I remember sitting in Mr. McMahon’s High School history class with my eyes glazed over and often nodding off. It was not that he was such a bad teacher, in fact he was probably a good teacher. He had a passion for history. However, his passion got lost in his presentation and his vast knowledge.
I have spent a couple of days know reading and pondering a portion of scripture in Romans. I can sense Paul’s passion and vast knowledge, but often I get lost in the thick of it all. It is not that my eyes glaze over – although I must admit sometimes… – it is that his language is so intense and the subject is so deep.
My reading started in Romans 8 as a result of a pursuit regarding God’s omniscience, which lead me to his sovereignty, which lead me to the theme of predestination, which culminated in the idea of election.
What is so intriguing about Paul’s discourse in chapters 8-11, is his use of the word “all” in chapter 11. Now I do not intended to parse either the word or Paul’s powerful expressions concerning the word. That is beyond my qualifications. I simply want to make an observation. As near as I can count, Paul uses the word some 46 times in his letter to the Romans. There are three critical times he uses the word in Romans 11, which is where I began pondering this particular thought.
ALL is a rather significant word. Especially when it comes to salvation. For if one is not careful in understanding the word, it can often lead to the idea of universalism. That is, everyone will be saved eventually.
The hinge verse is Romans 11:26, “And all Israel will be saved…” Does Paul mean every individual Israelite, Israel as a nation – God’s chosen – or Israel with regard to the “elect” within Israel?
The next time he uses the word is in verse 32. “For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.” Now the key to his verse and perhaps the one in v.26 may be what Paul had said earlier in verses 1-6. It is the story of Elijah pleading with God for Israel, but God assures Elijah that he has “kept seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So perhaps “all”, in verses 26 and 32 does not really mean “all” in the sense of every or each one is “imprisoned in disobedience” but the nation as God’s people.
The last time, in this chapter, that Paul uses the word is with reference to God, verse 36. “For from him (God) and through him and to him are all things.” Now that is certainly a case where all means all. At least, I would think so.
Why is any of this important? Because I want to be a student of the word and not just an observer. I want to be feeding on it not just reading it. It is seldom easy for me, but always rewarding, even if I come to no certain conclusion. In other words, I suspect it is alright, when studying Scripture, to say “I really don’t know.”
Father, what a blessing it is – what a joy to have access to your inspired word. Often times I fear I take it for granted when I should be treasuring it, devouring it, and applying it to my life.