“I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.”
“Paul has maintained that foreknowing and predestining refer to Israel. This means not this or that individual [still less, individual gentiles] but precisely a people in its extension through time and history (Jennings, Outlaw Justice, 162).”
The key here is that Paul is working with a corporate understanding, not individual. Paul is always working with and discussing communities of people. Any individualistic understanding, doctrine, or argument misses Paul's point completely.
“Predestination and foreknowledge here do not have to do with some abstraction that can be made into an aspect of the doctrine of the nature of God but, rather, with the history of the promise to Abraham. God’s ‘pre’-knowledge is quite simply God’s promise; the same is true of god’s ‘pre’-destination. This has to do exclusively with the character of promise as promise (Jennings, Outlaw Justice, 163).”
“Do you not know what the scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars; I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.” 4 But what is the divine reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.”
“Giorgio Agamben has shown that the idea or a remnant that arises in the prophetic literature of Israel has an eschatological or messianic character. A remnant is that which survives judgment but is also the bearer of salvation. In Pauline thought the remnant has to do with the now-time, which is for Paul the messianic time, the time in which time comes to its messianic end (Jennings, Outlaw Justice, 163).”
“In the messianic time, the now-time, the remnant [not all] and the ‘all’ will enter into a sort of interchangeability with one another. The remnant will serve as a testimony to the divine commitment to justice and to the reliability of the promise but will also serve as the anticipation of a whole or all that will overflow both the remnant and the whole itself [thus, the all of Israel will come to include as well all the nations] (Jennings, Outlaw Justice, 164).”
“So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their stumbling salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.”
“Israel’s rejection of the messiah and the messianic event opens up the way to the announcement of the messianic event to [all] the nations. What does this concretely mean? We may surmise that for Paul the repudiation of the messiah [condemned according to the law by its official interpreters] places the messiah outside the people of Israel in such a way as to become the messiah of those outside, the nations or pagans (Jennings, Outlaw Justice, 165).”
“Now if their stumbling means riches for the world, and if their defeat means riches for Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!”
“The purpose of their stumbling over God, over the surprising way that God acts, is not that they might be rejected but that others might [also] be included. Thus, even the ‘hardening’ of Israel means only that redemption is now immeasurably widened in scope. Israel is an instrument of justice and mercy, whether as elect or as hardened (Jennings, Outlaw Justice, 166).”
“One of the most important characteristics of messianic politics is that it is not based on the logic of scarcity, with zero-sum games abounding. Rather, the messianic entails a logic of abundance in which more for some means an exponential increase in more for all. Or in Paul’s phrase: ‘how much more’ [poso mallon]. We might call this messianic math (Jennings, Outlaw Justice, 166).”
God is drawing all people together. We may not see this reality in our own time - remember, the Exodus took over 400 years - but we are called to live as if it is a reality. This is the process of being made just.
Romans 11:12-24 - Warning to the Nations
The western church ought to pay very close attention to this argument!
“Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I glorify my ministry 14 in order to make my own people jealous, and thus save some of them.”
“But what is most astonishing is that the apostleship to the gentiles is really aimed at the salvation of those who are not gentiles! The mission to the gentiles is simply a sort of detour to the true mission to Israel (Jennings, Outlaw Justice, 167).”
“For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead! 16 If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; and if the root is holy, then the branches also are holy.”
“What is the resurrection of the dead, after all? Is it not that all who fell by the wayside, all who were rejected, receive an unexpected future, an unanticipated life? Paul had said, while we were yet enemies (Jennings, Outlaw Justice, 167-68).”
“Messianic time is the compression of times so that what is future characterizes the now-time. With respect to Israel the part that is faithful includes all, as well as the part that is characterized as ‘trespass.’ The ‘’some’ is bigger than the whole [for some will also include the gentiles] (Jennings, Outlaw Justice, 168).”
“But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root of the olive tree, 18 do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 You will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, perhaps he will not spare you.”
This is a deeply rooted prophetic image. Israel, as God's chosen people, is the root. That promise and designation has not been usurped by gentiles.
“Why fear? If God did not spare the natural branches, neither will be spare you. Paul wants to awaken assurance for those who are faithful, but he is also ready to provoke fear among those who may be tempted to take divine favor for granted as something that is now a possession. If we recall that the faithfulness Paul speaks of here produces justice and that injustice is itself unfaithfulness, we may see that there is indeed reason to fear (Jennings, Outlaw Justice, 169).”
“Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness toward you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. 23 And even those of Israel, if they do not persist in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree.”
“This image of olives is addressed to the ‘nations’ whose potential arrogance Paul seeks to interdict. Centuries of Christian history show that he had good reason to worry. We may even reflect upon certain history of gentile branches being cast off (Jennings, Outlaw Justice, 170).”
Here we can reflect on when Christianity has been attracted to the ways of the world - wealth, prestige, and empire. Great and powerful Christian communities and nations have left the call for justice to the poor and needy and instead sought to build their own self-absorbed power. We see this unfolding even now.
“Hence God is never predictable but always reliable. God improvises. History is the history of divine improvisation to the tune of justice and mercy (Jennings, Outlaw Justice, 170).”
Romans 11:25-36 - Eucatastrophe
“As regards the gospel they are enemies of God for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved, for the sake of their ancestors; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy.”
“In Paul’s vision, what we may term as ‘Christianity’ is simply a long detour to parenthesis that leads to what God had intended all along: the blessing of the whole of Israel. In order to reach this goal, however, it was necessary to also include all the nations (Jennings, Outlaw Justice, 174).”
“For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.”
“Simply all. It is just as we heard at the end of chapter 3: all are disobedient. So now all receive mercy, favor, blessing, not because it has been deserved but because it is God who has promised. Of course, there will always be those who take offense at this ‘all.’ But Eastern theology from Origen to Gregory understood that this ‘all’ was the essence of the gospel. For Gregory it included not only all people but even Satan - just because God is God, and good news is simply and astonishingly good news (Jennings, Outlaw Justice, 174).”
“Paul has earned his rapturous conclusion: O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments how inscrutable his ways [11:33]! Beyond what could be seen, understood, or known by human imagining, God has found a way to make even disaster [catastrophe] turn into radiant consummation [eucatastrophe] (Jennings, Outlaw Justice, 174).”