God’s Kindness & Severity

Sermon Study Sheets

Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

October 13, 2002

God’s Kindness & Severity

Romans 11:1-24

Over the last month or so we have been studying God’s relationship to the
nation of Israel as explained by the Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Romans.
It is not uncommon for people, especially those who are not Jewish, to read
through Romans and then wonder why Paul includes chapters 9, 10 and 11. By
chapter 8, Paul has explained the gospel and its wonderful benefits, and in
chapter 12, Paul begins to apply the truths of the gospel to daily life. So why
three chapters dealing with Israel? There are two basic reasons.

The first is that Paul is writing to a group that included Jewish people and
they would have a great interest in understanding how their nation would fit
into the plan of God now that the Gospel had gone to the Gentiles. Was God going
to fulfill His promises? And if so, how was He going to do so? We have already
seen part of the answer to those questions in chapters 9 and 10, and next week
we will be looking at God’s future plans for Israel in depth as we conclude
our study of chapter 11.

The second reason that Paul includes these chapters is also very important.
In fact, perhaps more important, for it had a direct bearing on both Jews and
Gentiles. Will God keep His promises to Israel? Why is that important? Because
if God does not keep His promises to Israel, then He is untrustworthy and we
cannot have any confidence that He will keep His promises to us concerning
salvation. If God will keep His promises to Israel, then He is trustworthy and
we can have confidence that He will keep His promises to us concerning
salvation. The hope then of both Jew and Gentile alike is bound up in God being
trustworthy and fulfilling His promises to Israel.

God Has Not Rejected Israel (1-10)

It was to the nation of Israel that God gave "the adoption as sons
and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the service and
the promises"
(9:4). However, for the two previous chapters, Paul has
explained that the gospel has now gone to the Gentiles because Israel has
rejected her Messiah. They had a zeal for God, but without knowledge. They
continued to try to establish their own righteousness instead of subjecting
themselves to the righteousness of God that comes through faith in Jesus Christ.
At the end of chapter 10, Paul has pointed out from both the Law (Moses) and the
Prophets (Isaiah) that God knew that Israel was a disobedient and obstinate
who would reject Him and His messengers, but even so, God continued
to stretch out His hands to them (10:21).

Paul begins chapter 11 with an anticipated question arising from these
truths. Paul says, "I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He?
The word rejection here (ajpwqevw / apotheo)
means to "push aside," "thrust away" and hence to reject. In
this verse, "His people" refers to the nation of Israel. In view of
their disobedience and obstinacy toward God, is God casting them away? In other
words, has God had enough and so is rejecting them and canceling His promises?

Paul’s answer is immediate and strong. "May it never be!"
This is stated in the strongest negative possible in Greek. We might say, Absolutely
Or Impossible! God has not rejected His people. God keeps His
promises. Paul goes on in verses 2-10 to give three reasons that prove God has
not and will not reject His people. But Paul also warns that God is going to
severely chasten them, and it will only be a small portion of the nation which
will receive the promised blessings.

God Saved Paul who is an Israelite (1)

The first proof that God has not rejected Israel is Paul himself. Note what
Paul says in verse 1, "For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of
Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin."
Now keep in mind here Paul’s
previous history as Saul the Pharisee. I pointed out two weeks ago Paul’s
identification with the ignorant zeal for God that existed among many of the
Jews, because that is exactly where he had been. He was so zealous for the law
that he was a major persecutor of the church. It was not until Paul was on his
way to Damascus to persecute the believers there and Jesus intervened to show
him the light that Saul was changed to Paul. If Saul the Pharisee could be
saved, then any Jew could be saved. God had not completely rejected Israel for
Paul was living proof of God’s continuing mercy to Israel and use of the Jew
for His own glory.

God Keeps His Promises (2a)

Paul’s next proof that God had not rejected Israel is based in the
character of God. Look at the first part of verse 2. "God has not
rejected His people whom He foreknew."
The phrase "His
people" in this verse also refers to Israel as a nation just as it did in
verse 1. God has not rejected them. We examined this concept of
"foreknowledge" back in Rom. 8:29. God exists outside the time box
that we are in. He knows the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:10). Foreknowledge
is not just being aware of something beforehand, prescience, but it also
encompasses God’s determination to bring it to pass. Foreknowledge and
predestination are tied together in the Scriptures. For example, in Acts 2:23
where the Apostle Peter uses the cognates of the words for foreknowledge and
predestination to refer to the very same thing. Foreknowledge invariably results
in predestination.

God knew what the nation of Israel would be like and what the people would do
even before He chose them to be His people. It was within His predetermined plan
to use such a disobedient and obstinate people for His own glory. There have
been many times in the history of that nation when the majority have rejected
God, but even in those times, God has always provided that there would be a
remnant of faithful people. God in His foreknowledge always has at least a few
chosen that will be faithful in following Him even when the rest have rebelled.
God will bring His chastisement upon the nation for their disobedience, but He
never rejects the nation because He always has the remnant. Paul gives an
historical example of this in verses 2-6

Historical Example (2b-6)

2 "God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not
know what the Scripture says in [the passage about] Elijah, how he pleads with
God against Israel? 3 "Lord, they have killed Thy prophets, they have torn
down Thine altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life." 4
But what is the divine response to him? "I have kept for Myself seven
thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." 5 In the same way then,
there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to [God’s]
gracious choice. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works,
otherwise grace is no longer grace."
The full story of Elijah’s
complaint and God’s answer occurs in 1 Kings 19.

The essentials of the story are that Elijah had just defeated the 450
prophets of Baal at Mt. Carmel. He had also prayed and the Lord brought rain
which broke the drought that been upon the land for the previous 3 ‘ years.
Even though these had been great victories, evil Queen Jezebel was seeking to
kill Elijah because of them, so he had fled into the wilderness. The Lord was
miraculously supplying Elijah with food, yet Elijah became depressed and when
the Lord asked him why he was there, Elijah let out his complaint that though he
had been so zealous for the Lord, all the rest of the sons of Israel had
forsaken God, killed God’s prophets and were even then seeking to kill Elijah.
He thought he was the only one left. The Lord’s answer was to send Elijah to a
mountain where he saw the power of the Lord expressed in a mighty wind, an
earthquake and fire before the Lord told Elijah what he was to do next and
revealed that Elijah was not alone. There were still 7,000 in Israel that had
not forsaken God and bowed down to Baal. It was immediately after this that
Elijah, at the Lord’s direction, chose Elisha to be the prophet that would
replace him.

This is a story that every Jew reading Paul’s letter would have been
familiar with, and so it is a perfect illustration of the fact that God always
has a remnant. The time of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel were some of their
darkest days in Israel. Elijah was unaware of any others that had not succumbed
to their evil influence. Yet, even in such a time of gross rebellion against the
Lord, God had not rejected His people but had preserved a remnant of 7,000 to
carry on His work.

God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. He always has a remnant. It
was true during the time of Elijah, and as Paul points out in verse 5, it was
also true in the present time though Israel as a nation and the majority of her
people had rejected God’s plan of salvation from sin through faith in Jesus,
the Messiah. There was and still is a remnant that have responded to the gospel
message according to God’s gracious choice.

Paul’s mention of God’s grace in election of the remnant brings up again
what Paul had said in chapters 8 and 9 about God’s sovereignty in election to
salvation. Salvation from sin is according to God’s grace in extending
righteousness to those who will believe and not according to man’s effort to
attain righteousness for himself.

As Paul points out in verse 6, the very nature of grace demonstrates that
salvation cannot come by works. Grace is a gift freely given without any basis
of merit on the part of the one receiving the gift. It is a gift freely given
without any obligation on the part of the giver. If there is any kind of work
involved then what is received is not a gift, but wages. If there is any kind of
merit involved, it is not a gift, but a reward.

This is no small point that Paul is making. Many of you come from backgrounds
in which grace is defined as receiving something based on your religious works.
An example of this is the sacramental system in Roman Catholicism. You receive
what they define as "grace" for participating in the sacraments –
baptism, confirmation, mass, penance, etc. Those would be properly defined as
either works which receive their wages or as merit which receive their reward,
but they are not related to the grace of God given to sinners spoken of in the
Bible and described by Paul here in Romans.

God is Disciplining Israel (7-10)

Paul continues on in verses 7 – 10 to explain what God is doing to Israel.
This is the third proof that God has not rejected Israel.

7 "What then? That which Israel is seeking for, it has not obtained, but
those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; 8 just as it is
written, "God gave them a spirit of stupor, Eyes to see not and ears to
hear not, Down to this very day." 9 And David says, "Let their table
become a snare and a trap, And a stumbling block and a retribution to them. 10
"Let their eyes be darkened to see not, And bend their backs forever."

What was Israel seeking for? Paul told us that back in chapter 10:2 & 3.
They were zealous for God and seeking righteousness, but because they were
seeking a righteousness they could establish for themselves through keeping the
law, they were unable to obtain it. As has been pointed out many time already in
our study of Romans, no one can make themselves righteous through the law,
because no one can keep the law perfectly. The law condemns because it is
righteous and holy, but those trying to live by it are not.

Those whom God has graciously chosen or elected have obtained righteousness.
On what basis? Not the law, but rather upon God’s grace extended to man in the
redemption that is in Jesus Christ atoning for our sins. The righteousness of
Jesus is imputed or given to us on the basis of our faith in Him and His work on
our behalf. In short, those who believe obtain righteousness by faith because of
God’s gracious choice, and those who try to earn righteousness for themselves
are left to the consequences of their own failed efforts. They do not obtain it.
As Paul points out here, they are also hardened.

What does it mean they were hardened? That goes back to Paul’s discussion
in chapter 9, particularly verse 18 and the example given of Pharaoh. This is
not God hardening the hearts of men in any unjust, impulsive or whimsical
manner. As we have seen in the example of Pharaoh, it is God judicially
solidifying the decisions already made by that person. Pharaoh hardened his own
heart against God many times before God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so there
would no longer be any chance of repentance. The same point is made here in
regards to those among God’s chosen people, Israel, that rejected God’s plan
for them, and in particular their rejection of Jesus, their Messiah.

Again, this was not something that came as a surprise to God. He knew all
along that this is what they would do. Paul’s reference in verse 8 comes from
an often repeated theme in the Old Testament. This particular quote is from
Deut. 29:4 and Isaiah 29:10. The theme is also repeated in Isaiah 6:9; Jeremiah
5:21 and Ezekiel 12:2. Paul goes on in verse 9 & 10 to quote from Psalm
69:22,23. These Old Testament references demonstrated that the people then were
no different from those who had been many generations before. We can add that
people today are no different from what they were then.

The idea of "their table becoming a snare to them" is a
metaphorical reference to the Scriptures. A person’s table is where they eat
and is considered a place of safety as well as nourishment. They understood that
they were to be sustained by the Word of God. They were not to live by bread
, but by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord
(Deut. 8:3). They thought they had life in the Law, but in reality it became a
trap for them. Jesus had rebuked the Pharisees in John 5:39 saying, 39 "You
search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and
it is these that bear witness of Me; 40 and you are unwilling to come to Me,
that you may have life.

I was asked in one of my discipleship groups how people such as are in the
various cult groups could read the Bible and preach from it and yet not
understand its message. The answer is because they are no different from the
Israelites Paul was speaking of here. They have eyes and ears, but they do not
see or hear. They can read the Bible and even analyze it academically or write
mystical and emotional poems about it, but they cannot understand the message
that is in it because they are blinded to the truth. This is not because God has
blinded them and hidden from them, but because the unbelieving are blinded by
Satan, the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4), and so they reject God’s revelation.
God will then at some point solidify them in their rebellion and rejection.

God has not rejected Israel though they have rejected Him. God has brought
the nation under His chastisement, and He has

condemned the unrighteous. Yet, God still preserves a remnant from among His
people by His own gracious choice

In verses 11-24 Paul reveals that not only has God not rejected Israel, He
still has a plan for them.

God has a Plan (11-24)

Paul begins this section in verse 11 with a rhetorical question. "I
say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they?
The idea here is has
the nation of Israel fallen to such a low state that they cannot be recovered?
Is their condition so bad that there is no longer any hope for them? Paul
responds again with the strongest negative possible. May it never be! They
can be recovered. There is still hope. Paul will later show what God’s future
plan is for the nation, but he first demonstrates that there is hope by showing
what God is doing even in the midst of their rebellion.


God’s Kindness to the Gentiles (11-12)

The first aspect of God’ plan that Paul reveals to us is that the temporary
setting aside of Israel works out to be God’s kindness to the gentiles.

But by their transgression salvation [has come] to the Gentiles, to make them
jealous. 12 Now if their transgression be riches for the world and their failure
be riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be!"

This is not to say that the God has not wanted the Gentiles to know about Him
before, but Israel had not been fulfilling that role which God gave to her. I
have pointed this out previously. Because of Israel’s ethnocentric pride, she
did not become a nation of priests that proclaimed God to the world. They wanted
to keep God for themselves. By setting aside Israel temporarily, the gospel was
now going out to the Gentiles. Paul points out that part of the purpose of this
was to make Israel jealous, but their failure has become riches for those of us
who are Gentiles. We can now be included as part of God’s family. Paul gives
even greater hope at the end of verse 12 pointing out that if these are the
riches that come from her failure, then how much greater will the riches to the
gentiles be when Israel actually does fulfill her God given role.

God’s Provoking of Israel (13-15)

In verses 13-15 Paul expands on this but places more emphasis on his own
desires toward Israel.

13 But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an
apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14 if somehow I might move to
jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection
be the reconciliation of the world, what will [their] acceptance be but life
from the dead?

Remember that Paul was writing to a mixed group of Jews and Gentiles in Rome.
The emphasis since the start of Chapter 9 has been on Israel, which would have
been very important to the Jews. Here Paul addresses the Gentiles directly about
his own heart and the importance of all this.

Paul had become an apostle to the Gentiles because of the continued
opposition to the gospel that he ran into from the Jews. The story of his
turning to minister to the gentiles is recorded in Acts 18. Up to that time Paul
concentrated on preaching to the Jews, and he would deal with Gentiles in a
secondary manner. After that time Paul still held that the gospel was to the
Jew first
(Rom 1:16), but his greater concentration of ministry was now on
preaching and teaching the Gentiles. Even so, Paul’s heart was still longing
for the salvation of his countrymen. Paul desired that somehow his ministry to
the Gentiles would provoke some of his countrymen to jealousy so that they might
turn and be saved. If the Jews saw the changes God made in the gentiles, perhaps
they would desire to seek God themselves again. Tragically, the Jews have often
been persecuted by those claiming to be Christians resulting in a further
distancing of them from the gospel. Though there have been Christian leaders who
have been anti-Semitic, that is contrary to what the Bible teaches. Christians
should have the heart of Paul towards the Jews. Christians are not to be

In verse 15, similar to verse 12, Paul points out that if this setting aside
of the Jews has resulted in the message of reconciliation going out to the
world, then how much more would it be so if they accepted the message
themselves. The individual Jew would be brought from spiritual death to life and
the nation would be restored to its rightful place. That will happen in the
Millennium as we shall see next week.

God Warns the Gentiles (16-22)

In verses 16-22, Paul gives warning to the Gentiles lest they become proud
and arrogant in what God had now given them.

16 And if the first piece [of dough] be holy, the lump is also; and if the
root be holy, the branches are too. 17 But if some of the branches were broken
off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker
with them of the rich root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the
branches; but if you are arrogant, [remember that] it is not you who supports
the root, but the root [supports] you. 19 You will say then, "Branches were
broken off so that I might be grafted in." 20 Quite right, they were broken
off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but
fear; 21 for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare
you. 22 Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell,
severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise
you also will be cut off.

Paul begins the section with a cooking analogy and then shifts to a wonderful
horticultural analogy which he then expands. Anyone that has done baking or
gardening understands the premise in verse 16. If you take a sample of the
whole, you then also know the nature of the whole. A small piece of dough will
reveal what the rest of the dough is also like. If you know what the roots are,
then you also know what the rest of the plant will be.

God planted holy roots in Abraham who became not only the physical father of
the nation of Israel, but also the spiritual "father of the faithful"
(Rom. 4:11) regardless of physical heritage. The nation of Israel was founded as
a holy nation. They were the branches springing out of the root of the faith of
Abraham. However, they did not bear the fruit God sought from them, so He broke
off some of the branches, just as He had warned them over and over in the Old
Testament. Please note that even here Paul is careful to state that God broke
off "some of the branches," not "all the branches." That has
proven to be for our benefit, because it allowed us Gentiles to be grafted in.

Paul’s warning here is direct. There is no room for Gentiles to become
arrogant and think that somehow they are better than the Jews who were broken
off. That is not true. The real test of any tree is the fruit. If we do not bear
good fruit for God, then don’t think He will not break us off too and replace

I think that history has already shown the seriousness of this warning.
Historically, the Middle East – Egypt up through Asia Minor (Turkey) were the
areas where Christianity was strongest in the first few centuries. By the 7th
Century those areas had become spiritually weak. Christianity had become
ritualistic and political. They were therefore unable to defend themselves
against the Arabic Islamic conquests. The three eastern patriarchate centers
fell in rapid succession. Jerusalem fell in 636. Antioch fell in 638 and
Alexandria in 641. The Persian empire fell by 651. All of North Africa by 709
and the Gothic kingdom of Spain in 711. The major reason for all of this. Why
risk death for a religion you don’t really believe?

But it is not just religious military conquests that break off the branches.
Apathy will also accomplish the same. Consider the state of Europe now as
compared to 200 years ago. England was the powerhouse of missions in the 18th
and 19th centuries. It is now a country to send missionaries too. The
United States is rapidly heading the same direction. The number of missionaries
sent out from the United States continues to rapidly shrink even while the
number of non-Christians in this country rapidly expands. Christian missions has
been shifting to Africa and Asia for sometime.

We Gentiles have experienced God’s kindness even as we have seen God’s
severity upon Israel. Paul’ properly warns us that those who depart from God’s
mercy in Jesus Christ will also have their branch cut off.

God Gives Hope to Israelites (23,24)

Paul concludes this section in verses 23,24 with hope for Israel. 23
"And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted
in; for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut off from what
is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a
cultivated olive tree, how much more shall these who are the natural [branches]
be grafted into their own olive tree?"

It is a lot easier to graft in a branch that is native to the root stock than
it is to graft in something that is not. God is able to do so again with Israel,
and in fact, as Paul points out here, He will do so with those that do not
continue in unbelief. This is true both for the individual Jew and for the

There are many Jews around today that have understood the gospel message and
have placed their faith in Jesus as their Messiah. They are following in the
faith even as their ancestor, Abraham, did. Their faith in Jesus as their
redeemer has been reckoned to them as righteousness.

There is also hope for the nations future, for there will be a day in which
all of Israel will have such faith. We will see that in our study next week of
Romans 11:25-26.



Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s
lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something
you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older
Children –
Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times Jewish
people are referred to ("Jew" "Jewish" "Israelite"
etc. ).  2) Discuss with your parents how God has dealt with the nation of
Israel and what your own attitude should be toward Jewish people.


Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What is the
context of Romans 11:1-24? Why does Paul include Romans 9,10 & 11 in this
book? Why has the gospel gone to the Gentiles? Why would anyone thing God has
rejected Israel? What evidence does Paul give that God has not rejected Israel?
What is the apostle Paul’s heritage? What was he like before his conversion?
What does it mean that God "foreknew" "His people"? Did
Israel’s rejection of God surprise Him? What historical example does Paul give
illustrating that God has not rejected Israel? What was the situation in Israel
at that time? What is the Biblical definition of "grace." How does
Roman Catholicism define "grace," and what is it actually? Why did
Israel not obtain what it was seeking? Who did obtain it? On what basis? On what
basis does God "harden" people? How does "their table become a
snare to them"?
What is God’s kindness to the Gentiles? What is God’s
severity to Israel? How has God provoked Israel? What is the nature of God’s
current setting aside of Israel? How much of Israel has been "broken
off?" On what basis are Gentiles "grafted in" to the rootstock?
How do they avoid being also broken off? Have Gentiles also been "broken
off"? Examples? What hope is given to Israel? On what basis?


Sermon Study Sheets

God’s Kindness and Severity : Romans 11:1-24

God Has Not Rejected Israel (1-10)

God Saved Paul who is an Israelite (1)


God Keeps His Promises (2a)


Historical Example (2b-6) (1 Kings 19)

The Nature of Grace


God is Disciplining Israel (7-10)

Deuteronomy 29:4; Isaiah 29:10 cf. Isaiah 6:9; Jeremiah 5:21; Ezekiel 12:2

Psalm 69:22,23

Deuteronomy 8:3 John 5:39,40

God has a Plan (11-24)


God’s Kindness to the Gentiles (11-12)


God’s Provoking of Israel (13-15)


God Warns the Gentiles (16-22)



Historical Examples


God Gives Hope to Israelites (23,24)