Romans 11:1-24 … Again, we’re in the third division of Romans, in a portion we call “God’s Plan of Justification for the Whole World,” and as we begin reading in Romans 11, we discover one of the deep mysteries of God … and that is how grace works (God’s free gift through His sovereign will). And it’s here that we find one of the dividing controversies in the Protestant Church, existing since the early days of the Protestant Reformation. It’s not given much attention by modern Pastors, but I think it well for believers to consider the evidence. The division is over Calvinism (named for John Calvin, circa 1550) which holds that God alone chooses those destined for salvation (the “elect”), and man himself has no role in the process of election. Presbyterians and some others hold to Calvinism (also called the “Reformed” position). There is much in Scripture to support that view. The opposing view is called Arminianism (after Joseph Arminius, circa 1600) which holds that man chooses God. Methodists and some others hold that position. Certainly there is much in Scripture to support Arminianism as well. Those are the basic sides of this theological discussion.
Some (including me) take a middle ground on this basis: First, God is unquestionably sovereign in all things. At the same time, Scripture teaches that “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13) and that “… whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) I cannot dismiss the verses quoted, and many similar verses, and so take the middle ground, maintaining that both positions are true: God chooses man; man chooses God.
One of my favorite commentators, J. Vernon McGee put it this way: The “whosoever wills are the elect, and the whosoever wonts are the non-elect.” With that understanding in mind, here’s what’s key about Romans 11:1-24: First, not all Jews are chosen. That principle is in verse 5, a remnant is chosen, based on God’s free gift of grace (v.6). And so it is with all the elect.
Romans 11:7 reveals God’s plan (from the beginning) that the Jews had a ministry to show the love of God to all nations and in this, they failed. Their failure led to the spread of the Gospel (by the disciples) to Gentiles (v.12). And the second point here is this: since Gentiles are “grafted in,” we should not be arrogant (v.18-21), we should be in admiration of the goodness and severity of God (v.22), and we should acknowledge that other Jews will also come to salvation and be grafted back into faith (v.23-24). That’s a long summary, but I feel it’s important to let you know how the Church has viewed this passage over history.
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