In this message we come to the second point in the section on God’s selection, God’s economy. God has an economy, a divine arrangement, in His selection. This divine arrangement or administration is over the entire world and the whole human race. This administration under God’s sovereignty is His divine economy.
In 11:1 Paul asks, “I say then, Has God cast away His people? Certainly not!” Paul was an excellent attorney, capable of arguing and winning either side of a case. If we did not have Romans 11, we would certainly think that God, after having chosen Israel, must have changed His mind. Chapters nine and ten of Romans seem to indicate that God has given up Israel. Because some people think this way Paul asked, “Has God cast away His people?” Then he answered the question himself, saying strongly, “Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite out of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says in the case of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? Lord, they have killed Your prophets, they have torn down Your altars, and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what does the divine answer say to him? I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal” (11:1-4). Elijah, a prophet of God, pleaded with God against Israel. However, God told Elijah not to accuse the people before Him because He had reserved to Himself seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee to Baal. Paul continues, “So then at the present time also there is a remnant according to the selection of grace. But if by grace, it is no longer out of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace” (vv. 5-6).
Paul argued in a marvelous way, always winning his case regardless of which side of the question he debated. When in chapter ten he said that Israel was bad, he proved how bad they were. Romans 10:21 says, “But to Israel he says, All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and contradicting people.” Certainly the worst people on earth are a disobedient and contradicting people. When we read a statement like this we are inclined to say, “Israel’s situation is hopeless. Israel is finished.” However, when we come to chapter eleven we see a record of how the Lord Himself argued with Elijah. Elijah said, “Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars.” Both of these statements were true. Then Elijah said, “I am left alone and they seek my life.” The Lord came to Elijah and seemed to say, “Elijah, listen to Me. You are not alone. I have reserved seven thousand men. Elijah, what are you talking about?” In chapter ten it appeared that, in a sense, Paul was against Israel. Now in chapter eleven he is in favor of Israel. In 11:5 Paul says that “at the present time also there is a remnant according to the selection of grace.” Paul simply cannot be defeated. Paul was saying, “Not only were seven thousand men reserved by God in the time of Elijah, but at the present time, the time in which we are living, God still has a selection according to grace. Today also there is a remnant reserved.” The principle is the same for our own time. Regardless of how far Christianity has degraded, we believe that among the thousands and even millions of Christians there are a number, a remnant, that have been reserved by God.
I am not speaking proudly, but I consider myself as one whom the Lord has reserved. How do you feel about yourself? A number of times in the past years my thought was the same as Elijah’s. But I praise the Lord that eventually I discovered that the Lord had reserved a good number to Himself. God has reserved a remnant for His eternal purpose. Do not be disappointed.
Verse 6 says, “But if by grace, it is no longer out of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace.” Never forget that we have all been reserved by grace. It is not the result of our work; it is altogether by His grace. If it were otherwise, grace would no longer be grace.
“What then? That which Israel is seeking for he has not obtained, but those who were chosen have obtained it, and the rest were hardened” (v. 7). In principle, the situation today is the same. What have we to boast of? Only the grace of the Lord.
Verse 8 says, “As it is written, God gave them a spirit of deep sleep, eyes to see not and ears to hear not, until this very day.” Is this our condition? Some people have eyes, but their eyes have lost their sight; some have ears, but their ears have lost their function. This is exactly the situation in our own time. In 1937 I was assigned by the work of the Lord to travel throughout northern China with the purpose of sharing with Christianity all the truths that the Lord had given us. I was assigned to do this by the work under the leadership of Brother Nee. I was charged not to stay in any of the local churches, but to travel throughout northern China. During that time I performed a good deal of traveling ministry in denominations. By that I learned that the situation was pitiful. Not many people had a heart; most did not have eyes to see or ears to hear. Then I gave up traveling and stayed in Chefoo, my home town. I was clearly burdened by the Lord not to travel anymore but simply to stay in that city with the local church. After I remained there for four years, a revival occurred.
Let me tell you another story. During 1934 I stayed for quite some time in Shanghai with Brother Nee. One day as we were driving to another city he said to me, “Brother, the denominations have rejected us.” Quoting Paul’s word in Acts 13:46 he said, “Let us go to the Gentiles.” Since that time the work in the Lord’s recovery took a definite turn toward the Gentiles. Since the time I first stayed with Brother Nee in 1933 until the time we parted from one another in 1950, he did not receive one invitation from any denomination in China. Although no denomination invited him to minister, his books are very popular. Regardless of the situation, the Lord has His remnant today.
Let us go on to verse 9. “And David says, Let their table become a snare and a trap and a cause of falling and a just retribution to them.” We have seen the same thing happen in today’s situation.
Verse 10 says, “Let their eyes be darkened to see not, and let them bend their back continually.” Is it not the same in today’s Christianity? Are not the eyes of many darkened and their backs bent? They lack the sight to see and are unable to stand upright.
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