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Verses 25 to 36 draw Paul’s great theology of the gospel to a close. He has been directing us in the first 11 chapters to the heart of God’s love towards us. As he concludes he speaks of a future time when the Jews (ethnic Israel) will come to know the fullness of the gospel through Jesus Christ. For now they have been partially hardened towards the good news, but when the fullness of Gentiles has been achieved (a time and number we do not know), then God will remain faithful to his covenant people. Paul is clear – the only way for Jew or Gentile to know salvation is and can only be through Jesus Christ.

As we live gospel lives today we have great certainty that God is faithful to his promises and he will remain so. Our faith is not misguided, but is well placed.

Romans – The heart of the Gospel is a teaching series from Annalong Presbyterian Church. Find out more at

David McCullagh:

As we come to the final section of Romans 11 this evening we are simply picking up where we left off last week because the first 24 verses of chapter 11 has focused our attention on what it means to be engrafted branches into this great salvation plan of God and this was where the Gentiles had been brought into the covenant promise of salvation by the kindness of God and this was due to the rejection of the gospel by the Jews. Paul explained this rejection as being of benefit to the Gentiles, as being of benefit to us. Because it meant that we have the opportunity now to respond to the gospel. Now, that's not to say that Gentiles couldn't respond to God's love and become members of his covenant family in the Old Covenant. But it is in the New Covenant that this is through Jesus Christ because of what he achieved in Calvary's cross and through the empty tomb. One of the key teachings was a warning to the Gentiles not to be arrogant about this because if God did not spare the natural branches then he would not spare them either if they took for granted by their birth or by their culture any form of right to this gospel and salvation. So that's kind of a short little introduction of where we're going to go or pick up from this evening. But I want to use an illustration that I hope might help us as we go through, uh, tonight. I'm sure many of you have been to the theatre in one shape or another. I enjoy going to the theatre. I was given a ticket to a show later on in the year and I am looking forward to going seeing a play later in Belfast in the year. But I also enjoy going to hear music, be that the Ulster Orchestra or indeed New Irish Arts and their wonderful Christmas performances. And one thing that you have, uh, whenever you enter into wherever the theater is, you're normally thrust or something's thrust in front of you by the shape of a program. Now, ordinarily you'll have to pay for this, but the program lets you know who's taking part. It lets you know who the key leads are and what's going to be happening. But more importantly, it tells you what is going to be the structure of the evening. It's a little bit like an order of service. And for many plays and indeed for concerts, it'll be described in acts. Act 1, Act 2 mainly or sometimes Act 3. These acts are there so that we know not only where the breaks are going to be, but also how the story or the rhythm of the music will flow because each act will have its own significant part to play in creating the whole big story. And I use this example of the theater and the acts in a play to help us understand this passage this evening so that we can understand something of Salvation history as being played out in three acts. This Salvation History is the story, it's our story, and it takes centre stage. But we need to understand it as God does, and what his perfect and pleasing will is in it. And in our passage tonight, Paul will present to us three acts of this story. Each one necessary, and each one important. And in these verses, Paul is continuing to address his audience of verse 13, because there we discover that Paul was speaking to Gentiles when he said, Now I am speaking to you, Gentiles. And as much then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my, my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save myself. And so Paul starts in verse 25 by stating that he wants complete clarity on this issue. He doesn't want his Gentile audience to be ignorant in any way about this mystery that he's about to speak of. Paul is demonstrating a pastoral concern here for these believers. He doesn't want them to be conceited in their own wisdom. And at each stage in his letter, Paul is arguing so that there is clarity and not ambiguity. And this is what the mystery is, as we read in verse 25. Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers. A partial hardening has come upon Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. We've heard this from Paul before, but here again he is saying that this hardness in the hearts of the Jews is happening, and it is happening for the benefit of the Gentiles. The Jewish hearts have been hardened for a period, and that period will come to an end when the full number of Gentiles has come in. Now hardening occurs when God lets people deepen their spiritual insensitivity and become settled, lulled into a life in this world, even confident in what this world offers, and they become confident then in their godlessness. That's what it means to have a hardened, to be confident in your godlessness. Once the full number of elect Gentiles has come into God's family, then we're told in verse 26 that all Israel will be saved. And the proper interpretation of what this is saying here is a much debated one. And it all begins with the term Last week I said that we would use what Paul has already said to help us interpret this chapter. And in all nine previous uses of the word Israel, in Romans 9 to 11, it refers to Jews contrasted with Gentiles. Therefore, using what Paul has already given us in this letter, it is mistaken to understand Israel as a national, political, or physical entity. Simply because what Israel are we talking about? Are we talking about an Israel that entered into the promised land? Are we talking about an Israel at the height of the rule of David and Solomon? Are we talking about an Israel that came back from exile? Are we talking about an Israel post Rome? Are we talking about an Israel of a 1947 political construct? Exactly what Israel, if we're looking at geopolitical, are we talking about? Paul doesn't use it in terms of a nation state. Paul does not use it in terms of a geopolitical country. As Paul talks about Israel between Romans chapter 9 and 11, Israel is defined as the Jewish children of Abraham, wherever they live. Because in both the 1st and indeed the 21st centuries, most Israelites were and are scattered through many nation states. And so Paul's concern here, as we would expect, is a spiritual concern. It's not a geographical concern. And it has to be spiritual. Because our land will never save us. Salvation, as Paul has told us from chapter one of this letter, is through Christ alone. It's of a spiritual nature. And so the line, in this way, all Israel will be saved, in verse 26, foretells the future of ethnic Israel, not a geopolitical Israel that can change with any battle or war or with any century, as it has done throughout its history. You see, geopolitical Israel will remain hardened, in part, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. That fullness is the complete number of the redeemed. Now we don't know what that number is, we don't know when that number will be met, but to gain a picture of this fullness, let's turn to Revelation chapter 6 and verse 11, because it's here that John speaks of the fifth seal being opened, and here we're given a picture of those who faced the death of persecution. So he speaks of them who were persecuted, that they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer. When? Until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been killed. God is doing something that we don't fully understand how he will do it. We simply have the confidence to know that he is at work for the sake of his eternal kingdom. Indeed, Israel has been hardened. The Jewish people, their hearts are not towards the gospel, and so we, as Gentiles, are benefiting from the blessing of that in these days. But it is only a partial hardening of Israel. And so here in Revelation 11, John, along with Paul, speaks of a fullness that is to come, or that will come, to heaven. That is what we're seeing. That's what the end result will be. But as we come back to Romans 11, if Israel means ethnic Israel, then the statement, in this way all Israel will be saved, foretells a time when the great majority of Jews will believe. Individuals may still stray at the end since all commonly speaks of a great number. Whenever you go back into scripture it says all, it doesn't mean every single person. Trace other passages of scripture and let scripture interpret scripture. Even whenever we're told that all Judea and Jerusalem went out to Jerusalem or went out to see Jesus in Matthew 3 and verse 5, it doesn't mean that the city was emptied and not a person was in it. When we say all, it means the vast majority. Because even Paul knows, under the Old Covenant, all Israel indeed would never be saved. Because they would never meet the standard. Only those who would be true in their worship of God. Paul is not trying to create something new. Paul is relying on what the whole canon of Scripture tells us. That indeed all Israel will be saved. What that looks like, we do not know. But we can be sure the vast majority of ethnic Jews will come in the last days. to know Christ as their savior. And so there will be a surge of evangelism. Jesus will redeem Abraham's biological seed. But until then, ordinary evangelism continues and will often be successful in every age, even as it was in the early church with Jews, ethnic Israel coming to faith. And Paul confirms this. And as he does, he draws this to a conclusion with a quotation from the Old Testament from Isaiah 59 verses 20 to 21 and Isaiah 27 and verse 9. So straight after, when he says that indeed all Israel will be saved, as it is written, he continues. There's no full stop. The Deliverer will come from Zion. He will banish ungodliness from Jacob. And this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins. In the New Testament, Zion is more city of God than city of David. It is the heavenly Jerusalem, as Hebrews chapter 12 and verse 22 tells us. The Jerusalem above, as Paul states in Galatians chapter 4 and verse 26. In Zion, God made Jesus the cornerstone of his new spiritual house. As we read in 1 Peter chapter 2 and verses 4 to 7. Jesus is the Redeemer from Zion because redemption proceeds from his sacrifice for sins accomplished at the place where the physical and spiritual Jerusalem overlap. And so the Deliverer from Zion, this Redeemer who will come has a three fold ministry. First of all to banish or turn away ungodliness. Isn't that a wonderful thing, to think that all godliness will be done away with? To restore God's covenant, then secondly with Israel, and finally to take away sins as we see it here in verses 26 and 27. So to banish ungodliness is to undo both vertical and horizontal. and horizontal aspects of sin. Because ungodliness starts vertically, as a disregard for God between ourselves and God. But it also then leads horizontally, because horizontal sin in the ungodly disregards God's structures for his world. That means there's strife within our communities. That means there's strife within our homes. Because whenever we're not right with God in the vertical sense. then horizontally with those around us and beside us. Those relationships and the world that God has given us will always be godless if we're not trusting in Him. See, when people pursue happiness, security, or pleasure with no reference to God, Immorality follows. The ungodly assume that there is either no God at all, or no God worthy of attention. The Roman gods, for example, had no abiding interest in human affairs. They were more concerned with themselves. And so, add Roman apathy towards virtues such as mercy and humility, and we see that a disregard for God leads to social sins. Today, people may be godless even if they believe that some god got the universe started in the Big Bang before wandering away. They may pay lip service, but they remain godless because they do not believe or trust in the God whom we know, the God of salvation. And so when the Redeemer banishes Israel's ungodliness, he covenants to take away their sins. He does the same for the nations, so that all the redeemed can stand before God without fear. The price of sin is death, but Jesus already died for the ungodly. He died for us, as Paul has already said in chapter 5. Again, the Deliverer came to re establish the covenant between God and his people, the new covenant in Christ's blood. And since the penalty for betraying the covenant is the blood of the sinner, Jesus shed his blood to take away our sins. So each element of Jesus works holds today. He banishes godlessness. He welcomes people into his covenant. And he forgives sins. This is personal first. As we each stand before a saviour who offers with arms open wide to receive us, but it's also corporate, because it impacts how we live as God's people today. And we need to understand that, that that is the nature of the sin that needs to be dealt with. And the only person to deal with it is God through Jesus Christ. And so it is first personal, as we seek forgiveness of our sins, but we are to live as God's people as he commanded. And therefore there is a corporate nature to seeking that the Redeemer banishes godlessness. That the Redeemer welcomes people into his covenant and the Redeemer forgives sins. And Paul continues in verse 28 by saying as regards the gospel, speaking of Israel, ethnic Israel, they are enemies for your sake, but as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. And Paul here states that as far as the gospel is concerned, the Jews are enemies to it on account of the Gentiles. And again, going back to where Paul, uh, we started in verse 13 this evening, Paul wanted the Jews to be jealous. He wanted to see the gospel take root in the Gentiles so that they would see the living faith and the assurance of salvation that they had, and here it comes again. You see, they're enemies for the sake of the Gentiles in the hope that some might believe. But when it comes to their election, when it comes to God's choosing, they are loved on account of the patriarchs. The reason being that God's gifts and his call are irrevocable. And here there are two things going on. First, the Jews are enemies of the Gospel. They can't stand it. In their mind it messes up their religious tradition. They refuse to acknowledge the Messiah, the one whom they look for. And this, this is the great irony. For the Jews, but they are enemies of it because the gospel has been opened up to the Gentiles, something that they believe is completely unacceptable. But the second thing, they are loved when it comes to election. Whenever we talk about election in Scripture, it's not going out and placing your vote and whoever gets the most amount of votes wins. Election, when it comes to Scripture, is the act of God saving by his grace some guilty sinners whom he has chosen. And Paul is making it clear that it is on account of the patriarchs that indeed the election of ethnic Israel is secure. This does not mean that the acts and relationships of the Patriarchs will save the nation people of Israel, but it does mean that God will be faithful to the promises that he made with the Patriarchs concerning his chosen people. As we said last week, we see this regularly. Perhaps not in large numbers, but through agencies such as Jews for Jesus or the International Mission to Jewish People. Jewish souls being one for Christ, both within geopolitical Israel today and ethnic Israel as spread throughout the world. And in verse 29 Paul goes on to say that it is the gifts and calling of God that are irrevocable. The gifts here of what Paul's talking about would be the covenants, law, worship and promises that he's already mentioned in chapter 9 and verse 4. These go back to Abraham, even to Adam and Eve. And God's calling brought Israel into existence and made her his special people, his treasured possession. These gifts and this calling are irrevocable. The enmity of Israel neither erases God's gifts nor silences his call for them to believe. And this fits what Jesus, as he told his disciples, love your enemies, And he gave his life as a ransom for many. We can echo God's irrevocable love when we show mercy to people who wound us. A bond formed at work or in church or a promise given through friendship can inspire us to endure with someone despite his or her enmity or indifference. How much more does the Lord continue to call Israel for the sake of the patriarchs, his promises, and his covenants. He is continuing to save his elect people, Jew and Gentile, because in the fullness of his time he will bring both into his eternal. And so we move on to verses 30 and 32. And this is where I bring in our picture of the theatre and three acts of salvation history. Verse 30 tells us that Act 1 is when the Gentiles at one time were disobedient to God and the Jews received the full blessings of God. They were established as a nation, but they were the ones, the only ones, who had access to God through the sacrificial system and correct worship of God. If you wanted to worship God, you had to practice the way the Jews did. Verse 30 goes on to say, 2 that there was a time when the Gentiles are now center stage so that they can know the blessings of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ. And this happened because of the disobedience of the Jews who rejected God's promised Messiah. But that does not mean that some Jews today will be excluded if they come in living faith. Because we come to the bits that we don't fully understand of how it's going to work. We can believe it, and I hope we do believe it, but Act 3 is the true Israel. It is the true people of God who are sealed by his covenant for all eternity. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. No longer is it ethnic Israel. but covenantal Israel, Jew and Gentile alike. No one is automatically saved because of their birth, but each on their understanding and acceptance of the gospel message in Jesus Christ. And we have been thinking about this with the image of a theater play. And if you want to know what this play is called, it is called Salvation History. In John chapter 10 and verse 16, Jesus helps us to see why it is called this. Why indeed it is God's salvation plan, that it is his salvation throughout all of human history. John 10 is the passage where Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd, and there he says And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. Jesus doesn't distinguish between two tracks to salvation. There is one flock, there's only one shepherd of the sheep. So there is one rule for everyone under the one good shepherd. Faith in Jesus is the only way for Jew and Gentile in this New Testament age. to no salvation. And this takes us back to the pastoral point that Paul was making. The Gentiles cannot be arrogant or conceited about their current position. The time will come when they will be just like the Jews. Their only claim will be salvation. So what does this mean for us? Well, our learning can be just as Paul intended. We cannot put down, nor can we elevate the Jews. They are part of God's salvation history. Just as we are. as the Gentiles are. The Jewish hearts are hardened for our benefit. Sometimes that is hard for us to understand today as we are so far removed from a church that was dealing with converts from both Judaism and from the Gentile world of pagan beliefs. But Paul encourages us to keep going with the gospel message until it is clear that the full complement of Gentiles are in and then the Jews will join us. On the center stage, and together as the elect of God, we will acknowledge with one voice, Jesus as Lord. And in a way, that's how Paul finishes this chapter, and he finishes what is the first half of Romans, the great theological explanation of our faith. And he expresses it in what could be described as a doxology. Our time is gone, um, but this, in this doxology, we see the sovereignty of God proclaimed and the place of humanity God is not human. He does not fit into our human moulds. He is God. And the depth of His wisdom and knowledge is more than we can comprehend. In verse 34 and in verse 35, Paul quotes from Isaiah chapter 40 verse 13 and Job 41 verse 11. Job and the audience of Isaiah were blessed by God, but then were subject to, really to sin and to judgments that they considered unfair. After they question God's righteousness while asserting their own, God gives them revelation that they find difficult and they find it unsatisfying. Paul has worked through these difficulties in his own life and in his ministry setting, and he has arrived at a fresh and indeed a joyful apprehension of God's superiority. God's justice and God's perfect righteousness all shown through his mercy or in his mercy through Christ. And so the ascription of praise in verse 36 flows naturally from Paul. For from him and through him and to him are all things to him be glory forever. Amen. And that's an amen that all God's people should declare because Paul ends his account of God's redemptive plan and salvation history with this wonderful praise. We glorify God because all things are from him, since he created them. All are through him. He sustains and he rules all. And all are to him. He is the goal of all things. Because he creates, sustains, and directs all things. God is worthy of our worship and our adoration. After what has been 11 long chapters, particularly in understanding the last few verses that we've looked at, isn't that how we should all respond to God? Whether we fully understand or not, it is to worship Him. Because ultimately that's what he calls Jew and Gentile alike to do. Worship Him as through Jesus Christ. And as we look at this great plan of salvation, salvation history, it's going to do two things for you. It's going to be wonderful assurance because whenever we understand God at work in all of human history, past, present, and future, whatever that future will look like, we have this wonderful assurance that God knows what he's doing so that when we place our trust in him, we know him to be good and we know him to be true. If he has kept his people of old, if he has made his covenant promises and he is faithful to them. Then we can trust Him. We can trust Him with our burdens. We can trust Him with the very sin that weighs us down. We can trust Him with our grief and our unhappiness and our sickness and our pain. We can trust Him because we can be assured that the God of the ages is still ruling and reigning and is working out His plan of salvation. that will come to fulfillment when Christ returns. And so I hope that this passage, as well as these 11 chapters of Romans, are assurance for you. But there's also another response, and it's one of challenge. Perhaps they challenge you because it gives you the stark reality of who you are. That we are not simply pawns in the world. That we're not simply here for our own devices. That we simply don't make up our own way of salvation. God says there is only one way and Paul has demonstrated that for Jew and Gentile alike. It is the redeemer of Zion foretold of old, fulfilled in Jesus who will come. And he will banish ungodliness. He will forgive sin, and he will establish that covenant for all people, Jew and Gentile. But it will only be through himself, Jesus Christ, our Savior. You see, the only way to salvation is through this Redeemer of Zion. We may be in Act 2 of this great play, but Act 3 is coming, and at the close of Act 3, we will know wonders in heaven for those who are redeemed. And for those who are not, who simply think they can make their way in this world without cause of thought for God and be content in their godlessness, will face an eternity where they will perish and punish and be punished forever. So is this assurance for you? I came to know living faith in Jesus Christ at the age of nine. I do not question that moment in my life. It was genuine faith. And as I read Romans, as I read this passage this evening, I have great assurance that even tonight, if my eyes close in death, I have a Savior, the Redeemer of Zion, foretold of old. Who will keep me and who will bring me home. It's wonderful assurance to have, let me tell you. But if it's your challenge tonight, it can be assurance because as Paul said, as Paul himself speaks to us from Romans 5 and verse 8, God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He's done it all. He did it before we even knew we needed it. This is how we answer that challenge. To trust in the Lord. and to live for him until that day when Christ will come or call us home when Jew and Gentile, all Israel will be saved with Gentiles that have been opened up to this wonderful truth of the gospel so that we will know salvation in all its fullness. May you know the assurance of this salvation this night and forevermore. Let's pray. Our Father God, we thank you that as we come to this passage, we almost have a sigh of relief. Because you have remained faithful, not just in these 11 chapters of Romans, but you have remained faithful in your plan of salvation throughout human history. You have made yourself known, you have saved your people, and you will continue to save the Gentiles and in due course the fullness as well of the Jews. Father, we thank you for what you will do, that you are faithful to your promises of old. Thank you that it's all because of Jesus. And so may we truly rest in him this night with full assurance of salvation that as we, as we close our eyes tonight in the great hope that they will open in the morning, that even in the darkness of the night we will have full assurance in Christ as the one who keeps us. May that be our joy. May that be our expression as Paul says, for from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. And so we pray. Amen.

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