In this section of Romans we see here that God reveals how people become His precious possession. Paul writes:
“I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed Your prophets, they have torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.” 4 But what is the divine response to him? “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice.”
Paul here basis his view of God not rejecting His people whom He foreknew first by: pointing to himself, his nation, and his tribe. Paul’s life is evidence that Jews were, are and will be saved. They will be loved, not abandoned. Secondly, Paul points to Elijah’s presupposition and uncloaks its’ deceptiveness. The reality is that there’s way more children of God than we can fathom. The main agent in this turn of events is not Elijah or any creature but God. Finally, Paul assures his readers that this remnant like the former one is according to Gods’ gracious choice, implying not the choice of the creature.
Thus, Gods gracious choice is the centerpiece here, not the false notion that God forsakes His people. So thus far according to the previous chapters salvation comes to both Jew and Gentile alike, through embracing the proclaimed word of God. This word is not received by all which is evidenced by Israel’s rejection of it. Lastly, this rescue results from God’s gracious choice, not ours.
I know this is a tough knot to untie or a hard will to swallow, but I can’t exegetically come to any other conclusion that it is God’s gracious choice by means of the preached word embraced, we come into God’s fold made of Jew and Gentile alike. Specifically speaking of Israel, God has never removed His love toward them—which seems to be evidenced through the existence of the remnant contextually. Thus, God has not rejected His people.
Paul continues explaining Israel’s state and says: “6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.” Here I take Paul to affirm what he’s previously argued (chapters 5-8) that becoming acceptable (righteous) before God never entailed doing works of the law. Instead, righteousness comes only through grace which is through the 2nd Adam Christ Jesus. Remove God’s gracious choice of rescue from the Messiah, and the result will be death. Paul ensues:
“7 What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; 8 just as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, Eyes to see not and ears to hear not, Down to this very day.” 9 And David says, “Let their table become a snare and a trap, And a stumbling block and a retribution to them. 10 “Let their eyes be darkened to see not, And bend their backs forever.”
The text seems to be saying that those who cared about knowing God, did not come to know Him (recall they rejected His word chapter 10), but rather those chosen obtained this knowledge of God which results in salvation. The reason the former (Israel) did not obtain salvation is because God hardened them, and reason the latter did obtain it is because He chose them. This reality is difficult to bear (and we must nevertheless remember that there’s no injustice with God), but I can’t make sense out of the passage in any other way.
God however is always working out the counsel of His will and Paul is thus going to explain the reason for why God hardened Israel:
“11 I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.”
It seems that God’s end in Israel’s stumbling had the purpose of bringing salvation to the Gentile world and as a result would cause Israel to become jealous: jealous of what? Jealous that now outsiders, foreigners, aliens and those once estranged from Israel’s common wealth are now partakers of it. That wealth, that treasure is nothing less than being part of God’s redeemed family. There’s nothing more precious here than to be God’s child, God’s friend. Paul continues:
“12 Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be”
Paul seems to be transitioning into a deeper thought concerning Israel and Gentile believers, the goal of which is going from degree of glory to the next level of glory. I think Paul is arguing that if Israel’s sin is the means through which the riches of heaven have come to earth (i.e., salvation to non-Jews), then Israel’s salvation after their own transgression will be ever more glorious (11:25-27). The drama of redemption truly is the greatest story ever told. (SDG)