The Tree of Israel (Part I) – Romans 11:1-15

by Roger McCay
1 March 2020
Sermon Passage: Romans 11:1-15
Link to Audio Version

Many Christians throughout history have turned their back on the Jews. Anti-Semitism has simmered under the surface for two-millennia, and at times has expressed itself as open hatred, with the Jews being called “Christ-killers” and “the rejected by God.” This is a stain upon our history.

The history is way too extensive to even begin to get into here, but consider this example: At a time when the “Jews had been expelled from England in 1290, from France in 1394, and from Spain in 1492,” [1] Martin Luther (revered by many for his amazing stand and fueling the fire of the Reformation) published a pamphlet called “On the Jews and Their Lies,” in 1543. Luther wrote:

“What shall we do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews?”

“First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blasphemy of his Son and of his Christians.” [2]

He also recommended that the houses of Jews be, “razed and destroyed,”; the Talmud (their Scriptures) taken away from them; and that Germany should, “emulate the common sense of other nations such as France, Spain, Bohemia, etc., compute with them how much their usury has extorted from us, divide this amicably, but then eject them forever from the country.” [3]

One man sums up the sentiment, “The Jews, because of their stiff-necked rejection of the Christ, have in turn been rejected by God. The mantle has passed from Jew to Christian. Christians are the new ‘chosen people.’ The Church is the ‘New Israel.’” [4] While partly true, this is a misunderstanding and a twisting of the truth. God has not and never will abandon the Jews. He has left himself a remnant of Jews, who make up a part of the whole people of God. Salvation is not closed to them. They are saved based on the same principles that the Gentile Christians are saved—faith in Jesus Christ.

On a side note: if you are not sure what a Gentile is, if you are not a Jew, you are a Gentile.

Now, it is a temptation for Christians to think of themselves in some superior way. After all, we are “God’s children,” “His chosen,” the “elect.” From that can come arrogance towards those who are considered outside that special fold—towards the Jews, Muslims, Atheists, or anyone not a Christian. But with that attitude, Christians fall to pride by thinking that there is something in themselves that make them special.

Paul addresses that problem here in Rom. 11 by focusing on and explaining how the Jews remain part of God’s plan, and how, from the ethnic Jews, will come many true Israelites who are God’s people. Paul interweaves this with a discussion on the Gentile Christians, who are also God’s people and part of true Israel. Hence, God’s people include both Jews and Gentiles—one people in Christ—together the true tree of Israel.

So, what did Paul ask about the Jews? Verse 1 – Has God rejected his people? Did God reject his people—the whole Jewish nation? “By no means!” Paul declares. As the Psalmist said, “For the LORD will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage” (Ps. 94:14).

What proof is there of this?  Paul gives us four proofs:

First, he gives himself as an example in v. 1:

11:1c For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin.

Paul is a Jew and he was not rejected. He was even a persecutor of the church. Yet, by God’s grace, the Lord saved him (Acts 9). If even Paul can be saved, there is hope for the Jews.

Secondly, in v. 2, Paul gives a theological answer:

God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.

Does this reference to “his [God’s] people” mean every single Jewish person? Recall Romans 8:29. There Paul teaches that those whom God foreknew are his chosen people, his elect. All God’s elect will be saved – guaranteed—glorified (Rom. 8:30) as good as done. Paul later states in Romans 9:6, “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel.” Then add in from Rom. 11:2 (our passage today), “His people whom he foreknew.” Follow that with the context of the remnant Paul further describes in vv. 3-10.