So I ask, "Has God rejected his people Israel?" That's unthinkable! Consider this. I'm an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham from the tribe of Benjamin.
God has not rejected his people whom he knew long ago. Don't you know what Elijah says in the Scripture passage when he complains to God about Israel? He says,
"Lord, they've killed your prophets and torn down your altars. I'm the only one left, and they're trying to take my life."
But what was God's reply? God said, "I've kept 7,000 people for myself who have not knelt to worship Baal."
So, as there were then, there are now a few left that God has chosen by his kindness.
If they were chosen by God's kindness, they weren't chosen because of anything they did. Otherwise, God's kindness wouldn't be kindness.
So what does all this mean? It means that Israel has never achieved what it has been striving for. However, those whom God has chosen have achieved it. The minds of the rest of Israel were closed,
as Scripture says, "To this day God has given them a spirit of deep sleep. Their eyes don't see, and their ears don't hear!"
And David says, "Let the table set for them become a trap and a net, a snare and a punishment for them.
Let their vision become clouded so that they cannot see. Let them carry back-breaking burdens forever."
So I ask, "Has Israel stumbled so badly that it can't get up again?" That's unthinkable! By Israel's failure, salvation has come to people who are not Jewish to make the Jewish people jealous.
The fall of the Jewish people made the world spiritually rich. Their failure made people who are not Jewish spiritually rich. So the inclusion of Jewish people will make the world even richer.
Now, I speak to you who are not Jewish. As long as I am an apostle sent to people who are not Jewish, I bring honor to my ministry.
Perhaps I can make my people jealous and save some of them.
If Israel's rejection means that the world has been brought back to God, what does Israel's acceptance mean? It means that Israel has come back to life.
If the first handful of dough is holy, the whole batch of dough is holy. If the root is holy, the branches are holy.
But some of the olive branches have been broken off, and you, a wild olive branch, have been grafted in their place. You get your nourishment from the roots of the olive tree.
So don't brag about being better than the other branches. If you brag, remember that you don't support the root, the root supports you.
"Well," you say, "Branches were cut off so that I could be grafted onto the tree."
That's right! They were broken off because they didn't believe, but you remain on the tree because you do believe. Don't feel arrogant, but be afraid.
If God didn't spare the natural branches, he won't spare you, either.
Look at how kind and how severe God can be. He is severe to those who fell, but kind to you if you continue to hold on to his kindness. Otherwise, you, too, will be cut off [from the tree].
If Jewish people do not continue in their unbelief, they will be grafted onto the tree again, because God is able to do that.
In spite of the fact that you have been cut from a wild olive tree, you have been grafted onto a cultivated one. So wouldn't it be easier for these natural branches to be grafted onto the olive tree they belong to?
Brothers and sisters, I want you to understand this mystery so that you won't become arrogant. The minds of some Israelites have become closed until all of God's non-Jewish people are included.
In this way Israel as a whole will be saved, as Scripture says, "The Savior will come from Zion. He will remove godlessness from Jacob.
My promise to them will be fulfilled when I take away their sins."
The Good News made the Jewish people enemies because of you. But by God's choice they are loved because of their ancestors.
God never changes his mind when he gives gifts or when he calls someone.
In the past, you disobeyed God. But now God has been merciful to you because of the disobedience of the Jewish people.
In the same way, the Jewish people have also disobeyed so that God may be merciful to them as he was to you.
God has placed all people into the prison of their own disobedience so that he could be merciful to all people.
God's riches, wisdom, and knowledge are so deep that it is impossible to explain his decisions or to understand his ways.
"Who knows how the Lord thinks? Who can become his adviser?"
Who gave the Lord something which the Lord must pay back?
Everything is from him and by him and for him. Glory belongs to him forever! Amen!
Brothers and sisters, in view of all we have just shared about God's compassion, I encourage you to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, dedicated to God and pleasing to him. This kind of worship is appropriate for you.
Don't become like the people of this world. Instead, change the way you think. Then you will always be able to determine what God really wants--what is good, pleasing, and perfect.
Because of the kindness that God has shown me, I ask you not to think of yourselves more highly than you should. Instead, your thoughts should lead you to use good judgment based on what God has given each of you as believers.
Our bodies have many parts, but these parts don't all do the same thing.
In the same way, even though we are many individuals, Christ makes us one body and individuals who are connected to each other.
God in his kindness gave each of us different gifts. If your gift is speaking God's word, make sure what you say agrees with the Christian faith.
If your gift is serving, then devote yourself to serving. If it is teaching, devote yourself to teaching.
If it is encouraging others, devote yourself to giving encouragement. If it is sharing, be generous. If it is leadership, lead enthusiastically. If it is helping people in need, help them cheerfully.
Love sincerely. Hate evil. Hold on to what is good.
Be devoted to each other like a loving family. Excel in showing respect for each other.
Don't be lazy in showing your devotion. Use your energy to serve the Lord.
Be happy in your confidence, be patient in trouble, and pray continually.
Share what you have with God's people who are in need. Be hospitable.
Bless those who persecute you. Bless them, and don't curse them.
Be happy with those who are happy. Be sad with those who are sad.
Live in harmony with each other. Don't be arrogant, but be friendly to humble people. Don't think that you are smarter than you really are.
Don't pay people back with evil for the evil they do to you. Focus your thoughts on those things that are considered noble.
As much as it is possible, live in peace with everyone.
Don't take revenge, dear friends. Instead, let God's anger take care of it. After all, Scripture says, "I alone have the right to take revenge. I will pay back, says the Lord."
But, "If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink. If you do this, you will make him feel guilty and ashamed."
Don't let evil conquer you, but conquer evil with good.
Every person should obey the government in power. No government would exist if it hadn't been established by God. The governments which exist have been put in place by God.
Therefore, whoever resists the government opposes what God has established. Those who resist will bring punishment on themselves.
People who do what is right don't have to be afraid of the government. But people who do what is wrong should be afraid of it. Would you like to live without being afraid of the government? Do what is right, and it will praise you.
The government is God's servant working for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid. The government has the right to carry out the death sentence. It is God's servant, an avenger to execute God's anger on anyone who does what is wrong.
Therefore, it is necessary for you to obey, not only because you're afraid of God's anger but also because of your own conscience.
That is also why you pay your taxes. People in the government are God's servants while they do the work he has given them.
Pay everyone whatever you owe them. If you owe taxes, pay them. If you owe tolls, pay them. If you owe someone respect, respect that person. If you owe someone honor, honor that person.
Pay your debts as they come due. However, one debt you can never finish paying is the debt of love that you owe each other. The one who loves another person has fulfilled Moses' Teachings.
The commandments, "Never commit adultery; never murder; never steal; never have wrong desires," and every other commandment are summed up in this statement: "Love your neighbor as you love yourself."
Love never does anything that is harmful to a neighbor. Therefore, love fulfills Moses' Teachings.
You know the times [in which we are living]. It's time for you to wake up. Our salvation is nearer now than when we first became believers.
The night is almost over, and the day is near. So we should get rid of the things that belong to the dark and take up the weapons that belong to the light.
We should live decently, as people who live in the light of day. Wild parties, drunkenness, sexual immorality, promiscuity, rivalry, and jealousy cannot be part of our lives.
Instead, live like the Lord Jesus Christ did, and forget about satisfying the desires of your sinful nature.