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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Romans 11

Verses 1-99

Ch. 11:1 10 . Meanwhile the rejection of Israel never was, nor is, total: a remnant believes, and so abides in covenant

1 . I say then ] I say therefore . Thus far St Paul has stated the adverse side of the case of Israel. He has shewn (1) that the Divine Promise never pledged eternal light and life to all Abraham’s descendants; (2) that God is sovereign in His grants of mercy; (3) that the true work of the elder Dispensation was to prepare for the later; (4) that both Gentile faith and Jewish unbelief were distinctly foretold in the Law and the Prophets. And now, true to his main purpose throughout this argument, he turns to state the happier side; and this in two main aspects. First he reiterates the truth of the Divine Election, but now in its positive aspect the existence always of a believing Israel within the unbelieving mass. Secondly, he predicts a time when even in the mass Israel should turn to the true Messiah, be restored to the Church, and become thus an influence of vast good for the world. “ Therefore: ” i.e. as the practical result from my previous account of sin and judgment in the case of Israel. Q. d., “I have given that account in order the better to give an account of present and coming mercy; which therefore I now do.’

Hath God cast away ] Lit. and better, Did God thrust away ? i.e. when He welcomed the Gentiles into His covenant. (So too ver. 2) For the expression cp. 2 Samuel 12:22 ; where LXX. uses the same verb and noun.

his people ] Here, obviously, the bodily descendants of Jacob. St Paul asks whether all these as such were now excluded from the covenant. So immense was the apparent revolution of the admission of Gentiles as such to full covenant, that this fact (along with the fact of the unbelief of millions of Jews) might prompt the thought that the Gentiles were now the privileged and the Jews the aliens .

God forbid ] See on 3:4. The phrase rejects with indignation the suggested thought. In this intense feeling are combined deep love for his kinsmen, jealousy for his own place in the covenant, and jealousy too for the great principle of the irreversibility of “gifts and calling.” See ver. 29.

For I also , &c.] Q. d., “I am a living proof to the contrary; an Israelite in the strongest and strictest sense of bodily descent; yet a Christian, a child of God, a messenger of His word.”

an Israelite ] See on 9:4.

Benjamin ] Cp. Philippians 3:5 , where St Paul, for a different purpose, dwells on his pedigree. See Bp. Lightfoot’s interesting note on Phil, 3:5, for the historic dignity and pride of the tribe of Benjamin. (Here, however, such ideas are less clearly in question than there.)

2 . God hath not cast away his people ] Lit. did not cast , &c. These words are verbatim (save only the change of tense) with LXX. of Psalms 93:0 (Heb., 94.):14.

which he foreknew ] See on 8:29. Two interpretations are possible here. The “foreknowledge,” or sovereign antecedent decision of the Eternal Mind, may be ( a ) that which designated the nation for privilege, or ( b ) that which designated individuals of it for final glory. The words of vv. 3, 4, 5 favour the latter view; and thus St Paul would say “God never thrust Israel out of the covenant; for He always had among them a foreknown ‘Israel of God’.” The former sense (national designation) would be perfectly legitimate in itself; but it is less in accord with the immediate context, and with the closely kindred reasonings of ch. 9. The question in view here is “Was the nation ever so rejected as that members of it, as such , were rejected?” This St Paul negatives by pointing to the “nation within the nation;” the elect faithful.

of Elias ] Lit. in Elias ; i.e. in the narrative of Elijah’s life.

intercession ] On behalf of the Divine Truth and Worship.

3 . Lord, they have killed , &c.] 1 Kings 19:10 . The quotation is not precisely with either LXX. or Heb.; but substantially exact. The Gr. past verbs here are aorists.

4 . the answer of God ] Lit. the oracular answer . The words “ of God ” are an explanatory addition.

I have reserved , &c.] 1 Kings 19:18 . The Heb. is, “And I have left in Israel seven thousand; all the knees that have not bowed, &c.” (LXX. has “And thou shalt leave , &c.”)

5 . at this present time ] In which the mournful phenomenon of Jewish unbelief occasioned this whole discussion.

there is ] Lit. there hath been : it was and still is.

a remnant ] a reserve, a leaving . The noun is cognate to the verb “I reserved” in ver. 4. This “remnant” at some stages of apostolic history (Acts 6:7 , Acts 21:20 ,) was in itself very numerous. But it was always, no doubt, small comparatively; and it became more and more so the more the distinctive character of the New Kingdom came out, (as in Stephen’s and now in Paul’s teaching,) and the nearer the last crisis of the old order approached.

according to the election of grace ] i.e. “on the scale determined by the Divine choice (to faith and salvation), whose only motive and reason is grace the free favour of Him who chooses out His own.” See on 8:33.

6 . And if by grace , &c.] This verse is wholly parenthetical. Not that its statement is alien to the whole argument, but this is not its logical place. The argument is continuous between vv. 5 and 7; but St Paul is so desirous to make the truth of Gratuitous Salvation perfectly clear and familiar that he seizes this passing occasion to re-state it, as it were in a note . The occasion is the quotation (ver. 4) of the words “ I have reserved; ” in which St Paul sees the sovereign act of Divine grace, withholding a remnant from the commission of idolatrous sin. The faithful seven thousand were faithful “not according to their works, but according to His purpose and the grace given to them.”

no more of works ] no longer of works . i.e. when once this principle is granted, thenceforth the thought that it is “of works” is negatived. So below, “no more grace;” “no more work.” The best commentary on this verse is the argument of cch. 3 and 4. Nothing could be clearer than St Paul’s anxiety to give an absolute denial to the whole idea of antecedent human merit as a factor among the causes of salvation. Grace, to be grace , must be entirely uncaused by anything of meritorious claim in us.

But if it be , &c.] There is much documentary evidence against the genuineness of this last half of the verse. It is however not conclusive; and slight variations in the Gr. phrases, as compared with those of the first half, afford an internal argument for retention; for an imitator would probably follow the model exactly. Certainly the reiteration of the truth in question would be just in keeping here, and it is doubtful whether that truth is one which was so well grasped in the early centuries as that copyists would tend to emphasize it by an insertion.

work is no more work ] Work, in the sense in question, (i.e. as an antithesis to grace,) necessarily involves claim. This necessary idea must be negatived if “works” and “grace” can coincide as causes of salvation.

7 . What then? ] A phrase of resumption after the digression.

Israel ] Here, obviously, the nation. Cp. 9:6.

hath not obtained ] Lit. did not obtain . The crisis of the offer of the Gospel to them is in view in the tense. So did obtain it , just below.

that which he seeketh for ] i.e. a Righteousness before God; a valid ground of acceptance. This was the aim of their efforts, as much when St Paul wrote as ever before; but the method was fatally wrong. Cp. 10:3.

the election ] i.e. the company of the chosen. For a similar collective use of singular nouns, cp. the phrases (so frequent in this Epistle) “the circumcision,” “the uncircumcision.”

were blinded ] Better, were hardened . (So hardening , ver. 25, below.) The verb indicates failure of sensation; of which blindness is only a special instance. The best commentary is ch. 9. The verb rendered “harden” there is not the same, but the idea is the same. Here, as there, St Paul states this dark mystery of the Divine dealing with sinners with no attempt at explicit clearing up. He does not try to conjure away the cloud around the throne, but commits the mystery to “the Judge of all the earth.”

8 . according as it is written ] Isaiah 29:10 , and Deuteronomy 29:4 . (Heb., 3.) The two passages combined read thus, from the Heb., “The Lord hath poured out (or spread) over you the spirit of deep sleep, and the Lord hath not given to you eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day:” The unbelief of Israel of old, traced by Moses and Isaiah to the mysterious withholding of grace, is here interpreted by St Paul to be a “prophecy in act” of the unbelief of Israel, and of its cause, in the days of Messiah. It will be seen that the words “ unto this day ” are part of the quotation, and that therefore no brackets should be used in this verse. As Moses indicated by them a continuous “hardening” of the mass of the nation in his day, so St Paul takes them to foreshadow the like continuousness in the Gospel age.

9 . And David saith ] Psalms 69:22 , (LXX. 68:23.) The quotation is nearly (in ver. 10 verbatim) with the LXX.; which in the first of the two verses expands the Hebrew. The Heb. there may be rendered, “May their table before them become a trap, and let it be, when they are at peace, (in security,) a snare.” The idea of requital lies in the root of the Heb. word for “peace;” and thus the LXX. interpreted “unto requitals of them;” assuming another form of the word. The whole Psalm is full of Messiah. The point of the quotation is that the Psalm indicates a judicial turning of blessings into curses, and a judicial blindness and impotence of the soul, as the way in which retribution would come on Messiah’s enemies. “Seeing then that this imprecation remains for all the adversaries of Christ that their meat should be converted into poison, (as we see that the Gospel is to be the savour of death unto death,) let us embrace with humility and trembling the grace of God.” (Calvin.)

11 32 . Moreover, the rejection is not final: it has a providential purpose to serve; but a great reversal of it is in store

11 . I say then ] Same word as ver. 1. Here begins a new section of the discussion, lasting to the end of the chapter, and of the subject. St Paul has shewn that the rejection of Israel was never total; he now declares that it is not final. A time is to come when the mass of the bodily Israel shall believe, and be restored to the Church.

Have they stumbled ] Lit. and better, Did they stumble ; i.e. when they, as a nation, rejected Messiah. Cp. the figure of the “stumbling-block” to illustrate Jewish unbelief, 1 Corinthians 1:23 ; Galatians 5:11 .

that they should fall ] Q. d., “Was their stumbling permitted by God with a view to their fall?” Evidently here “ fall ” (by contrast with “ stumble ”) bears the sense of final and fatal rejection. Was the nation then and there for ever cut off from becoming, on any national scale, Christian?

God forbid ] For the spirit of these words here, see 9:1 5.

through their fall ] Better, on occasion of their sinful stumbling . The word rendered “ fall ” is that elsewhere (e.g. 4:25, 5:15, &c.; Galatians 6:1 ; Ephesians 2:1 ;) rendered “trespass,” “fault,” “offence,” &c. Literally it is “a falling aside;” and thus nearly approaches the idea of “stumbling.” Since elsewhere in N. T. it always conveys the idea of guilt , we attempt to combine the moral and literal meanings as above. No doubt the word is chosen by St Paul with reference to the metaphors, just used, of stumbling and prostration; and it is intended to mark a temporary, not final, “false step.” The E. V. fails to keep this point. The salvation of Gentiles was indeed always in the Divine purpose; but Jewish unbelief was the occasion which that purpose took for its actual developement.

salvation ] Lit. the salvation ; that salvation which was “of the Jews;” Messiah’s way of peace. Cp. Acts 28:28 .

for to provoke them ] i.e. the Jews. See 10:19. Here is seen, as through a veil, a suggestion of mercy conveyed in the warning of judgment in Deuteronomy 32:21 . The “provocation to jealousy” was indeed in numberless instances to result only in mortification and hatred; but in numberless other instances (this surely is in view here) it was to result in an intense desire to regain the blessings of the covenant side by side with Gentile believers. Cp. perhaps, Rev. 3:9 1 1 See Abp. Trench’s Commentary there. .

12 . the fall ] Same word as in ver. 11. See note there.

the riches ] “The unsearchable riches of Messiah,” (Ephesians 3:8 ,) which “on occasion of” the rejection of Messiah by the Jews were preached to the “world” of the Gentiles.

the diminishing ] The Gr. word, by analogy with cognate words in the classics, invites the rendering “ defeat .” But it stands here in plain contrast to that rendered “ fulness; ” and so should be interpreted a lessening, falling short , in respect of numbers . Unbelief in Messiah reduced to woeful fewness the “Israel” which was really in covenant. More and more it proved to be a mere “remnant.” And the causes which brought this about were also, under God, the causes of the spread of the Gospel to the Gentiles.

how much more their fulness? ] The better cause shall produce a better effect. “ Their fulness: ” i.e. the filling up of their numbers. The true Israel shall at length include a vastly larger proportion of Israel the nation, whether or no the nation shall be literally all brought in. See further below, on vv. 15, 26.

13 . For ] Better, perhaps, But , or Now ; by documentary evidence. The particle merely calls attention to the fresh and fuller statement.

I speak to you ] Immediately. He implies a hope to reach the Jews through them.

you Gentiles ] Evidently the Roman Christians were in the main a Gentile body, and as such St Paul here speaks to them. The words, of course, would be intelligible if he spoke only to a Gentile section; but the whole drift of cch. 9 11 shews that the Gentiles were a very large majority.

I am the apostle , &c.] “I” is emphatic: his position toward the Gentiles was distinct among the Apostles. “A noble self-consciousness here finds expression.” (Meyer.) For the fact of this distinctive commission see Acts 9:15 ; and see below, 15:15 19; Galatians 2:7 , Galatians 2:8 ; Ephesians 3:8 . See also 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 for an illustration of his intense and sympathetic devotion to this his work, and his holy indignation at the sin of Jewish unbelief and persecution.

magnify ] Lit. glorify . The practical meaning is that he is, and rejoices to be, the Apostle for the Gentiles; makes much of his commission both in word and deed; discusses with his Gentile converts even those truths which specially concern Jews; and yet, all the while, not without a longing and design to benefit his Jewish brethren for he knows that the more his work prospers among the Gentiles, the more hope there is that Jews will be roused to attention and enquiry, and so to the desire to enter the covenant of Messiah. See on ver. 11.

14 . provoke to emulation ] Same word as that rendered “provoke to jealousy,” ver. 11.

save some of them ] The phrase implies that he looked for conversions only one by one, through his own ministry. Probably he suggests the contrast of results hereafter, when the crisis predicted in ver. 25 should come. Or again, he may mean that to save even some, in any event, was worth any effort. (A striking commentary on the import of the word “to save.”) Cp. 1 Corinthians 9:22 for this intense desire to “save some,” whether Jews or Gentiles. It is instructive to see that St Paul never allows the promise of a glorious future to divert him from practical efforts in the present , however ill-requited such efforts might seem. And observe that he looks on present and future as in organic connexion: the results were to be vastly different in degree, but the means was to be the same throughout; the “provocation” of Israel to holy “jealousy” by the coming of blessing on the Gentiles. Cp. 2 Corinthians 3:15 , 2 Corinthians 3:16 , for an important parallel. There, in ver. 16, perhaps render “whensoever it” (i.e. the Jewish heart in any individual case ) “turneth to the Lord.”

15 . the casting away ] Not the cognate word to that in vv. 1, 2. But there is no practical difference in the words: it is the reference that differs here. There he denies that Jews as such were thrust out of the covenant; here he asserts the plain fact that the Jewish nation was, by its rejection of Messiah, under (temporary) exclusion.

the reconciling ] i.e. the practical reconciling. The circumstances which caused and attended the “casting away” of Israel were the occasion of the proclamation of the Gospel of Reconciliation to the world. Thus, in a sense, Israel’s unbelief was the instrumental cause of the enjoyment of “peace with God” by the host of Gentile believers. On “reconciliation,” see on ch. 5:1, 11.

life from the dead ] i.e. a vast and intense revival of true religion from a state which, by comparison, was religious death. (For a passage where “life” and “death” are so used, see Revelation 3:2 .) Meyer and some other expositors take the words here to mean literal resurrection-life; q. d., “the ‘receiving’ of the Jews shall usher in the resurrection and the immortal state.” But observe (1) that St Paul still has in view a blessing to the Gentiles through the Jews: the “ for ” which introduces this verse indicates this. And if so, it is most unlikely that he would mean resurrection-life here; a blessing in no way peculiar to Gentiles. Observe (2) that he implies a causative connexion, to some extent, between the casting-away of the Jews and the reconciliation of the Gentile world; (see last note): analogy leads us then to see a causative connexion also between their “receiving” and this “life from the dead.” But how could this be said if the “life” meant here is the literal resurrection? How likely, on the other hand, that its meaning should be just such a spiritual revival of the Gentile church as the conversion of Israel on a great scale would directly tend to awaken! It is objected that this “life from the dead” must, as forming a climax, be a greater thing than the previous “reconciling of the world;” and that no mere revival could be this. No doubt in some respects it could not be; but if the revival were really world-wide, and intense, it would be a greater thing in respect of manifest triumph of Divine truth and life. See further below, on vv. 25, 26.

16 . For ] Lit., and much better, But , or Now . The word marks transition to a new fact in connexion with the “receiving” of Israel; the fact of the peculiar position of Jews with regard to the Divine Promise. The main effect of the following passage, to ver. 24, is to prove that the restoration of Jews to the Church of Messiah, so far from being unlikely, is in the nature of the case likely. Their peculiar connexion, by lineal descent, with the Fathers, makes it certain that their return will be as abundantly welcome to their God as the admission of the Gentiles. We might say more welcome, but for the fact that no welcome can be fuller than that which awaits the true believer of whatever nation. But St Paul wishes to meet the rising prejudice (so strong and stubborn in after ages) of Gentile against Jewish believers, by emphasizing the grand fact that the whole Church springs, so to speak, from a Jewish root; and that thus nothing could be, in a certain sense, more natural than the restoration of Jews to the Church. He has also to announce that there is reserved for Israel, in the future, not merely restoration to the Church, but a work of special importance and glory in it for the world.

the firstfruit ] The Jewish Patriarchs, but perhaps specially Abraham, who was eminently “holy” in the sense of consecration to the purposes of God . For the figure here cp. Numbers 15:21 ; “Of the first of your dough ye shall offer unto the Lord an heave-offering.” The words just below here point to the idea of “firstfruits” not of grain but of bread .

holy ] In the sense indicated in the last note. The Patriarchs were, by the Divine purpose, separated to be special recipients of Divine light, in trust for their descendants and the world. In a sense somewhat similar their descendants, viewed as a nation, are still separated in the Divine purpose to a special work connected with Divine mercy. The reference is not, of course, to a supposed superior personal sanctity of individual Jews as such, (which would be to contradict the whole reasoning of cch. 2, 3, 4,) but to the special purpose towards Israel as a nation, in view of which they are reserved (scattered but never vanishing) for a time of grace.

the root ] Here again the figure points to the Patriarchs, and especially to Abraham. (Cp. Isaiah 51:1 , Isaiah 51:2 , for yet another figure, that of the Quarry, with the same reference.) The “root” and “branches” are here brought in to form the main illustration of the passage following as far as ver. 25. The passage is one of much importance and some difficulty, and calls for a few preliminary remarks.

The Olive Tree; the Root, Branches, and Graftings

1. The Olive Tree is the true Israel (cp. Jeremiah 11:16 ,) as the Church, the People of God. Its Root is Abraham and the Patriarchs. Its Stem is the Church of the Old Testament, when in a certain sense (that of external privilege) the Church coincided with the Nation of Israel, and when at least the vast majority of true believers were also physically children of Abraham. Its branches (by a slight modification of metaphor) are potential believers, whether Jewish or Gentile. If Jewish, their faith in Jesus as Messiah is viewed as retaining them in the Church; if Gentile, their faith “ grafts ” them into the stem of the covenant-congregation. If, being Jews, they reject the offers of the Gospel, they are thereby “ cut off ” from the stem. If they repent and believe, their faith “ grafts ” them into it again; and this process, says St Paul, is, by the nature of the case, a more likely and natural one than the “grafting” of the alien branches which yet is graciously effected.

2. The whole Olive Tree its root, branches, and all is the Church Universal, in which there is “neither Greek nor Jew;” i.e. in which every real part of the organism, every true believer, shares the sap and life of grace in equal reality. But the special imagery is framed to emphasize not this truth, but another truth in harmony with it; viz. that “salvation is of the Jews;” that with the Hebrew Patriarch began after a distinct break of continuity the more definite life and history of the Church; that for ages the saints were all (practically) found among his sons; and that the universal Saviour was of the seed of David.

3. This, and not the evangelical equality of Jew and Gentile, is here in view; with the special object of reminding the Gentile Christian how singular and eminent had been the work of the Jewish Church; how welcome individual Jews must be to return to the Church, which, though now universal in extent , was, and of course is always, Jewish in descent; and how natural it was that a special work in that Church should yet be designed for an aggregate of Jewish believers.

4. It is hardly needful to point out how this metaphorical passage, like almost every other, secular or sacred, carries its qualifications and corrections with it. For example, the true Church of God existed ages before Abraham; it embraced Abel, Enoch, Noah. And no saint, however great, can be the “root” of the rest in the sense of being their source of life: the Divine Saviour alone can say “Abide in me .” And again, the figure here, if taken alone, would leave us with the impression that the Call of the Gentiles was an accident in the history of the Church, instead of being the great “Purpose of the Ages” (Ephesians 3:11 ) to which the privileges and work of the Elder Covenant were but the mighty prelude. But St Paul writes for those who will read his revelation in the full light of Gospel-truth; and therefore he securely leaves the details to self-explanation or self-correction. Carefully so read, the passage tells us not of a higher level of grace and glory hereafter for Jewish saints as above Gentile saints, but of a gracious welcome back, and a special work for God, for repenting and believing Israel.

17 . some of the branches ] A tender statement of what, alas, was so great an amount of unbelief. See below again, ver. 25; “blindness in part .”

be broken off ] The reference of time is specially to the crisis of the rejection of Messiah by Israel. It was true, of course, that at no period of the Church was any worldly and unbelieving Jew otherwise than “broken off” from God’s covenant of peace; but not till Messiah was rejected was it ever possible to think of the Jews, as a class , as being so situated.

thou ] The Gentile Christian, who is throughout in view.

a wild olive tree ] A scion of a race alien from the special Covenant of Salvation. This word, from St Paul’s pen, implies no Pharisaic contempt of the Gentiles. He merely points to the Divine choice, equally sovereign for nations and for persons, which had willed that Israel, and not Greece, Rome, or India, should be the recipient and keeper of Revelation; the heaven-cultured subject of its privileges and ordinances. Not merit, but grace, made the difference. But a real difference it was, none the less, and it left the wonder and mercy of the call of the Gentiles as great as ever.

graffed in ] Grafting, as is well known, is always of the good scion into the inferior stock. St Paul reverses this, no doubt quite consciously. The mere outline of his language is borrowed from the olive-yard, and that is enough for him. The union of true believers to the true Church is vividly illustrated (cp., but with care, the Lord’s own great metaphor, John 15:5 ,) by the union of branches to a stem; the bringing of alien believers into a Church originally Jewish is vividly illustrated by grafting a piece of one tree into another. Here the likeness ends.

partakest ] Lit. and better, didst become a partaker .

18 . boast not against , &c.] i.e. against the branches that were broken off; as if in a better position than theirs might have been, and as if better in yourself, and so (as regards any virtue of your own) better able to hold your place. Every insulting thought, word, or act, of professing Christians towards Jews, as Jews, from that day to this, is an illustration of this verse. Too often such slights are also offered, in one form or another, to the re-ingrafted branches converted Jews.

thou bearest not , &c.] i.e. Divine mercy has reached thee through Abraham and his sons, not them through thee.

19 . then ] therefore ; i.e. in order to meet my reasoning.

20 . Well ] i.e. Well said . There is, of course, a solemn and earnest irony in the word. In terms , the Gentile Pharisee (if we may use the expression) spoke truth; for in the mysterious adjustments of the Divine Plan the rejection of Messiah by Israel was to precede, and even in a certain sense to occasion, the call of the Gentiles. But in the spirit of the words there was deep untruth; for their own sin was the actual cause of Israel’s fall, and Gentile believers were admitted into covenant on just the same terms of mere mercy as their Jewish brethren i.e. for the sole sake of Messiah the Propitiation; “by faith.”

because of unbelief by faith ] The construction in the two phrases is identical in the Gr. On the statement of fact here, see last note.

thou standest ] See on ch. 5:2.

21 . the natural branches ] Persons who were, without any new interposition of mercy, born within the scope of the covenant and the light of revelation. Not that the state of human nature was less fallen in Jew than in Gentile, but that the course of nature led the Jew, as such, to light and privilege.

22 . goodness ] See on ch. 2:4.

severity ] In the special sense of summary sternness. The word is akin to that rendered “ sharply ,” Titus 1:13 .

on them which fell , &c.] Better, in view of the best-supported reading of the Gr., on them that fell came severity, but on thee came goodness .

if thou continue ] On the verb and construction here, see on 6:1. The idea of the word is adherence , either rightly resolute or wrongly obstinate as the case may be. Observe that expressions like the present, implying contingency in man’s continuance in the mercy of God, and the reality of the exertion of man’s will in such continuance, are in real practical harmony with the truth, so fully stated in previous chapters, of sovereign and prevailing Divine grace (8:28 30). The whole reason of the harmony is indeed past our finding out, perhaps for ever; but thus much we can see, that sovereign grace acts on men, not on automatons; that it acts on them through the human conscience and will; and that these, in this matter as always, are affected by warnings as truly as by promises. Grace imparts perseverance by imparting and maintaining faith , (1 Peter 1:5 ;) and it freely uses all means by which such faith is properly animated and energized. Amongst such means are these warnings of the results that must follow if faith loses hold of its object. Cp. Jude 1:20 , Jude 1:21 .

otherwise ] The lit. Gr. is simply since ; but the E. V. expresses the implied sense.

23 . graff them in again ] Every Jewish convert from the first age till now has been an example of this statement. St Paul is not yet dealing with the question of a conversion of Israel en masse; he has in view individual Gentile faith and individual Jewish faith; and he regards each Jew as (ideally) once a branch in the sacred Tree, but cut out of it, and awaiting a gracious re-ingrafting.

24 . For if thou , &c.] Cp. on this verse notes on ver. 17.

how much more ] i.e. “how much more easily to our conception .” As a fact , the Gentile had been grafted in, and no more than this could happen to the Jew. But the latter fact was antecedently much more likely than the former.

25 . For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant ] Same word as 1:13; 1 Corinthians 10:1 , 1 Corinthians 10:12 :1; 2 Corinthians 1:8 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:13 . Here St Paul leaves the image of the Olive Tree, which he had used to facilitate to his reader’s conception the idea of a restoration of Jews to the Church of the Messiah, now become the Universal Church. He now, in plain terms, reveals and predicts a great future Restoration.

For: ” the connexion indicated is somewhat thus: “My parable of the Olive Tree is no conjecture or peradventure, when it suggests a brighter future for Israel. For such a future is to come, in the purposes of God.”

ignorant ] Whether for want of information, or want of reminders. Possibly the precise revelation of the future here made had never been made, in terms, before, though suggestions and intimations of it had often been heard. (Cp. perhaps Luke 21:24 .) So in another place, (1 Thessalonians 4:13 ,) where the Apostle uses the same formula: the hope of Resurrection had been abundantly revealed in a general way, but the precise fact that the buried saints should rise before the living saints should be transfigured was probably then first made known.

mystery ] Here, as consistently in N. T., the Gr. word means a truth undiscoverable by reason, but now revealed . Our use of the words “mystery” and “mysterious,” is often misleading in these connexions, as it easily suggests the thought of what cannot be understood . The Gr. means, in fact, a secret , which, when told, may be found either partially to transcend the grasp of man’s conception, or to be quite within it. Thus in 1 Corinthians 15:51 we have a “mystery” revealed as a fact which yet (in detail at least) we cannot clearly conceive: in the present passage we have a “mystery” revealed which is far more within our reach of thought, viz. judicial blindness inflicted on the Jews as a body, and hereafter, at a definite point in the Plan of God, to be removed.

wise in your own conceits ] Same word as 12:16. “ Conceits: ” i.e. opinion . The Gr. is, more literally, wise , or sensible, at your own bar ; i.e. judged in the court of self-complacency. The “wisdom” or “thoughtfulness” here in view is such as that rebuked in ver. 19; that of a Gentile convert who thought much of his large insight into the Divine Plan because he saw in the rejection of the Jews not an accident but a deliberate opening of the door of grace to the world and there dismissed the subject , careless whether there were, or not, any future mercy for Israel in the same Divine Plan.

blindness ] See on ver. 7, “ were blinded .” The noun here is cognate to the verb there. It occurs elsewhere in N. T., Mark 3:5 ; Ephesians 4:18 .

in part ] This gracious qualification is not necessary to the statement, in which the “blindness” or “hardening” is the emphatic thing. But St Paul will not omit to remind the Gentile Christian that even in the dark ages of Israel there ever has been, is, and will be, a “holy seed,” (Isaiah 6:13 ,) an “election,” who behold and welcome the promised Salvation. Thus the hardening is never total; it is partial, though, alas, the hardened “ part ” is the large majority, till the great call of grace. See further, long note above on ver. 1.

until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in ] The Gr. equally allows the rendering until the fulness &c. come in . This would not necessitate (as E. V. does) the inference that the call of grace to Israel was not to come till the in-coming of the “fulness of the Gentiles” was over . In ver. 15 (q. v.) we have had it intimated that the conversion of Israel should be a means of immense grace to the world; as indeed it must be, in the nature of the case. In view of this, it seems best to explain the present verse as predicting that the in-coming of the nations to the Church of Christ shall have largely, but not perfectly, taken place when Israel is restored to grace; so that the closing stages of the in-coming may be directly connected with the promised revival of Israel, and may follow it in respect of time. “ Come in : to the Fold, the Refuge, the City, of Messiah’s salvation.

the fulness of the Gentiles ] Cp. note on “fulness” in ver. 12. The word here plainly means the full destined number of the Gentile Church, with the underlying idea of the greatness of that number. Cp. Revelation 7:9 .

26 . And so all Israel shall be saved ] Several interpretations of these words are in themselves legitimate. They may refer (A) to the natural Israel, the Jews; or (B) to the “Israel of God,” the true Church of Christ. Again, if the reference (A) is adopted, the prophecy may mean ( a ) that then all the elect of Israel shall at length be gathered in the long process shall at length be complete; or ( b ) that every individual of the then generation of Jews shall be brought to Messiah’s grace; or ( c ) that “all” bears a less exact reference here, as so often in Scripture, and means “in general;” “Israel in general, the Jews of that day as a great aggregate, on a scale unknown before, shall be saved.”

Of these various possibilities we prefer on the whole (A. c ,) as the most in accord with the context, and with the analogy of Scripture. The explanation (B) is in itself entirely true: the final glory and triumph of the Gospel will surely be, not specially the salvation of the Jews, but that of the Universal Church the immortal Bride of the King Eternal. And it is extremely important to remember the full recognition in Scripture of all its true members as the “ seed of Abraham ” (Galatians 3:29 ). But this is not the truth exactly in point here, where St Paul is dealing with the special prospect of a time when “blindness in part” will no longer characterize Jews as Jews . And the “Israel” of ver. 25 is probably the Israel of ver. 26, as no distinction is suggested in the interval. Again, the reference marked (A. a ), though perfectly true in itself , is less likely here because in vv. 15, 25, we have had already a prediction of a restoration of Jews, en masse , to grace; whereas the process of gathering in the elect of all ages is continuous, and thus, on the whole, gradual. Again, the reference marked (A. b ), though the Divine Plan may , of course, intend no less, is far from analogous to the main teaching of Scripture as to the developements (even the largest) of grace in this world. On the whole, then, we adopt the interpretation which explains the sentence as predicting the conversion of some generation or generations of Jews, a conversion so real and so vastly extensive that unbelief shall be the small exception at the most, and that Jews as such shall everywhere be recognized as true Christians, lights in the world, and salt on the earth.

There shall come out of Sion , &c.] In the following quotation St Paul more or less combines, as often, (see e.g. 3:10 18,) several O. T. prophecies; with this for the main purport, that one ultimate result of the coming of Messiah should be the gift of grace to the Jews. In Isaiah 59:20 , Isaiah 59:21 , we have in the Heb., “And there shall come a Redeemer for Zion, and for them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord: As for me, this is my covenant with them.” In Isaiah 27:9 ; “This is all the fruit [of God’s dealings, namely] to take away his [Jacob’s] sin.” In Psalms 14:7 (LXX. 13:7); “Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion!” In Isaiah 59:20 the LXX. has, “There shall come for Sion’s sake the deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” In Isaiah 27:9 it has, “This is his blessing, when I shall take away his sin.”

St Paul seems to have woven into one Isaiah 59:20 and Psalms 14:7 , and to have completed the sentence from Isaiah 27:9 . In the last clause of ver. 26 here he adopts the LXX., because, though it represents the Heb. inexactly, the substantial meaning is untouched: the Redeemer’s coming shall be “for,” “for the benefit of,” those who turn from sin, by being the cause of their so doing; He shall thus turn sin from them , in the sense of removing its guilt and breaking its power.

shall come out of Sion ] Here probably the reference is to the First Advent. Q. d., “It stands foretold that the Appearance of Messiah, of the seed of David, shall result in the subdual of the unbelief and rebellion of Jacob, and the bringing in of a covenant for him of final pardon and peace. Now Messiah has appeared; therefore, how slow soever the fulfilment be as yet, the remainder of this great promise must be drawing on: Israel shall yet be saved.” The words have been often explained to foretel a future Coming of the Redeemer, whether literal or figurative, to work the conversion of Israel on a great scale. But the explanation above is fully sufficient for the argument, and (to say the least) more in accord with St Paul’s general teaching as to the future Coming of the Lord.

the Deliverer ] the Rescuer ; same word as 1 Thessalonians 1:10 , “who rescueth us from the wrath to come.” Heb. “ Goel; ” the Avenger of a Kinsman; hence generally the strong friend who rescues the weak.

ungodliness ] Lit. impieties . Perhaps omit the “and” before “shall turn away.”

27 . for this is my covenant unto them ] Lit., and this for them is the covenant granted by me . Cp., for the terms of a great “ Covenant of Grace,” Jeremiah 31:31-34 , with the quotation and inspired comment in Hebrews 8:8-12 , Hebrews 8:10 :16, 17.

This ” refers backward; q. d., “I have covenanted that the Messiah shall bring Jacob to grace and peace; and this covenant I will carry out when my time of pardon and renewal comes.”

28 . As concerning , &c.] This ver. and the next form a small detached paragraph: so do vv. 30 32. In both these paragraphs St Paul adds to his main argument and statement a few closing confirmations. The phraseology of this verse is very brief in the Gr.; As to the Gospel indeed, enemies because of yon; but as to the election, beloved because of the fathers .

concerning the gospel ] The verse may be paraphrased; “With a view to the spread of the Gospel, which is the message of salvation for every believer, Jew or Gentile, (1:16,) it pleased God in His sovereign plan to reject the great majority of the Jews in order to open His kingdom wide to you. But with a view to the believing element, the elect Jews of every age, including the great multitude to be called to grace hereafter, the Jews are still dear to Him; for His Covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is sovereign and unchangeable.”

enemies ]. See on ch. 5:10. The meaning here is that the Lord was (judicially) hostile to them; viewed them as hostile, “counted them His enemies in the sense of rejecting them from actual participation in His Gospel. Unbelief cut them off, and was their own sin; but it was judicially and sovereignly permitted to have its way. But meantime, in another aspect, they were still “beloved;” still included in a plan of mercy.

the election ] The word “election” may mean either the act of choice , or the chosen persons . Here it is probably the latter. The word is with the definite article, as in ver. 7. The reference is to the whole number of Jews who had obtained, or should obtain, salvation by faith; whether gathered in one by one, as now, or in multitudes, as hereafter. “With a view to” these, the Jewish people is still, most emphatically, within the purposes of Divine Love.

for the fathers’ sakes ] See Deuteronomy 7:8 , Deuteronomy 9:5 , Deuteronomy 10:15 .

29 . gifts ] Gr. charismata ; gifts of grace . The word is frequently used of “ miraculous ” gifts (see on 1:11); but here, obviously, it refers to all the “innumerable benefits” of Divine Salvation.

calling ] See on 1:6, 7, 8:30.

without repentance ] without change of mind , i.e. on the part of the Giver. This profound fact of the Divine Way of Mercy is here applied to the case of an elect race . Elsewhere (see e.g. 8:30; John 10:28 ;) the same mysterious law is plainly indicated with regard to elect persons . The two cases are largely illustrative of each other.

The word rendered “ without repentance ” (same word as 2 Corinthians 7:10 ; E. V. “not to be repented of,”) is strongly emphatic in the Gr. order.

30 . For as ye , &c.] A new short paragraph. See on ver. 28. The main purpose of this paragraph is to shew, in a new respect, the Divine “reason why” of the rejection of the Jews; viz., that the salvation of both Jews and Gentiles might be conspicuously put on the footing of mere mercy . The Gentile believers had once rejected God (see 1:19, &c.), and mere mercy called them to grace. The Jews were now rejecting God, and mere mercy would again act in calling them back to grace.

have not believed ] Better, did not obey . For the best commentary, see 1:18 32.

have now obtained mercy ] Better, did obtain mercy . Lit. were compassionated .

through their unbelief ] Which was, in a certain sense, the instrument , “through,” or by, which the covenant was thrown open to the world. Jewish unbelief (1) slew “the Lord of Glory,” the Propitiation; and (2) was the occasion for the mission of the Apostles “far unto the Gentiles.”

31 . have these also now not believed ] Better, did these disobey .

through your mercy ] Connect these words with “have these not obeyed.” The verse will then read; Thus these also now disobeyed through your mercy, that they also , &c. The “mercy of the Gentiles” is the mercy of God in Christ to them, not any mercy of theirs to the Jews. The statement of this verse is the almost exact converse of that of ver. 30. Jewish unbelief was, in a certain sense, the instrumental cause of Gentile salvation; so, in a certain sense, Gentile salvation was the final cause of Jewish unbelief. In the Divine Plan the call of the Gentiles was to hinge upon the unbelief of the Jews when they should reject Messiah; and thus the grand act of Jewish unbelief was, in a guarded sense, “ caused ” by the promise of the call of the Gentiles.

that they also may obtain mercy ] Q. d., “that their reception again (in single cases, and at length in a mass,) may be as remarkably an act of sovereign compassion as your own call was.” The emphatic idea throughout this section is mercy .

32 . For God , &c.] Lit. For God did shut up the all together into disobedience, that He may compassionate the all . We give this literal version, though barbarous as English, to elucidate the exact reference of the Greek. “ The all ” are “all the persons in question”; Gentiles and Jews alike, who by turns have occupied the position of aliens from the enjoyment of salvation. The Divine Sovereign has permitted each great class in turn thus to develope its own sin of rebellious unbelief, (“shutting them up into it,” as into a cage, or trap, into which they have leapt,) in order to the complete display of mercy, and only mercy, wholly apart from privilege or merit, in the salvation both of Gentiles and of Jews. Here again mercy is the emphatic idea. “ Did shut up: ” i.e. when He “cut off” the Jews: for this completed, as it were, the process of that developement of unbelief which was to bring out into clear light the equal sovereignty of mercy in all cases.

All ” must manifestly be taken here, as so often elsewhere, (see on ch. 5:18,) with limitation. St Paul is contemplating not the whole race , but the whole Church in its two great elements Gentile and Jewish. See 2:8, 9, for his distinct warning of a “judgment without mercy” on the impenitent and unbelieving, Gentiles and Jews alike.

33 36 . Doxology to the Eternal Sovereign

33 . O the depth ] Here, at the close of this discussion of the case of Israel, in which he has held up for our submission the unfathomable mystery of electing sovereignty, and also the strange ways by which Divine judgment is often made the instrument of Divine mercy, the Apostle turns to the Supreme Object of his thought and love, and utters his ascription of worship and praise to the All-Wise and Almighty. Such a doxology is perfectly in the manner of Scripture, in which the ultimate aim ever is not the glory, nor even the happiness, of Man, (dear as his happiness is to God and His messengers,) but the Glory of God.

depth ] Cp. Psalms 36:6 , “Thy judgments are a great deep.”

riches ] See on 2:4.

wisdom and knowledge ] Scarcely, in such a passage as this, to be minutely distinguished. They blend into one idea omniscience acting in eternal righteousness and love.

unsearchable ] It is well to weigh, and accept , this word at the close of such an argument. In his very act of praise the Apostle confesses the inability of even his own inspired thought to explain the Divine mercies and judgments, in the sense of clearing all difficulties. “Who art thou that repliest against God?” “Clouds and darkness are round about Him;” and, in certain respects, it is only the intelligent but profound submission of faith that can say, in view of those clouds, “Righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His throne.” (Psalms 97:2 .)

past finding out ] Same word as Ephesians 3:8 , (E. V. “ unsearchable ,” lit. “ not to be tracked by footprints ,”) an instructive parallel passage.

34 . For who hath known counseller ] Nearly verbatim from Isaiah 40:13 . See too Jeremiah 23:18 . The Gr. verbs are aorists; and the time-reference is perhaps to creation, or to the eternal decrees “before the world was.”

35 . hath first given to him , &c.] “Who hath laid Him under obligation? ” (Cp. Job 35:7 .) Such is no doubt the special reference here. It affects not only the discussions of cch. 9 11, but also (as does indeed the whole of this doxology) the whole great doctrinal Argument of the Epistle. No merit in man, in the matter of acceptance with God , is one of its deep foundation-truths.

36 . of him ] Lit. out of Him; not in the Pantheistic sense, as if all things were evolved from God phases of God; but in the Christian sense, that His will is the ultimate source of all being, all life and force, all conscience, will, and thought.

through him ] by means of Him . He is not the Source only, but the Means. He did not only originate all things, but incessantly sustains and overrules all. In the special case of the saints, He not only wills their salvation, but through their regenerated will gives them power to believe and persevere. “He keeps them, by His power, through faith, unto salvation.” (1 Peter 1:5 . See too Philippians 2:13 .)

to him ] To His glory. He is, to Himself, the Final Cause of all His works. He is greater, higher, nobler, and more precious, than His whole creation; and must view Himself as such: what else, then, but Himself could He make His aim and end?

Cp. Colossians 1:16 , for the same words, “through Him and to Him” used of the Eternal Son; one of the deepest proofs of His proper Deity.

to whom be glory ] Lit., to Him [ be ] the glory ; the glory due to Him. Same words as 16:27; Galatians 1:5 ; Philippians 4:20 ; 2 Timothy 4:18 ; Hebrews 13:21 ; and nearly the same as 2 Peter 3:18 ; Revelation 1:6 . In the last two passages the ascription is to the Eternal Son. See Revelation 1:5 .

for ever ] Lit., unto the ages ; through all future periods and developements of existence. Same words as 9:6; where see also note on “ Amen .” Moule, H. C. G. (1891). The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, with Introduction and Notes . The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges (186 204). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Romans 11". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cgt/romans-11.html. 1896.