The Twenty-Eighth in Series of Sermons on Paul's Epistle to the Romans
When the apostle Paul stated in Romans 10:1 that it was his heart’s desire and prayer to God for his fellow citizens of Israel to be saved, the question of Israel’s place in the future course of redemptive history was clearly on his mind. Paul’s poignant question which opens Romans 11, “did God reject his people?” clearly indicates the apostle’s anguish regarding the future of his people, the Jews. Recall that Paul is answering a series of questions raised by the fact that the gospel went first to the Jew and then the Gentile. Since Israel rejected the gospel, Paul must answer the question as to whether or not God rejected his people. Why has Israel come under God’s curse? Will there be a distinct role for national Israel in the future? And if so, what is the nature of that role? Does a future role for ethic Israel mean that there will be a future earthly millennial age upon the earth in which will Israel figure prominently?
We now begin a what amounts to a two-part sermon as we work our way through Romans 11. As I mentioned last time, the difficultly in preaching through Romans 9-11 is that these three chapters are one extended argument. To preach on it in small segments as we must do because of time constraints makes it difficult to see the big picture Paul is setting forth. In this sermon we will tackle the first 15 verses of Romans 11, and Lord willing, we will pick up where we left off in the next sermon and complete our survey of this very interesting section of Romans.
The question of Israel’s role in the present age (the messianic age) also raises the question about the possibility of a future millennial age. The vast majority of premillennarians and postmillennarians contend that in this passage Paul teaches that not only is there a role for national Israel in God’s future redemptive purposes, but that this role for Israel entails a future earthly millennium. According to amillennarians, however, Paul does not specifically address the subject of a millennium in Romans 11. But Paul does speak directly to the subject of the future role of Israel in God’s redemptive purposes, the only place in Scripture where he explicitly does so. Although Paul does not tell us when the things mentioned in this passage will come to pass, he clearly links them to Israel’s eschatological fullness and to the end of the age. Although amillennarians disagree among themselves about whether or not Israel does have a future place in redemptive history–some say Israel does have a role (Geerhardus Vos, David Holwerda and Cornelis Venema), while some say there is no distinctive future role for ethnic Israel (Calvin, William Hendricksen, Anthony Hoekema and Bob Strimple)–neither camp sees this issue as determinative of one’s millennial view. While some post-holocaust Jewish writers, as well as certain evangelicals, have argued that denying a place for a distinct future for ethnic Israel and equating the church with Israel is at the root of contemporary anti-Semitism, it must be pointed out that even those Reformed amillennarians who do not see a distinct future for ethnic Israel, have held out the likelihood of the conversion of large numbers of ethnic Jews to Christianity before the return of Christ.
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