By Daniel Thompson
We must introduce ourselves to: 1) Romans in general,
2) Romans chapters 9-11, and 3) Romans 11 in particular.
The General outline of Romans
Romans is Paul's unfolding of the gospel in a systematic
form. The basic outline is as follows: (Note Romans 11:11-32.)
I. Romans 1:1-15, Introduction
II. Romans Chapters 9,10, and 11
II. Romans 1:16-17, The Romans theme; The Righteousness
of God as revealed in the Gospel
III. Romans 1:18-3:20, The universal need for Gospel
A. The Gentile need of Gospel
B. The Jews need for Gospel
C. The universal need for Gospel
IV. The Righteousness of God revealed in the Gospel (3:21-31)
V. Gospel Righteousness by faith established by the O.T.
VI. The fruits of Gospel Righteousness (5:1-21)
VII. Objections to Gospel Grace (6:1-23)
A. Can we continue in sin, part
B. Can we continue in sin, part2
VIII. Gospel union with Christ, not law (7:1-6) - Objections
to not being under law (7:7-25)
A. Is the law sin? (7:7-12)
B. Is the law the cause of death
C. Conclusion (8:1-4)
IX. Life in the Spirit (8:5-39)
X. The Gospel and Israel's Past (9:1-33)
XI. The Gospel and Israel's Present (10:1-21)
XII. The Gospel and Israel's future (11:1-32)
A. Has God cast off His people?
B. Have unredeemed Israelites
stumbled to fall irrevocably (11:11-32)
C. Final Doxology to the Gospel,
XIII. Practical Application of the Gospel (12:1-16:27)
In the book of Romans, chapters 9,10, and 11 are a pause
in Paul's thesis of justification to deal with the problem of God's old
covenant people - the Jews - and their rejection of this gospel provision.
If any people should have been prepared for the coming and reception of
the Messiah, it was the nation of Israel. As Paul says in Romans 9:4, “to
whom [Israel] pertain[s] the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving
of the law, the service of God, and the promises...”. But although Israel
partook of such privileges and preparation, the [gospel] Word had no effect
(cf. Rom 9:6).
The above is the main theme of Romans 9. Paul was in deep
sorrow because his kinsman according to the flesh were not partakers of
the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And as those who should have been prepared,
the natural objection Paul must have faced on occasion was “God has not
kept His Word/promise.”
Indeed, we have seen this very issue arise in Romans 9:6a.
Paul answers this (9:6b-13), followed by two possible problems that arise
out of the doctrine of election (9:14-18; 19-24), and then concludes by
completing his thoughts of verse 24 via the Old Testament, “even of us,
whom He hath called, not of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles.”
Romans 10 deals with the present Jewish dilemma of a nation
seeking a redemption through a law/righteousness that God never ordained
(10:1-3). Christ is the end (telos
/ end-goal) of the law for eis/
relating to) righteousness (10:4). The subsequent statements of Paul (10:5-21)
draw out the error of the Jew from different Old Testament perspectives.
Romans 11 is interested not in past promises (chp
present issues (chp 10) but the future of this Christ-rejecting
nation. As Romans 11: la puts it, “Has God cast off His people” (that is,
in light of the rejected promises [chp 9] and the false self righteousness
[chp 10])? In v.v. 1b-10 Paul moves in two basic directions.
First, he declares emphatically that God has not cast
off Israel redemptively for: 1) Paul himself was an example of one who
sought righteousness via the law and yet God had pity on Him (v. lb cf.
Phil 3:4ff; 1 Tim 1:12-14), and 2) God declared through Elijah that he
has set aside a faithful remnant in the midst of apostasy and it was true
in Paul's day as well (v.v.2-5). Paul then clarifies (v.6), draws an inescapable
inference (v. 7), and concludes on the state of those outside the remnant
(v.v. 8- 10).
This line of thought from the apostle's pen is simple
and clear to follow in v.v. 1-10. He is establishing both the truth of
grace to Israelites, and the practical state of those still apart from
God's righteousness in Christ. But in its simplicity, we may be inclined
to overlook certain truths that will become essential to a proper interpretation
First, although Paul is discussing the nation of Israel,
his interest is in the individual Israelite, for although redemption occurred
nationally under the Old Covenant, redemption is ever and only personal
under the New Covenant. Thus, although Paul speaks of an Old Covenant people,
he is expounding a New Covenant redemption. THERE IS NO LONGER SUCH
A THING AS CORPORATE REDEMPTION - a redemption such as we find in Exodus.
I do not want to be misunderstood at this point. There were many individuals
of faith redeemed personally in the Old Testament as Hebrews 11 clearly
indicates. I am only speaking covanentally. Under the Old Covenant,
God blessed or cursed a people according to their birth (cf. Deut 27-28).
Under the New Covenant, God deals only with people according to the new
birth (that is, as individuals).
This might at first seem perplexing, but if we look at
redemption's two prerequisites - faith and repentance - we will see a clear
difference in Old and New Covenant redemption. Throughout Old Testament
history, it seems if the leadership - and some portion of the Israelites
professed faith in God and claimed to forsake their sins, God would redeem
them out of a given national bondage or tyranny (i.e. Assyrian, Babylonian,
In other words, only some - and probably not even a majority
- need have faith or repentance to partake of a given “redemption” in the
Old Covenant sense of the word (restoration to the promise land, etc.).
The corporate body repented, believed, and were thereby delivered. 2 Chronicles
7:14 is the classic example of the corporate, Old Covenant promise; “If
my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray,
and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from
heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” It is most
certainly true that not all Israelites truly repented, prayed, and trusted
God in a given situation of their history. Yet (and this is key) Israel
as a nation would be healed - Israel as a nation would be redeemed.
None of the above Old Covenant redemptive themes are applicable
in New Testament redemption.
It is as individuals we repent, as individuals we believe, and as individuals
we are delivered. Under the Old Covenant you might or might not know God,
and still partake of covenantal blessings simply by virtue of birth. This
is completely contrary to the New Covenant. Unlike the Old Covenant (where
those born to the Old Covenant were instructed), under the New Covenant,
“all... know me” (Heb 8:11). The Old Covenant is gone (Heb
8:7-8,13), and with it the type of faith/repentance/redemption associated
with that covenant - national.
Second, notice the contemporary nature of Romans 11. Paul
speaks of truths “at the present time” (v.5); these include himself (v.1b),
a remnant (v.v.2-4, cf. v.5), and a people hardened (8-10). This hardened,
slumbering Israel is Paul's concern in his subsequent question (v.1 la).
The Gentiles who are saved are Paul's contemporaries (v.1 ib), and they
were to provoke Jewish
contemporaries of his day (v.1 ib). Paul exalts his ministry
(v.13) to save people in his own day (v.14). The branches broken off are
contemporary Israelites (v.v.17-21), just as the engrafted Gentiles are
contemporary (v.v.20,21), and the Jews who had been broken off in unbelief
grafted in again by faith (v.v.23-24). This all must be true, for the unveiling
of all this was to keep the recipients of the letter from boasting (v.25,
cf. v.18). All of the above is confirmed and repeated in Paul's concluding
comments of v.v.30- 32.
I have left out v.v. 12,15-16,26-29 on purpose that we
might be able to stand back and look at the context which surrounds these
interesting statements. That the future is discussed is not in doubt. What
IS perplexing is that so much of what is written by commentators upon Romans
11:11-32 interprets this section as far future and not contemporary
or near future (that is, promises relating to Paul's contemporaries). We
shall have opportunity to return to this theme often, especially in v.v.25-26.
III. Romans 11:11 - 32, Commentary
As to the way we shall attempt to understand Romans 11:11-32,
shall break down each verse into five essential spheres of truth: 1)
the general context which surrounds our verse, 2) the
issues at hand in the verse, 3) the key words to
comprehend in the verse, 4) the key cross references elsewhere
in Scripture relating to the verse, and 5) a summery of the
meaning of the verse as derived from the preceding four spheres of study.
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.
v.11 - General Context
As has been noted previously, Paul concludes part 1 of
Romans 11 (11:1-10) describing those who are not part of the remnant -
that is, those who have rejected Christ. These “hardened” Israelites (v.v.7,25)
are those who have “stumbled,” (v.11), have “fallen,” (v.12), were “broken
off,” (v.v.17,19), and are in “unbelief,” (v.20,30). The three verses prior
to verse 11 (v.v.8- 10) have the hardened Israelites as “slumbering,” spiritually
blind and deaf, and, in general, darkened.
Thus the question that arises in verse 11 is quite natural;
“Have they (hardened Israel) stumbled that they should fall?” On the heals
of Paul's vivid description of the state of unbelieving Israel, it was
of great interest to the apostle to display the mercies of God toward this
apostate people - mercies which will bring forth praise from Paul in his
closing doxology (11:33-36).
The key to the context of Romans 11:11 is Israel. The
question of verse 11 directs us to the fate of Israelites and their
future, just as the previous discussion related directly to those Israelites
who are unbelievers. This will be essential as we approach verse 12. In
short, the question in Romans 11:11 as defined by the context of Romans
11:7-10 may be summarized by the following; “The blind and hardened Israelites...
are they blind such that they shall never see, and hardened beyond reach
such that their future is hopeless?”
v.11 - Major Issues
Pauline style when questions arise Paul has a particular
style of discourse when inquiries are involved such as we have in verse
11. His style may be summarized as follows:
1. question... 2. short retort... 3. summary answer...
4. detailed answers, issues and explanations.
Note this four part linkage in Romans 6:1-3: 1)
Question, “Shall we continue in sin (v.1);” 2) short retort, “May
it never be (mee genoito), (v.1);”
3) summary answer, “how shall we who died to sin live any longer
therein; (v.2)” 4) detail, “Do you not know...” (v.3ff). Romans
7:13-14 is the same: 1) Question, “Is that which is sin become death to
me, (v.13);” 2) short retort, “May it never be (v.13);” 3) summary answer,
“But sin, that it might appear sin...(v. 13);” 4) detail, “for we know
the law is spiritual...” (v.14ff).
Thus we have been well prepare for the movement of Paul's
thought by his style of question/answer in 6:1, 6:15, 7:7, 7:13, 9:14,
9:18,and 11:1. We are most assuredly well prepared for the flow of thought
in Romans 11:11 and following. Indeed, a quick look at Romans 11:11 will
reveal this question-short answer- summary answer style: 1) Question,
“Have they stumbled that they should fall; 2) short retort,
“May it never be;” 3) summary answer, “but [rather] through
their fall salvation [is come] unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to
jealousy.” The detail - 4) - will begin in verse 12. We will briefly
approach each of the parts to Paul's inquiry in the “Key Words” section.
The Gentile recipients of “Romans”
His question arises from many reasons; love for countryman
(9:1ff; 10:1ff etc.), defense of truth (9:6b; 10:3) etc. Yet the preeminent,
as well as a common theme that runs throughout this section (11:11-32),
is the pride of the Gentile Romans in their salvation when for so
long they lay in spiritual darkness, while the Israelites, with all the
covenants, promises, etc. (Rom 9:40) had rejected the gospel light. This
is abundantly evident, for Paul will make such comments to his Roman Gentile
brethren as: “boast not against the branches” (11:18), “be not high-minded”
(v.20), “wise in your conceits,” (v.25). Indeed, Paul has no encouraging
words for his Gentile readers in this section (a point that will become
important in our subsequent verse)!
What is of importance to the rest of Romans 11 (11:12-32)
is that: 1) Paul wants to settle the issue of the future and his contemporary
Israelites, and 2) he is interested in the Gentiles only so far as it helps
answer the question of his contemporary kinsman and their future hope.
v.11 - Key Words (Greek/English)
not - The sentence before us in verse 11a should
really be translated; “They have not stumbled that they should fall, have
they?”- a question which anticipates a no answer. Inevitably in greek,
if a inquiry has “mee” in its
structure, the writer or speaker is expecting a “no” response. An example
of this is the Lord's question posed to the apostles after a crowd had
displayed its dislike for His teachings. In John 6:67, the Lord said, “Will
you also go away” (greek - mee
kai umeis thelete upagein)? With the use of “mee,”
our Lord expected his disciples to answer in the negative - the very answer
which Peter subsequently gave the Savior.
Such is true as well with Romans 11:11. With his use of
“mee,” Paul is already committing
us to the truth that the Jews described in v.v.8-10 - the “hardened” Jews
of 11:7 - are not beyond redemptive hope and
have not stumbled
so as to fall beyond God's grace.
fall - It should first be understood that the
use of “fall” in verse 11 could not imply that the Jews have never
fallen, for verse 22 states plainly that they have indeed done just that
(e.g. “on them (Jews) which fell”). Paul is taking about a stumbling
and falling that is permanent (i.e. “have they (Jews) fallen so as to be
in a hopeless condition - beyond God's mercies”). The word “fall” is in
a greek tense (aorist) which can be used to express a state of being or
condition (what is called the cumulative aorist, similar to the greek perfect
tense). This issue of a irretrievably fallen state is Paul's interest
when raising the question of Romans 11:11. Paul is writing Romans 11:1-10
to inquire about the nation of Israel and their hope; in Romans
11:11-32, He is inquiring about the condition of those Israelites who
have turned from the gospel. Paul is asking if they are hopeless; he
is asking if these fallen Israelites are irrevocably lost.
Mee genoito /
May it never be! - This is Paul's emphatic denial
of a given proposition. Fourteen of the fifteen New Testament uses are
found in Paul's writings - most all of these in Romans. Galatians 6:14
affords us the classic example of “mee
genoito” when Paul says, “May it never be (mee
genoito) that I glory save in the cross of Christ.” Here, in
Romans 11:11, Paul's “mee genoito”
provides the final word on the subject of any permanent, hopeless condition
for the Jews described in v.v.8-10. There is hope for the redemption
of Israelites, and Paul will provide the proof for that hope in the subsequent
salvation - Eternal redemption is Paul's concern
when dealing with these Jews. He says this in verse 11, in verse 14, as
well as verse 26. We need this established prior to Paul's use of his “grafting”
illustration (v.v. 17-24). One might be tempted (as many have) to conclude
that it is national redemption that is being discussed via the illustration
in v.v.17-24, - but the salvation of v.v.11,14, and 26 is individual,
not national. Branches are broken off because of unbelief (v.v.17,19-22).
The grafting back in (v.v.23,24) is by faith unto eternal salvation, and
such salvation is individual. We shall return to this point with regularity
- especially in v.v.25 and 26.
Salvation ® Jealousy
This link of (1) fall ®
(2) salvation (Gentiles) ® (3)
jealousy (Jews) ® (4) salvation (Jews)
the most important series of ideas that Paul will establish in
Romans 11:11-32. We will encounter part or all of this contiguous series
of ideas frequently in verses 11 through 32. Note the following linkage
of the above themes (1), (2), (3), and (4):
In v.v. 13-14, Paul magnified his ministry - Gentile salvation
- such that he would provoke to jealousy the Jews (3) and save some
(4). Verse 15 says, “if the casting away of them (1) [be]
the reconciliation of the world (2), what shall the receiving of
them be... (4). Again, in v.v.19-20, we find Paul putting these
words into the mouths of the disdainful Gentiles; “Thou wilt say then,
`the branches were broken off, that I may be grafted in (2). Well,
because of unbelief they were broken off... (1).” Still again, in
11:25-26, Paul says, “...blindness in part is happened to Israel (1)
until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in (2). And thus (3)
all Israel shall be saved... (4). Lastly, Romans 11:30-31 states,
“these also have now not believed (1), that through your mercy (2)
they may also obtain mercy (3).”
From the inception of this part of Romans (11:11), to
the central discussion (11:13-14; 11:15; 11:19-20), to the unveiled mystery
(11:25-26), to the conclusion (11:30-31)Paul's theme is the grace available
to Israel if they return to Him. The issue of the fall of the Jews (1)
granting an open gospel door to the Gentiles (2) and thus provoking
the fallen Jews (3) such that they turn from unbelief to faith and
salvation (4) is not just present, but clearly prevalent, pervasive
- in a word, ubiquitous - in the Pauline argument of Romans 11:11-32.
The above must be grasped, because there will be a great
temptation to start thinking Paul has left the main issue for other eschatological
themes. This will be true in particular of 11:12 and 11:25-29. We must
not venture to think Paul is pursuing new theological issues anywhere
in Romans 11:11-32. He is solely interested in answering the question
The clear proof of this is the theme at the beginning
of 11:11-32 is the same as at the end (cf. 11:11 and the Jews fall
bringing in the Gentiles which in turn brings in the Jews (11:1 lb); compare
11:31 and “Even so have these (Jews) now not believed, that through your
mercy (i.e. Gentile redemption) they (Jews) also may obtain mercy.”
v.11 - Cross References
The verse of note to help us on in our understanding of
Romans 11:11 is 11:14. We can be sure of Paul's meaning of “jealousy” in
verse 11 because Paul completes the thought in verse 14. Note:
salvation [is come] to the Gentiles, for to provoke them
(Jews) to jealousy,” v.11. “I (through Gentile ministry) may provoke to
and save some of them,” v.14.
This is Paul's theme, interest, and intent in his ministry
- which ministry also was the proof that God still held out grace for the
slumbering, hardened Jew.
Romans 10:19 - Paul has already announced this theme to
some degree in the previous chapter (e.g. Gentile salvation provoking Israelite
v.11 - Summary
In summary, Paul begins a new division in Romans 11:11.
He began the chapter with an inquiry into the grace of God and whether
the whole nation of Israel, having put their own Savior to death (Acts
2:22ff; 7:52), had been rejected by God. This Paul emphatically denies,
for there is a remnant according to the election of grace who are Israelites
and do believe (Rom 11:5). Yet many do not believe, and the state of these
Jews is delineated in 11:8-10.
This is what 11:11-32 is all about - the fate of those
fallen Jews. Paul inquires regarding those Jews who are in a state of lostness.
Do they have any hope to lay hold of the grace of God (11:11)? Paul says
yes, and explains that God is using the fall of these Jews to bring in
Gentiles to the kingdom. But this Gentile salvation is only a means to
an end - the end being the provocation of the fallen Jews to lay hold of
Christ and His gospel. Thus the question of “Have they (Jews) stumbled
that they should fall (that is, fall irrevocably)?” Paul says “mee
genoito” - No! God will use their own fall to bring them back.
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 fullness?
v.12 - General Context
We must draw on vocabulary right away to establish context
and the relationship between verse 11 and verse 12. The first two words
of verse 12 are “ei de,” variously
translated “now if,” or “but if,” or “and if” in the New Testament. In
Romans, there are 15+ uses of “ei de”
alone, and inevitably it is used to continue a previous line of thought.
There are cases like Romans 8:10, where after stating
“if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His (8:9),
Paul follows with “but if (ei de)
Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin but the spirit is alive
because of righteousness.” In this case, there is a clear contrast
between clauses. Yet this is not typical of Pauline use. Normally (and
this is true of the “ei de”
of Romans 11:12) “ei de” is
used to continue or further expand the thoughts and ideas of the
This is essential for the proper interpretation of verse
12. Paul's interest is fallen/hardened Israel's hope for grace and redemption.
Does their sin of rejecting Christ preclude all prospects of forgiveness?
is of importance here is that with Paul's “ei
de“ at the beginning of verse 12, he is continuing the issue of
Israel and redemption started in verse 11. For Paul, there is no
break in his theme or thought.
v.12 - Major Issues
In Romans 7:15-16 we read,
“For that which I do I know not: for what I would, that
do I not, but what I hate, that do I (v.15). If then I do that which I
would not, I consent unto the law, that it is good” (v.16).
Now the logic of verses 15-16 can be summed up as follows:
if we assign the content of verse 15 the letter “A,” and if we recognized
that the first clause of verse 16 (16a) is a condensed expression of verse
15 (“now if I do what I would not”), and if we assign “B” to the
final clause verse 16 (16b, “I consent with the law that it is good”),
then we might summarized Paul's logic of 7:15-16 as follows: “A”
is true (“I do not do what I would,” v.15). And thus if “A” is true
(“Now if I do not do what I would,” v. 16a), then “B” (“I consent
with the law that it is good”) is the sure and necessary consequence of
“A.” Looking at a side by side view might help:
“for that which I do I know not: for what I would, that
do I not, but what I hate, that do I,” v.15 “if then I do that which I
would not, (v.16a - a summary of v.15) I consent with the law that it is
good,” (v. 16b, the necessary deduction of the truth of v.15)
Paul's conclusion of the goodness of the law (v.16) is
true because of his impotent strife described in verse 15. It is not my
intention to expound the difficulties involved in Romans seven, but what
is crucial is to know and heed Paul's style of argumentation. This
argumentation for Paul in Romans 7:15-16 is an exposition of a particular
truth, followed by arguing that if this truth be so, there are theological
certainties which must accompany the aforementioned truth. This process
of reasoning which Paul uses in Romans 7:15-16, he will use in Romans
Now keeping the above issues in mind, Paul is stating
in Romans ll:llb that “through their (Jews) fall salvation has come to
the Gentiles, for to provoke them (Jews) to jealousy.” Let us diagram Paul's
ideas and concepts:
fall ® salvation (Gentiles)
jealousy ® redemption (Jews)
As above, let us assign the letter “A.” to the
concept spanning the fall of the Jews which brings salvation for the Gentiles,
to the jealousy of the Jews in light of this salvation. This means that
when Paul says in verse 12a, “now if the fall of them (Jews) [be] the riches
of the world, and the diminishing of them (Jews) the riches of the Gentiles,”
he is saying nothing more or less than “if “A” is true,” then 12b,
“how much more their fullness” (e.g. “B”), is the sure and necessary
consequence of l1b and its reiteration, 12a. Whatever “how much more
there fullness” means, Paul is saying that this “fullness” is the certain,
unfailing issuance of 1 lb and 12a.
In other words, if Paul's inquiry of verse 11 is concerned
with whether the fallen Jews might ever partake of mercy, and his goal
expressed by “mee genoito”
is to argue passionately in the affirmative, then 1 lb and 12a are intended
to establish without doubt that fallen Israel can be redeemed. This
conclusion of available salvation is the essence of what “how much more
their fullness” means.
At this point it is necessary to deal with the phrase
“how much more their fullness” in the history of Christian interpretation.
Because of the give and take / back and forth
/ Jew and Gentile style of the first part of v.12 (“now if the fall
of them (Jews) [be] the riches of the world, and the diminishing
of them the riches of the Gentiles...”), without exception,
interpreters have felt that the last clause of verse 12 must consist of
something akin to “how much more their fullness means blessing
for the Gentiles/church.”
This writer has yet to run across an exception to this
rule in some 30+ works on Romans 11. Some examples of what “how much more
their fullness” means in the finest expositors ever: “The conversion of
the Jews will, directly and indirectly, do more for the advantage of
the Gentiles than their unbelief has done,” John Brown, 1857; “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 recovery to be productive,” Jamieson, Fausett,
and Brown, approx. 1870; “the salvation of the full number of Israelites...
bring an abundance of blessing to the entire world,”
William Hendrickson, 1980; “their (Jews) restoration as a body, when they
(Jews) shall acknowledge Christ as the Messiah - will yet prove a far
greater blessing to the Gentiles,” Robert Haldane, approx. 1839; “how
much greater blessing (e.g. for the world) which will result from their
fullness,” Albert Arnold (American Baptist Commentary), 1882; “This (the
conversion of the Jews) will be of great ascension to the Gentile church,
bring much glory to it,” John Gill, 1770; “the fullness of Israel will
involve for the Gentile a much greater enjoyment of gospel blessing,”
John Murray, 1959. All the best works read, more or less, the same.
In these works, the reasons given that Paul might intend
this idea in verse 12 are: first, the pattern or flow of thought in verse
12 of Jew-World / Jew-Gentile, lends itself to the translated idea
at the end of verse 12 as “how much more the fullness of the Jew
means fullness for the Gentiles (or most say fullness for the church).
Second, there are prophetic passages in the Old Testament
that seem to underscore a glorious period of Jew-Gentile revival such as
might be reflected in Romans 11:12 (cf. Is 2:2 “in the last days, the mountain
of the Lord shall be established... and all nations shall flow unto it;”
Is 11:9, “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord.” etc.).
In spite of this, the reasons for not translating the
end of verse 12 in such a fashion are overwhelming. First and foremost,
there is no hint from Paul that he has any other issue in mind than the
salvation of the Jew who fits the description of 11:8-10. The question
is in reference to redeeming the Jew, the basic answer of Paul in verse
11 (after his mee genoito!)
is in regard to provoking the Jews to jealousy and saving them (cf. v.14).
There is no hint of a new subject as we come to verse 12. On the contrary,
Paul's “ei de” at the beginning
of verse 12 makes it clear he is expanding on the truths of verse 11 -
truths that are dealing with the question of Jewish redemptive hope in
light of their fall, and the reasoned proof of that hope.
Second, for Paul in Romans 11, the Gentiles are a means
to an end - the provoking of Israelites to salvation. This is made absolutely
plain in the succeeding verses (v.v.13-14). Paul would not bring up a question
of possible redemption for fallen Israelites in a chapter dealing solely
with the question of Israel, and then end his basic thesis
(v.v. 11-12) with Gentile growth!
Third, in Romans 11:11-32, Paul's whole purpose is to
explain the Jewish situation in such a way as to negate the pride of the
Gentiles at Rome. This is clear from his statements to the Roman readers:
“I magnify my office (as apostle to the Gentiles) if by any means I may
provoke [them which are of] my flesh and save some” (v.v.13-14); “Boast
not against the branches,” (v.18); “Be not high-minded but fear (v.20);
“I would not ... that you should be ignorant...lest you be wise in your
own concepts” (v.25). Paul would never - in the midst of purposing to negate
Gentile pride in Rome - expound in verse 12 Israelite salvation as being
a means to more glory for Gentiles!
Fourth - and we shall deal with this in detail in the
section on key words - Paul's use of greek in “how much more (poso
mallon) their fullness” is also found in verse 24. The parallels
are both striking and instructive. Paul says in 11:24, “if thou (Gentiles)...were
grafted contrary to nature... how much more (poso
mallon) shall these (Jews), which be natural [branches], be
grafted into their own olive tree.” It would seem clear by comparing
verse 24 with verse 12 that the interest of Paul's “how much more” in verse
12 is to express “how much more sure” is Jewish redemption possible (which,
of course, is the question at hand). There is no hint of Pauline interest
in Gentile or church benefits in either verse 24 or verse 12 when examining
Paul's use of poso mallon.
This should leave little doubt regarding Paul's interest and intent, or,
more to the point, what is not Paul's intent.
Thus: In Romans 11:12b - “how much more their fullness”
- Paul wants to establish the possibility of future grace to the hardened
Israelites of 11:8-10, NOT future glory for the Gentiles (or the church).
v.12 - Key Words
/ and/but/now if - see General Context, v.12.
poso mallon /
“how much more” - There are seven uses of poso
mallon in the New Testament (excluding Romans 11:12,24): Matt
7:11/Lk 11:13; Matt 10:28; Lk 12:24,28; Phm 16; Heb 9:14. Let us look at
“if you give good gifts...how much more you heavenly Father...,”
Mt 7:11; Lk 11:13 “if they call the master of the house Beelzebub, how
much more...his household,” Mt 10:25 “if God feeds the ravens... of how
much more worth... are you,” Lk 12:24 “if God so clothed the grass...how
much more... will He cloth you,” Lk 12:28 “(Onesimus) a beloved brother...to
me...how much more unto thee,” Phm 16 “if the blood of bulls and goats...purifies...how
much more...the blood of Christ,” Heb 9:13, 14
As a brief perusal will show, the phrase “poso
mallon” (our greek phrase in verse 12 translated “how much more”)
is used as a transition to say if a lesser idea is true, a related greater
idea must be true (Mt 7:11; Lk 11:13; 12:24,28; Plm 16; Heb 9:14);
or, if a greater idea is true, then a lesser idea must be true (Mt 10:25).
Again, the point of comparison is to show that if the greater issue is
true, the lesser one must surely be true also; and if the lesser idea is
true, the greater must surely be true as well.
Notice similar reasoning by Paul in verses such as Romans
8:32; “He (God) that spared not His own Son... will He not... give us all
things” (the greater truth establishes the veracity of the lesser truth[s]),
and 2 Corinthians 3:9, “For if the ministration of condemnation is glory,
much rather the ministration of righteousness exceed[s] in glory” (the
lesser truth establishes the veracity of some greater truth[s]).
The common denominator in all this is the idea that if
in a sentence the clause prior to “poso
mallon/how much more” is true, the clause subsequent to “poso
mallon/how much more” is true, whether the argument is lesser
to greater, or greater to lesser.
pleeroma / fullness
- The word which confronts us now has been written and discussed extensively
with (it seems) little progress in understanding. This is true in particular
of its verb form, pleeroma.
But oftimes context gives us insight where etymological studies fail. In
Romans 11:12, fullness ( pleeroma)
is such a word - a word understood by the study of context.
If we follow Paul's train of thought, we see he is intent
on defending his view that an Israelite who has initially rejected Christ
can still be the recipient of the grace of God in the gospel (thus Paul's
“may it never be!” to the inquiry of verse 11 “have they (Jews) stumbled
so as to fall irretrievably”).
Paul then makes known to us that Israel's fall will in
fact be used to redeem them via Gentile salvation and subsequent provocation
unto faith (v.1 ib). He then says in verse 12 that if grace came in light
of the fall of Israelites, then most certainly grace is available upon
the return of Israelites.
This means of necessity that the term “fullness” must
be equal to redemptive ingathering - i.e. salvation. This is assured in
four ways. First, the word is used of ingathering or pouring of wine in
Matthew 9:16 and Mark 2:21. Second, in Romans 11:12, “fullness” is intended
to be antithetical to the words “fall” (greek, “parapatoma”
/ “transgression”) and “diminishing,” - terms that relate to Israel's lost
condition. Third, in Romans 11:15 - the parallel passage to 11:12 - Paul
uses the word “receiving” instead of “fullness,” and this is surely gospel
receiving. Fourth, in Paul's analogy of vine/branches (Romans 11:17-24),
the “grafting” is clearly analogous to “fullness” and plainly implies salvation
In summary, “fullness / pleeroma”
implies the opposite of “transgression,” (11:12a) and is parallel conceptually
to “receiving,” (11:15b). This means “fullness” refers to redemptive
reception - in this case, Israel(ites).
v.12 - Cross References
Again, we should remind ourselves that the theme of Gentile
® Israelite jealousy has already
been broached in Romans 10:19.
The two clear cross references relating to 11:12 are Romans
11:15 and 11:24. Note Romans 11:12 as compared with Romans 11:15:
“now if the fall of them [be] riches of the world, and
the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their
fullness,” v.12 “for if the casting away of them [be] the reconciliation
of the world what will the receiving of them be but life from the dead,”
Note the parallels:
“fall,” “diminishing,” v.12/”casting away,” v.15
What should be clear is that the phrase “life from the dead”
is the conclusion to both “what will the receiving of them be,” v.15, and
“how much more their fullness,” v.12. We need not guess at this point as
to Paul's meaning in verse 12, for we have a detailed parallel in verse
“riches,” “riches,” v. 12/”reconciliation,” v.15
“world,” “Gentiles,” v.12/ “world,” v.15
“how much more their fullness,” v.12/”the receiving,”
“life from the dead,” v.15
Also, in verse 12, Paul is stating one idea in two different
ways. If I might paraphrase: “if the fall of them [be] the riches of the
world... that is, if the diminishing of them [be] the riches of the Gentiles...”.
This duplication is not meant to set up a back- and-forth / Jew-Gentile,
Jew-Gentile picture in our mind such that we conclude that Paul - after
announcing the “fullness” of the Jew - is now going back to comment
on a related Gentile matter.
As is often seen in the book of Proverbs, Paul is enunciating
the same truth two slightly different ways to give emphasis, not to the
back-and-forth of Jew/Gentile, but to reiterate that God brought
gospel riches to the Gentiles out of sin. And as Paul wants to answer the
issue of whether the Jews have stumbled and thus fallen irretrievably (11:11a),
the Bible truth of “grace out of sin” is a potent argument for grace to
the Jew. For (if I may paraphrase the Pauline contention of Romans
11:11-12), if grace came from God when Israel turned away, grace shall
surely come to them if they return.
Romans 11:24 is a second parallel to Romans 11:12. Both
poso mallon / “how
much more” in their argument - 11:12 and “how much more their fullness,”
whereas 11:24 states “how much more... shall these... be grafted.”
Further - and as important - is that both verses are arguing
that if grace came to Gentiles, it will most assuredly come to the Israelite
(cf. “shall be grafted” / “egkentristheesontai,”
greek future tense implying a certain result under proper conditions [Gnomic
future]). In the case of 11:12, grace will come to returning Israel because
grace came to the Gentiles by virtue of departing Israel. In 11:24, returning
Israelites, being a natural branches, will surely be grafted back in because
Gentiles - unnatural branches - were grafted in. The reasoning behind both
11:12 and 11:24 is.. If God did the more difficult (brought good
via evil), He will surely do the less difficult (bring good
v.12 - Summary
In conclusion, Romans 11:12 is a continuation of Paul's
journey into the question of fallen Israel's future (cf. 11:11). Those
Israelites who are depicted as spiritually blinded and hardened in v.v.8-1O
- are they without hope of salvation? Paul's answer is no, because God
has ordained that through their fall, grace would come to them by means
of Gentile redemption and the jealousy this would engender. Paul's “ei
de/now if' at the outset of verse 12 continues this inquiry.
The apostle argues that the Jews who fell must have grace - and thus salvation
- available to them because grace was made available through their fall!
Therefore, Paul reasons; if through their transgression grace came
(to the Gentiles), grace will most certainly come to them (the Jews) through
their repentance and faith!
We might paraphrase Paul's verse 12 in this fashion:
“now, as I have just stated in short form in 11:11b, if
the transgression of the Jews (i.e. their turning from Christ and His gospel)
meant redemption for the world; or - to put it another way - if the diminishing
of the Jews brought riches to the Gentiles, how much more sure and certain
is it that God will be gracious to Israel in her return.”
13 For I speak to you Gentiles,
inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:
14 If by any means I may provoke to emulation [them
which are] my flesh, and might save some of them.
v.v. 13-14 General Context
Paul is still interested in his readers understanding
that the Jews who have rejected Christ initially still have a gracious
offer to return and - as the prodigal son - will be received with the open
arms of grace. He makes us aware that he has more to say by beginning verse
13 with “for.”
The great apostle continues by stating that in speaking
(or writing) to the Roman Gentiles, the goal in relation to his brethren
according to the flesh was to magnify his ministry (v.13), and thus provoke
and save some of his people (v.14). This is the theme Paul began with in
verse 11 when he said, “...salvation [is] come to the Gentiles, for to
provoke them (the Jews) to jealousy” and - as verse 14 completes the thought
- “might save some of them.”
Observe that this issue of Paul and his call to a Gentile
ministry is everywhere in the book of Acts. In Acts 9:15, “Go...bear my
name before the Gentiles;” Acts 13:46-47, “We turn to the Gentiles” and
“... a light to the Gentiles;” Acts 22:21, “I...send thee...unto the Gentiles;”
Acts 26:17, “...the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee.” Further, Paul's
epistles such as Galatians are full of the same declaration of his Gentile
ministry: “...I might preach Him (Christ) among the heathen” 1:16; “the
gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me” 2:7; “for He...was
mighty in me toward the Gentiles” 2:8.
As has been noticed in prior verses, the issue of Gentiles
is brought in only as a means to an end - the end being to resolve the
question of Israel, their fall, and the possibility of grace. The issue
of Paul's ministry is discussed only so as to let the prideful Gentiles
might grasp that their redemption is accomplished for the purpose of
others - Israelites. Paul is saying, “Do not boast in your redemption
as if you are the end-all of God's work, for in His plan, your redemption
is accomplished not for your sake but for the sake of a hardened, rebellious
people - Israel.”
v.v.13-14 - Major Issues
The major issue that allows us to understand properly
verses such as 11:12 and 11:25-26 (admittedly the most controversial texts
of Romans 11) is to notice that there is no change in context, subject,
or purpose in the words of Romans 11:13-14. This will continue to be
true (indeed, Paul will repeat himself in verse 15 - compare verse 15 to
verse 12). Paul is still speaking to the question of verse 11 - and
will continue to do so through verse 32. If that be kept in mind, the
difficulties that arise will be solvable. Our verses here are an excellent
example of how Paul stays on theme.
v.v.13-14 - Key Words
provoke to jealousy - The KJV translation has
for “parazeeloso” the phrase
“provoke to emulation.” Although the phrase is interesting, one might miss
that the word is the same as in verse 11, translated “provoke.., to jealousy.”
The word is literally “to make jealous.” What must not be missed is that
the theme of making Israelites jealous unto salvation is in verse 11, and
continues in verse 14 (just as the terminology of verse 12 will continue
in verse 15!).
save - What might become lost in our exposition
is the truth of salvation. Paul is satisfied with nothing less; indeed
the great lack of his brethren believing the truth as it is in Christ was
a source of great desire mixed with sorrow (Rom 10:1; 9:1). The word “salvation”
is used here, in verse 11, in verse 26, and is implied in the Pauline illustration
of “grafting,” 11:19,23,24. Romans 11 is concerned with the eternal salvation
of the Israelite sinner.
v.v.13-14 - Cross Reference
See Romans 11:11, Cross Reference, notes.
v.v.13-14 - Summary
Paul is continuing to prosecute the theme of God's assured
and certain grace for all Israelites who turn back from their unbelief.
The Lord will receive them. Indeed, Paul was aware that, having
brought Gentiles to the grace of God, God used his ministry to provoke
Israel to reconsider their unbelief and lay hold of Christ. As verse 14
says, some might be saved, which is the answer to Paul's query in 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?
v.15 - General Context
Again, it is clear from the context that the apostle's
theme has not changed at all from verse 11. This is evidenced by the parallels
between verse 12 and verse 15. Moreover, note the similarities between
v.v.11-12 and 13-15.
Jewish fall ® Gentile
salvation ® provoke Jews to salvation
reiteration to proof ®
Gentile salvation ® provoke
Jews to salvation
reiteration to proof ®
We cannot establish to strongly that: 1) v.11 and v.12
are inextricably linked and, 2) the truths of v.v. 11b-12 are reiterated
in v.v.13-15. This premise must be established! We will not be assured
of our interpretation of verse 12 (“how much more their fullness”) and
other issues that follow unless our starting point is well known. And
our starting point is Paul's question of v.11!
As has been pointed out previously, the errors regarding
the exposition of Romans 11 are just at this point. Where is Paul going?
And in this direction of ideas, how does he proceed? At the very outset
of 11:11-32, Paul establishes - then reiterates - his interests.
v.15 - Major Issues
The apostle wants to accomplish three things in verse
15:1) complete his reason for exalting his own personal ministry, 2) complete
the reiteration of v.v.11-12 and v.v.13-15, and 3) in v.15, complete the
idea begun in verse 12.
First, Paul must explain why he desired to exalt
his own ministry, for this is a route he took only reluctantly (cf. 2 Cor
12:1). He knew a mystery which God had revealed unto him - a mystery which
he would shortly pass on to his Roman readers (v.25) - that God had chosen
to glorify His own grace (and prove man's dependence) by bringing this
glory out of sin. Paul would bring this out categorically in
his summarizing statement of v.v.11-32, “For God hath concluded them all
in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all, v.32.
We should have expected the above truth. Two other well
known times, God glorified Himself by bringing grace from sin - the life
of Joseph and the Cross of the Son of God. With Joseph, although sold into
slavery by his eleven brothers, we learn through the patriarch that “God
meant it unto good,” Gen 50:20. In our Lord's case, the apostle Peter tells
us at Pentecost “Him (Christ), being delivered by the determined council
and foreknowledge of God, Acts 2:23.
Now this is what God is doing in Paul's day, as he explains.
He makes known the glory of God's grace to the Gentiles (by virtue of the
fall/transgression of the Jews), that his brethren according to the flesh
might be provoked to jealousy and come to the Savior themselves. Paul knows
by revelation that God will bring those who initially followed the cry
of the Jewish rulers in cutting off their own promised Messiah (Dan 9:4-27)
to come embrace the Christ via the gospel work in his, and others, ministries.
Now if the above analysis is accurate, then how does verse
15 work into Paul's thought? That the truths of v.v. 13-14 and verse 15
are intimately connected is established by the “for” of verse 15. But what
is it? According to the above “parallel” on v.v.11-12 and v.v.13-15, verse
15 is the assurance that God will grant life to those stirred up
by jealousy to return to their God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Second, verse 15 provides a conclusion to Paul's
repetition of v.v.11-12, or, more precisely, v.v.11b-12. This is
crucial, for in reality both v.v.11b-12 and 13-15 are answering the question
of Paul in 11:11a, “have they stumbled that they should fall (e.g. irrevocably).”
The single point to be made is that, with the repetition, we are sure
that Paul's interest is in demonstrating the hope and future grace available
to fallen Israelites.
Third, we must look to the phrase at the end of
verse 15 - “life from the dead” - as an ending not just to verse 15 but
to verse 12 as well. Indeed, the ending of verse 15 positively substantiates
Paul's intent and movement of thought in verse 12 (and the detail of both).
In the first place, it seems clear that verse 15's “receiving”
equals verse 12's “fullness.” This means we are speaking of redemption
and, combined with “the fullness of them” in verse 12 and “the receiving
them” in verse 15, we know the issue is Jewish redemption.
Secondly, since: 1)”life from the dead” in verse 15 is
the culminating truth of v.v.13-15 (as well to verse 12's “...fullness
be”), and 2) both phrases are the end of the answer to the question in
verse 11, then “life from the dead” is part of the answer to Paul's initial
question. This, in turn, implies that the phrase “life from the dead” is
a clause expressing the state of the of those apart of the “fullness” (v.12)
or “receiving” (v.15). To clarify: if 1) the question is of Israel hope
of gospel redemption (again, individual redemption), and if 2) “fullness”
and “receiving” is in reference to Israelite turning to the gospel, then
3) “life from the dead” is the response/answer of assured grace and
acceptance of God, and the life that doubtlessly results (i.e. eternal
v.15 - Key Words
In looking at verse 15, it is clear that word studies
are not as important as general studies. In this case, to know, because
of context and argument, that the word “casting away” (v.15) must be the
same as “fall” and “diminishing” (v.12), “reconciliation” (v.12) the same
as” riches” (v.15), and “receiving” (v.15) must basically be the same as
“fullness” (v.12). For word studies, this is all the more important here,
because the greek word translated “receiving” is found only 1 time in the
v.15 - Cross References
Enough said about verse 15's relationship to verse 12.
v.15 - Summary
We are well on the way to grasping Paul's argument in
11:11-32. The temptations are varied and great to stray. Let me quote the
great work of exposition and greek of 100+ years ago, W.G.T. Shedd (the
complete note of verse 15). I was unaware of this note until my own notes
were complete: “Ver 15 is a conclusion from 13,14, similar to that in verse
12 from verse 11. Apobole,
the “rejection” of the Jews, spoken of in ix. 27, 29; x.21, xi.7. Katallage,
the heathen, through faith in Christ, are reconciled to God, v.11. The
Jewish reprobation is the occasional cause of the Gentile reconciliation.
is the contrary of apobole
spiritual election and effectual calling is meant. Zoe
ek nekros, compare vi.15, Lk xv.24. Not the resurrection of
the body, which is to follow the conversion of the Jews, and the bringing
in of the fullness of the Gentiles (Origen, Theodoret, Chrysost., Anselm,
De Wette, Tholuck, Meyer); but spiritual life, and all the blessings of
redemption (Calvin, Bengel. Philipi, Hodge). The argument is this: If the
reprobation of the Jews, who as the outward called might naturally have
been expected to be the inwardly called, results in such a blessing to
the heathen world, then certainly the inward call itself must
result in the greatest possible blessing to the Jews themselves.”
Although the last statement is not quite accurate, all
in all Shedd is on target. The issue at hand is assurance to the Jew,
and this gives us the understanding of the curious “fullness” of verse
12 and “life from the dead” in verse 15. Paul establishes, not any future
Gentile (or church) blessing, but the sure blessing for Jew that comes
to the same gospel as the Gentiles!
This was needed, for there was an apparent problem in
the church at Rome. The Gentile saints were thinking it was either unlikely
or impossible for Jews to be redeemed because of their initial rejection
of Christ (by which these Gentile saints were saved). This is reflected
in the terminology of 11:11ff, and this frame of mind surfaces in subsequent
verses: “Boast not against the branches”(v.18), “Be not high-minded, but
fear” (v.20), “lest He (God) spare not thee” (v.21), “toward thee, goodness,
if thou continue.., otherwise thou shalt be cut off' (v.22), “lest you
be wise in your own conceits” (v.25). This is the reason and purpose
(apart from personal considerations) behind Paul's handling of the Romans
11:11 question, and the subsequent answer of 11:11-32.
16 For if the first fruit [be]
holy, the lump [is] also [holy]: and if the root [be] holy, so [are] the
v.16 - General Context
As Paul has done many a time, he uses “ei
de" (best translated here as “now if') to introduce verse 16.
This insures a continuation of ideas and thoughts from v.v. 11-15. Note
also the end of verse 16. Just as sure as “ei
de” at the outset of verse 16 connects us with what preceded,
the use of “riza” (“root”)
and “kladoi” (“branches”)
the conclusion of verse 16 introduces us to v.v.17-24. After verse
16, “root” will be used in v.v.17 and 18 (twice), while “branch[es]” will
be used in v.v. 17,18,19, and 21. Thus verse 16 is something of a connection/transition
verse in chapter 11 verses 11-24.
v.16 - Major Issues
As the above note makes clear, we must endeavor to understand
verse 16 as both connected to verses 11-15 and introducing v.v. 17-24.
If and only if our understanding does both can we lay claim to have understood
Verse 16 - connection with v.v.11-15
Paul had one interest in verses 11 through 15; that is,
to justify his “may it never be” (God forbid, KJV) to the issue of whether
fallen Israelites such as are described in verses 8-10 are in a hopeless
spiritual state. Now if verse 15 is a concluding remark to prove that gospel
hope stands sure even to those who once rejected the Savior sent to them,
then verse 16 must somehow relate and even expand upon this truth.
Thus, if Paul basically declared “if God through Israel's
fall brought grace to the world, grace must come if Israel returns,” then
the logic of verse 16 (“if the first fruit is holy, so is the lump, and
if the root is holy, so is [are] the branches”) must serve a similar
or expanded purpose. Further, it is likely that we should concentrate
on the first part of verse 16 (16a) to grasp verse 16's connection
to v.v.11-15, for surely Paul wrote 16b, “if the root is holy so are the
branches,” to; 1) emphasize and reiterate the truth of 16a, and 2) introduce
words and themes that will be used in his argument of v.v. 17-24. Now there
are two truths on the face of Paul's first fruit-and-lump illustration:
1) it is vocabulary reminiscent of the Old Testament and Israel, and 2)
the first fruits and the lump share the same nature.
In the first place, the idea of “first fruits” is rooted
in the Old Testament Torah, where half of all the uses are found. It is
the first - and best - gleanings of a crop (wheat, corn), meat, labors
etc. offered unto God. What is important for our study is that although
the first fruits were the best, they were part of a whole. The first
fruits wheat offering was part of the whole wheat crop, and the first fruits
of corn were a gleaning from the whole crop grown by the individual. It
is at this point that we touch Paul's reason for using “first fruit” in
Paul was concerned to make clear to the Roman Gentiles
that although the Jews had turned from the Savior, this rejection was the
means by which God saved the Gentiles (11:11b), and in turn this Gentile
salvation would be used of God to provoke these very Jews to return to
their God. A further question, in addition to this issue of whether a Jew
who had once rejected Christ could still be the recipient of grace, was:
the standing of such a person? The Gentiles had no such grievous
sin. What was their standing in grace and in the assembly?
Paul had asked the question as to the possibility of grace
for the Jew (11:1 la), and he had emphatically answered in the affirmative
(11:11b-11:15). Now he takes a further step - one which will be established
a second way by the illustration of the tree and its branches - in saying
that if the “first fruits” are of a substance, the lump from which the
first fruits are derived must share that same quality. He goes on to express
the same truth another way by stating in verse 16b that if the root has
a particular nature, it is shared by the branches.
This is Paul's concern in using the first fruit/lump and
root/branches illustration. He is pressing forward the case for equality
of standing, both regarding Jew/Jew (e.g. redeemed remnant Jew vs. redeemed
Jew from v.v.8-10) and Jew/Gentile. If one is redeemed, their standing
before God is the same. They share the same promised redemption, forgiveness,
adoption, inheritance; that is, if believing Gentiles are set apart to
God, so are all that are in Christ Jesus - Jew or Gentile, regardless
Verse 16 - connection with v.v.17-24
Just as the beginning of verse 16 relates us back
to v.v.11-15, the end of verse 16 moves us on to v.v.17-24. But
there is a curious switch. Whereas the “first fruit” of anything is a small
part of the whole lump, in the same way the branches are a part of the
root. In other words, we might have expected Paul to have written:
if the first fruit is holy, so is the lump
if the branches are holy, so is the root
These would be parallel; first fruit is to lump,
as branch is to root!
We expect this because “first fruit” is a part of the
whole (lump), and “branches” are a part of the whole (root). But Paul does
not do this. I believe it is simply because the mentioning of “branches”
at the end of verse 16 naturally leads into his tree/branch/grafting
illustration. Thus, Paul did say the same thing twice for emphasis
in verse 16, but in putting “branches” last, he made a excellent transition
into his next subject (v.v.17- 24).
v.16 - Key Words
First fruits (aparkee)
/ lump (phurama)
- Paul's goal in using this imagery is to instruct the Gentiles as to the
standing of Jews who might come to the state of verse 15 - “life from the
dead.” Are such redeemed Jews equal with those Gentiles who received the
word with gladness (cf. Acts 13:48)? Does not the initial rejection by
such Jews make them second rate citizens of the kingdom? No, because if
one is united to Christ, then we share the same nature and privileges as
any in Christ. The “lump” is the redeemed (possibly taking us back to Abel,
Noah, and Abraham and all those of faith), and the “first fruits” are those
who share in that heritage (not Jewish, but gospel). Paul's emphasis is
shared gospel means shared grace, shared nature, shared inheritance, shared
/ branches (kladoi)
- The root/branches illustration has the same force as the first fruit/lump
analogy. If the root is that of the rose, the branches must and will share
that character. The problem that arises is in verse 17, where Paul states
that some of these branches are “broken off.” Does this imply that the
root is somehow to be understood as Israel and the promised redemption
of the Old Testament (cf. Gen 12:1-3. This is, by the way, why verse 16
is connected by many to verse 28 and the promise to the Jewish fathers).
This may be.
In any event, Paul is going to speak of these branches
as possibly being grafted in again (cf. 11 :23f), so we are sure of the
apostles interest - even if his details and symbols elude us. The problem,
we know, is Gentile pride and possibly disdain for Israel in light of their
murder of the Savior. The objective, for Paul, is to nix this pride by
showing God's purpose in Gentile grace - to make these very Jews jealous
unto redemption (11:25)! And the grafting of these Jews back in is, for
Paul, more natural than any grafting of Gentiles (11:24)!
v.16 - Cross References
It is of interest to this writer that a common cross reference
of works commenting on Romans 11:16 - indeed about the only one - is 1
Corinthians 7:14, where children are said to be “holy/akios”
because of a believing parent. But these two verses, although using a common
word (holy/akios), are worlds
apart. The context of 1 Corinthians is marriage, and in particular, mixed
marriages (believer/unbeliever) and whether a saint is defiled by such
marriages and therefore should separate and possibly divorce. The “holiness”
of children probably relates to legitimacy of the children in light of
the state of the marriage rather than any Old Testament-like “holiness”
(i.e. holy, because a believer somehow “sanctifies” the house). This is
quite a distance contextually from the “holiness” issue of Romans 11:16.
v.16 - Summary
Paul is adamant regarding the standing of those in Christ
- even those who, like Paul himself, had initially rejected Christ (1 Tim
1:12ff). All who are redeemed are “in Christ,” and as such share with all
the redeemed the same Father, Savior, Spirit, baptism, faith, etc. (Eph
4:4ff). The same root which has engrafted Gentiles can have engrafted Jews.
Indeed, Paul will make the case that the latter group's engrafting is more
natural than the former (11:24).
17 And if some of the branches
be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among
them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not
the root, but the root thee.
v.v. 17,18 - General Context
If “root” is the promise that is found in the seed of
Abraham - that is Jesus Christ the Lord - then all who turn in unbelief
from the promised Messiah have no access to the fountain of grace (Zech
13:1) and are still in their sins. They are cut off from God and His covenant
At this point, we should remind ourselves of why unbelief
is so serious.
The purpose - the goal - of the Old Testament can
be summarized well by quoting Galatians 3:24ff. Paul states, “So that the
law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by
faith (v.24). But now that faith is come (that is, the object of faith
[Christ] has been revealed), we are no longer under a tutor (i.e. law).
For you are all sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” The law moves unequivocally
toward a single end - the gospel, which is centered in Jesus Christ.
In the above context, note Luke 24:44 and John 5:39 respectively:
“These things I spoke unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things
must be fulfilled, which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the
prophets, and the Psalms, concerning Me,” and “You search the Scriptures,
for you think in them you have eternal life; and these are they which
testify of me.”
All of the Old Testament finds its purpose, it fulfillment,
its reason, its purpose, in directing us to Christ, the Son of God, the
revealer of the Father. As John 1:18 declares, “the only begotten Son,
who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him (God)! The
greek exeegesoto, translated
“declared,” means “to lead out.” Our Lord brought out the truth, glory,
power, love - indeed, He brought out all of the Father and declared
Him to us. Our Lord echoes this astounding truth when He responded to Philip's
“Lord, show us the Father and it sufficeth us” by stating, “he who has
seen Me has seen the Father.”
If then all the Old Testament prepared us to receive Christ,
and the Jewish nation rejected the very purpose for their existence (to
prepare the world for the Redeemer and receive Him), it was the greatest
of sins. God gave Israel covenants, services, types, promises, and glory
to prepare them for their redeemer. Yet Israel still crucified God's dear
v.v. 17,18 - Major Issues
1. The branches (unbelieving Jews) were broken off.
The promises were there for millennia, but when the lamb of God was revealed,
the Jews - desiring a political Messiah - had no need for the words of
Christ, which are Spirit and life (Jn 6:63).
2. Gentile reception of the Gospel. The Gentiles
have been brought in because, in going out into the fields with the gospel
to compel God's Old Covenant people to come in, there was no response (cf.
Lk 14:23). Thus, God said through Paul, “seeing... [you (Jews)] judge yourselves
unworthy of eternal life, we turn to the Gentiles,” (Acts 13:46).
3. The Romans Gentiles were boasting against the Jews
in this redemption. Even though the promise of forgiveness came through
Jewish Scriptures, and the good news had gone to the Gentiles because the
Jews had rejected it, the Gentiles still found grounds to boast.
The generation of Jews that saw the fulfillment of all
the Old Testament Messianic prophecies had rejected the promised Redeemer.
As John wrote in His gospel, “He came unto His own, and His own did not
receive Him,” (Jn 1:11). Thus, in Paul's illustration, the “tree” of promise
was to bring forth many fruitful branches (Jewish believers), yet this
is not what Christ found. In Matthew 21:19f and Mark 11:13f we have the
story of this in the fig tree. Christ had come to Jerusalem in the day
and abode in Bethany at night. “Now in the morning as He returned into
the city [Jerusalem], He hungered. And when He saw a fig tree in the way
He came unto it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto
it, Let no grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree
withered,” (Matt 21:18-19).
From then on in Matthew, we read: 1) of the parable of
the Vinedresser who sent His Son believing the husbandman would receive
Him, yet the Husbandman and those with him killed the Son (Matt 19:33ff);
2) in Matthew 22:1ff, we learn the parable of the wedding feast that would
not be attended by those first bidden; 3) in Matthew 23 we have the series
of “woes” to the Scribes and Pharisees (23:23ff), and 4) in 23:34-24:28
the desolation of the great city - Jerusalem.
We are told all this because of Israel's turning from
their Messiah, and thus God is turning from them. And although God reaches
out still again in Acts chapters 2,3,5 etc., Israel is still hardened toward
the gospel. As a result, God sends the gospel to the Gentiles and Paul
says these Gentiles through faith were “grafted in” (Rom 11:17) to the
redemptive line of the proto- believer - Abraham (cf. Gal 3:29). In
addition, these believing Gentiles partake of all the glorious concepts
given in the Old Testament to those Jews who believed in the coming Savior
- that is, those Jews who, like Abraham, “saw my [Christ's] day,” Jn 8:56
(e.g. seeing the sacrifice of Christ in the offering of Isaac/ram).
This is Paul's thinking when he speaks of the Gentiles “partaking of the
root and the fatness thereof..”
All of this caused the Gentiles of Rome to boast in their
standing as opposed to the seed of Abraham after the flesh who had no part
in God's ordained blessings in light of their unbelief. Again note how
pervasive this attitude was among these Gentile saints; they boasted (v.18),
they thought that God had broken the Jews off for their sake (v.19); they
were high-minded (v.20); they were wise in their own concepts (v.25) etc.
Note also the stern warnings as well: “fear” (v.20); “lest He also spare
not thee” (v.21); “otherwise thou also shall be cut off' (v.22).
And all this was astounding to Paul, knowing that it was
through the Jew that all that this grace and glory had come through the
very people who the Roman Gentiles were now despising! The wonders of the
gospel (the “root and the fatness” - v.17) were possessed by the Gentiles
strictly by virtue of the Jew - or as Paul says in verse 18, “the root
bears thee!” If any boasting was to come forth from these Gentiles,
its content would be God's grace through Israel. Paul will reiterate
this again and again as he continues in Romans 11.
v.v. 17,18 - Key Words
We now encounter Paul's section of Romans 11 (v.v. 17-24)
where the above words will dominate the theme and style of ideas expounded.
We will find “branch[es]” in verses 16b, 17, 18, 19, 21; “ingrafting” in
verses 17, 19, 23 (twice), 24 (twice); “break off' in verses 17, 19, 20,
22, 24. Starting with the ending statement of verse 16 (“if the root is
holy, so are the branches”), Paul will use the illustration of root and
branch in verses 16b-24 to: 1) humble the Gentiles by expounding the truth
as to the “why” of their redemption, and 2) establish the real gospel hope
for the fallen Jews described in Romans 11:8-10, and the grace available
to them from God in response to the inquiry of Romans 11:11 a - “have they
stumbled that they should fall.”
v.v. 17,18 - Cross References
As early as Genesis 9:20, we read of Noah planting a vineyard.
In Isaiah 5 and Ezekiel 17, the illustration of vine and branches appears
again and of course the New Testament's use of the fig tree plant in Matthew
21 and Mark 11 gives us the impression that both the plant and its use
as an image/illustration were readily recognizable and could be used to
communicate a clear message regarding Israel.
v.v. 17,18 - Summary
Paul has envisioned the gospel promises and blessing going
back to Abraham and Genesis 12:3 where God declares “in thee shall all
the nations of the world shall be blessed” - a promise unfolded for us
in Galatians 3:6-18 as “the gospel” (3:6-7) centered in Abraham's seed,
Jesus Christ (3:16). The apostle uses the image of “root” for this, while
using the image of “branches” for those who have 1) a vital, saving interest
in the promises and forgiveness in Abraham's seed - Christ Jesus, or 2)
were given the promise of that vital interest (e.g. Israel).
Paul's “grafting” and “breaking off' metaphor directs
our thoughts to those outside the gospel who have come to the benefit of
the treasures in Christ (“grafting”), while the latter term (“breaking
off') relates to those Jews who, having been given the law with its many
promises of a Savior, rejected the Messiah when He came.
In Rome, this led to a high-mindedness in the Gentile
converts against Israelites and thus required Paul to rebuke such attitudes
with his “Boast not!” Paul further states that if one was to glory in the
free gift of grace from a human perspective (the Divine doxology coming
in v.v.33-36), then the Gentile convert was to forever remember that it
was the promises given to the Jewish nation - custodians of the
good news of the coming Deliverer - that were the foundation and substance
of the salvation the Gentiles received. Thus Paul says, “if thou boast,
thou bearest not the root, but the root thee,” (v.18).
Note: The Pauline argument will follow a clear and easily
understandable line of thought from verse 17 to verse 24. And though there
should be no disagreement as to what Paul's point is, we must note: 1)
Paul takes extensive time to clarify and examine his ideas, and this should
awake us to the subjects discussed, and 2) We should take careful note
of Paul summery words of this section (v.v. 17-24) which are 11:23-24.
What I mean to say is that Paul is not just “passing time” in this section
until the more important or interesting issues arise. This section, although
easier to understand than v.v. 11-15 or v.v. 25-29, is just as relevant
to Paul's total argument in 11:11-32! The reason is not far to see.
The section of v.v.17-24 connects both v.v. 11-15 and v.v. 25-32.
19 Thou wilt say then, The branches
were broken off, that I might be grafted in. 20 Well; because of unbelief
they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but
fear 21 For if God spared not the natural branches, [take heed] lest he
also spare not thee.
v.v. 19-21 - General Context
In 11:19-21, we are confronted with Paul's understanding
of the heart attitude of these Roman converts. The “you will say” in verse
19 gives us Paul's mind regarding his readers. And their thoughts are not
flattering. The Gentile Roman's seem to have the notion that their goodness
in juxtaposition to the Israelite apostasy is the grounds for their personal
engrafting and the Jewish “cutting off.” It is clear this whole attitude
was regarded by Paul as “high-minded” (v.20).
The above impression is supported by the use of the emphatic
(greek, ego) in the statement
of verse 19, “that I might be grafted in.” Paul is judicious regarding
the use of the emphatic form of the greek “I,” and when Paul uses it he
is calling special attention to the person. These Romans were lifting themselves
up over against the apostate Israelites, and Paul says in verse 19 that
this is what they were saying about themselves (e.g. “you will say...1”).
It is this attitude that Paul is desirous of combating in v.v. 19-21.
v.v. 19-21- Major Issues
As we have seen, the pride of the redeemed Roman Gentiles
is on Paul's mind as he writes 11:19-21. Many statements in this section
lead us to see the zeal of Paul to negate this Gentile sinful pride. One
of the more emphatic and instructive assertions is in verse 20, where Paul
says to his readers, “you - by faith - stand.”
First, Paul uses the emphatic form of “you” in verse 20
(greek, “su”). Second, after
getting their attention, he states “by faith (and not by anything in you)
Again, in verse 19 we saw the Roman Gentiles intimating that their goodness
- over- against the apostate Jews - was the basis for their engrafting.
Such thought in antithetical to the New Testament doctrine of grace. Paul
says “You! By faith and not merit you stand in the gospel. Stop
v.v. 19-21 - Key Words
I - As we noticed above, Paul is cautious in his
use of the emphatic form of “I” (ego).
Whereas John uses the emphatic ego
one out of every two times “I” occurs in his gospel, Paul's ratio in Romans
is more 1:9.. Thus when Paul put the phrase “I (ego)
might be grafted in” (v. 19), he is placing before us a Gentile mind full
of self-centeredness and the worse type of pride.
unbelief, faith - This faith is a personal, saving
faith that Paul is dealing with here. A great problem in this passage (Romans
11) is the issue of “national” faith - and thus “national” unbelief - as
a theme. Much has been written about the “national” blindness of Romans
11:25, as well as a “national” lifting of the same blindness.
But any “faith” or “unbelief' is demonstrably personal.
Surely the “elect” who have it (11:7a) and the hardened who do not (11:7b-1O)
are spoken of as individuals (although all are Israelites).
spare - Paul is using this word in the same way
he used it in Romans 8:32 (the only other use in Romans). Paul is saying
to “not spare” is to be “broken off, “v. 18 - that is, to be cut off from
the life of God and the salvation promised in the proto- evangels of Genesis
3:15 and 12:3 (“seed”).
Special Note on 11:19-21 and “Eternal
At this point in our analysis of “spare/graft/faith etc.,
it would seem needful to take up the issue of “eternal security,” for surely
when Paul uses “spare not,” he is speaking of damnation and
those God might not spare are the Roman saints if, like the Jews, they
turn to unbelief..
We must face this in Romans 11:11ff. Paul is clearly warning
the Romans saints that if through unbelief God did not spare (that is,
He condemned) the hardened Jews, the same fate surely awaits unbelieving
Gentile (“if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He spare
not thee,” v. 21). This is the basis of the exhortation to “fear,” v.20.
Hebrews 4:1,2 expresses the same truth, this time to wavering
Jews of the first century: “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise be left
us of entering His rest (e.g. heaven), any of you should seem to come
short of it. For unto us the gospel was the gospel preached, as well
as unto them; but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed
with faith that heard it.” Such Hebrew warnings are everywhere in that
book of warnings; “Give heed,” 2:1; “Beware,” 3:12; “do not refuse Him,”
12:25; “you have need of endurance,” 10:36. There are many more just in
Hebrews. The danger is that these professing saints - in light of persecution
- were considering casting off the faith of the gospel.
The Romans warnings such as 11:19-21 keep us theologically
on the straight and narrow. The temptation in the warnings to Christians
is to negate their strength of truth by stating that the warnings are not
related to redemption but rather rewards, crowns, and the like. A cursory
glance of the exhortations of Romans 11 will quickly dispel this. The subjects
are Jews who have rejected the salvation of Christ, and Paul says God did
not spare them (e.g. He cut them off). This cutting off seals their fate
under His holy wrath. But Paul says emphatically, “if God spared not the
natural branches, take heed lest He spare not thee” (obviously,
in the same sense He “spares not” the unbelieving Jew).
Now the recipients of this letter are identified as “beloved
of God, ... called to be saints,” identifying God as their Father, Romans
1:7. That is, Christians! Thus, whatever our doctrine of eternal
security, it must be a doctrine which understands honestly passages such
as our Romans 11:19-21 passage (see also Matt 5:29 and similar warnings
v.v. 19-21 - Cross References
Romans 11:11-32 is unique in the New Testament in its
treatment of the future of fallen Israelites. We shall see that the themes
of Romans 11:11-32 are covered in 2 Corinthians 3:3-17 (see cross references,
Romans 11:25). What is important in understanding 11:19-21 is to see that
the themes covered in this section are repeated often in 11:11-32.
1. The idea of the broken off Israelites (v. 19) is echoed
in the question of 11:11 as well as the answer of 11:1 lb and v. 12; the
need for Israelite salvation implies their being broken off (v.14); Paul
reiterates the “broken off” vocabulary of v. 12 (“fall” and “diminish”)
in v. 15 with “casting away.” Further, Paul will speak of God's severity
to Israelites (v. 22), the unbelief of Israelites (v.v. 23,30), the hardening
of Israelites (v. 25), and the fact that unbelieving Israelites are “enemies”
2. The attitude of the Roman christians as reflected in
Paul's portrayal of them as “high-minded” is reflected often in 11:11-32
as mentioned earlier. Note that Paul felt a need to speak to these Gentiles
regarding God's purposes because of their attitudes: His personal ministry
to these people had (he hoped) the result of saving his fellow countryman
(v. 13,14); Paul expounded a great mystery because of Gentile conceit (v.
25); pity to the Gentiles was used to bring pity to the Jew (v.v. 30-31).
v.v. 19-21 - Summary
We begin to see in v.v. 19-21 as to why Paul ever was
interested in dealing with the questions of 11:1 and 11:11. There was an
arrogance in the demeanor of the Gentile converts which likely displayed
itself in an sinful attitude toward those of the circumcision. Apparently
the Roman Gentiles believed the Jews had sinned beyond God's grace in their
crucifixion of the Lord Jesus. This thinking had manifest itself in a “high-mindedness”
(and possibly a divisiveness in the church) which was a serious enough
issue in Paul's mind to deal with at length.
Indeed, these Gentiles should be looking to themselves,
lest their sinful spirit carry them to destruction (“be not high-minded,
but fear...lest He spare not thee,” v.v.20-21). Paul will go on to confirm
this exhortation with “behold the goodness and severity of God... upon
thee goodness, if you abide in His goodness, otherwise you shall
be cut off,” v. 22. Such powerful warnings never come forth from the
apostle's pen without clear and serious rationale. Romans 11:19-21 tells
us all the elements for such a rebuke resided in the Roman church.
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.
v.22 - General Context
With Paul's use of oun
(“therefore”), the apostle is drawing an important conclusion to the section
of 11:17-21. Remember Paul's concern regarding the “boasting” (v. 17)and
“high-mindedness” (v. 20) of his Gentile readers. This is the Pauline burden
of both his exposition of 11:17-21 and the summation of verse 22. Now Paul
wants to focus their thinking in some particular spheres of application
that necessarily arise from the truths of v.v. 17-21.
v.22 - Major Issues
Paul is of a mind in closing his exhortation of v.v. 17-21
to bring the truths of that section home with power. Verse 22 is meant
to be a potent and persuasive conclusion to the issue of the prejudicial
outlook of these Romans to the lost estate of the Israelites in juxtaposition
to the redemption they (the Roman Gentiles) enjoyed by grace.
These last two words are the key - “by grace.” As the
outset of verse 22 succinctly expresses it; “behold the goodness...
of God.” It is the Lord's work alone that has given life eternal to
these believers. Yet Paul seems to be in doubt as to the clarity and grasp
of this truth in his readers minds in light of what he seems to know of
them. And for Paul, the apostle of grace (1 Tim 1:13-15; 1 Cor 15:10),
this perspective cannot continue. With verse 22, he will summarize
with boldness and unabashed explicitness the truths of v.v. 17-21 and their
implications for these Romans christians.
v.22 - Key Words
behold - This is Paul's first word in verse 22.
In all of his writings, he uses this “behold/look!” here, in Romans 2 and
Galatians 5 (in contrast, the gospel of John has 15 uses). He surely desires
the immediate and undivided attention of these Gentiles. Paul seems serious
as to his message and its implications to these proud - and possibly smug
- readers. Paul will write his conclusion and say to these people regarding
his words “Look!,” as John the Baptist did so long ago with his
/ “Behold' the
Lamb of God!”
su / you
- Out of Paul's 25 uses of this emphatic form of “you,” five times in this
section (v.v. 11-24) he will single his readers out with this word of great
emphasis. He is saying, as it were, “You, yes you shall be
cut off, if unbelief lays hold of you as it has the hardened Israelites!”
It is almost as if these Gentiles might or would not believe in both God's
goodness and severity when faith and unbelief were at stake in the gospel
hearer. Paul is forever stating the truth of these Divine attributes and
actions - towards them (su/you!).
Paul has/will use “su” in
v.v. 17,18,20 and 24.
v.22 - Cross References
I believe it is sufficient to say that in the finest book
of Biblical cross-references available in print, this verse alone has 179
verses with themes similar to the themes of verse 22! As an example, this
great cross-reference work (the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge) quotes
Hebrews 10:35-39 as pertinent. It is as follows, and is sobering indeed:
“Therefore, do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For
you have need of patience in order that, having done the will of God, you
may obtain the promise. For yet a little while, the one coming will come
and shall not tarry. And the righteous one of mine shall live by faith,
and if he draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.
But we are not of those who draw back to destruction,
but believe unto the saving/preserving of the soul.”
This is the very essence of Paul warning to these high-
minded Gentiles. Not only has Paul been arguing for the redemption of the
Jew who may have fallen, but he also claims that in their (Gentile) pride,
unbelief can derail their faith resulting in dire consequences (“You
shall be cut off!”).
Paul has laid a foundation for Israelite recovery to grace
in v.v. 11b-16, and now in v.v. 17-22 he warns his readers that the fate
of these Israelites they think so little of is not to be scoffed at. Indeed,
if the Roman christians move into the same sphere of unbelief as the recalcitrant
Jews, their end will be the same - destruction and damnation, or as Paul
23 And they also, if they abide
not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them
v.23 General Context
There is a clear change in v.v. 17-22 from “you/thou/thee”
(10 uses, addressing Gentiles) to verse 23 and “they/them” (Israelites).
It is now not just the feasibility of Israelites being saved or,
as Paul continues his analogy, “grafted in.” Paul will broach the subject
of their actual vital union with God by faith - that is, personal,
The idea is this. Paul has emphasized the theme of the
Gentiles humbly clinging to their faith and thus avoid pride and even unbelief.
Now the apostle says, as it were, “not only are you Gentiles to remain
in faith rather than turn in unbelief, but know this; these Jews are not
irrevocably consigned to their present lost estate (via unbelief),
but indeed if they turn now to Christ in faith, they shall be grafted
in.” Paul not only has rebuked the Gentiles for their pride of faith compared
to the unbelieving Israelites, but now he turns to say that these unbelieving
Israelites need not remain in this unhappy estate, but rather turn to Christ
in faith as these Roman Gentiles had, and thus giving them equal standing
in Christ and His gospel!
v.23 - Major Issues
As is emphasized by “remain,” or as the greek implies,
thoroughly or continuously remain (e.g. permanently remain), Paul's
burden in verse 23-24 is the hope of Israelite gospel redemption - a burden
he began to examine with his question of 11:11; “Have they (unbelieving
Jews) stumbled (via this unbelief) that they should fall (permanently)?”
The apostle will claim emphatically that the unbelieving Jew described
in v.v. 8-10 and derided by these Gentile christians can - if they do not
remain in unbelief - join these Gentile saints as children of God.
This will be Paul's interest in Romans 11:23-24. With
logic and illustration he will prove beyond doubt that the fallen Israelites
of Romans 9:32-33, 10:3,21, and 11:8-10 have a real hope in the gospel
- a real assurance that if unbelief is abandoned for faith in Christ, these
fallen Jews shall be reconciled to God through Christ (i.e. grafted
v.23 - Key Words
these - This emphatic pronoun is used by Paul
to clearly delineate this class of unbelieving, Christ-rejecting Jews.
It is these - the very ones derided by the Romans - who can be grafted
in; it is these who can be redeemed.
remain - Paul uses the root word which means “to
abide/remain,” and for emphasis adds a preposition to the root word to
give us the resultant idea of “continuously remain” or “ceaselessly remain.”
In other words, if these Jews do not persist in unbelief, their fate is
not at all hopeless.
/ shall be grafted - Paul has used
the idea of “root” to express the gospel blessings as grounded in Christ.
To quote again Romans 15:12, “And again, Isaiah says, There shall be a
root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles;
in Him shall the Gentiles trust.” The engrafting of these Jews who do not
remain in unbelief means a translation out of their gospel darkness into
the light of the kingdom of God's dear Son and its attending forgiveness
and grace (cf. Col 1:13,14).
again - The “again” implies these Jews, who have
no gospel blessings/promises, were somehow previously related to God's
promises. This relationship was expressed for us previously in Romans chapter
9 when Paul said that to the Jew belonged “the adoption, and the glory,
and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and
the promises,” Romans 9:4.
They were severed from the partaking of gospel promises
or, as expressed in Romans 11, they were “broken off.” The Jewish heritage
guaranteed nothing but the promise and offer of blessings in
union with Christ under the New Covenant. This is spelled out in Jeremiah's
famous prophecy (Jer 31:31-34 cf. Heb 8:6-13) and reiterated in the aforementioned
“covenants” and “promises” discussed by Paul in Romans 9:4.
v.23 - Cross References
See John 15:1ff.
Paul will say later in Romans 11:28,29 that the promises
such as Isaiah's quoted in Romans 11:26b-27 are promises of grafting in
Jews again. That is, God never recalls His offers of mercy (again, such
as Is 55:1ff) for they are ametameleetos
(without repentance/recall, v.29). Therefore, as Romans 11:23 notes, any
Jew who previously had turned from Christ can turn back to Christ
and be grafted in again - for God is able and willing!
v.23 - Summary
Paul has turned his attention back to the salvation of
the Jews from his multiple rebukes of the Gentiles, a theme which was at
the core of his thinking when he began in 11:11, and which continued in
What must not be missed is that Paul is dealing with New
Testament/gospel redemption throughout this section - and especially here
in verse 23 with this “graft in.” There is no hint of interest in some
type of national redemption of Israel. And since verse 24 clearly continues
the arguments and themes begun in verse 23 (which argument/theme has continued
since verse 11), we will have to see some clear Pauline reasoning and language
to make the theme/argument of verses 25 and 26 national redemption
- an all to common error.
THE NATION OF ISRAEL CANNOT BE GRAFTED IN, ONLY INDIVIDUAL
ISRAELITES CAN ACCORDING TO PAUL'S ARGUMENT AND LOGIC.
24 For if thou wert cut out of
the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature
into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural
[branches], be grafted into their own olive tree?
v.24 - General Context
Verse 24 is putting the finishing touches to the Pauline
argument in v.v. 17-24 of: 1) removing the pride of these Gentiles as to
their standing in juxtaposition to the Jews, and 2) establishing the real
possibility of the unbelieving Jews turning to Christ and becoming joint-heirs
in the kingdom of God with these same Gentiles.
The apostle has stated in verse 23 that the Jews described
in v.v. 8-10 may be grafted in if they remain not in unbelief, and verse
24 establishes the sensibility of the suppositions of verse 23. If verse
23 speaks of grafting formerly Christ-rejecting Jews, verse 24 tells -
contrary to the prevailing Gentile theology - how much “easier” this is
compared to the previous grafting of the Roman Gentiles. If what was differing
in type was grafted in by the Lord to the original “stock” of God's redemptive
purpose and blessedness, surely that which is of the same type can
more easily be grafted in to the Divine “stock” of grace and mercy. This
is verse 24 and the Pauline purpose.
v.24 - Major Issues
The major point of importance in the exposition of Romans
11:11-32 in general - and verse 24 in particular - is that Paul has
not moved off the answering of the question in 11:11. The salvation
(or grafting in) of the formerly unbelieving Jew was in the question of
verse 11; the “fullness” of verse 12; the Pauline “ministry unto jealousy”
of v.v. 13-14; the “life from the dead” in verse 15; here in verses 23-24;
the promise from Isaiah in verses 26b-27; the enduring nature of such promises
to the fathers in v.v. 28-29; and the summary of all in 30-32.
Again, this is absolutely crucial as we attempt to embark
on the very difficult verse 25. Continuity of argument cannot be overemphasized.
Paul is interested in the reintroduction of grace to the formerly apostate
Jews. He wants to convince his readers of this because of its great practical
bearing. These Gentiles have Jewish neighbors who do not believe the Jesus
is the Messiah. Paul says emphatically in v.v. 23-24 that if they remain
not in unbelief, they can be grafted in. And this was God's plan in
saving these Gentile readers (11:11- 12;13-14;30-31)!
v.24 - Key Words
/ you, these - Using emphatic pronouns, Paul draws
attention to the contrast and, at the same time, the similarity of Gentile/Jew
gospel redemption. If God saved you (su)
Gentiles who are foreigners to the promises of grace and has grafted you
into the line of redemptive mercies, is it not more likely, more probable
- in a word, easier - to graft the very guardians (outoi)
of the promises of grace back into the line of grace? Paul clearly expects
a yes answer, and thereby expects the Gentile Romans to see clearly that
salvation can come to those Jews who turn in faith back to their God.
wild - Eph 2:12; that is, the Gentiles were “aliens
from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise,
having no hope, without God in the world.”
v.24 - Cross References
There is a direct parallel in both language and purpose
in 11:12 and 11:24. Here is a copy of the “cross reference” note of 11:12:
Romans 11:24 is a second parallel to Romans 11:12. Both
verses use poso mallon / “how
much more” in their argument - 11:12 and “how much more their fullness,”
whereas 11:24 states “how much more...
shall these... be grafted.”
Further - and as important - is that both verses are arguing
that if grace came to Gentiles, it will most assuredly come to the Israelite
(cf. “shall be grafted” / “egkentristheesontai,”
greek future tense implying a certain result under proper conditions [Gnomic
future]). In the case of 11:12, grace will come to returning Israel because
grace came to the Gentiles by virtue of departing Israel. In 11:24, returning
Israelites, being natural branches, will surely be grafted back in because
Gentiles - unnatural branches - were grafted in. The reasoning behind both
11:12 and 11:24 is: If God did the more difficult (brought good
via evil), He will surely do the less difficult (bring good via
Paul is using what might be called irrefutable logic.
The Gentile christians at Rome tended to view the salvation of the Jew
as impossible, seeing they had heard and rejected. But Paul counters by
stating that if God has grafted in unnatural/wild branches (you!) to the
stock of grace, then how much more sure is it that God can and will
graft natural branches (Jew) into the stock of grace. The answer is inescapable.
v.24 - Summary
Verse 24 is the logical outworking of Paul's assertions
in verse 23. If a Jew does not remain in unbelief, God is able to graft
such a one back in (assertion, v. 23), and if one thinks through this proposition
(v. 24), that assertion in inevitable.
The essential truth to take from verses 23 and 24 is
that Paul's theme - derived from the question/inquiry of 11:11 - is the
salvation of the individual Jew described in 11:8-10, not corporate salvation/redemption.
This is key, because we may well desire to interpret the terminology in
verses 25-26 as a type of national redemption. We must be clear prior to
venturing in to this next section that individual, gospel redemption is
the theme, not some kind of Old Testament, national redemption.
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 fullness
of the Gentiles be come in. 26a And so all Israel shall be saved:
v.25-26a - General Context
Here we have arrived at the section of Romans 11:11-32
that has caused the most trouble and, with its difficulties, has brought
an air of uncertainty as to both doctrine and application (v.v. 25- 26).
Yet the historical heartaches brought on by this passage can be avoided
if we remember: 1) Paul's interests and arguments previous to this point
set the stage for what we read in v.v. 25-26; 2) what goes after this section
(v.v.25-26a) is an outworking of the thoughts found in these verses, and
2) we look both at the detail of v.v. 25-26a and its parallels in other
parts of Scripture. Great men of old have struggled with this section of
God's word. Possibly there is light in a new direction.
v.25-26a - Major Issues
One might be surprised as to the key in understanding
the whole of Romans 11:25-26a - the concept of “hardness” (porosis)
in Israel. We will look at this concept first.
hardness of Israel in Romans 11:25
The typical modern understanding of v.v.25-26a is that
God has blinded Israel to the light of the gospel until all the Gentiles
He intends to save are brought to that salvation. At that point (the rapture?),
God will lift the veil of blindness/hardness of the nation of Israel such
that the “all/fullness” of that nation will come to know their Messiah
(during the great tribulation?).This is their view of the message/doctrine
of Romans 11:25ff.
The older writers (Spurgeon/Calvin/Edwards et. al.), without
the tribulation/rapture doctrines of our day, still believed that in the
latter days of the gospel era God would lift the porosis/veil
of blindness, and cause a great ingathering of Israelites - an ingathering
which would be the centerpiece of a great latter day revival prior to the
second coming of Christ. This is their view of the message/doctrine of
Romans 11:25ff (indeed, this “Israelite conversion” was, for the Puritans,
the centerpiece of Puritan Postmillennialism).
In both cases we have what Herman Ridderbos calls an “apocalyptic
miracle of conversion” in Romans 11 :25-26a. I think the adherents to either
view would agree both as to the substance of what was stated above, as
well as to Ridderbos's summery statement. Yet there are three major problems
in the above views that cause (I believe) insurmountable barriers to the
acceptance of either position/interpretation.
First, we have no hint of such a blindness followed
by an “apocalyptic” doctrine of national conversion in the whole of Paul's
argument to this point in Romans 11. Even Paul's “how much more their (Jews)
fullness” in verse 12 is stated to secure the truth that assuredly if Gentiles
who turn in faith are saved through Jewish unbelief “how much more”
sure is Jewish acceptance guaranteed if they turn in faith. Indeed,
one wonders how such theology as is expounded above regarding v.v. 25-26a
combats the problems that prompted Paul to ask his question (which he is
still answering) initially (v. 11): “Have they (the people described
in 11:8-10) stumbled that they should fall (irrevocably)?” This troubling
spiritual condition of the Israelites of his day described in v.v.8-10
- such a condition that Paul: 1) grieved over (9:2), 2) might wished to
be cut off from Christ over (9:3), 3) directed his very heart's desire
(10:1), and forced him to deal with the issue in verses 11:1 and 11:11
would hardly find a satisfactory answer in some far-off, latter-day conversion.
Indeed, Paul seems in 11:13-14 to have hopes of conversions by his own
ministry, and in his own day!
Second, and of this we will say more in the section
on “cross-references,” 2 Corinthians 3:3-17, which has much in common with
the terms and themes of this section of Romans 11 (esp. 2 Cor 3:12-17),
has not so much as a word regarding a great future apocalyptic “unveiling”
of Israel. If one reads 2 Corinthians 3 and the Pauline argument and his
use of vocabulary, the great “unveiling” of the apocalyptic future would
surely be in his discussion. Much to the contrary though, it was the turning
to Christ that Paul associates with the unveiling (2 Cor 3:16), and this
was seen by Paul as a present possibility, and conversion of the
veiled Israelites was not placed in some far future scenario.
Third, and this is at the heart of Christ's' Olivet
sermon and Paul's theology in all of Romans, Galatians, etc., let us examine
- via a question / answer format - the concepts surrounding this hardness/
blindness/ porosis of Israel
Q1: What is this blindness/hardness -
Al: The Israelite blindness was a blindness in perceiving
Christ as the Messiah sent by God, and promised in the Old Testament.
Mt 13:13ff: “Therefore, speak I to them in parables:
because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they
understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which saith,
By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall
see, and shall not perceive: for these people's heart has waxed gross,
and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest
at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears,
and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should
Mt 15:14: “Let them alone: they are blind leaders of
Mk 4:1 if: “And He said unto them, Unto you it is given
to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without,
all these things are done in parables: That seeing they
may see, and not perceive: and hearing they may hear,
and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their
sins be forgiven them.”
Lk 8:10; “And He said, Unto you it is given to know
the mysteries of the kingdom of God; but to others in parables: that seeing
they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.”
Jn 9:39: “And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into
this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see
might be made blind.”
Jn 12:37bff: “...yet they believed not on Him: That
the saying of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which He spoke, `Lord,
who has believed our report? and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?'
Therefore they could not believe, because that Isaiah has said again, `He
has blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart: that they should not
see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted,
and I should heal them.'
Acts 28:24b-27 “...and some believed not...And when
they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken
one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Isaiah the prophet unto our fathers,
Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall
not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: For the heart
of this people has waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and
their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and
hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted,
and I should heal them.”
Q2. Who is blinding Israel?
Q3. Why was Israel blinded?
Lk 19:41-44: “And as He was come near, He beheld the
city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou had known, even thou, at least
in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now
they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine
enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep
thee on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children
within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because
thou knew not the time of thy visitation.”
A3: God was judging them for rejecting Christ.
Q4. What is the justification/basis for God's blinding
of Israel? That is, why Israel as a nation? Why national
A4: Surely the answer is in the fact that Israel
alone had - as a nation - a covenant with God. Thus we read in Deut 29:1;
“These are the words of the covenant, which the Lord commanded Moses to
make with the children of Israel.” Included in the “words of the covenant”
were the blessings for Israel upon national obedience (Deut 28:1-13), and
the curses for Israel upon national disobedience (Deut 28:15-68). Included
in the curses for disobedience we find, “The Lord shall smite thee with
madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart,” Deut 29:28.
But now here is the problem with the above scenarios.
The book of Hebrews emphatically establishes that the new covenant has
a better mediator (1:4), a better hope (7:19), better sacrifice (9:23),
better blessings (substances, 10:34), a better land (11:16), a better resurrection,
(11:35) - all by virtue of the better sacrifice/blood, Christ (12:24).
Thus, Hebrews 8:7-13 plainly states, “if that first (e.g. Mosaic) covenant
had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for a second.
For finding fault with them (God said) `I will make a new covenant (v.v.7-8)...In
that He saith, a new covenant, He hath made the first old,(8:13).”
In other words, the covenant that forms the basis for
the rewards and punishments of Israel's national actions (the old/Mosaic
covenant) has been made obsolete by the covenant of Christ. This means
the punishment of blindness upon Israel for her sin is as antiquated as
the covenant which under girds the punishment. This further means that
national promises simply no longer exist, because the covenant upon which
such promises would be based is, in a word, obsolete.
Therefore, the idea that national Israel has some type
of future - redemptive or otherwise - cannot be theologically maintained.
Romans 11:25-26a cannot be teaching a doctrine of a future, national conversion
or “fullness.” Such promises do not exist. All promises are Ye and Amen
exclusively in Christ and the new covenant ratified in His blood - a
covenant made with individual sinners only.
Attendant Truths of Romans 11:25f
and “porosis”/ hardness
Therefore, the views of Romans 11 :25-26a as a Pauline
exposition of future “mass/all/fullness” conversion near the end of all
time cannot be maintained from what we know of the rest of God's word.
It just will not fit.
Yet, if we remind ourselves of what Paul's theology has
previous to this point in his exposition, we will find a surprisingly
clear path to what his interests are in Romans 11:25- 26a. Indeed we will
find Paul is, in verses 25-26a, repeating truths he has stated all along
We must remember that all that Paul will say in v.v. 25-26a
regarding “blindness,” “fullness of the Gentiles,” “so all Israel shall
be saved” etc., is based on his desire to keep the Roman Gentiles from
being “wise in their own conceits.” We are told this is his reason for
unfolding the “mystery” of v.v. 25-26a. We have seen previous to this point
Paul's exhortations to “boast not,” v.18; “you stand [not by your own merit
but] by faith,” v. 20; “be not high-minded, but fear,” v.20 - all of which
are reasons for his exposition. Then why not apply those same principles
to verses 25-26a?
Note: Remember, a crucial question that requires an answer
is: In what way can we grasp verses Romans 11:25- 26a so as to see and
discern the end for which Paul wrote it (the nullification of Gentile pride)?
Or, to put it another way, “How do the details in the revelation of
Paul's `mystery' combat and then negate this Gentile “conceit?”
All the above moves us in the direction of how
“hardness upon Israel until the Gentiles be come in...” would be a deterrent
to Gentile pride and high-mindedness. Paul drives his points regarding
the hardness of Israel and subsequent themes home to us in two ways.
First, we read in 11:11; 11:13-14; 11:30-31 that:
“through their (Israel's) fall, salvation has come to the Gentiles, to
provoke them (Israel) to jealousy [and save some, DMT];” “I magnify my
ministry, (as apostle to the Gentiles), if by any means I may provoke to
jealousy those who are my flesh, and save some of them;” “For as you were
once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their (Israel's)
disobedience, even so these (Israel) also have now been disobedient, that
through the mercy shown you they may also may obtain mercy.” Note in the
above passages the fourfold linkage of: Jewish unbelief (1), causing
Gentile redemption (2), followed by Israelite jealousy/conversion
all of which was revealed by Paul to negate Gentile pride (4). The
repetition of (1)-(2)-(3)- resulting in negation of
Gentile hubris (4) is well established in Romans 11:11- 32.
Secondly, ponder how the common issues in Paul's
revelation of the mind of God with respect to Jew / Gentile salvation emphatically
counteracts Gentile boasting, in that: 1) It was not the faith of
the Gentiles which brought salvation to them but, much to the contrary,
the unbelief of Israel that caused the gospel to come to the Gentiles,
and 2) the salvation of the Gentiles was actually a means to a goal, and
this goal was the redemption, via jealousy, of the same Jews whose unbelief
caused the gospel to go to the Gentiles in the first place! Either way
one looks at Gentile redemption, the cause and/or purpose finds its origins
in Israel, not in anything regarding the Gentiles! This is the mechanism
in Romans 11 Paul reveals so as to humble his Gentile readers!!
Now what should be an evident observation in our examination
of the previous statements of Paul in Romans 11:11ff is to see he uses
the combination of the above arguments - indeed the very pattern we have
observed [e.g. (1)-(2)-(3)-(4)] - in Romans
11:25-26a! Note: “For I desire, brethren, that you should not be ignorant
of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own conceits (4),
that blindness in part has happened to Israel (1) until
the fullness of the Gentiles has come (2), And so [so, greek/outos,
`in this way/manner,' e.g. the means/manner of Gentile redemption] all
Israel shall be saved” (3).
Romans 11:25 and “the fullness of
If there is a universally accepted interpretation of any
term in this verse full of difficult terms in Romans 11:25-26a, it is the
understanding of “fullness of the Gentiles be come in.” Everyone this author
has come into contact with - whether verbally or through literature - sees
this phrase as being equal, more or less, to “when all the Gentiles have
believed and come to the redemption which God has purposed.” No interpreter
requires “fullness of the Gentiles” to mean every Gentile - in either
an absolute sense (indeed, some were in hell when Paul penned the words),
nor in the gospel/church age. There seems to be unanimity that “fullness
of Gentiles” means the “full” or “complete” gathering of Gentiles in the
context of the discussion/subject (most say this “fullness” in Romans 11:25
occurs just prior to the second coming, or the rapture). But let's look
First, the context and subject in which we find
the phrase “fullness of Gentiles” is one of the blindness of Israel
- a subject which carries with it the issue of judgment. Now Paul's
purpose in discussing the “fullness of the Gentiles” is to bring to bear
on the issue of Israelite judgment an concomitant subject - mercy to
Israel, as Paul confirms five verses later in v.v. 30-31: “for as you
(Gentiles) were once disobedient to God, but now have received mercy through
their (Israel) disobedience, even so (greek, outos/english
`in like manner') these (Israelites) also have now been disobedient, that
through the mercy shown you, they (Israel) may also obtain mercy.” In
other words, for Paul, the themes of Israel's blindness, “Gentile fullness,”
and mercy returning to Israel are inextricably linked.
If we may chart the idea here, as Israelite judgment came,
Gentile salvation unfolded. Further, parallel to the “fullness of the Gentiles”
is the mercy manifest to the blind nation of Israel (and this is why 11:25
followed by 11:26a; “and thus [in this manner] all [the fullness
of] Israel shall be saved). The latter two themes are simultaneous
and, along with the initial blindness / judgment of Israel in redemptive
history, are dependent upon one another. Thus we might illustrate
Paul's thought as follows:
|“fullness of the Gentiles”
|Mercy returning to Israel
(A) / (B) / (C) are historically
linked/related concepts for Paul (and, of course, us), and (B) &
are events that; 1) mutually spring from Israelite blindness/judgment,
and 2) are inter-dependent. (A) is the cause, of which (B)
& (C) are the inter-related, inter-dependent effects.
Secondly, as the blindness was the initial
judgment upon Israel for their unbelief, the consummation of their
national judgment/punishment was the destruction of the holy city, Jerusalem
in A.D. 70. This issue was prophesied at length in Matt 24, Mk 13 and Lk
21, and is given emphasis in Matthew after the triumphal entry into the
city by Christ in Matthew 21:1-11. After His entry into the holy city,
He drives the moneychangers out (Matt 21:12ff), curses the fig tree (Matt
21:18ff), and begins to rebuke Israel for her hardheartedness.
But I would like to take a detailed view at Christ's'
words in Matthew 22:1ff and the marriage parable (esp. v.v. 2-7): “The
kingdom of God is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son,
and sent out his servants to call those who invited to the wedding; and
they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying,
`Tell those who are invited, see, I have prepared my dinner; my ox and
fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.'
But thy made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another
to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully,
and killed them. And when the king heard about it, he was furious. And
he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned
up their city.”
The above is an echo of the destruction Christ prophesied
regarding Jerusalem in Matt 24:1-3; Mk 13:1-2; Lk 21:5-6, as well as the
Old Testament prophecy regarding the same in Daniel 9:24-27. Here are some
segments from Daniel's famous prophecy: “Seventy weeks are determined
upon thy people and thy holy city (v24)...the street shall be
built in troublesome times (v25)... after 62 weeks Messiah shall be cut
off (crucified)... and the people of the prince who is to come shall
destroy the city and sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood,
and till the end of the war desolation's are determined (v26)...And
on the wing of abominations shall one be who makes desolate, Even until
the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate(v27).”
Indeed, in the prophetic statements of the Olivet discourse
(Matt/Mark), a key, common element is that the days of this desolation
/ punishment are shortened (e.g. the judgment comes to an end
/ consummation!, Matt 24:22; Mk 13:20). In other words, with the destruction
of the holy land / city God brought to a end / consummation His wrath against
His nation which had rejected their Messiah and His gospel.
God's wrath against Israel had its initial manifestation
in the blinding of the nation and was consummated by the annihilation of
the people and their land. With this final act, God finished
His work of judgment regarding Israel.
Now the doctrinal conclusions are the following: the bringing
in of the Gentiles (e.g. their “fullness”) is an act of mercy by God in
concert with Israel's blindness to the end that Israel might be provoked
unto salvation. To say it another way, God's judgment upon Israel is not
His only acts/workings toward them. He was also - as Paul was writing -
saving Gentiles, and thereby holding out grace via the Gentiles to these
But there came a time when the blindness of Israel,
which we saw as a judgment of God for their rejection of Christ, came to
an end via the final, consummate judgment of Israel and her land/city
- the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
This means that the “judgment” of blindness has ended,
and with it the means of mercy which God ordained to deliver Israelites
prior to their final judgment as a nation - that means being the “fullness
of the Gentiles.” This “fullness” of Gentile salvation was directly
related to the deliverance of the “fullness” of Israel through jealousy.
But seeing God has finished His judgments of Israel, God is no longer “blinding”
Israel, and thus the means to secure some of the blind Israelites the “fullness
of the Gentiles” - is no longer a means of Israelite deliverance. Both
the “blindness” of Israel and the “fullness” of Gentiles have been fulfilled,
accomplishing their purposes in God's redemptive works in the context of
God's covenant judgments/mercies.
Again, we may do well to see visually the doctrines expounded
by Paul in Romans 11:25-26a.
Thus, the “fullness” of Israel, or “all Israel” 
as v. 26a puts it (in juxtaposition to the “remnant” of Israel, 11:5) is
gathered in through the “fullness of the Gentiles;” and the “fullness”
of the Gentiles  is gathered in as a result of the judicial blindness
upon Israel . All three are inter-related in the history and
timing of God's redemptive purpose.
And just as when Christ who is a priest after the order
of Melchizadek came (Heb 6:20-7:28), the Levitical priesthood was made
obsolete; Just as when the “Lamb of God” came (Jn 1:29), He makes all other
lambs and their sacrifices obsolete; so to, as God has finished the judgment
upon Israel which He began with judicial blindness, He makes “national
jealousy” obsolete - for His covenant people are no more, God has given
the kingdom to a new nation, Matt 21:43.
There is no more need for the bringing in of Gentiles
to make Israel jealous - hence their “fullness” has come in (that is, the
full number of Gentiles prior to Israel's final judgment). Israel was spared
for 40 years between their crimson sin of crucifying the Just and Holy
one and the wrath of God being poured out for that sin.
Thus, in like manner to the Gentiles - and prior to their final annihilation
- their (Israel's) fullness has come in (that is, prior to their final
destruction, the remainder of redeemed Israelites, added to the “remnant,”
equals their “fullness.”) A.D. 70 Israel's final Judgment
all Israel shall be saved”
From the truths learned up until now regarding the first
two important phrases; “blindness of Israel"
and “fullness of the Gentiles,” the meaning of “and so Israel shall be
saved” should be, more or less, transparent.
Paul is saying in verses 25c-26a; “blindness in part has
happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in; and
in this manner (i.e. the manner of Gentile jealousy/provocation enunciated
in verses 11,12,13-14,and 30-31) all Israel shall be saved.” This
“all Israel” is the ingathering of the “fullness” of Israel by the “mystery”
of Gentile ingathering Paul explained to us, plus the Remnant mentioned
in the earlier part of Romans 11. It is the “fullness” of verse 12; that
is, the completion of Israelite redemption.
Now this does not imply (nor does Paul) that salvation
for all or any who might have some slight or intimate genealogical relationship
to Abraham/Moses/12 Tribes is hopelessly excluded from the gospel now (e.g.
1998). It simply means in redemptive history, God has ended the Mosaic
Covenant, and with it all ethnic issues related to salvation, privilege,
etc. All stand before God as “under sin,” Rom 3:9. Any privileges, promises,
blessings - indeed all religious dogma stands in relationship to the “everlasting
covenant” secured by the blood of Christ (Heb 13:20).
To conclude on “and so all Israel shall be saved,” Paul
is thinking of the “all” or “fullness” of Israelites, not in some type
of absolute sense, but; 1) Jews who turn from unbelief to faith in the
Messiah (Rom 11:23-24), and 2) the ordained means of gathering this believing
Jewish “all” or “fullness” - Gentile “fullness” - prior to the
destruction of the Old Testament basis for this ethic division via the
passing of the Mosaic Covenant and its great expression prophetically -
the desolation of Jerusalem (Matt 24:15-21; cf. Luke 21:20-24; Daniel
9:25-27; Heb 8:7-13).
Let us paraphrase Romans 11:25-26a: “For I do not desire,
brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you be wise
in your own opinion, that the judgment of hardness has happened to part
of Israel such that the gospel has gone to the Gentiles, and this will
continue until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this manner
of Gentile salvation unto Israelite provocation - prior to God's final
judgment upon Israel - all/fullness of Israel shall be saved.”
v.25-26a - Key Words
- Of the three uses of this
noun, Mark 3:5 and Ephesians 4:17 speak of hearts that are hard,
and therefore are
blind. Our interest is in the fact that the verb
form of this word is used in Romans 11:7, implying blindness. But even
more important (and we will examine this in the “cross- reference” section),
the verb form is found in 2 Corinthians 3:14 where the whole context (2
Cor 3:3-17) is dealing with our interests here - the Old Covenant vs. the
New Covenant and the theology surrounding these doctrines. In a word, 2
Corinthians 3 will confirm the teachings of Romans 11:11-32!
/ so/thus - KJV translates “so,” verse 26a. As
has been noted previously, the word outco; has been used in 11:5, and will
be used again in 11:30. In all cases there is no temporal meaning (e.g.
when something occurred), but always the idea of manner (e.g. how
something occurred). The classic use is its first in the New Testament
- Matthew 1:18 - “now the birth of Jesus Christ was outos
/ in this way.” Our temptation will be, because of Paul's use of
“until” in verse 25c, to see the “so/outos” as equal to “then/'tote.”
But Paul, in using the word outcoÁ, speaks to us regarding the “how”
of Israel's fullness, not the “when.” That is, Paul means to say in 11:26a,
“in this way - the way of Gentile fullness/salvation leading to jealousy
- all Israel shall be saved.”
akris ou /
until which - It is here that Paul deals with
the issue of time and its function in the plan of God in saving hardened
Israel (remember, this was Paul's original inquiry in 11:11a). This
is also an important “mystery.” Israel's fullness will be established via
Gentile fullness. To negate Gentile boasting, God will use them to gather
Israel in, and this shall be true until the fullness of the Gentiles
have come in. Now we have established that: 1) “blindness” was a judgment
of God upon Israel for her unbelief, and 2) God's final judgment upon Israel
was the vengeance of His wrath upon the people and their city - Jerusalem
(Lk 21:20-24). This means that God's judgment was in effect up to the time
He cut off all mercies to this nation.
fullness - As has been stated previously in verse
12 and “how much more their fullness,” the emphasis with this word
is a gospel ingathering which is in addition to a previous salvation. In
other words - and as in the parable of the wine and wine skins - “fullness”
is the “topping off' or filling of the wineskins.
For Paul, he has spoken of a remnant (11:5). The “fullness”
is the completion or addition of sinners to the body of saints (what we
might call the “filling up” of the redeemed). It may emphasize addition,
or the end of addition - that is, completion.
The fullness of the Gentiles here in verse 25 is the full
measure of Gentiles brought to redemption parallel to the times of Israel's
blindness. This is the key. It is gospel ingathering relative to
the Jewish rejection (see verse 1 ib). This “fullness” is not absolute,
all - The “all” of “all Israel” in verse 26a seems
clearly to be equivalent to the “fullness” of Israel in verse 12. It is
possible Paul used “all” (instead of the expected “fullness”) to emphasize
the universal nature of salvation available to these fallen Israelites.
This is why Paul will quote from some Old Testament promises, starting
with verse 26b. The expanse of both gospel promise and redemption is a
necessary truth in the question/answer of verse 11:11 and 11:12-32.
v.25-26a - Cross References
2 Corinthians 3:3-17 - One can hardly underestimate the
importance of this passage. Our word of interest in verse 25, “porosis/hardness,”
is used in a related form in 2 Cor 3:14, translated “but their minds were
The subject of this section is the same as our subject in Romans 11 - the
New covenant vs. the Old covenant and the spiritual condition of the Jews
in relationship to these covenants.
The first section (v.v. 1-5) is general truths regarding
Paul's New covenant ministry. Part II (v.v.6-11) establishes the superiority
of the New over the Old covenant. Part III (v.v.12-18) is the practical
reasons why Paul's kinsman, the Jews, do not see that the glory of the
Old covenant has been completely superseded by the glory and truth of the
Paul proclaims frequently in this section that the glory
of the Old covenant has a glory that has been nullified or rendered null.
This is so important that Paul says it four times in just eight verses
(v.v. 7,11,13,14)! The glory of the Old covenant - which is described as
“glorious” (v.v. 7,9,11) - Paul says “has no glory by reason of
the glory (of the New covenant) that excels.”
Now in this exposition, Paul speaks of his gospel and
its rejection by the Jews. He says they are “blind” (v.14), and to his
day a veil is upon their hearts so as to not see the gospel (v.14,15).
Then he says in verse 16, “nevertheless, when it (Israelites) shall turn
to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.” Now for our studies in Romans
11:11ff, Paul seems to have no long term eschatological theme of conversion,
but rather a genuine prospect of Jews turning to the Lord. And the veil
of blindness which is such a part of 2 Corinthians 3:14-18 is seen as lifted,
not in some far future, but rather when an Israelite turns to Christ, for
Paul says the Old covenant is made clear in Him (see Luke 24:44). This
turning was, for Paul, a reality in his day, and this “blindness” in 2
Corinthians 3 is the same as the Romans 11 “blindness” - indeed, it is
a commentary on some of the Romans 11 themes.
Luke 21:24 - “times of the Gentiles” -
|l5 Therefore when you see abomination of
desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place
(whosoever reads, let him understand)
||20 And when you shall see Jerusalem compassed
with armies, then know that the desolation thereof draws nigh.
|l6 then let those who are in Judea flee to
the mountains l7 Let him who is on the housetop not come down to take anything
out of his house. l8 And let him who is in the field not go back get his
||21 Then let them which are in Judea flee
to the mountains, and them which are in the midst of it depart out, and
let not them that are in the countries enter there into.
||22 For these be the days of vengeance, that
all things that are written may be fulfilled
|l9 But woe to those who are pregnant and
to those with nursing babies in those days! 20 And pray that your flight
may not be in the winter or on the sabbath.
||23 But woe unto them that are with child,
and to the that give suck in those day! For there shall be great distress
in the land, and wrath upon this people
|21 For then shall be great tribulation, such
as has not been since the beginning of the world, no, nor ever shall be.
||24 And they shall fall by the edge of the
sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall
be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
It seems clear by the comparison of the Olivet Discourse
of Matthew to Luke that the Great Tribulation was the seven year history
leading up to the consummation in August A.D. 70 when the Roman armies
crushed the Jews and both the city and the temple (comp. Mt 24:15, “when
you see” with Lk 21:20, “when you... see.” This conclusion can hardly be
avoided given the Matthian use of “great tribulation” in Matt 24:21 combined
with the “desolation” caused by Rome in Lk 21:20,24.
Now Luke's phrase in Luke 21:24 “the times of the Gentiles”
is the closest term to our “fullness of the Gentiles” in Romans 11:25,
it is probable that they are referring to differing aspects of the same
issue - the time and seasons of the final dissolution of Israel and their
relationship/covenant with God. This is by far the easiest and most satisfying
understanding of the phrase “fullness of the Gentiles.”
v.25-26a - Summary
If we again give an understanding of 11:25-26a through
a paraphrase: “I would not have you ignorant of this mystery lest you be
overly wise, that blindness to the gospel has come upon a part of Israel
until which time the full measure of Gentiles be saved: and in this manner
- the manner of Gentile salvation unto Jewish jealousy - the fullness of
Israel shall be redeemed.”
Again let us remind ourselves of two truths: 1) Paul is
still dealing with the question in verse 11 and the issue of the salvation
of Paul's Jewish kinsman, their blindness to the gospel, and the possibility
of their recovery spiritually, and 2) the blindness of Israel was a judgment
- which judgment would come to its finish with A.D. 70 and the full and
final judgment upon Israel for their rejection and murder of their Messiah.
26b as it is written, There shall
come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
27 For this [is] my covenant unto them, when I
shall take away their sins.
v.26b-27 - Summary
As is seen by the summery being the sum total of the Romans
11:26a-27 exposition. I want to propose that a detailed analysis of 26a-27
may, at best, confuse. Many expositors delve into the quote itself, looking
at Paul's use of Isaiah 59:20-21 here in Romans 11:26 and 11:27. Much has
been written regarding differences in the Old Testament statement and Paul's
New Testament use here (an example being that whereas Isaiah 59:20ff reads
Christ “coming unto Zion,” whereas Romans 11 reads “come out
Yet Paul's interest is not in the details, but rather
that the verses quoted support his declaration. Let me give an example
from 1 Tim 2:12-14. The verse reads; (v.12), “But I suffer not a woman
to teach, nor to usurp authority over a man but to be in silence. (v.13)
For Adam was first formed, then Eve. (v.14) And Adam was not deceived,
but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”
Now the application I would like to make is that, regardless
of what verses 13 and 14 say in 1 Tim 2:12-14, it is clear Paul is using
those truths in 13-14 to prove his assertion in verse 12. We need not understand
culture, the times, or even have read Genesis to see Paul's flow of thought.
And when we do come to interpret 1 Tim 2:13-14, our interpretation is only
accurate to the extent our exposition gives strong support to the Pauline
assertion in verse 12, “I suffer not a woman to teach...“etc.
The above truth of 1 Tim 2:12-14 is the same principle
found in Romans 11:25-27. Paul has declared truth(s), and verses 26b-27
is quoted as support. We need to be clear at this point. We do not go back
into the Old Testament and its context to decide whether we like Paul's
reasoning! Paul has told us that his assertion in 11:25-26a is supported
by Isaiah's words quoted in 11:26b-27.
Now Paul's interest in Romans 11, and 11:25ff, is to establish
the possible and available salvation of those Israelites who have been
hardened/blinded. Thus Paul's “as it is written,” followed by his quotation
of Isaiah is meant to express the available promise of gospel forgiveness.
The question then arises: Is the promise a future promise
of Israelite forgiveness - that is, future to the book of Romans (i.e.
a promise of future glory and redemption when Christ “comes out of Zion”)?,
or is Paul saying to the hardened Jews - in keeping with his burden in
Romans 11:11ff - that the promise of forgiveness that is expressed in Isaiah
and quoted by Paul in Romans (v.27, “I shall take away their sins”) is
still a promise for them (Christ- rejecting Israelites).
In keeping with Romans 11 and in particular Romans 11:25ff,
the answer is the latter. Again, regardless of any detailed understanding
of the Old Testament quotes in v.v.26b-27, we know Paul uses the Word to
establish his theme of available forgiveness to the “all Israel” of verse
26a. Anything else is secondary in Paul's flow of thought. Via the Isaiah
quotes, Paul wants to establish the truth that grace offered through gospel
promises is still held out to this stiff- necked and wayward nation - Israel.
All else is secondary.
In short form, let us look at how expositors reason through
11:25-27. Romans 11:25-26a has always been seen as a promise of future
ingathering just prior to the physical second coming of Christ our Savior.
In such a case, verse 26b and following are promises of Christ, in the
latter days, “coming out of Zion” to open the eyes of the blinded nation
of Israel (v.25) and forgive their sins. This is, more or less, the common
doctrinal position of modern expositors.
But this “doctrine” of a far future redemptive promise
for Israel in 11:25-27 is neither Paul's interest nor line of thought,
and it never has been. He has continually, since verse 11, argued for mercy
being available to the Christ-rejecting Israelites even though they had
initially turned from their Savior. Paul used Isaiah in Romans 11:26b-27
to say that a Deliverer (Christ) will come out of Zion (born of the line
of Abraham) and forgive sins (the New Covenant promise), and that promise
was a provision for all of Israel. This promise of forgiveness will be
established by Paul as a promise that is irrevocable (11:29) and long standing
(“beloved for the fathers sake”). That is, the promise given in Isaiah's
day is still a promise in Paul's day.
In conclusion, Paul is establishing via the Isaiah quotation
(v.v.26b-27) that the offer of mercy to Israelites and the nation of Israel
has not been rescinded. On the contrary, the grace of God in the gospel
and the benefits of that gospel are still full and free to all who come.
And 2 Corinthians 3:16 is still true for this blinded people: “Nevertheless
when it (Israel/Israelites) shall turn to the Lord, the veil (blindness)
shall be taken away.”
28 As concerning the gospel, [they
are] enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, [they are] beloved
for the fathers' sakes.
29 For the gifts and calling of God [are] without
v.28-29 - General Context
Right from the start of verse 28, we see the pattern of
the sin of Israelites bringing gospel glory to the world; or, as verse
28 states it, “they (Israelites) are enemies of the gospel for your sake
(i.e. they reject the gospel with a result that it came to you Gentiles).
On the other hand, in light of God's love for Abraham and Abraham's seed
- his covenant people Israel - the love and mercy of God displayed in many
Old Testament passages is still held out to this wayward people. Because
of the Jewish rejection of Christ, the Gentiles have the gospel; and because
of God's loving nature, the promises of a merciful God - mercies which
are new every morning - are still held out to Israel.
Again, this pattern of Romans 11:11-15 and 11:30-31 confronts
us continually. Paul is again stating that the gospel is the Gentiles because
of Jewish enmity, and in light of this gospel to the Gentiles, it redounds
back to the Jews because of God's love and plan. Thus, verses 28-29 support
the continual theme of an affirmative answer to the original question of
verse 11 - the question of salvation and grace to a Christ-rejecting people.
Israel has an offer of gospel mercy even with their initial
rejection of the Savior because Gentile redemption is intended to provoke
Israel to salvation - a plan founded in God's love and mercy displayed
long ago to Israel's fore-fathers. The promises of mercy for all Israelites
who turn from their unbelief will be found to be sure and irrevocable mercies
(v.29) even in light of the Israelites original rejection of her Messiah.
v.28-29 - Major Issues
We are at the point in Paul's argument (11:11-32) where
he makes one final statement regarding the answer to his question of Romans
11:11; “Have they (the Israelites described in verses 8-10) stumbled that
they should fall (permanently and hopelessly)? A short and final answer
is given here in verses 28-29, with support for the answer given in verses
Paul's first concern is to reiterate that seen from the
history of Israel and the Messiah, the gospel was forsaken by God's Old
covenant people. This truth leads naturally to the conclusion (indeed this
was the Roman Gentiles conclusion) that Israel was permanently cast off.
Paul called the Israelites “enemies,” and the Gentiles believed this was
the whole of the story concerning Israel and the gospel. The summation
of this enmity to the gospel caused the Gentiles to conclude that the nation
of Israel (the non- remnant) was irretrievably excommunicated from grace.
But there was more to the story of God's covenant people.
Although the sin of Israel had both cut them off from the grace and cast
them away from God, there was still grace and mercy for this obstinate
people. God changes not, and the multiple expressions of mercy do not change
either. God's grace and lovingkindness stand forever - even to the chief
The promises made to the Israelite fathers were still
promises to the Jews centuries later - for “His compassion's fail not.
They are new every morning; Great is thy faithfulness,” Lam 3:22-23. The
grace offered to the rebellious Israelites of the Old Testament retains
its gloriously free character to the Jews of Paul's day. For Paul, the
reason for this was simple and basic: The gifts (of mercy, grace, etc.)
and calling (offered mercy/grace) of God (because of His immutable nature)
are without repentance (v.29).
v.28-29 - Key Words
/ gifts - Although this is the typical word for
the Spirit's spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4,9,28,30,31), here Paul
is using karismata in its
more general form referring to grace and the gift of grace (Romans 5:15,16;
6:23). Thus Romans 11:29 is speaking of the gifts (of grace)... are without
/ calling - This “calling” is the gracious invitation
to grace and redemption with all the blessings of forgiveness. The Scripture
speaks of “many are called,” (1 Cor 1:26); “the hope of His calling,” (Eph
1:18); “one hope of your calling,” (Eph 4:4); “partakers of the heavenly
calling,” (Heb 3:1).
Combining the concepts of “gifts” and “calling” lead us
in the direction of God's goodness, and the truth that this goodness, even
in light of Israel's sin - had not been rescinded. Indeed, the call to
receive grace and the available gift of mercy is the great encouragement
v.28-29 - Cross References
With regards to 11:28-29. the best help in terms of verse
cross-references is within chapter 11 itself. Paul's interest since verse
11 has been the accessibility of Israel to the grace of forgiveness and
redemption. Let us look at the differing ways Paul gives us the idea that
Israel (by virtue of God's everlasting grace) has access to the same redemption
as the Roman Gentiles - even in spite of their initial, national rebuff
In Romans 11:11 and 11:14, they are provoked to jealousy
unto salvation. In Romans 11:12, Paul sees a “fullness” or gospel ingathering
as a possibility, and in 11:15 Paul speaks of “life from the dead” for
repentant Israelites. Romans 11:17ff speaks of redemptive “grafting,” especially
verse 24 and natural (Jewish) grafting into the olive tree. Verse 25-26a
emphasizes that “all” or the fullness of Israel shall be saved through
Gentile salvation (v. 25c).
Thus, combining this continuous theme in Romans 11:11ff
prepares us for 11:28-29 and the doctrine of gospel grace towards Israel
even though their enmity caused the gospel to come to the Gentiles.
v.28-29 - Summary
The truths implied by Paul's phrase “they are beloved
for the Father's sake” in verse 28 are echoed in other passages of Scripture.
Luke 1:54-55 states; “He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance
of His mercy; As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to His seed forever.”
Micah 7:20 parallels this thought with; “Thou will perform the truth to
Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou has sworn to out fathers from
the days of old.”
God's mercies are extended still to this stiff-necked
people Israel. There is abundant mercy for the Jew who will return to the
waters of life which are in Christ Jesus - for the gifts and calling of
grace and mercy have not been annulled.
30 For as ye in times past have
not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:
31 Even so have these also now not believed, that
through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.
32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief,
that he might have mercy upon all.
v.30-32 - General Context
Paul has only to summarize and conclude his thoughts in
finishing his answer to the question posed in Romans 11:11: “Have they
stumbled that they should fall?” All of Paul's reasoning in 11:11b-11:32
is to establish the sure answer to that question (“mee
genoito / May it never be!”), followed by a detailed argument
as to why this is so.
Paul began by telling us that the fall of Israelites is
not necessarily fixed. Indeed, in verse 11 after his strong retort, Paul
enlightens us to the fact that the fall of these Israelites was used of
God to take the gospel to the Gentiles, which God purposed in turn to provoke
the Jews to turn and receive their Savior.
He further argued in verse 12 that if God brought grace
out of Israel's rejection of Christ, will He not happily be gracious if
Israel turns back. In other words, the fullness or acceptance of Israel
is a logical necessity if by their apostasy grace was made available to
the Gentiles. This was Paul's interest when he initially proposed the question
in verse 11. Would God be gracious to a repentant Israel, particularly
in light of their crime of crucifying the Savior and calling down His blood
upon their heads
(Matt 27:25)? Paul states in so many words; “if grace
came in light of Israel's sin, it will certainly come (to them) in light
of their repentance.
Paul further expands this same point in 11:13-15 by: 1)
declaring that he magnified the gospel of grace to the Gentiles, such that
his kinsman according to the flesh might be stirred unto salvation (v.v.13-14).
He then repeats his statements of verse 12 by declaring in verse 15; “if
the casting away of them (Israel) be the reconciliation of the world (Gentiles),
what shall the receiving of them (Israelites) be but life from the dead
Paul goes on to draw out these truths by using the analogy
of the root and the branches, ending and reiterating his main point in
verses 23-24; “And they also (Israelites), if they abide not still in unbelief,
shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. For if thou
(Gentiles) were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and
were grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall
these (Israelites), which be the natural branches, be grafted into their
own olive tree?”
In verses 25-26a Paul states that this blindness of Israel
will continue to be used to bring in the fullness of the Gentiles, and
in this manner of blindness/Gentile ingathering, the fullness (all) of
the Israelites shall be saved. This grace and love to fallen Israelis always
there as was seen in the Old Testament (based on God's words to Israel's
fathers, 11:28), and it is an irrevocable grace (11:29).
Now Paul finishes by restating that just as Gentiles were
rebellious and ignorant, yet received mercy via the fall of Israel, so
to God has displayed grace to the Gentiles that the hardened and rebellious
Israelites would see that grace and obtain the same mercy. Paul has come
full circle in his answer to the same conclusion: Mercy is obtainable
for Israel if they remain not in unbelief.
v.30-32 - Major Issues
The major issue not to be missed is to see that Paul has
stayed on issue throughout 11:11-32. To miss this throws the entire section
into chaos. Paul is establishing fully and finally the mercy open to the
fallen Jews of verses 8-10. This final summary prior to Paul's doxology
(v.v.33-36) confirms without doubt that the theme of 11:11-32 is redemption
for fallen Israel despite their initial sin of rejecting Christ.
What should be noticed is Paul's use of “now” in verses
30- 31. Paul was not interested in some far future doctrine of redemption,
but rather in salvation for the Jews of his day. The fact that he
concludes his discourse in such a fashion should leave little doubt as
to the overall purpose of his writings here.
Paul spoke of Israelite rejection followed by Gentile
salvation and Jewish hope of grace repeatedly, and Romans 11:30- 32 ends
on the same note: “For as you (Gentiles) in times past have not believed
God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so (our word
from verse 26, outos, “in
like manner”) have these also now not believed, that through your mercy
that may obtain mercy.”
v.30-32 - Key Words
now - As has been mention previously, the contemporary
nature of Paul's question/answer is most important. People often come to
verses 25-26 and declare that Paul was speaking in Romans 11:11-32 of a
great latter day ingathering of Jews to salvation. But this is rebuffed
if only by the Pauline use of “nun”/
now. Paul uses his own ministry to prove his points, something that
could not have been done if the doctrine he was expounding (grace to Israelites)
was to occur centuries after his letter. If Paul's vocabulary is anything,
is contemporary because the problem and solution were contemporary.
v.30-32 - Cross References
I think it is most appropriate to cross-reference some
ideas of Paul. It is clear from Paul's statements in Romans 9:2ff; “I have
great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart, and Romans 10:1; “My
heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.”
Paul had great desire and hope for his contemporary kinsman
- the Jews. Even with the heinous act of murdering their Lord and Savior,
Paul saw that God's mercy was even held out to them. He had his mind on
the generation that had crucified the Son of God, and the wrath that was
hanging over their heads. He desired that they flee to the refuge which
But the question of Romans 11:11-32 was: Would there be
grace for them. The Gentile Romans surly believed not. Paul spends twenty-one
verses establishing that the waters of mercy still flowed through Zion.
This is how Romans 11:11 begins and 11:30-32 ends - on the available love,
mercy, and grace to Israel.
v.30-32 - Summary
God has proven all men are under sin (verse 32), and using
their sinfulness God has turned evil to eternal grace. For the Gentiles
steeped in unbelieving ignorance, the sin of Jewish rejection brought the
light of the gospel, and a Savior, to them. For the Jews, the ingathering
of Gentiles was meant to open the eyes of the chosen nation to their redeemer.
This latter issue was the brunt of Paul's discourse in
11:11 - 32. Could mercy come again to those of the nation of Israel who
had turned from their Messiah? Paul's whole burden from beginning to end
was to answer... yes. God's grace is irrevocable and immutable. Any and
all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. For Paul,
in light of God's purposes and immutable character, there was room at the
cross for his brethren according to the flesh.
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!
34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or
who hath been his counselor?
35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall
be recompensed unto him again?
36 For of him, and through him, and to him, [are]
all things: to whom [be] glory for ever. Amen.
One of the more difficult aspects of theology is right at this point: that
is, where does the Old Covenant leave off and the New begin? A simple and
clear example of this difficulty is the issue of spiritual salvation. If:
1) an “Old Testament” saint was redeemed by looking forward to the cross
but was living during or soon after the work of our Lord, and 2) his/her
faith was in the coming Messiah or in John's baptism, could such a believer
be a true believer without faith in Christ? What was the state
of such people as Apollos in Acts 18:23ff and the Ephesian brethren of
Acts 19:1ff? Were they redeemed, seeing the Messiah had already come and
died - unknown to him/her? This “inter-Messianic” period posses interesting
questions - questions that impact Romans 11, for although redemption is
only personal since Christ came into the world, corporate judgment
for Israel's national rejection of Christ was still to occur 30+
years later in A.D. 70 (the book of Romans itself being written
in approx. A.D. 57-60). I believe this is why in Romans 11 one finds both
the personal nature of redemption (Rom 11:14, 23f, 30-32) and still a seemingly
corporate issue such as Israel being blind in part as a people (11:25).
the idea of “future” arises, it means the future of Israelites in Paul's
day. (cf. Rom 11:5, “at the present time;” 11:30, “now;” 11:31, “now.”
It is important to understand that the promise of Romans 11:11-32 is not
that God has guaranteed a future turning in faith to Him, but that
God has guaranteed grace to any and all Israelites who do turn in faith
(cf. 11:23-24). This might seem to contradict Romans 11:26-29, but we shall
attend to that issue in due time.
Many commentators have seen a parallel between this verse and verse 28,
in that “for the father's sake” Israel is beloved and has promises available
to them in light of this standing. This may be part of Paul's interest
in writing verse 16.
It is quite possible that we should reverse the symbols and have the “lump”
represent those Jews redeemed from slumber (11:8-10) and the “first fruits”
either be the heritage of saints in faith as in Hebrews 11, or the first
gospel gleanings either of Gentiles (cf. Rom 16:5; 1 Cor 16:15) or Jew
(Jam 1:18). I would grant that any of these are possibly in Paul's mind.
But in any case, his goal is the same in every scenario - to establish
equality with the saints of old (or Gentile) and those Jews who might come
to Christ through jealousy in Gentile salvation.
Romans 15:12, quoting Is 11:10, declares “there shall be a root
of Jesse, and he shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, and in Him shall
the Gentiles trust.” The idea of Paul is one of promise made to the Jews
of a coming Redeemer (Rom 15:8). Christ confirmed the promises made to
Israel (see Gen 12:3, cf. Gal 3:7), and was the hope of the Gentiles. If
this is Paul's line of thought, the Roman Gentile Christians were arrogant,
seeing the Jews were the custodians of the written promises of redemption
that these Gentile Romans were now enjoying. Paul would say along with
our Lord that “salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22), and the Old Testament
is replete with the promises made through the Jewish prophet Isaiah that
the Savior would “bring forth judgment to the Gentiles” (i.e. take up their
cause), Is 42:1, and be “a light to the Gentiles,” Is 42:6; cf. Is 60:3.
This writer tends to think that is exactly what Paul had in mind by using
Romans 11:20's “by faith” is one of the clear Biblical declarations that
faith is a grace from God rather than a work of man. As Ephesians
2:8-9 states; “by grace are you saved through faith; and that (grace/faith)
is not of yourselves...”
In giving us the understanding of “Father, forgive them, for they know
not what they do,” (Lk 23:34), this is the view of some - that Jesus was
asking for time for His killers to come to the grace He had secured on
the cross before the wrath of God fell (cf. Acts 2:16-21)
An example is from Klaas Schilder's three
volume work on the suffering, trial, and crucifixion of Christ. If I may
glean from his chapter on “Father forgive them” in volume three: “Just
who are those for whom the Savior is praying? Who are to share in the blessing
for which He now prays (to) the Father?. The greek language of the New
Testament uses various shades of connotation in speaking of it (forgive)...There
is a forgiveness which consists solely of a temporary suspension of the
charge or of the sentence...This .. plea is not for the justification of
the sinner(s);. . it simply desires that God will temporarily withhold
the terrible punishment... on this generation of vipers... Hence Christ
is not praying for a cancellation of execution, not even for a postponement
of execution, but for the suspension of the judgment of wrath which is
sure to come in any case.”
The greek word here in 11:26a translated “so” or “thus,” outos,
means “in this way/in this manner/in this fashion.” It is used elsewhere
in Romans 11: in 11:5 we read, after Paul speaks of a remnant in Elijah's
day in 11:4, Paul says “Even so (outos,
in like manner)...there is at the present time;” and in 11:31, after speaking
of the fall of Israel bringing the gospel to the Gentiles, “Even so (outos,
in like manner)... these (Israelites)also have now not believed, that through
the mercy shown you (Gentiles), they may also obtain mercy.” I say this
because with Paul's use of “until the Gentiles be come in” in 11 :25c,
we who read in English automatically see the word “then” in 11 :26a as
following “until.” So, unconsciously, we read 11:25c-11:26a as follows:
“until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in; and then
all Israel shall be saved.” But the word translated in the KJV as “so”
means “in this manner”/”in this way” - never “then.” Indeed, there
is a different and unique word the greek writers used for “then”/greek,
“tote,” used 140+ times in
the New Testament. More will be said in the section on “Key Words.”
This author did not include an exposition of the phrase “blindness of Israel
in part” simply because all expositors see the “in part” cannot mean partial
blindness of all individual Israelites, but rather part of Israel as a
whole is blind; that is, some out of all the nation are blinded to the