“…a remnant chosen by grace.” Romans 11:5b
Many theologians have argued over the fate of Israel, seeing that Israel originated as the chosen people of God and delivered by His own hand from slavery, the sword, and snakebites. Paul posed another question to the Roman church: “Did God reject His people?” (v.1) He is asking this question as if speaking for those who were hearing the gospel Paul had shared to this point. He anticipated (through divine inspiration) the internal struggle they would experience with the idea of a new covenant of grace – which, by the way, was the original intent of the old covenant, that the Jews would point the world to God’s grace by their love for Him while propagating His righteous precepts (Genesis 26:4).
Paul again answered his own question with a resounding, “By no means!” (v.1b) He then described his own Hebrew pedigree: a descendent of Abraham (v.1c-d); and from the tribe of Benjamin (v.1e), confirming his relatability with those Jews who were present to hear his letter being read. Stating, “God did not reject His people, whom He foreknew,” Paul reinforced his assertion that the Jews had not been abandoned by The Creator (v.2a). The story of Israel was not over then… and it’s not over now… being written by The Author of time and history.
Borrowing a teaching style from The Messiah, Paul confronted those of Jewish descent who were sitting on the fence of indecision, asking, “Don’t you know what the Scripture says…?” This certainly received immediate attention by those who professed to be the descendants of Abraham, and rightful heirs to God’s favor. Are you curious as I about the passage Paul referred them to? It was the time when Elijah appealed to God… against Israel! This was when Elijah cried out in desperation:
“Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me…”. (v.3; 1 Kings 19:10, 14)
How could things have gotten so bad in the nation that once stood for freedom, truth, and God’s righteous precepts? How did things unravel to the point that they were killing their own prophets – those who pointed them to the truth and the way of faith? It was while Elijah was running for his life that God told him to go out and stand on a mountain to witness God passing by. Elijah witnessed a wind storm so powerful that it actually caused destruction to a mountain! An earthquake followed the wind storm, and a terrible fire followed the earthquake. Those disastrous storms created such a terrible distraction that Elijah thought he had missed God’s presence, having retreated into a cave for safety. However, Elijah heard a gentle whisper that brought him out of the cave (1 Kings 19:12), and God asked him a question that had been posed just moments before: “What are you doing here?” (1 Kings 19:9b, 13e; makes for another great 5 Understandable Words vignette!)
Of course, Paul also included God’s reply to Elijah’s fearful answer:
“I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” (v.4; 1 Kings 19:18)
Providing a conclusion to the Roman Jewish community, Paul joined their historical past with their current experience by stating, “So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” (vv. 5 – 6) Just as God had preserved a remnant who had not bowed their knees to Baal (a false god created by an evil society), so God had also preserved a remnant of those from Jewish lineage who had embraced salvation by grace, not bowing to the gods of political correctness, peer influence, licentiousness or legalism.
This may sound like a broken record that perpetually skips to the same music after a few measures: God’s favor rests on those whom He chooses… and not by any effort one may exert toward gaining that favor.
How could things have gotten so bad in our nation in just two generations? How could so many of our pastors, televangelists, fathers, and Christians fail in their marriages, their churches, their families, and abandoned their faith? I believe it began with those who abandoned the practice of worship, failing to recognize the sacredness of a Sabbath’s rest. Isaiah gives us direction for today:
“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day; if you call the Sabbath a delight and The Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in The Lord, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” (Isaiah 58:13-14)
Do you see how God’s grace increases all the more? Forgiveness is His invention. Restoration is His character. Redemption is His to exercise. Every time one turns from sin and comes to Jesus in believing faith, that one joins a remnant chosen by grace.
Have a blessed weekend… and encourage your family, friends, work associates, and neighbors to come with you to worship!