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Has God rejected His people? Critically discuss Pa

ul’s response to this
question with particular reference to Roman’s in chapters 9-11.

The Book of Romans is a beautiful study of systematic theology,
getting into the details of deep doctrines of the faith in Christ
Jesus and the righteousness of God the Lord. Paul, in his epistle
to Roman Church, navigates through the topics of faith in God,
(Christology), the state of Church at Rome, spiritual gifts, the
Christian’s mind, attitude, the election and thespiritual
perseverance of Christian saints. The Roman church people were
mostly Gentiles. The Christians at Rome had to undergo several
horrible persecutions and torture during those periods (Meeks
2003). Despite suffering all these tortures, Christians at Rome
matured and became bold and stronger in the faith. God in his
wisdom could see the miseries and struggles of people of Rome and
knew that they would really appreciate good counseling. He sent
them heavenly manna showered through the pen of Paul (Roetzel
1999). Paul’s letter to the Church at Rome (Church mostly
constituted by Gentile population likely founded by Paul himself)
was in AD 58 prior to his trip to Jerusalem in order to distribute
the alms given to be delivered to the poor over there. He had
planned to visit Rome followed by Spain (Romans 15: 24). This
epistle was intended to prepare way for Paul’s visit to Christians
at Rome in order to give necessary counsel to idolatrous,
backsliding, unbelieving population there (Hooker 2003). The
formal nature of this epistle announces its significance and
appropriateness. The book of Romans proclaimed the theory of
justification by faith. Paul introduces the approach and concept
of sinners receiving the experience of salvation, through the
grace acquired through faith in Christ Jesus, irrespective of
their physical, spiritual and racial background. God is merciful
unto all. Paul opens his heart through this epistle affirming that
he is a bondservant of Jesus Christ.

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Johannes Munck in his book, Paul and the Salvation of Mankind,
tries to explore Paul’s position and attitude in the light of his
missionary works. He watches Paul right from his calling at
Damascus. The experience of Paul regarding the heavenly call was
found similar to that experienced by Jeremiah and Servant of II
Isaiah (a similar call bringing salvation to Gentiles). The
kingdom of God is waiting for the fulfillment of the proclamation
of gospel to Gentiles. The point of completion of the quota of
Gentiles is a crucial factor in redemptive history as given in the
book. There begins the Israel redemption and the arrival of
antichrist followed by the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ for his
chosen ones, bringing judgment according to human deeds. According
to the book, Peter and Paul had different approaches to gospel.

Peter approached Israel directly whereas Paul concluded that
Israel is unyielding and approached Gentiles (Evans & Porter
2000). Munck watches the Jewish community at the time of Acts.

Jesus’ and his disciples’ mission were centered in Jerusalem, as
Jerusalem was the centre and gospel may spread from there (Munck
1960). But Israel showed negative attitude to gospel. They were
rebellious to the word of God and refused to believe that Jesus is
from heaven and he is the Messiah whom they were waiting for.

Because of this attitude of Israel, Paul went to Gentiles for
proclaiming gospel expecting that winning Gentiles will help
winning Israel. Paul thinks that the number of Gentiles would be
fulfilled very soon. Not all the Gentiles were evangelized, but
they were given options to be for or against Christ, which is
explained by Munck as ‘representative universalism’. In the
closing chapters, Munck watches Paul coming to Jerusalem to gather
the Gentile church representatives (that is the Gentile fullness
according to him), to Jerusalem. But Paul was imprisoned in
Jerusalem (made appeal to Rome) and was unable to go to West as a
free missionary. Paul somehow wanted to gain Gentiles of West to
fulfill the number and met the Emperor of West as the Emperor is
the representative of that area. So Paul expected the fullness of
Gentiles to be completed paying the way for the salvation of
Israel (Stendahl 1977). So Paul at his death bed, seeing the
fullness of Gentiles, and his mission completed, told that “Now
salvation is near, and Christ’s coming is at the door.”
Paul’s epistles continually gave the message that neither works
nor circumcision (or law) will contribute positively towards
salvation (Horrell 2004). He is the one who made Gospel of Jesus
Christ accessible to Gentiles, and is named as the apostle of
Gentiles. He introduced the concept of salvation through faith in
Jesus to Gentiles. Epistles of Paul could depose all Jewish
beliefs, practices and traditions and could establish the fact
that all these never help in bringing out the experience of
salvation. Paul had a strong Jewish background and he felt for the
cursed and unsaved situation of Jews. He had great love for his
brethren that he told, “I could wish that myself were accursed
from Christ for my brethren.” But the teachings of Paul had given
good chastening to Jewish minds. His ministry was useful not only
for Gentiles but also for Jews. Epistles of Paul served this
double purpose. God knows the appropriate way, favorable time and
the best manner through which he can accomplish his purpose of
dispensing valuable salvation. Paul’s epistle to Church at Rome
revealed many hidden facts that are significant equally for Jews
as well as Gentiles. Chapters 9-11 of the epistle is the core
portion that reveal many deeper truths. Paul opens Chapter 9
revealing his concern for his brethren, (in the flesh) the Jews.

Paul is mourning over the fallen status of Israel, even though he
is called as the Apostle of Gentiles. He declares his origin from
Benjamin tribe and starts worrying about the lost condition of
Israel (who is away from God because of hardheadedness). He brings
the attention of Israel people by telling that covenants are
actually meant for spiritual people as Israel was apostate in that
time. Lord the God loved Israel in the Old Testament times, as it
is mentioned in Exodus (4: 22-23) that “Israel is my son, my
firstborn.” In Hosea (11:1-2), we can see the words of God that
“when Israel was a child, I loved him, and called my son out of
Egypt.” But still Israel was found straying away from God offering
sacrifice and burned incense to graven images. Covenants are
actually the promises that God made with his people Israel;
Abrahimic as well as the Davidic covenants in particular. Israel
was recognized as the special chosen ones of God. Serving the lord
(Priesthood, the offerings at tabernacle) was specially and
exclusively assigned for Israel. However in the New Testament, the
stewardship of salvation (Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ) was
taken away from Israel and entrusted in the hands of Church.

Salvation became completely based on belief in Christ. It became
absolutely impossible to serve and worship God separating oneself
from the spiritual body of Christ Jesus. ‘Fathers’ of old
testament are the patriarchs, the foundation upon which Lord built
up Israel nation: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. Covenants and promises
that launched Israel as a steward of God, was originated from

The genealogies explained in the New Testament established Christ
as purely from King David, offering him the earthly privilege to
acquire the eternal throne promised to David by God in his
covenant. But Israel people hesitated to believe that Jesus is the
Messiah whom they were waiting for. But majority of the Jews still
believed that they can inherit the kingdom of God without
believing Jesus Christ. God had promised salvation to Israel long
before the coming of the Jesus into this earth. Paul came up with
the thought that being physically born as Israel (physical birth)
will not help inheriting the promises associated with salvation.

Instead, grace originated out of the pure faith and love in Christ
Jesus will help inherit the ‘new Jerusalem’, the heaven prepared
for the chosen ones. Ishmael born out of the faithlessness
(faithless, unsaved Israel) of Abraham could not inherit Abraham’s
blessings whereas all promises pertained to Isaac, the faithful
remnant (child of promise), even though both were seed of Abraham.

So children of flesh who did not accept Christ as savior can no
longer be spiritual heirs of God’s promises.

God almighty is completely sovereign in showing his interest
(compassion or anger) to anybody. It is not by will or works of
people that they receive mercy, but based on the purpose of God,
according to his plan. God is never obliged to any human work and
will have mercy on which he will have mercy. Both Jews and
Gentiles were privileged to have the merciful calling of God;
anyone who believes in Christ Jesus could make use of the
salvation which is free. God always has every right to choose
anybody, Jew or Gentile, to salvation. Paul in the epistle
explains why Israel, the rebellious nation will not be saved when
Gentiles inherit the kingdom of God. Gentiles wholeheartedly
accepted Jesus as their savoir and Lord, whereas, Jews among which
Jesus originated, refused to accept him as the son of God.

Habakkuk says, “Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright
in him: but the just shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2: 4).

Yet Israel failed under the Law, attempting to lead a life based
on their precepts, denying the life of faith and thereby rejecting
the free salvation. The Israel remnant who accepts Christ Jesus
will bear the fruit of salvation, when the remaining population of
the great nation, no matter how Jewish they are, faces the final

Even though Israel had a zeal for the truth, it was not based upon
facts but on their conventions and practices. They were the
steward of the covenants of God. But the stewardship of gospel of
Christ Jesus was entrusted in the church constituted by the
saints, and not in Israel. It is impossible to serve God outside
the spiritual body of Christ as given in I Corinthians. But God
was merciful unto Israel from the very beginning itself. He has
promised that his blessings would never depart from them. Israel
was considered and called by ‘Yehovah’ as his son. God promised
Israel their share in the kingdom of God long before the coming of
Jesus into earth. Redemption of the Israel remnant is supposed to
the most significant event that will precede the ‘end of the
ages’. According to theologians, salvation of Israel remnants will
happen prior to the thousand year reign ‘Millennium’ rule of Jesus
Christ. Redemption should reach Israel before the age ends, before
the expected fulfillment of prophetical uttering of God.

“Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. Brethren, my heart’s
desire and prayer to God for Israel are that they might be saved.

For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not
according to knowledge.” Paul desperately wished for the salvation
of Israel. If God has cast way Israel fully, even Paul cannot
boast of salvation as he also has got a physical origin from
Israel. Israel the nation will not be completely rejected by God
for salvation but the Jew who refuses to accept Jesus as Messiah
will have to eat the bitter fruit of judgment. Paul still believes
that God will not totally cast away Israel because of the
foreknowledge of God, as he says, “God hath not cast away his
people which he foreknew.” This foreknowledge of God helped him
look down through the ages and predestinate everything. Paul
justifies that Israel occupies a significant place in the plan of
God and can never be rejected by God (keeping in mind the concept
of foreknowledge of God). Though he does not offer complete
salvation to Israel, a remnant of Israel will enjoy salvation.

This salvation will be accomplished after the great tribulation
period. This saved remnant of Israel will have peace during the
reign of Jesus on the earth. He says in Jeremiah 23: 3-6, “And I
will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I
have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds.”
According to prophesy concerning the God’s salvation plans, Israel
is provided with the assurance that remnant of each and every
tribes (12 Israel tribes) will be saved. Paul says to king
Agrippa, “And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the
promise made of God unto our fathers:Unto which promise our
twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come.

For which hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.”
According to Revelation 7: 4, “And I heard the number of them
which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and
four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.” Paul
openly says that the divinely guaranteed remnant of Israel will
have salvation; God has not denied his firstborn the precious
salvation that he offers. The favorable time for the Gentiles will
conclude after seven years of church age, when the tribulation
period ends (before the millennial rule of Jesus Christ). God will
bring the Israel remnant till the finishing of tribulation period.

“What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for;
but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded”
(Romans 11: 7-10). Here the ‘election’ mentioned is meant for the
Israel remnant. The Israel remnant, the first born has always
received, and will continue to receive the special privilege of
salvation. But Israel the nation (physical Israel) will loose the
experience of salvation since they rejected the grace that comes
out of the belief in Jesus Christ. God threw judgment upon the
rebellious Israel and shut the door of salvation to them. Their
spiritual eyes were further blinded by God since they hardened
their hearts (as happened to Pharaoh). Even today only one percent
of Jews are found to believe Jesus, and the rest has hardened
their hearts. In chapter 11, Paul explains the plan of God
concerning the dispensation of salvation again. Since the beloved
race of God refused to heed his heavenly calling, the lord decided
to offer the stewardship of salvation (out of grace) to the
Gentiles who accepted Christ Jesus as their savior and lord. This
move of God was also intended to generate a feeling of jealousy in
Israel (about the salvation obtained by the Gentiles) so that they
will repent over their action and will reexamine their stand
concerning faith in Jesus Christ. Paul expected that Israel will
repent and accept Christ seeing the work of Holy Spirit in
Gentiles. Paul says that if the fall of Israel can positively
contribute for the enrichment (salvation) of Gentiles, what
influence fullness (restoration) of Israel will have on the
Gentiles. That is, the salvation of Israel can bring much more
blessings on Gentiles. “Some of the branches be broken off,”
Israel refused to believe God’s plan of sending Jesus to earth and
were driven away into the experience of dispersion in A.D 70. Paul
explains how the branches got removed from its place and the wild
olive tree (representing Gentiles) was grafted in the tree (in the
place of Israel) together with the remnant. Paul warns Gentiles
that they should not boast about the free gift of salvation that
was offered unto them by God (which happened as a result of the
faithless stand of Israel. Church has its origin from Israel only.

Christ as well as gospel has its origin in Israel as the lineage
of Christ was from Israel alone. Paul exhorts that Gentiles has no
base to speak as they are the inferior stockthatwere
artificially grafted to the promises whose root is nothing but
Israel. Israel was partially cut off from the salvation since they
refused to hear gospel and this helped Gentiles to get an offer
for salvation. If Israel can lose their stewardship of salvation,
how easy can Gentiles get into the same predicament if they allow
themselves to be proud of the salvation? (Nanos 1996). Gentiles
should be vigilant enough as God could remove the salvation from
them and go back to establish salvation among Israel, his first
born. It is obvious that the natural root can very well adapt
themselves to the experiences than the wild Gentiles. Israel has a
very deep fellowship with God since the very beginning. Paul
encourages and exhorts Gentiles to maintain a healthy attitude
with God without hating Jews. He says that if the fall of the Jews
can turn as a blessing of Gentiles, how blessed it will be if
Israel believes! This reasoning of Paul is little bit confusing,
but Paul does not want the Gentiles to worry about the security of
their salvation even if Jews turn to Christ at some point of time.

God is unchanging; he can never forget his people whom he redeemed
through the precious blood of his son Jesus Christ. When God
finishes his work in Gentiles, Israel will be called again. Israel
remnant who believes in Christ will be saved as God loves Israel
always, for the sake of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Hawthorne,
Martin & Reid 1993).

“And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall
come out of Zion, the deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness
from Jacob” (Romans 11: 26). All Israel does not mean the whole
Israel nation, but the remnant from all the 12 tribes. Blinded or
hardened stage of Israel is a mystery and it became a boon to
Gentiles. This blindness will prevail till the Gentile quota is
saturated. Israel will remain rebellious to the word of God till
this fullness of Gentiles gets accomplished. ‘Fullness of the
Gentiles’ is the period of completion of the spiritual body of
Christ when everything is ripe and ready for his arrival. This is
the church that is composed of both Jews and Gentiles. God will
change the disobedient hearts and eliminate all sins from Israel
making them restored in grace and bringing them back as the first
born of God once again. That is his covenant unto them.

Evans, C.A. & Porter, S.E. (eds) 2000, Dictionary of New Testament
Background, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL.

Hawthorne, G.F., Martin, R.P. & Reid, D.G. (eds) 1993, Dictionary
of Paul and His Letters/a Compendium of Contemporary Biblical
Scholarship, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL.

Hooker, M.D. 2003, Paul: A Short Introduction, Oneworld
Publications, Oxford.

Horrell, D.G. 2004, An Introduction to the Study of Paul
(Approaches to Biblical Studies), Continuum International
Publishing Group – T & T C.

Meeks, W.A. 2003, The First Urban Christians: The Social World of
the Apostle Paul, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT.

Munck, J. 1977, Paul and the Salvation Of Mankind, John Knox

Nanos, M.D. 1996, The Mystery of Romans: The Jewish Context of
Paul’s Letter, Augsburg Fortress Publishers, Minneapolis, MN.

Roetzel, C.J. 1999, Paul: The Man and the Myth (Personalities of
the New Testament Series), Augsburg Fortress Publishers,
Minneapolis, MN.

Stendahl, K. 1977, Paul Among Jews and Gentiles and Other Essays,
Augsburg Fortress Publishers, Minneapolis, MN.


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