Continuing from the last entry, where I put Romans 7-12 in my own words, here are some observations.
1.) When Paul says that God’s promise hasn’t failed, his emphasis is not, “Because the Church is the true Israel.” (That’s what Replacement theologians tend to say.) Instead, his emphasis is, “Because the remnant of the Jews has come to Christ.” Even if you think the Church is Israel–even if you think Paul says so–it should be clear that Paul doesn’t depend on that idea here. His response is based on the remnant.
2.) Paul makes a big point of the fact that God did have a faithful remnant of some Jews. Apparently, if all the Jews had rejected the Messiah, God’s promise would have failed. So in some way, the bloodlines do still matter. It does matter for ethnic Jews to follow Christ.
3.) Paul does talk about including the Gentiles as God’s children, as beloveds, as his people. God brings “vessels of mercy” from out of the Gentiles, as well as from out of the Jews. But Paul doesn’t directly say anything here like, “Therefore we can call the whole body of Christ ‘Israel’.” (The arguable place is 11:25-26, which I’ll get to in a moment. Also, Gal. 6:16 or Rom. 2:29 might say so–but that would be a different argument. What does this passage mean?)
4.) In some places in the passage, “Israel” can only mean ethnic Israel, not “believing Jews + the Gentiles”.
As an exercise, try walking through all three chapters, and replace “Israel” with either “ethnic Israel” or “true Israel”. Try it both ways in each case. See which ones are clearly “ethnic Israel”. See which ones are arguable.
Especially, let’s try that in 11:25-26.
5.) “Israel” shows up twice in 11:25-26. The first time is clear, but the second time is arguable.
a partial hardening has come upon [ethnic] Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel [???] will be saved, as it is written,
On the one hand, maybe it means “a vast majority of Jews will come to Christ”. (“All Israel” doesn’t necessarily mean “every individual”, even though that might sound more natural.)
On the other hand, maybe it means, “every individual from true Israel (whether Jew or Gentile) will find mercy”.
That makes more sense out of “all Israel”. And the basic idea of “true Israel” makes sense with the earlier stuff about including the Gentiles. And it makes sense with some other passages. But–I can’t make sense of it in the context.
Paul had talked about making the unbelieving Jews jealous in order to save them, and desiring them to be grafted back in. Then he talks about a temporary partial hardening. It seems to go, “Partial hardening on the Jews until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in, and then the hardening will be released, and more Jews will be saved.”
The “true Israel” really doesn’t fit well, if you keep going from v. 25 through to vs. 32. You might think “true Israel” works in v. 26, but keep reading. Pay attention to what happens when you hit v. 28, and especially v. 31:
so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy.
Who has been disobedient? Ethnic Israel. Who is Paul hoping will receive mercy? Ethnic Israel.
If you read v. 26 by itself, maybe it can work. But it stops working when you hit v. 28.
6.) Last comment: Paul definitely talks about the Gentiles being included as God’s people, and he says they are “children of the promise”. Galatians also connects us with Abraham (Gal. 3:29). But what about the later Mosaic covenant? Maybe we’re included in Abraham, but not Moses. What about all the later promises that God didn’t make to Abraham, but made to Israel and the people of Israel? Do we have to be included in both?
I really don’t know. But I don’t think Paul intended to answer that question in Rom. 9-11–he’s mainly addressing the promises of salvation. (And in 9:3-5 and 11:28-29, he’s maybe pointing out some particular promises & blessings for ethnic Israel. I’m not sure.)
So, I don’t think you should take your final answer from Rom. 9-11. Even if it turns out that Gentile Christians do receive all the promises & covenants & prophecies to Israel, we would need to do more work to figure that out. We need to look at the various promises and prophecies, and look at what the New Testament says about them, and see what makes sense. In particular, we need to look at the land promises, and see what God specifically promised. And Jeremiah 31:35-37 is important.
Back to “How do we interpret the Bible?” in general.
Covenant theologians are right–that we need to let the New Testament interpret the Old, where it does so. And Dispensationalists are right–that we need to be careful about over-allegorizing, where the Bible doesn’t justify doing it. We should take it at face value unless we have good reason not to.
That’s where I’m at. I need to study the Old Testament promises, and find out what the New Testament says about them.
I have just one more comment about Israel and the Church in the end-times. But I’ll save that for another entry. A brief one. I promise.