II ROMANS 24
GOD COMBINES HIS MERCY WITH MAN’S FREE WILL
In his beautiful Doxology at the end of chapter 11, Paul says, in speaking of God, “How unsearchable are His judgments, and His
paths beyond tracing out!” This perhaps explains why so much of what Paul says in this chapter is enigmatic and very difficult to understand. In all the epistles which the Apostle wrote, this is surely the most confusing and hard-to-interpret chapter. The reader must constantly keep in mind certain unchangeable principles of Biblical truth lest he misinterpret some of what Paul has to say here.
Remember that Paul is talking to Gentiles, and he does not want them disdaining and ignoring the Jews, because the church by now has become almost totally Gentile. The Jews who have accepted Christ are very much in the minority. In the first paragraph Paul uses the example of Elijah who, in the face of many problems, claimed he was the only one left who had not turned to idol worship. However,
God told him that there still was a large remnant He had reserved for Himself who had not turned to idols. Paul says there is still a remnant chosen by grace.
This terminology can only be understood if you realize that the Jews who rejected Jesus depended on their obedience to the Law to make them acceptable to God. Paul is emphasizing that no one can
be justified by any works they may do. Justification is given to all of
us by God’s grace. We are all sinners, and He only visits His mercy on those who place their faith in Him and accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross. The remnant He reserved, because they placed their faith in Him and not in their own goodness or righteousness.
These were the “chosen” ones whether Jew or Gentile.
The next paragraph seems to say that God made the unbelievers blind and deaf so they could not hear or see the truth. This cannot be what Paul is saying, for God is a just God and does not block anyone from seeing the truth if they really want it. He has given to every person freedom of choice, and will not, under any circumstances, violate that freedom. No, it is just that God has so made us that if we do not wish to accept Him, i.e., if we are the people who do not want to love Him and to have what He has to offer, He will harden the heart so no one will be forced to believe what He does not want to believe. This is such a vital point, and governs the way God deals with all of us, and it needs to be imprinted deeply in our minds and hearts.
Paul’s words in the latter part of chapter 11 are confusing and difficult to understand. I think this is because he is trying to describe the actions and purposes of God, and they do not always coincide with the logical sequences of the human mind. He points out that the early church was made up of converted Jews which made those roots holy,
or consecrated and set aside, as the word means here. However, many of the Jews held tenaciously to their belief in the Law as a means of justification, and persecuted Paul and the early evangelists so much that they turned to the Gentiles. The Gentiles accepted with great enthusiasm the Gospel of Christ, and the church became almost totally Gentile. Paul says God used the Jews’ rebellious attitude to facilitate the bringing in of the Gentiles.
However, many Jews, seeing the Gentiles being accepted and the joy they were feeling from the blessing of being children of God, began to want this blessing for themselves and began to rethink their position and accept Christ.
Paul says these actions were causing Jew and Gentile to be united in Christ and that that was the greatest blessing. He also says that God does not permanently reject the unbeliever but always is ready to extend His mercy if the unbeliever changes and becomes a person of faith. However, it is never because of his good works, but only because of his faith, and then it is only a gift of God.
We will conclude our studies in the 11th chapter in the next essay.