Guests: Bruce Johanson and Zdravko Stefanovic
Did God reject the Jewish nation?
Today’s lesson focuses on Romans 10 and 11 and is a continuation of Paul’s discussion in chapter 9 dealing with fact that so many Jews failed to accept Jesus as the Messiah. Why was this the case? Was God not faithful to his promises? Had he rejected his people? Paul’s ultimate conclusion to this question is that the fault was not on God’s part, but Israel’s unwillingness to accept God’s invitation. All was not hopeless, however, Paul believed that God’s plan would one day result in the salvation of all Israel.
1. What strengths and weaknesses did Paul see in the Judaism of his day? In what ways might we as Christians be susceptible to these same weaknesses? What can we do to avoid making the same mistakes as ancient Israel?
2. Paul speaks rather disparagingly about “zeal” without “knowledge” (10:2-3). Is it any better to have knowledge without zeal? How can we as Christians strike the right balance between these two aspects of the spiritual life?
Paul says that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for everyone who believes (10:4). The word “end” has a double sense in Greek. It can either mean end as in “termination” or end as in “goal” or “purpose.” Some have interpreted this verse to mean that Christ abolished the law so it is no longer binding on Christians. In light of Paul’s positive statements about the law elsewhere (e.g. 3:31; 7:12, 8:4), that interpretation seems unlikely. Christ is the goal of the law in the sense that it was always God’s purpose that the law would point and lead to Jesus.
God’s plan of salvation. While Romans 10:14-21 is frequently used to outline the basic steps of individual salvation, the passage served a somewhat different purpose for Paul. In these verses Paul deals with two potential excuses for why the Jews had not more readily accepted Jesus as the Messiah. Was it due to the fact that somehow Israel had not “heard” the gospel? No. That cannot be the case for in the same way that the heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:4) so the gospel had been clearly proclaimed to both Jews and Gentiles. Is it possible then that Israel did not understand or know about God’s plan to include the Gentiles as part of his covenantal family? No. Paul dismisses this excuse by citing three verses from the Old Testament (Deut. 32:21; Isa. 65:1, 2) that make it clear that Israel’s knowledge of the Scriptures should have given them some sense of God’s overall plan.
3. What responsibility do Christians have today in spreading the gospel?
4. What can we learn from Romans 10:14-21 about how the gospel reaches people?
Romans 10:17 demonstrates that faith originates as a response to a divine initiative (cf. Gal. 5:6). Paul specifically connects faith to hearing and the “word of Christ.” The word “hearing” is the same word translated as “report” in verse 16. Thus Paul is saying that in order for people to come to faith in Christ they must first hear the good news of what God has done for the human race in Christ.
Paul’s argument has made it clear that God is not at fault in Israel’s failure to accept Jesus as the Messiah. God has kept his promises and fulfilled his word. Although the fault lies with Israel, Paul believes there is still hope for Israel to respond to the gospel.
5. What encouragement did Paul find in the story of Elijah that there was hope for more Jews to turn to Jesus? What lesson can we learn from this when we are tempted to think that there are few who are really faithful to God today?
Paul believed Israel’s rejection of the gospel would only be temporary. Once the “full number of the Gentiles” had responded to the gospel, all of Israel would be saved.
6. What does Paul mean by the “full number of the Gentiles”? Is God waiting for a specific number of Gentiles to turn to Christ? Does “all” Israel being saved literally mean the entire nation of Israel today? And what attitude should Christians have toward the “nation” of Israel?
7. Paul also believes that some Jews will turn to Christ out of jealousy. Is jealousy a valid motivation? Why or why not? Consider also Phil. 1:15.