Paul wants to clarify here the status of the Israelites, the Jews who were living in Rome and had not yet accepted Jesus as Savior. This is a key chapter which has linear application to us today. All along he has been arguing the importance of the gentiles coming into God’s grace through faith. He has stressed how God has opened a new door for all of humanity to come through and sit at the feet of His throne. But this chapter deals with those who had been his chosen people all along. It is important to note that they did not, and still do not, stop being his chosen people. “Has God rejected his people? By no means!”, is how he begins this chapter. And the entire chapter is an argument in favor of their elite place before the throne. Now, I say elite place not as in when we receive eternal life they will have more jewels in their crown or will have a better view from their room. No, we will all receive the identical reward once we pass on from this life. But God has not outright rejected the Jewish people who were, and continue to be, his chosen people.
Let’s continue along in that vein since that is his argument throughout the chapter. He states that there remains a few chosen elect within that community who are a remnant. But this is key. They are considered a remnant not because of their works, but rather just like the rest of us, they are saved by grace through faith. That common denominator never changes. It is never our actions which make us righteous, but rather the grace of God which is exemplified through a faith which is gifted to us. That pertains to all people from all races and ethnicities. So to those of us who are gentiles we do not receive salvation because we performed an act, likewise, to the Jewish, they are not saved by the fact that they have followed the law or that they were at one time God’s chosen people. No, we all have the same measuring stick and that is the grace that we have received and responded to in faith.
It is interesting that starting in vs.11 and following we see that because God’s chosen people turned their back on the Messiah, it opened the door to those of us who were not considered at one time God’s children. There is a direct correlation and response between rejection from God’s chosen and acceptance of those who at one time were outside looking in. It reminds me of the words of the syrophoenician woman at the feet of Jesus. I encourage you to read Matthew 15:21-28. We are the recipients of the crumbs that fall from the table of the children of God, and so in turn are no longer considered dogs, but have been adopted into the family of God, and so are called children. It is an incredible argument that takes us to right where we are and in what we believe in regards to salvation and our position in God’s kingdom. We belong. We belong in the kingdom of God and the rejection of Jesus as the cornerstone, the rejection of Jesus as the Son of God, the rejection of Jesus as God allows us to be included in His family. But Jesus’ rejection does not translate into a wholesale rejection of the people of God from the original tree that was planted.
Paul then moves into a wonderful metaphor of the a tree which was planted. Starting at vs.17 we read about the branches which were cut off. That would be those who were chosen from the beginning through Abraham and did not believe in Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, God Himself. We have been grafted into the tree as a result of the cutting off of these branches. But we should never consider ourselves as deserving of that place. Paul is very clear here. In those moments when we see our place as deserved we need to be reminded that we can just as easily be cut off just as we were grafted in. Paul fully expects that one day the branches which have been cut off will be grafted back in again. If you look at vs.26 we read some very clear words which should not cause us consternation, but rather a rejoicing. “All of Israel will be saved…” Does that bother you? It shouldn’t. With the current political backlash in the use of a 6 pointed star which symbolizes the hatred and the genocide which took place over the years it reminds us that we are often judged and persecuted because of our background. History has shown that the Jewish people have been persecuted and demonized more than most people groups. We must be careful not to repeat that history.
Paul’s final words of chapter 11 almost feels like a song, a hymn, and that he is closing out the chapter. I love vs.33 and following. God’s love for us is absolutely immeasurable. God’s grace far exceed our understanding of His eternal plan. The more we try to limit what God can do in regards to salvation, the more we will be surprised.