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Bible Commentaries

Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
Romans 11

 

 

Verses 1-7

The election has obtained it

" translation="">Romans 11:1-7

After writing the words recorded in Chapter Ten, Paul saw an objection arising from his adversaries. Has God cast away all of his people who are called Jews? Where is his covenant with Israel? How are his promises to Israel to be understood? What hope can the Jew have of obtaining salvation? Paul proceeds to deal with these questions.

Romans 11:1. In his usual way, when objection is contrary to scripture and very displeasing to him, he exclaims, ‘God forbid’ (Romans 3:3-4; Romans 3:31; Romans 6:1-2). ‘Has God cast away all Jews?’ ‘God forbid; 1 am a Jew.’ The Lord was pleased to save Saul of Tarsus who was of the seed of Abraham and of the little tribe of Benjamin. God even made him a minister of the gospel.

Romans 11:2. Here is the most important statement: ‘God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew’ among the Jews or Gentiles. There is a sense in which all mankind are God's people. They are certainly his creatures, his subjects, his to do with as he will. But all are not foreknown; all are not objects of his eternal love and grace (Romans 8:28-30). Many will hear him say, ‘I never knew you.’ Even so, Israel was chosen from among the nations. They were called the people of God and were blessed with the promises, the prophets, the law, and the sacrifices; but all were not foreknown, for most of them perished in unbelief (Hebrews 4:2). Elijah made intercession, not for Israel but against them.

Romans 11:3. Instead of praying for them as prophets were accustomed to do, Elijah was obliged to complain against them for their idolatry, contempt, and unbelief. He, too, thought that God was finished with Israel and would totally abandon them, for ‘they have destroyed the altars of God;’ and he felt that he was the only Israelite left who worshipped the true God (1 Kings 19:10).

Romans 11:4. How did God answer Elijah? (1 Kings 19:18). ‘You are not alone–I have seven thousand men in Israel who know my name and seek my glory.’ God had not completely cast Israel away then, nor has he cast all Jews away now. Sincere men, like Elijah, are often wrong when they despair for the cause of God and truth. When the church and the cause of Christ seem at the lowest (idolatry, superstition, and error are seemingly in full command), God always has a people whom he foreknew, redeemed, and called.

Romans 11:5. Even so, at this present time there is a remnant (there are some); there always has been, is now, and always will be. Elijah was not the only Jewish believer in his day; and Paul says, ‘I am not the only one today.’ The number may be small (Romans 9:27), but God has his people, ‘According to the election of grace’ (Ephesians 1:3-4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13).

1. God chose us.

2. God chose us in Christ.

3. God chose us from eternity.

4. God chose us to be like Christ.

5. God chose according to his own will (John 1:12-13; Romans 9:16).

Almost every religionist believes in some sort of election. He must, because election is a Bible term. But the election taught in scripture is not based on works, foreseen merit, nor man's will; but God elected us according to his will, purpose, mercy, and grace (2 Timothy 1:8-9). Left to ourselves we would not love God, seek God, nor come to Christ (John 5:40-44; 1 Corinthians 2:14).

Romans 11:6. Salvation is by the pure, unmerited grace and mercy of God. The works, efforts, and deeds of men are not involved (John 1:12-13; Romans 9:15-16). If salvation comes to us because of our works (however small), then it is not of grace. If you can find any reason why God should save you other than that by his grace in Christ he was pleased to show mercy, then you are advocating salvation by works.

Romans 11:7. ‘What then?’ What can be said to this point that the apostle advocates? It is as clear as the sun. God has not cast away all the people of the Jews nor any whom he foreknew and gave to Christ of any age or period of time.

‘Israel hath not obtained what they sought’–that is, carnal Israel (the body and bulk of that people who sought life and righteousness by the deeds and ceremonies of the law); for this is impossible (Romans 3:20; Hebrews 10:4). They sought righteousness in the wrong place, in the wrong way.

‘But the election hath obtained it and the rest were blinded.’ Paul divides Israel into two parts–the election and the rest. These chosen ones obtained mercy, grace, and righteousness in Christ as the apostle himself did, and the rest were left in darkness (2 Corinthians 4:3-6).


Verses 8-36

Has God cast away the Jews?

Romans 11:8-36

This is a difficult chapter, demanding the most careful and prayerful consideration, free from preconceived theories and prophetic systems. I can see five divisions.

1. (vv. l-7.) Has God totally rejected and disowned the Jews? Of course not! Paul gives himself as an example. He says that he is a Jew and that God brought him to a knowledge of Christ. Elijah thought he was the only believer left, but God told him that he had seven thousand men who knew him. Even so, right now, there is a remnant according to the election of grace!

2. (Romans 11:8-10.) The Jews had the prophets, the law, the tabernacle, the types and the promises of redemption through Christ. They refused to hear, see or embrace the promises. Even when Christ came they rejected him (John 1:11), wherefore God delivered them to spiritual blindness to this day (Psalms 69:20-25). They rejected their Messiah, wherefore the Passover table and all the types became meaningless to them. Rather than being the means to point them to Christ, these types became a trap serving as their refuge.

3. (Romans 11:11.) Have they stumbled that they should fall irretrievably? God forbid! Will they always remain in this blind condition? No! God used their rejection of the gospel to send the gospel to the Gentiles! (Acts 13:44-48; Acts 28:27-28).

‘To provoke them to jealousy.’ Paul mentions this three times (Romans 10:19; Romans 11:11; Romans 11:14). They will see what they have lost in rejecting Christ and what the Gentiles have gained in receiving him! God uses means to accomplish his purposes.

(Romans 11:12-15) If through their fall and blindness God's grace has come to the Gentiles and through a handful of Jews God turned the world upside down, think what the blessings would be to the world if God opened the eyes of a greater part of that nation!

He repeats the argument of Romans 11:12. If every Jew became an evangelist (a believer in Christ), it would be life from the dead, not only of the Jews but of the Gentile church, which in this day is in a state of deadness. It would produce the greatest revival the world has ever seen. The results of Christ being revealed to the Jew would be unparalleled blessing to Jew and Gentile.

Romans 11:16. This is the third argument that God has not totally cast away Israel.

1. The first-fruits of the harvest were given to God and this sanctified the whole harvest.

2. If there is life in the root of the tree, the whole tree may appear dead and every branch withered and broken, but life in the root can produce new branches! These first-fruits and root are Abraham, David and the apostles.

4. (Romans 11:17.) In these next verses Paul warns the Gentile believers against being puffed up against the Jews on account of our blessings and their blindness. The Jewish nation was God's olive tree; Abraham was the root! The greater part of God's true people were chosen out of them. By their unbelief some of the branches are broken off and we, from the wild tree, have been grafted in to partake of the root and the fatness (Romans 1:16; John 4:22; Romans 3:1-2; Romans 9:4-5).

Romans 11:18. Read the Amplified Version. Remember the Jews were the first believers. The Jews have received no advantage from the Gentiles, but the Gentiles much from the Jews. The first preachers were Jews, and of Israel Christ came!

(Romans 11:19-24.) A haughty spirit goes before a fall. If God spared not the natural branches, this is a good reason for us to be humble and fearful, lest he spare not us. Unbelief caused them to be cut off and faith in Christ will restore them. The same applies to us.

5. (Romans 11:25-32.) These verses seem to indicate the future conversion and restoration of the Jews. This mystery is revealed to prevent us from being puffed up against the Jews and forming our own opinion about God's purpose in relation to the nation of Israel. This natural blindness is temporary until the full body of Gentiles is called (Luke 21:24).

Romans 11:26. Some say this is spiritual Israel (Jew and Gentile believers), but it does not fit the context, for it is dealing with the Jewish people. (Look at Romans 11:27-29.) As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for the sake of the Gentiles, but as touching the election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers (Deuteronomy 7:6-8). God's gifts and purposes never change.

Romans 11:30-31. ‘At one time you Gentiles did not believe but you obtained mercy. Now the Jews do not believe but they will obtain mercy.’

Romans 11:33-36. In these closing verses Paul reminds us of the impossibility of our comprehending the wisdom, knowledge, judgment and mind of the Lord. We are foolish to try to put the infinite God in a mould or to try to chart his unsearchable ways and designs. He will do what he will, with whom he will, when he will, and all that he does will be right because he does it. When we think that we have all of the answers and understand the ways of God, we have but revealed our ignorance and foolishness. Let our faith be summed up in the words of Eli: ‘It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good’ (1 Samuel 3:18).

 


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Bibliography Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on Romans 11:4". Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hms/romans-11.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, July 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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