Sunday, March 21, 2010

Romans 11:1-32 - The Importance of Israel

Opening thought: Yesterday in Moscow, the Quartet met to try to find a way to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The Quartet is a self-appointed group made up of Russia, the United States, the United Nations, and the European Union. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and these other major Mideast mediators urged Israel to halt all settlement construction. Israel has agreed to curb settlement construction in the West Bank, but not in east Jerusalem, claiming the entire city as Israel's eternal capital.

On Saturday, UN Secretary General Ban Kai-Moon rejected Israel's distinction between east Jerusalem and the West Bank, noting that both are – what he called – occupied lands.

"The world has condemned Israel's settlement plans in east Jerusalem," Ban told a news conference in Ramallah, in Israel’s ancestral land, called by the Quartet and most of the world, the West Bank. "Let us be clear. All settlement activity is illegal anywhere in occupied territory and must be stopped."

As a Bible-believing Christians, how do we handle these statements? How do we evaluate them in light of what the Bible teaches, and in light of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are Messianic Jews and those who are of Palestinian Arab ancestry? Is God finished with Israel? Has the Church replaced Israel as God’s chosen people? Is the political state of Israel in any way connected to the biblical Israel, and as Christians should we have any sympathy toward the state of Israel? That is the important issue of our day that I want to explore with you today so that when you watch the news or hear the White House positions or statement on current Mideast issues, you can have discernment as a believer in Jesus Christ.

Contextual Notes: Now open your Bibles with me to the New Testament book of Romans. Paul’s letter to the Romans is a masterpiece of theology. The first three chapters teach us about sin. The next five chapters teach us about salvation. Chapters 9-11 teach us about God’s sovereignty, justice, and faithfulness shown through His relationship with Israel. Chapters 12-16 show us how to live the life of Christ practically in light of the previous eleven chapters.

Our concern today is chapter eleven which falls at the end of Paul’s teaching on Israel and God’s character. Chapter nine is about His sovereignty, chapter ten his justice, and eleven his faithfulness. But Paul is also dealing with a pressing question among those of the Jewish/Gentile early church.

ROMANS 9-11: Has God’s Word failed? That was the big question that the congregation at Rome wanted to know. Paul’s short answer is No, because of God’s character of Sovereignty, Faithfulness, and Justice overlaid with Mercy.

Then what about Israel? All Israel will be saved through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 11:26). The eventual salvation of the Jews is part of the Good News of the Old Testament (Rom 1:2) to the Jew first (Rom 1:16). Therefore, Gentiles are commanded mercy to Israel (Rom 11:31). Romans 9-11 not a parenthesis between Romans 8 and 12 as some Bible teachers assert. It is integral to the book of Romans.

The Big Question: “Paul, if God is all powerful and faithful as you say (chap. 8), then why as more Gentiles come to Christ are more Jews rejecting it? Didn’t God say he had an everlasting love for Israel (Jeremiah 31:2)? If so, how can the Jews reject his love after centuries of relationship with Him and His Word (Rom 3:1-2)? They are being lost, and God’s everlasting love does not seem to be doing them any good! That worries us. How can we be sure of God’s promise that nothing separates us from God’s love (Rom 8:39)? Has God’s word failed?”

Romans 9-11 is Paul’s answer. The problem is found in Romans 9:1-6a. Israel’s rejection of the Gospel makes God’s promises appear to fail. The solution is found in Romans 9:6b-11:32. The celebration is found in Romans 11:33-36.

Romans 11 shows how God will fulfill His promises to the nation of Israel. Jewish “disobedience” (Rom 11:30) does not do away with God’s promises to Israel because His gifts and calling are irrevocable (Rom 11:29). Paul therefore cautions Gentile believers against anti-Semitism and false pride (Rom 11:13-26). Instead he shows us what our active role should be to hasten the salvation of the Jewish people (Rom 11:30-36).

Read: Romans 11:1-32
Key Truth: Paul wrote Romans 11 to teach believers about God’s faithfulness to the nation of Israel.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about the importance of Israel. 

Sermon Points:
1. Israel is not rejected (Rom 11:1-6)
2. Israel has made the nations rich (Rom 11:7-16)
3. Israel is our root (Rom 11:17-24)
4. Israel will be redeemed (Rom 11:25-32)

Exposition: Note well,

1- ISRAEL IS NOT REJECTED (Romans 11:1-6)
a. Romans 11:1-6: If God rejects or repudiates or abandons Israel His people, then God has broken His word. If the gospel means believing in a God who breaks His word, then the gospel must be rejected. Paul replies in the strongest possible language, “Heaven forbid!” Paul himself is a Jew (Rom 9:6-13; 2 Cor 11:22; Gal 1:13-14; 2:15; Phil 3:5-6; Acts 22:3; 23:6; 26:5).

b. Paul therefore uses God’s Word to show He has not repudiated His people (1 Samuel 12:22; Psalm 94:14). The Gospel is not in opposition to God’s Word. The Gospel IS God’s Word, Paul shows from Scripture. There is a remnant as he shows in his illustration of Elijah (Rom 11:2-4). God is sovereign, just, and merciful and is fulfilling His promises in history, even when it appears differently. In verse 6 Paul says again (Rom 9:30-32), that legalistic works are incompatible with grace which requires no effort or prior deeds, but only trust (Eph 2:8-10).

c. God is not finished with Israel. He has made promises to the Jewish people, and He plans to fulfill his promises. (Genesis 22:17-18) 

d. Israel is the only nation created by an act of God. (Gen. 12: 1-3, 6-7)

e. God entered into an eternal blood covenant with Abraham including the mandate to possess the land. (Gen. 12:6-7; 13:15-17)

f. The boundaries of Israel are registered in the Word of God. (Gen. 15:18-21; Ezek. 47:13-48:29)

g. God has sworn to protect and defend Israel  (Psalm 121:4; Zech. 14:2-5) 

h. God promised that Israel would be recreated in a day. (Isaiah 66:8: 8)

i. On May 15, 1948, the United Nations recognized the State of Israel (Isaiah 11:12; Gen. 17:7-8; Hosea 1:11; Isaiah 54:8-10)
j. Jesus blesses those who love the Jews – e.g., the Centurion (Luke 7:4-6)

k. God’s integrity is at stake here. Does God break his Word? (1 Sam. 12:22; Psalm 94:14)

l. APPLICATION: God does not break his Word. To say that God is finished with Israel or take a Calvinist position that the Church replaces Israel in the New Testament is to say that God breaks his Word.

2- ISRAEL HAS MADE THE NATIONS RICH (ROMANS 11:7-16)
a. Our Scripture, the Old and New Testaments written by Jewish authors, our Judeo-Christian heritage, many scientific discoveries by Jews, Adoption, Abrahamic Covenant, Mosaic Covenant, points to the greatest Gift of all, our Lord Jesus Himself.

b. Romans 11:7- 12: The Jews have not attained what they worked so hard for, and have become stone-like (porosis). Paul quotes Moses (for Torah), Isaiah (for Prophets), and David (for Writings), representing the three sections of the Old Testament.

c. Verses 8-9: By speaking about the Bible without Jesus as Messiah, even their tables become a trap and keep them continually (not “forever”) in slavery to sin.

d. Verses 11-12: And even rejecting Jesus, they still have not fallen away permanently. Israel’s stumbling has meant deliverance for the Gentiles, fulfilling Deuteronomy 32:21. When they return to their Messiah, it will bring even greater riches! The deliverance the Gentiles had received was meant for Israel (Matt 10:6; 15:24), but Israel failed to receive it. While individual Jews received it, the majority did not. Therefore, it was offered to the Gentiles (Acts 13:42-47), but God has never stopped holding out His hands to Israel (Rom 10:21). The problem is that Gentile Christians have historically provoked Jews to hatred, not the Gospel.

e. Israel’s hardening has opened salvation and reconciliation to all nations. (Deut. 32:21; Romans 10:1; Acts 18:6)

f. APPLICATION: Informs our love for the Jews – being grateful to them and leading them toward their Messiah.
g. Informs our actions – Visit Israel. Show friendship to Jewish friends. Thank them for the heritage they have given you as a Christian. Affirm that you stand with Israel. Most Jews will be surprised that as a Christian you say such things.

3- ISRAEL IS OUR ROOT (ROMANS 11:17-24)
a. Romans 11:13-32: Paul now turns the Gentiles. Just in case Gentiles are thinking, “Yes indeed. God has replaced Israel with us the Christians.” Paul says that Christianity and anti-Semitism are completely incompatible. God is not finished with the Jews, either. The Church is not the “New Israel” replacing the “Old Israel.” Our salvation as Gentiles is linked to God’s promises to the Jews. Our Messiah is a Jew. Paul says that the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37) will come to life through God’s promises through Jesus the Messiah! The Second Coming is linked with the Jewish people as a nation coming to faith in Jesus, so let’s tell the Jews of their Messiah!

b. We are inextricably linked by God’s order and plan. The Bible of the New Testament Church was the Old Testament. The Church was entirely Jewish in the beginning. Our Lord is a Jew. (Galatians 3:6-9; Psalm 122;Zechariah 12:2-3)
c. REPLACEMENT THEOLOGY: Within a few hundred years of the Resurrection, there arose a number of Christian theologians who saw the Jews involvement with the Romans in Jesus’ crucifixion and the destruction of the Temple as a sign that God was finished with Israel, rejected her once and for all. God’s new people would be the Church, the New Israel of God. God was finished with the Jews.

d. John Chrysostom (4th Century): Jews are “murderers, destroyers, men possessed by the devil. They know only one thing, to satisfy their gullets, get drunk, to kill and maim on another.” “You did slay Christ. You did lift violent hands against the Master. You did spill His precious blood. This is why you have no chance of atonement, excuse, or defense.” Chrysostom the golden-mouthed preacher is considered a saint today.

e. Martin Luther: “...we do not know to this day which devil has brought them here...like a plague, pestilence, pure misfortune in our country...They are just devils and nothing more.”

g. Origen, Augustine, John Calvin, Martin Luther. Luther at first was kind to Jews, but when they did not receive his message of justification by faith, he became embittered against them. He called for the Jews’ expulsion from Germany and destruction of their books and synagogues. Nazis later used his writings to justify their “final solution.” As Holocaust took place in which 6 million Jews were exterminated, the Church stood idly by, not lending a hand to the Jewish people.

f. Crusades: killed or drove away Jews from their land – 300,000 Jews in 1000 in Holy Land. By 1200 AD, only 1000 Jewish families remained, opening way for Islam to take the ascendancy.

h. Led to Inquisition, Crusades, burning of Jerusalem synagogue in 1099, pogroms of Europe, expelled from countries, Hitler used Luther’s sermons against the Jews, and today when Christians support Israel’s enemies and force Israel to give up her covenant land. To be fair, Calvin and Luther did not forsee 1948 – Israel a nation.

i. APPLICATION: Christianity and anti-Semitism is incompatible. Informs our present – Important that we befriend Israel – not that we agree with everything their government does but to support them while realizing that there are many persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ among the Palestinians.

j. Informs our prayer – We are dealing with spiritual forces which desire the extinction of Israel (Revelation 12). These are the same spiritual forces which hate Christ and Christianity. We pray for our own peace when we pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

4- ISRAEL WILL BE REDEEMED (ROMANS 11:25-32)
a. Miracle – Israel has been recovered after 2000 years of scattering – 1948.
b. How will they be saved (Romans 11:26)? They will receive Jesus as Savior and Messiah (Zechariah 12:10-13; 13:1; John 19:37; Revelation 1:7).

c. APPLICATION: Informs our future – We live in a sobering moment in history, and we could be the people of the last time. If not, our nation’s future is tied to how it regards and treats Israel. In that time, all nations will have turned against Israel. We must intercede and minister to Israel.

If you believe –
• That the Bible is the inspired Word of God
• That Jehovah God is a God of integrity and it is impossible for Him to break covenant because of His character,
• That Jesus Christ is our example, and we are to follow Him,
Then there is no Biblical alternative to supporting Israel and the Jewish people.

Invitation: