Romans Chapter 11 vs 1 to 12 : 'Failure that Fans the Flames of Faith' - J Stewart Gillespie  

Romans chp 11 – part of the difficult part of Romans? 

Is there an easy part? 

Romans chps 9 to 11 – a parenthesis – it is, but not that much of a parenthesis 

Is it out of place? 

Chps 1 -3 – Sin 

Chps 3 – 5 – Salvation 

Chps 6 – 8 – Sanctification 

Chp 7 – Struggle with the flesh 

Chp 8 – Victory in the Spirit 

chps 9 to 11 – Israel 

Is it there out of habit? 

Is it there out of place? 

Is it there out of order? 

I think rather out of necessity! 

Perhaps chps 9 to 11 are not really primarily about Israel at all but rather the questions that arise from considering the gospel in connection with Israel 

The subject remains the same: The Gospel of Jesus Christ but we consider the many problems that arise when we begin to think deeply about this message. 

Not primarily about Israel, it is about the gospel problems linked with Israel 

The theme of Romans is that of the Gospel, the big questions of the gospel that Israel throws up: 

How can I be saved? (9:6ff) 
How can I be secure? (9:6ff) 
How can I be sanctified? (12:1ff) 
How can God be Sovereign? (9:1ff) 

In chapter 10: How can we reconcile: 

A finished work (10:1-4) 
A free work (10:6-1) 
A faith work (10:6-13) 
A for all work (10:10ff) 

with the OT scriptures? 

Chp 11 – Is Gods will frustrated when people fail? 

Failure in the hands of a sovereign God is able to fan the flames of faith 

In Romans chapter 5, out of tribulation God is able to bring the fruit of the Spirit 

In Romans chapter 11, out of tribulation God is able to bring a people out of tribulation. 

The Problem of Israel (11:1) 
The Promise of the preacher, the people and the purposes of God (11:1-6) 
The Power of God (11:4-6) 

The Problem of Israel (11:1) 

“Hath God cast away His people...” 

The problem of eternal security which launched this parenthetical section of Romans chp 9 to 11 

Now dealt with from a practical perspective 

Look around you: Israel is lost, isn't it? 

The Promise of the preacher, the people and the purposes of God (11:1-6) 

Where God has preserved a prophet (Elijah), or an apostle (Paul) or a preacher there is hope! 

For where God has preserved a prophet, a preacher, or an apostle, He has preserved a purpose and a people! 

Gods purposes in Grace have not ended 

Maybe there was only 1 lonely figure on the top of Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 18 but he was the tip of the iceberg! 

God had 7000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal! 

If God did it then, surely he will do it now with 1 apostle (11:1)? 

Paul takes the case of Elijah as a precedent for His dealings with the people 

Just as Elijah and his presence was a token of a remnant in Elijahs day so too Paul in his day is indicative of the fact that God has not given up His people now. 

If God had cast away Israel why use a converted Pharisee to reach the Gentiles? 

There had always been a preserved remnant: 

Days of the Patriarchs (9:7-13) 
Days of Isaiah (9:27) 
Days of Elijah (11:2ff) 

So long as God continues to raise men up to speak, he continues to have a purpose, a plan and a people. 

It is when God ceases to speak that we see the herald of dark and dismal days: 

The silence of God in the days of Eli the priest, “no open vision”: the loss of his sons, the ark and the battle 
The silence of God in the days of King Saul: brought death and defeat 
The silence of God in with Israel: the dispersion 

Gods silence amongst will wipe us out! 

It will destroy us. 

If He ceases to speak amongst us – we have nothing but mere empty form, religion, tradition, no matter how doctrinally correct it maybe, no matter how proud our pedigree and no matter how pure our principles! 

If He ceases to speak – we are dead! 

When we start to speak about a remnant, don't start to get all despondent and start on about the day of small things! 

The remnant does not indicate that things are naturally winding down and this is all that is left over from better days! Not a bit of it! Notice how the term is used: 

“remnant according to the election of grace” (11:6) 

This a select group chosen for Gods sovereign purpose! 

It is not simply the left overs from better days! 

It has built into it the thought of hope and purpose and meaning. 

It is not simply the end of an past work 

It is the beginning of a new and future work. 

If I feel I am part of a faithful remnant, then let me search out that special purpose which God has for me! 

The Power of God (11:4-6) 

Gods power was evident in difficult days 

When we think about the power of God working in difficult days, we are saying that God is not only able to bring a people out of, through difficulties but rather He is able to use those very circumstances to mold and shape His people and to fulfill His purpose. 

God is not only partly sovereign over circumstances, but wholly sovereign so that “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28), therefore we are able with confidence to “rejoice in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience” (Rom 5:3), not wondering, is this a circumstance over which God is sovereign or isn't sovereign or is maybe part sovereign? 

God is able not only to bring us out of difficult circumstances but to prosper us personally (Rom 5:1-5) and to prosper His people collectively (Rom 11) in those difficult circumstances. 

Matt 14:22ff: Peter was sinking in the water – what was that all about? 

Was the only purpose to react and respond to Peters need, to save him from the sinking experience? 

Was Christ only Sovereign over the saving? 

Is Christ not also sovereign over the sea, the storm and the sinking? 

Quite clearly the scriptures teach that He is: 

Able to calm the storm (Mk 4:37) 
Able to cause the storm : “These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.” (Psa 107:24-25) 
Therefore He is in total control of the sea, the storm and the sinking 

So surely there was no need for Peter to sink in the first place? 

Unless Christ had purpose as much in the storm, the sea, the sinking as in the saving, and He did! 

“Then they that were in the ship came and worshiped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.” (Mat 14:33) 

This all fulfills Gods ultimate purpose of glorifying Christ as Lord of the Storm, the Sea, the Sinking and the Salvation! 

So you and I need not doubt – is He able to save me from this storm? 

It is His storm! 

He is in charge! Not nature, not man, not Satan, but Christ! 

Gods power is seen, in that He is not only able to preserve a people in those circumstances but that He is able to prosper a people and to promote His purpose in those circumstances, thus is His true power seen. 

Abraham: God was able to bring him out of Ur of the Chaldees; a place of idol worship, of immorality, perhaps even of child sacrifice (Gen 22 didn't seem to be outwith the realms of expectation for Abraham). God was not only able to bring Abraham out of those circumstances but was able to define who Abraham was by bringing him through those circumstances! Ur was left behind but the lessons were not wasted on Abraham! Look at the kind of man Abraham is: 

The Altars he Raised: 7 patriarchal altars – 4 of them belong to Abraham! Having lived in a system for so long, where Gods voice was never heard he would not let that connection with God go! That altar was precious. 

The idols he left: 

Abraham left idolatry 
Isaac never knew idolatry 
Jacob tolerated idolatry 
Israel fell by idolatry 

The world he rejected: not so much as a shoe latchet from Sodom and Gomorrah. He had left family, home and society for God, wouldn't get entangled with Sodom and Gomorrah. 
The commitment he showed: Isaac and Ishmael 

Benjamin: Son of his mothers sorrow (Gen 35:18), the son of His fathers right hand! What a tragic beginning and yet out of those tears of tragedy comes one who was as a consequence of it all, even closer to his father (Gen 42:36, 38; 44:20-22, 31) – brought close to his father through tragic and trying circumstances! 

But what does all that have to do with Romans 11? 

Its where Paul came from (11:1)! 

That's his pedigree! If there is one thing that a pedigree like that will give you, it is surely hope! 

If we fail to see that God is sovereign not only over the saving but over the storm, the sea and the sinking, we will end up embittered and embattled, disheartened and discouraged, just like Elijah in 1 kings 19. 

We may end up like Elijah – prosecutor (11:2) rather than prophet, making “intercession to God against Israel” (11:2). 

God is sovereign not only over the revival but over the rejection too. 

If I fail to see Him as in control then my troubles will be wasted. 

“Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” (Heb 12:11) 

I may simply become bitter in those circumstances; bitter against God for letting things get out of control and bitter against men, for they are just hindering me, merely hampering me. 

I will never be able to get to where Joseph got: 

“But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (Gen 50:20) 

Conditions were bad (11:3) 

Want to backslide in 2011? 

There are only two ways I will spend 2011: 


If I desire to go into a state of spiritual decline: here is how to do it: 

Silence the Word of God: “they have killed thy prophets” 
Stop the Worship of God: “digged down thine altars” 

Yet there are ways of doing this: 

Silence the Word of God: “they have killed thy prophets” - don't read the scriptures, read it in a routine, ritualistic way not really expecting and not really experiencing God to speak. Illust: Lanarkshire assembly with sleepy saints and preacher who read his scripture, closed in prayer and went home! Merely a pretense? We can absent ourselves from the preaching of the Word of God, preaching and choosing preachers who preach truths or falsies that we desire to hear rather than the whole counsel of God which He has for us (2 Tim 4:2ff), replace the preaching of Gods word with pre-written courses, entertainment, DVDs! 

Stop the Worship of God: “digged down thine altars” - replace it with something habitual and routine, replace it with one man ministry, sunstitute worship for entertainment. 

Why does God allow all this to happen? 

In  these circumstances God: 

Reveals the fullness of His power and Glory 
Reflects the true nature of reality 
Reserves for Himself a people 

Reveals the fullness of His power and Glory 

As we have already seen 

Reflects the true nature of reality 

God tells the truth! 

God is not interested in perpetuating a lie! 

God in grace allows and orders our external circumstances to reflect the true inner reality! 

“In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.” (Ecc 7:14) 

One way by which God can communicate the spiritual realities we find difficult to comprehend is by reflecting these spiritual realities on the circumstances of our life. 

Sodom and Gomorrah – the kings defeated when they become stuck in the slime pits of Gen 14:10. Their inward spiritual condition became reflected in the outward circumstances of their life. 
The days of Eli, Hophni and Phineas – days of darkness and defeat 
The closing days of Saul – broke bread at the Witches table! Contrast this with David who brought bread and wine before the valley of Elah (1 Sam 16) who had bread in the valley (1 Sam 17:17) who brought bread from the sanctuary (1 Sam 21) and provided bread in the Kingdom (2 Sam 6)! 
The closing days of Judah (2 Kings 25:7) – Zedekiah blind and bereft of his children. 
We see the outer reflection of an inner reality 
Why should God preserve a lie? That all is well in the nation when it most certainly is not!We may be content with preserving a form but God most certainly is not! 
We become troubled when we see the outer reflection but can remain woefully unperturbed by the inner reality! 
It is God in Grace who allows us to see our condition for what it really is. 
We complain over the circumstances, God grieves over the inner conditions 
Illust: Lawn, looks fine when cut but let it grow find its ¼ weeds! 
Some time the Lord lets the weeds grow to stop us thinking all is well with the lawn! 

Reserves for Himself a people 

Yet in those difficult circumstances, men with a spiritual appetite felt hungry. 

There is nothing like missing a meal to make you feel hungry! 

God separates in those very circumstances a people for Himself. 

Crises and catastrophe become the canvas upon which God paints the picture of revival in bold colours of commitment and consecration! 

7000 who take Him seriously and who desire Him above all else! 

There were thousands on Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 18, a whole nation was able to see that Baal worship did not work! 

You speak to god, he doesn't answer! 

You get your priests to speak to your god and he still doesn't answer! 

Even Satan (1 Co10:20) couldn't get Baal worship to work! 

Everyone in the nation could see it! 

In that setting 7000 cared! 

7000 sought reality! 

7000 were determined to hear from God! 

7000 could say: 

“As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?”(Psa 42:1-2) 
Had that thirst for the living water of John 4 
Had that hunger for the bread of life of John 6 
On the whole the nation didn't really seem to care that the religion, was stale, barren, empty and dead and that God was no longer speaking! They would keep coming anyway! 

We can never reduce Christianity to: 

Principles no matter how proud 
Practices no matter how profitable 
Pedigree no matter how pure 
Doctrines no matter how correct 

Christianity remains distinctive from all religious systems, in that Christianity is a person, Christianity is Christ, and when I speak to Him, He must speak back! 

The priests of Baal got no higher than Carmel 

Elijah got to Horeb and to the still small voice!


Part of our bible study teaching series of messages preached systematically through Paul's letter to the Romans. Free to download audio mp3 recordings of this sermon and other sermons are available at the end of this blog and on the website page. 

Yours by Grace in Christ 

Dr J Stewart Gillespie