Romans 11 Has God Rejected His People Israel?


January 05 2014

Charles e Whisnant

Romans 11 Zech 2 8 Apple of eye

HISTORICAL NOTE: Zechariah, a minor prophet sent by God to encourage His people and warn them of the coming days.  He was of a priestly family that was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC and he was born and educated in Babylon.  He was a contemporary of Haggai. 1

Romans 11 2 a


Deuteronomy 32:10, Psalms 17:8 and Zechariah 2:8

Why is the Lord determined to protect it? The apple is the pupil of the eye. It is the place through which light comes into the eye. It is the place of vision. As the Lord pours out vision after vision, He wants his people to see! He wants Israel to see as He sees; He wants us to see as He sees; through the apple of His eye. He wants you to see how precious you are to Him: for you the one whom He has chosen.

Bear in mind that ‘apple of my eye’ does not mean that God loves Israel more than other nations. “God does not show favoritism” (Romans 2:11). Just as your eyelids and hand raised protects the pupil of your eye, so God protects his people, keeping his covenant to the Patriachs. He is shomer Israel, the One who keeps or guards Israel. Though Israel has suffered much, as a consequence both of Israel’s sins and the sins of the nations, God has kept his covenant and preserved Israel to this day. Amen? 2

Psalms 105: 8, 10-15 He has remembered His covenant forever, The word which He commanded to a thousand generations, 9 Thecovenant which He made with Abraham, And His oath to Isaac. 10 Then He confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, To Israel as an everlasting covenant,

Deuteronomy 28:10, 13

Some, well many believe that the church has taken the place of Israel. Has He? I don’t believe so. Jeremiah 30:11Romans 11:1-2

Jeremiah 31:35-37

Romans 11:1 I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. (NASB: )

1 Samuel 12:22; 2 Kings 23:27; Psalms 77:7; 89:31-37; 94:14)

Rejected (683) (apotheomai from apó = from + othéo = push, thrust, drive) means literally to push aside, thrust way (from) or push off. Figuratively as used here it means to reject, repudiate, refuse to listen to, to cast away or to put away (from).

I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

Romans 11:2 God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel ? (NASB)

(Genesis 44:15; Exodus 32:1; Acts 3:17; 7:40; Philippians 1:22) (Nehemiah 9:30; Luke 4:1; 1 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 1:1) (Numbers 16:15; Jeremiah 18:19-23; John 4:1-3,11)

How does Paul illustrate this remnant truth: The experience of Elijah 1 Kings 18:18-19, 39; 19:1



AND I ALONE AM LEFT AND THEY ARE SEEKING MY LIFE: kago hupeleiphthen monos kai zetousin ten psuchen mou:

Elijah stood for God and seemingly he stood alone. When threatened by wicked Queen Jezebel, Elijah’s mood became one of utter dejection & he fled in because of his fear. But as God reminded this great prophet, He always has a believing remnant (in Israel’s day and our day) no matter how dark the day & no matter how great the unbelief. It is a basic teaching of the Word that the majority will fall from the faith, so God takes the remnant and begins over again. Not only did God always have a believing remnant (cf Isa1:9) but He always used them and blessed them as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.

Romans 11:4 But what is the divine response to him? “I HAVE KEPT for Myself SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL.”(NASB

BUT WHAT IS THE DIVINE RESPONSE TO HIM: alla ti legei auto o chrematismos:

Divine response (5538) (chrematismos) carries the idea of divine answer in the form of an oracle or revelation.


(Numbers 25:3; Deuteronomy 4:3; Judges 2:13; 1 Kings 16:31; 2 Kings 10:19,20; Jeremiah 19:5; Hosea 2:8; Hosea 13:1; Zephaniah 1:4)

A Chosen Remnant

Romans 11:1-4

Romans 11:2 God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew.

I want to try to explain this “whom He foreknew.” what does that mean in the context of what Paul is trying to say:

I am going to use M. Lloyd Jones notes here:

A better word here is “foreordained. Peter uses the word in First Peter 1:20 (we should get there some time this year on Wednesday night)

Peter is referring to our Lord’s death and says that he was “foreordaianed before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.

In our verse Romans 11:2 it therefore means the people whom God “foreordained”.

It doe not just mean that God who knows everthing knows who is going to believe and who is going to reject the gospel.

Anybody who has worked his way through the Epistle to the Romans could not believe that for a second.

The whole argument in chapter 9 ws, that while these two children were still in the womb of their mother Jacob and Esau, God said, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” They had not done anything at all. That is foreordinations, and that is the word that we have here.

It means that God has taken a special interest in this nation. He had set his heart and affection upon them

Indeed it goes further: God made and prepared this nation for Himself;

In Amos 3:2 God addresses these people and says, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth”

Now that can only have one mean;ing. It does not mean that He knew about them because God knows about all the nations of the earth.

It mean, “You only have I known with a special affection and interest; you alone are a people who are a peculiar possession to Me; I am in this intimate relationship to you. I have known you as I have known nobody else. I recognize you, you are My people’.

That is what it means, and that is what God, of course, tells us everywhere in the Bible about His people.

It is the teaching of the whole Bible about the children of Israel.

They had not just come into being like the other nations; they were not a nation like other nations.

God prepared them as a special people for Himself, for His own peculiar possession.

He knows them – “I will be your G”od, and you shall be My people’.

He pledges Himself to them. All that is included in the idea of “foreknowlege” means “foreordination.”

So the Apostle’s statement is this: Why do I say God forbid? I say God forbid for this reason, that God has made this nation for Himself; if therefore He casts them away in the way you are suggesting, it means that is contradicing Himself, it means that God is going back upon His own purpose!

Such a thing is unthinkable.

The purpose of God are always sure. He sees the end from the beginning. God is immutable, He is unchangeable, He is the everelasting God.

SO the Apostle has given us here in and of itself a sufficient explanation of why he speak so strongly and say, “God forbid”!

We come this morning to Romans 11. Romans 9-11 is called a Theodicy — a vindication or defense of God. In Romans 1-8, Paul has laid out God’s sovereign plan of salvation in Yeshua Ha’Moshiach. The Jewish nation as a whole had rejected that Yeshua was the Moshiach which posed a huge problem for them. Because of their rejection of Yeshua, God has rejected them:

“Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. Matthew 21:43 NASB

‘Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie–I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you. Revelation 3:9 NASB

Who would say there were a Jew but really were not? Yeshua is talking about national Jews who are not true Jews. Their synagogue is now a synagogue of Satan. That is strong language.

I believe that the New Testament teaches that God has rejected Israel as a nation and nationally speaking God is finished with Israel. Now this poses a problem; what about all the promises that God made to Israel? Has God gone back on His promises? No, He has not and Romans 9-11 demonstrates this. Yahweh is the covenant keeping God. But His promises have been misunderstood, they were never to all within the nation, but to the elect remnant.

Most Christians today believe that Romans 11 is a proof text that God is going to restore national Israel. Newell writes, “The Eleventh of Romans should at once and forever turn us away from the presumptuous assertions of those who teach that God is through with national Israel.”

Those who hold to a dispensational position argue for Israel’s continuation in the plan of God. Dispensationalism teaches that as part of the events leading to the millennium, ethnic Israel must return to and be established in the Holy land.

Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote, “I cannot understand how you theologians and preachers can apply to the church–or multiplicity of churches—Scripture promises which, in their plain meaning apply to God’s chosen people, Israel, and to Palestine; and which consequently must be still future. The prophetic books are full of teachings, which, if they are interpreted literally, would be inspiring, and a magnificent assurance of a great and glorious future; but which, as they are spiritualized, becomes farcical–as applied to the church they are a comedy.”

I would have to say that Stevenson didn’t know the Scriptures very well when he says, “I cannot understand how you theologians and preachers can apply to the church–or multiplicity of churches—Scripture promises which, in their plain meaning apply to God’s chosen people, Israel, and to Palestine; and which consequently must be still future.” Well let me explain how I can apply scripture promises given to Israel to the Church. We just looked as Revelation 3:9 where Yeshua calls the Jews a synagogue of Satan. He was quoting from Isaiah 60 which says:

“And the sons of those who afflicted you will come bowing to you, And all those who despised you will bow themselves at the soles of your feet; And they will call you the city of the LORD, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 60:14 NASB

Who is Isaiah writing to? Isaiah 1:1 says, “The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz concerning Judah and Jerusalem.” That is who he is talking to in Isaiah 60:14 it is Israelites. If we were Old Covenant Jews, we would understand this prophecy of Isaiah as our Gentile enemies being subservient to us. And the dispensationalist sees this as some thing that will be fulfilled in national Israel in the future. But Goda uses this verse, which was given to national Israel and applies it to the Church, that is true Israel, and it is Old Covenant Israel that is persecuting the Church. God said that the Old Covenant Jews were going to come and bow before the feet of the Church, the true Israel of God. And that is the hermeneutic by which we can apply the promises of Israel to the Church.

Tom Constable writes:

“This chapter proves that God has a future for ethnic Israel, the racial descendants of Jacob. That future is distinct from the future of the church that true believers of both Jewish and Gentile races living now compose. Romans 11 not only vindicates God but dispensational theology.”

John MacArthur writes:

“For if Israel went out of existence there would be no way for God to fulfill His covenants. And so God has caused perpetuity in the Jewish stock. He has caused those people to outlive all other peoples contemporaneous with them in ancient times. They are a phenomenon. They are not God’s ancient people Israel, they are God’s present people and God’s future people to whom He must fulfill His covenants, He must fulfill His promises therefore He must maintain their existence. God has a plan for Israel. His character depends on it. His integrity depends on it. His trustworthiness and faithfulness depend on it.”

So MacArthur says of the Jewish race, “He must fulfill His promises therefore He must maintain their existence.” But the Encyclopedia Brittanica (1973) says, “The Jews As A Race: The findings of physical anthropology show that, contrary to the popular view, there is no Jewish race. Anthropometric measurements of Jewish groups in many parts of the world indicate that they differ greatly from one another with respect to all the important physical characteristics.” (vol. 12, page 1054)

Encyclopedia Judaica Jerusalem (1971) states:

“It is a common assumption, and one that sometimes seems ineradicable even in the face of evidence to the contrary, that the Jews of today constitute a race, a homogeneous entity easily recognizable. The diversity of the racial and genetic attributes of various Jewish colonies of today renders any unified racial classification of them a contradiction in terms. Despite this, many people readily accept the notion that they are a distinct race.”

So anthropologists say there is not a Jewish race today, but dispensationalists say there is. Well let’s work our way through this chapter and see what it is that it teaches.

Chapter 11 subdivides into 11:1-10 and 11:11-32. 11:1-10 says, Can any Jews be saved? And Paul’s answer is, Yes! Then in 11:11-32, Can any more Jews be saved? And again Paul says, Yes!

Before we begin chapter 11, let me remind you of how chapter 10 ended:


This is a quote from Isaiah 65. Paul is using this quote to say that, all the prophecies and all the fulfillments and all the Gospel that Israel heard was not believed by most of them. And Paul is saying in verse 21, “Israel is without excuse for her unbelief.” It is not so much a matter of ignorance, but of obstinance.

Because he had quoted from the prophets who speak about Yahweh bringing Gentiles into a special covenant relationship (e.g., Isa 10:20), Paul feared that some of the Gentile believers in Rome might think they had replaced the Jews as the covenant community. If Yahweh could abandon his covenant with the Jewish people, he could not be trusted — and Christian confidence in him would be undermined. So Paul continues to show that Yahweh has not forsaken His people or His promises.

I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. Romans 11:1 NASB

I say then” — seems to reach back not just to 10:21 but to all of 9:30 — 10:21, which shows that Israel refused to believe in God. The opening question carries on the diatribe rhetorical style, God has not rejected His people, has He?”— Paul answers, May it never be! — this is the strongest negative in the Greek language, “No, no, no, no, never, no way, impossible, absolutely absurd! Whenever this phrase is used in Romans, it always means that is a false conclusion based upon a correct premise. The premise is: Yahweh has rejected the nation Israel. The conclusion is Yahweh has cast away His people. Though the premise is correct the conclusion is wrong.

Who are His people?” — it’s in verse 1, it’s used again in verse 2. It has the idea of possession. They are a people of His own. They are a people that He called, a people that He predetermined to love, a people that He chose and He has not changed His mind. So who are “His people”? Is it the nation Israel? Many say that it is, but I think it is a reference to the remnant within the nation Israel.

Moses said, ‘THE LORD GOD SHALL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN; TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED in everything He says to you. 23 ‘And it shall be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ Acts 3:22-23 NASB

Here Peter says that those within national Israel who don’t listen to Moses and believe in God shall be cut off from “the people”. If you reject the Messiah, you will no longer be “the people.” Peter is saying that from here on, and he is saying this right after Pentecost, so from here on ONLY those who follow God are “the people.” All those who reject Him are the enemies of God and will be judged. Here is a clear indication that the coming of God will result in a new Israel arising out of the old, from which all who reject Him will be cut off. This new Israel will be the nation to whom God will give what the old nation has forfeited (Matthew 21:43). A new nation will be formed with the Christ rejecters cast off.

So I am saying that “His people” is not a reference to the nation Israel as a whole, but to the remnant, the elect, within the nation. Paul uses himself as proof of his premise:

For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin — it seems that Paul uses “descendant of Abraham” and “tribe of Benjamin” to emphasize that he was truly descended from ethnic Israel.

Paul himself was a forceful argument against any claim that God had rejected the nation Israel. Paul was a believing Israelite. The unbelief of Israel, their rejection of Christ, their hatred of the gospel was never more demonstrated than by Paul. He had adamantly rejected the gospel and was guilty not only of persecution, but of shedding the blood of innocent saints.

But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. Acts 8:3 NASB

Before he met the risen Lord when he was on the way to Damascus to arrest followers of  God, he hated everything about what he knew concerning the new sect known as the Way (Acts 19:23). His encounter with the Living Lord changed everything. Paul came to see that God did not destroy his Jewish faith, he fulfilled it.

Paul could say, “I am an Israelite. God has not forsaken me therefore God has not forsaken all the Israelites.” Let’s put it in a syllogism:

Major premise: Paul is an Israelite

Minor premise: God had not rejected Paul.

Conclusion: God has not rejected all Israelites.

In being converted to the Lord God, Paul was living proof that God had not set aside Israel totally. Was the fact that Paul was saved proof that God loved all Israelites? Will the syllogism work if we change the word “all” in the conclusion to “any” Israelites? No! Most Israelites in Paul’s day had been set aside as we see in verse:

What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; Romans 11:7 NASB

Now God has always had a faithful group of people in His nation. It’s never been the whole nation. We saw that so clearly in the ninth chapter.

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; Romans 9:6 NASB

I can’t emphasize how important this verse is, we must understand this. This verse is the key to understanding Israel and the promises of God. They are not all Israel who are descended from Israel”—there are two Israels! The purpose of this distinction is to show that the covenant promises of God did not have respect to Israel after the flesh, not to all physical Israelites, but to true Israel; which is God and all who trust in Him. Therefore, the unbelief and rejection of ethnic Israel as a whole in no way interfered with the fulfilment of God’s covenant purpose and promise.

nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.” Romans 9:7 NASB

In other words, it’s always been selective. It wasn’t all the children of Abraham. Not the children of Ishmael but the children of Isaac.

That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. Romans 9:8 NASB

The children of promise are true Israelites, they are the believing remnant within national Israel. Paul argues that God’s saving word of promise has not fallen because it only refers to those who are truly Israel by promise and election not just by physical birth. And then he goes to the Jacob and Esau illustration.

Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.” Romans 9:13 NASB

It wasn’t the children of Esau but the children of Jacob. So it never was all those out of the loins of Abraham, it was always selective.


Paul is quoting Isaiah 10:22, which testifies of the rejection of the great body of the Jews, and of the election of a small number among them. This is the proposition with which Paul began, “They are not all Israel which are of Israel.”

Isaiah predicts that due to the Assyrian invasion, Israel will be greatly reduced in number, only a remnant would return. The word “remnant” means, that which is left. A carpet remnant is a small piece of the whole. This Scripture demonstrates that God’s promises do not pertain to the mass of Israel but are fulfilled in the remnant. Please hang on to what Paul says here, you will need later, “it is the remnant that will be saved.” Not every Israelite, but only a remnant!

Do you remember what Paul said back in chapter 2 of Romans?

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. Romans 2:28-29 NASB

Here he says that a true Jew is one who is a Jew inwardly, whose heart is circumcised. So we say then that God has not rejected His people. It’s always been a remnant. And there was a remnant at the time of Christ that believed in Him.

God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? Romans 11:2 NASB

The phrase “His people” reminds us of the promises Yahweh made to His people, and Paul quotes here from those promises:

“For the LORD will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the LORD has been pleased to make you a people for Himself. 1 Samuel 12:22 NASB

For the LORD will not abandon His people, Nor will He forsake His inheritance. Psalms 94:14 NASB

Notice that Paul changes the verb tense from “will not” to “has not”. In Samuel the people have abandoned the theocratic rule of God by asking for a king. In 1 Samuel 12 the sins of Israel are rehearsed, but Samuel assures them that Yahweh has not forsaken His people. And in Paul’s situation Israel has sinned by rejecting God, but Yahweh has not forsaken His people.

Rejected” — is from the Greek apotheomai, it means, to push away from oneself, to repudiate, to reject. So God has not pushed away or rejected His own called people whom He predetermined to love.

The word “foreknew” is from the Greek word proginosko. The background of the term must be located in the Hebrew Scriptures, where for God “to know” refers not to simple knowledge, but to covenantal love:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5 NASB



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