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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Romans 11

Verses 1-36

It was obvious that the Church of Christ was coming to be almost entirely a Gentile Church, and that the Jews as a whole were refusing to accept Jesus as their Messiah. The Jew argued from this fact that Christianity could not be true. For if the Christian Church were really the fulfilment of the promised Messianic kingdom, and if the Jews were shut out from it, then God’s promises to the Jews in the OT. would have been broken, which could not be imagined.

In Romans 9-11, St. Paul grapples with this objection:—

(1) He points out that in previous epochs God had narrowed His choice, making a fresh selection out of those already selected; and He may be acting so again (Romans 9:1-13).

(2) God is supreme. He may choose His instruments as He will, and we have no right to criticise (Romans 9:14-33).

(3) If the Jews have failed, it is because of their unbelief (Romans 10).

(4) After all, there may be more faithful Jews than is supposed, as in the time of Elijah (Romans 11:1-10).

(5) Seeing the reception of the Gentiles, the Jews themselves may be stirred up to accept Christ. God has forgotten neither them nor His promises, and His gracious purpose will not fail (Romans 11:11-36).

It should be noted that these chapters mainly treat of the selection by God of nations and Churches to spiritual functions and responsibilities. They have nothing to do with the predestination of individuals to salvation or condemnation, and the argument closes with the statement that what God has done has been with the purpose of having mercy upon all (Romans 11:32). While these chapters assume that God chooses His instruments for reasons which we cannot fathom, and which are independent of human merit and of birth or nationality, at the same time there are conditions which must be fulfilled on man’s part. Those who have been chosen or elected, are free to fall away; they have done so in the case of the Jewish nation—they may do so in the case of the Gentile Church. They can only retain their position by ’faith,’ i.e. here, by submitting themselves to God’s purpose (Romans 10:20.).

Verses 1-36


Israel’s Rejection not final. A Warning to the Gentiles

In this chapter St. Paul brings to an end his great exposition of God’s dealings with the Jews. He has shown in Romans 9 that God is free to choose or reject individuals or nations as the instruments of His purpose; and, in Romans 10, that the Jews have deserved their rejection. Now he declares that, in spite of all this, God has not. cast off His ancient people. He has seen fit, in His mercy, to preserve a portion of them faithful to His will, and the remainder are still loved by Him. Their having fallen away for a time has given an opportunity for the conversion of the Gentiles. When the Gentiles have been gathered into His kingdom, the Jews will be stirred up by their example and return to God.

1-12. God did not utterly reject the Jews as a nation (Romans 11:1-2). Their failure is partial (Romans 11:2-10), and, as in former days, there is a faithful remnant; their failure is used by God for good, and is temporary (Romans 11:11-12).

Paraphrase. ’(1) Does it follow that God has finally rejected those He made His own people? I, who am proud to be one of them, cannot believe it. (2) And it is impossible, for from all eternity He marked them to be His instruments, and He is unchanging. They are no more rejected than they were in Elijah’s day, (3) when, although Israel was rebellious, (4) God preserved a faithful remnant. (5) So also now there is such a remnant, selected out of the mass by God’s undeserved favour, (6) not for any merit of their own. (7) Thus, a select portion of Israel, having minds open to God’s will and believing in Christ, has obtained acceptance, which the rest, by seeking it in self-righteousness, have lost, incurring instead that hardening which follows self-will, (8) that heavy deafness and blindness toward God which Isaiah perceived, (9) that ruin caused by misuse of blessings (10) of which David spoke. (11) But although the majority have stumbled, even they have not fallen for ever. Their refusal of Christ has occasioned an earlier preaching to the Gentiles, and so has been the means of bringing salvation to them, and this, in turn, is meant to stir the Jews up to accept Christ, and thus regain their old privilege. (12) Thus they still are used by God, for their failure has been a means of blessing to the world, and much greater blessing will result from their complete conversion.’

1. Cast away] cp. Psalms 94:14; 1 Samuel 12:22. Benjamin] the tribe which, with Judah, followed the house of David, and in whose territory Jerusalem stood.

2. People] i.e. the nation as a whole. Foreknew] see on Romans 8:29 and Romans 11:29.

Wot] i.e. know. Of Elias] lit. ’in Elijah’; i.e. in the section of the Scriptures concerning Elijah: cp. Mark 12:26; (RV).

3. Lord, etc.] from 1 Kings 19:10.

4. Reserved to] RV ’left for.’ To the image of Baal] RV ’to Baal.’

6. But if it be of works, etc.] RV omits this latter half of the v.

7. Election] i.e. the chosen remnant who have believed in Christ. Blinded] RV ’hardened,’ i.e. by God, in punishment: see next v. Those who will not, at last cannot.

8. From Deuteronomy 29:4; Isaiah 29:10. The spirit of slumber] RV ’a spirit of stupor.’ Unto this day] part of the quotation from Deuteronomy.

9. From Psalms 69:22.

10. Bow down their back] i.e. in weakness and dejection.

11. Stumbled] cp. Romans 9:32. Fall] i.e. so as not to rise again. Come unto the Gentiles] It was only when the Jews rejected the gospel that the Apostle turned to the Gentiles: cp. Acts 13:45.; Acts 28:28. A Church nationally Jewish would probably have been a hindrance to the complete evangelisation of the Gentiles.

12. Diminishing] RV ’loss.’ As a defeated army suffers loss in battle, so the majority of the Jews had fallen away into unbelief. St. Paul anticipates great blessing to the world when the ’ fulness,’ i.e. the entire nation, of the Jews believes.

13-24. St. Paul now addresses the Gentiles. They should hope for the restoration of Israel, because of the blessing it will bring the world, and because Israel still bears God’s name (Romans 11:13-16). They should not despise Israel (Romans 11:17-18), nor boast of preference (Romans 11:19-20), for, if unfaithful, they too will fall (Romans 11:21-22), whereas the Jews will be restored if they give up their unbelief (Romans 11:23-24).

Paraphrase. ’(13) In this which I write, I am not disregarding my mission to you Gentiles. And you know my heart is in my work among you Gentiles. (14) If, then, I am always hoping that your conversion may stir up the Jews to yearn after their lost privileges, it is not only because I am a Jew, (15) but also because I am sure that as their rejection brought you to God, so their restoration will fill the nations of the earth with spiritual life. (16) And their restoration may certainly be expected, for the nation still retains the consecration it received in the patriarchs. (17) Again, although you have taken the place of some of them in God’s kingdom, (18) do not think yourselves superior to them. Remember that you have been admitted into their kingdom, not they into yours. (19) If God rejected them for you, it was not because He preferred you. (20) Unbelief lost them their place, and faith alone preserves you. (21) The facts do not warrant self-satisfaction in you, but warn you against it. (22) Thus we see manifested both God’s goodness and His severity. His goodness is upon you, but only so long as you are faithful. His severity is upon the Jews, (23) yet, if they give up their unbelief, He will receive them again. And their restoration is quite possible, (24) for they have more in common with the kingdom than you had as heathen.’

13. RV ’But I speak to you that are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I glorify my ministry.’ As the Jews have been spoken of in the third person, we infer that the Roman Christians were chiefly Gentiles.

14. Emulation] RV ’jealousy’: cp. Romans 11:11, Romans 10:19.

15. Reconciling of the world] In the bringing in of the Gentiles, the world began to enjoy that reconciliation which Christ gained for it by dying for all mankind: cp. 2 Corinthians 5:19; Ephesians 2:13.

16. Firstfruit] metaphor from Numbers 15:19. The ’firstfruit’ and ’root’ represent the patriarchs: cp. Romans 11:28, Romans 9:5. Holy] i.e. separated as God’s people for His purposes. No reference to the salvation of individuals: cp. Matthew 3:9.

17. The Church of God, both before and after Christ, regarded by St. Paul as one and the same, is here likened to an olive tree: cp. Jeremiah 11:16; Hosea 14:6. Graffed in] The usual practice would be to graft the cultivated olive upon the wild stock. St. Paul reverses the process in his allegory, to enforce the lesson that the Jews were the original Church, and honourable.

18. Boast.. boast] RV ’glory.. gloriest.’

19. See on Romans 11:11-12, Romans 11:15.

24. How much more] We may see indications of the purpose of God for the Jews in the permanence of their race and in their devoted adherence to the God of their fathers.

25-36. That Israel will be converted has been directly revealed by God (Romans 11:25-27). God’s purpose of favour to them has not changed (Romans 11:28-29). Their disobedience is reckoned with in God’s plan of mercy for both Jew and Gentile (Romans 11:30-32). This view of God’s dealings calls forth wonder and praise (Romans 11:33-36).

Paraphrase. ’(25) Learn, then, in humble silence, God’s revealed will. A partial and temporary hardening of Israel has been permitted. But when the Gentiles as a whole have entered the kingdom, (26) Israel, too, will accept the Messiah. So Isaiah foretold that the Redeemer would remove their ungodliness, (27) and that their sins would be forgiven, and thus God’s covenant with them would be carried out. (28) Although they are shut out from the blessings of the gospel, that the gospel may come to you, yet they are still beloved by God for the sake of the patriarchs whom He chose, (29) for God, who granted them His favour, has not changed His mind, (30) but, having first used their disobedience as the means of bringing you from disobedience to mercy, (31) He intends them so to be stirred up by the mercy you have obtained, as to give up their disobedience and find mercy in their turn. (32) Thus one cannot boast over the other. By giving Gentile and Jew, respectively, the laws of conscience and of revelation, God compelled the sinful nature of both to show itself in disobedience, that both might receive His mercy as the sole cause of their salvation. (33) So we are forced to wonder at God’s profound love and wisdom, and the mystery of His working. (34) Into His thoughts no one can enter, no one share the shaping of His plans. (35) His bounty is unmerited. (36) He is source and guide and goal of all things.’

25. Mystery] Among the Greeks, a’mystery’ meant a secret of religion revealed only to the initiated. St. Paul uses the word to express a truth once hidden, but now revealed by God: cp. Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 2:7, 1 Corinthians 2:10; Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 3:4. Blindness] RV ’a hardening’: cp. Romans 11:7. In part] i.e. not affecting the ’remnant’ who have accepted Christ.

Fulness] i.e. the full number: cp. Romans 11:12.

26. All Israel] i.e. the Jewish race will enter the Christian Church. There shall come, etc.] from Isaiah 59:20.

27. From Isaiah 27:9.

29. Calling] cp. Romans 1:6.; Romans 8:30. Without repentance] i.e. God’s promises are changeless, because He could never do that for which afterwards He was sorry. He is sometimes said, in OT., to ’repent,’ e.g. Genesis 6:6; Joel 2:13. What is meant in such passages is, not that He changes His purposes or principles, but that, because His principles are changeless, therefore His action or methods alter as men alter. Such OT. language is figurative, belonging to the simplicity of less-developed religion. Because, with men, change of action is caused by change of mind, therefore, in OT., when God changes His action, He is said to change His mind.

30. Have not believed] RV ’were disobedient to.’ Unbelief] RV ’disobedience.’

31. Not believed] RV ’been disobedient.’ Your mercy] RV ’the mercy shewn to you.’

32. Concluded] RV ’shut up,’ i.e. without power of escape: cp. Galatians 3:22. In unbelief] RV ’unto disobedience’: cp. Romans 2, 7. Upon all] i.e. who do not reject His mercy.

34. From Isaiah 40:13.

35. From Job 41:11.

36. To him] RV ’unto him’; i.e. all things are created to serve and praise God.

Verses 1-36


Israel’s Rejection not final. A Warning to the Gentiles

In this chapter St. Paul brings to an end his great exposition of God’s dealings with the Jews. He has shown in Romans 9 that God is free to choose or reject individuals or nations as the instruments of His purpose; and, in Romans 10, that the Jews have deserved their rejection. Now he declares that, in spite of all this, God has not. cast off His ancient people. He has seen fit, in His mercy, to preserve a portion of them faithful to His will, and the remainder are still loved by Him. Their having fallen away for a time has given an opportunity for the conversion of the Gentiles. When the Gentiles have been gathered into His kingdom, the Jews will be stirred up by their example and return to God.

1-12. God did not utterly reject the Jews as a nation (Romans 11:1-2). Their failure is partial (Romans 11:2-10), and, as in former days, there is a faithful remnant; their failure is used by God for good, and is temporary (Romans 11:11-12).

Paraphrase. ’(1) Does it follow that God has finally rejected those He made His own people? I, who am proud to be one of them, cannot believe it. (2) And it is impossible, for from all eternity He marked them to be His instruments, and He is unchanging. They are no more rejected than they were in Elijah’s day, (3) when, although Israel was rebellious, (4) God preserved a faithful remnant. (5) So also now there is such a remnant, selected out of the mass by God’s undeserved favour, (6) not for any merit of their own. (7) Thus, a select portion of Israel, having minds open to God’s will and believing in Christ, has obtained acceptance, which the rest, by seeking it in self-righteousness, have lost, incurring instead that hardening which follows self-will, (8) that heavy deafness and blindness toward God which Isaiah perceived, (9) that ruin caused by misuse of blessings (10) of which David spoke. (11) But although the majority have stumbled, even they have not fallen for ever. Their refusal of Christ has occasioned an earlier preaching to the Gentiles, and so has been the means of bringing salvation to them, and this, in turn, is meant to stir the Jews up to accept Christ, and thus regain their old privilege. (12) Thus they still are used by God, for their failure has been a means of blessing to the world, and much greater blessing will result from their complete conversion.’

1. Cast away] cp. Psalms 94:14; 1 Samuel 12:22. Benjamin] the tribe which, with Judah, followed the house of David, and in whose territory Jerusalem stood.

2. People] i.e. the nation as a whole. Foreknew] see on Romans 8:29 and Romans 11:29.

Wot] i.e. know. Of Elias] lit. ’in Elijah’; i.e. in the section of the Scriptures concerning Elijah: cp. Mark 12:26; (RV).

3. Lord, etc.] from 1 Kings 19:10.

4. Reserved to] RV ’left for.’ To the image of Baal] RV ’to Baal.’

6. But if it be of works, etc.] RV omits this latter half of the v.

7. Election] i.e. the chosen remnant who have believed in Christ. Blinded] RV ’hardened,’ i.e. by God, in punishment: see next v. Those who will not, at last cannot.

8. From Deuteronomy 29:4; Isaiah 29:10. The spirit of slumber] RV ’a spirit of stupor.’ Unto this day] part of the quotation from Deuteronomy.

9. From Psalms 69:22.

10. Bow down their back] i.e. in weakness and dejection.

11. Stumbled] cp. Romans 9:32. Fall] i.e. so as not to rise again. Come unto the Gentiles] It was only when the Jews rejected the gospel that the Apostle turned to the Gentiles: cp. Acts 13:45.; Acts 28:28. A Church nationally Jewish would probably have been a hindrance to the complete evangelisation of the Gentiles.

12. Diminishing] RV ’loss.’ As a defeated army suffers loss in battle, so the majority of the Jews had fallen away into unbelief. St. Paul anticipates great blessing to the world when the ’ fulness,’ i.e. the entire nation, of the Jews believes.

13-24. St. Paul now addresses the Gentiles. They should hope for the restoration of Israel, because of the blessing it will bring the world, and because Israel still bears God’s name (Romans 11:13-16). They should not despise Israel (Romans 11:17-18), nor boast of preference (Romans 11:19-20), for, if unfaithful, they too will fall (Romans 11:21-22), whereas the Jews will be restored if they give up their unbelief (Romans 11:23-24).

Paraphrase. ’(13) In this which I write, I am not disregarding my mission to you Gentiles. And you know my heart is in my work among you Gentiles. (14) If, then, I am always hoping that your conversion may stir up the Jews to yearn after their lost privileges, it is not only because I am a Jew, (15) but also because I am sure that as their rejection brought you to God, so their restoration will fill the nations of the earth with spiritual life. (16) And their restoration may certainly be expected, for the nation still retains the consecration it received in the patriarchs. (17) Again, although you have taken the place of some of them in God’s kingdom, (18) do not think yourselves superior to them. Remember that you have been admitted into their kingdom, not they into yours. (19) If God rejected them for you, it was not because He preferred you. (20) Unbelief lost them their place, and faith alone preserves you. (21) The facts do not warrant self-satisfaction in you, but warn you against it. (22) Thus we see manifested both God’s goodness and His severity. His goodness is upon you, but only so long as you are faithful. His severity is upon the Jews, (23) yet, if they give up their unbelief, He will receive them again. And their restoration is quite possible, (24) for they have more in common with the kingdom than you had as heathen.’

13. RV ’But I speak to you that are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I glorify my ministry.’ As the Jews have been spoken of in the third person, we infer that the Roman Christians were chiefly Gentiles.

14. Emulation] RV ’jealousy’: cp. Romans 11:11, Romans 10:19.

15. Reconciling of the world] In the bringing in of the Gentiles, the world began to enjoy that reconciliation which Christ gained for it by dying for all mankind: cp. 2 Corinthians 5:19; Ephesians 2:13.

16. Firstfruit] metaphor from Numbers 15:19. The ’firstfruit’ and ’root’ represent the patriarchs: cp. Romans 11:28, Romans 9:5. Holy] i.e. separated as God’s people for His purposes. No reference to the salvation of individuals: cp. Matthew 3:9.

17. The Church of God, both before and after Christ, regarded by St. Paul as one and the same, is here likened to an olive tree: cp. Jeremiah 11:16; Hosea 14:6. Graffed in] The usual practice would be to graft the cultivated olive upon the wild stock. St. Paul reverses the process in his allegory, to enforce the lesson that the Jews were the original Church, and honourable.

18. Boast.. boast] RV ’glory.. gloriest.’

19. See on Romans 11:11-12, Romans 11:15.

24. How much more] We may see indications of the purpose of God for the Jews in the permanence of their race and in their devoted adherence to the God of their fathers.

25-36. That Israel will be converted has been directly revealed by God (Romans 11:25-27). God’s purpose of favour to them has not changed (Romans 11:28-29). Their disobedience is reckoned with in God’s plan of mercy for both Jew and Gentile (Romans 11:30-32). This view of God’s dealings calls forth wonder and praise (Romans 11:33-36).

Paraphrase. ’(25) Learn, then, in humble silence, God’s revealed will. A partial and temporary hardening of Israel has been permitted. But when the Gentiles as a whole have entered the kingdom, (26) Israel, too, will accept the Messiah. So Isaiah foretold that the Redeemer would remove their ungodliness, (27) and that their sins would be forgiven, and thus God’s covenant with them would be carried out. (28) Although they are shut out from the blessings of the gospel, that the gospel may come to you, yet they are still beloved by God for the sake of the patriarchs whom He chose, (29) for God, who granted them His favour, has not changed His mind, (30) but, having first used their disobedience as the means of bringing you from disobedience to mercy, (31) He intends them so to be stirred up by the mercy you have obtained, as to give up their disobedience and find mercy in their turn. (32) Thus one cannot boast over the other. By giving Gentile and Jew, respectively, the laws of conscience and of revelation, God compelled the sinful nature of both to show itself in disobedience, that both might receive His mercy as the sole cause of their salvation. (33) So we are forced to wonder at God’s profound love and wisdom, and the mystery of His working. (34) Into His thoughts no one can enter, no one share the shaping of His plans. (35) His bounty is unmerited. (36) He is source and guide and goal of all things.’

25. Mystery] Among the Greeks, a’mystery’ meant a secret of religion revealed only to the initiated. St. Paul uses the word to express a truth once hidden, but now revealed by God: cp. Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 2:7, 1 Corinthians 2:10; Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 3:4. Blindness] RV ’a hardening’: cp. Romans 11:7. In part] i.e. not affecting the ’remnant’ who have accepted Christ.

Fulness] i.e. the full number: cp. Romans 11:12.

26. All Israel] i.e. the Jewish race will enter the Christian Church. There shall come, etc.] from Isaiah 59:20.

27. From Isaiah 27:9.

29. Calling] cp. Romans 1:6.; Romans 8:30. Without repentance] i.e. God’s promises are changeless, because He could never do that for which afterwards He was sorry. He is sometimes said, in OT., to ’repent,’ e.g. Genesis 6:6; Joel 2:13. What is meant in such passages is, not that He changes His purposes or principles, but that, because His principles are changeless, therefore His action or methods alter as men alter. Such OT. language is figurative, belonging to the simplicity of less-developed religion. Because, with men, change of action is caused by change of mind, therefore, in OT., when God changes His action, He is said to change His mind.

30. Have not believed] RV ’were disobedient to.’ Unbelief] RV ’disobedience.’

31. Not believed] RV ’been disobedient.’ Your mercy] RV ’the mercy shewn to you.’

32. Concluded] RV ’shut up,’ i.e. without power of escape: cp. Galatians 3:22. In unbelief] RV ’unto disobedience’: cp. Romans 2, 7. Upon all] i.e. who do not reject His mercy.

34. From Isaiah 40:13.

35. From Job 41:11.

36. To him] RV ’unto him’; i.e. all things are created to serve and praise God.

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Romans 11". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/romans-11.html. 1909.