Who is God’s Remnant?

The great outer wall of the Temple in Jerusalem

Romans 11:1-10 – I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel: “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”? And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal,” (1 Kings 19:18) so too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. What then? What the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened, as it is written: (Deuteronomy 29:4, Isaiah 29:10) “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear, to this very day.” And David says: “May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them. May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.” (Psalm 69:22-23)

When you look at 1 Kings 19 and read everything in context, it doesn’t appear to fit with what Paul’s addressing. But in a way it does, for Paul’s trying to point out that though many Jews will reject (and have rejected) the Messiah, there are still may others who have accepted (and who will accept) Him. Though hundreds of thousands had bowed to Baal, God had set aside 7,000 prophets. Similarly, today even, millions (billions to this day?) of Jews have rejected God’s Messiah. Yet, many (a fraction in comparison) have accepted Him.

The study notes in my New Living Translation say, “…In Paul’s day, the nation of Israel had rejected Christ. But some Jews had accepted Him. In both cases (meaning Elijah’s case also), those who received God’s grace (that is, accepted the Messiah) were the true remnant of God’s people” and “God’s kindness in choosing them: God’s choice of specific individuals who will accept His offer of free salvation.”

So I can already hear the argument: ‘Why would God choose some, if not all?’ To better understand this, we need to remember Paul’s audience for this part, which were the Jews, and understand/know the cultural traditions and beliefs. To look into such, I turn now to my Archaeological NIV Bible Notes: “Central to Jewish tradition was a distinctive between corporate (group) and individual election. Deuteronomy 7:6 represented the first: the binding covenant between God and Israel (as a group). As Israel’s history progressed, however, Jews continued to rebel against God. From this, came the concept of the “remnant” (those individual Israelites who remained committed to God). Paul intertwined these strands: Only those Jews whom God had chosen by grace were truly His people: the Israel (Individual) within Israel (the group).”

So again, the question is, “Did God only choose some to accept Christ, and if so, why not all?” That’s where the grace part comes in. God’s grace is offered to all, but not all will accept it. Those that don’t accept it won’t be saved, and those who will accept it, will be saved, thus also revealing themselves as members of God’s “remnant.” So again, we recognize that God’s “elect” or “predestined” are not ones God chose to be saved and that the others He rejected. The predestined ones are the Jews who will remain committed to God (their choice and actions). God wishes for all (to accept His Messiah) to remain committed to Him, but as Israelite history shows, such won’t be the case.

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