There Is Always a Remnant
So here in chapter eleven where Paul wraps up this issue concerning Israel’s rejection of the gospel—the gospel which was sent to them—he explains a theme that one finds throughout Scripture. He begins by asking, “Has God rejected His people,” meaning the Jews? He answers again with, μη γενοιτο, “Let it not be,” or “By no means” (ESV). And how does Paul know this? Well for starters, because Paul, a Jew if there ever was one according to the flesh, is a Christian himself. Moreover, he recounts the story of Elijah who foolishly complained to God that he was the only prophet left in all the land (1 Kings 19). And how does God answer Elijah? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” And herein lies the answer to the matter concerning Israel’s rejection of the gospel: Not all have rejected; most to be sure, but not all. Paul writes: “So too at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.”
It is this matter of the remnant, which runs throughout Scripture, a remnant out of the whole, chosen by God’s grace, which answers the question, “Who are God’s people?” God’s people are not a whole nation, not all of someone’s descendants, and not even an entire church. God’s people are always a part of a whole—a remnant—out of the entire group: Not Cain’s descendants but Seth’s, not the whole earth but Noah, not Nahor or Haran but Abraham, not Ishmael but Isaac, not Esau but Jacob, not the Egyptians but the Israelites, not Saul but David, not Israel but Judah, not all of Judah but those who return—a remnant that only gets smaller and smaller until there is really only one left—Jesus Christ. Now the good news is that from that one man, the remnant has grown since his death and resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). But it is still, even to this day, a remnant. And God’s people ever shall be a remnant, a part out of the whole, chosen by grace, chosen by God.
And this is Paul’s answer to the conundrum concerning Israel: God hasn’t rejected Israel. As it has always been, some of Israel have believed, some haven’t and have even been hardened as a result. But in the passage which we will take up the day after tomorrow, Paul will show how even this hardening reveals a glorious divine plan of salvation for all Israel.
We cannot understand God’s mysteries. Even that which He has revealed is above our heads. No one knows His mind or is His counselor. We must learn to say: “To Him be glory forever. Amen.”