How is the Apostle Paul a proof in Rom. 11: 1 that Israel has not been cast away forever?
Chapters 9 to 11 of Romans are dispensational and have to do with Israel and the nations and not the Assembly as such. Paul had previously argued, not only that “there is no difference; for all have sinned” (Rom. 3: 22–23), but that “there is no difference of Jew and Greek; for the same Lord of all [is] rich towards all that call upon him” (Rom. 10: 12). God will bless the Gentile on the same grounds as the Jew for as regards the glad tidings there is no distinction. Hence the thought could naturally arise, ‘Has that distinction between Israel and the nations gone forever?’ The apostle’s response is “Far be the thought. For I also am an Israelite, of [the] seed of Abraham, of [the] tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away his people whom he foreknew” (Rom. 11: 1, 2).
Paul’s claim in v1 is a national one, not a spiritual one. The “seed of Abraham” is a question of natural descent as can be seen by reading Rom 9: 7, 8. But Paul also asserts his tribe here and this is not without importance. He was a Benjamite. We must go back to Jacob’s prophecy concerning that tribe to see the point of this: “Benjamin—[as] a wolf will he tear to pieces; In the morning he will devour the prey, And in the evening he will divide the booty” (Gen. 49: 27). What do the Scriptures say of the unconverted Saul of Tarsus? It was Saul who was “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9: 1) and who tells us that when these disciples “were put to death I gave my vote” and “I compelled them to blaspheme. And, being exceedingly furious against them, I persecuted them even to cities out [of our own land]” (Acts 26: 10, 11). Jacob’s prophecy regarding the tribe of Benjamin had a personal fulfilment in Saul of Tarsus. He was a true Benjamite! This history of his was common knowledge (see Acts 22: 5). Saul personified Israel nationally: “As regards the glad tidings, [they are] enemies on your account” (Rom. 11: 28). If you peruse the Acts, you will see that it was the Jew, and not the Gentile, that offered the fiercest opposition to the glad tidings. They were enemies indeed! However, the latter part Rom. 11: 28 also speaks of Israel in relation to election: “but as regards election, beloved on account of the fathers”. The Scripture says “For a holy people art thou unto Jehovah thy God: Jehovah thy God hath chosen thee to be unto him a people for a possession, above all the peoples that are upon the face of the earth” (Deut. 7: 6). Likewise the apostle was also “an elect vessel to me, to bear my name before both nations and kings and [the] sons of Israel” (Acts 9: 15). Indeed he says himself that God “set me apart [even] from my mother’s womb” (Gal. 1: 15). Like Israel “whom he foreknew” (Rom. 11: 2), he was also foreknown. But the critical comparison, between the Apostle and his nation, is in what Paul says in 1 Cor.15: 7–9 concerning the Lord’s appearing in resurrection: “Then he appeared to James; then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to an abortion, he appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called apostle, because I have persecuted the assembly of God” (my emphasis). Paul was an abortion: one who was born prematurely, before his time. This is the key to the answer of the query. By and bye the question regarding Israel “shall a nation be born at once?” (Is. 66: 8) will be answered in the affirmative. God “will pour upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and of supplications; and they shall look on me whom they pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for an only [son], and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for [his] firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem … In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness” (Zech 12: 10, 11; 13: 1). Israel’s view of Messiah will be the occasion of their national conversion just as Saul’s vision (see Acts 26: 19) of that same blessed Man was the occasion of his personal conversion “and so all Israel shall be saved” (Rom. 11: 26). Thus Israel’s history seen in the apostle is the guarantee that God has not cast away his earthly people and likewise the guarantee of their future national blessing on the basis of divine sovereignty. Well might the Apostle break out in the doxology that ends the section: “O depth of riches both of [the] wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable his judgments, and untraceable his ways! For who has known [the] mind of [the] Lord, or who has been his counsellor? or who has first given to him, and it shall be rendered to him? For of him, and through him, and for him [are] all things: to him be glory for ever. Amen” (Rom. 11: 33–36).