4.13 Romans -- But What About Israel? Part 2, cont.
But in the last half of Rom 11, Paul goes beyond hope for Israel's conversion.
Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved....As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.... For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all (Rom 11:25-32).
This passage has set the scholars' heads spinning, not to mention the eschatologists'. It has led many to believe in a mass conversion of Jews to faith in Jesus Christ as a sign of the End Times. But what is really interesting here is that Paul bases the favor of God for the Jews upon the same source as God's favor for the Gentiles -- the patriarchs, specifically Abraham. This takes us all the way back to God's covenant blessings in Genesis, two of which were:
a. Abraham will initiate a whole new family that is uniquely blessed and set apart
b. eventually, all nations of the world will look to Abraham and bless themselves by him
According to Paul, it was Abraham's faith in this Promise from God that made him righteous in God's eyes. This same faith is what justifies the Gentiles who put their faith in Jesus as God's Son. And it is God's love for Abraham that provides a basis for mercy to his descendants. So Abraham becomes, for Paul, not the man who divides humanity between Chosen People and foreigners, but one who unites them under the Promise God made him:
The promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring -- not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all (Rom 4:16).
Though the origins of God's people derive from two streams, Jew and Gentile, they are one in destiny. There is only one holy nation of God, one righteousness of faith, and one Savior of all who believe.