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Bible Commentaries
Romans 11

Contending for the FaithContending for the Faith

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Introduction

The Remnant According To The Election of Grace

The overarching point of this section (9-11) is that God is faithful. He keeps His promises and His word can be trusted. In chapter nine Paul explains that Israel stands rejected because she misunderstood two doctrines: the doctrine of the election of Israel and the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. In the first, God’s choice of Israel as His special people was an election to service and not to salvation. Israel, as a nation, was chosen by God to serve Him in the accomplishment of His foreordained plan to bring the Savior into the world. This choice was national and unconditional. Salvation, on the other hand, has never been a national matter. It is an individual matter, and it is conditional. The second misunderstanding is about God’s absolute sovereignty: He is not answerable to man. Israel questions God’s right to reject them, but God extends His mercy to whomever He will and He hardens whomever He will (9:18). Being God and therefore absolutely moral and absolutely merciful, He is not capricious in His actions toward men; nevertheless, He, alone, is the one who is sovereign.

In the closing verses of chapter nine and all of chapter ten, Paul reveals that most Israelites stand rejected because they have refused to submit to God’s plan for redeeming man. Choosing rather to rest in their supposed position of privilege and merit, most of the Jews have failed to believe in Jesus as the Messiah and have elected to attempt to establish their own righteousness on the basis of the law of Moses.

As a result, the picture painted thus far is pretty bleak for Israel. Most of the Jews stand before God accursed (9:3). They have, in fact, prepared themselves for destruction (9:22). Though they have "followed after the law of righteousness," they have not attained it (9:31); consequently, they remain willfully ignorant of God’s righteousness (10:3). They are, by and large, a disobedient and obstinate people (10:29).

To Israel’s chagrin, the Gentiles are being welcomed into God’s kingdom with open arms. In fact, they are the object of God’s mercy (9:23-24). While astounding to the blind in Israel, God’s acceptance of the Gentiles was fully predicted by the prophets (9:25-26). The Gentiles, who were not even seeking righteousness, have found it (9:29). And this situation, as incredible as it seems, is exactly according to God’s plan.

Naturally the question arises in the mind of Jewish objectors: Has God cast away His people? Is Israel irredeemably lost? Has God given up entirely on the Jews and turned to the Gentiles? The answer is: No, God wants as many Jews to be saved as possible—even all of them (11:26). To that end, therefore, Paul addresses here God’s desire to save Israel and the means by which He plans to do so. Paul’s argument involves intricate interrelationships between Jews and Gentiles, which are designed for the blessing and salvation of both.

The question under consideration in chapter eleven is different from the one in chapter nine. There the question revolved around the establishment of God’s faithfulness to His promises for national Israel. In chapter eleven, the focus is not on God’s Old Testament purpose for Israel because Jesus has now come. It is instead aimed at God’s place for individual Jews living under the New Testament dispensation. Salvation and eternal destiny are the subjects of prominence now rather than service. What is God’s plan for Israel with regard to salvation in the Christian age?

God no longer plans to deal with Israel as a nation as He did in Old Testament times. He will no longer use Israel for service; those covenant relations were fulfilled when Jesus came. God is now dealing with Jews as individuals. In the New Testament Age, He is gathering together the remnant—the new Israel or spiritual Israel—which is made up of Jews and Gentiles who believe and obey the gospel (9:23-24).

Paul’s argument in chapter eleven breaks into six sections. In the first six verses, he explains that God’s true Israel is the remnant chosen by grace. He says, first, that God has not rejected His people (1-2a). Next, he points out that God had a remnant of believers in the Old Testament (2b-4). Then he states that those under grace are God’s new covenant people—the true Israel (5-6).

In section two, Paul reveals that unbelieving Israel has been hardened (7-10). Then in the third division, he explains that the hardening of unbelieving Israel becomes a blessing for both the Gentiles and the Jews (11-16). In section four, Paul introduces the olive tree figure, which is a metaphor of both judgment and hope (17-24). In it, he warns Gentile believers not to become proud of themselves lest they fall after the same example of unbelief as the Jews (17-22). He then expresses hope for those hardened Jews (23-24).

In section five, Paul presents God’s plan for Israel’s salvation (25-32). He establishes three points:

1. The mystery of Israel’s salvation (25-27).

2. God’s continuing love for Israel (28-29).

3. God’s ultimate purpose of mercy (30-32).

Finally, in section six, Paul declares that God is right. Overawed by God’s wisdom, mercy, and faithfulness, he closes with a hymn of praise to Almighty God (11:33-36), then returning the reader to where he was at the end of chapter eight.

Verse 1

I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

I say then: Paul introduces here the third in a series of questions parallel to, "but I say" in Romans 10:18-19. "Then" indicates that the question arises naturally from what has been argued in chapters nine and ten and introduces a summation of the result so far.

Hath God cast away his people?: The word translated "cast away" is a)pw/sato, and it is always used in the middle voice in the New Testament. It means "to thrust away, repel from one’s self or repulse, Acts 7:27; to refuse, reject or cast off, Acts 7:39; Acts 13:46; Romans 11:1-2; 1 Timothy 1:19" (AGLP 50). Containing the negative Greek particle mh, the question itself frames a negative response and should be understood as saying, "Surely God has not cast away His people has he?" (Rienecker and Rogers 371).

To Paul’s anticipated objector (first introduced in 9:19), the notion of Israel’s rejection is absolutely unthinkable. After all, God chooses Israel as His special people from the days of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3). He restates it to them at Sinai in the presence of Moses (Exodus 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 14:2). In Isaiah, God describes Israel as "my people, my chosen. This people have I formed for myself" (43:20b, 21). God promises the people of Jeremiah’s day, "I will be your God and ye shall be my people" (Jeremiah 7:23; Leviticus 26:12). What is conveniently forgotten by Paul’s typical Pharisee critic, however, is that God’s promises to Israel relative to their salvation were repeatedly conditioned upon faithful obedience (Exodus 19:5-6; Leviticus 26:3-16 ff; Deuteronomy 4:22-32; Deuteronomy 13:4; Deuteronomy 27:9-10; Deuteronomy 28:1-68; Deuteronomy 30:1-3; 1 Samuel 15:22; Jeremiah 7:23; Jeremiah 11:1-10; Zechariah 6:9-15).

But when Paul frames the question of his anticipated objector, he asks if God has rejected His people. Earlier, he hints that there are actually two Israels—ethnic (national) Israel and spiritual Israel or God’s remnant (9:6). Who are "his people" in this verse?

It does not make sense to understand the reference to be Israel as a nation, for God never rejected Israel as a nation. She was unconditionally chosen for service; and with the bringing of Christ into the world, she completed her work (9:4-5). As a result there is no longer any compelling need of Israel’s continued national existence (10:12, Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11). Therefore, Cottrell’s conclusions are correct:

But this is not the same as being "rejected." We may say, rather, that in full accordance with God’s plan Israel as a nation has been honorably retired from service (Vol. 2 206).

Therefore, "his people" refers to the remnant; however, only part of the remnant is under consideration because the remnant is composed of Gentiles as well as Jews (9:23-24). Properly the remnant refers to all in every nation who fear God and work righteousness, believing in Jesus Christ (Acts 10:34-35). Paul has in mind ethnic Jews but only those who belong to the faithful remnant. So, the question is: Has God excluded His people, the Jews, from salvation? Is it impossible for Jews to obey the gospel? Or as Lard puts it, "Has God rejected them all?" (345).

God forbid: Paul repudiates such a notion with horror in the most emphatic terms. The fact is that God did not reject Israel at all until after Israel had rejected God (verse 11). When the gospel goes forth from Jerusalem, most of the Jews reject its call; and throughout their checkered history, most Jews refuse to become a part of God’s faithful remnant (10:3, 21). Remember Jesus’ plaintive cry:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate (Matthew 23:37-38).

Paul has already pointed out that God has not rejected all of the Jews from salvation (9:23-24; 27-29; 10:16-17). He seeks here to magnify God’s faithfulness by reiterating with additional evidence that there is a faithful remnant. Any repentant Jew, who so desires may yet join their number by believing in Jesus, obeying the gospel, and remaining faithful. Cottrell cites McGuiggan:

Paul’s point is that God can never be accused of rejecting "his people," because there has always been a remnant from among the Jews who have accepted his way of grace and are thus in personal fellowship with him. Thus no matter what happens to the nation as a whole, "Israel" will never perish because "the real Israel has always been less than the nation" (Vol. 2 205).

For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin: Some of the writers [Murray (Vol. 2 66), Sanday and Headlam (309), Meyer (Vol. 5 427), and others] assert that Paul means to say that "he is an Israelite and that therefore to him, as much as to them, the supposition (that God would reject his people) seems almost blasphemous" (Sanday and Headlam 309); it is more likely, that Paul thoroughly identifies himself as a Jew in order to give living proof that God has not rejected the faithful among "his people." He emphasizes his physical Jewishness. He is an Israelite (9:4). He is himself a physical descendant of Abraham (2 Corinthians 11:22)—not a proselyte. Furthermore, he is of the tribe of Benjamin, the first tribe of royalty, and one of only two of the original tribes who remained loyal throughout the Old Testament. It was one of the only two tribes to return from captivity to be restored to their homeland and remain intact into New Testament times (Philippians 3:5). His pedigree as a Jew is beyond question.

As Pendleton suggests, the meaning of Paul’s use of himself as an example proves that God has not rejected His people:

God has not cast away en masse and without discrimination or distinction, the totality of his ancient people, for he himself is a living denial of such a conclusion (443).

Verses 2-4

God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.

God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew: Paul emphatically answers his anticipated question in the negative, and he gives the answer even more emphasis by repeating the words of his typical Pharisee objector.

which he foreknew: Great controversy has long swirled around this qualifying phrase. Calvinists believe this foreknowledge is the same as God’s election or predestination. They say it refers to God’s act of distinguishing love. Those Calvinists who believe that "his people" refers only to spiritual Israel take this passage as a declaration of the unconditional predestination of the elect remnant among the Jews to salvation. God decreed in eternity that this elect remnant could not be lost but must be saved eternally. Of course, He cannot reject those whom He has chosen (foreknown) from all eternity to be saved. Murray says, "the foreknowing is the guarantee that God has not cast off his people" (Vol. 2 67).

Cranfield, who is a Calvinist, believes that "his people" refers not to the elect among Israel but to the whole nation (268). Those who take this view, however, do not believe it is a choosing for salvation but rather that it has to do with the nation’s irrevocable historical role as God’s special people (Cottrell also cites Denney, MacArthur, Moo, and Morris as holding this view—Vol. 2 209).

The problem that all Calvinist commentators have in common is an erroneous view of the meaning of foreknowledge. This word proe/gnw does not carry with its meaning any part of causation or predetermination. LN says it means:

To know about something prior to some temporal reference point, for example to know about an event before it happens—"to know beforehand, to know already, to have foreknowledge" (Vol. 1 335).

BDAG corroborates this definition (866). To foreknow something means to have prior cognitive or mental awareness.

Given this fact, there are two plausible explanations of this phrase "which he foreknew." Lard explains, "God has not wholly rejected his people whom he formally recognized or accepted as his. He has rejected only a portion of them. Those, who believe, he still retains" (347). Cottrell acknowledges this view might be correct saying:

"Foreknew" here could then mean the same as in 8:29, i.e., God did not reject those from among his people whom he foreknew would accept his grace through faith. The effect then would be to narrow the meaning of "his people" from the nation in general to the remnant…Has God rejected his people? No, he has not rejected all of them. To be more specific, He has not rejected the ones foreknown to become believers, who by their very faith are the only ones who are truly "his people" (Vol. 2 209).

Cottrell believes it is better to take "his people" in verse 2a to be the same as in verse 1a. In other words, it is best to understand the reference to be to all ethnic Israelites. He says it refers "thus to the nation of Israel; but it refers to them as individuals and not as a national unit" (Vol. 2 209). His position then is:

To say that God" foreknew" his people Israel means that even before he singled them out for a central role in his redemptive plan, he knew in advance the kind of people they would be all along the historical path to the Messiah and beyond. Nothing about them—their weaknesses, their failures, their unbelief, their idolatries—took him by surprise. He foreknew all of these things and chose them anyway, because he also knew that there would always be a faithful remnant who would turn to him with believing hearts, who would keep the messianic hope alive, and who would turn to the Messiah when he came.

Thus God’s foreknowledge of his people included a foreknowledge of their persistent rebellion as well as a foreknowledge of a faithful remnant. The latter is the main point (Vol. 2 209).

It appears that Cottrell makes a difference here between himself and Lard’s explanation, which has no substance. Paul’s next example in verses 2-5 reveals that it is the remnant that is in focus. The overarching point is that God has not cast away His people. Those Jews who have obeyed the gospel, who believe in the Messiah, do not stand rejected.

God has not cast away His people. Rather most of the Jews have rejected Him. His true people, however, have always been represented by the faithful remnant in Israel. Furthermore, as we shall see, any Jew who so desires may cross over from unbelief to faith, from rejection to acceptance, from the cast away to the faithful remnant. All that is required is faith in Jesus as the Messiah.

Wot ye not what the scripture saith: Literally, the question is: "Or do you not know what the Scripture says" (NKJV). It implies a positive answer as in: "Surely you know, do you not?"

of Elias: Literally, this phrase reads "in Elias." It is of interest because Elijah did not write any of the Old Testament books. The Jews of Paul’s day, however, had a way of locating passages in the Old Testament quickly, even though the Bible had not yet been divided into chapters and verses. They divided the scriptures into sections or paragraphs, called Parashah. Rather than numbering these sections, they gave them titles that described their content—like subheadings in our modern translations. Other New Testament examples of this method of location can be observed in Mark 12:26 and Luke 20:37. The passage titled "Elijah" runs from 1 Kings 17:1 through 2 Kings 2:11. Bible students in Paul’s day would have readily recognized this reference. He then goes on to specify the particular part of the Elijah passage where Elijah appealed to God against Israel. This method of scripture location may seem cumbersome to our modern number-oriented filing systems, but it implies a readership more familiar with the scriptures than most people today. In order to use this system, one had to possess an overall knowledge of the content of God’s word. Would to God that Christians today had such an estimate of God’s word.

how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying: This is an unusual usage of the verb "maketh intercession" (e)ntugxa/nei). It means:

To fill in with, …to have converse with, address; to address or apply to anyone, Acts 25:24; …to intercede for anyone, plead the case of, Romans 8:27; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25; …to address a representation or suit against anyone, to accuse, complain of, Romans 11:2 (AGLP 146).

Ordinarily, we think of making intercession or appealing on behalf of someone as a positive thing, but here Elijah is presented as appealing to God "urgently and intensely" (LN 1:408) against the people of his own nation. Elijah made such complaints because they had so completely followed Ahab and Jezebel in the idolatrous worship of Baal.

Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars: Elijah is frustrated almost beyond words because of Ahab and Jezebel’s successful introduction of Baal worship in Israel (1 Kings 16:31-32). Right on the heels of Elijah’s euphoric victory over the prophets of Baal in the great debate on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:16-46), Elijah was plunged into the depths of despair because of Jezebel’s threat to his life. As a result, he fled to a cave on Mount Horeb to hide (1 Kings 19:1-9). There God twice asked him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" (1 Kings 19:9; 1 Kings 19:13). Cottrell observes:

Elijah’s words sum up his perception of the religious crisis facing Israel at that time. God’s prophets were certainly being killed on Jezebel’s orders (1 Kings 18:4), and the altars were being demolished (1 Kings 18:30-32). Elijah’s lament that he was "the only one left," even if it refers to prophets and not just true believers in general, is surely an exaggeration reflecting more his mood of despair than the facts as he knew them (see 1 Kings 18:13; 1 Kings 18:22) (Vol. 2 211).

and I am left alone, and they seek my life: Elijah had reached such depths of despair as to believe that he alone constituted the remnant of faithful believers in Israel. The words "left alone" (u(pelei/fqhn mo/no$) appear only here in the New Testament. It is akin to two other words both translated "remnant" lei=mma 11:5 and kata/leimma 9:27. All of these refer to those left behind in reference to those who have gone on and away from the way of God (see Cottrell Vol. 2 211; AGLP 421, 256).

But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal: Cottrell says:

In order to shake Elijah out of his black mood, God gave him a demonstration of his solemn majesty (1 Kings 19:11-13) and some concrete instructions (1 Kings 19:15-17). He added the firm yet gentle reminder that Elijah was not alone; there were seven thousand other true worshipers of Yahweh in Israel (1 Kings 19:18) (Vol. 2 211).

God told Elijah that he was wrong about how many faithful Israelites remained. Incidental to Paul’s argument is the observation Lard draws from this response of God. Lard says:

From this we see that even inspired men, when giving expression to their mere feelings and not speaking for God, may be wrong. How much more then, the uninspired when they now ask, Has God wholly rejected his people? (348).

In his reply to Elijah, God did not say, as Calvinists suggest, that God had unconditionally elected and predestinated these seven thousand in an eternal decree before the dawn of time. The record clearly indicates that the acceptance of these seven thousand was conditioned on their not having bowed the knee to Baal. God is simply informing Elijah that he is not the only one who has been faithful. In his omniscience and omnipresence, God had identified seven thousand true worshipers. He had separated this group from the rest. They were the ones God still kept in His saving grace and in close fellowship to Himself. These were the ones God had reserved in Israel for Himself. They were "his people" in a spiritual sense. That remnant in that day constituted the true Israel (9:6b), and the rest belonged to Baal. Thus, God did not reject Israel. Most of Israel rejected God, but God still counted those who sought Him in faith as His own.

Verse 5

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

Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant: The reference to the remnant of Elijah’s day indicates there had always been a faithful remnant in Israel. But the thrust of Paul’s example is that the situation in Elijah’s time was analogous to the situation in Paul’s day. Just as there was a faithful remnant in Israel then; there is a faithful remnant at the present time (when Paul wrote this letter). It is conclusive, then, that God has not rejected His people. God’s faithfulness to His word and His promises is once more placed above question. If any Jew stands rejected or even if most Jews stand rejected, it is not because God has rejected them but because they have rejected the conditions of God’s acceptance. In other words, they have rejected God. Whiteside comments:

Paul’s language seems to indicate that there had always been some in Israel that were acceptable to Jehovah. [However, verse 5—AWB] refers to those Jews who had become obedient to Christ. God had rejected the whole Jewish system and would soon destroy what government Rome had so far left to them; but he had not barred the door of salvation against any Jew that became obedient to the gospel of grace through Christ. Under this system of grace he makes no distinction between Jew and Gentile (225).

according to the election of grace: Anyone recognized by God as a part of the faithful remnant in any time came to be so because of God’s choice or election on the basis of grace. This choice by God’s grace is not, as the Calvinist claims, the result of an unconditional election conducted in eternity past. For instance, it is not as Murray says, "This description of the source shows of itself that the differentiation finds its whole explanation in the sovereign will of God and not in any determination proceeding from the will of man (Vol. 2 70).

It is true that this election is according to the sovereign will of God, for God has "mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth" (9:18). It is not true that God’s will is either capricious or unconditional with respect to salvation. The question is not whether or not He extends mercy according to His own will on whomever He pleases. Nor is it whether or not He hardens men according to His own will. The question is: On whom does God confer His mercy? Or whom does God harden? And what are the conditions upon which God will either extend mercy or harden? Cottrell observes:

Being a part of the saved remnant (spiritual Israel) is not a matter of physical birth as a Jew; no ethnic Israelite has an inherent claim to salvation. Being a part of the remnant is a matter of God’s choice, and he has the sovereign right to establish the basis or criterion by which he chooses some Israelites rather than others. Thus the election is according to choice, not birth (Vol. 2 214-215).

God has chosen in His sovereignty to extend His grace to all Jews and Gentiles who would of their own free will choose to believe in His Son—believe enough to forsake their former lives and yield in total compliance to the gospel of Christ (9:23-24).

The fact that God is willing to extend His mercy upon the condition of faith rather than on the demands of sinless obedience required by the law of Moses shows just how faithful He is to His word, His promises and His people. He is willing to save them in spite of their sins.

Verse 6

And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

if by grace, then is it no more of works: The faithful Jews who have been saved or elected have been saved by grace rather than by their own works of merit (Romans 1-4). There are only two kinds of righteousness: absolute righteousness and declared righteousness. Absolute righteousness is righteousness like God has or Jesus has. It is righteousness that is earned by merit—righteousness that is absolutely sinless. No man who has ever sinned—even one time—has such righteousness. Salvation under the law was offered only on the basis of absolute sinless perfection. In the first three chapters of Romans, however, Paul has effectively argued that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (3:23). Declared righteousness, on the other hand, is righteousness that is granted by God’s decree. It is righteousness that is given on the basis of grace. God has offered such righteousness to any person, Jew or Gentile, who will submit to the conditions of faith in Jesus Christ. When a person places his faith in Jesus and obeys these conditions, God graciously declares that person to be righteous. Can it be said that the person in any way has earned or merited such a decree? Of course not! Whiteside has "hit the nail on the head":

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. If a man’s works had always been perfect he would have no sins to be forgiven; he would stand justified on his own merit. There is no grace when a man merits justification. Works by which a man merits justification, and commands which one must obey to be saved are distinct matters (225).

otherwise grace is no more grace: Paul’s argument to those Jews standing outside of God’s grace is that God has not cast away His people. To the contrary, many Jews have been saved and even now (in Paul’s day) there is a faithful remnant of the nation that has been saved by grace. But if salvation has come to them on the basis of grace, it cannot come on the basis of meritorious works of law. To reason so would take the grace (unmerited favor) out of grace.

But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work: Much misunderstanding and false teaching has resulted from the erroneous idea that by "works" Paul means "anything a person does." Such a view is Calvinistic; and, under such an interpretation, not only do repentance, confession, and baptism become "works" but also faith becomes a work because it is a decision of one’s will. Amazing as it may seem, it is in this manner that thorough-going Calvinists declare even faith as a grace-canceling work. For example, Murray says, "If grace is conditioned in any way by human performance or by the will of man impelling to action, then grace ceases to be grace" (Vol. 2 270). Moo says that grace cannot be conditioned on anything a person does because if it is then grace would not be free:

For grace demands that God be perfectly free to bestow his favor on whomever he chooses. But if God’s election were based on what human beings do, his freedom would be violated and he would no longer be acting in grace (678).

Moo goes on to acknowledge that Paul distinguishes works from faith but declares nevertheless that:

Paul’s conception of God’s grace…would seem to rule out anything outside God’s own free will as a basis for his action. To make election ultimately dependent on the human decision to believe violates Paul’s notion of the grace of God…God’s grace is the efficient cause of salvation, human faith being not its basis but its result (679, footnote 43).

This Calvinistic approach to the distinction Paul makes between grace and works is fraught with fundamental error. First of all, it includes far more in the category of works than Paul intends. Contextually, Paul means only the works of the law or works of merit which earn salvation. Secondly, such reasoning is flawed because the extension of God’s grace, conditioned upon certain human deeds, in no way violates God’s freedom in bestowing grace. Calvinists need to remember how much they have droned on about God’s sovereignty. If God is sovereign (and who can doubt that He is?), then He is free to attach whatever conditions he pleases to the bestowal of His grace. Who are those men who dare to say what God can or cannot do without violating His own sovereign freedom? It is God who has freely chosen to attach the conditions of faith, repentance, and baptism to the bestowal of His grace, and what shall mere men say about it? Besides, the conditions God has attached to the extension of His grace are completely consistent with the nature of grace. Whiteside says:

A man has no real understanding of either works or grace when he thinks conditions of forgiveness make salvation a matter of works and not of grace. Nothing that a sinner can do merits salvation. Many things are of grace, and yet conditional. Is anyone so simple as to think Naaman’s healing of leprosy was any less a matter of grace because he had to dip seven times in the river Jordan? Is any so blind that he cannot see that giving sight to the blind man was a matter of grace, even though he had to go and wash in the pool of Siloam? If so, he needs his eyes opened as badly as did the blind man (226).

In this verse, Paul summarizes the primary argument of the entire epistle: The only way for a sinner to be saved is by grace through faith. No person can ever be justified by a system of law—not natural law or moral law or Moses’ law. Law cannot take sinners and make them "not lawbreakers." It is not in the province of law to do so. Law can do only three things:

1. Point out what is right and wrong.

2. Point out who has done wrong.

3. Legislate a penalty for the lawbreaker.

It cannot justify a sinner. These two systems of justification—law and grace—are mutually exclusive. One must either choose to pursue God’s righteousness that comes by grace through faith or he must pursue personal righteousness by sinless perfection and works of merit for his salvation. If he chooses the latter, he must rely on himself alone. If he chooses the former, he must trust in and obey Jesus. It is impossible to be justified under both systems. As Cottrell concludes:

Any trust in the worthiness of one’s own achievements or the merit of one’s own accomplishments is simply incompatible with grace. Trying to get to heaven by being "good enough" nullifies the way of grace (Vol. 2 218).

Verse 7

What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.

What then: This verse sums up the argument thus far. "What then" is the upshot of verses 2-6? What shall we now say or what inference shall we receive from this discussion about whether or not God has cast away His people whom He foreknew?

Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for: Notice the tension here between "Israel" and "the election." Both groups are Jews. "The election" refers to "the remnant" mentioned in verse 5—that is, those Jews since the day of Pentecost who had chosen of their own free will to accept and obey the gospel. "Israel," by contrast, refers to the nation in general, that is, the vast majority of Jews who had rejected Jesus Christ as the Messiah and the gospel as God’s power to save. It should be noted, however, that Paul speaks of the nation in general as the aggregate of all those in Israel who were unbelieving Jews. In other words, they were "the others" or "the rest" in contrast to "the elect" or the "remnant." This designation of "Israel" for all unbelieving Jews was also used in Romans 9:30 to Romans 10:3. What was it that the majority in Israel were seeking but not finding? Chapter nine, verse 30, says it was "righteousness." The reason they did not find what they were so ardently seeking was that they sought it upon the wrong basis. They sought righteousness based upon their own merit derived from their own personal works. They did not seek righteousness upon the basis of faith; and, consequently, they did not find it.

but the election hath obtained it: Those Jews who "submitted" themselves unto the righteousness of God did obtain righteousness because they sought it on the proper basis—that is, by faith in Jesus and by the works that faith produces as opposed to works of merit.

and the rest were blinded: "Blinded" (e)pwrw/qhsan) is derived from pwro/w which means "to petrify; to harden; in N.T. to harden the feelings, John 12:40 passively to become callous, unimpressible, Mark 6:52; Mark 8:17; Romans 11:7; 2 Corinthians 3:14" (AGLP 361).

Sanday and Headlam explain in more detail:

The verb pwro/w (derived from pw=ros: a callus or stone formed in the bladder) is a medical term used in Hippocrates and elsewhere of a bone or hard substance growing when bones are fractured or of a stone forming in the bladder. Hence metaphorically it is used in the N.T., and apparently there only of the heart becoming hardened or callous…The idea is in all these places the same, that a covering has grown over the heart, making men incapable of receiving any new teaching however good, and making them oblivious of the wrong they are doing (314).

Clearly, the idea is more that of being hardened than that of being blinded. Cottrell says Sanday and Headlam’s definition of this word must be tempered. Later in this chapter, Paul says such hardening is not absolute, for if the Jews abide not in unbelief they may yet be grafted back into the olive tree (11:23) (Vol. 2 220).

By whom the unbelieving Jews were hardened is not made clear in this verse. The verb is a "colorless passive" laying no stress on its cause (Sanday and Headlam 314). Some writers opine that their hardening comes about "through their own rejection, choosing rather to obey Satan than the grace of God" (Don DeWelt 176). This view is certainly a biblically defensible understanding, according to a host of passages (Exodus 8:15; Exodus 8:32; Hebrews 3:8; Hebrews 3:15; Hebrews 4:7). Others identify Satan as the culprit of the hardening. They say God allowed Satan to behave in this manner (Lard 351; McGarvey-Pendleton 451; Godet 398). This, too, is a plausible view. Contextually, it seems clear that God is the one who is primarily responsible for their hardening. He did not do so, however, by some eternal decree in the distant eternity past. Rather, it happened to Israel as it happened to Pharaoh (9:17-18; Exodus 3-12; see the discussion on 9:17). God reveals Himself in the person of His Son. He promises great and innumerable blessings to those who would believe in Jesus. And by the same token, He threatens unspeakable retribution to those who reject God’s way offered by Jesus Christ. Jesus, however, did not fit the preconceived notions of most of the Jews as to the identity of the Messiah. Consequently, they chose to reject the gospel. As a result of their willful rejection in the face of overwhelming proof of God’s love, God hardened them. Or, which is the same, He allowed Satan to harden them as they hardened themselves. Israel was not hardened so that they could not believe. Rather the Jews hardened themselves refusing to believe and as a result God hardened them even more—exactly as happened in the case of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. Cottrell and those he cites are correct:

Thus the divine hardening is not the cause of their rejection of the gospel, but a punishment for it. They were hardened because they deserved it; it was retribution (v9) for their sin. It was "a judicial penalty for refusal to heed the Word of God" (Bruce, 215; see Lenski, 686). "God has judicially blinded those of this chosen people who willfully blind themselves to Him," says MacArthur (2:101). "God hardens only those hearts who, in rejecting His gracious offer of righteousness, harden themselves to His grace" (MacArthur 103) (Vol. 2 221).

It is wonderful how God’s plan always causes the truly free choices of men to work to the accomplishment of His will. Israel is deservedly hardened as a recompense for her willful unbelief. But there is also a less obvious reason that God hardened the Jews. It has to do with His plan to bring them around to accepting the gospel and being grafted back into their own olive tree. He hopes to turn them from rejection to faith in Christ. God uses them as He has used many nations to carry out His redemptive purposes. As Paul explains in detail, God uses the hardening of the Jews as the occasion to bring the Gentiles into the faith so that the Gentiles’ salvation may again in turn be the means for bringing the hardened Jews themselves to faith in Jesus Christ. Of course, this plan is contingent on the free will choices of people and therefore is only potential in nature. Nevertheless, if people stay attuned to the working of God’s will, they may be saved—Jew or Gentile.

Verse 8

(According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.

Paul draws from two passages in the Old Testament—Deuteronomy 29:4 and Isaiah 29:10—to reinforce what he has just asserted about the hardening of the Jews’ hearts. It is clear from this quotation that God is the one ultimately responsible for Israel’s hardened state. Just as with Pharaoh (see 9:17-18). God actively hardened Israel only after her own self-hardening had set in; He did so by giving those who had rejected Jesus a "spirit of slumber." The word "slumber" (katanu/cew$) means "deep sleep, stupor, or dullness" (AGLP 225). Louw and Nida define it: "A state of not being able to think satisfactorily because of complete bewilderment and stupor (Vol. 1 352). Cottrell further clarifies:

The word for "stupor" suggests not so much a deep sleep as a state of numbness, of being bewildered and stunned. The word is kata/nuci$ and probably comes from katanu/ssw which means "to strike violently, to stun"…Sometimes a person who has been struck on the head may seem to be fully conscious but is mentally confused and unaware of his surroundings. Just so, says Paul (as did Isaiah before him), God has enveloped Israel in a state of spiritual numbness in "an attitude of deadness towards spiritual things"… in a "mental and moral dullness or apathy" (Vol. 2 223).

Most likely the word "spirit" does not refer to a demonic spirit, which God permitted to blind Israel in a spiritual sense, although precedents for such appear in scripture (1 Samuel 18:10; 1 Kings 22:20-23). Probably the meaning is more that of an attitude or state of mind. Because of Israel’s willful ignorance, God has responded by covering their spiritual eyes and stopping up their spiritual ears.

The phrase "unto this day" appears to be a part of the citation of Deuteronomy 29:4, but it may also be Paul’s comment that Israel is still fumbling under the same spiritual blindness and deafness that caused them to reject the Messiah and crucify Him (Matthew 13:14-15; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15). This condition is not necessarily permanent (11:11-32). It might be counteracted if the Jews decide to reconsider their rejection of Christ. Whether such actually happens in the life of any Jew remains to be seen. Such a restoration of sight and hearing is possible, conditioned upon an obedient faith in Jesus.

Verses 9-10

And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them: Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.

These verses are cited from the LXX rendering of Psalms 69:22-23, which is widely recognized by the inspired writers of the New Testament as a Messianic Psalm. Psalms 69 is cited in the New Testament seven times (Matthew 27:34; Matthew 27:48; John 2:17; John 15:25; Acts 1:20; Romans 15:3; plus this passage). The Psalm is clearly imprecatory. David prays fervently for God to deliver him from his enemies and to mete out the punishment his enemies deserve. Paul applies the Psalm to the Jews of his day who have rejected Jesus and the gospel, emphasizing the hardening of the Jews because of their persistent unbelief. In Acts 13:46, Paul says such people judged themselves unworthy of eternal life. As Whiteside observes "In clinging to the law and rejecting Christ the Jews were wearing a yoke which they were not able to bear (Acts 15:10). Their course brought upon themselves the destruction of their nation and hard servitude" (227).

In citing David’s Psalm, Paul prays for three curses to fall on these enemies of the cross.

1. Let their table become a snare, a trap, and a stumblingblock. Their "table" probably stands for the Old Testament in general with its sacrifices on the altar and its eating of the sacrificial meals. Instead of allowing the law to lead them to Christ (Galatians 3:24), as God intended, their devotion to that law became a trap, a snare, and a stumblingblock to them. Sanday and Headlam remark:

The image is that of men feasting in careless security and overtaken by their enemies, owing to the very prosperity which ought to be their strength. So to the Jews the Law and those Scriptures wherein they trusted are to become the very cause of their fall and the snare or hunting-net in which they are caught (315).

2. Let their eyes be darkened so they cannot see. This curse is in accord with the stupor of verse 8 and the hardening of verse 7.

Let their backs be bent forever. Sanday and Headlam say:

3. May their eyes become blind so that they have no insight, and their backs bent like men who are continually groping about in the dark! They are to be like those described by Plato as fast bound in the cave even if they are brought to the light they will only be blinded by it, and will be unable to see. The judgment upon them is that they are ever to be bent down with the weight of the burden which they have willfully taken on their backs (315-316).

The purpose of Paul’s citation of the verses from Psalms 69 is found in the last phrase of verse 9: "and a recompence to them." Recompense (a)ntapo/doma) means "requital, recompense, retribution" (AGLP 32). The unbelieving Jews are being punished for their lack of spiritual insight by being given over to blind trust in their own law (2 Corinthians 3:14-16). In fitting punishment, God grants them their wish. The blindness that came upon the Jews was their own fault. This hardening of unbelieving Israel is judicial in its nature. They got what they deserved.

Verse 11

I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.

I say then: These words mark a new stage in Paul’s argument. He is still answering the question of verse 1: "Hath God cast away his people?" He has supported his emphatic and unequivocal negative (verse 1b) by establishing the existence of "a remnant according to the election of grace" (1-6). But questions remain about the majority of Jews who are not part of the remnant because they continue in unbelief since they have been hardened (verses 7-10). Thus the question about the ultimate fate of hardened Israel arises. As Sanday and Headlam pose it, "I ask then as to this majority whose state the prophets have thus described" (320).

Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: It is important to keep in mind those of whom Paul is speaking in this argument. He is not referring to Israel as a nation when he says, "they." Rather he has reference to that large majority of individual Jews who have so far rejected Jesus Christ as the Messiah and have subsequently been hardened.

The first verb "stumbled" (e&ptaisan) is the aorist form of ptai/w, which means "to lose one’s footing, stumble, trip…Romans 11:11. The ’stumbling’ means to make a mistake, go astray, sin" (BDAG 894). The second verb "should fall" is the aorist subjunctive of pi/ptw, and it means "to experience loss of status or condition, fall, be destroyed…fall in a transcendent or moral sense, be completely ruined…fall from a state of grace Romans 11:11; Romans 11:22; Hebrews 4:11 (perhaps with reference to the final judgment)," (BDAG 815). It means to "come to ruin" (AGLP 329).

Paul’s dramatically charged answer, "God forbid," can be misconstrued. He is not denying that Israel has stumbled nor that she has fallen. The next phrase concedes a fall, and verse 22 reasserts it.

"Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God; on them which fell [Israelites] severity; but toward thee [Christian Gentiles] goodness." Verse 22 uses the same Greek word, pi/ptw, to say "that the Jews did fall." So, how shall we resolve this dilemma? Most scholars explain that the use of pi/ptw in verse 11 has a much stronger connotation than in verse 22. The New International Version says "to fall beyond recovery" (11:11). Sanday and Headlam re-word Paul’s question: "Is their failure of such a character that they will be finally lost, and cut off from the Messianic salvation?" (320). In other words, they ask whether or not Israel has fallen so as to be "completely and irrevocably lost" (321). Lard says the word in verse 11 is describing "a final fall or a fall without remedy" (354). Cottrell believes this view makes sense and fits the context: "Paul does imply that falling is more serious than merely stumbling. As Fitzneyer summarizes it, ’Israel has stumbled over Christ, but it has not fallen down completely so that it cannot regain its footing’ " (Vol. 2 228).

Cottrell joins several other scholars in observing that this view is not entirely satisfactory because it seems to be inconsistent with verse 22, which says Israel did fall—using the same Greek word pi/ptw. Out of concern for consistency, Cottrell, along with Murray (Vol. 2 75-76), Lenski (692), and McGuiggan (323), explains:

Paul’s No! is not intended to deny that they have fallen; it simply means that there is more to the story than this. They have not stumbled just for the purpose of falling, or with the simple result that they are now fallen and that’s that. No, Paul’s whole point is that God has incorporated Israel’s stumbling and falling into a much larger and more glorious plan (Vol. 2 228).

While this caveat is true enough, it is unnecessary because the word that connects the two verbs of verse 11 clarifies the issue. The word is i%na and can imply either purpose or result. If Paul intends the former, then he is asking whether Israel stumbled in order that they might fall or for the purpose of falling. If this word is read in this way, then we must conclude that God deliberately caused Israel to fall. In other words, God had a purpose for causing Israel to stumble. Obviously, such a view accords well with the Calvinistic view of God’s sovereignty and the absence of man’s free will. For example, Murray writes of "the overriding and overruling design of God in the stumbling and fall of Israel" (Vol. 2 76). Such a view, however, is totally at odds with the biblical view of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. Contextually (that is both the immediate and remote contexts), i%na must be taken as stating a result rather than a purpose, and "fall" must be taken in the sense of irrevocable ruin; so, the understanding is that hardened Israel has stumbled in rejecting "Jesus as the Messiah" with the result that they have fallen (verse 22) but not irrevocably so (verse 11). As Paul unfolds the rest of the story, the true picture of God’s sovereignty is amazing as it interacts with man’s truly free will; and we begin to understand Paul’s astonishment and wonder at the awesome display of God’s wisdom in working out this phase of the scheme of redemption (11:33-36).

but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles: A third word here describes Israel’s current state as a result of their rejection of Jesus. The word is paraptw/mati, and it means "in imagery of one making a false step so as to lose footing: a violation of moral standards, offense, wrongdoing, sin…ordinarily of offenses against God" (BDAG 770). Cottrell notes:

It may be useful to bring together and analyze the variety of terms Paul uses to describe Israel’s downfall. It seems that he distinguishes three steps in the process, the first two of which are attributable to the sinner’s will and the last of which is an act of God. The first step is the sin of rejecting God’s way of grace, most significantly the initial sin of rejecting Jesus as the only Savior. The second step is falling out of a saving relationship with God and into a state of lostness. The third step is God’s placing those who have so fallen under his wrath and curse.

The first of these is what Paul means by "their transgression" ["fall"—KJV] It is the word para/ptwma which is "frequently used by Paul to denote ’trespass,’ ’sin’ (in the sense of a particular sinful deed)," as Cranfield says (2:555). It is the same as the stumbling in v. 11a, i.e., their stumbling over Christ (9:32-33), their rejection of Christ as the Messiah. It is called "unbelief" in vv. 20, 23, and "disobedience" in v. 30.

The second step is the Jews’ "fall" in v. 11a (see v. 22) also called their "loss" in v. 12. This is not so much an act of the sinner as the natural result of the first step (the unbelief).

The third step is God’s act of hardening (vv. 7 and 25), which is his punitive response to the first two steps. This is called his "rejection" of the Jews (v. 15), and his act of breaking off or cutting off the unbelieving branches (vv. 17, 19-20, 22).

In reference to the Jews’ downfall these three steps always go together; even when only one is mentioned the other two are assumed to be a part of the total picture. Thus here when Paul says, "because of their transgression," he does not mean the transgression alone, as distinct from the fall and the hardening. Rather because of the transgression along with the consequent fall and the divine hardening, salvation has come to the Gentiles (Vol. 2 229-230).

This phrase reveals something of the infinite reach of God’s intellect and evokes from Paul the doxology that closes chapter 11. God foreknew that the majority of the Jews would choose to reject Jesus as the Messiah. So, before the dawn of time, He determined to use the Jews’ unbelief and consequent fall as a means of bringing salvation to the Gentiles. His hope was that such good fortune for the Gentiles would cause the Jews to reconsider their decision, reform their lives, and obey the gospel. Israel’s stumbling was the occasion for redemption to be made available to the Gentiles. This process is reminiscent of Samson’s riddle. Cottrell observes: "Out of sin, salvation comes, Out of wrath, mercy comes" (Vol. 2 230).

Salvation came to the Gentiles by the normal evangelistic process revealed in the book of Acts. When the gospel was preached to the Gentiles in Acts chapter ten, it became increasingly evident that the fields of the Gentile world were "white unto harvest." And even though appeal continued to be made first to the Jews, when they rejected it, the preachers turned ever more readily to the spiritually hungry Gentile world.

for to provoke them to jealousy: In this phrase Paul reveals the second phase of God’s amazing plan to use the Jews’ rejection of Jesus to good purpose. Parry paraphrases verse 11:

Is the ruin of Israel the only and final result of their fall? Not at all; the immediate result is the offer of salvation to the Gentiles; this should rouse Israel to competition, and we can see that if Israel’s defeat has enriched the world, their restoration and completion may still enormously increase that gain. That is the end we may anticipate (144).

As Cranfield observes, "That hardening of which verse 7 spoke has for its ultimate purpose the salvation of those who are hardened" (Vol. 2 556). It is God’s intention that the calling of the Gentiles to salvation will cause the Jews to envy the Gentiles’ blessings and rouse them to action in order to attain the same blessings for themselves by submitting themselves to the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel (see Macknight Vol. 1 413). This idea is reminiscent of chapter ten, verse 19. The outcome of God’s plan now rests with the truly free choices to be made by Jewish individuals living in the Christian age.

In reply to those who would object that "jealousy" is always depicted as an evil attribute, both Macknight (Vol. 1 413) and Moulton and Milligan (453) cite evidence that the word parazhlw=sai is sometimes used in a good sense. Stott observes, "not all envy is tainted with selfishness because it is not always a grudging discontent or a sinful covetousness." He goes on to say that the essence of envy is the desire to have for oneself what is possessed by another. Whether that envy is good or bad depends on the nature of what is desired and whether or not the envious one has a right to possess it (297). In this case the salvation possessed by the Gentiles is something good. Furthermore, it is something God wants the Jews to have. And last, the Jews’ desire to have it will in no way diminish the Gentiles’ possession of it. Therefore, such jealousy is not an impure or unworthy motive for accepting the gospel.

Will the Jews actually be aroused to such jealousy and be persuaded to obey the gospel? In answer, we note that the first two steps in God’s plan have come to pass. The Jews did fall by their transgression (their failure to accept Jesus as the Messiah), and the Gentiles have received salvation. As a result, many believe that in the future the Jews will turn "en masse" to Christ; but a correct conclusion on this can only be drawn from the verses that follow.

Verse 12

Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?

Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles: The first two clauses of this verse reiterate the message of verse 11 and are used by Paul to set up the potential for the last clause.

The word "fall" (para/ptwma) means "what a person has done in transgressing the will and law of God by some false step or failure—’transgression, sin’… para/ptwma is used in a number of contexts in a way in which it appears to be equivalent in meaning to a(mavrthma or a(marti/a but it is possible that para/ptwma focuses more upon unpremeditated violation of God’s will and law" (LN Vol. 1 774).

The idea is that the transgression of the Jews in rejecting Jesus as the Messiah has resulted in great riches or salvation for the world (Gentiles) by providing the impetus to turn to the Gentiles with the gospel.

In the second clause, the word translated "the diminishing" is a key word upon which rests much of the weight of the false premillennial doctrine that predicts the conversion of Israel "en masse." King James’ translators were not helpful. The word is h%tthma, and it is often given a numerical connotation (diminishing, fewness, diminutiveness, reduction to a small number); but there is no justification for such a connotation. It comes from the word h%tthma which means "to be vanquished, be defeated, succumb" (BDAG 441). H%tthma means "loss" (BDAG 441). According to Perschbacher, it means "an inferiority, to a particular standard; default, failure, shortcoming" (AGLP 197). Cottrell observes that the notion of h%tthma carrying a numerical connotation is "mainly based on the assumption that the corresponding word in the next clause (’fulness’) is also numerical. But this [assumption—AWB] is wrong, especially since ’fulness’ itself should not be understood numerically. Also, it does not fit the context" (Cottrell Vol. 2 232).

What Paul is saying is that as a result of their rejection of Jesus, the Jews have suffered the loss of their relationship with God as well as the losses of the spiritual riches of Christ’s kingdom.

That "riches" refers to the spiritual riches of salvation and is thus equivalent to salvation is made clear in scripture (2:4; 9:23; 11:33; Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 2:7; Ephesians 3:8; Philippians 4:19).

But, "how did Israel’s fall or loss provide the riches of salvation to the Gentile world?" asks Lard. In answer he suggests seven ways in which Israel’s losses resulted in the riches of salvation for the Gentiles:

1. The fall of the Jews was followed by their dispersion among all nations. In this dispersion they carried with them and disseminated the idea of one true and living God. By this fact alone, the world was immeasurably benefitted.

2. Though the Jews repudiated Christ, they still showed all nations that their prophets foretold a Redeemer and accordingly taught them to look for one, thus familiarizing the world’s mind with the idea of a Savior and caused them to expect Him.

3. Wherever the Jews went, they struck a fatal blow at idolatry, thus purifying the popular mind and preparing it for better views of God.

4. The Jews taught all nations their true origin in Adam, and thus corrected their false histories. With this correction, a world of myths and fables disappeared.

5. They gave the world true knowledge about the origin of sin and the fall of man.

6. They carried with them, in the laws of Moses, the finest system of civil polity and equity in the world, and thus aided in forming the civilization of all enlightened nations.

7. Their prophets had foretold their downfall in case they rejected Christ. Thus, wherever they went, they became the living proof that those prophecies were true (Lard 356-357).

Luke, author of the book of Acts, provides a graphic illustration of how the Jews’ rejection of Jesus brought about the offering of the riches of the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 13:44-49; Acts 19:8-10).

how much more their fulness: In this verse and particularly in this last phrase, many interpreters see the conversion of all Israel on a national scale. But Paul envisions no such idea here. To that end, it is important to note that in the Greek there are no verbs at all and consequently no tenses. Therefore, it is a mistake fraught with grave consequences to assign time—either past or future—to any of those three clauses.

Literally, this final clause of verse 12 is "how much more their fullness" (NKJV Greek – English Interlinear 570). The clause contains no verb. The words po/sw ma=llon clearly indicate a comparison between the first two clauses and this one. It is often assumed that "riches" is being compared to "more riches." In other words, the suggestion is that if the Jews’ transgression and loss bring riches to the Gentiles, then their fullness will bring them even greater riches.

In view of the other uses of po/sw ma=llon in the New Testament, it is unlikely that a comparison of "riches" to "greater riches" is under consideration. It is much more likely that the argument reasons from the lesser to the greater because in six of its eight New Testament occurrences the phrase po/sw ma=llon means "how much more likely it is that" (Matthew 7:11; Matthew 10:25; Luke 11:13; Luke 12:28; Romans 11:24; Hebrews 9:14; Luke 12:25; Philemon 1:16). The usage in Romans 11:24 is identical to the one here (Cottrell Vol. 2 233). The meaning is thus: If the Jews’ transgression and loss means riches to the Gentiles, how much more likely it is that the Jews’ fullness of salvation means riches for themselves.

Interpreters often opt for the comparison idea of "riches" to greater riches because it facilitates their idea of some great eschatological event like the conversion of Israel "en masse." But when we see that po/sw ma=llon is not introducing "greater riches" versus the simple "riches" of the Gentiles’ salvation and when we realize that the clause contains no verb and consequently no future aspect, then the basis for a large conversion of Jews or a national conversion is stripped away.

But what is meant by the Jews’ "fulness"? The reference is to a qualitative fullness rather than a quantitative fullness. It refers to spiritual fullness or being filled with all the abundance of salvation. Some argue that "fulness" refers to the full number of Jews, but when fullness appears elsewhere in the New Testament it does not refer to "full number" but rather to completeness or abundance (see John 1:16; Romans 15:29; Ephesians 1:23; Ephesians 3:19; Ephesians 4:13). Furthermore, the meaning of completeness or abundance is more consistent with the context of verses 11 and 12. Since by the transgression of the Jews salvation has come to the Gentiles and thus Gentiles have reason to rejoice, Paul hopes that the Gentiles’ riches of salvation will cause Jews to reconsider and accept the gospel. If they do become believers, how much more likely it is that their complete salvation will result in their rich blessedness. As McGuiggan says, "Israel by unbelief lost blessings. Israel by faith would be fully blessed" (324). McGuiggan goes on to say:

There is no ground in the text whatever for supposing that "fullness" is somewhat equivalent to a conversion of Jews "on a national scale" "or on a scale commensurate with their rejection" (numerically speaking). Neither the word "trespass" nor the word "loss" suggests numbers at all. Neither of these words even suggest how many Jews are rejected or how many were hardened. These are not numerical terms and to bring in numbers as the antithesis of them is clearly an error… "Fulness" speaks of a rich state of blessedness as opposed to "loss" which speaks of a state of missed blessings and misery (324).

Verses 13-14

For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.

For I speak to you Gentiles: The churches in Rome are made up of both Jews and Gentiles, but Paul directs this argument specifically to the Gentile believers for two reasons: First, the extended argument from chapter 9 verse 1 has been largely directed at the Jews, and Paul does not want the Gentiles to disregard his words as of little consequence to them. He does not want them to think he has forgotten the primary focus of his ministry. He wants them to understand that this discussion applies to Gentiles as well as Jews. Sanday and Headlam summarize this phrase:

St. Paul remembers that the majority of his readers are Gentiles. He has come to a point where what he has to say touches them nearby; he therefore shows parenthetically how his love for his countrymen, and his zeal in carrying out his mission to the Gentiles, combine towards predicting the same end. "Do not think that what I am saying has nothing to do with you Gentiles. It makes me even more zealous in my work for you" (323-324).

inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles: Paul reminds the Gentiles that he has been marked out by God as the apostle charged with preaching the gospel to the Gentiles (Galatians 1:15-16; Acts 9:15; Acts 26:16-19; Galatians 2:7-9). This does not mean that Paul never preaches to the Jews (Acts 11:20-30; Acts 13:5; Acts 13:14-49; Acts 14:1; Acts 17:1-4; Acts 17:10; Acts 17:17; Acts 18:4; Acts 18:19; Acts 19:8 et al.). It simply means that the primary focus of his ministry is to preach to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:7-8; Ephesians 3:1-8).

I magnify mine office: Paul brings praise, honor, and glory to God in the exercise of his ministry. In God’s all-seeing wisdom, this powerful minister to the Gentiles is the tool used to provoke the Jews to jealousy by his preaching to the Gentiles. Paul works all the harder in his ministry with Gentiles because not only do Gentiles reap the benefits of such labors but also Jews may be led to Christ.

Verse 14

If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.

Paul fervently hopes that by preaching the gospel to the Gentiles and by their acceptance of it, he can provoke the Jews to jealousy so that they will desire the same riches of salvation conferred on obedient Gentiles. He hopes the Jews will emulate the Gentiles by obeying the gospel; however, he does not have the same optimism as many in our day that they will turn to Christ on a national scale. Instead Paul hopes to "save some of them." Paul is not revealing predictive prophecy in these verses. He sees no future whole scale conversion to Christ by the Jews.

The correct rendering of "If by any means I may" (ei& pw$) is "in the hope that I may somehow…." (Cottrell Vol. 2 238). Rogers and Rogers agree, saying, "ei& pw$ …if by means …indicates hesitant expectation" (357). When Paul says he pursues his ministry in the hope that he may somehow save some, he understands that this process will not be automatic and that it will not convert every Jew or even most of them. His expression is one of hesitant expectation because he knows from experience that the salvation of every individual Jew is too much to hope for. He is aware that unbelieving Jews of his generation are hardened and strongly resistant to the gospel. But more telling, he knows that every man is a free moral agent and must choose to become a Christian of his own free will. Therefore, he speaks in the language of potentiality and in the modest hope of "some" of his nation being saved. Any Jew may be saved and enjoy the same riches that believing Gentiles have, but in order for that to happen he must accept Jesus as the Messiah and the gospel as God’s plan of salvation.

Verse 15

For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?

For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world: Verse 15 is Paul’s summation of this paragraph. The first part of the verse focuses on the spiritual riches enjoyed by the Gentiles, brought about by the Jews’ unbelief and rejection (verses 11-12). The second part of the verse focuses on the salvation of those individual Jews who might be converted by the gospel. Their salvation is brought about by their own jealousy of the Gentiles’ acceptance by God (verses 13-14).

The word "casting away" (a)pobolh) means "a casting off; rejection, reprobation, Romans 11:15; loss; deprivation, of life, Acts 27:22" (AGLP 41). The meaning of this phrase is similar to that of verse 12 "if the fall of them." The apparent contradiction with verses 1 and 2 arises. Verse 1 clearly says that God has not cast away his people. But this verse says He has cast away the Jews. The solution, however, is not difficult if we keep three things in mind:

1. God’s "people," whom He has not cast away, are different from the Jews, whom He has cast away. God’s "people" in verses 1 and 2 are those Jews who belong to the faithful remnant—that is, those individual ethnic Jews who believe in Jesus as the Messiah and who obey the gospel. Whereas, those Jews whom God has cast away are all of those individual ethnic Jews who refuse to believe in Jesus and who have rejected the gospel.

2. The entire discussion in this chapter is referring to Jews as individuals and not as groups or as a nation.

3. It must be recognized that there is no future tense verb in the original text and thus no reason to expect these phrases to anticipate "some stupendous eschatological event."

God has not rejected the Jews as such from salvation. Proof of that is evident in His acceptance of the thousands of Jews who were converted in the early days of the church as well as during the first forty years of the church’s existence (Acts 2:38-41; Acts 4:4; Acts 5:14; Acts 6:7; Acts 8:6; Acts 8:12-13; Acts 9:20). God did reject those Jews who chose of their own free will to reject the gospel (Acts 13:44-46).

God is no longer dealing with Israel as a nation. Once Israel had performed the service for which she was elected—the bringing of the Messiah into the world—God was no longer interested in her national existence as His "chosen people." He was interested in Israel as individual Jews who might choose to obey the gospel.

Those who did become Christians, God continued to regard as His people. Those who did not, He cast off or rejected. But even so, God did not reject any individual Jew so completely that he could not be saved if he would turn in faith and obedience to Jesus Christ as his Savior.

This casting away of the unbelieving Jews resulted in the "reconciling of the world"—that is, the Gentiles. The word "reconciling" (katallagh), means "the reestablishment of an interrupted or broken relationship" (BDAG 521), stands as a synecdoche (naming a part of the process of salvation in order to suggest the whole process). The point is identical to that made in the first two clauses of verse 12. The reference is to the establishing of peace and friendship between individual Gentile believers and God, which occurs as each one is saved by his obedience to the gospel. It is the subjective reconciliation of the believer to God that is under consideration. This fact emphasized above that Paul is contemplating the salvation of individuals and not of any group.

what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead: Again, there is no future tense verb in the first clause that might lead us to expect some future event. Literally we have "what the acceptance." The question is: If the rejection by God of unbelieving Jews resulted in the salvation of the believing Gentiles, what would be God’s acceptance of repentant Jews into a saving relationship with Him if not "life from the dead"?

Many scholars see this "acceptance" as a great end-time conversion of the Jews as a nation or at least "en masse." There is no compelling reason, however, other than their own presuppositions for such a conclusion. In verse 12 "fulness" does not carry this meaning of a mass conversion but instead refers to the salvation of individual Jews, which was an ongoing occurrence even as Paul wrote the letter (verse 14). Also, the "rejection" of the first clause of verse 15 refers to unbelieving Jews as individuals and not to Jews as a nation. Therefore, the same is true of the "receiving of them" in this verse. There is no future tense verb in the Greek. Thus, it is reasonable to understand this acceptance of the Jews as referring to individual ongoing conversions actually occurring in Paul’s day and not to some great end-time event.

but life from the dead: This phrase, despite wild allegations by those predisposed to view this as an eschatological event, refers to the regeneration of the individual in his salvation from sin (6:4, 11; 8:10; Ephesians 2:1-5; Colossians 2:12). It is thus a part of the "salvation" and "riches" of verses 11 and 12, and it is in the same category as the "reconciliation" mentioned earlier in this verse. Cottrell says:

Thus we must see "life from the dead" as referring to the spiritual experience of regeneration, of passing over from the state of spiritual death to the state of spiritual life (John 5:24; Colossians 2:12-13). Paul may be including the Gentiles within the scope of this statement, but its main application is to the Jews themselves. I.e., if the Jews’ rejection results in reconciliation for the Gentiles, then the Jews’ reception results in their own resurrection to new life in Christ. See Lenski, 701-702; Hendriksen, 2:369. As McGuiggan says, "The Jewish ’received’ state is called ’life from the dead.’ It is the return of the prodigal in Luke 15. The boy had been lost and was therefore miserably unblessed; he had been ’dead’ and was now ’alive from the dead’" (327). Referring to 4:17, Wright says that the ’natural meaning of 11:15’ is this: ’When a Gentile comes unto the family of Christ it is as it were a creatio ex nihilo, but when a Jew comes in it is like a resurrection (Climax 248) (Vol. 2 244-245).

Verse 16

For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.

For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: In this verse we have two metaphors closing this paragraph making the point that any Jew who abides not in unbelief can still be saved if he will turn to Christ in obedience.

The first metaphor is taken from Numbers 15:17-21, where the Israelites were instructed, they came into the land God had promised them and had grown a crop of wheat to maturity, to offer the first bread they made as a sacrifice. The dedication of the first fruit implied God’s recognition of the whole crop.

In other passages Paul uses the term first fruits to designate the first converts in a particular place (16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:15). That being the focus, the first fruits here are the early converts in the founding days of the church (Acts 2-9); in other words, the Jewish Christian remnant. The "lump" refers to the Jews as a whole—especially those who are yet unbelieving and hardened.

The teaching is not that Israel will be saved on a "national scale" at some future time. Rather it means that if one Jew can be saved, then they all can. Lard says: "If the first Jewish Christians were accepted of God, the whole nation is capable of being accepted. They are not irrevocably rejected" (360). This is the same hope Paul offers throughout this paragraph when he refers to the "fulness" and "acceptance" of the Jews (verses 12 and 15).

The second metaphor describes the interdependent relationship between a tree’s root and its branches. Since the root is the tree’s source of water and nourishment, the condition of the root affects the status of the branches as well. It presents a slightly different message. The root stands for the nation of Israel as a whole, and its branches stand for the individual Jews living in the Christian Age. The meaning is that under the Old Testament God chose the nation of Israel to be the servant through whom He would work His redemptive plan (9:6-29). Even though that purpose has already been accomplished and now there is no longer a special purpose for Israel’s existence as a nation, God’s love and concern for "his Old Testament people" carries over into the New Testament era. Every branch—that is, every individual Jew—is just as personally precious and special to God today as was the rest of the nation of old. Again, the point Paul is driving home is that the door of salvation yet remains open to the hardened, unbelieving Jew. God hopes to add him to the faithful remnant if he will only believe. As Cottrell notes:

The point of the verse, then, is not to promise that Israel as a nation will be restored to its O.T. prominence, nor to guarantee that all Jews actually will be saved. Rather, it is to stress the fact that any and all Jews can be saved (v. 16a), and that God wants them to be saved (v 16b). Following up on this, the point of the next paragraph is to show exactly how they can be saved (Vol. 2 248).

Verses 17-18

And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.

In this new paragraph, Paul continues to use his metaphor of the olive tree introduced in verse 16. It is a metaphor of both judgment and hope. In it we see how the Lord’s church is related to Old Testament Israel and how Jews and Gentiles are related in the church. Verses 17-22 reveal a double warning to the Gentile Christians:

1. Do not allow yourselves to have an attitude of self-righteous superiority toward the unbelieving Jews.

2. Do not presume that you are any more immune to falling away than the Jews were.

Verses 23-24 provide an illustration as to how the fallen and hardened Jews can yet be saved.

The olive tree is an obvious choice for establishing these arguments for three reasons:

1. It is a familiar metaphor as both Jeremiah (11:16) and Hosea (14:6) compare God’s people to an olive tree.

2. Being the most widely cultivated fruit tree in the Mediterranean region, it would be something familiar to Paul’s initial audience.

3. It was a common practice to graft branches from one olive tree to another.

In general, the olive tree represents the people of God, including both Old Testament Israel and the New Testament church, composed of both Jews and Gentiles. As in verse 16, the root stands for Israel as a whole. It represents the nation throughout its history as God’s covenant servant. The root stands for the nation of Israel as she performed the service for which she was chosen—the bringing of the Messiah to the world—and not as a nation of saved people. It represents Israel in her role of fulfilling God’s redemptive purposes, culminating in the coming of the Messiah. Thus, the root includes all the blessings listed in Romans chapter nine verses 4 and 5.

But it is the branches of the tree that are in focus in the metaphor. The branches of this tree, as Paul expands the metaphor begun in verse 16, represent all of the saved individuals of the Christian Age. They are the new Israel of God (Galatians 6:16). So we have in this one picture the two Israels to which Romans 9:6 b alludes—the root is Old Testament or ethnic Israel and the branches are New Testament spiritual Israel. Herein lies the basis for one of Paul’s primary concerns in this section: the relationship between the two Israels is dependent upon what was accomplished by old Israel. The New Testament branches could have no existence apart from their Old Testament root.

While the meaning of the tree itself describes the relation between Old Testament Israel and the New Testament church, the agricultural imagery of pruning and grafting branches describes the salvation of Jews and Gentiles in the Christian Age. Jewish Christians are described as belonging naturally to the "cultivated" olive tree, whereas Gentile Christians are pictured as belonging by nature to a "wild" olive tree and being grafted into a cultivated tree.

Paul uses this grafting process to make two points:

1. Gentile Christians pictured as wild olive branches grafted into a cultivated tree have no room for boasting of their superiority over the Jewish branches who were pruned away. This idea is presented in verses 17-22, and Paul gives two reasons:

a. The Gentile Christians are dependent upon the Jewish root of the tree for their salvation and sustenance (18b).

b. Their being grafted in has occurred on account of their faith in Jesus and what He has done and not on the basis of any worthy merit of their own. Furthermore, if they turn away from Christ, they, too, will be cut off just like the unbelieving Jews were (verse 20-21).

2. Continuing the message of verses 11-16, the Jews who have been cut off because of their "unbelief are not hopelessly lost. They can still be saved if they do not remain unbelieving and hardened but instead come to place their faith in Christ. Paul teaches the lopped off branches how they can be saved by being grafted in again into their own olive tree, the New Testament church. He explains that this grafting is done branch by branch as individual Jews come to believe in the Messiah (verses 23-24). This process has nothing to do with any supposed national conversion or en masse conversion or future restoration of the Jews. Paul teaches that this re-grafting of individual Jews is open to all Jews anytime, anywhere, as individuals. The thing required of them is that they "persist not in unbelief" (verse 23). If they come to faith, they will become branches on the tree or members of the church of Christ. According to Paul, the key is having faith or lacking it. This is the consistent theme throughout the book of Romans. Sinners are saved by grace through faith and not by works of law or merit.

And if some of the branches be broken off: This is the beginning of an if-then clause. The "if" is here in verse 17 (properly called a protasis). The "then" clause, called an apodosis, is verse 18. This figure states an "if" clause, which is assumed to be true, and then announces the resultant "then" clause as what naturally follows. In other words, Paul begins by saying that some of the natural branches—individual Jews—have been cut off of the cultivated tree because of their unbelief. As a result, God has hardened their hearts and rejected them (9:15). When Paul says "some" Jews have been cut off, he is making a deliberate understatement. The fact was most of the Jews had rejected Jesus.

And thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them: This "thou" or "you" is the typical Gentile Christian. Paul addresses Gentiles with the singular (in the Greek) and specific "you" in order to make his warning on a more personal level.

The Gentile is described as a branch from a "wild" olive tree or an uncultivated tree, which has been grafted into the cultivated tree among the natural branches.

The words "among them" refer to the natural branches or individual Jews who did receive Jesus as the Messiah and obeyed the gospel.

and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree: When the Gentile Christians were grafted into the tree, they immediately became sharers together along with their Jewish brethren of the nourishing sap from the root of the olive tree. In other words, when a Gentile becomes a Christian, he immediately begins to draw upon all the spiritual blessings made possible by two thousand years of Jewish history—all the blessings that are a natural inheritance for Jews who accept the Messiah. In Galatians 3:14, Paul says the Gentile Christian becomes a partaker in "the blessing of Abraham."

Boast not against the branches: In this first phrase of verse 18, Paul introduces the "then" clause (apodosis). The conclusion from verse 17 is that since the Gentiles are a branch from a wild olive tree, since they have been grafted into a cultivated tree, and since they partake of the nourishment of the root, they have no reason to boast over either those natural branches broken off because of their unbelief or those natural branches among which they have been grafted. Their being grafted in is not the result of some merit of their own. They are in no way superior to these who have been broken off or to those who remain.

But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee: Paul is saying if the Gentiles do boast in spite of his admonition, they must remember the root of the tree supports their spiritual life. It is not the other way around. Every blessing of salvation that they, though personally unworthy, now enjoy comes to them through the Jews. Thus, their boasting is vain. Sanday and Headlam explain:

Any merit, any virtue, any hope of salvation that the Gentiles may have arises entirely from the fact that they are grafted on a stock whose roots are the Patriarchs and to which the Jews, by virtue of their birth, belong (329).

Verse 19

Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in.

As Paul personifies his representative Gentile Christian, he puts words into his mouth that highlight the arrogance he wants to turn aside. The implication is that some Gentile believers might think that God excluded the Jews who stand rejected to make a place for Gentiles believers, as though they had some special merit. Paul warns that Gentile Christians must not think of themselves as superior to the Jews who were broken off.

Verse 20

Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:

Well: This is the Greek word kalw=$: which generally means "well or beautifully" (BDAG 505). It is used in numerous connections, but here it is used to refer to that which "pertains to being in accord with a standard, rightly, correctly …As an exclamation. Quite right! That is true! Well said!" (BDAG 505-506). Moo observes that it can be taken as "qualified agreement" (705). McGarvey and Pendleton say it is "a form of partial and often ironical assent" (467). Cottrell shades the meaning thusly:

"There is some truth to what you are saying." Here Paul is probably referring to the point made in vv. 11-16, that "because of their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles" (v. 11), and "their rejection is the reconciliation of the world" (v. 15) (Vol. 2 257).

Paul’s qualified agreement with the Gentile’s assertion in verse 19 says, "Yes, but this is not the whole story." The Gentile’s observation is correct, but he is in real danger of drawing the wrong conclusion from it—one which in fact might spell his own doom if he is not careful.

because of unbelief they were broken off: Yes, it is true that many Jews were broken off. And it is also true that the Gentiles were grafted in. But there is no cause-and-effect sequence here. The Jews were not broken off so that the Gentiles could be grafted in as though the Gentiles were somehow more worthy than the Jews. Actually the two events are not intrinsically connected at all. The Jews who were broken off were cut off because of their unbelief. They refused to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, and they refused to obey the gospel. Some Jews did place their faith in Christ, and they were not broken off (11:5).

and thou standest by faith: Paul says the Gentile "stands" instead of "has been grafted in," though he means the same. It may be that he intends to suggest a contrast to falling (verse 22). Paul asks, "Why have you been made to stand or been engrafted?" It is because they have chosen to believe in Jesus and obey the gospel. Their standing has nothing to do with the unbelieving Jews being cut off. As Cottrell notes, "Even if every Jew had believed, you would still have been grafted into the tree by virtue of your faith" (Vol. 2 258). Consequently, the Gentiles should not look down with contempt upon those "branches" broken off because the Gentiles "stand" or are engrafted not because of their merit but on account of their faith.

Be not highminded, but fear: The NIV renders this phrase "Do not be arrogant but be afraid." The appropriate attitude for Gentile Christians is not high-minded superiority or arrogance because the Jews have been rejected and are consequently lost. Instead the proper attitude is one of fear. Either the NIV or the KJV can be correct in their translation of the Greek verb fobou= but the KJV ("fear") provides a different connotation from the NIV ("afraid"). The fear of God takes two different senses in the scripture. It can mean "to be in an apprehensive state, be afraid …in the sense of become frightened" (BDAG 1060) as it does in Matthew 17:6 or 27:54 as well as in numerous other instances. It can also mean "to have a profound measure of respect for, have reverence, respect, with special reference to fear of offending" (BDAG 1061; AGLP 430). In this case, it is arguable that both of these senses apply. Obviously, the latter is meant because reverential awe for man’s Creator is always a significant element in holy living. In most circumstances the Christian is not to stand in terror before God because he is free from condemnation, thanks to his justification by faith in the blood of Christ (5:1,2). There is one context, however, in which a Christian should be struck with terror, and that is when and if he stands on the brink of apostasy. In such a position, he cannot but recall the Hebrew writer’s words, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31). Paul is warning the Gentile believers that they must not regard the fallen unbelieving Jews with contempt or arrogance but instead they should fear God in the sense of reverential respect that issues in faithful obedience or they will also suffer the same fate. This warning should strike terror in their hearts. Paul holds before them all the real possibility of falling from grace and losing their salvation.

Verse 21

For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.

Gentile Christians must humbly recognize that if God cut off the natural branches from His olive tree, because of their faithless disobedience, He will certainly not spare the wild olive branches grafted into His tree if those branches also become unbelieving or unfruitful. Contrary to widely held beliefs in the world of Christendom, it is possible for saved people to fall from grace so as to be lost—cut off from God’s olive tree. There is no such thing as eternal security of the saints. The security the believer has is conditioned upon his continued faithful obedience for all of his life. Christians, do not be arrogant! Instead be afraid!

Verse 22

Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

Behold therefore the goodness …of God: Paul explains that the foregoing argument from verse 16b makes evident the "goodness" of God. "Goodness" comes from xrhsto/thta, which means "uprightness in one’s relations with others, uprightness" or "the quality of being helpful or beneficial, goodness, kindness, generosity" (BDAG 1090). Cottrell says:

Kindness…is an attitude of goodwill and generosity toward others, a goodness of heart or "kindly disposition"…that desires the happiness of others and especially their salvation (Vol. 2 259-260).

and severity of God: "Severity" comes from a)potomi/an, and it means "to act harshly toward someone" (LN Vol. 1 750) or "relentless in judgment" (BDAG 124). Cottrell says:

Sternness is an attitude of relentless and vigorous commitment to justice, including retributive justice; a strict upholding of the requirements of law, an inflexible hardness and severity in judging (Vol. 2 260).

The goodness and severity of God comprise an amazing contrast in attitudes held simultaneously. Sanday and Headlam are correct:

The Apostle sums up this part of his argument by deducing from this instance the two sides of the Divine character. God is full of goodness…and loving-kindness towards mankind, and that has been shown by His conduct towards those Gentiles who have been received into the Christian society. That goodness will always be shown towards them if they repose their confidence on it, and do not trust in their own merits or the privileged position they enjoy. On the other hand, the treatment of the Jews shows the severity which also belongs to the character of God; a severity exercised against them just because they trusted in themselves (329-330).

Cottrell adds these observations:

These two attributes are generally equivalent to God’s love and God’s holiness, which I believe are the two most basic and equally-ultimate moral attributes of God. God’s love is his basic goodwill toward other moral beings. Other attributes within the sphere of his love are mercy, patience, grace and kindness. God’s holiness, on the other hand, is his perfect moral character, which is the basis of his work as Lawgiver and Judge. It embraces other attributes such as wrath and vengeance (Vol. 2 260).

Paul warns his representative Gentile Christian to observe and consider the kindness and sternness of God because these are the two basic attitudes God expresses toward sinners. Just which one He expresses in a particular case depends on the sinner’s response to the extension of God’s grace that is offered in His Son, Jesus Christ. In this context, God expresses His unrelenting severity towards those Jews who have refused to accept Jesus as the Messiah and who continue to reside in stubborn disobedient unbelief. On the other hand, He expresses His abundant loving kindness and goodness toward those Gentiles who have believed in Christ and have obeyed the gospel. He cuts off those unbelieving Jews, and He grafts into His olive tree those believing Gentiles.

on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: God’s severity, expressed on the basis of His work as the Judge of all men, is poured out upon those Jews who reject Jesus and the gospel. In contrast, all the qualities of His perfect moral character, expressed by His goodness, are directed toward those Gentiles who have obeyed the gospel and become Christians. But God’s goodness toward believers is conditional. "If thou continue…" is e)an e)pimeivnh|$ with the subjunctive, a form that expresses a contingency that may or may not be the case in the future (Romans 13:4 "if thou do that which is evil" and 14:8 "whether we live" contain similar constructions). The idea is that God will continue to shower His goodness upon them if, and only if, they "continue in his goodness." For a believer to continue in God’s goodness, he must continue to trust God’s kindness and grace as it is expressed in the salvation offered in Jesus Christ. In other words, the believer must continue to recognize that he has been saved not by his own merit but on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice in paying for him the penalty of his sins. He must keep on expressing his faith in humble obedient submission to God’s will. He must never come to trust in himself or his faith or his obedience as meritorious. He must continue to live in faithful obedience, trusting in God’s grace and mercy for salvation. He must be constant in repenting of his sins. If the believer fails to meet these conditions, Paul is clear about what will happen. If the believer does not continue to trust in God’s grace and demonstrate that trust by his faithful obedience to God’s will, he will be lost. Just as those Jews who rejected Jesus as the Christ were lost, so also those Gentiles who fall away will be lost.

This verse of scripture makes it clear that salvation is conditional. The popular notion of Calvinism that the believer possesses eternal security is false. The doctrine of "once in grace always in grace" is a false doctrine. Cottrell concurs saying:

In my judgment this verse unequivocally supports the view that salvation is conditional. Just as becoming saved is conditioned upon faith, staying saved is conditioned upon continuing to believe. You will remain a branch on the olive tree "if you continue" (NASB) in God’s kindness. (see Colossians 1:23 for the very same point.) More specifically this verse shows that falling from a saved state and thus losing one’s salvation is possible. Dunn rightly says, "The possibility of believers ’falling away’…, apostatizing is one which Paul certainly did not exclude." He adds, "Perseverance is a Christian responsibility rather than an unconditional promise" (Vol. 2 261-262).

For a discussion of how the Calvinist attempts to escape the obvious intent of this verse, see Cottrell (Vol. 2 262-264).

Verse 23

And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again.

And they also: In verses 23 and 24, Paul now returns to the main theme of the chapter as he brings to a close the metaphor of the olive tree. It is not God who has rejected the Jews, but the Jews who have rejected God’s grace. Even so, it is not every Jew who has been rejected, for a remnant did accept the Messiah in the beginning. The rest, because of their unbelief, were hardened, rejected, and broken off the olive tree. But even among those who have been broken off, there is still hope. In verse 11, Paul first suggested the possibility and the hope that individual Jews among those who were lost because of their rejection of the gospel might still return to God and yet be saved. Paul confirms this hope now and explains how individual rejected Jews may be saved.

if they abide not still in unbelief shall be graffed in: It is important to note the parallelism between verses 22 and 23. Verse 22b says, "If you (believing Gentiles) do not continue in God’s goodness you will be cut off the tree." Verse 23a says, "If you (unbelieving Jews) do not continue in unbelief you will be grafted back into the tree.

The verb translated "abide" is the same as the verb "continue" in verse 22 (e)pime/nw), and the conditional form of e)an plus the subjunctive is the same. The "they" clause is the simple future tense "they… shall be graffed in." This expression is equivalent to the phrase in verse 15 "life from the dead."

Obviously, God has not irrevocably consigned all unbelieving Jews to hell. The door of opportunity stands open to each one as long as he lives. God is ready and willing to receive any Jew back into fellowship with Himself at any time. It is equally clear that God’s offer of renewed acceptance is conditional. It is conditioned upon their change of heart (repentance) concerning the Messiahship of Jesus and all that it implies relative to the gospel. If any Jew turns from the error of his unbelief and expresses his faith in Jesus by obeying the gospel, he will be saved or "graffed" back in to God’s olive tree. Cottrell makes this telling observation in a footnote:

This verse shows that being on the olive tree is equivalent to being saved. In view of everything Paul has said thus far in Romans about justification by faith, it is surely the case that unbelief implies lostness. But these Jewish branches were broken off the tree because of unbelief (v. 20); and if they do not continue in unbelief but come to faith instead, they will be grafted back into the tree. Thus there are no unbelievers on the tree, and all believers are on it. Thus only saved Jews (and Gentiles) are on the tree (Vol. 2 265).

The clear and conditional nature of this promise cannot be ignored. The "grafting in again" of the Jews is not an absolute promise. It is conditioned upon their first turning from unbelief to faithful obedience. Furthermore, even the conditional promise is not national. Paul is not suggesting that sometime in the future all Jews will be saved. He is teaching that any individual Jew who turns from unbelief to faith may be saved. There is absolutely nothing here about a restoration of national Israel. Israel has fulfilled its role as a separate and special people of God. There is no role for the nation of Israel in the Christian Age. God’s olive tree is made up of individual Jews and Gentiles who believe in Jesus enough to repent of their sins, confess their faith in Jesus, and allow themselves to be immersed into Christ and who continue in God’s kindness by living according to God’s will expressed in the New Testament. Any person may partake of this promise by becoming a believer.

for God is able to graff them in again: This promise does not depend on what is possible according to literal grafting procedures but rather upon the supernatural power of God. Cottrell cites Denney who says, "Even in the most hardened rejecter of the Gospel we are not to limit either the resources of God’s power or the possibility of change in a self-conscious, self-determining creature" (Vol. 2 267).

In passing, it should be observed that when any Jew turns from unbelief to faith it is an action of his own free will. God does not cause him to turn and believe in any way contrary to his own individual will. The teaching is clear. God can and will "graft back in" or "add to the church" any Jew (or any person) who will choose of his own free will to meet the stated condition of not persisting in unbelief but becoming an active believer willing to submit to God’s will.

Verse 24

For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?

This verse sums up the argument advanced thus far by reinforcing the last statement of verse 23, which indicates that God is able to re-graft into their own olive tree those Jewish branches which were broken off because of their unbelief; however, the condition of verse 23 stands. God is able to graft them back in if, and only if, they desist from unbelief and turn to Jesus as their Redeemer. Paul’s argument is from the greater to the lesser. If God has been able to cut the Gentile branches out of their "wild" or pagan olive tree in which they naturally grew and graft them into Israel’s cultivated tree, contrary to all laws of nature, then how much easier will it be for him to re-engraft those Jewish branches, broken off because of unbelief, into their own olive tree again if they turn from their unbelief to faith in Christ?

The second part of this verse does not amount to an entitlement. It is not to be taken as an absolute promise that even one Jew will be saved, let alone that all of them will be. As Cottrell observes, this teaching should be taken as a "logical future" (Vol. 2 268), expressing potential action upon God’s part that is based upon the natural braches broken off turning from unbelief to faith. Cottrell’s view expresses it well:

The main point is to show that from God’s side, there is absolutely no obstacle to the Jews’ salvation. Their hardening (v. 7) and their rejection (v. 15) need not be the final word concerning their eternal destiny. God is ready and willing to receive them back if they will believe in their Redeemer (Vol. 2 269).

This passage of scripture is not predictive prophecy of the Jews’ return to Christ either individually or en masse. It is rather a warning to Gentile Christians about the danger of arrogance (review verses 21-24 again). The salvation of anyone and everyone is conditioned upon faithful continuance in the gospel of Christ. If those who believe turn away, they will be broken off; and if those who have been broken off turn from unbelief to faith, they will be grafted back in. This is true for Gentiles as well as Jews. The whole section speaks only of the justice and mercy of God, which are based respectively on the unbelief or faith of man.

Verse 25

For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.

For: The word gar here links this verse and the following ones to the olive tree illustration. The imagery of the natural branches that had been broken off being grafted back into the tree helps us to understand how Israel will be saved.

I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant: This phraseology is a formula Paul uses sometimes (1:13; 1 Corinthians 10:1; 1 Corinthians 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:13) to underline an important point. He uses a double negative to emphasize the importance of listening carefully to what he is about to say. In other words, "Listen to me now. I do not want you to misunderstand this point."

Though the word "brothers" is a part of his formula, Paul also uses it to signal that he is addressing the entire church. Contextually, it is mainly the Gentiles he has in mind (11:13), but what he is about to say to them is important for all of the church to hear. In verse 17, at the beginning of the olive tree illustration, Paul begins to use the second person singular, "you," to address the typically representative Gentile because of the individual nature of the illustration. The breaking off of branches and/or the grafting in of branches, whether wild ones or natural ones, is done on a case-by-case individual basis as each Jew or Gentile falls into unbelief or turns to God in penitent faith. But now that he has concluded his illustration and is addressing the whole church, he switches to the second person plural "you." In this paragraph, "you" and "they" continue to refer to Gentiles and Jews respectively.

of this mystery: The word mystery, as it is used in scripture, does not mean something dark and secretive. It is not used in our modern sense of mysterious or incomprehensible. Instead, it refers to a truth that was at one time hidden in the mind of God and was undiscoverable by human reason but now has been made evident by divine revelation and is thus now freely open to human understanding. What Paul is declaring here is a divine revelation from God (see AGLF 267; Vine Vol. 3 97).

lest ye should be wise in your own conceits: Paul wants the Gentile members of the church to understand the mystery so that they will not be conceited or "lest you be wise in your own estimation" (NASB). Already in verses 18-20, Paul has cautioned the Gentile believers against boasting because they are being gathered into the church while most of the Jews are being cut off because of their unbelief. Here he repeats the same warning: "Do not be puffed up with your own self-importance. Do not assume that God has permanently abandoned Israel to focus on you Gentiles."

But what is the "mystery" that will set aside the Gentiles’ pride? Cottrell answers this question:

In the NT the word musth/rion is often used in a general way for revelation concerning Christ and his church. A mystery that was of special importance to Paul, though, was the revelation that God had always intended to include Jews and Gentiles together in the church of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:3-4; Ephesians 3:9; Ephesians 2:11 to Ephesians 3:11). In Ephesians 3 the emphasis is on the fact that God is bringing the Gentiles into the church; here in 11:25 the emphasis is on the fact that unbelieving Jews may still be brought into the church.

More specifically, in 11:25 the mystery focuses on "interdependence between the salvation of the Gentiles and that of the Jews" (Hendriksen 2:378). I.e., not only are the Jews and Gentiles united together in the one church, but in accordance with God’s plan each group in part owes its inclusion to the other. This is spelled out in the rest of this verse and the beginning of v 26 in three clauses: (1) "Israel has experienced a hardening in part"; (2) "until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in"; (3) "and so all Israel will be saved." This is the mystery, once hidden and now revealed… Actually vv. 25b-26a are a kind of summary of what has already been taught in vv.11-24; thus we should not assume that "this mystery" refers only to what follows. It includes the content of the preceding verses as well (Vol. 2 273-274).

that blindness in part is happened to Israel: "Blindness" is pw/rwsi$ and, according to Friberg, it is used: "literally, as a medical technical term, of covering with a callous or a thick growth of skin, hardening; of the eyes, dulling, blindness; figuratively in the NT, of unwillingness to learn; insensibility, obstinacy, stubbornness" (340).

This word is closely related to the word Paul uses in verse 7 to describe the same thing. Paul has already referred to Israel’s determined unwillingness to learn in verse 7. As a result, God hardened their hearts individually because of each one’s initial rejection of Jesus as the promised Messiah. In essence, this word describes a judicial process by which God hands people over to their own stubbornness.

Here Paul says Israel’s hardening or blindness is "in part." Two possibilities present themselves in explaining this "in part." The first, which is popular among commentators, is that this phrase should be understood in a numerical sense—in other words, only a part of Israel was hardened. This is the view adopted by the NRSV—"a hardening has come upon part of Israel." It is also the view of Murray (Vol. 2 292) and Cranfield (Vol. 2 575) and numerous others; if this is the meaning, it poses no problem and no new thought. According to this view, as verse 7 explains, the elect remnant was not hardened and the rest were.

The second view presented by Cottrell seems more likely:

The sentence says literally that "hardness from a part has happened to Israel," not "hardness has happened to part of Israel." The word "part" is not the object of the verb, nor does the phrase "from a part" modify Israel. It is possible that it modifies "hardness" itself, but more likely it modifies the verb, as it does in its other four NT occurrences [Romans 15:15; Romans 15:24; 2 Corinthians 1:14; 2 Corinthians 2:5–AWB]. Either way it means that even though Israel was hardened the hardening was only partial; the unbelieving Jews were not completely hardened so as to preclude the possibility of repentance. The NIV ("a hardening in part.") reflects this view, as does the NASB ("a partial hardening") (Vol. 2 274-275).

This second view does not present anything new either because the fact that Israel’s hardening was not so fixed as to make repentance impossible is clearly implied in those verses that indicate that the Jews may yet turn to God in faith and be saved (12, 14-15, 23-24). The new revelation of the mystery is discovered in the next phrase.

until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in: The "mystery" is about how the salvation of Jews and Gentiles is interrelated. The Gentiles must recognize this fact in order to avoid falling into a deadly arrogance with reference to their salvation. The key in this phrase is in the meaning of the word "fulness" (plh/rwma). LN give this definition: "A total quantity, with emphasis on completeness—’full number, full measure, fullness, completeness, totality’ " (Vol. 1 597).

This is the same word used in verse 12 to describe the qualitative (not quantitative) fullness with which those Jews who might turn to Jesus in faith would be filled. It refers not to a number of Jews who might be converted but rather to the riches or abundance of salvation that would accrue to every Jew who would become a Christian.

Many interpreters in both places (12 and 25) favor a numerical nuance for this word, but contextually in both of these verses the idea is the fullness of salvation. In verse 12 the reference is to the fullness of salvation which would be granted to those individual Jews who might turn to Jesus in faith. Here in verse 25 the same word is used to describe the fullness of salvation accorded to those Gentiles who would obey the gospel beginning with Cornelius in Acts 10. Elsewhere in the New Testament, this is the meaning of plh/rwma (fulness) (John 1:16; Romans 15:29; Ephesians 3:19; Colossians 2:10—verb). The "fulness of the Gentiles" is thus as Beet says, "the spiritual wealth with which God will make the Gentiles full" (308) or as McGuiggan styles it "the abundant nature of the blessings in Christ’s gospel" (333). Thus, as Cottrell notes Paul is saying essentially the same things about the Gentiles’ salvation as he does in verse 11, 12 and 15 about the Jews (Vol. 2 276). He says then that the Jews have been partially hardened until the fullness or riches of the Gentiles’ salvation has "come in" (appeared). "Come in" is ei)se/lqh from ei)se/rxomai which means "literally, in a local sense go or come into, enter" (AGLF 133). This condition will last until the Gentiles’ abundant salvation has arrived or "come into the picture" (Cottrell Vol. 2 275).

Cottrell summarizes:

The point is that the hardening of the Jews was the occasion for the commencement of the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles. Thus the Gentile Christians should not gloat over the Jews’ lost state; in one sense they owe their very salvation to it.

The other side of this coin is that the partial hardening of Israel has happened (and by implication will persist) until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. This places a limit on the hardening of Israel. Once the Gentiles’ participation in the blessings of salvation has become fully established, the period of Israel’s hardening will be over (Cottrell Vol. 2 277).

But how long does Paul mean that this period shall last? Again, there are two plausible ideas. Some see this hardening as still present and continuing right up to the second coming of Christ. In which case, the Jews will have lost all opportunities to be saved. It seems clear, however, from all that Paul has said before that he does not envision the fate of the Jews as sealed (11-12; 13-14, 15; 23-24). Instead, he yet hopes some of them will turn to God in obedient faith and accept Jesus and obey the gospel.

On the other hand, if we see the Gentiles’ "fullness" as referring to the initial response of the Gentiles as they came into the church in great numbers, then the time of Israel’s hardening can be understood as relatively brief. Perhaps it was even coming to an end as Paul writes this letter. Verse 31 seems to anticipate this time as he says of the Jews that they now "may obtain mercy."

This view is in keeping with what Paul says in verses 11-24, and it also reveals clearly why the Gentiles must guard against arrogant conceit because they are saved and most of the Jews are not. Rather than feeling arrogant, they should be looking for opportunities to preach the gospel to the Jews. This verse, rather than revealing anything new, is in fact, summarizing "the mystery" presented in verses 11-24. The last element of this mystery is found in the first phrase of verse 26.

Verses 26-27

And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.

And so all Israel shall be saved: This phrase expresses the conclusion drawn from the first two parts of the "mystery" (verse 25): "that blindness in part is happened to Israel" and "until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in." This is the general message of Romans 11:1-25. The question in the beginning (verse 1) is: Has God rejected His people? The answer is "No." It is true that most of Israel has been hardened, but this was not a surprise to God. God in His eternal plan has used this hardening to bring the "fulness" of salvation to the Gentiles. God has done so in hopes that once the Gentiles have experienced this fullness, the Jews will be moved to jealousy and will be ready to reconsider their rejection of Jesus and the way of salvation offered in the gospel. When the Jews are thus made ready to receive God’s mercy, their hardening will be eased so that they can be grafted back into God’s olive tree. Their being grafted back into the olive tree is conditioned upon their obedience to the gospel. And in this way, and only in this way, all Israel will be saved.

As we discuss this critical passage in Paul’s argument, three questions must be addressed:

1. What is meant by the first two words of this verse—"And so"?

2. What is meant by "Israel," and how extensive is "all"?

3. What kind of salvation is Paul talking about?

The key issue is this: does this verse predict and thus guarantee the salvation of a large mass of Jews at some point in the future as so many modern commentators assert, or does Paul have something else in mind?

The word "and" connects this sentence to the last two clauses of verse 25. But the word "so" does this in a much clearer and more crucial way. Many take the word "so" in a temporal sense. They say Israel’s partial hardening will last until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and when that has happened, then all Israel will be saved (Barrett 223; Bruce 222; Fitzmeyer 622; Moo 719-720). This, however, is not the meaning of "so" (ou%tw$). This word carries its usual meaning here of "in this manner, thus, so" (BDAG 741-742). As Cranfield asserts, the word is emphatic. "It will be in this way, and only in this way" that all Israel will be saved (Vol. 2 576). The word "so" points the reader to what has gone before. Israel will be saved by the coming of the fullness of salvation to the Gentiles (verse 25b), which will potentially arouse the Jews to jealousy (verses 11, 13-14). Thus, or in this manner, all Israel shall be saved.

But how are we to understand "all Israel"? There are three major views. The most common view is that "all Israel" refers to ethnic Israel as a whole. This view anticipates a mass conversion of Jews at some point in the future. It does not necessarily mean that every living Jew will be saved but rather that most Jews living at the time of this mass conversion will be saved. The idea is all Israel and not just a remnant will be saved. Some who hold this view believe that this mass conversion will be associated with the Second Coming of Christ (Cranfield Vol. 2 577; Moo 723-724; Dunn Vol. 2 692; MacArthur Vol. 2 128-129). Others who hold this view do not believe it is necessarily associated with the end-times and will not involve a nationalistic restoration. They believe "all Israel" living at that time will be saved by becoming members of the church, alongside Gentile Christians (Moule 199; Murray Vol. 2 96-100; Stott 303-304; Lard 370-371; Sanday and Headlam 335-336).

The second major view is that "all Israel" means the remnant portion of ethnic Israel, or all believing Jews converted by the gospel one at a time throughout the Christian age. In this view "Israel" is taken in a slightly different sense than it is in verse 25. There (verse 25) Israel refers to the mass of Israel which was hardened—not every Jew of the first century but the vast majority. In verse 26, "Israel," according to this view, is taken to mean all of true spiritual Israel, each of whom will be saved as they obey the gospel (Henderiksen Vol. 2 381; Hoekema 140-141; Lenski 719, 724; McGuiggan 335-336; Cottrell Vol. 2 283).

The third major view is that "all Israel" refers to the whole of spiritual Israel, including both believing Jews and believing Gentiles. In other words, the reference is to God’s new Israel, the church, which is "Abraham’s seed" (Galatians 3:29) and which in Galatians 6:16 is called the "Israel of God." This view was common among the early church leaders (see Fitzmeyer 623-624. This was John Calvin’s view 437).

But which of these three views is the one actually taught here? It is not the first view, even though it is the most common one among commentators. This view does recognize that "Israel" must refer to ethnic Israel in order for it to be consistent with the immediate context. While it is also consistent with the overall context of chapters nine through eleven, the view that sometime in the future a mass conversion of Jews will occur is fatally flawed. First, salvation has never been a national event. Salvation is granted to faithful obedient believers one at a time (3:23, 26; Hebrews 11:6; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). Salvation has always been an individual event. Second, this view is most frequently considered an eschatological event and is part of dispensational premillennialism, which can easily be shown from numerous angles to be a false doctrine from beginning to end. But third, and most importantly, this view does not do justice to the word "all." In explanations of this view of a future mass conversion of Jews, it is almost always asserted that only the Jews who happen to be living at that point in time will be saved (which most believe will be the last generation of Jews); however, nearly all the Jews who lived in scores of preceding generations will not be saved. Thus, as Anthony Hoekema points out, the saved "will be just a fragment of the total number of Jews who have lived on the earth. How can such a fragment properly be called ’all Israel’?" (Hoekema, Bible 144). Also, as McGuiggan asks, if the issue here is God’s faithfulness to His promises to the Jews, how is the saving of just one generation evidence of such faithfulness (335-336)?

The third view seems just as unlikely as the first one. First, the term "Israel" is not used in chapters nine through eleven to mean Jews and Gentiles. It is consistently used of ethnic Israel. Second, this view would weaken the exhortation of Romans 11:11-32, which is given to caution the Gentiles not to exalt themselves above the Jews (verses 17-22). Paul does not want to call the church "Israel" here because that would only serve to fuel the Gentile fires of superiority by giving them grounds to boast that "we, the church, are the true Israel of God." That would be the antithesis of Paul’s argument.

The second view—that "all Israel" refers to the remnant portion of ethnic Israel or to all believing Jews in all generations—is the view that is correct.

1. First, it is thoroughly consistent with the usage of the term "Israel" in chapters nine through eleven. Admittedly, "Israel" in verse 25 refers to the mass of Israel living in Paul’s day who have been hardened and partially blinded, and verse 26 is using "Israel" to refer to the believing remnant of ethnic Israel or all believing Jews in all generations. But Paul uses "Israel" in these same two ways in Romans 9:6 when he distinguishes Israel at large from the true spiritual Israel.

2. Second, this view is consistent with the line of thought Paul is developing in chapter eleven specifically. As Cottrell says:

Has God rejected his people? No. Though most are hardened, he has a remnant. But is there any hope for those who are hardened? Yes. Especially now that salvation has come to the Gentiles, all hardened Jews may believe in Jesus and become a part of the remnant. Paul has just declared that God can and will graft the broken-off branches back into the olive tree, conditioned upon their abandoning their unbelief (v. 23). In v. 24 Paul assures us that God will graft these natural branches back into the tree, but the condition of faith is obviously meant to be carried over from v. 23.

The same is undoubtedly true in v. 26. When Paul says "All Israel will be saved," in view of v. 23 we must understand it as "all Israelites who believe in Jesus Christ—i.e., the remnant—will be saved." This shows the importance of translating ou%tw as "thus, in this way." When Paul says, "in this way," all Israel will be saved, he is referring not just to the summary statement in v. 25, but to the more complete explanation in vv. 11-24, including the emphasis on conditionality in vv. 23-24 (Vol. 2 284).

3. Third, this second major view, in contrast to the first one, does do justice to the word "all" in "all Israel." This view expects all the remnant of ethnic Israel or all believing Jews in all generations to be saved. They will be saved not in a mass conversion but In the normal process of evangelism. They will all be saved one by one as they hear, believe, and obey the gospel and are in this way added to the Lord’s church (Acts 2:38; Acts 2:41; Acts 2:47) over the whole course of history.

4. Fourth, this view is consistent with Paul’s teaching in the following verses. The subsequent Old Testament citations refer not to Christ’s second coming but to His first coming. Paul’s argument is that all true Israel is being saved now according to God’s grace offered in the gospel plan of salvation. The verses that follow do not anticipate any future national restoration of Israel. The second coming is not under consideration. Paul’s point is that the Jews who have come to believe in Jesus "may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you [Gentiles –AWB] (NIV: Romans 11:31).

The last question we need to consider relative to all Israel being saved is the meaning of the word "saved." Is Paul offering something special to the Jews or is he simply referring to "the common salvation" (Judges 1:3) from sin enjoyed by all believers—Jews and Gentiles? These who postulate a mass conversion of Jews near the time of and connected with Christ’s second coming see in this "salvation" a restoration of Israel as a political nation and a restoration of the nation to its homeland in Palestine in preparation for the millennium (see MacArthur Vol. 2 128-129; Cranfield Vol. 2 577-578).

This understanding is false for numerous reasons, not the least of which is that Israel as a political entity is not mentioned; nor is any return to the land predicted. Furthermore, Israel, as a nation, was never chosen for salvation. Salvation is and has always been an individual blessing given by God only to those who hear, believe, and obey Him. Israel, as a nation, was chosen by God to perform a service—to bring the Messiah into the world. This is one of the main arguments of chapter nine. When Israel completed her service, God was finished with her as a nation. But as individuals God was intensely interested in the Jews, and He has done all He can to persuade them one by one to come to the faith in obedience to the gospel. This is the thrust of Paul’s argument in chapter eleven. "Saved" in verse 26 cannot be anything other than the ordinary salvation that comes to all people—Jews and Gentiles alike—by the gospel.

as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins: This citation is intended to provide an Old Testament confirmation that God is now saving "all Israel" through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Verse 26b is taken from Isaiah 59:20, 27 is taken from a combination of Isaiah 59:21 a and Isaiah 27:9. That salvation comes from Zion is evident from several passages in Psalms (Psalms 14:7; Psalms 53:6; Psalms 110:2). Paul’s use of Isaiah to assert that the Deliverer (Redeemer) will come from Zion reveals that Isaiah 59:20-21 is definitely a Messianic prophecy. The "Deliverer" is, of course, Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

That the Deliverer will come out of Zion means that the Messiah or redeemer will come from heaven. Originally, Zion was the name of one of the hills on which Jerusalem was built. It came to be used as a poetic designation for the city itself (Psalms 48:2; Psalms 48:11-12; Psalms 51:18; Psalms 69:35). Often it was used to refer symbolically to the whole of Israel or to the people of Israel (Psalms 74:2; Psalms 78:68; Psalms 146:10; Isaiah 1:27; Isaiah 46:13). Sometimes Zion was used to designate the location of the Temple and thus the dwelling place of God (Psalms 76:2; Psalms 132:13; Isaiah 8:18; Isaiah 18:7; Isaiah 24:23; Joel 3:17; Joel 3:21). In this way Zion came to represent heaven itself as God’s dwelling place (Psalms 9:11; Psalms 14:7; Psalms 20:2; Psalms 50:2; Psalms 53:6; Psalms 110:2; Psalms 134:3). In New Testament times Zion came to represent the new temple, the new people of God, the church (Romans 9:33; Hebrews 12:22-23; 1 Peter 2:6; and Galatians 4:26).

By "Jacob," Paul means Israel or the Jews. Jacob’s name was changed to Israel (Genesis 32:28); and in Old Testament poetry and prophecy, "Jacob" is often used as a synonym for Israel, as it is here when referring to the Jewish people.

According to Isaiah’s Messianic prophecy (Isaiah 59:20-21), the Messiah was to come from heaven to turn away ungodliness from the people of Israel. Jesus accomplishes this goal (John 1:1; John 1:14; Romans 4:23 to Romans 5:1; Romans 3:21-26; Romans 1:2-4). The reference here is to Jesus’ first coming and not to His second coming. The passage is in the future tense because it was future from the perspective of Isaiah and not because its fulfillment is future to us. This is evident because of the Deliverer’s stated purpose for coming from heaven—"to turn away ungodliness from Jacob." This is the work of Jesus as the Redeemer and not His work as the returning Judge.

As Cottrell observes:

The redemptive acts mentioned by Isaiah and recited by Paul refer not to a political restoration of the Jewish nation but to the personal salvation of individuals. This is why Jesus came the first time: to die for the sins of his people, and thereby to establish a new covenant with them, a covenant to take away their sins (Vol. 2 288).

This fact is confirmed by the citation in verse 27. The Deliverer came "to turn away ungodliness" "from Jacob" by establishing a covenant through which their sins would be taken away (Hebrews 9:1; Hebrews 9:8-17; Hebrews 10:1-10). Cottrell says:

Specifically the deliverer has come "to turn godlessness away from Jacob" (v. 26b) and to "take away their sins" (v. 27b). This is the saving grace of forgiveness (justification), regeneration and sanctification. It is a spiritual restoration, not a political one (Vol. 2 288).

This message is what Peter preached in Acts 3:26, "Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities." Isaiah says this action of taking away sins is the purpose and result of God’s covenant with them. The covenant to which Isaiah’s Messianic prophecy refers is the New Testament. It is not the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:1-3). The covenant with Abraham had to do with bringing the Messiah to the world. But the "covenant" in Isaiah’s prophecy (59:20-21) has to do with the forgiveness of sins through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. It is the same as the covenant prophesied by Jeremiah (31:31-34; see also Luke 22:20; Hebrews 8:7-12; Hebrews 10:15-17). Cottrell summarizes:

God covenants to take away the sins of "all Israel" through the blood of Christ if they will but trust in him. This covenant is conditional (11:23), and God gathers Jews into it one by one over the whole course of church history. This is how all true Israel will be saved (Vol. 2 289).

Verse 28

As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.

In this verse, we see the tension that always exists within God’s nature in His relation to all sin and to all sinners. In other words, we see the tension between God’s holiness and God’s love or as verse 22 puts it: "the goodness and the severity of God." The Jews who have rejected the gospel have become God’s enemies—not because of their hatred of Him but because of His hatred of them. The word "enemies" (e)xqroi) means to be "subjected to hostility, hated" (BDAG 419). To be hated by God is to be the object of His wrath, rejected by Him, and shut off from Him (Sanday and Headlam 337). God’s enmity is not directed toward every Jew but toward the vast majority who have rejected the gospel (9:30-10:21).

As Paul continues to remind the Gentile Christians, however, God’s enmity toward the Jews has been the occasion for bringing the gospel to them (verses 11, 12, 15). Still, this is only part of the picture as Cottrell observes:

Even though the hardened Jews have chosen to become God’s enemies by rejecting the gospel, God still loves them because of the original relationship he established with them thorough the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). Thus he cannot forget them; he cannot pretend that this relationship never existed. Even if they no longer have a special role in God’s ongoing plan, they still occupy a special place in his heart (Vol. 2 290).

When Paul says the Jews are still "beloved for the father’s sake," he says it is on account of the "election." He does not mean the elect remnant here; thus, limiting God’s love to the faithful remnant within Israel alone. Rather he is referring to God’s original choice (election) of Abraham and through Abraham the nation of Israel. Israel’s election as a nation was not ever an election for salvation. It was an election of a nation (Israel) to provide a service—that is, to bring the Messiah unto the world. Salvation has always been an individual issue, based on hearing, believing and obeying God’s word. This is Paul’s whole argument in chapter nine (see especially verse 11). Thus, the first phrase of this verse (28a—"As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes") reflects the reality of the Jews’ situation as pictured in chapter ten. The second phrase of this verse (28b) reflects the reality pictured in chapter nine—"God chose Israel as a nation to serve His special redemptive purposes and poured out upon them his special covenant blessings" (Cottrell Vol. 2 290).

When Jesus came into the world the first time, every single promise to Israel as a nation was completely and totally fulfilled (9:4-5; Acts 13:32-34). What Paul says in verse 29 does not contradict this fact.

Verse 29

For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

Paul still has in mind God’s original general election of Israel as a nation. The "gifts" are not the gifts of salvation. Rather they are the gifts or benefits described in chapter nine verses 4-5. While these gifts are wonderful and glorious, they do not within themselves provide salvation to any one—let alone the whole nation.

By the same token, the "calling" is not the gospel call but the original call to Abraham and by extension to Israel as a nation to be God’s special people to fulfill a special function in history.

These gifts and this calling are irrevocable ("without repentance"). "Irrevocable" is emphasized in this sentence by being placed first. The word a)metame/lhta means "incapable of being changed, not to be taken back, inflexible" (AGLF 46). Or "not to be regretted, without regret…also irrevocable, of something one does not take back" (BDAG 53). It is not that God has an irrevocable obligation to save the Jews because of the promise to Abraham; rather God does not regret His choice of Israel as a nation through whom He brought Christ into the world. Despite centuries of heartbreaking unfaithfulness and idolatry in Old Testament times and despite their current rejection of the gospel, God does not regret all He did for Israel. Nor does He regret all He did through them to carry out His redemptive purposes.

The Jews are still beloved by God (verse 28b) because of the patriarchs and because God has never regretted the Old Testament relationship He established with Israel in the first place. For this has resulted in the Messiah becoming manifest in the world and in providing the redemptive sacrifice needed for the salvation of all people, Jew or Gentile. Lard says, "Their fathers were chosen and loved; and on their account their rejected descendants are still loved" (373).

Verses 30-31

For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.

Paul carefully crafted this sentence so that it is perfectly balanced (see Cottrell Vol. 2 293). This sentence provides a summation of all that Paul has said in chapter eleven. The first phrase of verse 30 refers to the time before Christ when revelation to the Gentiles was limited to the natural or moral law and the occasional matters of revelation they learned from the Jews. In those days the Gentiles were given over to the sinful excesses of their rebellion against God as Paul described in Romans 1:18-32. The second half of verse 30 refers to the New Testament era when the gospel went forth to all nations. As Cottrell observes, "To say that the Gentiles have received mercy ’as a result of their (the Jews) disobedience’ is simply to repeat vv. 11, 12, 15. God takes the Jews’ rebellion against the gospel of Christ as an occasion for sending that gospel to the Gentiles" (Vol. 2 294). Paul continues to admonish the Gentiles against becoming too smug in their position of favor. He reminds them that once they too were unbelievers in a state of disobedience. He says that in a very real sense, they owe the salvation they now enjoy to the Jews’ disobedience. And, furthermore, it is God’s plan for the Jews to receive the same mercy now enjoyed by the Gentiles if they will but accept the gospel.

The reader must not infer, however, that God has somehow caused the Jews to be disobedient so that He might accomplish His purpose. Instead, the idea is that the Jews have now become disobedient by their own personal bad choices. Their disobedience has had the result that by means of the mercy shown to the Gentiles they, too, may now obtain mercy. Thus, God’s ultimate goal even for the hardened Jews is that they may receive His mercy and be saved.

Just as Paul argued already (verses 11, 13-14), he again emphasizes that the salvation of the Gentiles is an instrument by which God will bring about the salvation of the Jews. God hopes that when the Jews see the Gentiles enjoying the fruit of their obedience to the gospel, they will be moved to jealousy and as a result turn to Christ themselves.

In verse 31, the appearance of the word "now" indicates that the phrase in verse 26, "And so all Israel shall be saved," does not anticipate a mass conversion of ethnic Jews at some time in the far distant future. Rather it refers to the ongoing conversion of Jews who one by one become remnant Jews and thus obedient to the gospel, beginning "now" as Paul writes.

Verse 32

For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

The "all" whom God has concluded ("bound over"—NIV) in unbelief refers to all men, Jews and Gentiles, so that He might have mercy upon all. God’s goal is to extend mercy to everyone. When Paul says God has bound all over to disobedience, he refers to Romans 3:9—"We have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin" (3:9-20). The reference here to God’s desire to "have mercy upon all," of course, does not teach universal salvation. Instead, it refers to the fact that God desires all men to be saved (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:3-4) and that, in fact, He has poured out His mercy on Jews and Gentiles alike (10:12).

All individuals, Jews and Gentiles, are declared to be sinners (3:23). In Romans 1:18-32, Paul proves not only that the Gentiles were all sinners but that God as a result has given them over to the sinful desires of their hearts (1:24, 26, 28). Likewise, Paul proves in Romans 2:1-29 that the Jews also were sinners, even though they had the written law. As Moo observes, this statement refers to "God’s decision to ’confine’ people in the state that they have chosen for themselves" (736).

By the same token, God has mercy on all individuals in that His mercy is intended for all and is offered to all. It is not the case, however, that all will accept it. Lard says it well: "Whether the mercy will ever be actually realized or not, depends on belief in Christ" (375).

This verse is the point toward which all of chapter eleven has been driving: that God can and will provide mercy to all, Jews and Gentiles, alike. They can all receive God’s mercy if only they will not abide in unbelief but will humbly submit themselves in obedience to the gospel. Stott says, "As they have been together in the prison of their disobedience, so they will be together in the freedom of God’s mercy" (307).

Verse 33

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!

Godet, the great nineteenth century Swiss commentator, gives this concluding paragraph its proper ideological setting when he introduces Paul’s concluding doxology:

Like a traveler who has reached the summit of an Alpine ascent, the apostle turns and contemplates. Depths are at his feet; but waves of light illumine them, and there spreads all around an immense horizon which his eye commands. The plan of God in the government of mankind spreads out before him, and he expresses the feeling of admiration and gratitude with which the prospect fills his heart (416).

This stirring doxology or hymn of highest praise to the One who is Creator, Ruler, and Redeemer of all the earth provides the capstone for chapters nine through eleven. It places the reader right back where he was after chapter eight (verses 35-39). After Paul has explained the scheme of redemption and the believer’s resultant new relationship with God, he breaks out in a glorious hymn of praise at the end of chapter eight. But wait—there is one more issue to be resolved. Has God been unfaithful to the Jews? Has God been untrue to His word? How does God’s covenant with the patriarchs mesh with Israel’s current lost condition? Everything in the first eight chapters hangs in the balance until Paul sets forth the theodicy in chapters nine through eleven. God’s way is right—especially His way with Israel. In chapter nine, Paul reveals and proves that God is absolutely sovereign and that the first covenant was temporary and only dealt with Israel’s service as a nation—bringing the Messiah into the world. He proves that God has faithfully kept every promise He made to the nation of Israel under the first testament. In chapter ten, Paul reveals that the lost condition of most of the Jews was not as a result of unfaithfulness on God’s part but rather unbelief on the part of most of the Jews. In chapter eleven, he has shown that under the New Testament God’s redemptive plan incorporates Israel’s unbelief in a way that leads ultimately back to her salvation.

As Paul looks back over what he has written in chapters nine through eleven and even more remotely in chapters one through eight, he marvels that God has vindicated His faithfulness even in the face of Israel’s unbelief in a way that glorifies both His holiness and His mercy. The point of this doxology is not the inscrutability of God’s ways with mankind. As Cottrell says:

Paul certainly emphasizes God’s transcendent unsearchableness. But his wonder is evoked not by divine incomprehensibility as such, nor by things still hidden within its depths, but rather by the things God has revealed to us and which are now open to us. To be sure, we could never have discerned on our own God’s awesome plan for saving his people; but God has shown it to us, and that is why we are overwhelmed by the wisdom and mercy of it (Vol. 2 298).

Or as Godet concludes, "Paul’s exclamation is called forth, not by the obscurity of God’s plans, but on the contrary, by their dazzling cleanness" (417).

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God: There is some controversy over whether this phrase should be understood as the rich depths of God’s wisdom and the rich depths of God’s knowledge or the depths of God’s riches, the depths of God’s wisdom, and the depths of God’s knowledge. Calvin (444) and Lenski (739-740), together with the KJV, NKJV, NIV, and NASB, support the former idea. Lard (375-376), Cranfield (Vol. 2 589), Fitzmeyer (634), Moo (741 note 7), Stott (310), and Cottrell support the latter. As Cottrell observes, both views are grammatically acceptable and both are appropriate to the context; however, the depths of God’s riches "as a single idea is redundant" (Vol. 2 298). McGarvey/Pendleton define the word "depths" as "a common Greek expression for inexhaustible fullness or superabundance" (479). The idea is that God is an infinite resource of riches, wisdom, and knowledge.

Paul extols first the depth of God’s riches. Usually Paul’s use of this term refers to God’s spiritual riches or the riches of salvation (Ephesians 1:17-18; Ephesians 3:8; Philippians 4:19; especially Romans 11:12). Contextually, the superabundance of God’s mercy described in verses 30-32 seems most likely to be foremost in Paul’s mind.

Next, Paul marvels at the unlimited extent of God’s wisdom. Cottrell says:

Generally speaking, wisdom "is the ability to choose the best possible end, and to choose the best possible means of achieving that end. It is not the same as knowledge, but is rather the ability to put one’s knowledge to practical use…." Here Paul has in mind the specific wisdom God has demonstrated in the way he has worked out the salvation of mankind (see 1 Corinthians 1:17 to 1 Corinthians 2:16), and especially the way he has used the Jews and Gentiles to help each bring salvation to the other (ch. 11). As Godet puts it, wisdom is "the admirable skill with which God weaves into His plan the free actions of man, and transforms them into as many means for the accomplishment of the excellent end which He set originally before Him" (417) (Vol. 2 299).

Finally, Paul refers to the depths of God’s knowledge. This is a reference to God’s omniscience. God knows all things—past, present and future (Psalms 139). No doubt Paul is emphasizing not only God’s unlimited general knowledge but especially God’s foreknowledge of man’s truly free choices. God takes account of man’s choices and incorporates them into His own plan of salvation. As Cottrell says, "Few truths about God are more awe-inspiring than his foreknowledge of man’s future free-will choices" (Vol. 2 299-300).

How unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past finding out: This is basically a repetition of the first phrase, but the emphasis is laid on the fact that God’s thoughts and ways are beyond man’s unaided ability to seek out. In other words, apart from inspired revelation, people could never perceive just how God has worked out our salvation. Once the paths along which God has moved to secure man’s salvation have been revealed in scripture, they can be understood and appreciated but not before they are revealed. To the unaided mind of man, God’s plans are unfathomable, inscrutable, and incomprehensible. As we read of God’s salvation by grace, as it has been revealed in the book of Romans, we can only do as Paul did and utter our heartfelt expressions of awe and praise.

Verses 34-35

For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?

These three questions are based on Old Testament passages that Paul has adapted for his own purposes (Isaiah 40:13; Job 41:11). These questions seem to refer to the three parts of verse 33a in reverse order. "Who has known the mind of the Lord?" refers to the depths of God’s knowledge. "Who has been His counsellor?" seems to refer to the depths of God’s wisdom. And "who has first given to him, and it shall be recompensed to him again?" refers to the depths of God’s riches. The answer to each of these questions is a resounding, "No one!" As human beings who are both finite and sinners at that, we all stand equally helpless before God. We do not know what He knows. We cannot advise Him. We cannot place Him in our debt. All we can do is hold out our empty hands to receive the gracious gifts of salvation He offers us in the gospel.

Verse 36

For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

This verse tells us why God is free from any obligation under which anyone might try to place Him. In these three short phrases, God’s sovereign freedom and glorious supremacy are declared. He is the source of all things as the Creator. All things are "of him." He is the means by which all things come into existence and remain in existence. They are all in existence "through him." Lastly, He is the goal or purpose for which all things exist. The purpose of the existence of all things is "to him" (Ephesians 4:6; Hebrews 2:10).

to whom be glory for ever. Amen: This is the final word of Paul’s doxology. Cottrell says in his book, What the Bible Says About God the Creator, that "the glory of God is his infinite and total greatness as it is manifested and as it shines forth for all to see" (446-452). Godet says it is "the reflection of all His perfections in all that exists" (419). In ascribing glory to God, we do not give Him anything or add anything to His nature. We simply acknowledge and confess that He alone is glorious beyond compare, and call upon others to acknowledge His glory along with us.

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Romans 11". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/romans-11.html. 1993-2022.
 
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