Sunday, 25 September 2011

Romans 11 and 'The Israel of God'

This morning I preached on what is one of the most controversial chapters in the whole Bible (among Christians anyway): Romans 11. You can download it or listen to it online on Woodgreen's website.

It's a portion of God's Word that has been disagreed over by faithful, Bible-loving Christians for centuries: sometimes agreeably and, sadly, often disagreeably.

'What is God's plan for the nation of Israel and for the Jewish people as a whole?' It is a question that is almost guaranteed to generate more heat than light! Ironically, Paul's original motivation for raising the question ('so that you might not become conceited' 11:25) is precisely the trap that many who get drawn into this issue fall into. This is an issue that requires more humility and openness than most!

Time didn't allow me to explore all the details and complexities of that question and so as promised, I've included below a few links and recources for those who want to dig deeper and think some more about these important issues.

These are the resources I have found most enlightening and helpful as I have studied the place of Israel in the purposes of God and Romans 11 in particular. You may not agree with everything these authors say (as I don't), but I trust they will help you, as they have helped me, to appreciate the purposes of God in a greater way.

May they lead you - as they have me - to focus not on Israel, but on the gracious character of our God:

'The Place of Israel' by John Stott
This is the best and most concise summary of the place of Israel in the purposes of God that I have ever come across. Thoroughly biblical and eminently clear.

'The Israel of God: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow' by O.Palmer Robertson
The first part of the title comes from Galatians 6:16, where Paul calls the church: 'the Israel of God'. One whole chapter is devoted to Romans 11. I found this the most comprehensive and credible exposition of Romans 11 I had read.

'Zion's Christian Soldiers' by Stephen Sizer
In my view the best and most up to date critique of the history and development of what is known as 'Christian Zionism': the view that God's promises are yet to be fulfilled in the nation of Israel. Even if you believe that God will bring about an end time revival among the Jewish people, as many faithful bible-believing Christians do, this is worth a read in order to avoid the more extreme position that some others hold.

The website of the book above. This is useful because it has outline summaries of the chapters of the book and also some audio files that can be listened to.