Romans 11:1-6 "1 I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, 3 Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. 4 But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work."
During our last outreach event a gentlemen expressed to me that he went to a "church" that doctrinally believes in a faith plus works salvation; they hold that baptism is required for salvation among other required deeds. It was because of this conversation that I began to meditate on Romans 11:6. This verse is perhaps one of the most explicit dividing verses in the Bible that really cuts to the heart of this matter when we are discussing salvation with 'those that are without.' Is salvation a matter of works or grace? In fact, as we look around, it will be evident that there is an outworking of these "two ways of salvation" (Of course we know there is only one of valid way of salvation according to the Bible).
Our Adversary has so leveraged our own sinfulness against us that to the natural man a way of works is more palatable. We find the way of works in all forms of Religion today (except biblical Christianity) and it fits best in our own Reasoning. It makes sense to us to 'earn' favor with God because of our guilt from our own sinfulness and feeling of separation. Even our understanding of God's love being unconditional is foreign to us because we are so marred by sin.
Paul here in Romans 11 has been for the past two chapters pouring out his heart concerning the nation of Israel. He states in Romans 9: 1-4:
"I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;"
In chapter 9 Paul is dealing with Israel's past and in chapter 10 he is dealing with their present state. Here in chapter 11 though he is wrestling with the reader about their future. Paul starts the chapter with a rhetorical question that he quickly answers. He states, "Hath God cast away his people (Israel)?" This question plagues us much the same way concerning our present state here in the United States. We could ask the question, Has God cast away the United States? Or maybe we might frame it this way, Is there anyone left but me?
Oh what a troubling time Paul lived in for the nation of Israel and we certainly are living in troubling days... Is God still continuing to save the lost? Paul give us a twofold proof that God had not cast away His people and you and I by application can understand that there are still folks to be saved here in the United States as well.
The first proof we find is in verse number one. Notice what the Bible says, "I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin."
Paul tells us the first proof is himself! What a glorious truth to understand! Paul says fervently, No, God has not cast away His people! How do I know? because I am an Israelite and He saved me! You and I can certainly say the same thing in our day. This local New Testament church here in Hampton, Virginia still has the mission given to us by the Savior to proclaim the Gospel. What is the proof? We are still here. God has not sent the Lord Jesus Christ for His bride yet and therefore the mission still stands. What is that mission? The mission is the mandate to spread the Gospel. Consequently then there are still folks that will be saved. Praise the Lord!
In verses 2-4 Paul offers us the second proof that God is not done with Israel yet. Again by application you and I can say the same thing. What proof does Paul offer? Notice what verse 2 states,
"God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying,"
The second great proof of God's continuing mission for us is God's Word! In Romans 15:4 we find this encouragement about the Bible, "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." My friend there is some patience and comfort to be had by the reading, understanding, and the applying of God's Word. If you want to get upset and quit just spend all your time watching and reading the news, but if you want to have a biblical perspective on what is taking place and find patience and comfort, read your Bible! Paul here references the story of Elijah...Elijah had heard some bad news and wanted to quit, so he went and sat under a juniper tree (I Kings 19:4). Boy does that not describe us sometimes? Elijah cried out to God, "...It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life:..." As Paul continues to recount this Old Testament narrative he states, "But what saith the answer of God unto him?" Friend what does God have to say about our current state of affairs? God has been so good to us to give us the Bible so that we can know what to expect concerning this old sin filled world; but know this, God is still in the saving business today!
2 Peter 3: 9,10 "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up."
We see the Casting away of some but then Paul also gives us some comfort by expressing the Continuation of Grace. In verse 5 of our passage, Paul states, "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace." Just as God had a remnant that had not bowed their knee to Baal in Elijah's day, Paul said God still has a remnant of Jews. Likewise you and I are not alone. There are Christians all over the world still preaching the Gospel and they are still seeing God save people. There are people taking that first step of obedience in believer's baptism and yes, there are even folks still getting discipled. I am reminded of Acts 18:10 where Jesus speaks to Paul concerning that saintly city of Corinth (Corinth was a busy metropolis full of debauchery). "For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city." There are still plenty of people that need to hear the Gospel, therefore you I have a responsibility to be a witness where we are! The truth is there will be some that will reject God and continue down the path of a works-based salvation, but there will be some that will trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith.
Lastly Paul shows us the crux of the matter, which is the Contradiction of Works and Grace. Paul first gives us his thesis concerning works and grace. He states, "And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work."
Boiling this down into four simple statements we could put it this way:
Grace is one way.
Works is one way.
Grace cannot be works.
Works cannot be grace.
In other words, Paul is making a division between the two as being totally separate and un-mixable! We are saved by God's unmerited favor toward us (Grace) which cannot be earned by any deed, doing or labour! Grace is received and cannot be earned, it is an act of God's divine will. The access to this grace offered to us is through faith (Ephesians 2: 8,9). This is not a works-based salvation because works are meant to produce or purchase. Faith on the other hand is the manner by which we receive that which God has provided by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Works produce, faith receives.
I would encourage all Soul-Winners to add this one simple verse to their memory and underline it in their Bible. This matter of works and grace in the day in which we live is so vitally important. Surely, we must be able to show people that man cannot obtain salvation through works.
- Pastor James Grandinetti, Community Outreach Pastor Sharon Baptist Church
Sharon Baptist church is an independent, fundamental Baptist church located in Hampton, VA.
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