A short series on Romans 8 – 11. Part 9.
“I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. . . 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace” (Romans 11:1-2, 5-6 ESV).
God redeems Jewish people. There is a remnant of Jews chosen by grace, but the Lord has also grafted in Gentiles — people outside of Abraham’s biological family. Today Gentiles comprise the larger number of Jesus Messiah’s followers, though there are Jewish believers in every generation.
“What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone” (Romans 9:30-32 ESV).
Jesus is the Rock, the stumbling stone. They expected a Conquering Hero, rather than a Suffering Servant. The majority chose not to believe, though within a short time after Jesus ascended, over three thousand Jewish people comprised the early church.
It is only through the softening of our hearts by the Holy Spirit that any of us can turn to God, repent, and be saved. The longer we remain in a stubborn and resistant position, the more hardened we become.It is only through the softening of our hearts by the Holy Spirit that any of us can turn to God, repent, and be saved. The longer we remain in a stubborn, resistant position, the more hardened we become. Click To Tweet
7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8 as it is written,
“God gave them a spirit of stupor,
eyes that would not see
and ears that would not hear,
down to this very day.”
(Romans 11:7-8 ESV)
Their rejection of Messiah Jesus brought a long history of hardship, which Jesus himself foretold. And yet, God also promised a glorious plan. “God’s saving righteousness is featured in the salvation of Israel at the end of history, and in his saving plan for both Jews and Gentiles.” 1
11 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! 13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:11-15 ESV).
Life from the dead
“If the rejection of the majority of Israel has meant that many Gentiles (the world) are now reconciled to God through Christ, then the acceptance of the Jews (their future coming to Christ in large numbers) will bring about the final resurrection (life from the dead) and the end of history, so that from that point on people will praise God forever and ever (see 11:12).” 2
The Olive Tree: Romans 11:17-24.
The Jewish people are the cultivated olive tree, nurtured by God since Abraham, brought through hardships, safely ushered out of Egypt, still existent today — the genealogical family of God the Son, Jesus Messiah.
“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:1-3a ESV).
That shoot is Jesus Messiah. The Holy Spirit is all wrapped up in this, from “conceived by the Holy Spirit. . .” to all of the above.
Some Jewish “branches” were broken off, and Gentile “wild olive shoots” were grafted in by the Gardener. The spiritual work of breaking off and grafting in is completed by the Holy Spirit and the Gospel.
17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you… 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree” (Romans 11:17-18, 21-24 ESV).
Reverent fear is the appropriate response. We can’t take our salvation for granted. Is there faith? Is there repentance? Is there fruit? Is there perseverance? If not, we will likewise be judged as unbelievers and cut off.
“25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob’; 27 ‘and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.’ 28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:25-29 ESV).
In the original language, “mystery” is μυστήριον mustḗrion: “(II) Some sacred thing hidden or secret which is naturally unknown to human reason and is only known by the revelation of God” (Zodhiates, S. 2000. The complete word study dictionary: New Testament, electronic ed., Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers).
“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29 ESV).
Who is this Deliverer?
Jesus Messiah, God the Son, is the Deliverer, the one who snatches us away from danger. Reaching out his hand to drag us into his boat before we perish, he draws us to himself, rescuing us, saving us from our own sins and their consequences.
“’And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,’ declares the Lord“ (Isaiah 59:20 ESV). Isaiah 59 in its entirety is also illuminating, as is this passage: 1 Thessalonians 1:10 ESV: “. . . wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
When “the fullness of the Gentiles have come in” (all foreknown Gentiles have come to Christ), then Jesus the Deliverer will draw all the descendants of Jacob to himself, opening their hearts and minds to believe in him, their Messiah. This “all” could be every single Jew, but probably it is the majority of Jews, those who “turn from transgression” (Isaiah 59:20) and who “do not continue in their unbelief” (Romans 11:23).
“For just as you [Gentiles] were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their [Jews] disobedience, so they [Jews] too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you [Gentiles] they [Jews] also may now receive mercy.” (Romans 11:30-31 ESV).
The mystery of Romans 11 brings together dry bones and softens hardened hearts. It mends damaged souls. The Deliverer will come from Zion. He will banish ungodliness from Jacob. All Israel who are foreknown by the Lord will turn in great numbers to accept Jesus Messiah.
“And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob’; ‘and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.’ (Romans 11:26-27 ESV).
Only God knows the timetable of the return of Jesus Messiah, but he will indeed come. “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all” (Romans 11:32 ESV).Only God knows the timetable of the return of Jesus Messiah, but he will indeed come. “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all” (Romans 11:32 ESV). Click To Tweet
“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-54 ESV)."Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable." Click To Tweet
God will save all who turn to him. The coming of Christ and the salvation of multitudes is a mystery unleashed by God’s promise to Israel. Paul spills out his heart in astonishment at this reality:
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33-36 ESV).
God’s entire plan — from page one of Genesis to the final page of Revelation — The Plan, Plan A — will be brought to fruition. This truth awakens our hearts, inspiring us to carry out these words of application in response:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2 ESV).
Amen and amen! Come, Lord Jesus!
Previous Posts in this Series:
1. ESV Study Bible, Crossway Bibles, Wheaton, Illinois, 2008, note for Romans 11:11-32. 2. Same source, ESV Study Bible note for Romans 11:15.