Is God Faithful to His Promise to the Jews? – Romans 9-11

Romans 9-11 deal with the “problem” of the Jewish people in the present age. If God has begun a new program to deal with all peoples equally without giving a special advantage to Israel, one might ask if Israel is completely cut off from God’s blessing. What about the promises that God made to Abraham and David? Would he fulfill those promises at some point in the future? Or has God completely cut off Israel’s special place in his plan due to their unfaithfulness.

AbrahamPaul’s intention in Romans 9-11 is not to give a complete exposition of predestination and election, he restricts his comments to God’s choice of Israel as a favored nation, and within Israel those who believe, the true Israel (Dunn, Romans, 546). A few general comments about God’s choice of Israel as his people are possible.

The election of Israel was not based upon works. Paul makes this point by using the election of Jacob as an illustration in verse 12. Before the children were born and could do deeds of merit or sinful deeds, the choice was made. Even the choice of Isaac is made before he is born. Paul cites Genesis 18:10-14 to show Isaac was the son of promise, not Ishmael. It was not Sarah’s faith that was the basis of the choice since she laughed at the idea of having a child. One cannot even say it was through Abraham’s faith his son was chosen since the promise of a child was made in the initial promise in Genesis 12, before Abraham had believed.

In the first paragraph of Romans 9 Paul lists the advantages of Israel’s election, including their adoption as sons, the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship, the promises, and patriarchs. Even the Messiah is a blessing given to Israel Yet the fact they have all of these things and do the Works of the Law and Temple worship does not guarantee them salvation.

If the election of Israel is not based on works, on what is it based? The key phrase in this section is in verse 11: God’s electing purpose.The “purpose” of God is rooted in the Old Testament idea of an eternal God whose will transcends human will. Israel is God’s people because of God’s free decision. This decision not based upon any conditions. For Paul, there is not a need to explain the reasons for God’s choice, they are summed up by the phrase “electing purpose of God.”

Paul argues that because Israel was chosen by God to be his people, the nation still has advantages even in unbelief. In in 9:4-5 these advantages are outlined in very brief straightforward statements. These advantages are not in the past, but in language suggesting the benefits are Israel’s at the present time. Paul vividly describes his sadness of Israel’s rejection of Christ. But it also serves to show that the election of Israel has some meaning in the present time.

Paul is therefore arguing God is faithful to his promises despite the current state of Israel’s unbelief. Will God be faithful to the promise to Abraham and restore Israel in the future? Does their present state of unbelief mean they will not receive a promised restoration in the future?

26 thoughts on “Is God Faithful to His Promise to the Jews? – Romans 9-11

    • What is the advantage to unbelieving Jews that die in their unbelieve. I don’t see hell as an advantage. I do not see an advantage in ust being a Jews. I see an advantage of both the Jew and Gentile who believe.

  1. Romans 9-11 deals with God’s chosen people; the Israelites. Although Israel is talked about a lot in these chapters, they are not the main topic. According to Moo, “Israel is not the main topic of these chapters. The main topic is the integrity of God” (Moo, 147). If we recall the audience that Paul is writing too, it was composed of quite a few Gentiles because the Jews were scattered from Rome! With this background in mind, it makes sense that the main theme surround 3 chapters wouldn’t focus just on one group of people. In these chapters, Paul is trying to describe that God is going to keep his Old Testament promises. God is sovereign and just, as Psalms 9:8 states: “He rules the world in righteousness and judges the peoples with equity.”

    • I agree that the people of Israel are not the main topic of Romans 9-11, but I believe it is important for Paul to address them to put them on the same level as Gentiles. Paul explains how the promises of the Old Testament are not without value, but it is revised to not only follow the law but to believe in the works of Christ it be the sole source of providing the freedom from sin. In Romans 9, is it possible that Paul needs to address the Jews so the Gentiles and Jews can be judged be with equality under the same information of the law presented to them.

  2. Moo explains how one of Paul’s greatest motivators for evangelizing to gentiles is that he hopes his own people will find the means to come to Christ (p. 130). I know God is faithful and keeps his promises made, but I believe purpose of Romans is to explain to all people freedom from sin can only be achieved through Christ. Moo bring up a great point in relation to what Paul states in 9:30-10:21 that the “people of Israel are responsible for their spiritual failure” (p.133). If the Lord had provided a new command for this people to follow, it would make sense for the Isralites to adjust their ways and follow the command. Paul explains Romans 9:30-32 that the works of the law do not obtain righteousness, but it is by faith so the people of Israel need to adjust and follow the new command.

  3. Paul says in 11:26 that “all Israel will be saved”. Douglass Moo states that the salvation of Israel is a future eschatological event (Moo).God will not go back on any of his promises. He has not rejected Israel, even though many Jews had rejected him. However, Paul mentions the “true Israel”, as you said in your post, which is made up of all who believe. Moo explains it as, not all physical members of the nation of Israel belong to “Israel” in the spiritual sense (Moo). Salvation is found in Jesus alone, for both Jews and Gentiles. God is Lord over all people and creator of everything. We can see a shift from the nation of Israel to the church. God will always be faithful to his promises, despite unbelief. It is all based on the will of God and his desire to establish his covenant with Israel. God is continuing to present his grace to Israel by calling Jews to be saved (11:1-10), and he holds out hope for a greater gift of grace for Jews in the future (11:11-36) (Moo). He is a faithful and gracious God.

    Moo, Douglass J. Encountering the Book of Romans. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002. Print.

  4. I like how you used the example of Abraham and Sarah and their two sons to draw the conclusion that God indeed predestines an outcome or establishes a promise He will fulfill long before man is involved. I had a hard time understanding the connection of predestination or “election” until this story was explained. God is faithful and will be faithful to the promises He made to the nation of Israel. For God sets plans in motion whether his counterparts, us humans, go along with it or have belief or not. We also need to be aware that God is far above our human knowledge ((Isa 55:9) and thus cannot begin to fathom what He is preparing and promising us right now for our future in the smaller scheme of things. As Romans 9-11 states, we can see God’s promises declared way before our time in the bigger context as well.

  5. Looking through the Old testament we are able to read about the stories where God was with the people, and the promises he makes with his chosen people. We are able to see it in Abraham and Sarah when God promised them a son at an older age in life. He also promised Abraham that he would be a father of many nations. If we are able to look and see the completed promises God has made for the people in the past we can be assured that God is going to be with us now, and be with us in the future. For me I tend to forget that God is always working inside my life, and things are happening for his benefit. But when I have the doubting thoughts and questioning God’s plan I always remember that God is always speaking into my life I just have to be tuned in to listening for him.

  6. Israel did reject Jesus. However, God made a promise to them. He would one day, restore then. God is God. What I mean by that is, He created us. If I were to paint a picture, it would be to my choosing where I wanted to place that painting. In the same way, God has every right to make whatever choice he sees fit. Since Israel rejected God he has now opened the door to the gentiles. And while doing that he has put Israel on hold, as if you were to press pause on a DVD. So now the Paul is the missionary to the gentiles. And the gospel Israel rejected is now being accepted by the gentiles. Eventually I believe God will restore Israel and fulfill the promises made to Abraham. But, this will only take place in God’s perfect timing. “By choosing Israel from all the nations of the earth to be his own people, God adopted this nation as his own” (Moo 132). This term adoption was used early on in Romans, and once someone was adopted they can not be disowned. Again, God will restore his people in due time.

  7. This is a topic that is new to me. This is the first time I’ve ever thought about this question. At first I want to say that redemption and salvation comes through Christ alone, but I’ve always known that God will keep his promises. Although, I don’t recall God ever promising Israel salvation. In the Abrahamic Covenant God promised Abraham 3 things, lots of land, lots of offspring, and blessings. Therefor, if God brings salvation through Christ alone, then God wouldn’t be breaking His promise to Israel.

  8. Israel’s unbelief does not mean that all of them are cut off from God’s promise to restore Israel in the future. Jews like the Pharisees, who did works and went through the motions for the sake of looking righteous more righteous, or Jews that were outright disobedient to God’s will would be excluded though. Paul mentioned how God would not abandon and disown all of His chosen people, and Isaiah 10:20-22 says that despite the many Jews that turn away from God and live in unbelief, there will be a small amount of Jews who remain faithful that will be restored as was promised by God. Isaiah referred to the group of Israelites saved as “the remnant” or “a remnant.” As mentioned in the article, God accomplished His purpose of election and chose Israel and his descendants to be His people. Moo discusses in chapter thirteen how this election was not based on physical descent, but due to God’s purpose of election. Additionally, Moo included how there is the concept of a “physical Israel” and a “spiritual Israel.” The physical Israelites, were the Jews merely included by descent but were not living by faith or obedience, and thus would be set aside from the restoration. The spiritual Israelites were those included in the remnant, who would be restored due to their faith. God does not go back on His side of a bargain, just because sinful humans go back on their half of a covenant or promise. His unconditional love and His grace allow for everyone to have the chance to gain salvation, therefore He would not condemn all Israelites and go against His promise of restoration since a remnant of Israel remain faithful to His will.

  9. I very much believe that even though God’s chosen people have rebelled and still do, that God will work in them to redeem them once more. God did so once and He would not have made them His chosen people if He did not plan to use them until the end because He already knew what sins they would commit. God is also a God of truth and Zechariah 9:16-17 talks about God’s goodness and how He will save his people for the second coming of Christ. Yes the Jews have messed up a bunch, but God cannot go back on making them His chosen people or from fulfilling such a prophecy as to save them in the future. The promise that God made to Abraham will indeed withstand time and rebellion as God has made His people His heirs and therefore cannot just turn around and un-inherit them.

  10. I personally believe that God is faithful to his promises. Through the Bible, He has continually shown His faithfulness and love toward everyone. It is true, that Romans 9-11 does talk about Israel a decent amount, but they are not the sole topic or theme (Moo, 147-148). God addresses the Jews and Gentiles a like in these chapters to make a point. The main point being made here is God’s integrity and that fact that He is going to keep and fulfill the promises He made. Christ is a charge, he is just and will deal with people according to how He sees fit. As we read the Bible, we come across books and chapters that explain how distant and uninterested the Israelites are in God. Their disobedience and lack of love towards God is unbelievable, yet this does not mean that God will not fulfill or keep His promises to them. God is not like man. God keeps his word and looks at the heart, not the outward appearance (1 Samuel 16:7). God’s plan and purpose for Israel was simply put on hold because of their disobedience, but God will fulfill what his plan was for them later on, in His timing. Just as we continue to sin and at times follow the path that does not lead to Christ every time, that does not mean that we lose our salvation and that Christ is not faithful and loving towards us. Similar to this example is the issue of Israel with God. Israel’s present state of unbelief does not mean that God will not restore them in the future.

  11. In my opinion, a promise from God can never be broken. If it is God’s will, He will construct a way to lead a person or a group of people in a direction that will eventually bring into fruition the promise He made with them. If we believe that Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), then one must consequently believe that what God has inspired to be written cannot fail. In light of this, God will restore Israel. Doug Moo writes that “Israel” has to meanings: physical Israel and spiritual Israel. (P. 133) Not everyone who comes from Israel is a spiritual descendant. With this in mind then, when Paul writes that “…God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.” (Romans 9:18), it shows that God has chosen who will be considered spiritual Israel and who will not be. This “remnant” of Israel inside of Israel will be restored. (Moo, 134) (Romans 11:5)

  12. “…at the present time, there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace” (Rom 11:5). Paul states here that Israel is chosen by God through Grace. He has selected a remnant, and He will not dismiss the covenant He created with them even if the remnant were to disobey him. If God’s faithfulness was based upon works, Israel would have not been deserving of the covenant long before Paul wrote this. Because of the nature of sin within every man, there is no way that we could completely follow God’s commandments perfectly. God being omnicsient knew that even his chosen people would fall, and we also know that God is unchangeable (Heb:13:8) and would not remove his grace or faithfulness from the Israelites or from us. In TTP Longenecker points out in Romans 11:7-10 that God had hardened some of Israel’s heart. This seems confusing as God wants obedience from his people, but Paul argues that God did this to make “space” for Gentiles to come into relationship with God, making Israelites jealous of their relationship, thus bringing them back into obedience with God.

  13. After reading Romans 9-11 I do believe that God is faithful to his promise to the Jews even if the Jews might not have seen it like that right away. God does things for a reason and only he knows why he does those things. We just have to follow through and go through the obstacles that he puts in front of us because God knows that we are capable of overcoming whatever he puts in front of us. God works in mysterious ways even when we might not think of it like that because of a certain struggle that we are in but he does.

  14. In regards to God being faithful to the promise of restoring Israel in the future, I think Paul tries to supplement his answer by lecturing the people of Israel on the steps God has taken both in the past and future to bring about this promise of restoration. As Longenecker explains, Paul combats Israel’s frustration by drawing back in a sense to, surveying the future contours of salvation (Longenecker, 187). Paul defends his analogy by referencing the ways of the Old Testament and how God has used individuals to carry on the promise of Israel. Meaning that in the past, God as always choosing someone from the subset of Abraham’s family to carry on God’s promise. Paul tries to explain that this promise is now placed on Jesus, but they remained unconvinced. In terms of the question regarding their present state of disbelief, I believe they will be restored. Paul makes it clear in Romans 11:26-27 that all of Israel will be saved when the special delivery from Zion comes. According to Longenecker, when this delivery comes any lack of faith by Israel will be transformed by the covenant-making God into a faithful allegiance (Longenecker, 187). Therefore, these temporary state of disbelief will be reversed when Jesus makes his arrival.

  15. For me, I would take a position more in the middle. Israel has received some of the promises from God, and has benefitted from these. There are also still some promises left to be fulfilled and I do believe these will be fulfilled in the future. Yet, at this moment Israel is being set aside. Not that the church, the body of Christ, replaces Israel in the Old Testament’s covenants, because it does not. The church today is not Israel. One of the ways that I see God’s promises to Israel being fulfilled in the future is with the 144,000 mentioned in Revelation 7. These people are taken from among the twelve tribes of Israel, not from Gentiles. So while Israel is set aside at the moment, I believe they already received some of God’s promises fulfilled and there are some still to be fulfilled.

  16. .We teach our youth that God always keeps his promises and there are examples of that through out the OT and even in Jesus coming to earth is a kept promise of the messiah coming from the line of David. Sarah having a child is God keeping his promise to Abraham and Sarah. So, what about the people of Israel. As Moo points out that in 9:30-10:21 “The people of Israel themselves are responsible for their spiritual failure” (Moo, 133). Paul does argue that God is continually showing his grace to Israel and the Jewish people to be saved. Paul makes a distinction between a physical nation of Israel and a spiritual Israel in 9:6-13 in which Moo points out “not all physical members of the nation of Israel belong to Israel in a spiritual sense” (Moo, 133). Or Paul is defining Isreal in both a physical place on earth and a Spiritual Israel in to which God will keep his promises. In the end yes God does keep his promises, but we can not put a time frame on when those promises are to be kept. If we believe that God fulfills his promises in his time we need to ask is God talking about the physical place here on earth called Israel or as points points out did God promise those who “spiritually” belong to Israel.

  17. Growing up in the church, I never thought that there was any question of God making a mistake or forgetting one of His promises. I think so often, in the New Testament, this was considered because they had a different idea in mind as to how or when those promises were to be made, but as we have seen in previous stories, humans ideas of those promises narrow our view: like Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 17. They knew the promise of descendants, but they were never told when that would happen, yet due to their human mindset, they panicked because they thought that their bodies where running out of time. God is faithful always, but it may not happen when we want it to or how we expect it to. “He does not need to consult us before he decided what he is going to do” (Moo, 158). He knows what He is doing and He has never gone against His attributes or forgotten His promises.

  18. Though Israel rejected Jesus, God still made a promise to them. God is faithful. The promises he made to David and Abraham that he would restore Israel to justification and glory is still able to happen. He allowed gentiles to be saved through faith alone in order to help Israel understand that they were wrong. For a very long time Israel has still yet to consider Jesus as their messiah.
    This may be a stretch, but I think the fact that God is still keeping his promise to Israel, even after a couple thousand years of denial of Christ, goes to show that our God keeps his promises for all people. He promises that for those who believe in The Lord Jesus, they will inherit eternal life in the kingdom of heaven. This promise is for ALL people. Every single person today has a change to inherit this, as promised and delivered by God. The reason though why God chose Israel as his people, is not because any specific reason. He doesn’t ever tell us why. He just does it. His will is perfect.

  19. The answer to the question “Is God faithful to his promise to the Jews?”, is critical to belief in Paul’s gospel because salvation ultimately lies in the hands of a God who either fulfills his word or not. If God is not faithful to his promise to the people of Israel than why would he be faithful to Christians (TTP p.186). In Romans 9 Paul made the point that the portion of Abraham’s children that would receive the promise was chosen by God’s election for his purposes. God did not choose Isaac or Jacob based upon what they would do but solely based upon his will. It is because it is God’s will that he will fulfill his promises not based on human works (ESVSB p.2173). Paul emphasized that Gentiles were not being called to a different faith than those from ethnic Israel but into something Israel had been a part of since the beginning. At this point only some Jews were able to understand and accept Jesus’ salvation, a salvation through faith rather than by works of the law. Still, Paul used the analogy of branches being grafted into an olive tree to illustrate that Gentile believers were now able to share in Israel’s spiritual blessing through Jesus. Romans 11:29 says, “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” meaning that Israel will someday be saved despite the present hardening of some. Paul calls this a mystery which he reveals to keep Gentiles from becoming proud (ESVSB p.2177). God’s promises to both the people of Israel and the Gentiles will be fulfilled in his wise timing.

  20. Although the Israelites rejected God on multiple occasions, including rejecting his own son Jesus Christ, I believe God still remained faithful and keep his promise with them. The promise that he made with Abraham and Isaac is still able to happen, after all judgment day has not come yet. He allowed the Gentiles to have faith and be saved through that faith in Jesus Christ. I think he did this in order to illustrate to the Israelites that they were wrong about the Messiah and are in need of repentance. God made a promise to the Israelites that they would be God’s people; not his only people. “Gentile Jesus-followers are to see themselves as having been included in something that has involved ethnic Israel from the beginning” (Longenecker, p.189).

    Paul uses the illustration of the olive tree to represent this point in Romans 11. The people of God are portrayed as an olive tree and some branches were removed, due to lack of growth or faith. Gentiles are the wild shoots grafted into the olive tree that now share in the root of the tree. (ESVSB, p. 1508). Those who are chosen by God will reap benefits; whether Jew or Greek. God’s promises to both the people of Israel and Gentiles that through faith your branches will grow and receive life through Him. We know that Israel is still the root of God’s plan and at the center but there are offspring from that tree that extents far beyond the knowledge of the Israelites of that day and age.

  21. I believe that God is truly faithful to his promises because I am a witness of him keeping his end of the bargain even though it seemed as if he was late or not on my timing he came through when I needed it the most . We as Christians reject Jesus just how the Israelites did, but God still made a promise to the Israelites that one day he would restore them. But they couldn’t get it in there heads quick enough so he closed that chapter for a minute and when to the gentiles and Paul was sent there to spread the gospel, just as the Israelites didn’t want to accept Jesus the gentiles where now understanding. God didn’t turn his back on the Israelites, it was almost as if he said okay just take a breather for a second and we can regroup later because God does promise to never leave or abandon his chosen people despite the many Jews that had unbelief God does not go back on His side of a bargain, just because sinful humans go back on their half of a covenant or promise.

  22. Oftentimes, we think of the New Testament as dealing primarily with gentiles and those other than the Jews. While obviously, the New Testament is concerned with non-Jewish people, it is also greatly concerned with the Jewish people and their future. This is found in Paul’s discussion in Romans 9-11, which speaks upon Israel’s election, predestination, and role in the present age. This would have been of immense concern for the first-century Jewish converts, who would have questioned whether Israel was completely removed from God’s blessing and if God’s promises to David and Abraham are no longer applicable.
    As Long notes, Israel’s election was not founded upon works, which was illustrated by Paul’s exploration of Jacob’s election. God elected Jacob even before his birth, removed from any ability to acquire merit or sin against God. Furthermore, Paul acknowledges how Isaac was also elected before his birth, citing Genesis 18:10-14 to show it was not Ishmael who was not the son of promise. God’s choice was not based on Sarah’s or Abraham’s faithfulness since the promise was first introduced in Genesis 12 before Abraham began to believe in God.
    One might question if the election of Israel was not because of works, what was this election of Israel initiated by? The answer is found in Romans 9:11, which asserts that it was solely by God’s free choice he elected Israel. There is no condition to this election, even though faithfulness is often seen as necessary to remain in God’s covenant. It is not necessary for God to provide a direct reason for His election, the only statement He provides is that it was the “electing purpose of God”. This shows the first-century Jewish Christians that God has not forgotten or forsaken His promises or covenant with His elected people.

  23. God never made any promises to the Jewish people as the Jewish people didn’t exist until the 2nd-8th century AD.

    Goes back to the revolt of the Maccabees and the forced conversion of Canaanites, Edomites and other peoples to the Temple Faith(remember, the last King of a unified Kingdom of Judea was an Edomite, and Rome carved the Kingdom up to give to Herod’s sons.). Of the Kingdom of Judea(Israelites), many converted to Christianity, many more died during the three failed revolts against Rome.

    The overwhelming majority of Ashkenazi Jew’s, are descendants of Turkish-Khazarian converts during the 6th to 8th century. I do remember a verse in the Bible about God dragging Japheth, Edom, Canaan and Ethiopia to the “Land of Promise” so he could could smite them….

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