I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written,
“God gave them a spirit of stupor,
eyes that would not see
and ears that would not hear,
down to this very day.”
And David says,
“Let their table become a snare and a trap,
a stumbling block and a retribution for them;
let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,
and bend their backs forever.”
- God has not rejected His people.
- Paul was an Israelite.
- Paul was a descendant of Abraham.
- Paul was a member of the tribe of Benjamin.
- God has not rejected the people he foreknew.
- God foreknew His people.
- Elijah appealed to God against Israel.
- Elijah said Israel had
- Killed God’s prophets
- Demolished God’s altars
- Elijah believed that he was the only one left who served God.
- Israel sought to kill Elijah.
- God had kept 7000 men for Himself
- God kept 7000 men who had not bowed before Baal.
- There remains a remnant today.
- The remnant was chosen by grace.
- If the remnant is chosen by grace and God’s choice is not based on works.
- If God’s choice was based on works it would not be grace.
- Israel failed to get what it was seeking.
- The elect obtained what Israel was seeking.
- Those who were not elect were hardened.
- God gave the non-elect a spirit of stupor
- God gave the non-elect eyes that would not see.
- God gave the non-elect ears that would not hear.
- God has done it to today.
- David said the non-elect’s table is:
- a snare
- a trap
- a stumbling block
- David said the elect’s eyes were darkened so that they cannot see.
- David said the elect’s backs were bent forever.
Paul asks if God had rejected His people, i.e. the Jews. Paul replies with an absolute, “No way!” But what he said previously might imply that Christ had transferred the promises of God to the Gentiles and deprived the Jews of the hope of salvation. That needed correcting. He proves how absurd that notion is by pointing out he is a Jew. He is a descendant of Abraham. He even mentions he is of the tribe of Benjamin. So God has not utterly forsaken the entire nation of Israel. If He had, Paul too would have been forsaken. Paul held that adoption is a gratuitous act and based on God alone. It has nothing do with man’s actions.
There is no reason to assume that God abandoned the Jews or that the covenant with Abraham was abolished. But as Paul will say later in the chapter, a partial hardening has come upon Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come.
God has not rejected his people. God’s people are those He foreknew. The word foreknew is used by the apostle is not the same as foresaw. Those who want to say that God’s choice is based on what He saw in the future, i.e. He knew who would chose Him and who would not, places the ultimate decision and final act of salvation in us rather than in God. Ultimately, they are saying, it is our choosing God not God choosing us. That is exactly the Pelagian and semi-pelagian heresies the early church condemned in the councils of Carthage and Orange.
So what does Paul mean? The answer can be divided into two parts; 1) God has not cast away the entire race of Abraham 2) The fruit of adoption does not exist in all the biological children of Abraham. There is a universal call that may not bring forth fruit. God invites all people indiscriminately to himself. Yet he draws only those He foreknew, that is, His people, and those who He has given to His Son and those He will keep to the end.
Elijah prayed to God not in behalf of Israel but against them. Elijah believed he was all alone. God told him there were still 7000 who God had kept pure. God kept them for Himself. They were pure in both mind and body. Then Paul goes on to His present day. And says there is still a remnant of Jews who were chosen by grace. Through them God preserves His promise to Abraham.
Paul address directly the Pelagian, semi-pelagian, Armenian, synergistic salvation, or any other thoughts on salvation that would have us merit anything in our salvation. If it is something we do, i.e. our choice, our own righteousness, our works, or anything within us that would cause God to choose us then it is no longer grace. It is owned to us. We would have earned it. But Paul makes it clear yet again that there is nothing in us that would cause God to choose us. His choice is based on His good pleasure, not in our merit. Therefore it is absurd to combine foreknowledge of works with election. If God chooses some and rejects others, based on what He foresaw in them to be worthy or unworthy of salvation, then the grace of God cannot stand alone. But since our salvation is by grace, it alone must be the cause of our election.
Paul then goes on to say that not only have some received graces others have received a hardening. It may appear that at least some of those who did not receive grace received the inverse of grace, that is, damnation. They were actively hardened by God. Paul cites several passages Deuteronomy 29:4, Isaiah 29:10, Psalms 69:22-23. Hardening of the heart is always a form of judgment. Thus, there are those who have received their judgment already. David even prays that everything that is desirable and pleasurable in life might turn out to be a source of destruction for the ungodly.
Pelagianism teaches man has the capacity to seek God in and of himself apart from any movement of God or the Holy Spirit. Therefore that salvation is affected by man’s efforts. Semi-pelagianism teaches, man doesn’t have such an unrestrained capacity, but man and God cooperate to a certain degree in salvation. Man can (unaided by grace) make the first move toward God. Once man makes the first move God increases and guards that faith, completing the work of salvation. Wesley tried to get around this with the idea of prevenient grace. That is, that God gives everyone enough grace to choose, some do and some do not. That still leaves man in control of his own salvation, that is, a salvation based on our own works.
Paul clearly states here, and in earlier chapters of this same book, as well in his other letters that salvation is by the grace of God alone. This is not an isolated teaching. Scripture teaches this repeatedly. Such clear teaching on the subject in the scripture is why both Pelagianism and Semi-pelagianism were condemned as heresies.
We may feel like Elijah. We think we are alone. The modern church appears to only be a brand of crass commercialism and the end of Christianity is near. We may feel that the church has died. Remember, God has always preserved a church for Himself. We do not know who the elect are. And the general call goes to all men so they are without excuse. Let us labor for our Lord and remember however even though unrighteousness abounds everywhere, the salvation of many remains secured under the seal of God. They need to understand both their unrighteousness and the good news of God’s grace.
When we realize we have been saved by grace alone our only reaction can be thanksgiving. So if you have been a recipient of this grace thank God and praise His name. If you have not yet been saved from the just wrath of God, pray for His forgiveness. If you repent, you will be forgiven because He is drawing you to Himself. That is the assurance of salvation.