And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written . . . (11:26)
That verse and its wording have been the source of no little consternation in the evangelical community through the years. And so it has for me.
A friend and I have been studying Romans together in recent months. We came to 11:26 and explored together the most popular understandings of what it means to say “all Israel will be saved“:
1. Every ethnic Jew has a saving connection to God based on their bloodline and the promises of God to Abraham.
2. At the end of time, as history draws towards its goal, there will be a dramatic “ingathering” of Jews who will flock to their territorial homeland and there come to faith in Christ.
3. All who are living within the geographic confines of the modern day state of Israel when Christ comes back will be counted as saved.
As you might imagine, these interpretations — especially #2 and #3 — have some serious geopolitical implications, particularly at a time when rockets fly out of and then into Gaza.
And, as I have very recently come to understand thanks to another friend from our church . . .
(picture of Chris Thayer, our much-younger-than-me Director of Discipleship) . . .
those interpretations are misguided.
A few weeks ago, I posted on “The Real Romans Road wherein we see that the heart of the book is less about the salvation of individual believers and more about the creation of a new community encompassing Jew and Gentile alike. Over and over again, Paul asserts that in this new community, Jew and Gentile together will be judged by the same standard and the same Lord (see especially 1:16-17, 2:9-11, 3:9, 3:29-30, and 10:12). Gentiles have the unspeakable privilege of being “grafted in” to the story God was already writing in and through the Jews.
What had been two people serving two masters are now one people under one Lord, the crucified and risen Christ.
And what does Paul call this new community made up of formerly warring partners? In Galatians 6:16, it’s “the Israel of God.”
So, taking the overall thrust of the book of Romans along with that Paul’s unique name for the church, the enigma of Romans 11:26 proves not to be such an enigma after all.
It has very little to do with end times theology and geopolitical maneuvering.
And everything to do with a new community of people — a full color collection of Jew and Gentile alike — who are surrendered to the crucified and risen King.
God is saving individuals as he builds a community that reflects who He is. So thanks be to God for the Israel of God.