice carefully, that this very consequence has occurred in actuality ever since Christ arose. There is nothing in this passage speaking of a future miraculous event whereby God’s focus turns exclusively to Israel and every living Jew becomes a Christian. That is not found in the context of this passage at all. What we find is exactly what the climax of Scripture is about—the atoning redemption of Christ applied to the elect of faith. This is our hope. This was Israel’s hope from the beginning and throughout the Old Testament although they were too blind to see. These Jews were seeking some brilliance for their nation (and for themselves) as deserving of unusual and exalted praise. But it is not the nation that God raised up for blessing and honor and glory and power. It is Christ—the King of kings and Lord of lords—who is the focus for all praise. Somehow, some Christians still seem to want Israel exalted. But the Jews and the Gentiles united together in Christ have become the one people of God who bring Him the glory. There is now one covenant, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all. And it is all made possible through the one Covenant-Keeper, our Brother, Friend, Redeemer, Lord, and King, Jesus Christ.