I have been reading Paul’s book, Letters to the Young Churches. Each time I read it new information jumps out and is easier to understand. I do, however, wonder if you would inform me as to one thing. When he says God still has a plan for Israel, is this referring to the people of God?
It reads: “ Now I don’t want you, my brothers, to start imagining things, and I must therefore share with you my knowledge of God’s secret plan. It is this, that the partial insensibility which has come to Israel is only to last until the full number of the Gentiles has been called in. Once this has happened, all Israel will be saved, as the Scripture says:
There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer; He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: And this is my covenant unto them, When I shall take away their sins.
As far as the Gospel goes, they are at present God’s enemies which is to your advantage, they are still beloved for their fathers’ sakes. For once they are made, God does not withdraw His gifts or His callings.”
Thank you for your time and information.
In the book of Romans, Paul is writing to Gentile believers about an arrangement then current in the plan of God. God had for centuries been working largely with the Israelite nation, the family of Abraham and their descendants. But with the ministry of Paul, the plan had temporarily changed its focus. Many of the Jewish people refused to recognize this change. So Paul argues persuasively throughout his Epistle to the Romans to explain the change and to defend the justice and wisdom of God.
The passage in question (Rom. 11:25-29) is part of his defense. Very early in His work on this planet, God selected a certain family (the family of Abraham) with which to work, and from which to draw material for His future kingdom. But at no time was His choice limited exclusively to that family. The final basis for all His judgments was character and character alone. His selection of the Israelite nation was only to prepare soil in which the high qualities of character He desired could be nurtured.
For many years God worked with Israel as a nation, and then came a change. The nation became apostate, rebellious, unwilling to work with God, and so God cast them off as a nation, and turned to the Gentiles as the primary source from which to select material for His future purposes.
In Romans 11 Paul is explaining this act of God, this change in the method of God’s working, in turning from the Jews to the Gentiles. But he also makes the point that all of God’s selections are on an individual–not a national–basis. The Jews who wished to be saved had to prove themselves worthy. The Gentiles who wished to be saved had likewise to demonstrate their faith by obedience.
The Jewish people were the first “branches” on the tree, and Paul explains that those branches had been cut off and new branches (Gentiles) grafted in. At the same time, there was still opportunity for believing Jews, a group to which Paul himself belonged (Rom. 11:1).
Then at verse 26 Paul looks even further into the plan of God and sees the time when both Jewish and Gentile believers will be united as the people of God, His chosen ones, spiritual “Israel,” and “so all Israel will be saved.”
The Bible uses the term “Israel” to describe two different groups of people:
1) the descendants of Abraham and Jacob;
2) God’s specially chosen ones, the true and faithful, who are selected “out of all nations” (Rev. 5:9-10).
These latter ones are the Israel that shall be saved “with an everlasting salvation” (Isa. 45:17). They are the Jews who are Jews inwardly, “and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter: whose praise is not from men but from God” (Rom. 2:29).
In Rom. 11:28, Paul returns again to speaking of the Israelite nation, who at that time were “enemies for your sake”; i.e., God is working especially with the Gentiles. At the same time, Paul recognizes that they are not outside the plan of God as individuals, if they choose to be included. They are still “beloved for the fathers’ sakes”–on the same basis that their fathers were beloved, for their obedience. God never loved any people of any nation who were not true and obedient. Of God’s attitude toward unfaithful Israel He wrote, “I hate…I despise…I abhor” when they were doing wrong (see Isa. l:10-19).
In a sense, the opportunity of the Gentiles to be called and chosen was made possible through the Jews’ rejecting God’s goodness. This is what Paul means when he says that the Gentiles “have now obtained mercy through their [the Jews] unbelief.” He says also that if they (the Gentiles) fail to use properly their privileges, God will again turn to the Jews. In other words, salvation depends on one’s faith and character, not upon one’s nationality. Each must meet the standard, whether Jew or Gentile. And all, whether Jew or Gentile, need the mercy and forgiveness of God (v. 32).