A Remnant of Believers

v. 1-6 Preparation for these verses has been made by the following: 9:27-29

27 Isaiah cries out concerning Israel:
“Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea,
only the remnant will be saved.
28 For the Lord will carry out
his sentence on earth with speed and finality.”
29 It is just as Isaiah said previously:
“Unless the Lord Almighty
had left us descendants,
we would have become like Sodom,
we would have been like Gomorrah.”

Paul’s opening question and answer: based on Psalms 94:14

For the LORD will not reject his people;
he will never forsake his inheritance.

Moreover, we learned from chp. 9:6 “It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. The remnant is the focus of the text.

Paul’s supernatural transformation is an evidence of salvation for God’s chosen remnant.

Furthermore, v. 2-4 to further confirm God’s sovereign election and preservation of those chosen, Paul references Elijah. cf. (1 Kings 18-19). “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” Harrison (1976) said,

“Elijah had stood alone on Mt. Carmel and later fled alone to the desert-an object of pursuit. It is possible that Paul, likewise persecuted by his own countrymen, felt a special kinship with Elijah, and this may help account for his mention of himself in v. 1” (pg 117).

Notice the contrast between Elijah’s “I am the only one left”- and God’s reply: “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” v. 4.

No matter how bad it gets or is going to get, God always preserves his chosen ones. “…God does not permit his own at any time to approach the vanishing point.” (Harrison, ibid).

v. 5 “So too” Paul sees a parallel between the time of Elijah and his own time. The faithful accepting Christ were the minority, hence only a remnant. Those refusing to kneel to Baal were also only a few in Northern Israel. Nonetheless, however many God determines to grant salvation: transform, preserve, justify, sanctify, empower, it is “a remnant chosen by grace.” In light of grace,

Does the character of the remnant matter? Does the “choosing” depend on the quality of those chosen? In other words, is our election based on anything about us or what we do?

v. 6 It all (salvation) depends on the saving action of our sovereign God! Otherwise, “…grace would no longer be grace.” v. 4 “I have reserved for MYSELF seven thousand.”

We can’t do anything to initiate or earn salvation! If it were so, salvation would be based on works. However, works and grace are mutually exclusive in God’s plan for salvation.

At the present time, what “channel of operation” or “vessel of mercy” does God use to proclaim His grace to those in need of a Savior?

v. 7-10 A mindset that righteousness with God is obtained by: “doing good” or any method outside of God’s grace has tragic consequences. Another method or disposition might be “pride” that rejects the grace of God for one’s own ideas that include: “I am not so bad” or “God is all loving, therefore…”

Any compromise regarding our “righteousness with God” to include any ideas beyond His mercy and grace reflects a hardened heart.

Harrison (1976) said, “The elect obtained righteousness because they did not go about it the wrong way but depended on divine grace.”

What if one is earnest and sincere? Is there such a thing as a earnest and sincerely hardened heart?

The word Greek word for “hardened” in v. 7 is even stronger than in 9:18. It suggests a stiffening of the existing soul and character and an intractable and obstinate mental attitude. A permanent bluntness and insensibility in the intelligence. (Harrison) e.g. Rabbis and Pharisees: hardened in their routine habits and erroneous ways.

Why did God harden Israel?

v. 8 May we learn from Israel’s history! Paul weaves together Deut 29:4 and Isa 29:10. The context of Deut. illustrates Israel’s hardening heart and failure to love and trust God, hence have faith, even as He performed miracles, preserved, loved them in the wilderness.

Isa. this context portrays the faithful testimony of the prophets, yet the Israelites shut their ears to the voice of God as He spoke through them. Again, a failure to believe and trust God. Therefore, “God gave them….”

v. 7-8 Commenting on these verses, Harrison (1976) said, “What was involved was a judicial punishment for failure to use God-given faculties to perceive his manifested power and to glorify him.” (cf. Jn 12:39-40)

v. 9-10 A quote from Psalm 69:22-23. “Their table…” Pett (online) said, “They want to eat of the table that they have set for themselves, with the result that they are not willing to eat at God’s table.

They want righteousness by the Law. But this has proved to be ‘a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling block, and a recompense to them’. All it can do is entrap them and make them stumble on in their ignorance.”

Remember our premise: “God is good!” When? God is just, merciful and full of compassion.

Moreover, we have learned that we are called to accept the fact that we have to live with “tension” as we attempt to understand the truth of Scripture. For example,

Our responsibility for our sin and hardening of our own hearts and God hastening the process, as He did with Pharaoh at the Exodus.

The election of God and our free will/responsibility within the plan of God.

Mankind’s responsibility for failing to respond to the message of grace and salvation through the cross and the consequent eternal punishment.

Persevere! Keep Digging!

Dr. Peter Pett (angelfire.com) Romans
Expositor’s Bible Commentary (1976) Gaebelein, F.E. (ed)
NIV Study Bible (1984).