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?

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

  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.”

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    • 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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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)

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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