God’s Plan for Israel

Here Paul sets forth that the mission of God will come back to His chosen nation, offering salvation once again to His people.[1] For the last three chapters (9, 10 & 11) Paul has focused upon the salvation of His people and what that meant for Israel. Now in verses 25-32 we come to what Horner calls the “climatic thrust[2] of what Paul has been trying to get across. I agree with R.C. Sproul when he says,

“Her temple (Israel’s temple) was removed block by block, and her holy city was devastated and given over to the control of the Gentiles, but not forever, according to Luke 21 and Romans 11. There is a future for ethnic Israel and the city of Jerusalem.”[3]

But what becomes the issue in Christianity is the question of how exactly God’s mission will go back to His ethical nation of Israel. Is it being done now? Has that remnant come back now? Is it all of the nation, or only some, that will come back?[4] This chapter in the book of Romans is to show exactly what we have been looking at: how God’s mission was to harden His nation Israel into apostasy to that the gospel would then be sent to the Gentiles.[5] However, it would be recognizing only half of things if we don’t remember that God’s mission will in fact one day go back to Israel, and will bring in those who then will see Jesus as Christ.  Paul quotes Isaiah, saying, “Israel will be saved, as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob; and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.’” God’s mission now is in sending out the gospel among His elect (spiritual Israel) but, as Isaiah and Paul say, the physical Israel still has a future.[6] There is importance in Paul’s quoting of Isaiah when he says that a “Deliverer” will come. Who might this Deliverer be? Paul answers this in 1 Thessalonians 1:10, naming Christ as mankind’s Deliverer who came to save His people. It is crucial for the Gentiles to understand that God’s mission of redemption is not finished. As Sproul states, we are seeing “the next step of redemptive history-God’s work with ethnic Israel.[7] It is important that God’s mission is seen in the “fullness of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:25), and also that God’s mission will still move further yet, as “God is not finished with the Jews.[8]

This is why Paul ends with his glorious doxology; a text which many are so familiar with that they can easily recite it, yet may not even know where it is cited:

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

Schreiner calls this “the thematic connection to Romans 9-11[9] because Paul’s theology looks at how God’s mission is played out among both the nation of Israel and the Gentiles; the importance lies in the truth that God has an exact plan and all that has happened, and will happen, is His thought, mind, and wisdom – and oh, how great it is! It is a glorious thing that the Gentiles can enjoy the mission of God’s great gospel which came forth to them; that He would allow such a gift that they may partake of is an indescribable goodness.

Paul’s point in ending Romans 11 is not to keep the mind of the Romans – nor the reader today – in awe of how Israel fell away, allowing Gentiles to be grafted in, and then looking forward to Israel’s return. This is not Paul’s overall focus. Instead, his focus is on the greatness of God!  Schreiner states this perfectly as he says,

“The theme of Romans emerges clearly at the end of the discussion on the relationship between the Jews and Gentiles in salvation history (God’s Mission). The salvation of the Jews and Gentiles is penultimate. What is ultimate is the glory of God… The “amen” in the text indicates Paul’s intense wish that God’s purpose to receive glory and praise will be realized.”

Just as Paul did, today’s believers of the gospel ought to stand in awe that God uses all things for His mission of His gospel, in order that His people may come to His Son, Jesus Christ, and enjoy His mission for life here on earth, and eternity. For it is Israel’s God whom the Gentiles and Jews alike serve – a God who, in all things, directs a mission that is perfect in giving His people exactly what they need. I can’t help but wonder: How, when knowing this God and tasting His goodness, can one ever apostatize?

[1] Romans 11:25-32 has become on of the most debated text among theologians today. My suggestion for further study is what I believe to be a proper understanding of the future of Israel, and study on this text. Barry Horner, Future of Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged. (B&H Publishing: Nashville, 2004), especially pages 253-290. These pages here give what I believe the proper view in the Future of Israel.

[2] Horner, Future of Israel, p. 259.

[3] Sproul, Romans, p. 384.

[4] To what extent of Israel will come back? Cf. For all of Israel: Moo, Romans. p. 710-39. For those elected of Israel that come to Christ at the end of time: Schreiner, Romans. p. 611-30. For those today who are Israel being brought into Christianity: Hodge, Romans. p. 371-82.

[5] Here lies much debate in Reformed and Covenant Theology in Israel’s Future. There are mainly three views; 1. Salvation of Jews and Gentiles today. 2.The saving of a remnant of Jews throughout history, and 3. The salvation of the end-time generation of the Jewish people in the future. Cf. The ESV Study Bible, p. 2177 for a quick understanding on these three views.

[6] I must make mention of the importance of seeing Jesus Christ as Prophet, especially in Luke 21, Matthew 16, 24 & 25 will help shed much light of His prophecy of God’s mission for the nation of Israel.

[7] Sproul, Romans. p.387.

[8] Sproul, Romans. p.387.

[9] Schreiner, Romans. p. 635. Cf. Pp. 635-38 on Schreiner’s concluding thoughts on Romans 11:33-36. Here lies the important of Paul using the Old Testament to conclude His thought in how the greatness of God’s mission and plan for all of Israel, both the Jews and Gentiles.


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