Calling Of The Jews & Gentiles
God’s Plan For Israel

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 46b of 83


“… 27 …Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: 28 For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness:.…” (Romans 9:17-18).

[We are traversing a section of the letter of Paul to the Romans that is not so well-known, but yet is very important for our understanding of the relationship between Israel and the Church of Christ. This may not, at first sight, appear to be an important subject of study for the believer. But the fact is that without a proper appreciation of that relationship, many passages in the Old Testament cannot be properly understood and applied. Besides, such a lack often results in unedifying speculations and debates in regard to the specialness of the Jewish bloodline.

In our previous study, we considered God’s plan for the Gentiles: how it has always been God’s plan to incorporate the Gentiles into His
covenant body. In this second instalment, we will look more specifically into God’s plan for Israel and for the Jews. —JJL]

2.  God’s Plan for Israel

To talk about the Jews, Paul refers to the prophet Isaiah. See v. 27—

27 Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: 28 For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.*This is a very striking quotation, for it again brings us back to God’s promise to Abraham. Remember how God promised Abraham that He would multiply him so that his seed would be “as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore” (Gen 22:17).

Isaiah and Paul are reminding us that God has fulfilled the physical aspect of the promise. Abraham did indeed have many descendants.

But of these descendants, only a small remnant would be saved. Paul has already reminded us that “Not all Israel [is] of Israel” (v. 6). Only those who are in Christ as Abraham’s seed are heirs according to the promise (Gal 3:29). Only a remnant of the Jews are heirs of the promise.

The Lord had, in His righteousness, determined that it be so. He would chastise His people Israel. They had apostatised from Him. They were bearing His name in vain. He would destroy them except for a small remnant.

This small remnant is the elect. It was because God had His elect in Israel that Israel was God’s elect nation.

The wheat field that God planted was overgrown with tare. But God continued to nurture it for the sake of the wheat. But now the wheat has become a remnant. There are so few stalks of wheat left that God was determined to burn the field. He would preserve the wheat, but he would burn the field. The wheat would now be planted in another field.

This field is the Israel of God or the New Testament Church which will comprise both Jews and Gentiles.

The same is truth is taught in Isaiah 1:9, which Paul quotes in v. 29—

29 And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.

Paul is quoting from the Septuagint. But it is helpful for us to compare Paul’s quotation with the original. Isaiah 1:9 reads—

“Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.”

Notice how Paul uses the word ‘seed’ where Isaiah speaks of a ‘very small remnant.’ The word ‘seed’ is obviously very different from the words ‘very small remnant.’ How do we reconcile the obvious differences?

To reconcile the difference, we need only to see that both terms point to the same thing—from different angles. God would leave a very small remnant, but that small remnant is not just a small number of people. It is a seed. What is a ‘seed’? The term ‘seed’ is a loaded theological word. The apostle Paul refers to the theology of this word in Galatians 3:16—

“Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.”

The word ‘seed’ in other words, speaks of a people united to Christ. In saying that the LORD of Hosts has left us a seed, Paul is alluding to the elect. God has a small number of elect remaining in Israel. He would spare these. Were it not for this, Israel would have been completely obliterated like Sodom and Gomorrah.

Can you see what the apostle is saying? He showed earlier (v. 25-26) that God would reconstitute His Church so that it is predominantly Gentile; now he is saying that there are will also be Jews in the church, but it will be a very small number. It would be so according to God’s sovereign decree and providence.

The Jews ought to have taken warning and repented of their sin! But now it was too late for many. God’s plan had already begun to unfold.

…to be Continued Next Issue

—JJ Lim


 


* This is a quotation from Isaiah 10:22-23. The context refers to the Assyrian invasion of the Northern Kingdom. But it is unlikely that Isaiah is only referring to the Northern Kingdom. Isaiah was ministering to the people in the South. It is more likely that Isaiah is using the term ‘Israel’ generally as referring to God’s covenant people as a whole.