Jim Elliff

How and When will all Israel be Saved?

God never intended to save all of ethnic Israel. He always intended that the children of promise or elect Israel were to be the heirs of the promises. That has not changed. Gentiles are included as children of the promises made to Abraham. That has not changed either. It is about mercy, not law-righteousness. All who receive this mercy come to Christ by faith. God’s intention is that both Jews and Gentiles, though all shut up in disobedience, are given mercy. The writing of this amazing truth causes Paul, the Jewish-born apostle to the Gentiles, to erupt in a doxology to God for His unfathomable mercy.

Dear CCW Family,
Israel has been on the minds of most of us these days. It seems appropriate to revisit an article I wrote 10 years ago addressing the phrase, “And so, all Israel will be saved” (Rom 11:26). Here is the way I see this:
How and When Will All Israel Be Saved?
This phrase has often stymied students of the New Testament, and has been a verse with many interpretations. I offer mine. To adamantly conclude that I have the right one, or even one that has not been proposed by others is presumptuous. What I’m offering is merely from my Bible reading and not from diligently studying other authors on the subject, so I could likely be repeating what another has said. I also realize that a lot rests on the interpretation of this phrase, so one has to very careful to know the context.
Who is “all Israel”?
In my opinion, though Israel is discussed in various ways in Romans 9-11, “all Israel” in this verse (11:26) is “all elect Israel.” I believe Paul is saying, “and so, all [chosen] Israel will be saved.” This comports with 9:6-13 below. Please read it carefully:
But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “Through Isaac Your descendants will be named.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.” And not only this, there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
In the entire section of chapters 9-11, Paul is making the point that the children of promise are those God chooses and calls (9:23-24). These are the elect such as Isaac and Jacob (9:8-13). Some are Jews and some Gentiles, for God says in Hosea, “I will call those who were not my people, ‘My people’” (9:25). Israel as an ethnic entity has rejected God’s offer of Christ, and “it is the remnant that will be saved” (9:27). Whatever one says about the sentence, “and so all Israel will be saved,” we must remember that it will only be the remnant that will actually be saved among Israel and that remnant is the true Israel about whom the promises were made.
Who Responds by Faith?
In chapter 10 of Romans, we see that ethnic Israel as a whole has not responded by faith in Christ, even though they have had a zeal for God. They bypassed God’s way of righteousness through Christ, and continued in law works. The possibility of belief was close to them, but it was the Gentiles who responded much better. Officially, Israel, as the perverse generation, rejected Christ. God “stretched out His hand” and “hardened” the hearts of Israelites because of this—except for the elect remnant.
Are The Promises Made to Israel Abrogated?
Chapter 11 is where our often misinterpreted phrase is found: “and so all Israel will be saved.” How does Paul develop his thoughts?
First of all, Paul asks the question that provides the theme of the chapter: “I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be.” Paul introduces his argument in this chapter by using two illustrations—himself and the Elijah story. Israel is not rejected by God because, Paul says, “I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” In other words, he is saying, “I am a case in point that Israel is not rejected and that the promises made concerning them are being fulfilled, because I have believed in Christ as an Israelite.”
And, secondly, Paul reminds them of Elijah. What did God tell Elijah when he thought there were none like him who would follow God?
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A Merciful Awakening, Please Lord

While mainline churches continue to speak this “gospel” of no judgment by God by which all people are in and none outside of the circle of acceptance by God, the final strokes of their demise will come, bleeding church by church, merge by merge. But there is a solution as radical as a true reformation. And we should pray for that.

Though one can in some ways understand the desire to be inclusive (without expecting repentance) in the name of love as espoused in most mainline churches, it is a sad pattern that has emerged by that conviction —- the more inclusive they have become, the more they disintegrate.
This pattern has been almost painful to watch, as literally millions have left these churches while they press on to disregard the true exclusivity of the gospel, that is, the good news that God welcomes all (yet only) those who come by repentance and faith through Christ alone. When the threads of the original orthodoxy have been unraveled, such as the need of every person to repent of moral failure and immoral beliefs, and heretical beliefs of other non-Christian religions, in the act of coming to Christ, the churches become churches only in form and not substance.Read More
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Be Honest About Your Perspective on Christ

Do not be satisfied to live in the shell of Christianity with all the forms and religious talk without truly believing. Remember what Jesus said, “You are my disciples if you abide [remain] in what I have said. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (John 8 ). Live honestly. There is a way forward if you do.

It is oxymoronic that a person can happily claim the title of Believer in Christ, while simultaneously not fully and happily accepting as true the actual words of Christ and of his apostles and prophets which is explicit in that title, and must be true if there is any actual benefit of belief.
If you are a believer, then believe and follow unashamedly. Don’t pretend not to believe for fear of others who are skeptical. You have nothing to be ashamed of if you believe, say, in the way the Apostle Paul did, do you?
But if you are only an interested observer, do not take the title of believer until you do. If you are a curious but doubtful, then be that openly and humbly until things change. If a seeker, then seek the truth until you find it.
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Encourage Discouraged Pastors

Perhaps more than anything else, just become your pastor’s friend. Friendship has a healing aspect to it. Open your home and care for them. Think of the pastor’s wife and kids. They need you also. I doubt that you could possible know what intentional love can do for those God has, in his providence, put over you in the Lord.

There are plenty of pastors with generous smiles on their faces each Sunday who, deep down, are very disheartened.
Pastoring a church is hard work. For one thing, it is usually thankless. I know there are some churches that seem to remember their pastors with such fanfare, but most do not ever esteem them. They don’t work for just the members ultimately, so they can get over it, but never hearing those words, “Thanks for what you do, pastor,” is discouraging. But you can remedy this one, can’t you? Perhaps right now is the best time to write that email or note, or to make a phone call.
Some pastors get discouraged because their people expect a Dr. Internationally Known Mountain, when what they really are stuck with is only Brother Molehill. Expectations are at an all time high in these days of exceptional media coverage. Every pastor is happy when a member listens to sermons every day, but he knows he doesn’t measure up to the gifted pastors these people hear most of the time.
Some are discouraged because they are physically worn out. It just takes a few sensitive members to help him remedy this problem by pulling him away from normal tasks for a break.
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We must identify the source and put the ax to the root of the tree. A quarrelsome behavior stems from one root: pride. We think we know better than anyone else, and we’ll make sure we correct everyone, regardless of the relational cost. Our opinion is more important than people.

Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, but any fool will quarrel. (Proverbs 20:3)

We do it all the time. It is rare in a marriage or a family for there to be an absence of quarreling.
No one likes it. It is not productive. Good, respectful conversations can be helpful, but the heat of a quarrel always leads to anger, disrespect, and an eroding of relationships. It dishonors others and rarely leads to good resolutions.
Some have become world-class arguers. It seems that most conversations lead to a quarrel for them. It can happen to you. It becomes habitual and engrained if you don’t find out to be released from this behavior. It becomes who you are and the way you operate. You will find that people don’t want to talk to you because you have developed a touchy, sensitive spirit, and they know that almost any conversation will not go well.
This is why the writer of Proverbs says, “Any fool will quarrel.” Just think of that. If I’m breaking out and beginning a quarrel, the Bible puts me in the category of a fool, along with millions of other foolish people. I am not counted with the wise.
So how do we remedy this? How do we stop being quarrelsome? How do we move from this immature, foolish behavior?
The Honorable Choice
The root idea of the word in the Hebrew language used in Proverbs 20:3 means to “break out, to start abruptly with intensity, to have an argument with someone.”
The mark of honor is to “keep away from strife.” To rise above this means of communication. To never start an argument. To recognize where a conversation is headed and, for the glory of God and the good of others, quickly choose a different path.
The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out. (Proverbs 17:14)
This doesn’t mean simply gritting your teeth or covering your mouth. We must not only learn to walk away from this communication style but also go deeper than a merely humanistic restraint. We must identify the source and put the ax to the root of the tree.
The Root
A quarrelsome behavior stems from one root: pride. We think we know better than anyone else, and we’ll make sure we correct everyone, regardless of the relational cost. Our opinion is more important than people.

I begin quarrels when in my pride …
I want to show everyone what I know.
If I feel I must make my point.
I am driven to prove that I’m right and that others are wrong. (This feeds my ego).
I want to show my (supposed) superior understanding.
I am upset that I think someone is not hearing me.
I feel slighted, misunderstood, and marginalized, and I must prove I’m right.
I am hurt, and I want to retaliate. I want to make them hurt as I’ve been hurt. (This is called “revenge”)

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The Scriptures, Christotelic

Jesus had no problem talking for some time, from passage to passage, starting in Genesis, about Himself. In these passages He illustrated that ALL of the Scripture was about Him. If Jesus believed that was true, and if He in fact expressed that it is so, then we are under compulsion to read the Bible in that light. The Scriptures, beginning in Genesis, are Christotelic—intentionally aimed at revealing Christ!

When the forlorn disciples met up with Jesus following His resurrection, it made the short trip from Jerusalem to Emmaus much more pleasant. Before revealing who He was and that indeed the Christ was alive from the dead, Jesus talked with them as a fellow pilgrim in life—but one who had extensive knowledge about the Scriptures. We find this story in Luke 24.
He rebukes them, but more as a human like them who is confounded that these men do not see the truth about the death of Christ three days earlier. He is rebuking them for not reading the Scriptures with understanding, and for being men with weak faith: “Oh foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?”
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The Rural Church Dilemma

Be energized by the concept that your church could become the most loving church in the world. I find this compelling. There will be many things your church may not be. It may not be the most educated church or the most innovative church, or the most evangelistic church,  but it can be the most loving church. There is nothing to stop that from happening except your lack of determination and/or the will of the people. Love, after all, is the sign of maturity as a church. Now, if you are seeing this, you will find ways to encourage love.

Some time ago I drove to several small towns in rural Arkansas with my 89 year old father and my siblings, tracking the steps of the ministry of both my dad and his father. The experience was memorable. We visited small towns that even Arkansans might not recognize today: Cotter, Caledonia, Hagersville, Greenwood, LaVaca—twelve in all. These were the places where my father, and his father, labored for Christ eighty and ninety years ago.
Much has changed in the landscape of rural America in those eighty plus years. For one thing, most farms have been eaten up by large conglomerates, dramatically reducing population. The size of families has dropped and the area Walmart has made ghost towns of the typical downtown areas. Families long ago moved out of these rural places for the big cities in order to find work, and what young people you may find will almost certainly not stay where there is no action. With these demographic alterations, the country church has been reduced to only a shadow of what it once was.
But this does not mean the country church is not there. There are yellow brick buildings with mud stains around their base that still exist as the gathering place for those few faithful (and often reserved) older citizens and, in several cases, a family or two or even more containing younger people.
The “county seat” town churches are doing better, but even they feel the changes. Some have become regional churches for the surrounding areas. In fact, there are some notable exceptions to the general rule that rural churches are failing. In one Arkansas town that you have likely never heard of, there were 900 attending the largest church on Sunday mornings. The more remote rural churches have yielded their younger families over to these active centers which often carry on vibrant ministries. Regionalization is definitely a trend. We could call it the “Walmartization” of the rural church.
I’ve been there in my own ministry, pastoring in historic Washington, Arkansas as my first assignment. Thirty-five years ago, this town consisted of about 400 occupants, half black and half white. It has now lost much of that population and has turned into a state park (it was the old Civil War capitol of Arkansas). I never knew what quiet was until I pastored in that town. I used a “privy” behind the café and I waited out the lonely nights in a “Jim Walter” home provided by the church. It grew up to about 60 in attendance while I was there, but stayed mostly around 40. The grade school moved to Hope just after I was there, and things went down further. There is not as much going on now as far as church life is concerned, since the town has become a state park site. We said, even at that time, that the church was “just past Hope.” In more recent days, I’ve been back to that town and have reminisced about the good days of early ministry there, learning from kind people.
In addition to that, I’ve preached in so many rural churches that I could not even begin to recount them all. My ministry of 40 years of preaching has landed me in both city and rural churches, some huge, others in towns so sleepy that the grass grows unmolested on the two-lane highway—and deacons wear overalls. Though I’ve loved all of the experiences I’ve been privileged to have, I have to admit that it is often easier to visit than to stay in such a church. And I’ve scratched my head with the pastor wondering how the church could find vitality.
What happens when the young seminarian or college ministerial student takes his first churches in these areas?
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The Unrepenting Repenter

If a man turns from sin without turning to God, he will find his sin has only changed its name and is hidden behind his pride. Now it will be harder to rout for its subterfuge. You have loved others but not God. And you have loved yourself most of all. Lot’s wife left the city of sin at the insistence of an angel and for the love of her family, but turned back. She had left her heart. “Remember Lot’s wife.” (Gen. 19:12-26; Lk. 17:32)

The believer in Christ is a lifelong repenter.  He begins with repentance and continues in repentance. (Rom. 8:12-13) David sinned giant sins but fell without a stone at the mere finger of the prophet because he was a repenter at heart (2 Sam. 12:7-13). Peter denied Christ three times but suffered three times the remorse until he repented with bitter tears (Mt. 26:75). Every Christian is called a repenter, but he must be a repenting repenter. The Bible assumes the repentant nature of all true believers in its instruction on church discipline. A man unwilling to repent at the loving rebuke of the church can be considered nothing more than “a heathen and a tax collector.” (Mt. 18:15-17)
What is Repentance?
Repentance is a change of mind regarding sin and God, an inward turning from sin to God, which is known by its fruit—obedience. (Mt. 3:8; Acts 26:20; Lk. 13:5-9) It is hating what you once loved and loving what you once hated, exchanging irresistible sin for an irresistible Christ. The true repenter is cast on God. Faith is his only option. When he fully knows that sin utterly fails him, God takes him up. (Mt. 9:13b) He will have faith or he will have despair; conviction will either deliver him or devour him.
The religious man often deceives himself in his repentance. The believer may sin the worst of sins, it is true; but to remain in the love of sin, or to be comfortable in the atmosphere of sin, is a deadly sign, for only repenters inhabit heaven. The deceived repenter would be a worse sinner if he could, but society holds him back. He can tolerate and even enjoy other worldly professing Christians and pastors well enough, but does not desire holy fellowship or the fervent warmth of holy worship. If he is intolerant of a worship service fifteen minutes “too long,” how will he feel after fifteen million years into the eternal worship service of heaven? He aspires to a heaven of lighthearted ease and recreation—an extended vacation; but a heaven of holiness would be hell to such a man. Yet God is holy, and God is in heaven. He cannot be blamed for sending the unholy man to hell despite his most articulate profession (Heb. 12:14).
What are the Substitutes for True Repentance?
1. You may reform in the actions without repenting in the heart. (Ps. 5 1: 16-17; Joel 2:13) This is a great deception, for the love of sin remains. (I Jn. 2:15-17; Acts 8:9-24) At this the Pharisees were experts. (Mk. 7:1-23) The heart of a man is his problem. A man may appear perfect in his actions but be damned for his heart. His actions are at best self-serving and hypocritical. What comes from a bad heart is never good. “Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.” (Jas. 3:11-12)
2. You may experience the emotion of repentance without the effect of it. Here is a kind of amnesia. You see the awful specter of sin in the mirror and flinch out of horror yet immediately forget what kind of person you saw (Jas. 1:23-24). It is true, repentance includes sincere emotion, an affection for God and a disaffection for sin. Torrents of sorrow may flood the repenter’s heart, and properly so (Jas. 4:8-10). But there is such a thing as a temporary emotion in the mere semblance of repentance; this emotion has very weak legs and cannot carry the behavior in the long walk of obedience. Your sorrow may even be prolonged. Yet if it does not arrive at repentance, it is of the world and is a living death—and maybe more (2 Cor. 7: 10). It is an old deceiver. Judas had such remorse but “went and hanged himself.” (Mt. 27:3-5)
3. You may confess the words of a true repenter and never repent. (Mt. 21:28-32; 1 Jn. 2:4, 4:20) Confession by itself is not repentance. Confession moves the lips; repentance moves the heart. Naming an act as evil before God is not the same as leaving it.
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The Revival We Need and the Unregenerate Church Members We Have

The churches that seem to be the strongest often have many members who have worked through earlier deceptions about their conversion to arrive at a solid assurance with God. The probing was occasioned by learning that spiritual life in the individual produces noticeable change. The exploration into whether or not they actually have spiritual life altered everything.

In the early 1700s, between 75 and 80 percent of American people attended church meetings regularly. Yet huge numbers among them were unconverted. It was among these people that Awakening doctrines had their greatest effects. In other words, wherever people gathered, within or outside the colonial church buildings, the principle leaders were addressing church members who needed Christ.
What truth, among the many emphasized, had the greatest influence on unconverted church members in The Great Awakening? And who are the unconverted church members in our context who may also need this truth?
The Great Awakening’s Emphasis on Regeneration
When George Whitefield was asked why he so often preached, “Ye must be born again,” he replied, “Because ye must be born again!”
Regeneration, or the new birth, was the prevalent issue of the Great Awakening of the 1740s. As Joseph Tracey said:
This doctrine of the “new birth,” as an ascertainable change, was not generally prevalent in any communion when the revival commenced; it was urged as of fundamental importance, by the leading promoters of the revival; it took strong hold of those whom the revival affected; it naturally led to such questions as the revival brought up and caused to be discussed; its perversions naturally grew into, or associated with, such errors as the revival promoted; it was adapted to provoke such opposition, and in such quarters, as the revival provoked; and its caricatures would furnish such pictures of the revival, as oppressors drew. This was evidently the right key; for it fitted all the wards of the complicated lock.[1]
This doctrine has repeatedly been at the heart of awakenings.
By “regeneration,” we mean the giving of life to dead souls as a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. Berkhof says it is “that act of God by which the principle of the new life is implanted in man, and the governing disposition of the soul is made holy…and the first holy exercise of this new disposition is secured.”[2] The Lord lived and died for his own, and as King, gifts our dead souls with new life resulting in sight, belief, repentance, and holiness.
J.C. Ryle said in so many words that the awakening preachers of that time believed in an indivisible union between authentic faith and holiness. He writes, “They never allowed for a moment that any church membership or religious profession was the least proof of a man being a Christian if he lived an ungodly life.”[3]
The attention to this truth, fed by their earlier Puritan theology, brought great conviction and massive numbers of conversions when preached and taught with the unction of the Spirit in times of revival. Where it did not bring conviction, it brought anger. Whitefield, who himself was written against in over 240 tracts of various types,[4] said that when you heard middle colonies’ preacher Gilbert Tennent (and his brothers) you were either converted or enraged. According to Gillies’ quoting of Prince in Historical Collections of Accounts of Revival, Tennent is said to have preached in this way:
Such were the convictions wrought in many hundreds in this town by Mr. Tennent’s searching ministry; and such was the case of those many scores of several other congregations as well as mine, who came to me and others for direction under them. And indeed, by all their converse I found, it was not so much the terror as the searching nature of his ministry that was the principal means of their conviction. It was not merely, nor so much, his laying open the terrors of the law and wrath of God, or damnation of hell (for this they could pretty well bear, as long as they hoped these belonged not to them, or they could easily avoid them), as his laying open their many vain and secret shifts and refuges, counterfeit resemblance’s of grace, delusive and damning hopes, their utter impotence, and impending danger of destruction; whereby they found all their hopes and refuges of lies to fail them, and themselves exposed to eternal ruin, unable to help themselves, and in a lost condition. This searching preaching was both the suitable and principal means of their conviction.[5]
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The Nod and the Pause: Where the War Begins

A temptation is in fact a temptation because there is desire latent within you. When lust awakens in the easy chair, with one eye open he peeks over the window ledge on to the street where temptation sends its knowing glance. At this moment and not any later, declare in your mind, “I am dead to this in Christ. I do not serve it.” He gives his power to his own to do this. Then go on to the next good thing and don’t even give it another thought. That is the war.

Temptation is an opportunist as it passes by. Looking for the slightest nod, it hopes only for our invitation to pause a moment on the porch for our consideration of its merit versus cost and risk. Surely merely thinking about the merits versus risk cannot be too dangerous.
By overestimating our moral strength as supposedly detached evaluators we are soon to fail, however, since our resistance is already compromised severely in the nod and pause itself. We did not assume we laid down our weapons at that point. Temptation now bonds with our awakened lust on the porch of judgment to contend with our spiritual reason as we weigh the options. With such strong desires stirring us in the wrong direction standing beside an available and luring temptation, though we are a king, it will, far more often than not, give in like a fool. The great conquerors can be brought down easier with a second look than a warring tribe.
When this awakened lust contends with weakened biblical reason to talk it over on the porch, the battle for the mind is raging full bore. We have invited a lion to the porch, an old master at deception, though looking like something else which is deceivingly inviting to the senses.
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