The Ingathering of the Jews (Romans 11:23-30)

There will be a day when many Jews will come to Jesus. This event is sometimes called the “Ingathering of the Jews,” and it is part of the chain of events in the end times connected to the return of Christ. Christians do not agree on all the particulars of exactly what this will look like. However, passages like today’s reading from Romans are difficult to understand without in some way accepting a prophetic teaching about much of Israel finally accepting their Messiah. Paul says that Israel was the original or “natural” family tree of faith. They have rejected Jesus for now, causing their branches to be broken off and Gentile branches to be grafted in as their replacements. However, this separation will apparently not last forever. If the Jews will embrace Jesus as their Messiah, they will be accepted back into the family tree of faith (Romans 11:23-24). In fact, Paul expects that this will happen one day, after the “fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25). The exact meaning of that phrase is unclear, but it seems to indicate that there will be a time when God turns His saving focus from the Gentiles back to the Jews, fulfilling His original promises to rescue the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob from their sins (Romans 11:26-27). The Jews may have made themselves into “enemies” of the gospel for now, but we must remember that they were God’s chosen nation through whom our Savior came (Romans 11:28). In some way that we don’t fully understand, God has made promises to Israel that cannot be broken forever by their current disobedience (Romans 11:30). In some way that has not yet happened, Israel will come back to the Lord.

So what’s the application to us Gentile Christians today? First, we should be humbled that God chose to offer salvation up to us. We should be thankful that Jesus came not just for the Jews, but for the whole world. Scripture always exhorts us to take the gift of our salvation very seriously. We should daily appreciate what Jesus has done by making a way for us to come back to God. Secondly, we should show a special love towards people of Jewish descent, recognizing their special role in salvation history. On a national level, Christians should support the modern nation of Israel as a friend and ally. And on an individual level, Christians should reach out to people of Jewish heritage with the love of Christ. God chose them for many blessings, and His friends should be our friends.

The Text (Romans 11:23-30)

23 And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?

25 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; 27 For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”

28 Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Questions to Think About

  1. Have you ever had any spiritual or religious conversations with someone from a Jewish background? What happened?
  2. What do you know about the history of the modern nation of Israel and its relationship with the United States?
  3. Have you taken time recently to thank God for the gift of your salvation? If not, spend a few minutes in prayer today giving God thanks for inviting you into His family tree of faith.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Goodness and Severity (Romans 11:11-22)

Paul had an intense desire to see his Jewish kinsmen be saved. We have already seen that so far in Romans 9-11 as Paul has tried to think through why only a small number of the Israelites had accepted Christ. As we read on today in verses 11-22 of Romans 11, we see that it is not God’s fault that His chosen nation has rejected His Son. God has been faithful, but Israel has not. They have perished spiritually because of their unbelief. Yet their lack of faith in Christ had caused God to open the gospel up to the Gentiles, too (Romans 11:11-12). Non-Jews all over the world could now hear about Jesus and be saved. Paul’s great hope was that Israel would see the many Gentiles entering Christ’s kingdom through his ministry and be made jealous enough to join them (Romans 11:13-15). For the Jews were given salvation first. They are the “root” and the “natural branches” of God’s family tree of faith; the Gentiles were “wild branches” that were added or “grafted in” to the tree later (Romans 11:16-18).

The tree of faith metaphor means for Gentile Christians today (which includes most of us using this blog), we should not brag about our present spiritual status (Romans 11:19-20). Salvation was not extended to us because we were good, but because God’s chosen people Israel rejected Him. If the Gentile Christians as a group abandon Christ (which has been happening rapidly in America in recent years and has already happened in Western Europe and Canada), then all those who raised in the church who grow up to reject Christ will in turn be rejected by Him (Romans 11:21). Why? Because God’s “goodness” comes to those who put their faith in His Son Jesus, but His “severity” or harsh judgment comes against those who reject Him (Romans 11:22). This should be a stern warning for us to accept Jesus and be thankful for His grace and mercy in saving us. At the same time, we should pray for all lost people, but especially lost Jews, to embrace Jesus as their Lord and Savior, too.

The Text (Romans 11:11-22)

11 I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. 12 Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!

13 For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14 if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. 15 For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

16 For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17 And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, 18 do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.

19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” 20 Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. 22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.

Questions to Think About

  1. What are the spiritual advantages of being raised in a Christian school, the church, and/or a Christian home? What are the dangers?
  2. In what ways have you experienced God’s goodness in your life since being saved?
  3. How have you experienced God’s “severity” or discipline in your life when you have disobeyed Him?
  4. Do you have any Jewish friends, family members, neighbors, or teammates? Have you ever talked to them about Jesus? Explain.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

The Remnant (Romans 11:1-10)

The road to heaven has always been narrow. The history of the entire Old Testament shows that even among the visible people of God, it was always only some of them who knew and followed the Lord. Consider the original families of faith in Genesis. Abel’s worship pleased God but Cain’s did not. Abraham’s son Isaac was saved but not Ishmael. Isaac’s son Jacob inherited the blessings of the covenant with God but his brother Esau was a man of the flesh and the world. Of Jacob’s 12 sons, Joseph was noble but nine of his brothers conspired to hurt him and sell him into slavery. Reuben tried to protect Joseph and Benjamin was too little to intervene, but the rest of the brothers followed Judah’s wicked plan. Fast forward to the nation’s history from Exodus onward. Think of how often the people saved from Egypt later grumbled, complained, and rebelled against God and his appointed leader Moses. Look at how the nation of Israel continually fell into idol worship and sins against each other in the time of the judges and the kings. Remember how they rejected the many prophets God sent to plead with them to turn from their wicked ways and live. See how often their hearts remained hardened and evil in spite of God’s many loving calls and reluctant acts of discipline.

All of this history of God’s original chosen people is what Paul considers as he wrestles with why his nation has not welcomed Jesus as its Messiah. Despite all of the apostles’ passionate, biblically sound preaching and teaching of the gospel, so many Israelites had remained spiritually blind and deaf (Romans 11:7-10). They simply would not come to Jesus and live. One might wonder if God’s covenant promises to Abraham’s family had failed (Romans 11:1). No, Paul says. God has not rejected His chosen people (Romans 11:2). Paul himself is proof – he is a Jew who has accepted Jesus (Romans 11:1). And he is not alone. All the rest of the first disciples were Jews, too. Like Elijah from the wicked days of Ahab and Jezebel, Paul had felt at times like all Israel had rejected their Lord (Romans 11:3). But God preserved a remnant then, a faithful few who had not served false gods like Baal (Romans 11:4). So, too, now, God has elected and chosen to save some Israelites by showing them their sin and need for His forgiveness and grace through Jesus, their appointed Savior and Lord (Romans 11:5-6). And He has done the same from among the Gentiles.

Two years ago, I (Mr. Reel) believed we could see Jesus capture the hearts and minds of the great majority of our students. If we labored hard in preaching and teaching the Bible with power every day at school, if our teachers went to war on our knees each night for our students, then we could see an amazing revival with lasting change in our student body. How incredible would it be to see our school producing strong, mature disciples of Jesus as graduates? To see us send out young men and women with vision, spiritual discipline, and dedication to serving Jesus and His kingdom as their number one goal for the rest of their lives on earth? Ah, what a dream! What a mission in which to invest your life and career!

Two years later, I have finally accepted the remnant mentality instead. I radically underestimated the power of the many worldly influences constantly acting upon our students through their devices and nonChristian peers. I failed to understand that students could make public professions of faith in Christ without really wanting to follow through by then allowing Jesus to start changing their desires, decisions, and habits. I could not grasp how a person could say that Jesus had saved them and yet have no interest in spending time with Him by praying and reading His Word. I could not figure out how someone could claim to be part of Christ’s church but not want to go to that church in their free time. Now I have become much more cautious in celebrating claims of salvation experiences and more realistic in my expectations of true spiritual change in my students. I still believe that I have a chance to influence and disciple students to follow Christ, but I now expect that impact to be smaller and more limited. I take hope because God’s Word promises me that He will always preserve a remnant among His people. There will always be some in every place who faithfully love and follow Him. For our teachers, I encourage you to keep presenting Christ and defending His Word before all your students. And then look for chances to disciple those students who want it. And for the students who are serious about following Jesus, look for friends among the remnant and stick close to Jesus and each other. God will never leave you nor forsake you.

The Text (Romans 11:1-10)

11 I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, 3 “Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life”? 4 But what does the divine response say to him? “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 6 And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.

7 What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. 8 Just as it is written: “God has given them a spirit of stupor, Eyes that they should not see And ears that they should not hear, To this very day.”

9 And David says: “Let their table become a snare and a trap, A stumbling block and a recompense to them. 10 Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see, And bow down their back always.”

Questions to Think About

  1. What evidences of the shrinking of Christian influence in our American culture have you noticed? For example, think about how the world today is different than it was when your parents and grandparents were teenagers.
  2. Do you find it difficult to follow Christ faithfully in our school right now? Why or why not?
  3. Would you describe your closest friends as being serious about their walks with Christ? Explain.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Sovereignty and Responsibility – Biblical BFF’s (Romans 10:18-21)

The great London preacher Charles Spurgeon was once asked how he reconciled the apparently contradictory doctrines of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility in the matter of salvation. “Why should I attempt to reconcile them?” he said. “The two are old friends.” What Spurgeon meant was that both doctrines are taught throughout the Bible, sometimes in the same passage (as with today’s reading from Romans). Whenever the Bible talks about people being saved from sin and going to heaven, it emphasizes the absolute and total gift of God’s unearned grace. So in Romans 10:20, the salvation of so many Gentiles from pitiful lives of pagan darkness is a miraculous work of God’s mercy. The Gentiles had not sought after God, but He had pursued and sought after them. They were dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1), but God gave them new spiritual life through Christ (Ephesians 2:5). This was total, undeserved grace. And indeed, if you ask any Christian today about their salvation, they will immediately give all the glory and credit to God. They will tell you how they once loved sin and did not care about obeying God. But then God changed their heart and they are so thankful for it.

Yet whenever the Bible talks about the judgment and punishment of the lost, the responsibility is always placed squarely on the rebellious sinner and never on God. See it here in Romans 10:20. God says, “All day long I have stretched out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.” Do you hear the compassion and love, the divine sadness in God’s words towards Israel? The image is of God as a father pleading with His lost children to come home but knowing that they will not. God had clearly offered salvation to the nation of Israel first. They had heard the gospel just like the Gentiles (Romans 10:18). But the Gentiles had repented and believed, while the Jews, who should have been prompted through sheer jealousy to copy the Gentiles’ example and come to Jesus, had not.

When sinners reject the gospel and the plain salvation of Christ by grace through faith, it is their own fault. They are deliberately choosing themselves and their sins instead of Jesus, so in hell they will get the punishment that they have justly earned. Indeed, even in this life, the lost sinner often suffers many natural bad consequences and hardships, as the Bible describes in Psalm 32:10 – “Many sorrows shall be to the wicked.” But never think that God is too blame for the tragic fate of unbelievers or that He in any way rejoices over their death. Listen to these pleading words from God to Israel from the time of the prophets: “Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live!” (Ezekiel 18:31-32). Does that sound like a cold and unjust Judge? By no means! We struggle to understand how God gets all the glory for saving those who go to heaven while lost people get all the blame for sending themselves to hell. But this is what the Bible teaches, so in the mind of God and the reality of the world He created, there is no contradiction. Our place is not to put ourselves in judgment over God or His Word. Our place is to repent of our sin, trust in Christ, and give Him all of the praise and honor that He deserves for giving us the will to want to be saved and the power to actually be saved by His amazing grace.

The Text (Romans 10:18-21)

18 But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: “Their sound has gone out to all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world.”

19 But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says: “I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation,

I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.”

20 But Isaiah is very bold and says: “I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me.”

21 But to Israel he says: “All day long I have stretched out My hands

To a disobedient and contrary people.”

Questions to Think About

  1. In what ways did God draw you to Himself to be saved? How did He find you when you were not seeking Him?
  2. In what ways has God continued to work in your life since becoming a Christian even when you were not being obedient to His Word and will? How has God brought you back when you have wandered from Him?
  3. Can you think of lost people in your life to whom you can see God reaching out in love, but they are rejecting that love in favor of their sins and selfishness? How can you pray for such people? How can you minister to and witness to them?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel