Romans 11:1-32 — No room for pride

I have never understood the anti-Semitic sentiment held by some Christians, particularly in view of Romans 11.

I think at the root of the anti-Semitic sentiment is a feeling of pride, and that is something Paul completely squashes in this chapter.

It is this feeling of pride, in fact, that Elijah had when complaining to God about the rest of the Israelites,  He said to God,

I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.  (1 Kings 19:10)

In other words, “Look at me God.  I’m zealous for you.  Look at all I’ve done.  But these other Israelites:  they’re hopeless.”

But God told him, “Hey, there are many others who belong to me who have never bowed knee to Baal.”

Paul then says that just as there was a remnant in Elijah’s time, there is a remnant of Jews now faithful to God, who have accepted Jesus as their Messiah.  And they, like us, are chosen by God’s grace.

Paul goes on to remind us,

And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

Many Christians today are like Elijah.  They think they were saved because of their works.  That they were somehow better than others, and so God saved them.  But Paul tells us that’s not true.  Grace is a gift given to the undeserving.

Elijah was undeserving of God’s grace, and yet he received it.  Elijah became bitter, angry, and depressed when his life was threatened.  And yet God reached down to him and strengthened and encouraged him.  We too are undeserving; yet God reached down to save us.  How then can we look down on the Jews as if we are somehow better than they are?  We are all saved by grace.

Paul then compares the Jews to olive branches that were broken off and us to wild shoots that were grafted in.

But he tells us,

Do not boast over those branches.  If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.  You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted.  But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith.  Do not be arrogant, but be afraid.  For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.  Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.  (18-22)

The point again here, is that we are saved by grace.  That it is not because of what we have done that saved us, but because of what Christ did on the cross.  The only thing we did was believe.  So there’s no room for arrogance on our part.

Rather, those who criticize the Jews should pay more attention to their own selves.  And they need to ask themselves, “Am I standing by faith and the grace of God?  Or am I standing by my works?  If I’m standing by my works, I’m headed for destruction just as those unbelieving Jews are.  But if I’m standing by grace, what right do I have to be arrogant?”

Even if you don’t criticize the Jews, do you look down on others?  Are you convinced that you are saved because you’re somehow better than others.  You’re not.  If you were, grace wouldn’t be grace.  Rather your salvation would simply be what you deserved.

So be humble.  And grateful.  There is no room for pride in the kingdom of God.

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About bkshiroma

I'm from Hawaii, but have been in Japan as a missionary/English teacher since 1995. I'm currently going to a church called Crossroad Nishinomiya, an international church in Nishinomiya, a city right between Kobe and Osaka. Check out their website: crossroad-web.com 私がハワイから来ましたけど1995年に宣教師と英会話の教師として日本に引っ越しました。 今西宮にあるクロスロード西宮という国際の教会に行っています。どうぞ、そのホムページを見てください: crossroad-web.com
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