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Romans 11:1-6 - Exposition

I say then, Hath God east away his people! God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not east away his people which he foreknew (or, predetermined. See the same word, Romans 8:29 ). Wot ye not what the Scripture saith of (rather, in; i.e. in the passage concerning ) Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what faith the answer of God ( ὁ χρηματισμός , denoting a Divine communication to man; in this case by the "still small voice." Only here in the New Testament; but cf. Matthew 2:12 , χρηματισθέντες κατ ὄναρ ; also Luke 2:26 ; Acts 10:22 ; Hebrews 8:5 ; Hebrews 11:7 ) unto him? I have left to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to Baal. Even so at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace . The usual interpretation of this whole passage, and notably that of the ancients, has been to take the proof of God not having cast off his people as beginning in Romans 11:1 , with "for I also," etc., and all the rest to be in sequence. Chrysostom's explanation of the argument is to the following effect: God has not rejected his ancient people; for I myself am eminently of it; and I have been selected as a chief proclaimer and expounder of the gospel to the world; this would not have been the case if the nation had been cast off. But it may be said to me," You are only one of the ancient people; you are not the people." Nay, but I do not stand alone; there are thousands of Israelite believers as well as myself; and these are God's true people, the people whom he foreknew. And of them there may be more than we are aware of; it is as it was in the days of Elias; he had supposed himself to be left alone; but he was told that there were seven thousand with him who were God's true people still. And so now, there is a faithful remnant, the number of which is known to God alone, which is his people still, according to the election of grace. The same Father further understands the citation of the whole of the passage from 1 Kings 19:14 , though not required for the apostle's proof, to be intended as significant. It would have sufficed, he says, to cite only what was said about a remnant being left; but the whole complaint of Elias is cited, so as to show by the way that the present rejection of Christ and persecution of the Church by the majority of the Jews had also its counterpart in ancient times; and thus the apostle, he says, λανθανόντως τὴν κατηγορίαν ( i.e. of the unbelieving Jews) αὔξει . It is to be observed that the above interpretation of the passage, which in its main points has been most generally adopted, goes on two suppositions; vie. that "for I also , " in 1 Kings 19:1 , is the first part of the proof that Israel is not cast off; and that "which he foreknew," in 1 Kings 19:2 , is intended as a limitation of the meaning of "his people." According to another view, decidedly upheld by Meyer, "for I also" is not part of the proof, but connected with μὴ γέροιτο : "I must needs say, God forbid! being myself a Hebrew of the Hebrews" Then, according to this view, comes the positive statement that God has not east off his people in the same general sense as before, after which the proof begins; the addition of ὂ προέγνω not being a limitation of τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ , but intended to enforce the idea of the impossibility of the final rejection of the race of Israel (cf. verse 29; also Psalms 94:14 and 1 Samuel 12:22 ). The fact that, throughout the chapter, it is Israel as a nation that is in view, and that the coming of the whole nation into the kingdom of Christ is contemplated in the end, adds decided probability to this view of the significance of ὂν προέγνω , though καὶ γὰρ ἐγὼ , etc., in 1 Kings 19:1 , may still be regarded as possibly part of the proof. St. Paul's designation of himself as "of the seed of Abraham" seems meant to express that he was an Israelite of pure descent, not a proselyte or descended from proselytes. In Philippians 3:5 , as well as here, he specifies his tribe as that of Benjamin, the tribe that with Judah had clung to the house of David, and had shared the privileges of Judah. The quotation from 1 Kings 19:1-21 . is given freely from the LXX ., varying a little, but not so as to affect the meaning. One variation is in the feminine, instead of masculine, article before βάαλ , which has been explained by supposing εἰκόνι understood (so in the Authorized Version, "the image of Baal "), or by there having been a female Baal, or by the god having been supposed androgynous, or by the feminine being used of idols in contempt. St. Paul may possibly have found this reading in his copy of the LXX . The variation is of no importance with regard to the drift of the passage. "According to the election of grace," at the end of 1 Kings 19:5 , does not seem to be directly suggested by the passage cited, but added by St. Paul so as to make plain his position—maintained throughout the Epistle, and about to be pressed in this chapter on the consideration of Gentile Christians—that the calling of all, whether Jews or Gentiles, is "of grace," and not claimable as of right by any on the ground of the merit of their own works. And in order to enforce this position, he adds, And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace ; i.e. the word "grace" loses its essential meaning. [But if of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.] The preponderance of ancient authorities is against the retention of the clause within brackets, which does not seem required. It is the same as in Romans 4:4 .

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