The Remnant of Israel, Rom. 11:1-32
A remnant is a small part, member, or trace remaining (Webster). Biblically, a remnant is a
small surviving group, what remains of a people or nation after a trying time. In the case of the
Israelites, this was a spiritual remnant. Who is left that believes? Remember that Jesus asked,
“When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).
In this brief section, Paul answers the question as to whether God has completely rejected
those of the nation of Israel. He pressed the point that Israel had failed to live up to God’s
purpose for his chosen people of Old Testament times. They failed to live up to the Law when it
was in force and yet they still held it up as their hope in the Gospel age. God never meant for
Israel to think they were his chosen people for all time. They were chosen for great
responsibility, not for privilege. Israel was to be a light for the nations, a model people through
whom God worked to bring the Savior to the world (Isa. 49:6). But the fact that Israelites had
done a poor job and that most of them rejected the Christ was not to say that God had rejected
Israel altogether. God’s inclusion of Gentiles did not mean he had altogether rejected Israel.
In trying times there is always a remnant of the faithful. Paul himself was among the remnant.
No one was more Jewish than Paul (Phil. 3:5). Though Paul had first fought against the message
that Jesus was the Messiah, he came to faith and became one of the more effective gospel
evangelists. Paul illustrates the idea of the remnant by mentioning Elijah, the prophet who lived
in the time of Ahab and Jezebel. The apostate king Ahab and his wife waged a war of sorts
against God’s prophet. Elijah fled to the wilderness for safety, and but for God sending him a
raven with food, he may have died. By the way, “Head for the hills” became the cry of the
fleeing remnant for a reason. While in the wilderness, Elijah concluded he was the only faithful
Israelite left. But God told him he had a remnant of seven thousand faithful among Israel who
had not bowed to Baal, a false god of the Canaanites (1 Kings 16). God then used Elijah to lead a
campaign of revival in Israel. God can use a few to bring many back to right standing with God.
So in Paul’s day, God had a faithful remnant of Jews who answered the call of grace. Rejection
of Jesus by the Jews amounted to apostasy, but not all were lost. God had not turned his back
on Israel. Neither had all of them turned their backs on God. But the way to God’s favor was by
grace, not through the works of the Law. The gospel was for both the Jew and the Gentile
(Rom. 1:16-17). The first response to the gospel was made by some three thousand Jewish
people on Pentecost (Acts 2:36-41). Paul quotes Isaiah to show that God at times brought
judgment against Israel because of their unbelief (Isa. 6:10). He also quotes Psa. 69:22-23,
where David spoke of his enemies being closed-minded and deserving of judgment. Paul uses
the passage to describe what happens when people harden themselves instead of being open
to God’s message.
This stretch of Romans is tough sledding. Stay with us and we will see that Paul is reaching out
to his own people, Israel, telling them anyone can be saved through Christ.
My comments are not an inspired commentary, but rather a few words to draw attention to the background, context, and dynamic situation of the book of Acts. May God bless your reading of His Word. T.C.