If Christ perfectly shows the holiness of God to the world, what then is to become of Israel? Has God rejected the nation of Israel? Paul addresses these questions in Romans 11, where he speaks about the place of Israel in the present age.

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
(Romans 11:1-6 ESV)

Pointing out the obvious Paul reminds his readers that he (an apostle of Christ) is a decedent of Abraham (Israelite). God has not forgotten about the people he chose for himself before the foundation of the world. Paul recounts the Old Testament story of Elijah, who, being frustrated by the wickedness of Israel declared to God that he was the only faithful Israelite left. God answers Elijah, revealing that even in the face of such rampant disobedience God has still kept a remnant of 7,000 men who have not worshipped Baal. In the same way God has kept a remnant for himself in Israel today.

Even though Israel was God’s chosen people, not all who share in the flesh of Abraham (Israel) are saved. Those who were unfaithful were not included in the remnant God set aside for himself. This is to show that salvation has always been about faith not flesh. This is the same for all who share in the flesh of Adam.

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written,
“God gave them a spirit of stupor,
eyes that would not see
and ears that would not hear,
down to this very day.”
And David says,
“Let their table become a snare and a trap,
a stumbling block and a retribution for them;
let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,
and bend their backs forever.”

(Romans 11:1-10 ESV)

What then of Israel’s strong opposition to the Gospel of Jesus Christ? By choosing Israel to be obedient to his law God showed the nations to be disobedient, because through their obedience they would reflect God holiness in unity. In this way the remnant in Israel were saved. However when the holiness of God was revealed in Jesus Christ Israel became enemies of the Gospel, this so that the Gospel would spread amongst the nations and that mercy might be shown to them. It was by the persecution of the Church at the hands of Israel (as Paul is painfully aware) that the Gospel spread to the nations (Acts 8:1). Therefore Israel was hardened for a time so that the nations might be shown mercy.

Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,
“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
“and this will be my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”
As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

(Romans 11:25-35 ESV)

After the time of this hardening passed God uses the elect from the nations of the earth to show mercy to Israel. Mercy is shown to the nations and to Israel because of their disobedience, just as it says “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.” (vs35) From God’s perspective (under his compete sovereignty) all (the elect past, present and future) were first given over to disobedience so that God could show mercy to them in Jesus Christ. In understanding the mercy that he has bestowed upon the elect they grow to understand the great love that God has for them. So today, just as God keeps some from all nations as a remnant for himself he also keeps some from amongst the Jews, because he has not forgotten the faithfulness of Abraham.

God has done this so that we might know that he is all in all (he is the head of all things), the only true and living God. Therefore he is worthy of all glory and honour as he works all things in himself to that end. So that through creation he first declared his headship and in the salvation of Christ he declares it again, so that all things would either unite in him or be removed.

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
(Romans 11:36 ESV)

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