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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Romans 11

 

 

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.

The scope of this chapter is to explain the present condition, and open up the future prospects of Israel; and the sum of it is, that although God might seem to have cast off His covenant-people, this rejection was neither total nor final: not total, for even now there is a chosen remnant, that have believed through grace; not final, for a time is coming when all Israel shall be saved.

First: Even Now, Israel is Not WHOLLY Rejected (Romans 11:1-10)

I say then, Hath ('Did') God cast away his people? God forbid. Our Lord did indeed announce that 'the kingdom of God should be taken from Israel' (Matthew 21:41); and when asked by the Eleven, after His resurrection, if He would at that time "restore the kingdom to Israel," His reply is a virtual admission that Israel was in some sense already out of covenant (Acts 1:9). Yet here the apostle teaches that, in two respects, Israel was not "cast away." First, Israel is not wholly cast away.

For I also am an Israelite (see Philippians 3:5) - and so a living witness to the contrary;

Of the seed of Abraham - of pure descent from the father of the faithful;

Of the tribe of Benjamin (Philippians 3:5) - that tribe which, on the revolt of the ten tribes, constituted, with Judah, the one faithful kingdom of God (1 Kings 12:21), and after the captivity was, along with Judah, the kernel of the Jewish nation (Ezra 4:1; Ezra 10:9).


Verse 2

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,

God hath ('did') not cast away his people (i:e., wholly) which he foreknew. On the word "foreknew," see the note at Romans 8:29.

Wot (i:e., Know) ye not what the Scripture saith of Elias? - literally, 'in Elias;' meaning, 'in the section about Elias,'

How he maketh intercession (or 'pleadeth') against Israel, [saying,]


Verse 3

Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.

Lord, they have killed thy prophets, [and] digged down thine altars. The two bracketed words - "saying" (Romans 11:2) and "and" (Romans 11:3) - are clearly not genuine; and Romans 11:3 should read, 'They have killed thy prophets, they have digged down thine altars,'

And I am left alone ('I only am left'), and they seek my life.


Verse 4

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.

But what saith the answer of God unto him? [ ho (Greek #3588) chreematismos (Greek #5538)]. The noun here rendered "answer of God" is nowhere else used in the New Testament, though the verb is used seven times in that sense-a sense derived from the Septuagint It means a 'divine communication,' in whatever way received. The words now to be quoted are from 1 Kings 19:18, almost verbatim.

I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to [the image of] Baal.

There is no need of the supplementary words of our version. To 'bow the knee to Baal' is surely intelligible enough.


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 , [ en (Greek #1722) too (Greek #3588) nun (Greek #3568) kairoo (Greek #2540)] - 'in this present season;' meaning, this period of Israel's rejection,

There is , [ gegonen (Greek #1096)] - 'there obtains'

A remnant according to the election of grace - q.d., 'As in Elijah's time the apostasy of Israel was not so universal as it seemed to be, and as he in his despondency concluded it to be, so now, the rejection of Christ by Israel is not so appalling in extent as one would be apt to think: There is now, as there was then, a faithful remnant; not, however, of persons naturally better than the unbelieving mass, but of persons graciously chosen to salvation.' (See 1 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Thessalonians 2:13.) This establishes our view of the argument on election in Romans 9:1-33, as not being an Election of Gentiles in the room of Jews, and merely to religious advantages, but a sovereign choice of some of Israel itself, from among others, to believe and be saved. (See the note at Romans 9:6.)


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.

And ('Now') if (it be) by grace - that is, the Election,

[then] is it no more of works; otherwise grace ('becomes') is no more grace.

But if it be of works, then is it no more grace; otherwise work is no more work. (The latter of these statements, beginning with "But," has very weighty external evidence against it; but, with Tischendorf, we retain it for the reasons stated by him. (See also Fritzsche's long and able note. Such seeming redundancies are not unusual with our apostle.) The general position here laid down is fundamental, and of unspeakable importance. It may be thus expressed: There are but two possible sources of salvation-men's works and God's grace; and these are so essentially distinct and opposite, that salvation cannot be of any combination or mixture of both; it must be wholly either of the one or of the other. (See Remark 3, at the close of Romans 4:1-25.)


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? - How stands the case?

Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded , [ epoorootheesan (Greek #4456)] - better thus: 'What Israel is in search of (meaning justification, or acceptance with God-see the note at Romans 9:31), this he found not [ toutou (Greek #5127) of the Received Text has next to no authority: touto (Greek #5124) is the true reading]: but the election found it (that is, the elect remnant of Israel), and the rest were hardened' (or judicially given over to the hardness of their own hearts).


Verse 8

(According as it is written God hath given them the spirit of slumber eyes that they should not see and (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.

(According as it is written (in Isaiah 29:10, and Deuteronomy 29:4),

God hath given them the spirit of slumber , [ katanuxeoos (Greek #2659)] - not 'remorse' (as in margin, and as the derivation of the word might suggest), but 'stupor' or 'torpor' [see Frifzsche's 'Excursus' on this word, pp. 549-563].

Eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear; unto this ('this present') day.


Verse 9

And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them:

And David saith - in Psalms 69:22-23, which, in such a Messianic Psalm, must be meant of the rejecters of Christ,

Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them - q.d, 'Let their very blessings prove a curse to them, and their enjoyments only sting and take vengeance on them.'


Verse 10

Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.

Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway - `and ever bow thou down their back;' expressive either of the decrepitude or of the servile condition to come on the nation through the just judgment of God. The apostle's object in making these quotations is to show that what he had been compelled to say of the then condition and prospects of his nation was more than borne out by their own Scriptures. But now,

Secondly: Israel, even as a Nation, Is Not FINALLY Rejected, but Is Destined to a Glorious Recovery (Romans 11:11-31)


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, Have they stumbled ('Did they stumble') that they should fall? God forbid: but [rather].

This supplementary "rather" is superfluous.

Through their fall , [ paraptoomati (Greek #3900)] - literally, 'trespass;' probably 'lapse' is best:

Salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Here, as in Romans 10:19 (quoted from Deuteronomy 32:21), we see the principle of emulation divinely called into exercise as a stimulus to what is good.


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 ('their lapse') be the riches of the (Gentile) world - as being the occasion of their accession to Christ,

And the diminishing of them - that is, the reduction of the true Israel to so small a remnant;

The riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness! - their full recovery (see the note at Romans 11:26): q.d., 'If an event so untoward as Israel's fall was the occasion of such unspeakable good to the Gentile world, of how much greater good may we expect an event so blessed as their full recovery to be productive?'


Verse 13

For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:

I speak ('I am speaking') to you Gentiles - another proof that this Epistle was addressed not to Jewish but to Gentile believers (see the note at Romans 1:13),

Inasmuch, as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify ('glorify') mine office. The clause beginning with "inasmuch" should be read as a parenthesis.


Verse 14

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

If by any means I may provoke to emulation [them which are] my flesh (see the note at Romans 11:11 : cf. Isaiah 58:7), and might ('may') save some of them.


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. The apostle had denied that they were cast away (Romans 11:1), and here he affirms it; but both are true. They were cast away, though neither totally nor finally; and it is of this partial and temporary rejection that the apostle is speaking.

Be the reconciling of the (Gentile) world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? It is surely very strained to explain this of the literal resurrection, as most modern critics, following some of the fathers, do; but to take it as a mere proverbial expression for the highest felicity (as Grotius, etc.) is far too loose. The meaning seems to be, that the reception of the whole family of Israel, scattered as they are among all nations under heaven, and the most inveterate enemies of the Lord Jesus, will be such a stupendous manifestation of the power of God upon the spirits of men, and of His glorious presence with the heralds of the Cross, as will not only kindle devout astonishment far and wide, but so change the dominant mode of thinking and feeling on all spiritual things as to seem like a resurrection from the dead.


Verse 16

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

For ('But') if the first-fruit be holy, the lump is also [holy]; and if the roof be holy, so [are] the branches. The Israelites were required to offer to God the first-fruits of the earth-both in their raw state, in a sheaf of newly reaped grain (Leviticus 23:10-11), and in their prepared state, made into cakes of dough (Numbers 15:19-21), by which the whole produce for that season was regarded as hallowed. It is probably the latter of these offerings that is here intended, as to it the word "lump" best applies; and the argument of the apostle is, that as the separation unto God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, from the rest of mankind, to be the parent stem of their race, was as real an offering of first-fruits as that which hallowed the produce of the earth, so, in the divine estimation, it was as real a separation of the mass or "lump" of that nation in all time to God. The figure of the "root" and its "branches" is of like import-the consecration of the one of them extending to the figure of the "root" and its "branches" is of like import-the consecration of the one of them extending to the other.


Verse 17

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;

And if - rather, 'But if'-q.d., 'If, notwithstanding this consecration of Abraham's race to God,'

Some of the branches. The mass of the unbelieving and rejected Israelites are here called "some," not, as before, to meet Jewish prejudice (see the note at Romans 3:3, and on "not all," in Romans 10:16), but with the opposite view of checking Gentile pride.

And thou, being a wild olive tree, wert ('wast') graffed in among them. Though it is more usual to graft the superior cutting upon the inferior stem, the opposite method, which is intended here, is not without example.

And with them partakest ('wast made partaker'-along with the branches left, the believing remnant)

Of the root and fatness of the olive tree (the rich grace secured by covenant to the true seed of Abraham):


Verse 18

Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.

Boast not against the (rejected) branches.

But if thou (do) boast (remember that), thou bearest not ('it is not thou that bearest') the root, but the root thee - q.d., 'If the branches may not boast over the root that bears them, then may not the Gentile boast over the seed of Abraham; for what is thy standing, O Gentile, in relation to Israel, but that of a branch in relation to the root? From Israel hath come all that thou art and hast in the family of God; for "salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22).


Verse 19

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

Thou wilt say then (as a plea for boasting), The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in.


Verse 20

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

Well - q.d., 'Be it so, but remember that,'

Because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest (not as a Gentile, but solely) by faith. But as faith cannot live in those "whose soul is lifted up" (Habakkuk 2:4),

Be not high-minded, but fear (Proverbs 28:14; Philippians 2:12).


Verse 21

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

For if God spared not the natural branches (sprung from the parent stem),

Take heed lest he also spare not thee (a mere wild graft). The former might, beforehand, have been thought very improbable; but, after that, no one can wonder at the latter.


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 and severity of God: on them which fell, severity - in rejecting the chosen seed [ apotomia (Greek #663) appears to be the true reading, not - apotomian (Greek #663)],

But toward thee, goodness - `the goodness of God' (according to the reading best supported). The goodness referred to is God's sovereign goodness in admitting to a covenant-standing those who before were "strangers to the covenants of promise" (Ephesians 2:12-20).

If thou continue in his goodness - in believing dependence on that pure goodness which made thee what thou art: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.


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 ('Yea, and they'), if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. This appeal to the power of God to effect the recovery of His ancient people implies the vast difficulty of it-which all who have ever laboured for the conversion of the Jews are made depressingly to feel. That intelligent expositors should think that this was meant of individual Jews, re-introduced from time to time into the family of God on their believing on the Lord Jesus, is surprising; and yet those who deny the national recovery of Israel must and do so interpret the apostle. But this is to confound the two things which the apostle carefully distinguishes. Individual Jews have been at all times admissible, and have been actually admitted, to the Church through the gate of faith in the Lord Jesus. This is the "remnant, even at this present time, according to the election of grace," of which the apostle, in the first part of the chapter, had cited himself as one. But here he manifestly speaks of something not then existing, but to be looked forward to as a great future event in the divine economy-the re-ingrafting of the nation as such, when they "abide not in unbelief." And though this is here spoken of merely as a supposition (if their unbelief shall cease) - in order to set if over against the other supposition, of what will happen to the Gentiles if they shall not abide in the faith-the supposition is turned into an explicit prediction in the verses following.


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?

For if thou wert cut ('wert cut off') 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 is just the converse of what is said in Romans 11:21 : 'As the excision of the merely engrafted Gentiles through unbelief is a thing much more to be expected than was the excision of the natural Israel, before it happened, so the restoration of Israel, when they shall be brought to believe in Jesus, is a thing far more in the line of what we should expect than the admission of the Gentiles to a standing which they never before enjoyed.'


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 I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery. The word "mystery," so often used by our apostle, does not mean, as with us, something incomprehensible, but 'something before kept secret, either wholly, or for the most part, and now only fully disclosed,' (cf. Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 2:7-10; Ephesians 1:9-10; Ephesians 3:3-6; Ephesians 3:9-10, etc.)

Lest ye should be wise in your own conceits - as if ye alone were now and in all time coming to be the family of God.

That blindness ('hardness') in part , [ apo (Greek #575) merous (Greek #3313) = kata (Greek #2596) merous (Greek #3313)] is happened to ('hath come upon') Israel} - i:e., hath come partially, or upon a portion of Israel (so Beza, Grotius, Fritzsche, etc.); not 'to some extent' (as Calvin, etc.), for the blindness or hardness was total on those on whom it fell at all; but (says the apostle) if fell only on a part of the chosen race.

Until the fullness of the Gentiles be ('have') come in - i:e., not the general conversion of the world to Christ, as many take it; for this would seem to contradict the latter part of this chapter, and throw the national recovery of Israel too far into the future; besides, in Romans 11:15 the apostle seems to speak of the receiving of Israel, not as following, but as contributing largely to bring about the general conversion of the world: clearly it means, 'until the Gentiles have had their full time of the visible Church all to themselves, while the Jews are out, which the Jews had until the Gentiles were brought in.' See the note at Luke 21:24 (in Commentary on Mark 13:20, p. 193).


Verse 26

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:

And so all Israel shall be saved - not 'all the spiritual Israel,' Jew and Gentile (as one or two of the fathers, and Luther, Calvin, etc.), for throughout all this chapter, the apostle by "Israel" means exclusively the natural seed of Abraham, whom he sharply distinguishes from the Gentiles; nor the whole believing remnant of the natural Israel, (as Bengel, Olshausen, etc.) Clearly the meaning here is, The Israelite nation at large. To understand this great statement, as some still do, merely of such a gradual inbringing of individual Jews, that there shall at length remain none in unbelief, is to do manifest violence both to it and to the whole context. If can only mean the ultimate, ingathering of Israel as a nation, in contrast with the present "remnant." (So most of the fathers-Beza, Fritzsche, Tholuck, Reiche, Meyer, DeWette, Alford, Philippi, Hodge, Lange.) Some of these critics would seem to advocate the inbringing of every individual Israelite; others, only of 'the mass' or 'majority;' but if they mean simply, 'the nation at large,' as opposed to 'a remnant,' they have brought out, as it appears to us, the precise idea of the apostle. Three Confirmations of this Cheering Announcement Now Follow: Two from the Prophets, and a Third from the Abrahamic Covenant Itself

First Confirmation-from the Prophets

As it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away - `He shall turn away' (without the "and") is the true reading,

Ungodliness from Jacob. The apostle, having drawn his illustrations of man's sinfulness chiefly from Psalms 14:1-7 and Isaiah 59:1-21, now seems (as Bengel observes) to combine the language of the same two places regarding Israel's salvation from it. In the one place the psalmist longs to see "the salvation of Israel coming out of Zion" (Psalms 14:7); in the other, the prophet announces that "the Redeemer (or, "Deliverer") shall come to (or, for) Zion" (Isaiah 59:20). But as all the glorious manifestations of Israel's God were regarded as issuing out of Zion, as the seat of His manifested glory (Psalms 20:2; Psalms 110:2; Isaiah 31:9), the turn which the apostle gives to the words merely adds to them that familiar idea. And whereas the prophet announces that He "shall come to (or, 'for') them that turn from transgression in Jacob," while the apostle makes him say that He shall come "to turn away ungodliness from Jacob," this is taken from the Septuagint version, and seems to indicate a different reading of the original text. The sense, however, is substantially the same in both. Second confirmation-from the prophets.


Verse 27

For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.

For this , [ autee (Greek #846) autois (Greek #846) hee (Greek #3588) par' (Greek #3844) emou (Greek #1700) diatheekee (Greek #1242)] - rather, 'And (again),' introducing a new quotation:

Is my covenant unto them , [ ametameleeta (Greek #278).] - 'this is the covenant from me unto them,'

When I shall take away their sins. This, we believe, is rather a brief summary of Jeremiah 31:31-34, than the express words of any prediction. Those who believe that there are no predictions regarding the literal Israel in the Old Testament that stretch beyond the end of the Jewish economy, are obliged to view these quotations by the apostle as mere adaptations of Old Testament language to express his own predictions (Alexander on Isaiah, for example). But how forced this is, we shall presently see. Third confirmation-from the Abrahamic covenant itself.


Verse 28

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

As concerning the Gospel, they are enemies for your sakes - that is, they are regarded and treated as enemies (in a state of exclusion, through unbelief, from the family of God) for the benefit of you Gentiles; in the sense of Romans 11:11; Romans 11:15.

But as touching the election (of Abraham and his seed), they are beloved (even in their state of exclusion), for the fathers' sakes.


Verse 29

For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

For the gifts and calling ('For the gifts and the calling') of God are without repentance , [ ametameleeta (Greek #278)] - 'are not to be,' or 'cannot be, repented of.' By the "calling of God," in this case, is meant that sovereign act by which God, in the exercise of His free choice, "called" Abraham to be the father of a special people; while "the gifts of God" here denote the articles of the covenant which God made with Abraham, and which constituted the real distinction between his and all other families of the earth. Both these, says the apostle, are irrevocable; and as the point for which he refers to this at all is the final destiny of the Israelite nation, it is clear that the perpetuity through all time of the Abrahamic covenant is the thing here affirmed. And lest any should say that though Israel, as a nation, has no destiny at all under the Gospel, but as a people disappeared from the stage when the middle wall of partition was broken down, yet the Abrahamic covenant still endures in the spiritual seed of Abraham, made up of Jews and Gentiles in one undistinguished mass of redeemed men under the Gospel-as if to preclude that supposition, the apostle expressly states that the very Israel who, as concerning the Gospel, are regarded as "enemies for the Gentiles' sakes," are "beloved for the father's sakes;" and it is in proof of this that he adds, "For the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance." But in what sense are the now unbelieving and excluded children of Israel "beloved for the fathers' sakes?" Not merely from ancestral recollections, as one looks with fond interest on the child of a dear friend for that friend's sake-a beautiful thought of the late Dr. Arnold, and not foreign to Scripture in this very case (see 2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8); but it is from ancestral connections and obligations, or their lineal descent from and oneness in covenant with the fathers with whom God originally established it. In other words, the natural Israel-not "the remnant of them according to the election of grace," but THE NATION, sprung from Abraham according to the flesh-are still an elect people, and as such, "beloved." The very same love which chose the fathers, and rested on the fathers as a parent stem of the nation, still rests on their descendants at large, and will yet recover them from unbelief, and reinstate them in the family of God.


Verse 30

For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:

For as ye in times past have not believed (or, 'obeyed') God - that is, yielded not to God "the obedience of faith," while strangers to Christ,

Yet have now obtained mercy through (by occasion of) their unbelief (see the notes at Romans 11:11; Romans 11:15; Romans 11:28);


Verse 31

Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.

Even so have these (the Jews) now not believed (or, 'now been disobedient'), that through your mercy (the mercy shown to you) they also may obtain mercy. Here is an entirely new idea. The apostle has hitherto dwelt upon the unbelief of the Jews as making way for the faith of the Gentiles-the exclusion of the one occasioning the reception of the other; a truth which could yield to generous, believing Gentiles but mingled satisfaction. Now, opening a more cheering prospect, he speaks of the mercy shown to the Gentiles as a means of Israel's recovery, which seems to mean that it will be by the instrumentality of believing Gentiles that Israel as a nation is at length to "look on Him whom they have pierced, and mourn for Him," and so to "obtain mercy." (See 2 Corinthians 3:15-16.)


Verse 32

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

For God hath concluded them all in unbelief , [ sunekleisen (Greek #4788) tous (Greek #3588) pantas (Greek #3956) eis (Greek #1519) apeitheian (Greek #543)] - 'hath shut up all into unbelief' or 'disobedience:' our version, by rendering it "them all," leaves the impression (as Scholefield observes) that it is of Jews only that this is said; whereas the argument requires it to be understood of both the great divisions of mankind that are treated of in this chapter-hath shut up all (both Jew and Gentile) into unbelief.

That he might have mercy upon all - the same "all" of whom he had been discoursing; that is, the Gentiles first, and after them the Jews (so Fritzsche, Tholuck, Olshausen, DeWette, Philippi, Stuart, Hodge). Certainly it is not 'all men without limitation' (as Meyer and Alford); for the apostle is not here dealing with individuals, but with those great divisions of mankind, Jew and Gentile. And what he here says is, that God's purpose was to shut up each of these divisions of men to the experience, first, of an unhumbled, condemned state, without Christ, and then to the experience of His mercy in Christ.

The Adorableness of this Plan of Divine Mercy (Romans 11:33-36)

In these concluding verses the apostle yields himself up to the admiring contemplation of the grandeur of that divine plan which he had sketched out.


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!

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! Many able expositors render this, 'of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God.' (So Erasmus, Grotius, Bengel, Fritzsche, Tholuck, Olshausen, Alford, Philippi, Lange.) The words will certainly bear this sense; and then we have three distinct things drawing forth the apostle's admiration: first, 'the depth of God's riches'-a term which, when the apostle uses it alone (Romans 10:12; Ephesians 3:8; Philippians 4:19), seems to mean the riches of His grace (which accordingly DeWette renders if here [Gnadenreichthums] - contrary to his usual strict literality); next, the depth of His "wisdom;" and lastly, the depth of His "knowledge." But (with Luther, Calvin, Beza, and Hodge) we prefer our own version; partly because "the riches of God" is a much rarer expression with our apostle than the riches of this or that perfection of God; but still more because the words immediately following limit our attention to the unsearchableness of God's "judgments," by which are probably meant His decrees or plans (Psalms 119:75), and of "his ways," or the method by which He carries these into effect. And all that follows to the end of the chapter seems to show that while the Grace of God to guilty men in Christ Jesus is presupposed to be the whole theme of this chapter, that which called forth the special admiration of the apostle, after sketching at some length the divine purposes and methods in the bestowment of this Grace, was 'the depth of the riches of God's wisdom and knowledge' in these purposes and methods. The "knowledge," then, points probably to the vast sweep of divine comprehension herein displayed; the "wisdom" to that fitness to accomplish the ends intended which is stamped on all this procedure.


Verse 34

For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?

For who hath known the mind of the Lord? (see Job 15:8; Jeremiah 23:18)

Or who hath been his counselor? (see Isaiah 40:13-14).


Verse 35

Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?

Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? - `and shall have recompense made to him again?' (see Job 35:7; Job 41:11.) These questions, it will thus be seen, are just quotations from the Old Testament, as if to show how familiar to God's ancient people was the great truth which the apostle himself had just uttered-that God's plans and methods in the dispensation of His Grace have a reach of comprehension and wisdom stamped upon them which finite mortals cannot fathom, much less could ever have imagined before they were disclosed.


Verse 36

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

For of him , [ ex (Greek #1537) autou (Greek #846)] - as their Eternal Source, as 1 Corinthians 8:6, and (though of a more limited sphere) 1 Corinthians 11:12,

And through him , [ di' (Greek #1223) autou (Greek #846)] - as the sole Efficient Agent in the production and conservation of them. [On this application of dia (Greek #1223) with the genitive to the primary agent of anything, see Winer, 8. 47. i; and Fritzsche, on Romans 1:5, p. 15.]

And to him , [ eis (Greek #1519) auton (Greek #846)] - as their Last End,

Are all things - the manifestation of the glory of His own perfections being the ultimate, because the highest possible, design of all His procedure from first to last:

To whom ('to Him') be glory forever. Amen.

In this three-fold view of God many of the fathers saw a covert reference to the three Persons of the Godhead (and they are followed by Estius, Olshausen, and Tholuck); but here, at least, that cannot be admitted, as 'to Him' can have no reference to any known property or work of the Spirit. Thus grandly, and with a brevity and rhythm worthy of the sublimity of the thoughts, does the apostle sum up, not only this profound and comprehensive chapter, but the whole doctrinal portion of this Epistle.

Remarks:

(1) It is an unspeakable consolation to know that in times of deepest religious declension and most extensive defection from the truth the lamp of God has never been permitted to go out, and that a faithful remnant has ever existed-a remnant larger than their own drooping spirits could easily believe.

(2) The preservation of this remnant, even as their separation at the first, is all of mere grace.

(3) When individuals and communities, after many fruitless warnings, are abandoned of God, they go from bad to worse (Romans 11:7-10).

(4) God has so ordered His dealings with the great divisions of mankind, "that no flesh should glory in his presence." Gentile and Jew have each in turn been "shut up to unbelief," that each in turn may experience the "mercy" which saves the chief of sinners.

(5) As we are "justified by faith " so are we "kept by the power of God through faith" faith alone unto (5) As we are "justified by faith," so are we "kept by the power of God through faith" - faith alone-unto salvation (Romans 11:20-32).

(6) God's covenant with Abraham and his natural seed is a perpetual covenant, in equal force under the Gospel as before it. Therefore it is that the Jews as a nation still survive, in spite of all the laws which, in similar circumstances, have either extinguished, or destroyed the identity of, other nations. And therefore it is that the Jews as a nation will yet be restored to the family of God, through the subjection of their proud hearts to Him whom they have pierced. And as believing Gentiles will be honoured to be the instruments of this stupendous change, so shall the vast Gentile world reap such benefit from it that it shall be like the communication of life to them from the dead.

(7) Thus has the Christian Church the highest motive to the establishment and vigorous prosecution of Missions to the Jews: God having not only promised that there shall be a remnant of them gathered in every age, but pledged Himself to the final ingathering of the whole nation, assigned the honour of that ingathering to the Gentile Church, and assured them that the event, when it does arrive, shall have a life-giving effect upon the whole world.

(8) Those who think that in all the evangelical prophecies of the Old Testament the terms "Jacob," "Israel," etc., are to be understood solely of the Christian Church, would appear to read the Old Testament differently from the apostle, who, from the use of those very terms in Old Testament prophecy, draws arguments to prove that God has mercy in store for the natural Israel.

(9) Mere intellectual investigations into divine truth in general, and the sense of the living oracles in particular, as they have a hardening effect, so they are a great contrast to the spirit of our apostle, whose lengthened sketch of God's majestic procedure toward men in Christ Jesus ends here in a burst of admiration, which loses itself in the still loftier frame of adoration.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Romans 11:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/romans-11.html. 1871-8.

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