II ROMANS 25
A UNIVERSAL TRUTH:
“NO MAN COMETH UNTO THE FATHER BUT BY ME”
In this 11th chapter Paul is speaking to Gentiles, but running in
the background of everything he says is the realization that he is a Jew, and, even though his ministry is to the Gentiles, he is still very much concerned about his own people. He begins by pointing out that even though a large number of Jews rejected Christ, there was always a remnant who remained faithful to God. In the case of Elijah, when he thought he was the only one left faithful to God, God reminded him that He had reserved seven thousand, who had not bowed the knee to Baal. He called these the “elect”, and pointed out that they received blessings by His grace. It was a gift to those who were still faithful to Him. That was what made them the “elect”.
Throughout the Old Testament, there is a constant reference to the “remnant” who are saved. Micah, Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah all speak of them. Salvation is never given to a nation or to a mass of people. William Barclay puts it this way, “A man is not saved because he is a member of a nation or a family [and I might add ‘a church’- rfo] or because he has inherited righteousness and salvation from his ancestors; he is saved because he has made a personal decision for God”. Keep this in mind as we read on through this difficult 11th chapter.
Paul then says the “elect” were saved, but the others were hardened by God. The only people to whom God opens the truth are the ones who want it. Those who do not want the truth, or do not want to love God, and those who are satisfied and do not want to make any changes, but are content to remain comfortable where they are, are the ones whom God hardens so they cannot see the truth. God will not force any man to believe the truth, for He has given every man freedom of choice, and He will not force him to do what he does not choose to do himself.
Then Paul points out that the stubborn rejection by the Jews caused him to turn to the Gentiles and take the Gospel to them. Let me remind the reader that taking the Gospel to the Gentiles did not result in all of them accepting it. Paul is rejoicing that the Gentiles did accept the Gospel, and, because so many of them did, the church had become mostly Gentile. Paul is hoping that the rejoicing of the Gentiles in finding Christ would result in causing the Jews also to want what they had found. He predicts that the time will come when the Jews will also turn to Christ.
Here a statement occurs which has led to much false speculation.
Paul says, “and so all Israel will be saved”. There are two things we must keep in mind. First, the word “so” in the original Greek can mean “therefore” or it can mean “in this way”. Paul goes on to quote from the Old Testament, where it predicts the coming of the Messiah to take away the sins of the people. It might well be that he is saying that by the Messiah, or “in this way”, all will be saved. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by Me”. God does not have one way for the Jews and another for the Gentiles. No man can come to God except by accepting and placing his faith in Jesus Christ.
A second thing to note is that Paul, in Romans 9, says, “not all Israelites belong to Israel”. In Galatians 3 he says that one is a
descendant of Abraham through faith and not heritage. In Romans 2 he says that one is a true Jew only if he is one inwardly. So, the true Israel could mean the mass of the faithful, whether by blood, Jew or Gentile.
In any case, regardless of the fact that God loved Israel because of the patriarchs, and blessed Israel through the ages in order to bring about the Messiah He promised them, the only criterion He has ever used for those who are His “elect” or chosen to receive His grace and justification are those who place their faith in Him. No reading of these difficult verses can reach any other conclusion.