1 I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
2 God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? How he maketh intercession to God against Israel saying,
3 Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.
4 But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.
5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. ~ Romans 11:1-5
At the end of Romans 10, Paul tells us that national Israel is a disobedient and gainsaying people; that Israel has rejected the gospel even though the gospel was Israel’s sound and Israel’s words. Paul then begins chapter 11 with the question, “Has God cast away his people, whom He foreknew?”
Paul answers this question with a definitive no, and qualifies his answer by declaring that he, himself, is an Israelite: “For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” ~ 11:1
Paul then cites the remnant in Elisha’s day who had not bowed their knee to Baal to support his position, saying, “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” ~ 11:5
Having already made it abundantly clear that only a remnant of Israelites would be saved (9:27), Paul continues to be true to this theme. Having expressed his great heaviness and continual sorrow of heart for his fellow Israelites according to the flesh (9:1-3). Paul states unequivocally that God’s word has not failed (9:6) because the promises of God are not fulfilled in those who are Israel according the flesh, but instead, they are fulfilled in those who are Israel according to the promise (9:6-8).
Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. ~ Romans 9:6-8
In Romans 10:1 Paul has said, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved.” He does not say “that they might be restored to national prominence.”
Yet, it is national prominence, or national distinction, that so many think Paul is referring to when he says, “all Israel shall be saved” (Romans 11:26). Paul’s exposition in Romans 9 -11 has nothing to do with the national restoration of ethnic Israel. Instead, it has everything to do with individual salvation, and that is precisely why his focus is on the remnant that would be saved from among the hardened nation of Israel.
This is why Paul states that as an apostle to the Gentiles, one of his desires is to provoke his fellow Israelites to jealously.
For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation (jealously) them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. ~ Romans 11:13-14
There is nothing in Romans 9-11 that indicates that Paul is speaking of a national restoration of the physical nation of Israel, nor is there any thought that Paul thinks that all ethnic Jews will one day be saved.
What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? ~ Romans 9:22-24
Notice that the vessels of mercy are those who are called from among the Jews and the Gentiles. Does this then mean that God has excluded some while accepting others? Absolutely not!
National Israel, who was hardened, is the vessel of wrath. Yet within Israel there are those individuals who have obtained mercy because of their faith in God. Likewise, the nations which reject God are also vessels of wrath, but within them there are some who obtain mercy because they seek for God.
In Romans 9-11, Paul is not making a case for national Israel. Instead, Paul is showing how that in spite of Israel’s failure, the purpose of God according to election stands. It is in this regard that Paul says “God has not cast away his people?” Yet later, in verse 15, Paul does use the language of casting away (which he uses in 11:1-2) to refer to Israel in unbelief whom God has hardened.
For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? ~ 11:15
Notice that Paul refers to a casting away and a receiving again in the same verse. What exactly is he referring to? Is he talking about a regathering of an ethnic people as a covenant nation once again? No, not by any means.
Consider briefly the words of Jesus from the gospel of John:
1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. ~ John 15:1-6
The casting away of which Paul speaks is a reference to hardened Jews who are cut off from the covenant family of God because the do not believe Jesus is the Messiah.
In Romans 3:3-4, Paul says the following:
3 For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?
4 God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.
A major theme throughout Romans is God’s faithfulness. In Christ Jesus God has accomplished exactly what he always promised he would do. The promises of God have not failed due to the unbelief of hardened Jews within Israel, but rather, through Christ, God has fulfilled his promises just as he promised he would.
On the heels of the verdict that Israel has not obeyed the gospel (chapter 10), Paul contends that God has not cast away Israel (with regards to his grace to save) because there is a remnant among them who will believe even though the nation at large has rejected the gospel.
Remember, Paul quotes Isaiah’s saying:
27 Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:
28 For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.
29 And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha. ~ Romans 9:27-29
Israel is not beyond the saving grace of God, even though as a nation they were cut off. There is a remnant among the people of Israel who will be saved.
1 I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name.
2 I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts;
3 A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face; that sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick;
4 Which remain among the graves, and lodge in the monuments, which eat swine’s flesh, and broth of abominable things is in their vessels;
5 Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day.
6 Behold, it is written before me: I will not keep silence, but will recompense, even recompense into their bosom,
7 Your iniquities, and the iniquities of your fathers together, saith the Lord, which have burned incense upon the mountains, and blasphemed me upon the hills: therefore will I measure their former work into their bosom.
8 Thus saith the Lord, As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it: so will I do for my servants’ sakes, that I may not destroy them all.
9 And I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah an inheritor of my mountains: and mine elect shall inherit it, and my servants shall dwell there. ~ Isaiah 65:1-9