A ‘remnant’ means a part that remains. In the Bible a part often has special meaning. The part stands for (appears on behalf of) the whole. So, we keep one day each week holy (Deuteronomy 5:12-15) because really our whole week belongs to God. We give gifts to God, but really everything belongs to him (1 Chronicles 29:11). That is the meaning here too (11:16): the remnant stands for the whole of Israel. God has kept a part of Israel for himself, to show that his promises to the whole of Israel continue.
The remnant of Israel means those of Israel’s people who are truly loyal to God. In every age, God considers that group of loyal people to be important in his plan. It is through them that God shows his kindness to Israel. It is through Israel that God shows his kindness to the world (Genesis 12:2-3).
However, that remnant became even more important at the time of the first Christians. The first Christians recognised their connection to that remnant (Luke 1:6; Luke 2:25; Luke 23:50-51). In fact, the first Christians belonged to that remnant (Acts 2:36-42). It took several years for them fully to accept people from other nations as Christians (Acts 15:1-21).
Paul belonged to that remnant too (11:1). However, he was careful not to allow that fact to be a reason for pride. Paul could serve God loyally only because of the great kindness (grace) that God had shown him (1 Corinthians 15:8-10). The fact that God chooses people to serve him is an act of his grace. It is not a reward for anything that they have done (compare Matthew 18:12-14).
Next part: Grace – or works (Romans 11:6)
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© 2017, Keith Simons.