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You Now Have Received Mercy

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God Keeps a People for Himself

We live in a world that more often than not seems like it is in chaos. In a world with a 24 hour news cycle it seems to be the case that anything negative is brought before our eyes as quickly as possible in order to generate views and clicks. Because of this we see news of all of the terrible things going on in the world. There is a torrent of information coming at us and it feels difficult to even keep your head above the water as all of this chaos swirls around us. Amidst this is may feel as though God isn’t in control or that maybe that we are alone as followers of Jesus Christ in this world. But as we see in Scripture we God keeps a people for himself. Even in the midst of the flood of Noah’s day God kept his promise to bring a savior by keeping the line to the messiah safe in the family of Noah. No matter how things go in this world God keeps his people and his promise to bring them salvation.
This idea of God keeping a Remnant is a theme throughout all of scripture and it is something that Paul calls upon in our passages from . As we continue through the book of Romans as our summer comes to a close we have landed in this chapter and it is a tough one. The first reason that it is tough is that it continues to answer questions that you and I aren’t really asking. We saw in chapter nine how concerned Paul was with dealing with a major problem for him and the gospel he proclaimed. If this amazing salvation by grace alone through faith alone on account of Christ alone is true, what about the Jewish people. Why have they rejected the message of this Jewish messiah. He was the one they were waiting for and yet they not only rejected him, they crucified him. Not only that but the majority of the Jewish people still rejected him as the messiah even after he was raised from the dead. You have to wonder....what did these people want? Why is it that the people who brought us the promise through their bloodline and through their preservation of the Word of God have now rejected the fulfillment of the promise that many of them had right before their eyes.
Like I said before, this isn’t really a big problem for us because we are the benefactors of this. We are the Gentiles that the gospel has gone out to and so you have probably very rarely, if ever at all, thought about this problem. That is one of the reasons that the passage is broken up for us today. First, it is not a problem we identify with and secondly it is a really heavy passage and can be difficult to understand. While it is a hard passage this is one of the reasons that it is good to follow assigned passages or preach through a book. It forces us to deal with the whole council of God. While I obviously don’t object to anything in this passage it isn’t a passage that I ever would have chosen to preach from. That is a good thing not only because it makes me work harder on the sermon but because we are forced as a collective people to work through some of the harder passages and not skip over them. It also show us how to process through these types of passages when we come to them in our personal Bible reading.
And while this problem of that Paul is concerned about isn’t generally on our radar it is something important to think about. It is shows us how God does keep a people for himself and that we come to faith by being convicted of our sins and God giving us faith. It also shows us that our status before God is not one of ethnicity but instead of whether or not we are in Christ and the question we have to ask ourselves regarding our salvation isn’t whether we are Jewish, Dutch, German, Norwegian, or British. The question that we need to be asking is whether or not we are in Christ. Do we have penitent faith and trust in him alone for our salvation?
Paul himself did have penitent faith and trust in Jesus Christ and that is the answer to the important question that he asks at the beginning of our passage this morning.
Romans 11:1 NIV
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.
Paul is saying “Look, I know the majority of the Jewish people have rejected Jesus as the Messiah but clearly not every Jewish person has rejected him because I have faith in Christ.” The apostles were Jewish and they had faith in Christ. Through the beginning of the book of Acts the people coming to faith in Jesus were of Jewish descent. Even though the people who were converted at Pentecost were from all over the Roman empire and spoke different languages they were of Jewish descent. If they weren’t they wouldn’t have been in Jerusalem for the religious celebration. It isn’t until persecution really comes to the church after the stoning of Stephen that the base of operations moved to Antioch and went out to the Gentiles. Even when the message was going out to the Gentiles, if there was a synagogue in that region the missionaries went there because at it’s core Christianity is Jewish because the Hebrew people were the ones who were in the promised line to the Messiah. So, as he struggles with this question about so many Jews rejecting Jesus Paul says that God has not rejected his people. Paul is proud of his heritage. He is an Israelite and sites his pedigree to prove it.
To amplify his point we see
Romans 11:2 NIV
God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel:
What this means is that God elected people from among the Israelites in his divine plan and foreknowledge and Paul and any others that have put their faith and trust in Jesus came to God in the same way. To help us understand he calls us back to a familiar Old Testament story. Elijah, after having been a part of God showing his power and majesty against the prophets of Baal runs away and hides. When God comes to him in the cave that he is hiding in and Elijah says
Romans 11:3 NIV
“Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”?
Romans 11:4 NIV
And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”
God kept a remnant for himself. Notice that God does not say that there are seven thousand out there who have kept themselves pure. Instead, God says that he has kept for himself seven thousand. He has a remnant. It isn’t only Elijah. God has kept a people for himself.
The point he is making is that even though it seems as though God has rejected the Jews it seems this way because we are looking to a large group or even a national group to determine whether a people is saved. Instead, we need to look at the fact that God has kept a people for himself and he does this by his grace.
Romans 11:5 NIV
So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.
That is significant. Chosen by grace. God has extended his saving hand to the ones that he has saved in the same way that he has saved anyone. By his grace alone. Never had anyone been saved simply because of who they were ethnically. They were a part of the nation that led to the messiah but not every single Israelite was saved simply because they were an Israelite. Anyone, ever, has been saved because they put their trust in God to saved them and not in themselves. shows us that even the heroes of old were not saved because of their works or because they were Israelites. Instead they were saved because they trusted in the promise that God would provide the messiah for his people. Verse six tells us why.
Romans 11:6 NIV
And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
If the people were saved simply by their keeping of the rituals and the laws then there would not have been grace. They would have been saved by works. We know this is true because as we have seen in Romans over and over again we can’t save ourselves by our own works. We are sinners who need grace. We are not pretty good people who need a little guidance here and there. We are dead in our sins and need to be resurrected by the grace and mercy of almighty God. That is the theme that we see here in .
Romans 11:14 NIV
in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them.
Romans 11:
As we jump to verses 13 through 15 we see that this is Paul’s passion in preaching the gospel to the Gentiles. He is hoping that by his passionately preaching the grace and mercy of God to the Gentiles will cause envy and jealousy in the Jews to cause them to hear and believe the message that he is proclaiming. And that would be a great result of the the proclamation of the gospel to the Gentiles.
As we jump to verses 13 through 15 we see that this is Paul’s passion in preaching the gospel to the Gentiles. He is hoping that by his passionately preaching the grace and mercy of God to the Gentiles will cause envy and jealousy in the Jews to cause them to hear and believe the message that he is proclaiming.
Romans 11:15 NIV
For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
His point here in verse 15 is that because the Jews rejected the gospel it has gone out into the whole world. If the message of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection would have been received by the Israelites then God would have likely remained the God of a select group of people. But by the rejection of the message the focus switched to all of the people of the earth. Look at this map of where there were Christian communities. The red dots are first century Christian communities. The black dots are Christian communities that formed in the second century. They are all over that green area which indicates the Roman Empire. Imagine if the message had never left the small tract of land known as Israel. The gospel wouldn’t have gone into the whole world.
So it is the rejection of the gospel that has brought the reconciliation in Jesus Christ to the world. If the proclamation of the gospel causes people to envy and come to Christ the acceptance is miraculous.
But as we continue through this text we see that Paul has a concern. He is worried that there might be some arrogance on the part of the Gentiles but Paul tells us that there will be a time when the hardening of the Jews for the spreading of the gospel will no longer be in effect.
Romans 11:26–27 NIV
and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”
Romans 11:26 NIV
and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
When Paul is saying that all Israel will be saved he isn’t implying that every Israelite ever has been or will be saved. There were often people in the Old Testament who were enemies of God even though their ethnicity was in their favor. While there are differing opinions on what all Israel means, what Paul is driving at is that at some point larger numbers of Jews will come to faith in Jesus and it will be glorious. All who have faith and trust in Jesus are Israel. We saw him saying this in . As we look this you can see why it is a difficult passage and so as the chapter closes up we need to be looking at what the overarching point of this chapter is. Why is this important?
We see this answered for us in
Romans 11:30–32 NIV
Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
Romans 11:
We have received the mercy and grace of God because God used the rejection of the gospel by the Hebrew people to spread the gospel into the whole world. We are here today because the gospel has gone out. Paul says that their disobedience has led to our faith. All of this disobedience is to show us that every one of us has disobeyed God and that we need his mercy and grace in order to be saved by him. Without that mercy we are lost because we have nothing righteous in ourselves. We need the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
As we look at the overarching theme of this chapter we see this idea of a remnant. That God keeps a people for himself. He does this by his mercy and grace and he draws us to himself by the proclamation of the gospel. Regardless of the circumstances in our world we see that God is the one who keeps his people. In the midst of tragedy and conflict know that God keeps you as his own. Just as Elijah didn’t know about all that God had kept for himself we can be assured that around the world others are praying and worshiping the Triune God today. We know this because God brings his people to him and he unites us together. We are but one small outpost of the kingdom of God in this world. He we sit on our corner hearing the gospel, being built up in faith, and going out to love God and our neighbor in our world each week. There are other embassies of this kingdom right here in our own community, in our state, in our country, and all over the world. Any place where the gospel of God’s grace is proclaimed there is the remnant that God has called to himself. For, The mercy of God knows no borders.
Today we are reminded of the grace of God in the Lord’s Supper. This is not something that we merely do individually. Certainly, it has personal significance for each of us, but we do not take this bread and cup this morning alone. We can look around and be reminded that this feast is a foretaste of the feast to come and when we talk about a feast you don’t think about eating alone do you. You eat with those you care about and love. You feast with your family. Today we feast together and with the whole church. The remnant of God’s grace that is in the world knowing we are united together in Christ. Through the proclamation of the word and in the sacrament we are continually being formed by the Holy Spirit to the image of Christ. We don’t do this alone. We do it with our brothers and sisters that are American, German, Dutch, and Jewish because this feast does not know boundaries because the grace and mercy of God is boundless. Amen.
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