Thesis:Because God has "integrity", He has not/does not/cannot "cast away" His people.
Introduction:In our introduction to chapter eleven last week we considered the distinction between the identity of "Israel" and the identity of "His people". This is an "old" theme in Romans 11 because it was definitively drawn out and presented in Romans 9. But, the repetition exists because of the absolute cruciality of the major thesis of God's integrity. At the end of the day, if "love" exists in its divine form in the heart of a person, the only real issue is whether what God has explained will actually fulfill the "love". This is the "faith" issue and its undergirding foundation is the integrity of God. Thus, if Paul wanted his readers to actually "believe" God in such a way as to abandon their own methods of life, he was going to have to tackle the issues that had the capacity to erode their confidence in His integrity.
The shift by God from His particular, and historically intense, fixation upon national Israel was, perhaps, the greatest challenge to this issue of His integrity. Any time there is a major shift by God in His ways there is the problem of how people are going to handle the subsequent absence of His former ways when they had become comfortable with those former ways and had confused their comfort with His actual promises. Thus, Paul's fixation upon the question of God's integrity is a necessary fixation.
This evening we are going to plow some recently plowed ground as we attempt to solidify our commitment, not to our comfort with God's actions yesterday, but with His words of yesterday and today. The question that Paul raised in 11:1 was, "Has God cast away His people?" and the answer in both 11:1 and 2 is "No, that would be impossible."
I. The Impossibility Rests in His "Foreknowledge" of His People.
A. The "His people" terminology refers to Romans 4:9-25 wherein Paul argued that "His people" are those who mimic the faith of Abraham regardless of whether they had any exposure to "Law" and "circumcision".
1. This means that if a person has "believed" like Abraham believed, he/she is one of God's people.
2. This also means that what God decides to do in regard to His people as individuals or collective groups of people has nothing to do with His believability (His credibility or integrity) as long as the promise believed is not undercut by those actions.
3. The historical reality of a divine shift of focus from national Israel to an international Church is one such action: it has nothing to do with God's credibility because it does not undercut any of the promises that He has made.
B. The issue of "foreknowledge" comes into play because it, like nothing else, establishes the constant integrity in the face of the fluid actions.
1. Because "foreknowledge" is so central to the issue of divine integrity, we need to understand it as clearly as possible.
2. Our understanding can only develop as we ponder the involved issues under a deliberate submission of our minds to God.
a. The deliberate submission of our minds to God is not an "automatic" event; it is a deliberate act.
b. The involved issues follow.
1) The first issue of "foreknowledge" is the reason for its etymology in the first place.
a) Words are "created" by the necessity of communication.
i. When a concept arises in a person's mind and that person wishes to pass his/her understanding of that concept on to someone else, the easiest way is to have a "word" that both share that can be used to pass the concept on.
ii. When there is no such shared word, one is generally created out of already shared understanding.
iii. This creation of a word is referred to as the word's "etymology".
b) The etymology of "foreknowledge" is the use of a common word for "knowledge" and the use of a common preposition, "before".
i. The understanding of the resultant combination is heavily dependent upon some level of pre-understanding of the combined terms.
ii. Our understanding, then, is going to be prejudiced by how we understand both "before" and "knowing".
2) The second issue of "foreknowledge" is the way people used the word in the same time frame.
a) Since variation between the ways people use words can occur here, it is best if we can find the same person using the word in multiple contexts.
b) Paul's use of "foreknowledge" is, by this principle, the place to begin.
i. The first time we run into Paul's use of "foreknowledge" is Acts 26:5 where his meaning is not difficult: the people had a great enough knowledge of him to serve as legitimate witnesses of certain truths about him in a court of law and had that knowledge for some time before he stood before the court in view.
ii. The only other times Paul used the word are in this letter to the Romans and are found in 8:29 and 11:2.
c) Paul's concept of "foreknowledge"
i. Is highly prejudiced by his use of it in respect to those who could serve as legitimate witnesses in a court of law.
ii. Is further prejudiced by his use of it in 8:29 where it refers to people who "love God" and are "called by Him for a specific purpose": the issues of "love" and having a "specific purpose" in view are significantly "personal".
iii. Is even further prejudiced by his use of it in our text (11:2) because it is used in such a highly important argument about divine integrity, an issue that has no "point" to it unless the "people" involved are threatened with a breakdown in their relationship with God.
iv. Is, thus, a heavily weighted concept of "mutual personal involvement" that requires us to conclude that it is used when the issue of personal involvement is tied to an historically prior setting.
3) The third issue of "foreknowledge" is the theological consequence that arises from other texts.
a) In Matthew 7:23 Jesus declared that a day was coming in which He would say to certain people, "I never knew you", and the saying would result in their being cast into Hell.
b) The connection with "foreknowledge" is that the claim absolutely denies any knowing before the time at hand.
c) This locks Paul's argument up: it is impossible for God to "cast away" anyone whom He has "foreknown" because the knowing involves a mutual personal interaction of harmony that existed and cannot be denied.