Sabbath School Lesson for December 9-15, 2017
After identifying who the children of promise are, Paul now continues his counsel about the elect of God, making us understand the need for ALL people to come to Jesus and receive God’s bountiful grace. Chapters 10 and 11 help establish in our minds what it means to be God’s elect people, and what their duties are in spreading the gospel to all countries on the earth.
Paul helps ease their despair by assuring them that the Jews’ rejection of Him is not total. There is always a remnant who are elected to promote God’s message, right down to the end of our world’s history. Any of us could be a part of this specially-elected remnant by sharing God’s love to those around us. It doesn’t require some special DNA designation. No matter what your family background or heritage, God can use you to further the cause of peace and goodwill to a spiritually starving world.
Memory Verse: “I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” Romans 11:1 KJV
Embracing Jesus as their Messiah enabled even the most stalwart Jew, such as Paul, to remain part of God’s elected people. God does not throw people away, even the whole Jewish race who rejected Him. His goal is to save everyone who chooses to be saved.
God loves us enough to give us this choice. Whether it be corporately, or as individuals, God doesn’t force His will to be carried out. We must be willing participants of His divine program in order to be effective witnesses of His love.
The Jews may have failed as a nation to accept Jesus as their Messiah, but Paul wisely reminded them that individually, they and their Gentile neighbors now have equal privileges in being God’s elect. This news must have given hope and courage to Paul’s concerned readers.
Sunday: Christ and His Law
Romans, chapter 10, reviews many of the ideas brought out in chapter 9: that the Jews had rejected the Messiah by neglecting the gospel, which God had so painstakingly given to them through the law and prophets.
The first four verses of this chapter, however, must be given careful consideration. They include the words, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (v. 4).
Many have thought this means that with Christ, we don’t need the law. He IS the law to us. This line of reasoning has a deceptive twist to it though. For it gives people an excuse to ignore the Ten Commandment law, especially the fourth one about the Sabbath. (Obviously, this is the intent of those who need an exemption from keeping the seventh-day holy, so they can keep another day. See Daniel 7:25–a description of a power that will try to change times and laws.)
Was it Christ’s purpose to have us ignore His moral law though? Of course not. A look at the Sermon on the Mount certainly informs us that the Ten Commandments are still important to God. Jesus wanted His followers to keep them, but to do it out of love. Not as some duty-filled obligation in order to be saved, leading it to become a burden.
In context, Christ being the “end” of the law was contrasted with the Jews “seeking to establish their own righteousness” (v. 3) as being the end of the law for them. The word “end” simply means the end purpose or goal.
We must determine what our goal is in keeping the law. Is it to help us become righteous in God’s eyes? Or is it to make us appear righteous in our own eyes and the eyes of others?
If God’s love is left out of the equation, then we are not fulfilling the law. That is the point Paul was trying to make to his Jewish friends. The law doesn’t make any of us holy. Only God does…through Christ, the Giver of the law.
Discussion Questions: Read Romans 10:1-2. How can our zeal lack knowledge? What kind of knowledge? In what way could this have described Paul before his conversion? Have you noticed more zeal in those who are new believers? Why is this so, and how can this zeal be maintained over the years, so we don’t lose our “first love”, like the church in Ephesus described in Revelation 2?
Read Romans 10:3, Philippians 3:9, and Hebrews 11:6. Why is faith so important in this process of being righteous?
Read Romans 10:4. Why would this verse be considered the essence of Paul’s entire message to the Romans? How has Satan caused misunderstanding of this crucial verse, and why must we take care to view it as Paul intended?
Monday: The Election of Grace
Paul seemed to read the minds of his fellow Jewish believers. He had been arguing the case successfully that by rejecting the Messiah, the Israelites were no longer God’s elected people. Did this mean then that God had rejected them entirely, and their whole Jewish nation would lose out on salvation?
Unfortunately, many across the globe have harbored this notion: that the Jews were rejected by God and should thus be discarded by society. Over the centuries, it has resulted in persecution and even genocide by so-called Christians and others, and the hatred of their race exists to this day.
Paul used the example of Elijah to illustrate that even though they may have felt there was no one left who served the true God, there remained a remnant who had “not bowed the knee to Baal.” See Romans 11:4 and 1 Kings 19:18.
Sometimes we forget that the early converts to Christianity were all Jews. Those devout Jews present at Pentecost were from many countries, bringing back to their adopted homelands the news of the risen Lord, their longed-for Messiah.
We must keep in mind that in these chapters about the elect Paul is not speaking of our individual salvation. God is interested in saving all of us. We are all equally capable of choosing salvation. When God speaks of His elect people in this context, He refers to that group of followers He has chosen to spearhead the movement of spreading the gospel.
In the case of Israel, they were at first the ones who seemed most likely to become a Light to the nations. Today, God also has group of followers across the world who “keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12).
Discussion Questions: Read Romans 11:1-4. How did this illustration of Elijah reassure Paul’s readers?
Read Romans 11:5-7 and Revelation 14:12. What made the difference if you were a part of the remnant or not? How does a works-oriented religion blind you? Who make up God’s elect today?
Read Romans 11:8-10, 2 Corinthians 3:14-18, and Revelation 3:17-18. How were they blinded, and what did it cause them not to see? Does anyone have to remain blind? What is the remedy for blindness, even for the last-day church of Laodicea?
Tuesday: The Natural Branch
This next passage of Paul’s epistle (Romans 11:11-15) seems to indicate that Israel’s being cast away is only temporary. Paul refers to himself as a former self-righteous Jew, who now sees himself as an apostle to the Gentiles (v. 13).
He still feels a call to reach out to those of his own flesh (v. 14), however, and show them the full gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul’s testimony is proof that God hadn’t entirely forsaken His chosen people. They can still chose, as he did, this new election of grace God offers to Jews AND Gentiles.
Paul proceeds to use a metaphor, an illustration, of what this election of grace means for God’s remnant. They were to picture themselves as a noble olive tree. The root and trunk representing believing Israel. Some of the branches (the unbelieving ones) were broken off the tree, however. And in their place, are grafted new branches, who are obviously the believing Gentiles.
Gentiles must take note that their new position is not a guaranteed spot though. They, just like the unbelieving Jews before them, are capable of being broken off as well.
Faith seems to be the ingredient that holds the tree together. It may be seen as the sap, coursing through the structure. The branches are nurtured and made strong from the spiritual faith of the believing Jews who came before them.
Discussion Questions: Read Romans 11:11-15 and Isaiah 42:6, 7. How did God use Israel’s fall to bring salvation to the Gentiles? What was Paul’s role in this?
Read Romans 11:16-24, Jeremiah 11:16, and Psalm 52:6. What does an olive tree represent? Can it represent a group of people and also an individual? Which individuals come to mind? What keeps the tree strong?
Read Romans 11:18 and 1 Corinthians 10:12. What causes the branches to be broken off? What kind of things do people usually boast of?
Wednesday: All Israel Shall Be Saved
“For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, and so all Israel will be saved…” Romans 11:25, 26 NKJV
These verses have resulted in some confusion over the years. Paul started out his chapter by posing the question, “Has God cast away His people?” So, after writing at length about how the Jews had forfeited their place as God’s elect, we now hear him declare that all Israel will be saved.
Some questions to be explored are…
- what kind of blindness is Paul talking about?
- when and how does this “fullness of the Gentiles” occur?
- will all naturally-born Jews be saved in the end?
Perhaps some answers are found in:
- 2 Corinthians 3:14 “But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ.” NKJV [the spiritual blindness that caused them to not recognize the Messiah]
- Luke 21:24 “And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” NKJV [Paul was appointed an apostle to the Gentiles, and thus the work of evangelizing the world was being fulfilled by the early Christian church]
- Galatians 3:29 “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” NKJV [Israel, being the olive tree in Paul’s previous metaphor, includes the branches that have been grafted into the tree; believing Gentiles join the remaining Jews who believe–making all of “faithful Israel” eligible to be saved]
Discussion Questions: Read Romans 11:1, 25-27. How does v. 25 and 26 answer the question posed at the beginning of the chapter? In what way have some misinterpreted this statement though?
Read Luke 21:24. When does this fulfillment of the Gentiles take place, or has it already happened?
Read Romans 10:13, Galatians 3:29 and 1 Peter 2:9, 10. Who are “Israel” at this time?
Thursday: The Salvation of Sinners
Paul closes this chapter with the assurance that their disobedience does not stand in the way of God’s mercy reaching out to them. They, just like the Gentiles, are invited to be part of God’s family. God, in His omnipotent wisdom and knowledge, provides ample salvation for all.
Unfortunately, the Christian church has not always been as welcoming to Jews as it should have been. More of them would surely have accepted the Messiah, had the Jews not been so despised and hated for crucifying Jesus. Pagan practices that began to infiltrate the Christian church also resulted in Jewish distaste for Christianity. This would include the change of the day of worship to Sunday, a long-standing day of observance for sun-worshipers.
Discussion Questions: Read Romans 11:28- 29 and 1 Samuel 24:9, 10. How did David handle his relationship with Saul, who was seeking to kill him, but at the same time had been anointed king of Israel? What kind of special consideration should be given to God’s anointed people today, and who does that include?
Read Romans 11:30, 31 and Matthew 5:16. How does our mercy make a difference in someone being able to experience God’s mercy (v. 31)?
Read Romans 11:32-36, Hebrews 2:10, and 13:21. Does Paul’s praise in verse 36 include Jesus Christ? Why was it important to include God’s Son, their Messiah, in these words of praise?
Several important questions were answered in this study of Romans 10 and 11:
- How is Christ the “end” of the law? (Sunday)
- Who are the remnant? (Monday)
- Why is the illustration of an olive tree so vital for the remnant to understand? (Tuesday)
- Will all Israel be saved and who is the Israel spoken of here? (Wednesday)
- Who benefits from our being merciful to others, including God’s elect? (Thursday)
Take into consideration these words from Ellen G. White about how important it is to evangelize ALL people, including Jews…
“In the closing proclamation of the gospel, when special work is to be done for classes of people hitherto neglected, God expects His messengers to take particular interest in the Jewish people whom they find in all parts of the earth. As the Old Testament Scriptures are blended with the New in an explanation of Jehovah’s eternal purpose, this will be to many of the Jews as the dawn of a new creation, the resurrection of the soul. As they see the Christ of the gospel dispensation portrayed in the pages of the Old Testament Scriptures, and perceive how clearly the New Testament explains the Old, their slumbering faculties will be aroused, and they will recognize Christ as the Saviour of the world. Many will by faith receive Christ as their Redeemer.” ~The Acts of the Apostles, p. 381
- In what ways are Seventh-day Adventists especially equipped to reach these Jewish brethren around the globe, who still haven’t recognized Christ as their Messiah?
- What beliefs might be appealing to them, and how can we be more diligent in reaching them?
- How important might this mission be in the last days? What might be the result of our efforts?
Next Week: Overcoming Evil With Good
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
All Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/