In the ninth through eleventh chapters of Romans, Paul writes extensively about national Israel’s relationship with God, and he emphasizes that it was based on God’s covenant with Abraham – not on the law given through Moses. Although Israel had enjoyed many benefits and advantages because of their relationship with the Lord, Paul points out that these blessings were not restricted only to the physical descendants of Isaac and Jacob. Instead, he emphasizes that all those who are “children” of Abraham according to God’s promise (vs. 8; cf. Romans 2:28-29) receive the blessings He promised to Abraham. What this means is that the “Israel” of verse 6 (cf. Galatians 6:16) is the church, and it is composed of both (physical) Jews and Gentiles. In Romans 10:1-4, Paul describes the dilemma of those who were “zealous for God” (national Jews) but failed – because of their ignorance of His word – to seek Him through Jesus the Christ. Because they made the mistake of supposing that their traditions were the same as the Lord’s instructions, they had missed the Messiah altogether, and they further missed the point that the (old testament) Law and Prophets had been intended to point them to Him (John 5:39-40)! It is important that we see the implication of Romans 10:4, that Jesus is the “end” (the aim, or goal) of that old law for national Israel’s righteousness: In other words, their hope for salvation “through Moses” could only be realized by his Law being fulfilled by the Christ. Therefore, everyone – Jew and Gentile alike – is on “level ground” with God; He has given the same hope of salvation for all people, regardless of their origins (see verse 12).
In chapter eleven, Paul continues this thought by pointing out that God had not at all rejected or forsaken national Israel by Jesus’ giving of a new law (vv. 1-2). If anything, including Gentiles under the law of Christ shows just how generous He really is (vv. 11-12)! Bringing Jew and Gentile together in Christ actually insures that all are treated equally and have access to the same benefits and hopes (vv. 21-24); when Paul writes in verse 26 that “…so all Israel shall be saved,” the word “so” is an adverb of manner – it means “in this same way,” i.e., in the same way as the Gentiles. Paul is emphasizing that God did not design one method of salvation for the Jews and a different way for the Gentiles, but one way of hope for all peoples.
It is because we have this equality of hope (explained in chapters 9-11) that Paul appeals to the Roman Christians (and therefore, to us) to be “transformed” – fundamentally changed, by the “renewing” of our minds with the gospel. The word for “renewed” (Romans 12:2) signifies a complete renovation; a “total makeover” for the better, so that we become equipped to discern, recognize, and appreciate things that are beneficial, pleasing, and mature in God’s sight (cf. Colossians 3:10). The rest of chapter 12 describes ways in which being spiritually mature should impact and change each part of our lives, from the way we view ourselves, to the behavior we exhibit toward others, to the attitudes we hold toward those who would even persecute us for the gospel’s sake.
The initial words of chapter 13 challenge us with the realization that, because we are Christians, we must obey civil laws even if we don’t “like” them! Our attitudes toward those who rule over us in the affairs of this world should be shaped by the fact that WE know that it is God Who “rules in the kingdoms of men” (Daniel 4:25). This means that even a mayor, governor, congressman, or president we don’t like holds his office (and its authority) because God allows it (Romans 13:1). Our obedience to such officials – and even to civil laws with which we may personally disagree – is therefore both a matter of submission to the Lord and of good conscience (vv. 5- 6). The only “exception” to this general principle would arise in the case where human laws require us to disobey the word of God, as in Acts 4:19 & 5:29.