Friday, 28 July 2017

Romans 11

Have you ever read Romans through in a single sitting? Romans 11 wasn't written like a separate label to tie to a pole and let it swing there - it's part of the flow of the whole Book. Romans is going somewhere. 

As his Epistle progresses, Paul addresses specific issues along the way. He tells us what those questions are. Part of Romans 11 was an appeal to Roman believers not to think more lowly of Jews than they should: not to think Jews probably didn't have the opportunity any more to get saved; not to despise Jewish church-members because of their conscientiousness about sabbaths and diets, etc. All of that was an especially Roman tendency, exacerbated when Claudius expelled all Jews from the city (which the books of Acts mentions).

So Paul's reponse, always aiming for unity between Gentile and Jew in the Church, is to explain that God hadn't closed the door to Jews - many Jews had been saved, and any who hadn't still could - Paul himself was an example of that happening. In fact God was using the Gentiles' experience of salvation to provoke Jews to jealousy, to become what they were always intended to be. 

Paul explained that that outcome had been a mystery in OT times. But that was the very outcome which fulfilled Israel's promised salvation. Quoting two OT verses, which had in fact already seen their fulfilment, and still were - or else no-one has ever yet been saved!

And "so all Israel shall be saved", he concluded. Not," and then..." But, "and so..." Manner, not sequence. Paul wasn't saying what will happen next after the fulness of the Gentiles has come in - or else he'd have said "And then...". He was explaining the scheme that existed. "And so..." In this manner. What he was most likely meaning is that the scenario he'd just described, even though it's an outcome that had been a bit of a mystery up until now, is the very scheme by which all Israel must be saved: God hasn't closed the door to them.

But even if Paul meant there's going to come a time of nationwide responsiveness in Israel, it can only be on the platform of the Gospel, not on the old scheme of Judaism - and not 'after' the Second Coming! And a future 'Millennium' (if that's what Revelation means) can't be a Judaistic one. Spiritualising the significance of sacrifices in Prophecy from atonement offerings to 'memorial' offerings like some claim, is to depart from literalism. Thus the Dispensational model of the Millennium unravels by the very literalism on which it claims to be constructed, doesn't it? Or at least, the idea should probably be put in the non-fundamental truth category, the inessential doctrine category - not something we demand a thorough understanding of and agreement with as a condition for not jeopardising one's credentials and severely affecting one's standing in the fellowship? 

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