Thursday, July 16, 2015

When is a person ready to be baptized?

“He that believes and is baptized will be saved, he that does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16)

I direct a week long summer Bible camp, and it is common for a handful of young people each year to decide to put on Christ in baptism and have their sins washed away. (Praise be to God!!!) One of the things we worry about at camp is that a young person may choose to be baptized prematurely or because of peer pressure. Many of the teens at camp are thinking spiritually for the first time. It is easy to get caught up in the moment and get baptized without thinking about the lifelong commitment that is being made. This post intends to answer the common questions about baptism that are asked in regards to “when is a person ready to be baptized?”

Common Questions about Baptism:
  • Are there things a person must know before being baptized?
  • At what age should a young person be baptized?
  • Could it be that in the past we have rushed people into the water?
  • Are their consequences to baptizing someone prematurely?
Baptism in the Bible
  • In Acts 2 it is observed that baptism comes after one comprehends the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
    • One needs to know that in baptism they are emulating those 3 acts (Romans 6:3-4).
    • One needs to know that they are “baptized into Christ” in order to “put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27).
  • One needs to not think that baptism is a work in which they now have earned salvation (Eph. 2:8-9).
    • Instead they should understand that in baptism they are placing their trust upon Christ’s work on the cross.
  • One must believe in Christ in order to be ready to be baptized.
    • (John 8:24) “unless you believe that I AM he, you will die in your sins” - This is more than just believing that Jesus existed.
      • This is belief in His Lordship, His Deity and all that it entails.
  • When one is baptized, they are submitting to His Lordship; they become His slave, and He is their Master.
    • “... if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
      • When you confess Jesus is Lord before baptism, you are confessing that you are making a commitment to Him through baptism, because HE IS LORD.
In the New Testament one is baptized because they understand two things:
  • 1. The Lordship of Jesus. 
  • 2. Their own sinfulness.
    • Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23; Revelation 21:8.
    • Baptism is for the purpose of receiving the forgiveness of sins that Jesus made available to all when He died on the cross. (Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16).
  • This means that before a person is baptized, they must have an idea of:
    • What sin is.
    • Their own personal sinfulness.
    • The consequences of their own sinfulness and because of the consequences of sin they must have a desire to place their trust solely on Jesus to remedy their sin problem.
Questions to ask a person (especially a younger one) who expresses a desire to be baptized: 
(These questions are not at all meant to discourage a person from following God, but instead are designed to make sure a person is ready, and understands what they are doing.)
  • Why do you want to be baptized?
  • Do you believe in the Lordship of Jesus and understand what that entails?
  • Do you understand the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross?
  • Are you a sinner?
    • (If they answer “yes”) Since you are a sinner, do you believe that right now, if you were to die that you would go to Hell?
  • Do you understand the commitment that you are making?
At what age should a young person ready to be baptized?
  • The Bible does not give an answer to this question, however, in the New Testament, the only examples are of adults getting baptized.
  • The Bible may not tell us a specific age, but it must be at an age when:
    • They can sin, realize it, understand its eternal consequences and feel compelled to do something about it.
    • They must comprehend the Deity of Christ and be willing to submit to His Lordship.
    • They must mentally and emotionally be able to make a lifelong commitment to God.
    • They must understand what Jesus did at the cross and how that ties into what they are doing in baptism.
Other points to consider about a young person being baptized:
  • When one is baptized, they are becoming the bride of Christ. 
    • Would this young person be ready for marriage or at least fully understand the seriousness of a marriage relationship?
  • When a Christian continues in sin and refuses to repent, they are to be withdrawn from.
    • Would we consider this fair or be willing to do it to this young person?
  • There are many passages of Scripture that carry adult themes (Song of Solomon, 1 Corinthians 7:1ff).
    • Would we allow a person of this age to attend a class on these subjects or expect them to understand?
    • Could this young person understand a “virgin birth”?
  • Baptism is a most important decision one will ever make.
    •  It is a mature decision that needs to be made by a mature mind that can make such a decision and commitment. A young person may want to do right, make good choices and follow God, but still not be ready to make a decision of this magnitude. 
      • (In those cases we should encourage a young person to keep trying to follow God in every part of their life. Let them know that when they are ready to make this big decision we will be there to help them. Let them know that God loves them and is glad that they love Him too. Promise them, that when they are ready to be baptized, they will know it for sure.)
A person must be a “sinner” before they require “remission of sins”.
  • Baptism is so one may have their sins washed away.
    • Do we consider these young people that want to be baptized old enough to be capable of committing sins, being separated from God for all eternity in a Devil’s Hell?
  • Just because a child “does bad things” does not mean that they are sinning.
  • Just because a child understands that the Bible commands baptism does not mean that they are ready.
  • We need to be cautious to not push our young people into doing something they do not understand.
  • We need to preach Jesus, sin, its solution, and when they grasp it, they will respond appropriately.
Is it possible to be baptized wrong?
  • Yes, in fact, there are examples of “re-baptism” in Scripture. (Acts 19:1-4).
  • Other reasons for re-baptism:
    • Baptized the wrong way.
    • Wrong reason.
    • Without understanding.
    • Without faith.
    • Without repentance.
The right reasons for being baptized:
  • You believe that Jesus is Lord (John 3:16)
  • You understand your own personal sinfulness and that Jesus came and died on the cross to take the punishment for your sins. (Romans 3:21-31). You understand baptisms relationship to Christ’s actions upon the cross.
  • You desire forgiveness and a committed relationship with Christ. 
  • You have placed your faith in Him (Eph. 2). You have repented of your sins (Acts 2:38). You want to confess that He is Lord (Rom. 10:9).
     “and why are you waiting, arise be baptized, washing away your sins, calling upon the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).

    CS

    Wednesday, July 1, 2015

    Why did God give so many strange rules to Israel in the Book of Leviticus? Is a Christian supposed to follow all of the Old Testament today?

    Answer
    Whether or not a rule is “strange” is a matter of perception. In my house, my children are not allowed to eat in the living room. Children often spill, my living room has a large rug in it, so it is very likely that my carpet would end up stained. A single man, living alone might view this rule as strange, but his perceptions are different because he does not have children, nor is he aware of the messes they often make.

    I will admit, that to the modern reader, many of the laws of the Old Testament seem strange, especially since so many of them do not have an equivalent in the New. God gave Israel laws about sacrifice, what food to eat, what to do with sick people, what clothes to wear, how not to trim your beard, even when and when not to have sexual relations. Many of these rules are very specific while others are more broad. 

    The Purpose of the Laws of Leviticus
    Understand that all the laws given in Leviticus (and other books of law) were given specifically to the Israelites, for a specific purpose at a specific time. As for “why are there so many strange laws?”, I believe the answer is found in (Leviticus 20:22-26).
    ‘You are therefore to keep all My statutes and all My ordinances and do them, so that the land to which I am bringing you to live will not spew you out. ‘Moreover, you shall not follow the customs of the nation which I will drive out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I have abhorred them.‘Hence I have said to you, “You are to possess their land, and I Myself will give it to you to possess it, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am the LORD your God, who has separated you from the peoples. You are therefore to make a distinction between the clean animal and the unclean, and between the unclean bird and the clean; and you shall not make yourselves detestable by animal or by bird or by anything that creeps on the ground, which I have separated for you as unclean. Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.
    Conclusion
    God wanted Israel to be holy and pure. He wanted them to be completely different from the extremely evil pagan nations around them. Some of the laws promoted good health, some kept them from immoral practices, others taught lessons about holiness and others prevented them from doing anything that resembled an idolatrous practice. There are some laws that are hard to understand, but remember, the reason that particular law was given, was to keep them “set apart” as God’s holy people.

    What about the Other Old Testament Laws?
    The Old Testament Law (including the book of Leviticus) was given to the Nation of Israel (the Jews) in order to separate them from the rest of the nations of the world and to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah. All of the laws, the requirements, the feasts, the sacrifices, the priesthood, how to worship, the Sabbath and more, were also designed to lead one to the Messiah (Jesus). Now that Jesus has come, that system has been done away. 

    Notice what the book of Galatians states: 
    But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:23-26).
    The Old Testament Law fulfilled its purpose at the death of Christ. It was not abolished (as if it were not good), but instead it was fulfilled by Jesus.
    "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).
    In the current Christian age, we are not subject to the requirements of the Old Law. The Old Law was only for a specific people (The Jews), for a specific purpose (To prepare the way for Jesus). Now, all people, (Jew are Gentile) are accountable to the teachings of Christ and His Apostles.
    God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world (Hebrews 1:1-2)
    "He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. (John 12:28)  
    Final Thoughts 
    The Old Testament should still be studied, but with the understanding that it is not a law we will be judged by. 
    (Romans 15:4)For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
    By Cliff Sabroe - Quotes from NASB, Image from WikiPaintings  

    Wednesday, June 24, 2015

    Who is the Devil? What does he do? How powerful is he? Is the Devil the same as Satan?

    Many of us developed a view of the Devil as children from watching Saturday morning cartoons. Images of a hoofed creature with horns and a pitchfork are what usually come to mind. This post seeks to give an description of the Devil by using just the Bible.

    Biblical Names of Satan
    • The Devil
      • “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1)
      • The word “devil” is from a Greek term meaning “adversary, opponent or enemy”.
    • Satan
      • “Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD” (Job 2:1)
      • Like the word “devil”, the word Satan (from the Hebrew) is also a term that means “opponent, adversary or enemy”.
    • Beelzebub (Matthew 12:24)
    • Serpent (Revelation 12:9)
    • Prince of the Powers of the Air (Ephesians 2:2)
    • Belial (2 Corinthians 6:15)
    • Murderer and Liar (John 8:44)
    • Prince of this World (John 12:31)
    • God of this World (2 Corinthians 4:4)
    • The Dragon (Revelation 12:9)
      • And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him (Revelation 12:9)
    What the Bible teaches about Satan?
    • He was a fallen angel:
      • (Jude 6) “And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day” (cf. 2 Peter 2:4)
    • He was the first sinner:
      • “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8)
    • He was the original liar:
      • “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it”. (John 8:44)
    • He is a perpetual tempter of man (Revelation 20:2,8).
    • He is dangerous (1 Peter 5:8)
    • He will be defeated!
      • Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil... (Hebrews 2:14)
    • We can cause him to flee!
      • Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
    • Jesus will ultimately destroy him and his works!
      • He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8)
    • Satan will be punished for eternity!
      • The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.  (Revelation 20:10)
    • We should fear him, but through Jesus we can defeat him!
      • "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death” (Revelation 12:11)
    The Devil is dangerous, but Jesus is more powerful! Satan will be punished and those in relationship with Christ will be victorious!

    By Cliff Sabroe

    Wednesday, June 10, 2015

    Can you explain grace?

    What is Grace?
    Most people have a basic understanding of what grace means, but don’t completely understand what it entails. The word grace is used over 150 times in the New Testament and in its most basic sense it can be defined as “favor or kindness”. More importantly, as it relates to salvation, it should be viewed as “favor and kindness from God”. This post seeks to present a few areas where we may not have considered the implications of God’s grace. 

    Our Salvation is a Result of God’s Grace
    It is impossible for us to be saved without the grace of God. No matter how hard we work, obey or do good deeds, we cannot save ourselves. Our salvation is a result of God’s grace. In his letter to the Ephesians the Apostle Paul wrote,
    For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
    The point is clear, salvation is an impossibility without grace.

    God Offers Grace to All
    What is wonderful about God’s saving grace is that He has made it available to all. There are certain religious groups that teach that God has a “limited” amount of grace. This idea is foreign to Scripture. In the book of Titus it reads “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men” (Titus 2:11). It is true that not all will accept and receive this grace, but that is not the fault of God, for He offers His saving grace to all.

    Grace Instructs
    Some try to paint a picture that because of grace obedience is not a necessity, this idea cannot be further from the truth. When describing the grace that is offered to all, in (Titus 2:12) the Apostle Paul writes that this grace is “instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age”. The grace of God is a divine motivator and instructor for one to live a holy life.

    Grace is Not Earned
    Although our obedience is necessitated by God’s grace, God’s grace is not earned through obedience. None of us deserve grace. Because of sin, all that we have earned is death. God is so merciful and loving that He offers a gift that none of us could obtain on our own. 
    For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
    Grace Must be Accessed
    We do not save ourselves. However, we must choose to access the saving grace of God. Sadly, many do not recognize that they are lost, and thus never come to Christ through faith in order to receive His grace. (Romans 5:2) reads, “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God”. When we place our trust/faith in Christ’s saving work we access His grace. We place our faith/trust in Christ by “calling on the name of the Lord”  through our baptism (Acts 22:16).

    We Must Continually Grow in Grace
    The Christian life is a life of perpetual growth. This is especially true when it comes to our understanding and realization of God’s grace. As Peter wrote at the end of his letter, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).  God’s grace does not increase through our growth, but our realization of His grace causes us to grow. 

    It is Possible to Fall from Grace
    Sadly, some people place their faith in something besides God for salvation. This lack of faith can cause one to “fall from grace”. In Galatia there were some Christians who were requiring Old Testament law keeping for one to be justified. Concerning this, the Apostle Paul writes,  “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4). Instead of trusting in Christ, they were trusting in circumcision, thus had fallen from grace.

    We live For Christ so the Gift of God’s Grace is Not in Vain
    God has done so much for us. He sent His Son to die for us and He offers us His grace. If we do not allow these great blessings to motivate us to live for Him, we cause all of God’s work to be in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:10) reads, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me”. God’s grace makes us who we are and we live for Christ so the grace received is not in vain.

    Conclusion
    God’s grace is the undeserved gift of God’s kindness and favor. God is a merciful and loving God who wants us to be saved. Thanks be to God for the gift of grace. May we always seek access to this gift through faith and allow the grace of God to motivate us to live in holiness. 

    By Cliff Sabroe - Quotes from NASB and ESV Bibles

    Wednesday, June 3, 2015

    What is the difference between an Elder, Bishop, Shepherd, Presbyter and Pastor?

    Depending on what church you attend, you have probably heard at least one of these terms before. What you may have never heard, is that each one of these terms are in reference to the same role within a local congregation. This post seeks to define each one of these terms and demonstrate how you can prove they all refer to the same office.

    Elder
    The term “elder” in the New Testament is a translation of the Greek word (presbuteros) which means “older man”. In some English Bibles this word is transliterated into “presbyter”. As would be assumed with the term “elder”, the word expresses maturity and is often used in a religious sense. The following are a few verses in which this term is found.
    (Acts 14:23) -And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. 
    (Titus 1:5) - For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you... 
    (1 Timothy 4:14) - Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.
    Bishop / Overseer
    This word is not usually found in modern translations, however, it is used in the King James Version and the ASV 1901. “Bishop” is from the Greek word (episkopon) and is usually translated as “overseer”. This term reflects the idea of watching over intently. Note the following passages.
    (1 Timothy 3:2) -Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 
    (Titus 1:7) - For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain.
    One may observe that Bishop/Overseer and Elder are in reference to the same office by reading the whole of the passage in (Titus 1). In (Titus 1:5) these men are collectively referred to as “Elders” and then in (Titus 1:7) the singular “overseer” is used. This example proves they are in reference to the same role within a congregation.

    Pastor
    Of all the words being examined in this post, the word “pastor” is likely the most widely used term in American church leadership today. The word “pastor” is from the Greek term “poimen”, which can simply be defined as “shepherd”. In fact, this word often is not used in reference to a church leader, but instead, to an actual “shepherd” watching over a flock of sheep. The word “pastor” is listed as an important role in the 1st Century church.
    (Ephesians 4:11) -And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers…
    It can proven, that the word “pastor” in reference to the same office of an elder and overseer. Notice the text of (1 Peter 1:1-5).
    Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. (1 Peter 1:1-5)
    The previously quoted passage makes it clear that an “elder” is also a “shepherd/pastor”, as well as an “overseer/bishop”. 

    Conclusion
    In religious tradition, Bible terms are often misused or misunderstood.  Many churches today use the term “pastor” without thinking twice about how it is used in the Bible. Certain religious groups have men ordained as “bishops”, to oversee the “elders” of a particular congregation. In the Bible, however, “bishop” , “elder”, and even “pastor” are all in reference to the same role in the church. Instead of looking at these terms as separate congregational duties, one should view them as the same office with different responsibilities being explained by each one of these inspired words. 

    By Cliff Sabroe, quotes from NASB95, Image from churchleaders.com. Definitions gathered from Strong's and Thayer's Greek Lexicons.

    Friday, May 8, 2015

    Does “Do you not have houses to eat in drink in?” (1 Corinthians 11:22) teach that it is wrong to eat inside a church building?

    The Passage Explained
    There were some problems associated with the Communion (ie. The Lord’s Supper) in Corinth. Paul spend time in 1 Corinthians 11 attempting to correct these issues.  The main problem he addresses is “Division”.

    The church is to be an united group, a body and a family. The Communion meal is supposed to be a time of mutual fellowship between the members of a local congregation with God, and with each other . The Corinthians, instead, had turned it into a time to selfishly fill their stomachs.

    This divisive, selfish environment is condemned by the Apostle Paul. In (1 Corinthians 11:18-21), he states:
    For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you. Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk.
    The purpose of this part of worship was to eat Lord Supper together, but instead, they were not even waiting for everyone to get there! In fact, it appears that some members were eating up ALL the food and drinking down all the wine before everyone could commune! This was a blatant corruption of what the Lord’s Supper was supposed to be!

    After, explaining that the purpose of the Lord’s Supper is “remembrance” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26), the Apostle gets back to his corrective rebuke in verses (33-34). The passage reads:
    So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you will not come together for judgment...
    The Communion meal is different from other meals the church may eat together. The communion is a time of remembrance, sharing, celebration, praise and fellowship. The entire congregation is to participate in this weekly observance. It is a shame that there were some brethren in Corinth who turned it into an opportunity to quickly stuff their faces before everyone could participate.

    Answer:
    With the context of this passage in mind, let us examine verse 22. It reads:
    What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you.
    The point of the passage is not to forbid eating in a church building (in fact, church buildings were probably not on the Apostle’s mind at all). Instead, this passage is saying, “if you are hungry, eat at home”, “if you are thirsty, be sure to get a drink beforehand”, because when it is time to take the Lord’s Supper, it is not to fill your belly, but a time to remember Jesus with your Christian family.

    By Cliff Sabroe - Quotes from NASB95 Bible. Picture courtesy of cofchrist.org

    Tuesday, April 21, 2015

    Is God going to save all the Jews? Does Romans 11:26 really teach that “all Israel” is going to be saved? Is this passage figurative? How can I interpret Romans 11 correctly?

    Due to the fact that this is a very challenging question, this post will be longer and more in depth than others. I encourage you to not just skip to the conclusion, but instead, read through it with an open mind, an open Bible and a desire to understand the book of Romans.

    Introduction to Romans 11
    A main turning point in the book of Romans is chapter 11.  In chapter 11 Paul directs his attention from the Jews to the Gentiles. 11:13 states “But I speak to you that are Gentiles” (ASV).  Chapter 11 does not stand alone, as it relates to the underlining theme of the book of Romans.  The book of Romans is a book about unity, and in chapter 11 Paul again tries to unite the Jews and Gentiles on common ground. Please note how the theme of unity flows through the previous chapters. 

    Overview of  Chapters 1-10
    The book of Romans begins in chapter one with the unifying theme as found in (1:16), which declares to the reader that Jew and Gentile can be made just by faith in the gospel “as it is written ‘but the righteous will live by faith” (1:17).  

    Chapter 1:18 – 3:31 unifies its readers by teaching that all have sinned, all need to be justified and that none can justify themselves by keeping law.  

    Chapter 4 unifies the Jews and Gentiles on the basis of justification by faith, this is illustrated by the account of Abraham and how it was reckoned to him as righteousness when he believed. Righteousness on the basis of the faith of Abraham makes him the father of “all” (Jew or Gentile). This means that all who believe may also be reckoned as righteous. 

    Chapter 5 again unites the Jew and Gentile by illustrating from the account of Adam that all are subject to death and that all need Christ. In chapter 6 we learn that if one is in Christ, they will be dead to sin, and in chapter 7, the struggle to die to sin is illustrated. 


    Chapter 8 shows the blessings that come from being united in Christ on the basis of justification by faith, and chapter 9 confirms that it has always been God’s plan. Chapter 10 brings the final argument for justification by faith and not the keeping of law, and the end of chapter 10 and all of chapter 11 remind Israel that God has not rejected them.

    The Context of Romans 11
    In this section the Apostle Paul is painting an exquisite picture of God’s unwavering love for Israel.  A Jew reading this epistle may have come to the conclusion that they could not ever be just, they may be thinking that they had been wasting their time and that God has neglected them for the Gentiles.  Paul in 11:1 answers the Jewish question about God rejecting them, Paul declares “may it never be”.  Paul does say that although God never rejected Israel, many of Israel have rejected God. He shows that one of the reasons that the gospel was given to the Gentiles was to provoke the Jews to jealousy and move them to draw closer to God (11:11).

    In (11:13) the chapter takes a turn and the intended audience goes from the Jews to the Gentiles. As he did with the Jews, Paul exhorts the Gentiles to not be arrogant, but instead have an attitude of humility. This is illustrated with an example of an Olive Tree. 

    In (vs.17-25) Paul identifies God’s people as being a tree. The Jews were part of this tree, but some Jews rejected Christ and were broken off. Where the Jews broke off the Gentiles were allowed to be grafted in.  At this point in the text the Gentiles may be feeling superior to the Jews, but again Paul reminds them in (vs.21) “for if God spared not the natural branches, neither will he spare thee”. If the Gentiles continued in their boasting they would be broken off in the same way the unbelieving Jews were broken off.  If the Jews believe, they likewise will be grafted back into the tree in the same manner as the Gentiles (11:23-24). The point about not being conceited is driven home in (vs.25) in which he declare to them to “not be wise in their own understanding”. 

    What is the meaning of “all Israel” (11:26)?
    Without a doubt, the most difficult passage in this chapter is the first part of (11:26) which states “and so all Israel will be saved”. The question of who “all Israel” is and reference to is a challenging one.

    This writer is of the persuasion that the most likely interpretation of (11:26), is that “all of Israel” is referring to the physical nation of Israel. The Gentiles were assuming that the “hardening” of the Jews was eternal, but Paul is correcting them by proclaiming that “all of Israel shall be saved”. “All Israel” in the context of Romans 11 must be seen as literal. In (Romans 11:1,2,7 and 25) the Israel being referred to is literal Israel. It is poor exegesis to take one verse out of five and make the word mean something different than the definition of the word in the preceding verses. 

    One should note, the word hutosand so” in verse 26 could be better translated “in this manner” (Bauer 602). Thus, what Paul is saying, is in the same manner of being grafted in as the Gentiles were, the unbelieving Jews can be grafted in also if they believe.  100% “all” of Israel has the chance of being saved if they believe and are grafted in as the Gentiles were.

    Continuing in verse 26 the quotes Isaiah 59:20-21 to reiterate the point that God has always wanted to offer salvation to the Jews, as chapter 11 continues this is made wonderfully clear. God wants Jew and Gentile to be saved! 

    The passage shows there was a time where both groups rejected God but now they can both be united together as they are grafted into the tree of salvation the same way.  In (11:32) it states “For God hath shut up all in disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all”. God’s plan is not always a plan that all can understand (11:33). Even though all the nuances of God’s plan cannot be understood, the point of this passage is clear.  God wants both Jew and Gentile to be saved, both Jew and Gentile were separated from God at one time, both Jews and Gentile are saved in the same way, and thus, neither Jew or Gentile has reason to boast!

    Conclusion
    The book of Romans proclaims justification on the basis of faith. Paul wants the readers (both Jew and Gentile) to be united upon this truth. Rome was a church divided, the Jews and Gentiles were in opposition to one another.  In chapters 1-11 Paul beautifully illustrates numerous reasons on why Jew and Gentile are one in the same in the eyes of God. Chapter 11 brings to an end the doctrinal unity that the Jews and Gentiles must embrace. In chapter 12 the book takes a turn to the practical application of the previous eleven chapters. Chapter 11 is the conclusion of Paul’s doctrinal discourse for unity, chapter 11 shows that no matter what race you are, whether you rejected God in the past or in the present, there is room for all in God’s tree. You can be grafted in, if you have faith, and come to Him. 

    By Cliff Sabroe - Quotes from ASV and NASB95 Bible 
    Work Cited - Bauer, Walter. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature.  2nd E.d. Edited By. W.F Arndt and F.W Gingrich. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.