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I Am Not Ashamed: Engrafted Branches

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Because of Israel’s transgression in rejecting the gospel Gentiles have received the gospel.

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Text: Romans 1:1-21
Theme: Because of Israel’s transgression in rejecting the gospel Gentiles have received the gospel.
Date: 01/08/2017 File name: Romans_2016_32.wpd ID Number: 233
We took a hiatus from our journey through the book of Romans to celebrate Advent. This morning I want us to return to Paul’s epistle to the Christians at Rome. Since it is been a while let me take a moment to refresh your memories of where we are. The thrust of Romans 9–11 has been the story of Israel's rejection of Christ, their disobedience against God, and God's inclusion of the Gentiles to receive grace. This was not God’s “fall-back” position, but something God had repeatedly promised. The Old Testament Prophets reveal that the day would come when God would include the Gentiles in His Covenant promises. God, in his sovereign choice, is going to include the Gentiles in His redemptive work. That does not mean God has finished with Israel, and the apostle reveals at the end of chapter 11, that there will be a time when God brings many in Israel to faith.
I will warn you, that chapter 11 takes us into some of the deep things of God. In this chapter the apostle brings together the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. He’s going to talk about Israel and the Church and the relationship between the two. The big question the apostle is attempting to answer — the question asked by Jew and Gentile alike within the church at Rome — “Is God finished with the Jewish people. Does the church simply pick up where Israel left off?” How the apostle answers that question, and how we hear him answering that question determines how we answer one of the larger questions of our day — should we evangelize the Jews? That is a matter of no little controversy in our larger world. How are Christians to see the Jewish people now.
To get our bearings we need to backup just a little bit into chapter 10. We need to look at a passage that we ended on just before the advent season arrived. It is Romans 10:16-21. We learn from this passage that Israel has heard the gospel. It’s not like they are unaware of the good news of Jesus Christ. The gospel of John clearly tells us that Jesus came to his own people to bring them the good news of God’s redemptive work that would be accomplished in his life, death, and resurrection. The gospels reveal that, for a time, Jesus was hugely popular throughout the country. Everyone knew who Jesus was. The gospel of John also clearly tells us that, in the end, the majority of Israel rejected Jesus and his message, and in doing so rejected God’s Anointed One — Messiah. Peter the Apostle, in his message on the Day of Pentecost is even more blunt. He tells the Jews assembled, “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.” (Acts 3:13–15, NIV84)
Now, in Romans 11, the Apostle uses the nation of Israel to illustrate that God is faithful even when His people are faithless and fickle. You put that to the bank. You can count on Him. No matter what your situation is, no matter what you're going through, God will be faithful to you.
He who has begun a good work in us shall complete it (Philippians 1:6). That's His promise. And in it I rest. So let’s look at the text, and then some application.


“ I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin.” (Romans 11:1, NIV84)
1. the Apostle now rhetorically asks the question: “Has God cast away His chosen people?”
a. he tells his readers that there is not the slightest possibility that God has done this
1) his response is an emphatic By no means!
2. this is a critical text, because there are those Christian theologians and commentators who believe and teach that God is finished with Israel
a. it’s called Replacement Theology or Fulfillment Theology
1) some contend that the Church is now the recipient of the blessings that were promised to Israel, and forfeited by Israel when they rejected Jesus Christ
b. Romans 11 deals a deathblow to this mentality, as Paul asks, "Has God cast away His people? God forbid."


1. God has "not rejected" them even though they have rejected Him
“This is what the LORD says: “Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done,” declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 31:37, NIV84)
The implication is that since neither of those things can happen, neither will God reject the descendants of Israel.
“For the sake of his great name the LORD will not reject his people, because the LORD was pleased to make you his own.” (1 Samuel 12:22, NIV84)
2. the good news for Israel is that their failures are not final because God is faithful
a. God had chosen Israel as His covenant people from eternity past and entered into a relationship with them that will never be destroyed
3. Exhibit A of God’s faithfulness to Israel are His repeated promises


1. Paul then points to himself as Exhibit B — "For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin."
a. how does the Apostle know that God is not finished with the Jews?
1) because Paul, himself, is saved, and he’s a Jew!
b. the Apostle’s ethnic and religious pedigree is not in doubt — he is a Jew’s Jew
1) he is an Israelite, a descendent of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin
2) in other places we learn that he is a Pharisee, and a Rabbi
c. we also know that before he is Paul, he is Saul — a Jew who passionately hates fellow Jews who have turned to Jesus as God’s Anointed One
1) he considers them apostates of the faith
2) he was an early persecutor of the church, and during a trip to arrest Jewish converts to Christ in the city of Damascus, Saul is confronted with a vision of the risen Lord, and himself, is converted to the Lord Christ
2. God isn't through with the Israelites, and Paul is just one example
a. Paul, along with the other Apostles, as well as the thousands of fellow Jews who were converted on the Day of Pentecost and the thousands who have been converted in the intervening years are proof that God is keeping His covenant promises by saving a remnant of ethic Israel
3. according to Israel’s Prophets, a day is coming when Israel, like Paul, will realize they erred greatly and will turn to Him and be saved (Zechariah 13)
a. Paul sees himself as a shadow of what will happen to the entire nation prophetically
b. so Paul points to himself and says, "Is God through with Israel? Consider me and my conversion as an illustration of what will happen eventually."
4. God is Faithful to His Covenant Promises With Israel, and God is Faithful to Us


“God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel: 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”? 4 And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” (Romans 11:2–4, NIV84)
1. the Apostle now turns his attention to Israel’s past for an illustration
a. the second proof that God has not completely rejected Israel is that the Lord has always preserved a remnant of believing Jews for Himself
b. from Pentecost to the present day, Christ’s church has never been without believing Jews
2. Paul writes, "Look not only at my life personally, but check out our own history. Remember Elijah?"
a. do you remember Elijah? ... the story unfolds in 1 Kings, chapters 18-19
ILLUS. Israel has fallen into idolatry under the influence of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. In a meeting between Elijah and Ahab, the prophet of God challenges the King to assemble all of Israel at Mount Carmel along with the 450 prophets of the pagan god Baal for a contest. Here is where we pick up the story in 1 Kings. “Elijah approached the people and said, “How long will you not decide between two choices? If the LORD is the true God, follow him, but if Baal is the true God, follow him!” But the people said nothing. 22 Elijah said, “I am the only prophet of the LORD here, but there are four hundred fifty prophets of Baal. 23 Bring two bulls. Let the prophets of Baal choose one bull and kill it and cut it into pieces. Then let them put the meat on the wood, but they are not to set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull, putting the meat on the wood but not setting fire to it. 24 You prophets of Baal, pray to your god, and I will pray to the LORD. The god who answers by setting fire to his wood is the true God.” All the people agreed that this was a good idea.” (1 Kings 18:21–24, NCV). For the sake of time, I’ll not go into the whole account, but the prophets of Baal go first, and nothing happens. Then Elijah made his offer. “At the time for the evening sacrifice, the prophet Elijah went near the altar. “LORD, you are the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel,” he prayed. “Prove that you are the God of Israel and that I am your servant. Show these people that you commanded me to do all these things. 37 LORD, answer my prayer so these people will know that you, LORD, are God and that you will change their minds.” 38 Then fire from the LORD came down and burned the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and the ground around the altar. It also dried up the water in the ditch.” (1 Kings 18:36–38, NCV)
b. score one for God!
3. after his great victory in taking on four hundred prophets of Baal and calling down fire from heaven, Elijah caved in when Jezebel threatened him
a. running for his life, he hid in a cave, depressed. "What are you doing here?" asked God (1 Kings 19:13)
b. Elijah responds "I'm the only faithful, believing Israelite left in the nation. The only one really serving You,"
4. how did God answer the prophet? "I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal"
a. the Apostle’s Exhibit C that God has not completely rejected Israel is found in the story of Elijah
1) regardless of how faithless and disobedient Israel has been in her past, and no matter how faithless and disobedient Israel is being now, God has always had His true believing Elect from within the ethnic population of Israel
b. they were part of the unfailing remnant which runs like a thread through the bewildering tapestry of Israel's history
1) there has always been a true believing remnant in Israel
5. The Preservation of the Faithful Remnant Has Always Been a Work of God, and Proof That God Is Keeping His Covenant Promises to Israel


“So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. 6 And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” (Romans 11:5–6, NIV84)
1. after the Apostle presents Exhibits A, B, and C, Paul draws a conclusion — "In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice."
a. just as Elijah, and the 7,000 others were recipients of God’s grace, so too, Paul says, there will always be a remnant in Israel who are saved by grace
b. in every generation "a remnant chosen by grace" has been called from among the Jews
1) there always has been, presently is, and always will be a believing minority in Israel
ILLUS. While exact numbers are hard to know, it is estimated that there are about 20,000 Messianic Jews in Israel, and this believing minority is wonderfully radical for Jesus Christ.
2. they are saved the way anyone is saved ... by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone!
a. the Apostle is clear — they (and we) are saved by grace alone and not by religious ritual, or good behavior
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9, NIV84)
3. the remnant of believing Jews whom the Apostle refers to were not Jewish believers who kept the law
a. they are believers because of God’s sovereign saving grace
4. it is only by God's grace that we've been blessed with the faith required to believe upon His Son
a. it is not because of our powerful prayer, our diligent devotions, or our determined effort
b. it's simply, purely, only by grace
5. There Is a Remnant of Jewish Believers in the World Who Have Been Saved by Grace Alone, Through Faith Alone, in Christ Alone


“What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, 8 as it is written: “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day.” 9 And David says: “May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them. 10 May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.” (Romans 11:7–10, NIV84)
1. as we arrive at vs. 7 we come to one of the tough sayings of the Scriptures
a. we are either going to see it as the Word of God, and accept it as such, or we are going to try to find some way to wiggle out of it
2. the Apostle writes that Israel has earnestly sought after righteous, but they did not obtain it
a. God’s command was clear, “Be ye holy, because I am holy”
b. God then gave Moses The Law — the moral law, and civil law, and religious law — to guide them in every sphere of life
1) there was no differentiation between one’s “secular life” and one’s “sacred life”
2) every aspect of one’s life revolved around one’s relationship with, and responsibility to God
c. the Law was given to show them how far short they fell from holiness, and was meant to point them to their only hope — a gracious God
d. unfortunately, the Law became an end in itself, and the people put their faith in keeping the Law — a works-righteousness
3. however, a remnant within Israel, did obtain it — those Jews like Paul who had come to faith in Christ
a. why didn’t the nation as a whole turn to the Christ?
b. Paul is blunt and deeply theological at this point — The others were hardened


1. vs. 7-10 describes the punishment for unbelief as a hardened heart
“He said, “Go and tell this people: “ ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ 10 Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” 11 Then I said, “For how long, O Lord?” And he answered: “Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, 12 until the LORD has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken. 13 And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.” (Isaiah 6:9–13, NIV84)
ILLUS. Matthew 13 ... Jesus and his parables.
a. if people refuse to listen to God's Good News, they eventually will be unable to hear it or to understand it
b. Paul saw this happening in the Jewish congregations he visited on his missionary journeys
2. there is a believing minority in Israel today, but there is also a blinded majority
ILLUS. Over the week of Christmas, I watched a video showing “man-in-the-street” interviews with Jewish citizens in Tel Aviv, Israel. Corey Gil-Shuster posts videos under the title “Ask an Israeli.” In one video, he is asking fellow Israelis, “Who is Jesus to You?” The majority responded in one of three ways, 1) he was a Jewish prophet who left the path of Judaism, 2) he was the founder of Christianity, and Christians think he is God, and 3) he was a good and righteous man, but he has nothing to do with Judaism.
a. while many Christians are very familiar with the Old Testament, very few Jews have ever read the New Testament
b. the result is that their minds are closed, and their hearts are hardened to God’s message of saving grace
3. God's punishment for their self-hardening is a deeper spiritual hardening
a. this spiritual hardening is a confirmation of their own stubbornness
b. in judging them, God removed their ability to see and hear, and to repent
1) Paul says in vs. 8 that to this day (he is writing about 25 years after the crucifixion and resurrection) the majority of Jews remain in a spirit of stupor
a) the word stupor is an interesting word — it means a numbness resulting from a sting
c. these are the consequences of rebellion against God and His truth
1) Jesus remains a stumbling block to the Jew
4. is it mean-spirited of God to harden people?
a. no, because God only hardens those who are hardened in the first place
b. they’ve been “stung” by sin, resulting in a spiritual numbness to the things of God
ILLUS. There is an interesting story found in the Gospel of John. Jesus finds himself at the Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem. It was a pool that Jewish folk-lore said had magical healing powers. The result is that it was a place where a great number of disabled persons came or were brought every day. Jesus zeros in on one man who had been coming for thirty-eight years hoping for a miracle. Jesus approaches him and asks, “Do you want to get well?” Now that seems like a silly question, doesn’t it? Not really, because it goes to the root of human character. Some people really don’t want to get well because if they did their world would radically change.
c. the vast majority of the world’s citizens remain hardened to the Gospel, because to come to Christ would mean a radical change, and so they harden their hearts, and God hardens their hearts simply by not allowing the light of Christ to shine in


1. let me close by drawing some applications from this text


1. what in the world do I mean by that?
a. Jews where under the illusion that to be an Israelite automatically made you one of God’s Chosen People
b. back in Romans 9:6-7 the Apostle bluntly says, For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children
1) Paul has labored to show his fellow Jews that righteousness and holiness comes only by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone
2) keeping the moral, civil, and religious laws of God will not accomplish it
a) they only serve as a reminder that all have fallen short of the glory of God, and only grace will save them
c. Christians are under the illusion that to be a Church goer or a Church member automatically makes you a Christian
1) faithful pastors will labor to show their congregations that righteousness and holiness comes only by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone
2) the works of catechism, or baptism, or church membership, or charitable acts, or religious sacraments will not accomplish it
a) these are rituals and experiences that point to a deeper reality — that only grace will save you
2. the Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in the church at Corinth, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5, NIV84)
a. it behooves every professing believer to evaluate their claim of salvation from time-to-time
ILLUS. For eighteen years I assumed I was a Christian. I assumed that because I had been baptized as an infant, my Godparents speaking for my future faith. I’d been catechized, and confirmed. I believed all the right things. I prayed the right prayers. I confessed the right things. Mine was a spiritual heritage supposedly going all the way back to Peter himself. Then, at the age of 18 I entered a Baptist worship service and heard the Gospel for the first time. Over the months I found myself examining my faith trying to determine if I was in the faith. I failed the test according to the Scriptures. I had never done what the Apostle had commanded ... “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. ... 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-10, 13, NIV84)


1. who has begun a good work in us shall complete it (Philippians 1:6)
a. that's His promise
2. God’s assurances to Israel are based on His Covenant Promises to Israel
3. God’s assurance to His Church is based on Christ’s Presence in our lives


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