4.12 Romans -- But What About Israel? Part 2
Tough luck for the Jews, then. They got served the appetizer, but missed out on the entree and dessert. Paul closes out Rom 10 with a quotation from Isaiah:
But concerning Israel he says, "All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people" (Rom 10:21).
Paul then opens Rom 11 with the rhetorical question, "Did God reject his people?" And based on what he has just written, it sure looks like it! But Paul answers, "By no means." What? Didn't he say the Jews had zeal without knowledge, and did not submit to God's righteousness? (Rom 10:2). So after building up his argument to prove his point, he then asserts the opposite conclusion: "By no means." In Rom 11, Paul shows us a "back door" route to salvation for Israel.
Paul is "dialectical" long before Hegel made that a law of history. He argues one point of view up to its conclusion, and then reverses course. Example:
Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law (Rom 3:31).
He then goes into a chapter where he explains that Abraham was justified by faith, not law. And how does that uphold the law? So later, in chapter 11, after showing how Israel completely missed the boat in recognizing their Day of Visitation, he says that God still has a plan for Israel.
Because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious (Rom 11:11).
He warns the Gentiles not to get cocky at Israel's fall. If God cut off "natural branches" when they failed to believe Him, He will not spare the Gentiles either.
There has been a long and violent tradition of anti-Semitism throughout Christian history, all of which is in violation of Paul's warning. Paul is not proclaiming wrath to the Jews, but holding out hope for their enlightenment:
And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again (Rom 11:23).
There is possible misunderstanding about being "grafted in." A quick reading gives the impression that some foreign branches were grafted into the olive tree in place of some broken natural branches. And these natural branches could be quickly restored if they repented of unbelief (Rom 11:20). This sounds like a potential restoration of the OId Covenant.
This is not correct. Paul says that "the root is holy" (Rom 11:16). It is clear from Paul's earlier discussion in chapters 3 and 4 that the root is Abraham's confession of faith -- it is not the covenant of works stemming from Moses. So the Gentiles were not grafted into Israel proper, but into the spiritual genealogy of Abraham as children of the promise. If and when the Jews are regrafted in, it will not be into the heritage of Moses, but into the olive tree of the faith of Abraham. This is critical for understanding the nature of the church age, and the new relationship of Jews and Gentiles in the New Covenant.
There is no Scriptural justification for racial/religious discrimination against the Jews. There is justification for evangelization of the Jews, which many of them consider anti-Semitism. Wrong: persecution of the Jews throughout history has been motivated by a desire to do them wrong. But evangelism (when done right) is prompted by a desire to bless the Jews, not harm them. When evangelism becomes coercive, it oversteps the line.