Romans 11:1 meaning

God has not rejected Israel. Paul, both an Israelite and an apostle of Jesus Christ, is evidence that this cannot be true.

Throughout Romans, Paul has been responding to slanderous charges made by competing Jewish “authorities.” Their arguments were meant to set aside Paul’s ministry, and their first charges were meant to portray his teaching as crazy (Romans 3:8). These authorities argued that since Paul teaches the law has now been set aside, then we can sin all we want to. Paul has already defeated this slander (Romans 6:1), showing why and how Jesus has abolished the law, and given us the power of the Spirit to actually experience a righteous life through living by faith. But Paul likely now answers a follow-up argument against his teaching, along the lines of, “If the law has been set aside, if we’re no longer under the law, then that means Israel’s been set aside. And Israel no longer has a purpose.”

“So,” the competing Jewish authorities might conclude, “we’ve got all this history leading up to this point in God’s dealing with His people (the Jewish people), and He just shoves them aside all of a sudden? See, this is another reason Paul’s teaching emphasizing grace and faith is false.” There are multiple times in Romans where Paul presents the misrepresentations of his teaching in the form of a question, then responds with “May it never be!” (Romans 3:4,6,31, Romans 6:2,15, Romans 7:7,13, Romans 9:14). Each of these questions is essentially in the same format, so it’s likely that Paul is still answering the objectors. He asks, God has not rejected His people, has He? And just like the other objections, Paul answers it immediately with: May it never be! No, God has not rejected His people.

Has He cast them away? No. That would mean He cast away Paul, who is also an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God foreknew His people, and He isn’t finished with them (11:2).

Biblical Text

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.

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