Israel's Future Salvation - Part 5

Tom Pennington • Romans 11:11-32

  • 2019-07-14 AM
  • Romans
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Romans, chapter 11, we are coming to the end of our study of the third great section of Paul's letter to the Romans. It's chapters 9 through 11, where Paul defends the gospel. He deals with issues like election, Israel, and God's promises. It all really goes back to the introduction to these chapters, back in chapter 9, verses 1 through 5, where Paul raised this basic issue, "Why have so many of God's chosen people, Israel, rejected their Messiah and His gospel?" Now let me just remind you why this matters. I mean, why is it that the Apostle Paul, in a letter to a bunch of Gentile, primarily Gentile churches, would take three chapters to talk about the place of the Jewish people? Why does it matter for us?

Well, let me remind you that one of our favorite chapters, Romans, chapter 8, ends with the assurance that if God has set His eternal love upon you, if He has called you to Himself, then nothing can ever separate you from God's love. That's a wonderful truth, but that truth, if you're sitting in the Gentile churches in Rome, would immediately have provoked a question. If that's true and it is, what happened to Israel? What happened to the Jewish people as they looked around their primarily Gentile churches and saw so few Jewish people? You can see why that would evoke a serious question. Why are most of God's chosen people in the Old Testament lost, not believing the gospel and headed to hell? And if that happened to them, then how can we be sure our own salvation is secure? What if God changes His mind about us, as we might be tempted to think, He did about them? So, understand then these chapters are not some meaningless, unrelated, theological discussion; this section is eminently practical for us all because it goes to the faithfulness of God, both to His Old Testament people as well as to us whom He has saved in Christ.

Now to that question of why so few Jewish people have believed, Paul provides us with three answers. In chapter 9, he deals with "The Reality of Divine Election." There he says the doctrine of election means that it was never God's plan to save all of the ethnic descendants of Abraham, and he uses even some of the early generations to prove that.

Secondly, in the end of chapter 9 and chapter 10, he deals with "The Reality of Human Responsibility." The reason that they're lost is because they have chosen to reject God's genuine offer in the gospel and to embrace a false gospel.

And then in chapter 11, where we find ourselves, he gives us a third answer and it's "The Reality of God's Faithfulness." He essentially says, "Stay tuned; the story isn't over. God will be faithful to His promises to the Jews. He will continue to treat the nation as a whole, all of the physical descendants of Abraham as His special people, and as we saw last week according to verse 26, "All Israel will be saved."

Now, we've come to understand that there are two radically different views of Romans, chapter 11, and what Paul means by, "All Israel will be saved." One view of this chapter says that it's really describing the present salvation of a remnant of the Jewish people and their incorporation into the Church. In other words, what Romans 11 is talking about is just the fact that during this church age, some Jewish people are coming to faith and being incorporated into the Church just as we have been.

This was the view, by the way, of most of the reformers and those who have followed them since that time. The other view and the one we have seen unfold from this text, as we've walked our way through it, is that "All Israel will be saved," describes the future salvation of the Jewish people. Charles Hodge, one of the great commentators on the book of Romans, points out that this second view, the one that we have seen here in this chapter, has, in fact, been the predominant view throughout church history except for one brief period, and that is the time of the Reformation.

Now the question is, "Why did the reformers deviate from the historical interpretation of this passage and come to deny the future salvation of Israel?" I think Charles Hodge is exactly right when he says that there are two reasons that they took that position. Number one, it was an overreaction against the extravagant views of some concerning what the Millennium would be like. If you read some of what was written during that time, some of our brothers who believed as we believe in the Millennium, frankly, came to abuse it and almost describe it as a thousand

year frat party. And so in a reaction against that, the Reformers said, "No, we're not having any of that," and they threw out the baby with the bathwater.

A second reason Hodge gives for why the reformers took a different position than most of church history is a tragic one, unfortunately all too true, and that is blatant anti-Semitism. And of course, if you've read any of Martin Luther, you know that he is a tragic example of that; a man we admire because of many of the truths he championed, but a man who was terribly sinful in his view of the Jewish people.

Now Hodge, although thoroughly reformed, then goes on in his commentary to present eight arguments why this passage has to be describing the future salvation of Israel. I'm not going to give you all eight of them but let me just summarize the five primary ones that we have really already seen as we've walked through this passage together. Here are the arguments why we have to be talking about something that's future.

Number one, the whole context and direction of Chapter 11 supports the future view because he's clearly not just talking about 'now.' He talks about the sad state of 'now,' and he talks about the hopeful, joyful opportunity for the future. That's the whole direction of the chapter, and so it has to be future in its orientation.

Number two, it's clear that Paul intends to say that the Jews, as a whole, will be restored in the same sense that they were rejected. That means that the entire nation will go from unbelief to belief; the majority of the nation will go from unbelief to belief.

Thirdly, the other view, that idea of the gradual conversion of a few Jews during this Church Age, that is not a mystery; and yet what Paul is talking about here, he himself calls "a mystery." Nothing mysterious about some Jewish people being saved and incorporated into the Church during this time period; it doesn't fit.

Number four, if 'all Israel' means as the other side teaches, this is only the elect in Israel, then Paul has changed the meaning of the word 'Israel' between two verses. We saw this last week. He uses the word 'Israel' in verse 25 of clearly, the ethnic descendants of Abraham. It makes perfect sense that, in the next breath, he means the same thing by the word 'Israel' when he says, "All Israel will be saved."

Number five, the Old Testament verses that Paul quotes in verses 26 and 27, require the interpretation of a massive conversion of Israel Look at verse 26:

…All Israel will be saved…

"the deliverer will come from Zion,

he will remove ungodliness from Jacob." [That is from Israel.]

"this is my covenant with them,

when I take away their sins."

This is more than a few Jewish people being converted; this is massive salvation and conversion.

Now, after he presents all eight of his arguments, Hodge reaches this conclusion: "From all these considerations, [Listen to him now, he's thoroughly reformed. He says] it seems obvious that Paul intended here to predict that the time would come when the Jews, as a body, would be converted to the Lord."

It is obvious. We've seen that as we've worked our way through this remarkable passage. So, understand then in Romans 11, having explained Israel's current spiritual condition in verses 1 through 10, Paul then goes on to explain, beginning in verse 11, "Israel's Future Spiritual Salvation."

Now let me just remind you of what we've learned so far as this is unfolded. We saw in verses 11 through 16, "The Certainty of That Future Salvation." Then in verses 17 to 24, we saw, "A Warning to us Gentiles" in light of Israel's future salvation and that warning was, "Don't get cocky, don't be proud because of the position you now occupy; God is able and will graft them back in." And then in verses 25 to 32, Paul gives us "A Detailed Explanation of Israel's Future Salvation," and that's where we find ourselves.

Now last week, we discovered the mystery of God's plan. Paul calls it "a mystery," and unpacks God's plan to us in verses 25 to 27. And to sort of help us, I asked a series of questions. Let me just remind you what they were. First of all, "Who needs to know this mystery?" The answer is, "all Gentile Christians." He's addressing Gentiles; he calls us brethren in verse 25. Back in verse 13, he says, "I'm talking to you Gentiles."

Secondly, why do we need to know? Well in verse 25, he says, "Listen, this is important, this is important for you to get, how you fit into the eternal plan of redemption."

Thirdly, how do we know this mystery? Well, the key to that is contained in the word 'mystery' itself. As we defined it last week, it's something that we would never have come to know on our own, but that God has now revealed to us. What is the mystery? And Paul answers that in verses 25 and 26, and it's revealed in three specific parts. First of all, the first part of the mystery, verse 25, "A partial hardening has happened to Israel." That means a large number of the Jewish people, God has allowed them to be hardened in their sin; He has superintended that although it's their own rebellion that has fostered it. And a majority of them are hardened in that sin.

The second part of the secret tells us how long that's going to last, verse 25 says, "…until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in." That condition is going to stay, the Jewish people, as a whole, are going to be hardened until the full number of Gentiles, God has decided to save, are saved. That means what he's describing here, "All Israel being saved," has to be in the future, it has to be at the end of the age and as we saw from Zachariah, it happens in conjunction with the Second Coming.

And then the third part of the mystery is verse 26, "…so all Israel will be saved." Now we unpacked that, let me just remind you. By 'Israel' he means the physical descendants of Abraham. By 'all' he means the vast majority of Israel but not necessarily every person without exception. And "will be saved" speaks of the spiritual rescue from the guilt and penalty of sin; "…all Israel will be saved."

Now is that really consistent, this was the final question we answered in this mystery, is this mystery, this revelation from Paul, this prophecy of the Apostle Paul, is it consistent with Old Testament revelation? And in verses 26 and 27, Paul quotes two Old Testament passages as proof that, in fact, it is. So, there it is, that's the mystery of God's plan.

Now today, we come to the reasons for God's plan, the reasons for God's plan. And we see this in verses 28 to 32. Let me read it for us, you follow along and look for, as we walk through here, the reasons that God has acted the way He has in the plan of redemption with both the Jews and the Gentiles.

From the standpoint of the gospel [Paul writes.] they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God's choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.

Now these amazing verses conclude and summarize this 11th chapter, but they also, in a very real sense, summarize Paul's entire argument in these three chapters, chapters 9 through 11. And in it, he gives us the reasons God has acted the way He has. You see, there are many who deny the future salvation of Israel and the important place that Israel will play in the future Millennium, and they deny it, and they asked this question, "Why in the world would God do that? Why would God sort of go back, if you will as they think of it, and do something that's old in history as opposed to the new thing that He's done in the Church. What possible reasons could God have?" Well, in the verses we just read together, Paul gives us six reasons that God's plan of redemption is unfolding now and will unfold in the future in exactly the way that He's described it here in Romans 11, six reasons it has to be this way. Let's look at these reasons together.

Reason number one, God's saving love for the nations, God's saving love for the nations. Look at verse 28, "From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God's choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers." Now, notice Paul deals with the same group, 'they' is Israel, it's the ethnic descendants of Abraham, but he deals with them in two different ways in the two halves of this verse.

Notice in the first half of the verse, same group, they are enemies of God; and in the second half of the verse, they are beloved by God, and notice they're both true at the same time. Now you say, "Wait a minute, how can both of those, enemies and love, be true exactly the same time?" Well I've mentioned this to you before, but those can both be true even at a human level.

My favorite example comes from American history. After George Washington learned of the treason of his friend and subordinate, Benedict Arnold, we learn from history that Washington both loved him because of the long-standing relationship they enjoyed, and he hated him as his enemy because of what he had done to the American cause at the very same time.

Or, consider another example from human life. Consider the parent who learns that his child has just committed a horrific act of terror in which many innocent victims have been murdered. What is the response of that parent? Obviously, there is love for that child because it's still his child because of the relationship. And yet at the same time, there is the hatred of what he has become and what he has done. So, this is what Paul is describing, God's perspective of the Jewish people.

Notice verse 28, "From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake." The word 'enemies' means one of two things. It either means 'hostile toward someone' or 'the subject of hostility from someone.' So, it can mean both; in other words, it can be active. Paul could be saying the Jews made themselves enemies of God; or it could be passive, God made Himself their enemy. And the reality is both are true. I mean, both are true of all of us, right? We all made ourselves God's enemies as we lived in our sin. I mean, Colossians 1:21 says unbelievers are hostile toward God. James 4:4, and this answers, I know some people who haven't believed in Christ, they say, "Wait a minute, I'm not hostile toward God. I'm kind of neutral." Well, God doesn't think you're neutral. In fact, this is what God says in James 4:4, "…whoever wishes [whoever, this is universal] wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." So, all you have to do to become an enemy of God is to love the world more than you love God and you're His enemy! Reject the gospel and you're His enemy.

John 3:36 says that those who believe received eternal life; but those who have not obeyed the Son, who have not obeyed the commands of the gospel from the Son, abide under the wrath of God. If you're not a Christian, you sit here today and the wrath of God hangs over your head like a dark cloud, and it's not going to go away, and someday it will burst forth in reality. That's what the Bible says.

Well, the Jews were God's enemies both because of their sin, their sinful choices, but also because of their opposition to the gospel. Look at Acts; look at Acts, chapter 13; Acts 13, verse 44,

The next Sabbath [day] nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord. [verse 45] But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, "It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.

"For so the Lord has commanded us,

'I have placed You as a light for the gentiles,

that You may bring salvation to the end of the earth.'"

They opposed the gospel; and in so doing, they made themselves God's enemies. But the other side of that is that God has also declared sinners to be His enemies. In Romans, chapter 1, verse 18, "…the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." Whether you're Gentile, chapter 1, or whether you're Jew, chapter 2. Chapter 3, "All men," and in chapter 5, verse 10, Paul says before we came to Christ—listen to this— "…we were [God's] enemies."

Now go back to Romans, chapter 11, because I think here in Romans 11, verse 28, Paul likely means that God has declared Himself the enemy of the Jewish people since the second half of the verse speaks of God setting His love on them. So, God is acting in both cases. So, God has made them his enemies. Why? Why has God made His own chosen people His enemies? Notice verse 28, "…for your sake," literally, "on account of you," meaning, "for your benefit." God passed by many Jewish people, allowing them to die in their sins, listen to this, for the sake of, for the benefit of, ultimately for the salvation of the Gentiles. And who are the Gentiles? That's a technical term that just means the nations of the world, everybody who isn't Jewish.

God wanted the nations of the world to hear and believe the gospel; that's why God has acted the way He has. This is God's heart; it was God's heart in the Old Testament. In Psalm 67, you really have a missionary Psalm where the writer describes the fact that God wants His salvation to go to the ends of the earth. Even the quote we just saw in the book of Acts from the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would not only bring salvation to the Jewish people, but he would bring salvation to the nations.

Think about it this way, Christian, in the end, the current spiritual state of the descendants of Abraham demonstrates God's heart for the nations. The reason the Jewish people today are the way they are is because that was part of God's plan to love the nations of the world. But let's make it even more personal. Christian, if you're really in Christ, every time you reflect on how many Jews are currently enemies of God and of the gospel, remind yourself that's only true because, in God's all wise sovereign plan, He decided to pass them by in order to show mercy to you. They are enemies so that the gospel might spread to the nations and so that you might be reconciled to God. So, in this plan in Romans 11, we see God saving love for the nations. This is why it had to be this way.

There's a second reason for God's mysterious plan; God's gracious choice of the Jewish people, God's gracious choice of the Jewish people. Look again at verse 28, the second half of the verse, "…but from the standpoint of God's choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers." Now notice the word 'choice.' The Greek word is commonly used for election. It means 'to select someone from among others.' It's like when you were growing up in elementary school, and you know, there was going to be dodgeball or whatever it was, and there was choosing sides. That's the word; the word 'choice' simply means 'to choose some out from among others.' It's used in chapter 9, verse 11, of the election of individuals to salvation, but here it's used of God's election or choice of Israel as His chosen people.

Notice, from the standpoint of God's election, God's selection, God's choice, Israel is beloved. The word simply means, 'the special object of God's love.' Now these two concepts of 'choice' and 'love' are combined in one very important Old Testament text. Go back with me to Deuteronomy, chapter 7; Deuteronomy 7. And Moses here touches on both of these, Deuteronomy 7, verse 6, speaking to the descendants of Abraham to the nation Israel, he says:

For you are a holy people [You're a set apart people to Yahweh] …your God. (Yahweh) your God has chosen [There's the election, the selection part. He] has chosen you [as a people] to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. [Why? Verse 7.] The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the people's, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers.

Did you see what he said? Combine versus 7 and 8, The Lord loved you—Why? —because He loved you. He loved you because He loved you! And notice He specifically says He didn't love you because of something that was true about you. God didn't set His love upon you because you were worthy, you merited it, as some of the rabbis have taught about God's choice of the people of Israel. No, it was, God set His sovereign love upon them because He decided to set His sovereign love upon them. It was all grace!

Go over to chapter 10; Deuteronomy 10, verse 15, "Yet on your fathers did…(Yahweh) set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day." God says, "I chose Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their descendants to be My witness nation, My people." Jeremiah 31:3, to Israel God says, "I have loved you with an everlasting love." The last verse of Micah, Micah 7:20, this is Micah speaking to God. He says, God:

You will give (faithfulness) to Jacob

And (steadfast) love to Abraham, [that is to their descendants]

Which You swore to our forefathers

From the days of old.

Micah says the reason you're going to love and be faithful to the people, Israel, is because you swore it to their forefathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

So, understand then what Paul is saying in Romans 11 is that God loves Israel, because in sovereign love and for nothing in them, He decided to set His love on them. From the standpoint of God's choice of the nation, they continue to be loved by God. Why? Notice Romans 11:28 again, it's "for the sake of the fathers." That's the patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That's, remember verse 16, that's the holy root. God says, "I'm going to love the descendants because I love Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."

You know, that's not uncommon even for us as humans, right? We often love the children of those we love. The most famous biblical example is David and his loving care for Mephibosheth because he loved his father, Jonathan, and therefore he loved his son and cared for his son. Paul is saying God continues to love all the physical descendants of the patriarchs, and He is faithful in His love for the Jewish people on account of His gracious choice of and promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That's why He's not going let go of Israel. Here's how Charles Hodge puts it, "The covenant made with Abraham is inconsistent with a final rejection of the Jews as a people." God didn't make those promises to Abraham to eternally love him and his descendants, then to ultimately and finally reject them.

There's a third reason for God's plan as it unfolds in Romans 11, and it's God's unchanging plan of redemption, God's unchanging plan of redemption. Verse 29, "…for [this connects us back to the previous verse; here's the reason that God continues to love Israel] …for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." Now notice first of all the word 'gifts.' That's the Greek word 'charismata.' It's a word that often is used for spiritual gifts in the New Testament including the miraculous gifts of the first century. It simply, though, refers to the gifts God gives being gracious, being the expression of His grace. In this context, Paul's not referring to what we normally call spiritual gifts, but rather to the unique privileges that God gave to Israel. Those gifts are listed in Romans, chapter 9. Look at them, Romans, chapter 9, verse 4; here are the gifts of God to Israel.

Who are Israelites, [now watch this] to whom belongs the adoption as sons, [God adopted them as a whole, as the people, as a nation] and the glory [they got to see the visible display of God's glory at the temple] and the covenants [the ones made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as well as with David at Sinai, the New Covenant] and the giving of the Law [they actually received the Law of God] and the temple service and [while the temple was filled with shadows, they were at least shadows that showed the shape of the Messiah who was to come] and the promises, [contained in the covenants, to them belong to the fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and from Israel is the Messiah] according to the flesh, who is overall, God blessed forever. Amen.

Those are the gifts of God.

Now go back to chapter 11, verse 29. He says, "…the gifts and the calling of God [That is God's call to Israel to be His chosen people, both the gifts God gave them, their unique privileges, and their calling to be His special people. Notice what he says in verse 29, are what?] are irrevocable." Now, that's an interesting word because the Greek word for 'irrevocable' literally means, 'without regret,' without regret. In fact, this Greek word is used only one other time in all of biblical Greek, and that's in 2 Corinthians, chapter 7, verse 10, where Paul writes, "…the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance [and here it is] without regret." So technically the word means 'something that you don't regret doing and therefore you don't take back.' Thus, it's irrevocable. Now what's interesting is in Greek, this word 'irrevocable' is the first word of verse 29 because it's the point of emphasis. "Irrevocable…are the gifts and the calling of God." Paul says God will never regret the unique privileges and the calling of Israel as His chosen people.

Numbers 23:19 says, "God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?" You see, Israel's unique position in God's eternal plan of redemption is irrevocable. God will never regret having put them in that position and He will never take it back.

Again, listen to Charles Hodge:

Having chosen the Jews as His people, the purpose which He had in view in that choice can never be altered. And as it was His purpose that they should always remain His people, their future restoration to His favor and Kingdom is certain. The purpose once formed and the promise once given never can be changed.

You see, God created the great plan of redemption in eternity past, and one of the key parts of that plan was Israel's role, and Paul says that plan will never be revised. "The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." He's not going to regret them, and He's not going to take them back.

Can I encourage you, Christian, that God's promises to you in the gospel are just as irrevocable? Think about the New Covenant promises God has made. In Hebrews, chapter 8, it's recorded for us. The writer of Hebrews says, "Here's the covenant God has made with you Christian."

I will put my laws into their minds,

…I will write them on their hearts.

…I will be their God,

and they will be my people.

…I will be merciful to their iniquities,

and I will remember their sins no more.

Listen, those promises that God has made you, in the gospel, are just as irrevocable, completely unchangeable, irrevocable.

There's a fourth reason for God's plan in Romans, chapter 11. It's God's saving love for the Jews, God's saving love for the Jews. We see this in verses 30 and 31.

For just as you once were disobedient to God [talking to us Gentiles]…just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy.

Paul says God's plan for the salvation of both Gentiles and Jews is nearly identical. Notice verse 30, "...just as," verse 31, "so…also." Now the key here is to understand that verse 30 focuses on us Gentiles, and verse 31 focuses on the Jews. "Just as; so…also;" the focus of these two verses is one word, do you see it? It's repeated often here; the word 'disobedient' or 'disobedience' is repeated several times, but the key is the word 'mercy,' mercy. He comes back to it in verse 32. I don't think we fully appreciate what this word means and how we benefit from it.

Have you ever thought about God's mercy? What is mercy? 'Mercy,' used in this way, is an aspect of divine grace. But the unique sort of flavor of this word 'mercy' is grace shown to those who are pitiful. I mean God shows grace when it's not to those who are pitiful. For example, God shows grace to the holy angels whom He elects. They're called 'the elect angels.' That's grace! They didn't deserve it, but they weren't in a pitiful condition when God showed them grace. But when God shows grace to those who are in a pitiful condition, it's mercy. That's what the word means.

It's often pitiful because of sin and guilt. In fact, notice in verses 30 and 31, mercy is needed because of what? "Disobedience!" James Montgomery Boice writes, "For God to show mercy, there must first be sin and the misery that attends it. It's against that dark background that the mercy of God flashes forth like lightning." There must be sin and the misery that accompanies it.

Do you understand that if it weren't for God's mercy, you wouldn't be a Christian? It's God's mercy, that aspect of His grace that reaches out to those who are in an absolutely pitiful, miserable condition. Let me show this to you. Go back to chapter 9; chapter 9, verse 15, "…He says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.' So then it [that is election, God's choice to save] does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs [not human will or human effort] but on God who has mercy."

Verse 18, "So then [God] has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires." You see how mercy is related to both God's decision to save; it's also related to His act of salvation. You see this in Ephesians, chapter 2; look at Ephesians 2; you remember verses 1 through 3 describe what we were before our conversion, the desperate condition we were in. We were dead in trespasses and sins; we were enslaved to the world; we were enslaved to Satan; we were enslaved to our flesh, and the end of verse 3, we were ultimately enslaved to the wrath of God. Verse 4:

But God, [notice this] being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).

You see, mercy is part of grace; it is an aspect of divine grace. It is that act of grace shown to those who are in a pitiful condition, who are wretched because of the guilt of sin.

Now go back to chapter 11 of Romans. Notice verse 30, "For just as you [and the word 'you' is plural, of all of us Gentile Christians] …just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their [that is of Israel's] disobedience." Notice what Paul is saying, "As Gentiles, before our salvation, we were disobedient to God." I mean, obviously we were disobedient to God's commands, right? Go back and read the end of Romans 1, that was us; we did all those things. But this word 'disobedient' is used primarily in the New Testament not to describe moral failure, specific acts of sin, but rather an unwillingness to believe and that's the idea here in verse 30. "You once were disobedient," that is to God, to the gospel. You didn't

repent, you didn't believe, you didn't accept God's command and offer in the gospel. Verse 30, "…but now you have been shown mercy."

I love the way Paul says that. Did you notice what Paul doesn't say? He doesn't say, "You were disobedient, but now you have become obedient." He says, "No, you once were disobedient, but you now have been shown mercy." And notice verse 30 says that was "because of their disobedience."

Israel, as a whole, was disobedient to the commands of the gospel; they refused to believe; and on account of their disobedience, we've now heard the gospel and we have believed. That's what he said back in verse 11; Romans 11, verse 11, "…by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles." You say, "How does that happen?" Read the book of Acts. The gospel is brought to the Jewish people; they say, "Don't want to have anything to do with it," and the Apostles turned to the Gentiles and here we are.

Now, look at chapter 11, verse 31:

…Just as [happened with us, verse 30] …so these [that is the Jews] also now have been disobedient, [they're disobedient to the gospel as we once were] that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy.

Just as it was with us, the Jews are now disobedient to the gospel. But did you notice the difference? It was through their disobedience that we got the gospel and believed. But it's through the mercy shown to us that they will eventually come to believe. As Paul says back in verse 11, by being made jealous over what we have; we have the benefits of their Messiah and they have become jealous over that.

Now notice the word 'now' in verse 31, the second occurrence of 'now.' "That because of the mercy shown to you [because you've now been saved] they also may now be shown mercy." Don't misunderstand that word 'now.' It doesn't mean their salvation is now and not in the future as some have argued. We already saw that it has to be in the future; that's what Paul said back in verses 25 and 26. What he means by the word 'now' here is this current era of redemptive history; the way things are now, God can show them mercy.

Can I just say that these verses, while they're not talking about election, these verses are another lesson in God's sovereignty in salvation because the only way that in the future all Israel will be saved is if God intervenes, God intervenes. That's why Zechariah 13:1 says that, "In that day a fountain will be opened." When Jesus comes back, a fountain will be opened for sin and impurity. Who opens the fountain? God!

There's a fifth reason behind God's plan, verse 32, God's impartial mercy to Jews and Gentiles, God's impartial mercy to Jews and Gentiles. Verse 32, "For God has shut up all in disobedience." The word 'shut up' means literally 'to confine or to imprison.' God has given Jews and Gentiles over to their disobedience so that it has become like a prison to them. Go back to chapter 3, you don't need to turn there, but go back in your mind to chapter 3 where he says, "You know, Jews and Gentiles are all under sin" and he goes on to describe the prison, how they're enslaved to their sin. That's what he's saying here. God had dealt alike with Jew and Gentile; they both stood on the same ground, they were both in misery and completely helpless, they were imprisoned, they were dependent on sovereign mercy. Verse 32, "God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all."

Now let me correct a heresy that has been taught from this verse. Okay, some have torn this verse from its context and twisted it to teach universalism—that every single human being will be saved because it says, "He'll show mercy to all." The latest iteration of that that reached some fame was Rob Bell in his book, Love Wins. But that whole idea is contrary to the entire Scripture. In fact, it's contrary to context. Back in chapter 9, Paul says not all Jewish people are going to be saved; and, of course, our Lord Himself in Matthew 25:46 said, "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." Jesus said they're going to be those who go away into eternal punishment, and there will be those who go away into eternal life.

So, what's Paul talking about here in verse 32? Well, in context, the word 'all' refers to the two groups he's been talking about, Jews and Gentiles. He's not saying every human being will be saved. Instead he's saying that God has given both Jews and Gentiles over to their sin; He's allowed them to be imprisoned in their sin so that He may show mercy to individuals from both of those two groups. Stott writes, "Disobedience is like a dungeon in which God has incarcerated all human beings so that they have no possibility of escape except as God's mercy releases them."

You see, if you're Jewish here this morning, or if you're Gentile, neither Jew nor Gentile deserves God's mercy, but God has seen fit to show mercy to both. Again, don't miss the big point here, God chooses to save individuals solely on the basis of His mercy, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy."

There's a sixth and final reason for God's plan recorded in Romans 11, and it really is that the entire chapter is the foundation for this reason, and it's this, it has to unfold like this because of God's essential nature as a Savior; that's really lying beneath this entire chapter, this constant reality about the nature of God. God is and delights to be a Savior, that's the message of verse 4, "I have kept for myself seven thousand...who have not bowed the knee to Baal." Verse 5, "In the same way…there [is]…at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice." Verse 11, He wants the "salvation [to] come to the Gentiles." Verse 15, He wants "the reconciliation of the world." Verse 26, He wants "all Israel [to] be saved." Verse 32, He wants to "show mercy to all." Do you see the heart of God? He is, by nature, a Savior; He rescues people from their sin and guilt. Christian, do you understand the reason you sit here this morning in Christ, the reason you know God through His Son Jesus Christ is because God is, by nature, a Savior, and He came to save you? He sought you out and drew you to Himself, and He has saved you, and He will complete the saving work that He's begun in you.

Jude 24 and 25 says that He is able to present you faultless before His presence with exceeding joy. It's going to happen! Why? Because He's a Savior, that's His nature.

If you're here this morning and you're not a follower of Jesus Christ, understand God is a Savior, a Rescuer; He wants to rescue you—that's the heart of God. That's why He sent His Son, His only Son into the world, Jesus Christ, to live a perfect life, the life of obedience to God you should've lived. And then He killed Him! God put Him on the cross in order that He would suffer the justice of God against every sin of every person who would ever believe. And then God raised Him from the dead. Why did God do all of that? Because He is, by nature, a Savior! And God extends to you, this morning, a genuine invitation to accept that gospel and enjoy the forgiveness that Jesus Christ purchased through His cross. Understand this, you can never earn it, none of us can, and you will never deserve it, none of us ever will. But here's the amazing thing about God's mercy, you can ask God to show you mercy right now, you can ask Him to!

How do I know that? Because Jesus taught us that. Jesus told this wonderful parable in Luke 18, in which He said there was this tax collector, the worst of people, and this tax collector was there praying at the temple, and he was so sinful that when he prayed, he wouldn't even lift up his eyes to God. And he beat his chest and you know what he said? He just asked God for mercy. He said, "God, be merciful to me a sinner!"

And you know how God responded? Jesus tells us how God responded. Jesus says, "And that man went down to his house justified," right with God. In other words, if you will humble yourself this morning and acknowledge that you have nothing to offer God, that you are a beggar, and you will come just asking for His mercy like that tax collector, God is merciful and He will intervene. His offer to you this morning is a genuine offer of mercy if you will ask for mercy. My prayer is that you'll do so even this morning.

Let's pray together. Father, thank you, that you are who you are. Thank you for your perfectly wise sovereign plan of redemption. Thank you for the reasons that we have seen it has to be that way. And ultimately, Father, we thank you that these reasons all point back to you and to your character, to your nature. Oh, God, we love you and we are amazed by you, that these things are true of you, that truly your glory is your goodness. Oh, God, help us to love you, to serve you, to praise you, to tell others about you, to glory in you?

And Father, I pray for those here this morning who have not experienced your mercy. Lord, help them to humble themselves and realize that it's so true that if they will be like that tax collector in Jesus's story; and simply, from a humble broken heart, broken over their sin, ask for your mercy, they will find you to be merciful. May that be true even today, we pray in Jesus's name. Amen.

Romans