Broadcasting now. Watch Live.

Israel's Future Salvation - Part 2

Tom Pennington • Romans 11:11-32

  • 2019-06-23 AM
  • Romans
  • Sermons


Well, I invite you to take your Bibles and turn with me to Romans; Romans, chapter 11, as we continue our study through Paul's magnificent letter to the churches there in Rome; churches that he did not found, churches that he had not visited, but churches he wanted to understand the gospel that he preached so that they would partner with him in reaching Western Europe, the new enterprise of his missionary activity at that stage in his life. We're looking at Chapter 11, which really is a celebration of the faithfulness of God.

One of the great statements of God's faithfulness comes in the midst of some of the darkest pages in Scripture. In the middle of the book of Lamentations, a series of laments by the prophet Jeremiah over the destruction of everything he knew and loved; his life, his family, his nation, the city in which he lived, Jerusalem, all destroyed, and his people being carried off to captivity. In the middle of those laments comes this great cry, Lamentations 3:23, "Great is Your faithfulness."

What exactly do we mean when we speak of God's faithfulness? We've been talking about it a lot in this chapter. But what is God's faithfulness? When we describe God as faithful, we mean four things about God, four realities that are true of God.

Number one, it means that God is always consistent to act with His character. You and I sometimes are one way one day and totally different the next, never true with God. God always, always, acts consistent with His character. He is completely and totally predictable, never a surprise with God; He always acts consistent with who He is.

Secondly, when we say that God is faithful, we mean that He is always reliable to speak the truth. What we find in the pages of Scripture is reliable because God is faithful; He never tells us anything that isn't true.

Thirdly, when we say God is faithful, we mean that God is always trustworthy to keep His promises. When He makes promises, whether they are promises of judgment, or whether they are promises of blessing and salvation, He always keeps His promises.

And number four, when we say God is faithful, we mean that God is always loyal to His relationships. We may go through this life and we may find the loyalty of people we love to come and go, but it's never true with God. When God enters into a relationship, when He enters into a covenant relationship and us who are in Christ, are participants of the New Covenant. He has entered into a covenantal relationship with us through the New Covenant promises. He is always loyal to those with whom He has entered into a relationship. This is God's faithfulness.

In Romans, chapter 11, Paul is especially stressing the last two of those points when it comes to the fact that God is faithful to His promises and He is faithful to His relationships. Although, as a whole, the Jewish people rejected the Messiah, God is still faithful to His promises to them and to His relationship with them. He will continue to treat the physical descendants of Abraham as His special people; and He will preserve, within Israel, a believing remnant, a small group of true believers. There will always be and in the future, as we're learning in Romans 11, "All Israel will be saved." That's the message of Romans 11:1-32.

Now, Paul develops this concept of God's faithfulness in two sections. First of all, in verses 1 through 10, he describes "Israel's Current Spiritual Condition," the reality of what she's like today, the physical descendants of Abraham. And the second section begins in verse 11 and runs through verse 32, and there he describes "Israel's Future Spiritual Salvation." We are considering the first paragraph of the second section.

He begins with "The Certainty of Her Future Salvation." As he looks at the future, at her spiritual salvation to come, he begins in verses 11 through 16 by describing the certainty of her future salvation. Let's read it again together, Romans, chapter 11, beginning in verse 11:

I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of [the] Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow, I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too.

Now, as I pointed out to you last week, the point of this paragraph is simply this: in spite of her sin, Israel as a people, has not permanently fallen from God's redemptive plan and purpose. And when Christ returns as Paul will say later in the chapter, "All Israel will be saved."

Now, he begins to defend then this certainty of her future salvation in verse 11 with an obvious question, "Has Israel permanently fallen?" Is God done with Israel? Paul responds with an emphatic denial, "Never!" In fact, look at verse 11, he says, "May it never be!" And in the rest of these verses, Paul shows us that exactly the opposite of that question is true. Israel's future restoration is certain. In verse 12 notice, he describes it as her "fulfillment" or her fullness. He says that's coming. In verse 15, he refers to "their acceptance" which will lead to "life from the dead." This is the future of Israel.

Now, we looked then at the divine reasons for this sort of indirect circuitous path that's described in these verses. What are the divine reasons? We noted three of them: to display God's glory, to bring salvation to the Gentiles, verse 11 says, "salvation has come to the Gentiles," and thirdly, to bring salvation to the Jewish remnant, the small number whom God has chosen and will save in this church age. Notice verse 11 ends with, "[all of this is] to make them [that is some of the Jews] jealous" so as to believe ultimately in their Messiah.

But that's not the end of the story; and so, in verses 12 through 15, Paul explains God's future plans for Israel. We ended last time by considering, "Israel Will Become a Greater Blessing to the Gentiles," this is the message of verses 12 to 14. Notice verse 12, "Now if their transgression [that is their unbelief in the Messiah] is riches [that is spiritual riches, God's mercy and grace] for the world [that is for the unconverted Gentile world] and their failure [that is their total spiritual defeat has brought spiritual riches to the nations] for the Gentiles." If all of that's true, look at the end of verse 12, "how much more will their fulfillment be!" Literally, the Greek text reads, "How much more rather the fullness of them." When all Israel is saved, when she reaches her fullness or the full number of redeemed at the end of this age, how much greater blessing will she then bring to us.

Now, several of you asked and I want to answer this question today in brief, "When will all Israel be saved?" Well, we'll see this in detail when we get to verses 25 and 26, but, and here's a spoiler alert, it will happen. "All Israel will be saved," at the Second Coming, at the end of the Seven-Year Tribulation. Here's how Zachariah the prophet described it in Zechariah 13:1, "In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity." When they see Him, chapter 12, verse 10 of Zechariah says, "[that is the Messiah] whom they have pierced," then a fountain of cleansing will be opened for them for sin and impurity. So, at the Second Coming is when all Israel is saved; and at that moment when she is saved and completely restored to God's favor, we as Gentiles, will enjoy the greater blessing of her restoration. And what is that blessing? Christ will establish His Millennial Kingdom and will reign from David's throne in Jerusalem for a thousand years. And after Christ has completely renovated and restored this planet on which we sit right now, then we will live here with Him, reigning with Him, God in our midst for a thousand years. How much greater blessing will their fullness bring.

Now, we pick up where we left off last time. Verse 12 takes us to the future, and Paul is going to come back to the future in verse 15. But in between verses 12 and 15, where he's dealing with the future of Israel; in verses 13 and 14, you have a kind of parenthesis in which Paul again explains what's happening currently, today. Notice in verse 13, he reminds us that the focus of God's current plan is the nations of the world, otherwise known as the Gentiles, all the non-Jewish people on this planet. Notice what he writes in verse 13, "[For] I am speaking to you who are Gentiles." Paul addresses this section to the Gentile majority in the churches in Rome because he wanted to make sure that in churches that are primarily Gentile, like our church, there are Jewish people here by God's grace who've come to believe and embrace their Messiah, but most of us are Gentiles.

Paul wanted to make sure we didn't misunderstand what his ministry to the Gentiles meant. Because, you see, Gentile Christians can be tempted and many have through church history, have been tempted to say something like this, "Well, I mean, look at Paul. Paul was Jewish, but even Paul gave up on the Jews and instead went to the Gentiles." And they might be tempted by some distorted logic to use Paul to justify a disdain of and a hatred for the Jews. So, Paul says, "Listen, it's true, my ministry is to Gentiles, but that is because of God's specific calling." Notice verse 13, "Inasmuch then as [or we could translate it, to the degree that] I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry."

You see, God called Paul as an apostle with one primary thrust and that was as an apostle to reach the Gentiles. Go back to Romans 1:1, "Paul, a bonds-servant [slave, a doulos] of [Messiah] Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, [as a sent one by Christ] set apart for the gospel of God." But what was the focus of his apostleship? Look at verse 5, he says, "through [Jesus Christ our Lord] …we have received grace and apostleship [here's why] to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake." This is where Paul begins Romans; it's where he ends Romans. Turn over to chapter 15, verse 15, he says:

But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given to me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles might become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

He says the thrust of my ministry is the Gentiles, the non-Jewish people is the focus of my ministry. And this of course makes sense because you remember back when Paul was saved, Saul on the Damascus Road, he immediately was struck blind, and God sends a man named Ananias, a fellow believer, to speak to Paul. And Ananias is hesitant because Paul's been putting to death believers, but Christ says this to Ananias; this is Acts 9:15. He says, "Go, [go and do what I've said for Paul] . . . is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel."

The thrust of Paul's ministry from all of these texts becomes clear; it was to the Gentiles. And Paul was absolutely sold on that ministry. Go back to Romans, chapter 11, and notice how he puts it, he says, "I magnify my ministry," verse 13. Literally, the Greek text says, "I glorify my ministry." That is, I take pride in my ministry to the Gentiles, and I work really hard at reaching the nations.

By the way, there's an interesting note here about those who are in the service of Christ in ministry. Paul says, "I magnify my ministry." The word he uses for ministry is the Greek word from which we get the English word deacon. It originally spoke of those who served tables and it came to speak of those who rendered lowly service. Paul says, "That's me! That's all I'm doing. I'm just a waiter. My job is to get the truth to God's people without messing it up, that's my ministry."

So, what he is saying in verse 13 is this, "In this church age, the focus is on the salvation of the nations of the world." But, that doesn't mean that God has forgotten His chosen people, Israel. And so in verse 14, Paul reminds us that God has a current plan for Israel's salvation. As the church, we are to focus on all the nations of the world. "Go therefore into all the world and preach the gospel." But we're to do so without ignoring or neglecting to share the gospel with Jews, for the sake of the remnant within Israel, whom God intends to save. Look at verse 14, even as he carries out a ministry to the Gentiles, this is in his heart, "If somehow [or we could translate it or in the hope that] I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen [literally, the Greek text says 'my flesh, those who share my flesh'] and save some of them." Paul says, "I minister to the Gentiles in the hope that some of my fellow Jews may come to Christ."

Now, don't misunderstand, this wasn't the only reason Paul served the Gentiles; it wasn't like you know, "I don't really care about those people, they're just a means to an end." That wasn't it. This wasn't even the primary reason. Instead, it was one of the reasons for his ministry to the Gentiles. Although the focus of his ministry, by God's design and calling, was Gentiles; Paul never lost his heart and passion for the salvation of his fellow Jews. Do you remember what he said back in chapter 9, verse 3? He says, "I could wish that I myself were accursed [damned], separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsman according to the flesh." Paul says, "I have such a heart for their salvation that, if it were possible, I would even consider wishing myself to be lost so that they might the saved." 1 Corinthians 9:20, Paul says "To the Jews, I became as a Jew so that I might win Jews." Even as he ministered to Gentiles, Paul desperately wanted God to use this ministry to serve his fellow Jews. How? Notice what he says in verse 14, "[by provoking some of them to] jealousy . . . and save some of them." As they saw, this was a good kind of jealousy, as they saw that the fruit of the gospel in the lives of Gentiles, they would find it attractive and want that for themselves.

So, verses 12 to 14 teach us that when Christ returns and all the descendants of Abraham are saved, Israel will become an even greater blessing to us Gentiles because her salvation will usher in the Millennium, the thousand-year reign of Christ.

Now, verse 15 details a second part of God's future plan for Israel. It's this, all Israel will receive spiritual life; all Israel will receive spiritual life. Notice how he puts it in verse 15, "For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?" Paul again returns to God's future plan for Israel. Verses 13 and 14 were sort of a parenthesis in which he kind of took us back to the present. But now in verse 15, we go back to the future plan, and notice how he describes it, "their rejection." That doesn't mean God's total rejection of His people, that's contrary to what He's already said in this chapter. It means rather His rejection of most of the Israelites for salvation. You remember, "The rest he passed over and allowed to be hardened by their sin." Their rejection in that sense, for many of the individual Israelites. Notice the way it's put in verse 17, "if some of the branches were broken off." Verse 20, "[those who] were broken off for their unbelief." So, the rejection of a majority of God's chosen people for salvation led to, notice what he says, "the reconciliation of the world." That is the Gentiles as a group, the nations of the world.

What is this reconciliation? The Greek word literally means the reestablishment of a broken relationship, in this case, with God. I don't know if you understand this or not, but every single human being has, by birth and by choice, a broken relationship with God. Apart from Christ, you have a broken relationship with God. It's nonexistent. In fact, God sees you, until you come to Christ, as His enemy.

Go back to chapter 5; Romans, chapter 5, and notice how Paul puts it, verse 10, "For if while we were enemies," he's talking about before we came to Christ. Have you ever thought about that? Before you came to Christ, God saw you as His enemy, why? Whether you saw it that way or not, why does God see it that way? Well, because He is your Creator, He made you. He's also the one who sustains you, He's the one who provides you with everything you have. He's the one who keeps your heart beating, who gives you the oxygen to breathe. He's the one who woke you up this morning. He's the one who keeps your life in you and He has the right to demand everything from you and He has demanded how you should live. And like me, you have disregarded that. The way that Isaiah puts it, "All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way." That's me, that's you, and that made us God's enemies, Paul says.

But here's the good news, look at Romans 5 again, verse 10, "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled." There's the verb form of our word. Our broken relationship was reestablished, restored. You were reconciled to God. How? Through the death of His Son, "Much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." The good news is you, while you may be God's enemy, can be reconciled to God your Creator, but only through the death of His Son, if you will repent of your sin and put your faith in the work of Jesus Christ.

Now, go back to Chapter 11 and notice how this reconciliation fits into Paul's logic. Verse 15, he says, "[if God's rejection of many of Abraham's physical descendants for salvation has resulted in many from the Gentile world being reconciled to God] . . . what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?"

Now, their acceptance is the opposite obviously of rejection; it means to accept into a relationship. He looks in the future, and he says, "When all Israel is saved at the Second Coming, when Israel is restored fully to God's favor, it will produce [notice the end of verse 15] life from the dead."

What does Paul mean? Well there are two possible interpretations of that life from the dead that have been held to down through church history. The first is that it means physical resurrection for the dead. This was the view of the early Greek fathers, early church fathers; it was also the view of many of the Puritans. In other words, it goes like this, when Israel is accepted, when as a people she is saved at the Second Coming, that will immediately lead to the resurrection of people from the dead, their physical resurrection. The problem with this view is Paul never uses this expression anywhere in his writings to refer to the resurrection. And Scripture nowhere else connects Israel's conversion and a physical resurrection.

So, the second possible interpretation is the more likely one. And it's this, that life from the dead means spiritual life for Israel. In other words, her regeneration, she as a people, individuals, yes, but as of the entirety of the nation will be born again. This word life is not the word bios from which we get biology; it's the Greek word zoe which is usually used to refer to a different kind of life, a spiritual life, eternal life. It's used this way in Romans; go back to chapter 6 and notice verse 4, as he describes regeneration in our lives, when at the moment of salvation, we were born again, he says this happened, "we have been buried with [Christ] . . . through baptism unto death, [we died when Christ died, and] . . . as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of [zoe in newness of spiritual] life." The same word is used down in verse 22, "But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life [eternal zoe]."

But notice how it's used in chapter 8, verse 10, again the same concept, "If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, [notice this] yet the spirit [the real you is literally] is alive [is zoe] because of righteousness." You now have spiritual life! That's, I think, what Paul means in chapter 11, verse 15, when he refers to Israel. He says at that time when God accepts them, they will all come to enjoy spiritual life. They will, as a people, be regenerated; they will be born again. This is what's described, and we'll hopefully see it in the next couple of weeks, in Ezekiel 37, with the valley of dry bones coming to life.

Now who, in verse 15, is spiritually accepted and who will receive this spiritual life or regeneration? Well according to verse 26, as we'll see, it's "all Israel," but of course this is the big question. What does "all Israel" mean? Who's 'all Israel?' Well let me tell you first of all what it doesn't mean. It doesn't mean that God will somehow retroactively go back and save every single physical descendant of Abraham who has ever lived in human history; that's not what "all Israel" means.

It means one of two things, and we will look at this in more detail when we get to those verses but let me just give you the summary version. When we say, "All Israel will be saved," we mean one of two things. We either mean that every single physical descendant of Abraham who is still alive at the end of the tribulation at the Second Coming will be saved. Or, we mean almost every physical descendant of Abraham who is alive at the Second Coming will be saved, and I'll explain why those both are options when we get there. But regardless, a vast majority of the physical descendants of Abraham will be saved at the Second Coming, that's who will be saved. So those are God's future plans for Israel. Israel will become a greater blessing to us because all Israel will receive spiritual regeneration, eternal life.

Now, Paul finishes this paragraph by explaining why God will do this. Why does Israel even matter to God? Well it's because fifthly, of her unique position, it's her unique position. Verse 16 says she is holy or set apart to God. Notice how he writes it, "If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too." Now what is Paul doing here; what does this mean? Well, it's simply two illustrations; it's two illustrations of the biblical logic as to why God cannot be finished with Israel. It's because of her unique position. In both illustrations, the thing we're talking about is holy. That doesn't mean morally pure. You go back to the Old Testament and you find pots used in the temple are holy. It means set apart to God.

All right, that's Israel's unique position; she's been set apart to God. Now, let's watch these two illustrations unfold. Let me, first of all, give you the illustrations and then we'll go back and look at the meaning. First of all, the first illustration is a piece of dough and the lump of bread from which it's taken. The first piece of dough is, literally in the Greek text, one word, the first fruits. If you're familiar with the Old Testament, you recognize that as a reference to the first fruit offerings. You were to take the first of all of your produce, in this case your bread that you've made, and offer it to the Lord.

This comes from, by the way, one Old Testament passage, I'm not going to have you turn there, but you can mark it your notes and look back at it if you choose to Numbers 15:17-21. And there you will discover that the Old Testament Law required that if you made bread, you were to offer the first fruits of your dough to God. Now, the first fruits were holy; that is, they were set apart for God's use. But, don't misunderstand the first fruits. It wasn't like God got His part and the rest is yours. The first fruits were like a way of saying, "I'm going to give God the first part of this batch of dough as a reminder that the rest belongs to Him too." That was the point. So, it simply reminded you, in this case, as you presented the first piece of dough or the first fruits of that dough, that the mixed batch, the rest of the dough, belonged to God as well. That's the first illustration.

The second illustration, and again I'll come back and explain its meaning. The second illustration pertains to an olive tree. Notice verse 16, the second half, "and if the root is holy, the branches are too." Now it's clear Paul has in mind not just any tree, but an olive tree. If you look at verse 17, he talks about the rich root of the olive tree. So, he's talking about an olive tree, why? Because, in the Old Testament, Israel is pictured as two kinds of plants. She's pictured as a grapevine, for example in Jeremiah 2:21, and she is pictured as an olive tree in Jeremiah 11:15-16. So, Israel is an olive tree. Now you understand why he would pull this metaphor in. And he's saying here, "If the root of an olive tree is set apart for God and His use, then of course the rest of the tree is set apart for God and His use [the branches, right]." You can't just set the root and not the rest of the tree. So those are the two illustrations.

Now what does it mean? Well Paul doesn't explain the two illustrations; but from the context and from his logic, we can make two observations that are really going to help us understand what he means. First of all, note this; the second item in each illustration refers to the descendants of Abraham who have not yet been saved. So, the second item in both of these illustrations are unbelieving Jews, both the lump of dough and the branches are unredeemed physical descendants of Abraham, in Paul's day, today and if the Lord tarries, in the future.

The first item in each of these two illustrations refers to the portion of Israel that has been saved, some portion of Israel that has been saved. So, with that understanding, let's look at them.

What do they mean? Verse 16, "If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also." Now in this illustration, that first piece of dough or the first fruits could be the first Jewish people to believe in Christ. If the first Jewish people believe in Christ are set apart for God, then the rest of the Jewish people are set apart for God. Some believe that, and their argument goes like this, "Well, Paul regularly uses this term first fruits to refer to those who were first to believe in Jesus," and that's true. But I have to agree with the majority of commentators that that's not what Paul means here. I think he's saying exactly the same thing in the two illustrations. So, the first fruits in the first illustration are the patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. If they were set apart to God, then their descendants are set apart to God as well. If the first piece of dough is set apart to God - Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - then the rest of the batch of dough, their descendants, they are as well.

Now the second illustration is the olive tree. Verse 16 says, "and if the root is holy, the branches are too." In this illustration, Paul is making exactly the same point. If the root, the patriarchs, and by the way in several rabbinical texts, the patriarchs are called the root of the nation. If the root is set apart to God, then the branches, their descendants, are as well. God, you see, set Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob apart for Himself; and when He did, He also set their descendants apart for Himself. Let me just show you one Old Testament text. Look at Deuteronomy, chapter 10. I have several in my notes; but in the interest of time, let's just look at this one. Deuteronomy 10:14, Moses says:

Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. Yet on your fathers [Abraham, Isaac and Jacob] did the LORD set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day.

Do you understand what he's saying? God established the root as being set apart to Him and that meant the branches, the descendants were also set apart to Him. So, this is Paul's point, if God set apart the forefathers of the nation to Himself, He's not going to abandon their descendants. In spite of the unbelief of many individuals, the nation is still set apart by God as His special people. And, this is true throughout the Old Testament. Throughout biblical history, there was always only a small believing remnant within Israel. Most of Abraham's descendants were unbelievers and died unbelievers and will be in hell forever. But God did not abandon the nation although He often brought serious judgments. And Paul argues that in the very same way, because the nation as a whole rejected her Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, God brought terrible judgment on them. But just as was true in the Old Testament, God has not, He will not, He cannot reject Israel as a nation.

Now don't misunderstand, this is not a promise that every Jewish person will be saved, that is not true. That's the message of chapters 9 and 10. Instead, it is a promise that the Jewish people, as a whole, will always be God's special chosen people because of the root, because of the fathers. This is exactly what Paul says. Go over to chapter 11, verse 28, "From the standpoint of the gospel, they [that is the Jewish people] are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God's choice they are beloved [why?] for the sake of the fathers [Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob]." And here's why that will never change, verse 29, "for the gifts and the calling of God are [what?] irrevocable." God's not going to change His mind about the Jewish people. It's an irrevocable, unchangeable calling; that's the primary meaning of this paragraph that we've been studying together.

But I've been struck this week with how profound and far-reaching the implications of this passage are for us; and I want us, in the next few moments together, to consider some eminently practical lessons that we learn from this unusual paragraph. First of all, there are some really important lessons we learn about God. By the way, when you come to the Scripture and you're studying it, this is where you should always look, "What does this passage teach me about my God?" So, what does this paragraph, this unusual paragraph, teach us about God? There are three lessons I would point out to you.

Lesson number one, God is always faithful to His promises and His relationships. That's what we just saw in verse 29, "the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." He will be faithful in spite of Israel's sin. Why does this matter? It matters because if God weren't faithful to His promises and His relationships with Israel, then what leads you to believe that He's going to be faithful to His promises and His relationship with you? They go together! If God isn't relentlessly, irrevocably committed to His relationships, then you are in serious trouble and so am I. It matters.

Number two and the second lesson about God, He has an all-wise unchanging plan for redemptive history. Listen, don't worry folks about what you read on your newsfeed. Don't worry about the beginning of World War III; don't worry about what you read in the newspaper or you hear on the news. God has a plan, and He is working that plan out, and nothing and no one will derail that plan! So, relax. I love the way Paul says it in Ephesians 3:11. Literally, the Greek text says, "God has a purpose or plan of the ages." Do you realize that? God isn't wondering what to do next. Before He created anything, He came up with an entire, complete and total comprehensive plan for what would happen on this planet, and it is happening exactly as He decided it would.

Number three, His plan is not always obvious or easily traceable. Now think about this, which one of us here would've said, "I got it; here's a plan. I'm going to choose the nation of Israel as my special people, but I'm only going to save a remnant of them. Instead, I'm going to allow the vast majority of them to be hardened by their sin, and then I'm going to use that opportunity to reach the nations with the gospel, and then when the nations are reached with the gospel, I'm going to use that in turn to appeal to some of My people to come to Christ."

Anybody here come up with that plan? Of course not. Only God! The point is God's plans are not always perfectly linear or traceable to our finite minds. That's why we respond the way verse 33 says:

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! FOR WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD [this is our God]?

There's a second group of lessons, lessons concerning Israel and the Gentiles, and this is the focus of this passage. I'm not going to spend any time here; I just want to remind you of them very briefly. God's plan, number one, includes the fullness or the full number of redeemed for both Jews, verse 12, and the same language is used in verse 25 of the Gentiles. Secondly, God's plan includes Israel's unbelief; that's part of God's plan. Number three, God's plan includes the salvation of the nations during this age. Number four, God's plan includes the future acceptance and salvation of Israel as a whole. In fact, let me put it this bluntly; the only reason the ethnic descendants of Abraham still survive on this planet is because God still has a plan. Because how many times has Satan and those who follow him tried to destroy the descendants of Abraham? But they're here, and they will be here because God isn't done.

There's a third group of lessons and it concerns us individually. This is where the rubber really meets the road for all of us. You want to know how to apply this passage? Here they are; three points of application with a couple of sub-points. Number one, God's continuing relationship with Israel should affect our attitude and actions toward the Jews in two ways. First of all, we should pray for and seek the salvation of the Jewish people even as Paul did. They're not our enemies, never have been, never will be. They are God's chosen people.

It also means, in terms of our attitude and actions towards the Jews, we should reject all hatred and prejudice against the Jews, both as a people group and as individuals. Sadly, the official Roman Catholic Church's position, for many centuries, blamed the Jews for the death of Jesus Christ. Of course, that is not true; all of us are responsible for the death of Jesus Christ. But tragically, that encouraged hatred and prejudice against the Jewish people, and sadly even some within the history of Reformed Protestantism have demonstrated a spirit of racism against the Jewish people.

Folks, let's be crystal clear, showing either prejudice or partiality against others because of any external differences including race is a violation of the character of God who shows no partiality or prejudice, and it is an inexcusable sin for a believer in Jesus Christ. In fact, let me put it very bluntly; you've heard me if you been here any time at all, you've heard me say this before. But prejudice in your heart or partiality based on those external differences and/or acting out on that is enough, in and of itself, to condemn you to eternal hell, apart from the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

Here's how James puts it in James 2:10, "Whoever keeps the whole law [if you could keep everything God has commanded] and yet stumbles in one point [by the way, in context, the one point has to do with prejudice or partiality based on external differences], he has become guilty of all." Why? Because, you're not loving God, because that person is made in the image of God, and you're not loving others either; so in one fell swoop, with one act of prejudice, you are breaking the entire Law of God.

By the way, let me just stop here and appeal to you. This is why we all need the gospel because there isn't one person under the sound of my voice who hasn't exercised prejudice in your heart or partiality, not one! It doesn't matter what your race is; you have been guilty of prejudice and so have I. And our only hope is the gospel of Jesus Christ because He was perfect. And in His perfection, He never once, wrongly was prejudice or partial based on the external differences He saw in others; and instead, He died to pay the penalty for the sins of everyone who would believe in Him, including this sin as well. That's your only hope. I appeal to you, repent of your sin and put your faith in Jesus Christ.

There's a second lesson for us. The way we live as Christians should make Christ and the gospel so attractive that it provokes the people around us to jealousy over our faith. Is this how the people around you think about your Christian faith? Don't misunderstand me; we must share the gospel with others. People can only be saved if they hear the gospel, but especially when it comes to family, let me just talk to you. If you're the only believer in your family or you're one of very few believers in your family, you should share the gospel; but then, your life, as a believer, should so put the gospel on display that it makes that gospel attractive to the unbelievers in your life. When it comes to unsaved family, I think Lloyd-Jones is right when he writes this. He's talking about again, if there are unbelievers in your family and you are one, maybe the only believer or one of very few, he says:

They may be [speaking to you] talking too much, whereas the most important thing they can do is so to live the Christian life before their relatives that they will begin to think that you have something wonderful which they do not have and gradually they will begin to feel they would like to have it also. [Lloyd-Jones goes on.] I tell people in that situation not to hammer others with the gospel, still less to condemn them, but to go out of their way to win them, to be kind and helpful to them, putting them first. Live your Christian life in such a way and in such a manner that they are compelled to say, "Well, there is something wonderful in this after all."

Number three, the complexity of God's plan of redemption should cause us to trust God as He works out His plans for our personal lives even when we don't understand. Listen, would you have ever come up with the plan that God has for redemption, how He's responded to Israel and the nations? Would that have ever been your plan? Of course not. And could you have traced it if God hadn't told you what He was doing? No!

The same thing is true with your life. You look at your life, and I don't know what's going on in your life this morning, but you look at your life and it looks like there's no plan; it looks convoluted and looks like, "What is God doing?" But God is just as much at work and He's using just as great a display of wisdom in the plan of your life as He did in the plan of redemption. So just trust Him. He's God. He's worthy of your trust. He's earned it through your life to this point.

Can you imagine what conclusions you would reach about the life of Joseph if you didn't have the end of his story? You'd say, "What in the world is God doing?" Well, you don't have the end of your story yet either; so, sit tight and trust God. He's working out a very complex plan in your life for your good just as He promised! Romans 8:28 says, "God causes [I love the active tense of that. God is causing] all things to work together for [the spiritual] good of those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Do you believe that about your life? This is our God. He's faithful, He's wise beyond all imagination, and He's worthy of our trust.

Let's pray together. Father, thank You for these wonderful and powerful reminders about Yourself. Thank You that You are faithful, that we can count on You. Lord, may we worship You as our faithful God. Great is Your faithfulness. Thank You that You are to the physical descendants of Abraham and You will be to us, his spiritual descendants as well.

Lord, I pray for those who may be here this morning who are not in Christ. Father, help them to see that they have no hope; that a one-time expression of prejudice in the heart is a gross sin against You and those made in Your image and a failure to love others, and alone is enough to condemn us. Lord, what chance do we have apart from Christ and His cross? I pray that today there would be people here who would run from their sin to embrace Jesus Christ as Lord. Lord, we know only You can do that; only You can change their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. And I pray that You would do that even this morning; may they cry out to You because You're at work in them. We pray in Jesus's name, Amen.