Romans 11

Introduction

The Vindication Of God’s Choices

A brief outline of chapters 9-11

1. God’s right to choose as shown by many illustrations:

Isaac, Jacob, Pharaoh, the potter, by Hosea the prophet (those, not His people would be called His people), and by Isaiah the prophet (not all of the Israelites were saved even in the Old Testament age), Romans 9:1-10.

2. The next section shows why they were rejected, Romans 9:11-21.

a. They were seeking it by the works of the law and stumbled, Romans 9:30-33.

b. They were ignorant of God’s righteousness, Romans 10:1-4.

c. He shows what true righteousness is, Romans 10:5-15.

d. Israel had heard and should have known, Romans 10:16-20.

e. Their rejection was because of their own rebellion, Romans 10:21.

3. God had not cast away His people, Romans 11:1-31.

a. Paul was an Israelite, Romans 11:1.

b. Elijah was wrong when he thought none were faithful in Israel, Romans 11:2-5.

c. They were temporarily hardened to open the way for the Gentiles, Romans 11:6-16.

d. God could now graft them in if they did not continue to abide in unbelief, Romans 11:7-31.

4. All of this worked out in accordance with God’s plan, so He might have mercy on all and all glory belongs to Him, Romans 11:32-36.

“I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel: “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”? And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too, at the present time, there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” Romans 11:1-6

‘Cast away His people?’ Has God totally rejected those who were formerly His people? Only the unbelieving; hence, as a nation, God has rejected Israel for their disobedience to Christ.

He cast them out but left an open door behind them, and into it, they had the liberty and duty to return. Paul is arguing that God has not rejected all Israelites, otherwise, Paul himself would also be lost.

‘Of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin’, gives Paul a place of dignity and importance among the Jews.

‘Whom He foreknew’, God had not completely cast off those whom He before purposed or designed to be His people. National Israel had been rejected, but each individual Israelite is now invited to be a part of spiritual Israel.

He can now be part of spiritual Israel by his own faith and choice. Romans 11:32 / Galatians 6:16.

‘Says of Elijah’ Paul speaks of what the Scripture says in the case of Elijah.

Romans 11:3 is a quote from 1 Kings 19:10 / 1 Kings 19:14, the complete story is revealed in 1 Kings 18 and 19. Elijah was discouraged and in despair when he was forced to flee from Jezebel who was seeking to kill him. He was all alone in the wilderness and supposed that all of Israel had abandoned God for idols.

Romans 11:4 is from 1 Kings 19:18. God informed Elijah that He had 7,000 left in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal. And so, Elijah was wrong when he thought there were none who were faithful in Israel and, likewise, it would be wrong to think there were none faithful in Israel now. God had not utterly cast away all Israelites now just because the greater majority of them were unbelieving.

In this same way, there is a remnant now (at the time of Paul’s writing, and likewise now). The remnant was positive proof that God had not totally cast off His ancient people.

‘Election of grace’, is the election that proceeds from God’s grace, or the election made possible by God’s grace. The choice came about as a result of God’s grace. This is what Paul is referring to in the next verse. Romans 11:6.

The source of election is a result of the grace of God. It did not come as a result of the works of men. So far as God’s original plan of election is concerned, grace and the works of men are mutually exclusive. If it came about as a result of the one, it could not be a result of the other. The same is taught in Romans 9:11 / Romans 9:16.

False teachers flock to this verse to teach that a man is not saved by works. However, not only are they pulling it out of context, but their interpretation contradicts many other plain passages. Matthew 7:24-26 / Ephesians 2:10 / Titus 3:8 / Titus 3:14 / James 2:24 / Philippians 2:12 / Hebrews 5:9.

Are they unsaved because God has rejected them?

No! Paul points out that he himself is a Jew, therefore, the fact that he has been saved proves that God has not cast off anyone simply for being a Jew!

They are unsaved because they have rejected the Gospel. And God still has a remnant, even of the Jews, who will be saved, just as in the days of Elijah.

The point of Paul’s argument here is that God’s purpose does not save Israel as a nation, but He saves Jews as individual believers, on the basis of their personal faith in Christ.

These are the ones he calls a remnant, who are chosen by grace. They are the people who have accepted God’s grace and have obeyed the Gospel.

“What then? What the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened, as it is written: “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear, to this very day.” And David says: “May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them. May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.” Romans 11:7-10

As for the rest of Israel, their hearts were hardened, Romans 11:7. ‘Poroo’ means turned to stone, ‘poposis’. Israel did not obtain it (the chosen of God, the election according to grace) because it sought it in the wrong way,

1. By blind adherence to the law,

2. Through the wrong view of the Messiah.

‘The Elect have obtained it’, means national Israel was rejected, but some individuals were of the chosen. They had believed and obeyed the Gospel and thereby had become the elect.

‘And the rest were blinded’, means the vast majority of the Jews were blinded (dulled, hardened). Their wills were hardened and their understanding was dulled in accordance to that which was written by Isaiah. God never directly hardens individuals against their own will. Just as Pharaoh had hardened his will against God’s demands, most of the Jews chose to harden themselves against the gospel. Acts 13:46.

Romans 11:8 are quotes from Deuteronomy 29:4 and Isaiah 29:10. God did not offer the Jews what they wanted, they, therefore, turned a deaf ear to His word. They did not see in Jesus anything they desired. They would not hear and would not see; therefore, they did not understand.

‘To this very day’, originally, to the time Moses wrote, Deuteronomy 29:4, but the condition prevailed to the time Paul wrote and has not improved even until now. God gave them these things in punishment for their sin, not as taught in Calvinism before they did anything.

Application

We should not have a stubborn and obstinate heart; otherwise, God will stand in opposition to us. 1 Peter 3:15 / Jeremiah 21:10 / Ezekiel 15:7.

Romans 11:9 is a quote from Psalm 69:22-23. David spoke these words by inspiration against those opposing God’s will in his day. ‘Let their table become a snare and a trap’, the Jews in Paul’s time were trapped by their blind adherence to the law. And so, they had been trapped by the very thing which was designed to lead them to Christ. Galatians 3:19-29.

‘A stumbling block’, although the law was designed to lead them to Christ when they chose it over Him, it became the cause of their fall. ‘And a recompense to them’, their table (their law) had become a retribution to them. Again, all this is punishment for their sin.

‘Let their eyes be darkened’, the same words apply to the wicked at all times, in David’s, Paul’s and our day. Where men refuse the light, God will send them strong delusions. 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12.

‘Bow down their back always’, means, for example, let them bow down with the heavy burdens of trouble. National Israel had rejected Christ and now was lost, Romans 9:1-3 / Romans 10:1-4, however, all was not hopeless because each individual was invited to repent and be converted. Acts 3:19.

“Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring!” Romans 11:11-12

Did they stumble so as to utterly fall?

In other words, have they stumbled so as to remain fallen? Or, is their fall without remedy? God did not will their fall. Their final doom was not what God had in mind.

‘Through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy’, because of the unbelief of the Jews, the way was opened to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. Acts 13:46.

Becoming Jealous of the blessings the gospel brought to the Gentiles, some of the Jews began to reconsider the Word of truth. God can bring good out of evil. Romans 11:5 / Romans 11:14 / Romans 11:30-31 show that Paul was referring to events in his day.

‘If their fall’, refers to their rejection because of unbelief. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.

‘And their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness’, means if Israel’s fall resulted in riches for Gentiles, their fullness (acceptance of the Gospel) will result in far greater blessings. Paul continues this thought in Romans 11:15.

“I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.” Romans 11:13-16

In Romans 11:13 Paul issues a warning to the Gentiles, lest they become proud because they have been saved whilst the Jews remain unsaved. He admits that when the Jews rejected the Gospel, the door was opened to non-Jews. He says this in Acts 13:46.

And he says that he is proud of the fact that he is an apostle to the Gentiles, he magnifies it, he glories in it, in the hope that he might make his fellow Jews jealous, jealous, that is when they see the Gentiles accepting what they themselves have rejected.

‘Save some of them’, his burning desire was to save lost souls, especially his brethren in the flesh. This shows that verse 26 is not referring to all the Jews.

Application

Some become envious of the spiritual blessings others have and thus seek to obtain them. And so, ‘envy’ (basically ‘desire’ in the original; the context determines) can sometimes be a good thing. It is wise for us to be envious of the spiritual qualities and attainments.

Romans 11:15 means the Gospel could not be preached to the Gentiles until it had been offered to the Jews, this is what Paul said in the passage referred to already in Acts 13.

So, the rejection of the Gospel by the Jews might be described as ‘the reconciling of the world’. Bear in mind that, if Israel had accepted Christ, the Gospel would have come to the Gentile world, eventually, because Israel was intended to be the means whereby all the nations of the earth should be blessed. Genesis 12:3.

For this reason, the Gentile believers should recognize that they have a reason for gratitude to God for their salvation. You might say Israel’s present position was foreseen by God, even though it was not planned by him.

And even yet, they are not beyond hope, because the fact that the Gentiles have accepted salvation, may result in Israel becoming jealous, ‘in a -good sense’. Romans 11:15 is the same as Romans 11:12.

‘What will their acceptance be?’ for example, what will the acceptance of the Jews be to the Gentiles?

‘Life from the dead?’, that is, even greater blessings will be obtained; e.g., such as those to come (eternal life). This tells us since one great blessing has come to the Gentile world because the Jews rejected the Gospel, will it not be an even greater blessing if the Jews also begin to be converted?

Putting that another way, since the world was blessed when the Jews rejected Christ, think how blessed it would be when the remnant accepts Christ.

‘Firstfruit’, ‘First portion’ means the first converts. ‘Lump’, ‘The mass’, means the other Israelites, the whole nation. ‘Root’ means the first converts. ‘Branches’ are all other Israelites.

And so, Paul gives the same thought under different imagery. This shows that if God had accepted the first converts as holy, He would likewise on the same conditions accept all Israelites as holy.

All Jews who are saved must be saved in exactly the same way as were the first converts, that is, by obedience to the Gospel. God has no other plan to save either Jews or Gentiles. All who are saved must be saved by the Gospel, not by the law or a restoration of national Israel.

“If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.” Romans 11:17-21

Romans 11:17. And remember, you Gentiles, that you are like the branch from a wild olive tree, which has been grafted into the tree, when the natural branches were cast out. The Jews are called the ‘natural branches’ in this text because they were at one time God’s chosen people.

‘Some of the branches were broken off’, these discarded branches are the Jews who could have been accepted as were the first converts to Christianity. They were broken off because they were sinners and refused God’s offer of forgiveness through the Gospel.

‘And you, being a wild olive tree’, the Gentiles are called the ‘wild olive tree’ because they have been left to grow up in a state of nature. Romans 1:24 / Romans 1:28.

‘Were Grafted in among them’, grafting is the process of inserting a scion or young shoot into a plant or tree. Nearly all fruit trees are put through this process today; e.g., an orange tree has a lemon tree’s roots.

The Gentiles had been grafted in with those Jews who had accepted the Gospel.

‘Became a partaker of the root and fatness’ means all the new branches, made up of believing Jews and Gentiles, are partakers together of the fatness of the root, the blessings of the Gospel.

‘Do not boast against the branches’ means do not glory over the broken off branches (the unbelieving Jews, verse 20). The original reception of the Jews and neglect of Gentiles made Jews proud and gave them a feeling of superiority. Paul is admonishing the Gentiles to avoid this evil attitude toward the Jews.

‘But the root supports you’, in other words, you did not give the spiritual blessings, but they came from them to you. John 4:22 / Romans 15:27. For example, it was by the Jews that Christ came; the apostles were Jews and taught the Gentiles.

Application

Let us avoid the wrong attitude toward unbelievers. Let us have no boasting among the branches. Let us avoid feelings of superiority among us.

Romans 11:19 tells us that the Gentile Christians might conclude that the Jews were rejected for the sole purpose that the Gentiles might be received. Verse 20 explains why they were broken off. Hence, God does not unconditionally preordain one’s rejection. Men have a choice between belief and unbelief.

‘Stand by faith’, the Christian does not stand by perfect obedience or sinless perfection. Faith motivates us to obey; faith produces obedience. To ‘stand by faith’ is a high and noble privilege granted by God through His grace.

‘Be not haughty’, since it is a blessing granted by God, no one has a right to personal pride or arrogance. Certainly, this was a problem among the Jews. Paul is admonishing the Gentiles to avoid it.

‘But fear’ means they, too, needed to fear lest they be broken off as were the Jews because of their unbelief. ‘Fear’ is a little word that carries deep meaning. Luke 1:50 / Luke 12:4-5 / Acts 10:34-35 / Hebrews 10:30-31.

For if God did not spare the natural branches (the Jews), take heed lest He does not spare you either. They offer positive proof (or else the warning is totally meaningless) that a Christian can so conduct himself as to be cut off and therefore be in the same lost state as the unbelieving Israelites.

“Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!” Romans 11:22-24

Romans 11:22 gives us the reason to be humble. Do not boast over the Jews, the natural branches, because what happened to them could happen to you! If you do not continue in God’s goodness, you too will be cast out.

But notice that expression, ‘if they continue not’, because it means that salvation is conditional. No such thing as once saved always saved. God is love, 1 John 4:8, but God is also a consuming fire, Hebrews 12:29. We are to fear His wrath.

Application

Parents also must have a balance. It is wrong to have all discipline without appreciation, kindness, and love. Churches likewise must be severe against those who sin, yet have genuine love.

‘If you continue in His goodness’, and so, remaining in the favour of God (here, for the Gentiles) is conditional. They had to remain faithful to God in order to remain in His love.

We, too, must continue in His service (praying, visiting, teaching, etc.), worshipping Him in spirit and trust, and living godly in order to remain in His goodness. Jude 21 / Colossians 1:23.

Romans 11:23 teaches that, if they do not continue, in unbelief they may be saved. And this means that we are not in any position to boast over the Jews. At present, their hearts are still hard, set against the Gospel of the Lord Jesus.

But that could have changed. Paul even suggests that it will change, when ‘the fullness of the Gentiles has come in’. The word is ‘pleroma’ and it means, ‘the completeness of the blessing.’

And so, the national concept is destroyed under the Gospel system. The Jews had been rejected, not simply because they were Jews, but because they failed to believe in their Messiah. If they turned from their unbelief, God would readily accept them, not as a nation, but as Christian individuals.

‘For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature’ referring to the Gentiles.

‘Were grafted contrary to nature’, it was not a normal practice. Grafting is a delicate process; not many actually work. Many stems will not ‘take’ and are rejected by the plant. It is easier to graft the natural branches than any others. Just as it is easy to graft a natural branch into its own olive tree, God would readily accept the Jews if they turned to Him.

The Jew’s covenant relationship with God had been broken off so that a new covenant could be established with new conditions and promises, Jeremiah 31:31-34 / Hebrews 8:6-13.

“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” Romans 11:25-27

‘Mystery’, the word in Greek does not mean ‘mysterious’ but ‘once hidden, but now made known.’ Ephesians 1:9 / Ephesians 3:4. The ‘mystery’ in this context is the Gentiles having the opportunity to receive salvation because of the fall of the Jews. Romans 11:11-12 / Romans 11:15 / Romans 11:18 / Romans 11:30.

‘Opinion’, ‘Conceits, estimation’. This word means ‘excessive appreciation or estimation of one’s own worth or virtue.’

‘Blindness in part’ means their hardening was not universal. There was a remnant who believed. The hardening of the Jews was favourable to the bringing in of the Gentiles. Romans 11:7 / Romans 11:11.

‘Until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in’, refers to the completion of that period of time in Paul’s day when the Gentiles were having the opportunity to receive salvation because of the blindness of the Jews. Romans 11:11-12 / Romans 11:15 / Romans 11:28 / Romans 11:30.

Romans 11:26 tells us that in this way Israel shall be saved. Which way? Romans 11:23 by believing and obeying the Gospel. Premillennialists teach that this verse refers to a future mass conversion of the Jews. ‘So’, this word is an adverb of the manner in the Greek and means, ‘in this way, in this manner.’ It does not mean and is never translated as ‘so then,’ or ‘so when.’

And so, in this manner shall all Israel would be saved, that is, all Israelites would be saved in precisely the same manner as Gentiles, by being grafted in by faith into a covenant relationship with God.

‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion’, this has reference to Christ’s first coming, not His second. Paul is simply affirming that Israelites must be saved in the same way as the Gentiles; that is, by believing in Christ, the Redeemer.

Please keep this in mind, that the only way in which the Jews can be saved is the way in which you were saved, by obeying the Gospel. Look at the passage Paul uses here, Isaiah 59:20.

This is a very appropriate passage because it refers to the exile in Babylon, and it says that ‘then’, as ‘now’, a part of the nation remained true to God and these would come back, be delivered from captivity because of their obedience.

Romans 11:27 is probably based on Jeremiah 31:31-34 / Hebrews 8:8-12, which means that God would make provisions by which sins could be forgiven. The verse does not refer to something yet to be fulfilled. It was fulfilled when God offered forgiveness through the Gospel.

“As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.” Romans 11:28-32

‘Concerning the gospel’, from the standpoint of the gospel system, God’s plan to save.

‘Enemies’, they (the Jews) were cast off by God because of their unbelief.

‘For your sake’ means they were cast off in order to give you (Gentiles) the opportunity to be saved. It turned out to the advantage of the Gentiles.

‘But concerning the election,’ ‘But with regard to the choice.’ For example, God chose the lineage of the Messiah.

‘Are beloved for the sake of the fathers’, they are still loved on account of the fathers. They were enemies (as far as covenant relationship was concerned) but were still loved for the sake of their forefathers and the covenant God had made with them.

‘Irrevocable’, ‘Without a change of mind or purpose.’ Some versions have ‘repentance’, but it is not the same word as ‘repentance’ elsewhere in the New Testament.

The gifts and calling of God are not reversible. God had not changed His mind regarding the calling of the fathers, or His blessings toward them.

God’s gifts and calling were conditioned upon obedience to His will, Exodus 19:5 / Exodus 24:7 / Leviticus 26:3-13 / Deuteronomy 27. When the Jews rejected Christ, they rejected God’s will (which included the gifts and calling). And so, by their rejection, they removed themselves from the blessings.

Furthermore, God’s dealings with them (which included the gifts and calling) made provision for a change in covenants, Deuteronomy 18:18-19 / Jeremiah 31:31-34 / Hebrews 8:6-13. When they refused to accept the change, God had no choice but to reject them. Hence, the fault in all these matters lies with them, not God.

‘Yet have now’, not in the future. ‘Through their disobedience’, the preaching of the Gospel was opened to the Gentiles through the unbelief of the Jews. Matthew 21:33-45 / Acts 13:46 / Acts 28:25-36.

‘These’ in Romans 11:31 again, refers to the Jews. ‘Have now been’, and so, again, this refers to Paul’s time. ‘Through the mercy shown you’, means through the mercy you Gentiles received.

‘They also may obtain mercy’, the Jews, being provoked to jealousy. And so, the same source of mercy which provided salvation to the Gentiles can now result in salvation for the Jews.

Romans 11:32, in very precise form, makes a summation of all that Paul has contended up to this point. God had shut all up (both Jews and Gentiles) in disobedience (sin) so that He might invite all to deliverance and forgiveness.

God had declared and shown all to be sinners so that He could free them in His own way and time. This was God’s plan and God’s way.

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” Romans 11:33-36

Paul now closes with praise to God for His profound wisdom and care toward men. ‘Riches’, inexhaustible resources.

‘Both of the wisdom and knowledge’, God’s ways are far too deep, vast, and incomprehensible for man.

‘How unsearchable are His judgments’, they cannot be discovered or found out until revealed or executed. ‘And His ways past finding out’, we know of them only through His revealed Word.

No one has ever enriched God by giving Him suggestions of wisdom. His ways and thoughts are immeasurably above ours. Isaiah 55:8-9. No one can ever put God under obligation to anyone. All receive from Him and He from none. God is not any more obligated to the Jews than the Gentiles.

Application

We should not try to bind God when we pray to Him.

Romans 11:36 is proof that no one has first given to Him. He is the source, accomplisher, and goal of our salvation as well as all things. Revelation 4:11.

The supreme purpose of man’s existence is to glorify His Creator and Benefactor which can only be done by doing His will. This ends the predominantly doctrinal part of the book.

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