Lesson 4 – Israel, the Elect and the Lost

Israel, the Elect and the Lost

Lesson Aim:        To follow Paul’s train of thought as he leads his readers through a “literary obstacle course” in order to show God’s preachers and prophets did not fail the Israelites who had lost their salvation.          

Scriptures:           Rom. 10:11 – 11:10. 


Our text functions in the middle of a long discourse about how God’s word did not fail (Romans 9:1 – 11:36).  This discourse also supports the theme of the total letter – The just shall live by faith.  Paul’s letter is “in tune” with what had happened as a result of Jesus’ commission to the apostles and the church to preach the gospel to the world (Matt. 28:18-20).  We need to keep focused on the success of Jesus’ mission to seek and save the lost in the Roman Empire to properly follow Paul’s style.  To get the contemporary picture we can focus on where Paul was when he wrote this letter and what was happening in Jerusalem (Romans 15: 23-27; Acts 21:17-21). 

The general picture:  Jesus had been directing a worldwide evangelism campaign from the right hand of God for almost three decades.  Perhaps as much as two decades before Paul wrote to the church in Rome, Jesus opened the “door of faith” for the Gentiles (Acts 14:27).  Thousands of Jews were converted in and around Jerusalem.  Many thousands more believed but still were dedicated to the Law of Moses and circumcision.  Grecian Jews had been converted in many main cities of the Roman Empire.  The Gentiles were the majority in the membership in all the churches of Christ outside Israel (Rom. 16:16). 

The situation created the need for a document like Paul wrote to the saints in Rome.  The churches would organize around the concept presented in Romans 12:3-8.  God’s aim is for them to function as a body – the body of Christ.  This meant they would need to live and work as a family.  There are no other organizations that strive for this level of fellowship outside the human family.  The natural family is, in fact, a model for the churches (Eph. 5:22-24, 32).  The churches at this time would all be striving to be the kind of church described in Romans 12:9-13.  The churches in Rome were doing well; however, there was a need for Paul’s letter.  In fact, his hand was the instrument Jesus used, via the Holy Spirit, to reveal “the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!”  Rom. 11:33.   

It seems obvious the churches would need to have a clear understanding of God’s graces and promises to Abraham.  They especially needed to know how God’s promises related to the Gentiles.  Paul’s letter to the Romans has clarified it all.       

The obstacle course we will need to work through in our text is a combination of rhetorical questions with answers from Old Testament prophets.  It is a simple course; however, we must be careful to follow the style of the writer.  A rhetorical question is a question that suggests the person being asked already knows the answer.  It is a literary tool used to provoke thinking.  


“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  10:13.

This is the banner statement for the evangelism of the world.  In context, it was made following Paul’s quote from Isaiah 28:16.  “Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.”  10:11.  Paul quickly commented, “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile.” 10:12.  This would be a good support statement at the fellowship meeting of the church if an overzealous Jew got out of line – or when a Gentile began to boast.    

Please note how Paul may still be working with the “kick off” statement he made in Rom. 9:6.  “It is not as though the word of God has failed.”  In the following discourse, the issue Paul wants to settle is that the Jews who are still lost are the ones who “dropped the ball.”  Neither the word of God, nor those who preached it, failed the Jews.

We will need to put emphasis on the phrase, “Everyone who calls” to get in step with the line of thought Paul has already embarked upon.  He continues with the following sequence of rhetorical questions:    

  • How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?  They can’t.
  • And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?  They can’t.
  • And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  They can’t.
  • And how can they preach unless they are sent?  They can’t. 

Since the foregoing are rhetorical questions, the answers are obvious.  Israel was not saved; however this was not the issue.  The question Paul will answer is; “In which direction should the finger of blame be pointed?”  Toward God and His messengers or did Israel, in fact, fail.  An advocate for physical Israel might proclaim them blameless for not being saved; that is, if God had failed Israel.  Paul will close the door on this possibility.  Let us see how he does it.

He starts with a quote from Isaiah 52:7.  “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”  10:15.  Note how this is a rebuttal of the last rhetorical question on the forgoing list.  If, indeed, Isaiah’s prophecy is about the Christ then God did send a preacher with very beautiful feet.  God sent the best of preachers.  He sent His Son, as the Messiah.  He was not only a great preacher of the kingdom of God; He was “the teacher” of the very life of the citizens of the kingdom (Matt. 23:8; John 14:6, 7).   His message and manner of life is the cornerstone upon which His kingship of God’s kingdom now functions on earth (Isaiah 8:14; 28:16; Rom. 9:33).  One of the cornerstone principles upon which the citizens of God’s kingdom are now “being called” out of Satan’s kingdom is: “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”  Romans 10:17.  The lost must hear the word of Christ and have faith in what is taught about Jesus Christ – not just what He did on the cross but every word He taught.

 “But not all the Israelites accepted the good news.” 10:16.  Many Jews were saved but most were not.  Note how Paul is now working on the next to the last rhetorical question in the foregoing list.  God did send someone to preach the good news and He did preach for more than three years.  Jesus also prepared the apostles to preach with the help of the Holy Spirit.  The message went out.  God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and the apostles did their work. 

The next question up the list:  Well, maybe Israel did not have the opportunity to hear.  Paul lets David’s Psalm rebut this possibility.  “Their message has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the earth.”  Psa. 19:4. 

All right, they heard.  Maybe they didn’t understand?  After all a person cannot believe a message he or she does not understand.  Moses’ testimony is used from one of his great songs he presented near the end of his life (Deut. 31:21).  He foretold of a time when God would make Israel jealous by a people who were not His people.  Paul may have picked up on Moses idea as he appealed to the Christians with a Gentile background to make the Jews envious who had not accepted Christ.  See Rom. 11:14. 

Paul calls upon Isaiah to validate what Moses had said.  Isaiah took it one step further.  The idea Israel heard God’s prophets and preachers preach the word, but they did not understand it, was wrought with irony.  The Gentiles understood and obeyed the word of God.  How then could the Jews not have understood?  Paul said some Jews were “convinced that you (they) are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth.” Rom. 2:19, 20.  In other words, for the Jew to plead a “lack of intelligence” for being lost was, to say the least, laughable. 

To put to rest the first rhetorical question in verse fourteen, Paul let Isaiah say what God had said to him about Israel long ago.  Perhaps, Paul did not want to be the one to put in words God’s final verdict, after all, Paul had been one of them not too long before he wrote this letter. 

But concerning Israel He says,  All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.  Romans 10:21

Having clearly established the fact that Israel had every opportunity to hear, understand and have faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, Paul asked another question.  Then he answered his own question with an emphatic; No!  “Did God reject His people?  By no means!”  Rom. 11:1.  Paul’s answer to his question relates to Romans 9:6.  Please review the following excerpt from Part IV, Lesson One: 

Paul did not want anyone to entertain the thought that God’s word had failed at any time or in any situation.  Therefore, he embarked on a course to clarify what needed be understood:   “It is not as though God’s word had failed.  For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.” Romans 9:6.  (Note Paul used of “Israel” in two ways)

However, the only way to effectively show how God’s word had not failed was to properly identify Israel.  Therefore, he took up both issues together.  Providing material to clarify these two issues will dominate the second portion of Paul’s letter, that is, Chapters 9-11. 

These two issues do appear to have been the driving force for Paul’s zeal in this second part of his letter.  In the first block of scripture in chapter eleven Paul has again identified two categories of people who could claim to have descended from Abraham.  One is Israel who was and is without salvation – they are unsaved Israel.  In fact, Israel had a history of being lost in the Old Testament.  God had endured with much patience these objects of His wrath (Rom. 9:22).  Like Pharaoh, God had even hardened the Israelite’s hearts who were lost.  They had become lost by their own choice.  See Paul’s quotes from the Old Testament in 11:8-10.

The other category of people who claims Abraham as our father is the remnant chosen by grace (Rom. 11:6, 7).  This group included the Apostle Paul along with other Jews who had faith in Jesus as the Messiah.  It includes people who have accepted God’s promises by faith (Heb. 11:1-40).  It includes Gentiles from many nations then as well as now.  God chose us also; therefore, we stand with all the elect of God.

Questions for Discussion

  1. In what sense might the text of this lesson be referred to as a “literary obstacle course?”
  2. Explain how Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome was in tune with Jesus’ evangelism program for nearly three decades after He became king.
  3.  What is unique about the way Christians are to organize themselves as a congregation of God’s people? 
  4. How does your answer to the foregoing relate to the immediate purpose of Paul’s letter?
  5. How did Paul make use of several rhetorical questions?
  6. How might Paul’s insertion of “for there is no difference between Jew and Gentile” between his Old Testament quotes in verses 11 and 13 relate to his intent for writing the Roman letter?
  7. Who did God send to preach and teach His word to Israel?
  8. What source did Paul use to give the correct answer for his rhetorical questions?
  9. What was the final verdict on Israel?  Who did Paul choose to make the pronouncement?
  10. Did God reject His people?  Please explain your answer.

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