Romans 11:2-6 meaning

Verses covered in this passage:

  • Romans 11:2
  • Romans 11:3
  • Romans 11:4
  • Romans 11:5
  • Romans 11:6

God has not rejected His chosen people. He foreknew them, He chose them as His blessed nation, so He has not given up on them. God has chosen a new remnant through His own Grace, not because any human deserves it.

Grace means favor. When God gives favor it’s never because someone has lived up to a standard external to God. That doesn’t mean that His grace is not given without reason. God does what He does because He chooses to do it. He favors people because He chooses to do so. We never deserve His mercy, in the sense that we can say ‘We did such and such therefore…” but He gives mercy anyway to whomever He chooses (Romans 9:15). Even in the time of the prophet Elijah, in the Old Testament, where Israel was overrun with paganism, murder, and hatred toward God Elijah, pleads with God against Israel? God did not throw away His chosen people, God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. God’s divine response to Elijah was, “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” He reserved seven thousand men who stayed faithful to Him, as a remnant that God Himself set aside.

Paul is saying, even now, God is not finished with Israel; He always keeps and nurtures a remnant that will follow Him faithfully. In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. This is all done through God’s grace, not because someone “followed the rules” resulting in God somehow becoming obligated to perform for them, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. On the contrary, no one deserves His favor, or can ever demand favor from God. God is God, God is not a cosmic vending machine we can manipulate, in any way. Israel has rejected God, but God has not abandoned Israel, and He will not let Israel slip away from Him entirely.

It is interesting that Paul says God “foreknew” His people, referring to Israel, using the same word he used to describe all believers (also His people) in Romans 8:29. When God promises something, He will always do it. God promises in 8:29 that believers in Jesus will be conformed to the image of His son. God will cause all things to work together for good, even difficult circumstances. That even applies to mistakes we make. God will redeem the bad choices Israel makes, just as God causes “all things” to conform us to His image. The question is not whether, but how and when, and how many negative consequences we choose for ourselves. Israel is incurring a lot of pain that could have been avoided. Israel might be straying right now, but God still has a plan to restore Israel. In fact, similar to the promise of Romans 8:29, Paul will assure us in Romans 11:26 that all Israel will be saved.

Biblical Text

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? 3 “Lord, they have killed Your prophets, they have torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.” 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.” 5 In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.

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