The Expository Files.


Continuing Series On Romans 9-11

 Romans 11

Part 3; Final Installment


Romans 11
The eleventh chapter of Romans begins with a question: "Has God cast away His people?" Certain circumstances and attitudes generated this inquiry. Christ came and the apostle Paul preached Him as the Messiah, the crucified Savior who is "the end of the law," (10:4). There were some Jews who believed this and obeyed the gospel; others who persisted in unbelief. There were Gentiles who became Christians, and in the "mix" of Jews and Gentiles plus the change from the old to the new covenant, a variety of issues and temptations arose. Some Jews apparently entertained the impression that God had cast away His people; that He had pushed the whole nation aside. The next step in this faulty line of thought would be, that no Jew could be saved.

Paul denied this. "I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin." Paul offers himself as a witness or personal case: YOU CAN BE SAVED! Paul wants them to understand that salvation in Christ is handled by God on an individual basis, not national. This was hard for first century Jews to accept. The change; the inclusion of Gentiles in God's family, and the end of the law - these were troublesome matters for people who had been raised under the Mosaic system. Even some who had obeyed the gospel struggled with these things. Hence, the question came up, and Paul answered, "No, God has not utterly rejected the Israelites!"

"God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, 'Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life'?" (Rom. 11:2,3).

Elijah had been in despair, and for a similar reason, thinking that God had rejected the whole nation; that he alone was left. The divine response to Elijah's despair was: "I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal" (verse 4). God told Elijah, "You are not the only one. There are others I regard as faithful." God has always had a "remnant" (faithful people, though few in number). And God knew - long before Christ came - He would have faithful people of Jewish extraction. "Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace" (verse 5). Israel is not utterly "cast out." As argued back in chapter ten: "whoever calls upon the Lord shall be saved," (10:11).

God never accepted a Jew into the Kingdom of Christ on the basis of his genealogy or blood. No. By His grace, the gospel was given and when individuals hear, believe and obey - they become part of the "remnant according to God's gracious choice."

Again Paul emphasizes, some accepted the call of the gospel, while others were only hardened and did not obey (Rom. 11:7-10). The "election of grace" is not a national matter but an individual matter, and some individuals reject the gospel; because of their unbelief and choice of disobedience, they are rejected.

Rom. 11:11,12
In regard to the nation of Israel, and those mistakes they made that led to their rejection of the Messiah, it was said that "their table" had become "a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a recompense to them." So, as a consequence of this; as penalty, God had said: "Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back always." This is the "hardening" referred to in verse 7. It was in this way that God gave them "a spirit of stupor ... eyes that they should not see ... ears that they should not hear." They wanted to act this way; God let them act this way. He didn't force the Jews to do right and embrace the Messiah!!

Now, in regard to these things - presented in the preceding verses - Paul deals with a question, in verses 11 & 12. "I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the Gentiles, howmuch more their fullness."

This is one of those occasions where Paul knew a question was going to come up, so he stated the question, and gave the answer!! The question was: have they stumbled that they should fall? Did God let them stumble, with a view toward the utter and final rejection of the whole nation; is that what God had in mind --- forsaking every single Jew? Some had apparently drawn this conclusion; that God gave them a spirit of stupor; He let their eyes be darkened --- His purpose being, to do away with every Jew; to case away the entire nation, arbitrarily and without individual exception. "I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall?"

Of course the answer is: "Certainly not! God forbid." God let them go in the direction they were determined to go in; this is the impact of the phrase in verse 10: "Let their eyes be darkened." God let them go in the direction they were determined to go in and this might be regarded as judicial hardening or punishment. But God's purpose in this hardening was not to set in motion the rejection of every single Jew!!

Again here it is in the NIV: "Again I ask, Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? NOT AT ALL!"

Now, the rest of verse 11 --- "But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles."

I am told, the Greek word that's rendered "jealousy" in this verse, means: Desiring what others possess. The word itself does not necessarily imply any inordinate envy; any hatred or any wrong attitude. The idea is - desiring what others possess; being influenced to have the same thing; not necessarily with any ill will.

Paul deals with a very curious matter; but this is what happened as men (Jews and Gentiles) exercised their free moral agency. Jewish unbelief and sin - in a sense - brought salvation to the Gentiles! "Through their crucifixion of Christ, although sinful and inexcusable, salvation has come to the Gentiles. God accomplished his purpose in spite of and by use of their sin, in that Christ's death provided the means of salvation for all." {READING ROMANS, Robert Turner, p.#85).

Now, let's try to put all this together:

Over several generations, the Jews had fallen deeper and deeper into apostasy ... And - God had let that happen; He said, "Let their eyes be darkened." SO - when the Messiah came on the scene, MOST OF THE JEWS REJECTED HIM. Now, when the Jews rejected the Messiah, where did the apostles spend their time and energy? With the Gentiles! This - in turn - had an influence on the Jews; in the language of verse 11, it "provoked them to jealousy."

To that, let's add verse 12: "Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness." If I may paraphrase: If some good came from their fall, how much more good could come with their fullness .. their conversion to Christ.

So here's the point (in verses 11 & 12): When God let their eyes be darkened; when He let them stumble, His purpose was NOT TO REJECT EVERY SINGLE JEW. As a matter of fact - some good came from their fall; so how much more good will come upon their conversion!

In the OLIVE TREE illustration Paul gives a picture of his point about the individual basis of salvation. Whether Jew or Gentile, faith is what attaches you to God!

Think of A TREE; I'm going to call this, THE TREE OF GOD'S FAVOR. This is God's tree; He controls it. He can add or graft branches onto the tree, and He can cut off branches. And - the branches attached to this tree (whether natural or grafted in) PARTAKE OF THE ROOT AND NOURISHMENT OF THE TREE.

Consider the Jews. If the Jews were CUT OFF FROM THIS TREE, why were they cut off? Were they cut off because they were Jews? No - they were cut off because of their unbelief. This was an important point to make for Jews back then, who were struggling with all this. Those Jews who were not a part of God's Tree were not cut off because they were Jews. They were not cut off, just to make room for Gentiles. They were cut off "because of unbelief."

Now consider the Gentiles. Those Gentile branches on the Tree of God's favor -- were not grafted in just because they were Gentiles. They were grafted in by faith; and so, as branches, they stood by faith. You see, there was the danger of the Jews thinking they were cut off because they were Jews. There was the danger of Gentiles becoming somewhat haughty or conceited against the Jews. Paul deals with all that, in this illustration about God's tree {vss. 17-21}.

Verse 26 has been the center of much discussion: "And so all Israel will be saved ..."

If you just concentrated on this statement, without the aid of any context, your conclusion might be: Paul is saying that every single Jew will eventually be saved! Indeed, this is the interpretation followed by teachers of premillennialism. They talk about the "final restoration of Israel;" that before Christ establishes His kingdom on earth the Jews will be restored to their former position as God's chosen people and all of them will be saved. They cite this verse as proof.

Of course, the whole premillennial program is in error; it conflicts and clashes with scripture on a number of points, chief of which is the fact that the kingdom has already been set up, and Christ is now reigning. But when premillennial teachers speak of the "final restoration of Israel," they cite Romans 11:26 -- "And so all Israel will be saved." And just the statement, without context, may seem to say this, that every single person who is a Jew will eventually be saved.

But - this cannot be what Paul is saying, because all through these three chapters he has argued JUST THE OPPOSITE. God doesn't confer salvation on nations, but on individuals who choose to obey Christ, Jew or Gentile. Remember "WHOSOEVER" calls upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved, or as explained back in chapter 6 - those persons who obey from the heart that form of doctrine (the gospel) --- THOSE INDIVIDUALS ARE SAVED. So God doesn't accept and save somebody, by virtue of their race: "ALL ISRAEL WILL BE SAVED" cannot mean that.

But further, if this meant the eventual salvation of every single Jew, that would make God a respecter of persons; it would make Him partial to a people due to their genealogical background. In the house of Cornelius, Paul said: "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whosoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him," (Acts 10:34,35).

For these reasons we just cannot accept the interpretation that this phrase means -- God will eventually save every single Jew. Here is an approach to this phrase that is supported by the context. Sometimes, this little word "so" is equal to "therefore," -- it introduces a conclusion. But, not always !! Those with scholarly credentials in Greek tell us, the word is sometimes an adverb of manner meaning, in the same way, or in like manner.

I believe this is the way the word is used, in Rom. 11:26. I don't think Paul is stating a conclusion; I think he is saying -- all, of Israelite blood who are saved will be saved IN THE SAME MANNER AS THE GENTILES !! This phrase does not teach the eventual salvation of every Israelite. It teaches that all Jews who are saved will be saved in the same manner as anybody else --- by responding to Christ (obeying the gospel).

A good parallel passage: "But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be saved in the same manner as they," (Acts 15:11).

Finally, look at the last paragraph of Romans 11 (vss. 33-36). When we first started this study of Rom. 9-11 I explained the background; the problems dealt with, I said there is a bottom line; there is a single practical lesson we need to get from this section ... Here it is: what God has decided to do about saving people is his business !!

We were not put here to evaluate God's plan and critique His will. That's not our function. What God has revealed as His law in His business. And, what God has decided to do about saving people is His business.

We call this - THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD, and this is expressed by the language in this final paragraph: "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!"

"How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! ... For who has known the mind of the Lord? ... Or, who has become His counselor? ... Or, who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him? ... For of him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen."

One sign of our faith in God is to accept just what He has decided, recognizing that what God has decided is His business? His kingdom is not a democracy ... it is a monarchy, with Jesus as the King.

REVIEW OF ROMANS 9-11 ...

The Problems Addressed:
THE CONVERTED JEW might still have lingering doubts and questions about the annulling of the law, and the inclusion of Gentiles.
THE CONVERTED JEW needed instruction and help in reasoning with still unconverted Jews.
THE GENTILE CONVERTS needed to be warned about their attitude toward the Jews.

I. In Chapter 9 ...
 Paul's Personal Concern, 1-3.
 Their Prominent Role, 4-5.
   Denials ...
 God has not been unfaithful, 6-8.
 Not physical lineage, 9-13.
 God is not unrighteous, 14-18.
 Who are you? 19-24.
 Testimony of the prophets, 25-29.
 Conclusion, 30-33.

II. In Romans 10 ...
 Paul's Personal Concern, 1.
 Religious, But Lost, 2-3.
 Christ, The End Of The Law, 4.
 Contrast: Law & Faith, 5-13.
 Responding to the Gospel, 14-21.

III. In Romans 11 ...
 Has God Cast Away His People?  No! 1-5.
 "...A Remnant according to God's gracious choice," 5-6.
 Some Accepted - Some Hardened, 7-10.
  Jewish Sin Brings Gentiles Riches, HOW? 11-16: v.25.
 Lessons From An Olive Tree, 17-24.
 Gentiles Warned, 17-24.
 "All Israel Will Be Saved," 26,27.
 Contrasts & Comparisons, 28-31.
 Mercy and Sovereignty of God, 32-36.
 

 

 

By Warren E. Berkley 
From Expository Files 4.4; April 1997

 

 

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