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A Closer Look at Romans 11:1


Romans 11:1 plainly says that God “has not cast away His people.” Yet verse 15 of the same chapter talks about “the casting away of them,” meaning, unbelieving Israelites. How can we reconcile verses 1 and 15? Has God “cast away” Israelites, or not? The answer is in the context, and the truth of what Paul means in verse 1 becomes clear when one carefully reads the rest of verse 1, verses 2-5, and then verses 13-23.

Take note: After making the above statement in verse 1, Paul then uses himself as an example of those whom God has not cast away. Next, he uses the additional example of 7,000 loyal Israelites in Old Testament days during the evil reign of Ahab and Jezebel who did not bow the knee to Baal (verse 4). Thus, the “His people” who are not “cast away” in verse 1 are those Jews like himself and the 7,000 loyal Israelites of old, whereas those who are “cast away” (verse 15) refer to unbelieving, apostate Israelites like those who joined Jezebel and Ahab in their idolatrous, Baal-worshiping rebellion against God.

The mistake of many is to apply Romans 11:1 to all the seed of Abraham indiscriminately, without regard to Paul’s context, their spiritual condition, or their acceptance or rejection of Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Such an application ignores the context of Romans 11:1-4, and Paul’s point, which he especially makes in verse 5 when he states, “even so then at this present time is there a remnant according to the election of grace.” This “remnant,” which has been saved by “grace,” is the group that “God has not cast away,” and is composed of faithful Israelites who, like Paul and the 7,000 of old, remain loyal to the Lord.

It is vital to recognize that even those Jews who reject Jesus as their Messiah can still be won to His love through the miracle working power of God, which is exactly what happened to Paul (formerly Saul) on the road to Damascus (see Acts 9). Before his conversion, Saul was essentially a Jewish terrorist seeking to imprison and kill Christians throughout Judea. Yet the Lord loved him still, in spite of his misguided zealotry. In Acts 9, God turned him around, and then Saul, formerly an “Israelite according to the flesh” (Romans 9:3,4), became Paul, the stalwart for truth. This is why Paul says in Romans 11:23, “And they also [unbelieving Israelites), if [notice the key word “if”] they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in again, for God is able to graft them in again.”

Yes, God can “graft them in again,” and His miracles continue even today.

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