Romans 9-11 is the natural outflow of Romans 1-8. Pretty easy so far. Once Paul has laid out that righteousness comes by faith in Jesus Christ it would be natural to ask, “What then of the Jews who have not put their faith in Christ as Lord and Messiah?” I think that is a much better way of saying it than how many Christians often put it – “accepting Jesus Christ as our personal savior.” Jesus Christ isn’t your personal savior. The plan wasn’t just to save you + you + you. The plan was to save all humanity and that makes him the savior of the world. But that’s another topic for another post that I will probably never get around to writing.
Paul ended chapter 8 with a powerful statement about the faithfulness of God…but for the Jews those same verses that instill so much hope in us would elicit the question – if God is so faithful, why are some of his people now lost apart from faith in Christ? That is what Paul is going to deal with in Romans 9-11. Paul is going to show that first and foremost God is able to do whatever he wants to do (ch. 9), God is 100% faithful because he gave them every opportunity to believe and have faith (ch. 10), and that God is able to use their stumbling to put his saving plans for all of mankind into effect (ch. 11).
So what’s the deal with Israel? Things haven’t changed. God still desires them to have faith and to remain in relationship with Him. Since the beginning there were those whose lineage pointed to Abraham but whose lifestyle pointed away from the promise. There have always been those who rejected God. Even after walking through the red sea some grumbled over mana and others balked at going into the promised land. Later some heard the prophets and believed their word were from God. Others killed the prophets. So faith has always been the dividing line between faithful and unfaithful Jews. In Christ there comes a twist. They now must have faith in Christ as the Messiah in order to have a righteousness that comes from God and not from works. This was God’s plan from the beginning. God planned to lead his people to Christ through the law and the prophets so that they would understand that He is the anointed one.
In dealing with Romans 9-11 we will see that God is still faithful and that God is still desiring for his chosen people to be a part of his kingdom because Christ is the culmination or final goal of the very law they had been keeping for generations (Rom 10:4). For those who see Romans as a theological treatise by Paul, outlining his theology, Romans 9-11 have themselves been a stumbling block. Only when taken in context of how Romans 9-11 flows out of what has been written in Romans 1-8 and how the cultural and political backgrounds come into play (as discussed here) will we really be able to get our minds around what Paul is trying to communicate in Romans 9-11.