Romans 9-11 as Varied Layers of Explanation for Israel’s Unbelief

Why did Israel fail to obtain righteousness?
Because they pursued righteousness as though it were by works, instead of by faith in the risen Jesus.

But didn’t they have a zeal for God?
Yes, but not according to knowledge.

What is so bad about righteousness that is based on a law of works?
People end up establishing their own righteousness instead of submitting to God’s righteousness.

What was the purpose of the law?
To point to Jesus.

Where is God’s righteousness found?
In Jesus.

Where can I find this Jesus?
The word of Jesus is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.

Why does that matter?
With the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

Had Israel even sufficiently heard the word of Jesus so as to believe in him?
Yes, they had a preacher sent to them from whom to hear the word of Christ.

Why did they reject the word of Christ?
Because God hardened their hearts; he gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see, and ears that would not hear.

Have God’s promises to Israel failed?
No, he never promised salvation to all individual ethnic Israelites.

Is there proof he never promised salvation to all individual ethnic Israelites?
Yes, from the very beginning there was a winnowing among Israelites, such as with Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau.

What was that winnowing based on?
Not on anything good or bad they did, and not on human will or exertion, but on God calling people to himself in accordance with his purpose in election.

Doesn’t unconditional election make God unrighteous?
No, his righteousness was declared to Moses: he reveals his glory in dispensing and withholding mercy with sovereign, unconstrained freedom.

What proof do you have that God sovereignly withholds mercy from someone in order to reveal his glory?
We have the example of Pharaoh, whom God raised up by the hardening of his heart, so as to show his power and make his name known.

If God’s sovereign will is unstoppable, then can he still blame us?
Yes, God can still blame us.

How can he do that? That’s not fair.
You, Mr. Clay, have no right to level that kind of accusation against the Potter.

Why did God harden the hearts of the Israelites?
So that their obedience would lead to the gracious salvation of Gentiles.

Does Israel still have a privileged future?
Yes, the privileges are real, and the prophecies are still certain. Someday Israel’s sins will be taken away.

Why did God ordain that Gentiles be included?
So that in the end, the Jews would be angry and jealous at the Gentiles, and thus be aroused to faith and be saved.

Why did he design it all this way?
To show mercy to both Jews and Gentiles, and to maximize the display of his glory.

What about the glory of God is revealed?
The wideness of his mercy to anyone who would call upon his name, and the depth of his mercy by way of contrast.

What kind of contrast?
Vessels set aside for mercy and vessels set aside for destruction.

Why does God tolerate vessels set aside for destruction?
To make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy.

Was this God’s plan all along?
Yes. From him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

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