Israel’s Distinct Place in God’s Redemptive Plan
Our series on Paul’s letter to the Romans in September covered the Jewish context of the epistle, atonement, Jesus’ righteousness, reconciliation, redemption, and the eternal security of our salvation. But Hamas’s brutal attack on Israel and the ensuing war interrupted our series in October, as information on the war took precedence in our broadcasts. This week, we put a bow on our series on the life-changing truths of Romans with a look at Israel’s distinct place in God’s plan of redemption for the world.
God gave unique gifts to His Chosen People to set them apart from the world and demonstrate their calling and election. Israel wasn’t chosen by merit; God chose the nation because of His grace and covenantal promises. Through Israel’s gifts, even Gentiles can enjoy the greatest blessings we have on Earth, including God’s Word and saving grace through Jesus the Messiah. Enjoy these unforgettable truths about Israel’s special role, their gifts to the world, and God’s enduring faithfulness and love on this week’s show!
If you missed the previous parts to this series, you can catch up in our Archives.
Chris Katulka: Thank you for joining us for The Friends of Israel Today, I'm Chris Katulka. We want to remind you to visit FOIradio.org to keep up with all that's happening in Israel. You can also hear nearly nine years of Friends of Israel Today teaching for free by visiting our archives page at FOIradio.org. Now today on the program, we're going to pick up on a series that we actually left last fall right as October 7th came. We were actually going through the book of Romans and I only had one more message to give and that's what we're going to be talking about today. We're going to be looking at Romans and Paul's thoughts about his heart for Israel and the Jewish people because Paul's heart for his people is also God's heart for God's chosen people. And so today we're going to be looking at that from Romans chapter nine through 11.
But first in the news, a Yonkers girl's basketball game was cut short after players from the Roosevelt public high school hurled antisemitic slurs to the players of the Loeffler Lions, a private Jewish school. A Roosevelt player could be heard saying, "I support Hamas. You blanking Jew." As a result, the coach of the Roosevelt team and one player were released from participating on the basketball team. Well, here's my take. Since October 7th, antisemitism has been on the rise exponentially around the world. Antisemitism in the UK has gone up 581%, while in London it's seen a 1350% increase. In the United States, antisemitism has risen 337%. While in Canada it's increased 211%. The Yonkers girls basketball game is only one story that shows how even something as innocent as a basketball game can turn into an opportunity to slander the Jewish people.
Now, last year we were journeying through Romans together and I was about to share my last installment of our series when suddenly we were struck by the October 7th Hamas massacre of Israelis, so we spent the remainder of 2023 talking about October 7th and the subsequent Israeli-Hamas war. Well, finally, we're going to be concluding our series on Romans, one of Paul's most magnificent letters that he's written in the New Testament. I've read this quote several times during this series because I believe what the famous Protestant reformer Martin Luther said is crucial to our understanding of this amazing letter from Paul. He says this, "This letter to the Romans is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It's the purest gospel. It's well worth the Christians while not only to memorize it word for word, but also to occupy himself with it daily as though it were the daily bread of the soul. It is impossible to read or to meditate on this letter too much or too well. The more one deals with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes.”
Romans is theologically deep and meaningful, giving definition to so many of the doctrines that we hold near and dear. The Apostle Paul gives definition to sin, the need for a savior, salvation, Christology, justification, sanctification, eternal security, and even what we're going to talk about today, the place of Israel in God's plan for the future.
Now, as we've been studying through Romans, we've been looking at it through a Jewish lens, and in the beginning of this series we talked about the phrase, if you remember, to the Jew first and also to the Greek, in light of the fact that God shows no partiality when it comes to sin and salvation. We discussed the fact that of all the people to understand the gospel, the good news of Jesus, the Messiah, the Jewish Messiah, of course, it's the Jewish people, but of all the people to understand God's judgment for not calling on his name as the prophets had cried out in the Old Testament will once again, especially the Jewish people.
The message of sin and salvation however, shows no partiality. It's also for the nations, it's also for the Gentiles. We all need a savior to deliver us from our sins. Now look, the last time we were in Romans, we were looking at Romans chapter five and we discussed how through the blood of Christ, we have not only been forgiven from our sins and found justified and declared righteous before a holy God, but that through Christ's atoning work we have been reconciled to God. That means our broken relationship has been mended because of the goodness and kindness and mercy that God has poured out by sending his one and only son. Our amended relationship with God in Christ gives believers the confidence that nothing can separate us from his love and that we have an eternal hope with an eternal security. Now, if you didn't get a chance to listen to the last program that we did, be sure to visit FOIradio.org to catch up on this series that we've been doing with Paul's letter to the Romans, plus nearly again, nine years of Friends of Israel Today teaching. It's at FOIradio.org.
Now, it's no coincidence that after Paul shares about our eternal security in Christ, in Romans chapter eight, a promise that his love will never be taken from us, that we will never be separated from him. It's no coincidence that Paul launches in his message on Israel in the following chapters in Romans nine through 11. How can we as Christians be confident that Jesus will never leave us or forsake us despite our sin and our frailties? Why? Because well, God has never abandoned Israel. Yes, despite Israel's sin and rejection of God's salvation, deliverance, and divine plan for them. Paul says in Romans 11, one, "Has God rejected his people? By no means." He says, "May it never be for I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin."
See, so Paul in Romans nine through 11 is appealing to the church in Rome that God's not finished with Israel. Why? Because he is bound to them by a divine unbreakable covenant. In Romans 11 verses 28 through 31, Paul says this, "As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers, for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For just as you were at one time disobedient to God, but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you, they also may now receive mercy."
See, Paul is saying that even though Israel remains enemies of the gospel today, they are beloved by God for the sake of their fathers. This language was language that was used in the Old Testament to talk about Israel's election, that Israel wasn't elected because they're awesome or they're big or their strong or their mighty, but that by God's grace and the promise that he made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who are Israel's fathers, God maintained his loyal covenantal love toward them because of an oath and a promise he swore to them.
Even in Israel’s sin in the Old Testament, God would invoke this message. God would say something like, “Israel, you don't deserve the land of Israel. You don't deserve the blessing that comes with the promise that I made to your father's, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but you benefit from it because of my love for them.” Well, that's the way Paul is talking to Israel. Even in the Church age, Israel's gifts can't be changed or simply undone. You can't take something that was meant for Israel in the Old Testament and simply change the meaning of it or the essence of it. The gifts of God that were directed toward Israel and the Jewish people are irrevocable, Paul says. And if you're wondering what these gifts are, earlier in Romans chapter nine Paul defines the unique gifts that were given to Israel. The gifts were designed by God to set Israel apart from the world.
Each gift, no doubt bears witness to their divine election, and Paul lists these privileges in Romans chapter nine verses four and five when he says this, "Who are the Israelites to whom pertained the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises of whom the fathers and from whom according to the flesh Christ came who is overall the eternally blessed God?" Let's go back to the verse that we've been reading to see Romans through a Jewish lens, Romans 1:16, “to the Jew first and also the Greek.” For especially the Jew, why? Since they were the ones whom God gave these gifts. If anyone is best to understand the coming of the Messiah, the power of God, the salvation, it's the Jew, especially. Israel maintained a unique place in God's purposes, but what Paul is arguing is that uniqueness, that closeness has not been lost.
Israel and the Jewish people remain a testimony to the faithfulness of God. Over the centuries they should have disappeared from the scene of human history like most groups from the biblical era. Yet even in their darkest hour on the brink of defeat, God has preserved them from vanishing. As Paul said, Israel remains to this day the bearer of God's gifts and nobody can take that from them. To them we're given the covenants, the promises, the laws, the patriarchs, the worship, and even the Messiah, the Jewish Messiah, Jesus. These gifts are bound by a promise that cannot be broken, cannot be undone and cannot be reversed. Now, when we come back, I want to look more deeply at God's amazing love for Israel and the Jewish people and how that fits into your life as a believer, so you're going to want to stick around.
But now that the new year is upon us and you've all got your resolutions, or maybe you've got your goals, maybe you even have an entire year planned out on how you're going to read the Bible, that's awesome. Well, I want to encourage you to maybe add one more thing to your year for 2024, and that is our series, The Common Thread. The Common Thread actually ties into what we're talking about here in Romans chapter nine through 11. We want to show you the common thread that binds the whole Bible together and that common thread goes back to a promise that God made to Abraham. And that one promise becomes a thread, a common thread that binds Genesis to Revelation. So if you would like to get your hands on a copy of The Common Thread, I want to encourage you to go to FOIradio.org.
The Common Thread DVD is an eight part video series that was filmed on location in Israel from places like the Sea of Galilee to Tel Aviv to the Mount of Olives and many Israeli sites as well. This is going to be an amazing opportunity to track the story of God's faithfulness, and you're going to see how his promise with Abraham blesses the whole world through the Jewish people. Again, it's called The Common Thread DVD, and you can get yours by going to FOIradio.org.
Welcome back everyone. We're looking at Paul's heart for his landsman, his people, his nation, Israel. And Paul says even in the midst of their sin today, Israel's calling is irrevocable. Some see Israel's calling an election as synonymous, but I see God's calling as the task that he gave Israel to fulfill as his elect people. He described that task in Genesis 12:3 when he made his promise to Abraham. Not only did God promise Abraham the promised land, Israel and descendants, the Jewish people, but he also gave them a divine purpose as a people. He said to them, "And in you, Abraham, all the families of the earth will be blessed." Israel was called to be the conduit of blessing to the world. God was using Abraham and his descendants to bring salvation to the world, to all the families of the earth. That divine purpose would later be given again at Mount Sinai when God called his people and that calling would become even more clear when he would call them a kingdom of priests, which you can read about in Exodus chapter 19:6.
Just listen to what God's words were to Moses when he said this. Moses went up to God and the Lord called to him from the mountain. "Thus, you will tell the house of Jacob and declare to the people of Israel, you yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt and how I lifted you on eagle's wings and brought you to myself. And now if you will diligently listen to me and keep my covenant, then you will be my special possession out of all the nations. For all the earth is mine and you'll be to me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation. These are the words that you will speak to the Israelites." Israel's purpose was to serve God as a priestly nation, interceding between the holy God and the nations of the world by both declaring salvation, but also providing the Messiah through whom this salvation would become a reality.
Jesus reiterates this concept as he was sharing with the Samaritan woman how Israel's divine calling gets worked out when he proclaims to the Samaritan. Salvation is of the Jews. You remember that? That's John 4:22. Christians of all backgrounds will have a real tough time escaping the reality that our faith is grounded in the calling and the promises given to Israel, the salvation that is from the Jewish people cannot be proclaimed or lived apart from the Jewish people. It's ever present. Don't forget the Bible is a Jewish book. Don't forget, our Messiah and Savior is a Jewish king. As the church, we cannot explain away the fact that we are grafted into the olive tree whose roots are the fathers. And who are they? Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You see, Paul writes that these gifts and calling of God are irrevocable. A Greek word used in a legal sense that means that God will never regret the promise that he made to Israel through Abraham.
This one word biblically cancels any notion that God is through with Israel in the New Testament. Irrevocable also shows that there's no place in the church for any form of antisemitism, which is the hatred of the Jewish people. If God has not abandoned his chosen people even in their disobedience, then neither should he abandon the church. And let me end with this. If you've ever questioned the depths of God's grace in your life, if you've ever thought that you can't be forgiven or that your past somehow prevents you from receiving God's mercy and grace in Christ Jesus, then please read Romans 11:28 and 29. If God cannot abandon the promise that he made to his people Israel despite their sinful history, then his grace is sufficient for you today. Today is the acceptable day of salvation, as Paul writes in Second Corinthians 6:2.”For he says, In a favorable time, I listen to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you. Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation”. Just as God had called Israel to turn to him to repent and find forgiveness and grace and mercy, God is calling to you to turn to him. Remember, as Paul writes earlier in Romans 2:4, it's the kindness of God that leads to repentance. Thank you so much for journeying with us through Romans. I hope that you take Martin Luther's words very seriously. “It's impossible to read or meditate on Romans too much or too well. The more one deals with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes.”
Steve Conover: Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life and ministry of Holocaust survivor, Zvi Kalisher.
Mike Kellogg: “Who is like you, oh Lord, among the gods?” Exodus 15:11. Not many people know this truth. Therefore, they live in constant fear. Others, however, are not anxious because they have put their trust in the Lord. I am among the latter group and so I sleep well and I'm happy because I am sure of the one in whom I believe. While walking in Jerusalem one day I met a man with whom I had served in the army in 1948 but had not seen since. Although we had both changed in physical appearance over 30 years, David's first words were, "Zvi, you have not changed. You seem as happy as ever." He, however, seemed far from happy. Then he said, "Come with me to a quiet place and I will tell you why I am so unhappy." I replied, "Come to my house. Then we can talk at length"
After dinner, David said, "I am sad and anxious because two of my sons are in the army." I replied, "I cannot understand that as a cause for your depression for I have three sons in the army, all in combat units." "How can you be so calm about it?" He asked, "I would like to know the secret of your happiness." I spoke to him of Psalm three, about putting our trust in God. "This is my secret for enduring troubles." David then asked, "How can I trust in God when I have so many problems?" I reminded him that even as Abraham was tempted and tried, yet remain strong, so we must be strong to withstand the trials we face. "You can do this, David, by putting your trust in the Lord our Savior," I told him. I explained that I too had once been unhappy and bitter and no longer wanted to live. However, since I have received the Lord, I have joy instead of despair.
As David looked at the pictures of my sons, he asked himself, "What is the matter with me?" Finally, he asked me, "Where did I go astray?" Anticipating the question I answered, "First, you must realize that God is always ready to help us and you can pray to him as it is written. ‘Therefore, I will call upon him as long as I live.’" I told him, "God can help you. Now is the time?" He was interested to know how I had come to believe as I do, and I was delighted to give you my testimony. And then I began to read the words of John 3:16, but he shouted, "No, this is not the Bible, it is a Christian book. The New Testament. Read only from the Jewish scripture." I explained to him that the Lord Jesus Christ is mentioned not only in the New Testament but also in the whole Bible.
David lives far from Jerusalem, so we invited him to spend the night with us. This gave me further opportunity to witness to him all the while praying that he would come to know the Lord and be as happy as we are. When he left our home the next day, he said, "Thank you. I have a very special feeling within me now. I wish it could last." "My dear brother," I said, "This can be yours forever. You now know my secret. As you have thanked me, be sure to thank the Lord as well." David departed from our home with much to consider. I pray His very special feeling will lead him to genuinely commit his life to God and that he will grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Chris Katulka: The impact of Zvi's life in ministry in Israel. It didn't end when he went home to be with the Lord. In fact, Zvi's legacy lives on. Our Friends of Israel ministry representatives continue to share the gospel in Jerusalem, Israel, and really all throughout the world. We also serve Holocaust survivors and their families. We provide free food, medicine and clothing, and we even promote the safety and security of the state of Israel and the Jewish people everywhere. So when you give to the Friends of Israel, your donation actually allows us to advance the gospel of our Messiah Jesus. You can give online by visiting FOIradio.org. Again, that's FOIradio.org. You can click right there on our donate link. Also, be sure to let us know where you listen when you contact us.
Thank you for joining us for today's episode of The Friends of Israel Today radio program. Just a reminder to visit FOIradio.org because that's where you're going to keep up with all the things that we're doing with our radio ministry. Again, that's FOIradio.org. Now this week we wrapped up Romans in the New Testament. Next week we're going to be looking at the life of Moses. We're going to start a series on the life of Moses, so we hope to see you then. I'm your host and teacher, Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione, edited by Jeremy Strong, who also composed and performs our theme music. Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold, and Steve Conover is our executive producer.
Our mailing address is FOI Radio, PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. Again, that's FOI Radio, PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. Our web address is FOIradio.org, or you can call our listener line at (888) 343-6940. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We're a worldwide evangelical ministry proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah, while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.
The Common Thread DVD Bible Study
Way back in the beginning of the Old Testament God made a promise that changed the trajectory of one man’s life. In our new bible study DVD, The Common Thread, you’ll begin to see how that very same promise impacts you!
Travel through the Holy Land with this DVD as our host Chris Katulka traces God’s faithfulness from Abraham to you!
Apples of Gold: Where Did I Go Astray?
When an old army friend met Zvi, he was drawn to the happiness he saw in him. The friend was sad because two of his sons were in the army. Yet Zvi had three sons in the army and was perfectly at peace. Zvi’s joy allowed him to start a discussion with his friend about the trust and peace that God gave him. Using both the Old and New Testaments, Zvi shared the joy of the Lord with his friend.
The Friends of Israel Today and Apples of Gold theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
Your gifts help us to continue proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah, while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.