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Bible Commentaries

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible
Romans 11

 

 

Introduction

Romans CHAPTER 11

OUTLINE AND COMMENTARY-MARK DUNAGAN

I. OUTLINE OF CHAPTER 11:

I. God"s faithfulness to His people:

II. The Stumbling of the Bulk of Israel:

III. The Jewish Stumbling and Gentile Connection:

A. Gentile blessing an incentive to the Jew:

B. Words of warning against Gentile conceit:

C. The hardening and blessing of Israel:

IV. A hymn of praise of God:

II. THIS SECTION OF SCRIPTURE AND PREMILLENNIALISM:

"There is a large element of the religious world which believes that God must bring the Jew to Christ on a national scale in order to be faithful to his promises to Abraham."

This is how the Premillennialist views Romans chapters 9-11. They say that God in the future is going to bring a whole generation of Jews to faith in Christ (against their will?) claiming that Romans 11:26 teaches this. In this way they believe Paul solves the problem of millions of Jews in his day being outside of Christ. Millions of Jews who hadn"t received the blessings and promises of God.

"Some people talk as if the conversion of a generation of Jews in the future would wipe out the non-conversion of a hundred generations. If God did indeed make oath-bound promises to 101 generations we can hardly call him faithful if he forsakes 100 generations. Picture two generations of Jews at judgement. Both of them had unconditional and oath-bound promises made to them by God (what Premill. claims) One goes off to glory and other goes off to perdition. We claim: "He had to bring this generation of Jews to glory, because, after all, he had to be faithful to his oath-bound and unconditional promises. And why then is he not bound to bring the other generation to glory?"

Here is what we need to make up our minds about: Either God gave unconditional promises to every Jew, or conditional promises to every Jew, i.e. obtaining the blessing of salvation was conditioned upon an obedient faith in God. (Romans 1:16; Romans 5:1; Romans 11:20)


Verse 1

Romans 11:1 I say then, Did God cast off his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

"I say then"-"I ask then" (Gspd). "Then" introduces the question as an inference from the whole previous discussion, especially ". (Vincent p. 119) "Paul"s critics might claim that he was teaching God"s utter rejection of all Jews." (Whiteside p. 224)

"Can Jews be converted to faith in Christ? Is Jewish evangelization a futile and impertinent enterprise..? Is the spiritual condition of Israel hopeless? To these important and searching questions of the present day, Paul here gives his inspired reply." (Erdman p. 131)

"Cast off"-to push away, to repel (Robertson p. 392). The verb simply means to thrust or shove. (Vincent p. 119) "Has God repudiated his people" (Gspd). Has God written all the Jews off?

"For I also am an Israelite"-"If God had been anxious just to be faithless to his promises, Paul, a persecutor of the Church as well as a Jew of the Jews, would have qualified as a rejected one."

"Of the seed of Abraham"-"A Jew by nurture and nation, not a proselyte, nor the son of a proselyte, but a lineal descendant from Abraham." (McGarvey p. 444)

"of the tribe of Benjamin"-"a member of the tribe which, with Judah, formed the restored nation after the exile and became the hope of the world." (Erdman p. 131) (Ezra 4:1; Ezra 10:9) Paul was as "Jewish" as they come!

As we enter this chapter we must clearly understand the following. The only people that God "rejects" are people who refuse to believe. ( "they were broken off for their unbelief") God isn"t against Jews nor is He against Gentiles, rather He is against both Jews and Gentiles who are unbelievers! (11:20-21) God only rejects those that reject Him (1:24,26) and as long as one continues in their unbelief, they are rejected. (Romans 1:28)

Secondly, God is NEVER UNFAITHFUL TO ANY OF HIS PROMISES! (Hebrews 6:18). God will never reject those that exercise an obedient faith in Him.


Verse 2

Romans 11:2 God did not cast off his people which he foreknew. Or know ye not what the scripture saith of Elijah? how he pleadeth with God against Israel:

"his people"-"Again Paul repeats that God hasn"t proven faithless to his people. The real question is: "Who are the people of God?". The quoting of the Bible at this point is to settle the issue as to the identity of God"s people." (McGuiggan p. 318)

"which he foreknew"-4267. proginosko {prog-in-oce"-ko}; from 4253 and 1097; to know beforehand, i.e. foresee: -foreknow (ordain), know (before). "God has not cast off those whom he had before purposed or designed to be his people" (Barnes p. 243).

Now did God "foreknow" and "predestinate" the salvation of specific individuals regardless of their own free will choice? But if this is what Paul is teaching here, how could such individuals have ever been "broken off"? () This type of predestination is certainly not taught in this chapter, for this chapter teaches that the people of God can lose their salvation, if they cease to act like God"s people (11:20-22). Rather, God foreknew the "type" of person that would be part of "His people", i.e. believers.

Important point to Note: God never rejects a person that meets the conditions for being "His people", i.e. an obedient trust. But if one of His people veers off into unbelief, they have ceased to be "His people". (John 8:39-44; Romans 2:28-29; Revelation 3:9)

"what the Scripture saith of Elijah"-"Paul had the distressing habit of bringing people back to the Bible. That"s something of a novelty now, isn"t it?!" (McGuiggan p. 318)


Verse 3

Romans 11:3 Lord, they have killed thy prophets, they have digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. (1 Kings 19:10; 1 Kings 19:14)

"The Apostle (Paul), like the prophet, was lonely and persecuted and Israel as a whole seemed to have abandoned God.." (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 676)


Verse 4

Romans 11:4 But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have left for myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to Baal.

"the answer of God unto him?" -another proof that the O.T. is the inspired word of God. (1 Kings 19:18).

"I have left for myself"-to myself as my property, and for my service (McGarvey p. 446). But not against their will! (1 Peter 1:5-9; 2 Timothy 2:11-13)

"Elijah had claimed he was the only child of God left but God denied that, God didn"t deny it by saying: "Come on, Elijah, there are millions of my people." On the contrary he lays explicit claim to 7000." (McGuiggan pp. 318-319)

These were the "people of God". And what distinguished them as the people of God? THEIR FAITHFULNESS! "Who have not bowed the knee to Baal"! God has never cast off Jews of this "type", i.e. believing Jews.


Verse 5

Romans 11:5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.

"Even so"-"In the same way" (NASV)

"at this present time"-"Having made his point that 7001 constituted God"s people in the days of Elijah, Paul makes the application to his day. The multitudes of Jews around who are unblessed is no stranger a spectacle than the millions of Jews in Elijah"s day who were not in union with God and therefore unblessed." (McGuiggan p. 319)

"remnant"-3005. leimma {lime"-mah}; from 3007; a remainder: -remnant. "A portion left, but the main bulk gone" (Lenski p. 683). This agrees with the truth taught in and 9:6-7,27. The number of true believers in the nation of Israel was always smaller than the actual number of physical Jews. It was true in Elijah"s time and it was true in Paul"s time. In the book of Acts we are allowed to observe "true Israel" coming out from Judaism, when God signaled that a New Covenant had been enacted. (Acts 2:41; Acts 4:4; Acts 5:14; Acts 6:7; Acts 13:43; Acts 14:1; Acts 17:4; Acts 18:8, when Crispus, the leader of the synagogue in Corinth obeyed the Gospel message, he demonstrated by his faith that he was part of the remnant, i.e. that part of the nation of Israel, that would obey God at any cost!

Modern Application:

Is there a "remnant" among Christians? Is the number of Christians that God consider"s "His people", actually smaller than the number of people that profess Christianity?

This section of Scripture contains a truth that many in our society need to hear. Many religious bodies, just assume that if you say you are a Christian, that God is bound to save you. The nation of Israel had made the same mistake! It is also interesting to note, that the "lesson" that Paul brings forth in Romans 9:1-33; Romans 10:1-21; Romans 11:1-36 (i.e. that only Jews who demonstrated obedient faith in Christ are the people of God), would be considered as "racist", and the opinion of a bigot, by many of the denominational churches of our time.

"according to the election of grace"-"according to God"s gracious choice" (NASV); "in accordance with God"s unmerited favor" (Wms)


Verse 6

Romans 11:6 But if it is by grace, it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace.

"no more of works"-"it is no longer on the basis of works" (NASV)

Point to Note:

Remember, in the Book of Romans Paul isn"t contrasting grace and obedience (), rather he is contrasting grace and earning/meriting. God didn"t place obtaining salvation on the basis of earning it or being born of the right ancestry. Rather God placed salvation on the basis of an obedient faith (1:16; 5:1; Ephesians 2:8) a condition that all can meet. "No amount of works can blot out sins already committed. Forgiveness is a matter of grace, no matter how many conditions one must fulfill in order to be forgiven...works by which a man merits justification, and commands which one must obey to be saved, are distinct matters." (Whiteside p. 225)

In this is letter Paul has already stressed the need for repentance (), Confession (10:9-10), and Baptism (6:3-5); and yet Paul considers all of these conditions as being a part of a salvation based on grace. And the "remnant" were the Jews that had obeyed these conditions (Acts 2:38; Acts 2:41).

Hence Paul proves that God hasn"t cast off "His people" (i.e. been unfaithful to them), by revealing the true definition of "His people". God"s people has always been the "faithful", such individuals did receive God"s promises (Acts 2:38-39), such people were enjoying the blessings that God had promised in the O.T. (Acts 3:19; Acts 3:26; Acts 13:38-39; **Acts 13:32; Acts 10:43), and what about all the unblessed Jews in Paul"s day? Had God been unfaithful to them? No! They had cut themselves off, by their own unbelief. God had never promised to bless unbelievers!

McGuiggan makes a good point when he says, "Prove that God cast off "one" Jew to whom he made unconditional Messianic promises and the sky falls away." (p. 319) Therefore all the promises to the Jewish nation in the O.T., in reference to enjoying the blessings that the Messiah would bring, were conditioned upon faith.


Verse 7

Romans 11:7 What then? that which Israel seeketh for, that he obtained not; but the election obtained it, and the rest were hardened:

"What then"-"How are we to describe the present situation, if not in the painful language of verse 1?" (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 677) "Since God did not push Israel away (verse 1), what is true?" (Robertson p. 393)

"that which Israel seeketh for"-i.e. righteousness, a right relationship with God. ()

"Seeketh for"-In Paul"s day the nation of Israel was "still seeking" (present tense). (Acts 26:6-7) And sadly, many physical Jews are "still seeking" promises that they think that God has never yet fulfilled!

"obtained not"-Chapter reveals why. They thought that God"s favor had to be earned or merited, or that it was linked with ancestry.

"obtained"-originally to hit the mark; hence to fall in with, light upon, attain. (Vincent p. 123)

"it"-i.e. what Israel was "seeking".

Point to Note:

"Did anyone get what Israel as a whole sought for? Yes! Then let"s not hear any more about Israel"s promises not having been fulfilled. Someone did get what Israel as a whole sought for. The remnant (believing Jews..and Gentiles) obtained it. Someone back then did obtain something! What did they obtain? They obtained what Israel was seeking for. Now, once more. Whatever Israel sought for, the remnant got. Tell me what the remnant got and I"ll tell you what the promise to Israel was. THEY DIDN"T GET A PIECE OF PROPERTY IN PALESTINE AND VICTORY OVER THE ROMAN MILITARY MACHINE BY MILITARY MEANS. They got the Messiah and all that goes with him."

We cannot lose sight of the truth presented here. The Premillennialists assert that God gave to the Jewish nation an "unconditional" promise of having the "land" forever. And that the "land" promise in the Bible to the Jewish nation has never been truly fulfilled. Well, someone did get what God promised to the Jews! AND IT WASN"T A PIECE OF LAND!

"and the rest were hardened"-the "rest", i.e. those Jews that refused to accept where God had placed salvation and on what terms. (Acts 13:45-46; Acts 17:5)

"hardened"-"have become callous" (Wey); "were made blind to the truth" (NEB) 4456. poroo {po-ro"-o}; apparently from poros (a kind of stone); to petrify, i.e. (figuratively) to indurate (render stupid or callous): -blind, harden.

Points to Note:

A. God doesn"t harden believers. The remnant wasn"t blinded to the truth, because they choose to obey it!

B. People become "hardened" against the truth, due to their own unbelief and stubbornness. (See: Matthew 13:15 "and they have closed their eyes"; 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12). Just like Pharaoh! Note: Pharaoh wasn"t blinded to what God was requiring of him, Pharaoh fully understood what God was commanding him through Moses, Pharaoh simply refused to obey!

"Jesus did not offer the Jews (many of them) what they wanted; they, therefore, turned a deaf ear to this teaching. They did not see in him anything they desired." (Whiteside p. 227)


Verse 8

Romans 11:8 according as it is written, God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear, unto this very day.

"as it is written"-Combination of Deuteronomy 29:4; Isaiah 29:10; Isaiah 6:9.

We should note that such "hardening" didn"t mean that people couldn"t understand what Jesus or Paul taught. For the "hardened" enemies of both clearly understood what was being taught. (John 5:18; John 10:33; Matthew 27:63; Matthew 21:45) When Stephen rebuked the Jews he was preaching to, he didn"t rebuke them for not "understanding" the Word of God revealed through their prophets, but rather, for "resisting" it (Acts 7:51).

"God gave them"-this must be understood in the sense that God allowed people to reject His will and resist it. (,26) God allows people to believe error, to become stubborn, and to enter a self-imposed state of ignorance. This is one of those "sow-reap" laws in the spiritual realm. If you reject the truth, you will end up believing lies. (2 Timothy 4:2-4)


Verse 9

Romans 11:9 And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, And a stumblingblock, and a recompense unto them:


Verse 10

Romans 11:10 Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, And bow thou down their back always.

"David saith"- Psalms 69:22-23

"Their table" was put for their religious food. Instead of being lead to Christ by the law (Galatians 3:24), they were entrapped by their blind adherence (or could we say stubborn); they were caught as in a snare..their recompense would be condemnation. (Whiteside p. 227)

"What the Jews delighted in was the law, and the law misunderstood proved their ruin." (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 678) They wanted to use the law to bring about their salvation, instead of leading them to salvation in Christ. (; 10:5; 2 Timothy 3:15)


Verse 11

Romans 11:11 I say then, Did they stumble that they might fall? God forbid: but by their fall salvation {is come} unto the Gentiles, to provoke them to jealousy.

"Did they stumble that they might fall?"-"Have they stumbled irretrievably" (Wey); "has their stumbling led to their absolute ruin" (Gspd)

"The contrast here between stumbling and falling shows that the latter is meant of an irremediable fall, from which there is no rising." (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 678)

"Paul"s real point is this, Did God"s hardening of them mean he wasn"t really interested in their being blessed? Is it that God didn"t want them saved? The answer is an emphatic No." (McGuiggan p. 322)

"but by their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles"-the Jewish rejection of the Gospel, simply meant that Gentiles were preached to that much sooner. (Acts 13:46) It is understood that only Gentiles that believed the message would obtain this salvation. (1:16)

"to provoke"-3863. parazeloo {par-ad-zay-lo"-o}; from 3844 and 2206; to stimulate alongside, i.e. excite to rivalry: -provoke to emulation (jealousy).

"them"-i.e. Jews who were still in a condition of unbelief.

"What would provoke the Jews (unbelieving ones) to Jealousy? The fact that Gentiles were enjoying what was promised to the "natural branches" (). And what was promised to the "natural branches"? Whatever it was the Gentiles (believing) were enjoying. And why did God permit this? That the "natural branches" might be provoked to want to come to God and enjoy the promise which was given to them. The Jews (unbelieving ones) God wished would be jealous that Gentiles would be enjoying (along with the remnant of Jewish believers) the Abrahamic blessings and turn to him to get them."

"..a strong desire also to get the blessing which one sees that others have obtained ahead of him" (Lenski p. 693)


Verse 12

Romans 11:12 Now if their fall, is the riches of the world, and their loss the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?

"their fall"-what happened when Jewish people rejected the gospel.

"riches of the world..riches of the Gentiles"-Gentiles benefited from Jewish rejection, in the sense that such rejection enabled the messengers of the gospel to spend more time preaching to Gentiles. (Acts 13:46-48; Acts 18:6; Acts 19:9-10)

"how much more their fulness"-"what an enrichment will follow their reinstatement! (Wey)

Points to Note:

A. "Their fulness", is not speaking of some future conversion of every Jewish person on the face of the planet.

B. "Fulness" in verse 12, is placed in contrast with "fall, loss", neither one of these words suggest any idea of "number". "Their fulness", is the exact opposite of "their fall". And since every Jew didn"t fall by unbelief and miss the blessings of salvation, the end of the verse cannot mean that every Jew (at some later time) will come to faith. Rather Paul is saying, "If Gentiles benefited from Israel"s rejection of the gospel, if others benefited from their misfortune, how much more will it be a wonderful thing, if some of these unbelieving Jews turn to God!" If unbelieving Jews would simply turn to Christ, they would be fully blessed!


Verse 13

Romans 11:13 But I speak to you that are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I glorify my ministry;

At this point Paul has something to say to the Gentiles. Apparently there was a real danger that some Gentile Christians had become arrogant concerning their inclusion and the Jewish exclusion. It appears that some might have thought that God was through with any of Jewish heritage.

"I am an apostle of Gentiles"-(Acts 26:17-18; Galatians 2:7-8)

"I glorify my ministry"-"I take pride in my ministry" (Wey). For a man of Paul"s rich Jewish background (), to say that he was proud to be the apostle to the Gentiles, demonstrates a man whose life had been radically changed.

Paul is being careful with his language here. He says, "I"m proud that God wanted me to preach to Gentiles, I want Gentiles saved too", and yet at the same time, he is reminding the Gentiles, "and God still wants Jews saved too".


Verse 14

Romans 11:14 if by any means I may provoke to jealousy {them that are} my flesh, and may save some of them.

"and may save some of them"-"Some" is a key word here. Paul didn"t agree with those that say God will bring every Jew to faith at some point in the future. Paul also disagrees with those that claim God made unconditional promises of salvation to all the Jews. Speaking by inspiration, Paul only envisioned that "some" of the unbelieving Jews would come to Christ.


Verse 15

Romans 11:15 For if the casting away of them {is} the reconciling of the world, what {shall} the receiving {of them be}, but life from the dead?

"casting away of them"-"them" here refers to the unbelieving segment of the Jewish race, for God never did "cast away" "his people" (i.e. the section that manifested faith in Him and His Son) (). God only "cast"s away" unbelievers (11:20)

"reconciling of the world"-obviously, not every inhabitant in the world. Jewish rejection, enabled the non-Jewish world to hear the message of reconciliation. (Compare "salvation has come to the Gentiles")

"what shall the receiving of them be"-"what will their acceptance and admission mean?" (Amp)

"receiving"-4356. proslepsis {pros"-lape-sis}; from 4355; admission: -receiving. To take to oneself (Robertson p. 395)

On what basis will unbelieving Jews be "accepted" by God? Clearly, if they abandon their unbelief and turn to faith towards God! (; 11:23) And what will happen if "some" do this? They will have spiritual life!

"The casting away of (unbelieving) Jews did not bring about the reconciling of the whole world (every Gentile), nor does "the receiving of them" mean that all Jews would be restored to God"s favor...Hence, receiving a Jew back into favor with God is as life from the dead. The conversion of ANY SINNER to Christ is life from the dead." (Romans 6:13 "as those alive from the dead") Note: The Prodigal Son is an illustration of lost "Jews", who had once again found life! (Luke 15:24; Luke 15:1-2)

"Even in their cast away state, the unbelieving Jew is no farther from salvation than the once alienated Gentile was. Grace will still bless the believer. God has sworn to bless the believer and he will not turn from such a promise!" (McGuiggan p. 326)


Verse 16

Romans 11:16 And if the firstfruit is holy, so is the lump: and if the root is holy, so are the branches.

"firstfruit"-"if the first piece of dough be holy, the lump is also" (NASV); "so is the whole mass" (TCNT).

In Numbers 15:18-21, we find that the first portion of dough removed from the whole kneaded lump, which was offered to God, made the rest acceptable for consumption, i.e. sanctified and blessed.

Paul"s point in this section is to prove to Gentile converts what God hasn"t said concerning the Jewish people, "they had their chance but now I"m through with the Jews". He makes it clear that God is more that willing to receive Jews that turn from their unbelief (the same is true with Gentiles). Since God had ALREADY ACCEPTED A "REMNANT" of Jewish believers, He stood willing to accept any others from the Jewish race that would turn to Him in faith.


Verse 17

Romans 11:17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and thou, being a wild olive, wast grafted in among them, and didst become partaker with them of the root of the fatness of the olive tree;

"some of the branches were broken off"-i.e. Jews that rejected the gospel (). These were the "sons of the Kingdom" who Jesus said would be "cast out" (Matthew 8:11-12).

"thou, being a wild olive, wast grafted in among them"-i.e. Gentiles that had come to Christ. (Ephesians 2:11-22)

"didst become partaker with them..of the fatness of the olive tree"-"became partaker with them of the rich root" (NASV). The root is the source of the fatness. Believing Gentiles had become partakers of all the Messianic promises, and the "seed" promise to Abraham. (Galatians 3:28-29; Romans 15:27) What was promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the believing Gentile now receives!

"Partaker"-"came to share with them" (TCNT). "Them" in these verses apparently are believing Jews.

Point to Note:

This section of Scripture really throws a monkey wrench into Premillennialism. For if the "land promise" to Abraham and his descendants was never fulfilled, then such land isn"t promised to unbelieving Jews (for God broke them off, they don"t partake in the rich root anymore!), but rather to believing Jews and Gentiles, i.e. the Church! How can God deny believing Gentiles land also, when they have become grafted in and an actual partaker with believing Jews of the promises of God???? Of course God did fulfill his promise of land to the nation of Israel. But the above just shows how contrary to Scripture Premillennialism is.


Verse 18

Romans 11:18 glory not over the branches: but if thou gloriest, it is not thou that bearest the root, but the root thee.

"glory not"-"do not be uplifted in pride over" (Bas); "don"t let yourself feel superior to those former branches" (Phi)

The Gentile believers must not yield to the temptation to look down upon the Jews who were broken off. But for the grace of God which enabled them to be grafted in, they would have remained lost. They were not morally superior to the Jewish race.

"it is not"-"let this consideration humble thee" (Alford p. 943)

Many of the Jews viewed themselves as indispensible, "God should really be thankful for them" (Luke 18:9 ff) and they found themselves cut off!


Verse 19

Romans 11:19 Thou wilt say then, Branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.

"Thou wilt say then"-"The presumptuous Gentile persists. "It is not to the root I compare myself, but branches were broken off..that surely involves some superiority in me."" (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 680)


Verse 20

Romans 11:20 Well; by their unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by thy faith. Be not highminded, but fear:

"Well"-"Quite right" (NASV). Some of the natural branches were broken off. But it wasn"t a matter of superiority vs. inferiority. (You see, this is the very mistake that many of the Jewish people had made, i.e. we are superior to non-Jewish races.)

"by their unbelief they were broken off"-They weren"t broken off because God was faithless, but because they were faithless. God has never promised to save the person that persists in unbelief. (Romans 1:17)

"thou standest by thy faith"-"you owe your position to your faith" (Mof), "and you only stand through your faith" (Wey), "by faith you hold your place" (NEB) ()

"Why were they cut off? Because of unbelief. And if a spirit of pride leads the new graft--the Gentile (believing)...to forget its reliance on divine grace and exchange faith in God for self-confidence, it will suffer the same fate as the old branches."

"There is nothing in Gentile flesh or personality that is the ground of their acceptance with God. Jews lost blessing because of arrogance and pride. Gentiles can do the same. Faith is something everyone can have. Gentiles have no monopoly on it. Be reverent, not arrogant." (McGuiggan p. 329)

"Be not highminded"-5309. hupselophroneo {hoop-say-lo-fron-eh"-o}; from a compound of 5308 and 5424; to be lofty in mind, i.e. arrogant: -be highminded. "Stop thinking high (proud) thoughts" (Robertson p. 397)

As so many places in the Bible, we find that pride and self-reliance often form the root of sin and unbelief. () (Check especially the book of Proverbs. (16:18; 17:19; 29:23)

"but fear"-no "once saved always saved here"!


Verse 21

Romans 11:21 for if God spared not the natural branches, neither will he spare thee.

"This shows conclusively that Christians may conduct themselves in such way as to sever themselves from God"s favor." (Whiteside p. 235)

The argument is strong. "As far as comparisons can be made at all in such things, the Jews had been more securely invested in the kingdom than the Gentiles. They were, in the language of the figure, not artificially grafted, but native branches....yet even that did not prevent Him from cutting off those who did not believe.." (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 681)

"it would be a much less violent process to break off the wild olive branches (branches grafted in) than it was to break off those which belonged originally to the cultivated tree." (Erdman p. 138)

It is amazing how people try to get around the teaching that this verse contains.

"Wuest says: "It should be clear that those in danger of being cut off are unsaved Gentiles, and not cut off from salvation, for they have none, but cut off from the place where God might use them, as unsaved Israel was cut off in the dispersion." Is that how the text looks to you?" (McGuiggan p. 330)


Verse 22

Romans 11:22 Behold then the goodness and severity of God: toward them that fell, severity; but toward thee, God"s goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

"Behold"-"fix your gaze" (Mon); "Consider both" (Mof)

"goodness"-"kindness" (NASV)

"severity"-663. apotomia {ap-ot-om-ee"-ah}; from the base of 664; (figuratively) decisiveness, i.e. rigor: -severity.

"That which is abrupt, sharp" (Vincent p. 128) "Sharpness or severity which cuts off" (Lenski p. 709)

"if thou continue in his goodness"-how does one "continue" in God"s goodness? Clearly, continue to believe!

"In his goodness and in his severity God is neither tyrannical nor whimsical; the display of either his goodness or severity depends on man"s attitude toward him." (Whiteside p. 235)

Points to Note:

A. The obligation to remain in God"s favor is the responsibility of the individual.

B. People end up "cut off" from God and lost, because of their own stubbornness.

C. Often withdrawn from members, or their relatives argue that God is a lot more merciful than the local congregation. Well, these verses were written to a local congregation. Is God telling them, "don"t worry about unfaithful Christians, I"ll save them anyway"? Is that the message? Or, is God drawing a line in the sand and warning all of us, whosoever stop"s trusting Me, will be cut off-case closed.


Verse 23

Romans 11:23 And they also, if they continue not in their unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again.

"they also"-i.e. unbelieving Jews. As long as people have life, they can be saved, if only they abandon their unbelief.

Note: God is waiting with open arms to all that abandon their self-sufficiency and arrogance. Stop blaming God that people (even people you love) end up lost. Everyone who has ever lived has within themselves the ability to come to God, if they will only choose.


Verse 24

Romans 11:24 For if thou wast cut out of that which is by nature a wild olive tree, and wast grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree; how much more shall these, which are the natural {branches}, be grafted into their own olive tree?

"contrary to nature"-"The surprising thing is not that Jews can be brought back into the body of God"s true people; they have (at that time) every spiritual and religious advantage. The strange thing is that Gentiles can be saved in spite of their inheritance of pantheism and atheism and idolatry...what is more natural on the part of a Jew than his return to the real faith of his fathers and his acceptance of the Messiah predicted by his prophets..?" (Erdman p. 139)


Verse 25

Romans 11:25 For I would not, brethren, have you ignorant of this mystery, lest ye be wise in your own conceits, that a hardening in part hath befallen Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in;

"For I would not...have you ignorant"-Paul wanted his hearers to be informed. (1 Corinthians 10:1; 1 Corinthians 12:1; 2 Corinthians 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:13)

"of this mystery"-"Not in the pagan sense of an esoteric doctrine for the initiated, but the revealed will of God now made known to all (1 Corinthians 2:1; 1 Corinthians 2:7; 1 Corinthians 4:1; which includes Gentiles- Romans 16:25; Colossians 1:26; Ephesians 3:3 ff)" (Robertson p. 397)

"This mystery" is mentioned in this verse, i.e. "that a hardening in part hath befallen Israel...."

"lest ye be wise in your own conceits"-"in your own estimation" (NASV), "to keep you from thinking too well of yourselves" (Gspd).

"He wishes to avoid arrogance. He doesn"t want them to feel superior so he wants them to understand what God has been doing with Israel." (McGuiggan p. 331)

Paul had been spending quite of bit of time on this point, hoping that the Gentile Christians can avoid the mistake that the Jewish people had made, i.e. thinking that their standing with God was based on moral performance or some inherent superiority, like race.

"that a hardening in part hath befallen Israel"-this agrees with . Every Jew wasn"t hardened ("in part"), only the unbelieving, stubborn and self-reliant section of physical Israel rejected God"s offer of salvation in the gospel. Remember: This wasn"t an "against their will or choice" hardening. They had cut themselves off. (11:20)

"until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in"-"until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in." (NASV)

Points to Note:

A. The meaning of the word "until". Sometimes it has the idea of duration and terminus in it. There are times however, when the word has no such meaning. There are times when the word until is used and no change of circumstances is suggested when the event under consideration arrives. (Romans 5:13; Revelation 2:25; John 5:17; Romans 8:22)

B. The meaning of the word "fulness". Many commentators believe that it means "full number". "Wuest is very plain on this matter. He feels that when the last Gentile in this predetermined number (that is the specific number of Gentiles known to God) has been converted then the hardened state of Israel will vanish." (McGuiggan p. 332) And yet the exact same word is used in , without any suggestion of number.

C. In , "fulness" is contrasted with "failure/loss/defeat". It appears that "fulness" speaks more of a state of blessedness, than a full number of people.

D. Many view as a prophecy for future events. I disagree. Paul had already in this chapter stated the same truth in different language. He had already stated that a "partial hardening" has taken place. (11:7-10) He had already said that such a "hardening" opened the door for preaching to the Gentiles, which resulted in Gentiles being saved, and obtaining God"s blessings (11:11-12).

Therefore "the fulness of the Gentiles has come in", simply is restating the truth found in . Jewish stubbornness and unbelief opened the door for salvation (the fulness of God"s blessings) to the Gentiles.

E. And the meaning of the word "Until"? Does it suggest a God imposed, mysterious or miraculous "stop" to this hardening? I don"t think so. For the "hardening" was "self-imposed" (Matthew 13:15; Acts 7:51). The only way that such could be stopped was for these Jewish unbelievers to give up their unbelief. But that"s a matter of free will.

The real problem with making into a predictive prophecy is: For 2000 years the vast majority of Jews have rejected the gospel. But people tell us, yes, but God is going to convert a whole generation of Jews one day. Yea, but what about all those millions of lost Jews during the last 2000 years??? How does that help them?


Verse 26

Romans 11:26 and so all Israel shall be saved: even as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer; He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:

"and so"-"So" is an adverb of manner; it is here a translation of a Greek word, which means, "in this way (manner), so, under these circumstances." (Whiteside p. 241)

"all Israel shall be saved"-Paul had already told us "how", i.e. by faith. (; 11:23) To say that God is going to at some time in the future interpose and save every Jew of a future generation (against their will), would be to violate the very gospel that Paul preached. It would violate the main premise of the Book of Romans (1:16). The apostles taught that both Jews and Gentiles are saved in the exact same way. (Acts 15:9; Acts 15:11)

"If Jews turn to Christ in faith they will be saved (23). In this way (26) every single "Israelite" will be saved in accordance with the prophecy of Isaiah 59:1-21. So that you Gentiles may be assured, God was faithless to no one. He didn"t reject a single one of his (real) people to let you in." (McGuiggan p. 336)

And what about those "Jews" that refuse to believe? By their unbelief they demonstrated that they didn"t belong to the group known as "his people". (Romans 2:28-29; Revelation 3:9)

"even as it is written"- Isaiah 59:20

Here is another proof that this section isn"t to be viewed as predictive prophecy of something happening in the future, near the end of time.

"He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob"-Premillennialists argue that this passage applies to a future conversion of Jews. And yet, Peter uses almost the exact same language in preaching to Jews almost 2000 years ago! (Acts 3:26 "For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.") Notice: Peter"s Jewish emphasis, "you first". God was trying to get the Jews to turn from their ungodliness 2000 years ago.


Verse 27

Romans 11:27 And this is my covenant unto them, When I shall take away their sins.

This sounds a lot like Jeremiah 31:33. The Premillennialists deny that the New Covenant of Jeremiah 31:31 ff is now current. In his book the Millennial Kingdom, John Walvoord stresses the yet future establishment of the Jeremiah covenant (pgs. 208-220). And yet the Bible is clear that such a covenant was operational in the first century. (Hebrews 8:6-13; Hebrews 9:1-28; Hebrews 10:1-10)

Again, "how will all Israel be saved"? By faith (), by turning from ungodliness (11:26) (repentance-2:4-5), and by obtaining the forgiveness of their sins (11:27) (which demands baptism- Acts 2:38). Every one of "his people" in the Jewish nation, will be saved, for "his people" are those that trust Him, i.e. those that exercise obedient faith in Him. His people will be those that turn from unbelief, ungodliness, and meet the conditions for forgiveness.


Verse 28

Romans 11:28 As touching the gospel, they are enemies for your sake: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers" sake.

"As touching the gospel"-"From the stand-point of the Good News" (TCNT); "From the stand-point of the gospel" (NASV)

"they"-not all Jews, but only the Jews that refused to believe.

"are enemies"-"When he looks at the Gospel, which they have rejected, they are enemies, objects of His (God"s) hostility." (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 684). All that disobey the gospel have placed themselves in the position of being enemies of God. (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9; Acts 13:10)

"for your sake"-Jewish rejection only brought the gospel message that much sooner to the Gentiles. " Gentiles chose the Christ that Jews rejected. They took sides for and against the Messiah, so, in that respect, are "enemies"" (McGuiggan p. 339)

"touching the election"-"from the stand-point of God"s choice" (NASV); "but in his elective purpose he still welcomes them, for the sake of their fathers" (Knox)

"beloved for the father"s sake"-i.e. the fathers being Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

McGuiggan seems to think that the "election" in this verse refers to the "remnant" of . He sees two groups of Jews in this verse, the unbelieving and the believing. And yet, the last statement could refer to unbelieving Jews also. Every descendant of Abraham was a potential heir of salvation, the gospel had been first preached to them. Paul may be saying here, that God still desires unbelieving Jews saved. So did Paul (10:1; 9:1-5)


Verse 29

Romans 11:29 For the gifts and the calling of God are not repented of.

"For"-may explain how unbelieving Jews can still be labeled as "beloved". God still holds the door open to their being saved. He promised them salvation on the basis of faith, many of them rejected it, and yet, God still holds out the offer. (2 Peter 3:9)

"not repented of"-"irrevocable" (NASV). "God is not sorry for his gifts to and calling of the Jews ()" (Robertson p. 399)

The command to preach the gospel to all nations, including the Jews, hasn"t been revoked. (Mark 16:15) His offer to salvation (on His terms) still stands.


Verse 30

Romans 11:30 For as ye in time past were disobedient to God, but now have obtained mercy by their disobedience,

"ye"-i.e. Gentiles who were once disobedient. (Ephesians ;11-13; Colossians 1:21; Titus 3:3; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Just about the time you think that you can"t change, re-read many of these passages. For those that trust God, the gospel is able to change the "worst case". (1 Timothy 1:13-15)

"have obtained mercy by their disobedience"-Jewish disobedience benefited Gentiles, i.e. it brought the messengers of the gospel to them. (It is inferred that such Gentiles that obtained mercy, were believing Gentiles).


Verse 31

Romans 11:31 even so have these also now been disobedient, that by the mercy shown to you they also may now obtain mercy.

"they also may now obtain mercy"-Paul has explained the psychology of this in .


Verse 32

Romans 11:32 For God hath shut up all unto disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.

"shut up"-4788. sugkleio {soong-kli"-o}; from 4862 and 2808; to shut together, i.e. include or (figuratively) embrace in a common subjection to: -conclude, inclose, shut up.

"We are not to understand by such phrases that God forced anyone to sin." (McGuiggan p. 341) In chapter one we find that the Gentiles had all sorts of "incentives" not to sin, the same was true for the Jewish nation (Chapter ; 9:1-5). But all have sinned (3:23) of their own choice, and God has lumped all into one category (Jews and Gentiles), i.e sinners (3:9). Why? That He might move all to repentance, so He can have mercy upon them.

"He counted all as disobedient (). And for this reason he commands all men everywhere to repent (17:30-31)" (Whiteside p. 242)

This means that it is impossible for any man (Jew or Gentile) to merit his own salvation. Hence all need Jesus Christ, therefore the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all that believe (Romans 1:16).

"mercy upon all"-"That is, upon all without distinction rather than all without exception." (F.F. Bruce p. 224) Both Jews and Gentiles need saving, and the condition for receiving God"s mercy is the same for both, an obedient faith. Hence Paul has proven his premise in .

A HYMN OF PRAISE TO GOD:


Verse 33

Romans 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out!

As Paul now looks back upon the last 11 chapters, of the themes he has discussed and how God has brought salvation to both Jews and Gentiles, and how even the sinful responses of men, God has been able to use to bring salvation to others.

"The doxology of verses 33-36 rounds off not merely chapters 9-11; it concludes the whole argument of chapters 1-11."

"O the depth"-"Paul"s argument concerning God"s ..goodness has carried him to the heights and now he pauses on the edge of the precipice as he contemplates God"s wisdom and knowledge, fully conscious of his inability to sound the bottom with the plummet of human reason and words." (Robertson p. 400)

-a universal figure for what is immeasurable or incalculable. (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 686)

"How inexhaustible God"s resources, wisdom, and knowledge are!" (Gspd); "Frankly, I stand amazed at the unfathomable complexity of God"s wisdom and God"s knowledge." (Phi)

"riches"-many commentators seem to feel that this is to be understood as a separate category. "There is some doubt whether the words wisdom and knowledge are genitives after riches..or parallel with it". (Alford p. 948) Most are agreed that if this is to be taken as a separate category, it refers to the "riches of God"s goodness and His love".

"the unsearchable wealth of love that enables God to meet and far more than meet the appalling necessities of the world; love less deep would soon be bankrupt at the task." (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 686) (Romans 2:4; Romans 10:12; Ephesians 2:4; John 3:16)

"wisdom and the knowledge"-

"The intellectual resources are brought into view with which God has ordered, disposed and controlled all the forces of the world and of man"s history so as to make them subservient to His love. The world, with its conflict of races, religions, passions and even vices, may seem to be a realm of chaos; but when we see it in the light of God as Paul did, we see the signs of wisdom and knowledge, of a conscious purpose transcending human thought."

"God"s comprehensive view of all things and his penetrating perception of details, which enable him to adapt his love to all the forces and conditions of the world, even to failure and unbelief and sin, and to work out his plans and purposes of grace."

"how unsearchable are his judgements"-the word "judgements" would refer to both judgements involving condemnation and salvation. "The judgements are God"s "decisions". (Lenski p. 741)

"It enables God to grant perfect free will to man, and still (enables) him to foresee his every act, and empowers him to combine men of free will in endless social, political and commercial complications, and yet foresee results arising from myriads of combined free agencies, thus enabling him to discern the effects upon the Gentiles wrought by the rejection of the Jews, and the results, proximate and ultimate, wrought upon the Jew by the acceptance and rejection of the Gentiles. Such are samples of the knowledge of God exhibited in Romans. The wisdom of God enables him to design the best purposes, and most blessed and happy results, the most perfect and satisfactory ends, while his knowledge empowers him to choose the best means, employ the best methods or modes or procedure, devise the best plans, select the most perfect instruments, etc..., for accomplishing of those holy and benevolent purposes."

"his ways past tracing out"-"how trackless His footsteps" (Wey). "Some of God"s tracks he has left plain to us, but others are beyond us." (Robertson p. 400)

Mordecai understood this. (Esther 4:14) He are informed about God"s character and nature, and the principles upon which He judges nations. But when it comes down to the precise method, in which God has caused a nation to rise or fall, (the details, every move and step in the plan), we soon lose the trail.


Verse 34

Romans 11:34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?

"For"-here is why God"s ways (His methods in accomplishing His plans), are many times impossible to track. "Surely God"s ways are "past tracing out", for, to quote from the Old Testament, no one has been his "counsellor" so as to know how he would proceed to attain his purposes.." (Erdman p. 142)

This quotation is from Isaiah 40:13, and is also cited in 1 Corinthians 2:16. Since God has no confidant, no one can "anticipate His moves". "Who has ever know the Lord"s thoughts, or advised him" (Gspd)

Modern Application:

And yet, we live in a time when many people are wanting to be hired for the position of "God"s counsellor". How many times have you heard people say, "I know what the Bible says, but I just think that God is going to do things differently...I just think that God is more merciful than that..". These are statements from people who have (unwittingly) claimed the position of God"s personal advisor. We need to remind people, no one can read God"s mind (1 Corinthians 2:11) or much less the mind of another mortal. And all of God"s thoughts, that God"s wants us to have, have already been revealed in the Bible. (1 Corinthians 2:9-13)


Verse 35

Romans 11:35 or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?

From Job 41:11. "Or who has advanced anything to him" (Gspd); "So as to receive payment in return" (Mon) "Who has by his services, laid God under obligation to recompense or pay him again?" (Barnes p. 266)

"The fundamental truth of religion as Paul understood it--viz., that the INITIATIVE in religion belongs to God.." (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 686)

Somehow man thinks that God is "bound" to what people think. "Times have changed and therefore the moral standard in the Bible must be adapted to "modern men"". God"s ways, His will, right and wrong, punishment and salvation are not and have never been determined by what people "thought".

"A common failing of men in every era is their naive belief that their own time constitutes a qualitatively different situation from all others, thereby rendering the Biblical Word somehow irrelevant for them. In actuality, as Reinhold Niebuhr said in another connection, "the fabric of history is woven upon one loom. Every period of history has had is special problems, but they are no different qualitatively from those of other eras, for man remains the same. Throughout the centuries, the testimonies of those who have allowed the Biblical message free rein in their lives show a remarkable similarity; they well illustrate that, in spite of changing cultural conditions, man remains a sinner in desperate need of the Word of life."

For those that claim that they have "outgrown" their need for God and the guidance of His word, we should say, "Prove it to me by demonstrating that you can live a sinless life!" And we should remind them, "thus far you have failed to convince me friend!"


Verse 36

Romans 11:36 For of him, and through him, and unto him, are all things. To him {be} the glory for ever. Amen.

This last statement confirms the truth of man"s absolute dependance on God.

"For of him"-proceeding from, as the Source. God is the source of all things (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16).

"through him"-by means of, as maintainer, preserver, ruler. God holds everything together. (Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3)

"For from him everything comes; through him everything exists; and in him everything ends!" (Gspd)

"and unto him"-Everything that exists is headed for a final reckoning with God, the whole universe is headed in the same direction! God is the final goal of all reality! (Philippians 2:10-11)

"To him be the glory for ever"-"has the force of "all the glory" there is. Not the attribute is referred to but the acknowledgement, honor, and worship due to God from men." (Lenski p. 743) Let all the honor, all the praise go to God. If we are going to boast, then let us boast in our God!

IN CLOSING:

"Should we mumble about our hope? Should we apologize for putting forward the Bible"s explanation of things? Should we be intimidated into silence by philosophies or religions contrary to the Bible? I am no philosopher or scholar in the realm of comparative religion but I"ve read more than enough to know that the Christian faith doesn"t suffer in comparison with anything around."

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Romans 11:4". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/romans-11.html. 1999-2014.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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