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Romans 11:5-6

Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

The 'elect' today (regardless of being by free-will or otherwise) is obviously by God's grace as "then is it no more of works:". Does this indicate that works of the law were in fact required of Israel by God to be of His elect at one time? This would make sense as Paul is constantly reminding of the distinction between God's grace and works. He clarifies that salvation is now by God's grace through having faith alone. There seems to be much effort on his part to convince Israel, who was under the law, that access to God is now open to anyone who will trust in the completed work of Jesus Christ on the cross, rather than trusting in any of their own efforts.

Ephesians 2:8-9

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

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    If election be, wholly and only, within the power, and the will, and the desire, and the inclination, and the determination of God Almighty (in unanimity) then can it never have been, never is being and never be at any future time . . . . . . of the will or of the works of humanity. This is a non-question, in my own view.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 27 at 19:38
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    @NigelJ So...why does Paul stress the differences between grace and works so adamantly? Certainly God remains the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, but that does not mean that He does not change how He has dealt with humanity. What He required of Abraham was quite different than what He required of Moses and the church in the wilderness. What He required of Israel through the twelve is also very different than what He requires of us through Paul. I believe the question can be answered with a simple yes or no. I presume you do not like the answer, but that does not mean there is no question. Feb 27 at 20:09

3 Answers 3

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My understanding is that the elect , and in this case ( Rom 11:5-6) are indeed the faithful remnant of Israel, ( God has only ever had a covenant with Israel ie the Old and New Covenant is with them and them only Heb 8:8-11 ) the works of the Law dont save , but Faith and works go hand in hand. One cannot just say they love the Lord , but not keep the commandments Sin is the transgression of the Law 1 Jhn 3:4 The Law was in effect before Sinai , Able is called righteous Abel ( Matt 23:35) , Noah was a Preacher of righteousness ( 2 Pet 2:5) , and David later says all thy commands are righteous

Psa. 119:172 ¶ My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness.

Rahab the harlot ( who was also a Gentile ) and who was grafted into Israel was justified by her works , faith and works go hand in hand ( Jas 2:25, along with James 2:18 that says one shows their faith by their works.........Gentiles who are grafted into Israel , still by the grace of God have to keep the Law .....except Sacrificial Laws because Christ is THE Sacrifice......but the 10 Commandments and the extension thereof should be kept .....works then , simply put is obedience to the Law of God , and yes the Elect Israel , and now those grafted into her have to keep the Law.

Matt. 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

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  • Thanks GRM! We are grafted into having access to the root and fatness of the olive tree (not grafted into Israel's covenants...as you correctly pointed out in your opening paragraph). Yes, we should keep the commandments as we are now "in Christ", but prior to the gospel of God's grace, Israel 'worked' (or kept commandments) to establish their own righteousness. In other words, we today work (or follow commandments) FROM God's grace, not FOR His grace. The point being that there are still some that believe it is THEIR efforts that will earn their salvation...which is obviously false doctrine. Feb 27 at 21:37
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The passage in Romans 11:5-6 discusses the shift from a covenant of works to a covenant of grace.

gotquestions says:

Much of Romans and Galatians addresses the fact that there is only one way of salvation and only one gospel message. Throughout history people have tried to pervert the gospel by adding human works to it, requiring certain things to be done to “earn” salvation. But the Bible’s clear message is that the way of salvation has always been through faith. In the Old Testament, it was faith in the promise that God would send a Savior someday. Those who lived in the time of the Old Testament looked forward to the Messiah and believed God’s promise of the coming Servant of the Lord (Isaiah 53). Those who exercised such faith were saved. Today we look back on the life, death, and resurrection of the Savior and are saved by faith in Jesus Christ’s atonement for our sins (Romans 10:9-10).

No one was saved by works.

No one at any time was ever saved by works, self-effort, or by keeping the Mosaic Law. Works-righteousness could never attain to God's perfect standard, but were as useless as "filthy rags" (Isa. 64:6). In the New Testament, Paul also explains that no one is justified by keeping the Law (Rom. 3:20;). Though the Law was powerless to save, it led people to Jesus, who does save (Gal. 3:19-24). Paul refers three times to Abraham as the consummate example of justification by grace through faith (Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3: 6; James 2:23; for James' perspective on Abraham's justification see GraceNotes no. 2 "Faith and Works in James 2:14"). Abraham was saved before circumcision and the Law were instituted, so he could not have been saved by keeping them (Rom. 4:9-12; Gal. 3:16-18). Obedience to the Law and its sacrificial system allowed fellowship with God and prefigured the final necessary sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Mosaic animal sacrifices were only provisional, never sufficient for salvation (Rom. 3:25; Heb. 10:1-4).

Paul makes it clear that salvation cannot be earned through works, as it is a gift of grace. Works and grace are incompatible in the process of salvation. God's election is solely based on His grace, not on works.

It is crucial to comprehend that in Israel, those who did not adhere to the law faced consequences! Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that salvation has always been attained through grace through faith, even during the Old Testament times. The Mosaic Law was implemented temporarily to expose sin and guide individuals towards their requirement for a Savior (Galatians 3:24). However, mere obedience to the law was insufficient for salvation. It was faith in God's promises, including the assurance of a future Messiah, that ultimately brought about salvation.

Ananias and Sapphira's transgression went beyond neglecting a particular rule. We read that it was a calculated display of deceit and insincerity (Acts 5:1-11). Their demise stands as a caution against hypocrisy and the gravity of deceiving the Holy Spirit. However, I believe it would be incorrect to perceive their fate as eternal damnation solely due to that incident. One's salvation hinges on their faith in Jesus Christ, and only God has the insight into the depths of each person's heart.


In Galatians 2:7-9, Paul refers to different "gospels" or messages that were entrusted to him and Peter:

The gospel of the uncircumcision: This refers to the message of salvation primarily directed towards Gentiles, which speaks to the justification by faith apart from the works of the law. This was the gospel that Paul was commissioned to preach to the Gentile nations.

The gospel of the circumcision: This pertains to the message of salvation predominantly aimed at the Jewish people, emphasizing the fulfillment of the promises made to Israel through the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Peter was entrusted with the responsibility of proclaiming this gospel primarily to the Jewish community.

versebyversecommentary says:

when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me,

When the Jerusalem Council recognized that God had committed the gospel for the Gentiles (the uncircumcised) to Paul, this dropped like a bombshell on the Judaizers.

The word “committed” means entrusted with, to make a deposit. The Council entrusted the ministry to the Gentiles to Paul. Paul did not invent the gospel of grace; God entrusted him with it.

as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter

The word “as” indicates that Paul was on the same plane of authority as Peter. Not only did the apostles in Jerusalem vindicate his message, but also they affirmed his ministry.

The gospel to the uncircumcised and the gospel to the circumcised are not two different gospels. It is one gospel to two different groups. There is only a difference in the recipients, not in the gospel of grace. The gospel does not involve the need for circumcision as a qualification for salvation. The gospel “for the circumcised” means Peter’s ministry was primarily to Jews, not Gentiles.


In Romans 11:5-6, Paul is addressing the relationship between grace and works. The key point Paul is making is that grace and works are mutually exclusive when it comes to the issue of salvation. He's not saying that salvation was once by works but now it's not.

We can see this if we use a different translation:

Romans 11:6 NIV

6 And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

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  • Thank you for your answer, Jason_! I appreciate that you touched on all of my points. I don't agree with everything Michael Houdman says (like there being only 1 gospel) Paul made it clear that there is (Gal 2:7-9). I believe if Michael recognized that there is a difference in who we are today compared to who biblical Israel was, we may see things more in line. We are not Israel. Your answer is still good though! I would still question what Paul means when he says "then is it no more of works". I guess the question then is; What is the "it" that Paul is referring to if it is not salvation? Feb 27 at 20:25
  • Thanks Jason_! I was following you up to the point of saying they are the same gospel. The twelve were commissioned to preach that "the kingdom is at hand". That is a far cry from Paul proclaiming that all of our sins were forgiven through the shed blood of Jesus Christ...and that salvation is the free unmerited gift offered by God's grace through having mere faith alone in Christ, His blood, burial, and resurrection. I have to ask the question; Where did any of the twelve ever mention having "faith in His blood" for salvation? Feb 27 at 21:57
  • Faith in His name is not the same as faith in His blood. Paul says that all of OUR sins were forgiven at the cross. However, Peter tells "ye men of Judea" to repent and be converted so THEIR sins are blotted out at the times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19). Why is it important to distinguish? If we go by what Peter says, we will have those who are working to get their sins forgiven, but salvation for us depends on our belief that God FORGAVE us of our sins at the cross (1 Cor 15:1-4). Paul literally states that in his gospel. All the work was completed by Christ for us. Feb 28 at 3:25
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Jason_
    Feb 28 at 9:20
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    That's a very good way of explaining it. Good conversation! Mar 2 at 3:50
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Let me clear up some common misconceptions. The ancient Israelites were often reprimanded for assuming that God’s covenant with them was a mere matter of ceremonies, the stone tablets and the temple. 1 Sam 15:22, Ps 40:6-8, 51:16, 17, Prov 15:8, 21:3, Isa 1:10-17, Jer 6:3-6, 20, Hos 6:6, Micah 6:6-8, etc.

That is, they confused the Levitical and Moral Covenant. More particularly, the Israelites were repeatedly told that the conditions of the Covenant were a matter for the heart and NOT external regulations (Deut 6:5, Ps 40:8, Jer 24:7, 31:1, 33, 34, 32:38-40, 36, 26-28), because God initiated the covenant to save Israel; it was a covenant of transforming grace and forgiveness! Isa 59:21 says the covenant is the eternal gift of the Spirit.

That this Israelite Covenant was a covenant of transforming grace is confirmed by several ideas:

  • The Old Covenant was a covenant initiated entirely by God alone, to save Israel. God alone set out the requirements and blessings. God makes it clear that they were selected as the chosen people, NOT because of any Israelite merit, but simply because God wanted to. Deut 7:7, 9:5, 6, 10:15.
  • The Old Covenant was a matter of the “heart” (Deut 6:5, 10:12, 16, 11:18, Ps 40:8, Jer 24:7, 31:33, 34, 32:38-40, Eze 11:19, 18:31, 36:26) and NOT mere regulations (1 Sam 15:22, Ps 40:6-8, 51:16, 17, Prov 15:8, 21:3, Isa 1:10-17, Jer 6:3-6, 20, Hos 6:6, Micah 6:6-8). These references make it clear that the Old Covenant did not really include the animal sacrifices, and that they could not define nor atone for sin. (Heb 9:9, 10:4, Ps 51:16, 17, 1 Sam 15:22). The animal sacrifices and the sanctuary ritual were part of the Levitical covenant which acted as teaching device that anticipated, and was a type of, the High Priestly ministry of Messiah.
  • In Solomon’s prayer of dedication, he describes the (Israelite) Covenant as God showing “lovingkindness”, or, “steadfast love”, to people. 1 Kings 8:23, 2 Chron 6:14, See also Neh 1:5, 9:32, Ps 89:28, 33, 34, 103:17, 18, 111:4, 5, 9, Isa 54:10, 55:3. This suggests that the Law of God, or the Moral Law, is an expression of God’s love and is just as eternal.

Note: Most of the confusion about the various covenants arises because people confuse the Israelite Covenant with the Levitical Covenant, or, assume that the Levitical Covenant and the Davidic Covenant are part of the Israelite (Old) Covenant. This confusion is perpetuated by the (erroneous) practice of labelling the Israelite and Levitical covenants, “Mosaic”, as if they are the same thing.

LOVE

Many moderns suggest that the old Israelite covenant was a “law of works” and thus distinct from the “law of love” under the new covenant. This is simply untrue as is obvious from its own declarations and those of Jesus Himself! Note the following:

  • Lev 19:18 - Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against any of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.
  • Deut 5:10 - but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Compare John 14:15, 15:10, etc)
  • Deut 6:4, 5 - Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is One. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
  • Deut 11:1 - You shall therefore love the LORD your God and always keep His charge, His statutes, His ordinances, and His commandments.
  • Deut 19:9 - because you carefully follow all these laws I command you today—to love the LORD your God and to walk always in obedience to him—then you are to set aside three more cities.
  • Deut 30:16 - For I am commanding you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, statutes, and ordinances, so that you may live and increase, and the LORD your God may bless you in the land that you are entering to possess.
  • Josh 22:5 - But be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
  • Ps 63:3 - Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips will praise You.
  • Ps 85:10 - Lovingkindness and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
  • Matt 22:36-40 - “Teacher, which commandment is the greatest in the Law?” Jesus declared, “  ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
  • 1 Cor 13:8-10 - Be indebted to no one, except to one another in love. For he who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the law. The commandments “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and any other commandments, are summed up in this one decree: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Love does no wrong to its neighbour. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law. Thus, according to Moses, Jesus and Paul, the old covenant law was a law of love!

Romans

So, what is Paul constantly emphasizing in the Book of Romans? It was the prevailing view in Paul's day, perpetuated by the highly influential pharisees that keeping the ceremonial aspects of the law in all their minutiae would gain favor with God. Both Jesus and Paul were at pains to dispel this legalistic notion.

Jesus spent much time quoting the Torah and it emphasis on loving service to God and so does Paul. Romans 9 and Romas 11 form part of that extended argument of Paul against the prevailing legalism, which is till common.

Paul remnant theology in Rom 11 is consistent and drawn from the remnant theology of the OT as shown in the table below. In each case, there is a catastrophe and a remnant saved by a divine miracle of grace.

References Catastrophe Remnant Divine Miracle
Gen 7:1, 23 Flood Noah and family Preserved in the ark
Gen 19 Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed Lot and 2 daughters Saved by angels
Gen 45:7, 50:20 Famine in Palestine Jacob’s family Preserved by Joseph
1 Kings 19:18 Baal apostasy in Israel and drought 7000 who have not kissed Baal God’s faithful preserved
2 Kings 17:8, 19:4, 6, 30, 31, 2 Chron 15:9, Isa 10:20-22, 11:16 Assyria’s captivity of Israel Judah Hezekiah’s deliverance from Sennacherib
2 Chron 34:21, 36:20, Ezra 1:4, 2:1, 2, 9:8, 13-15, Neh 1:2, 3, Isa 1:9, 10:20-22 Babylon’s destruction of Jerusalem A few of the royal line and nobility Jews preserved until return from Babylon
Acts 15:17, Rom 9:27, 29, 11:5, Joel 2:32 Transition to Christian community Christian community Holy Spirit at Pentecost empowers the Gospel of Christ to the world
Rev 12:17 (see also Rev 2:24) Persecution by the Dragon Those that keep the commandments of God and have the Testimony of Jesus God’s faithful preserved
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  • Very nice answer! Am I correct from your answer that the "it" from "then is it no more of works" is in regard to Israel establishing their own righteousness (not necessarily salvation)? Also, the "New Covenant" belongs to Israel future (not us) correct (Heb 8:8)? I like the table you included, but we are ALL under God's grace today and ALL have access to Him by having faith alone...which I suppose could be argued that all of those excluded (in your chart) could have also had access had they had faith as well. Although, we today can have faith and still falter without fear of losing salvation. Feb 27 at 21:51
  • @MarkVestal - Jesus established the New Covenant with the people of faith to offer salvation by faith alone as He stated in Luke 22:20. The Christian church is under the New covenant of grace by the blood of Jesus. Heb 8:8 is referring to spiritual Israel, but now we are getting into another question.
    – Dottard
    Feb 27 at 22:17
  • Luke 22:20 says "testament" in my Bible (not covenant). Feb 27 at 23:53
  • @MarkVestal - it is the same word - "diatheke" = covenant as in Matt 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 1:72, Acts 3:25, 7:8, Rom 9:4, 11:27, 2 Cor 3:6, 14, Gal 4:24, Eph 2:12, Heb 7:22, 8:68, 9, 10, 9:4, 15. In the KJV English, "testament" and "covenant" were synonyms; but not in modern English.
    – Dottard
    Feb 27 at 23:59
  • Is it safe to say that the same word "diatheke" can have different meanings? Otherwise Hebrews 9:16 would be saying that you cannot have a new covenant without the death of the...?? God's covenants with Israel didn't require the death of anyone. Regardless, the house of Israel and the house of Judah is not you or I. Feb 28 at 0:28

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