A STUDY OF THE BOOK OF ROMANS Romans 11 Israel’s Future Salvation
Dr. Jerry A. Collins
Chapter 1 – Everybody knows about God from nature.
Chapter 2 – Everybody knows about their own sin from their conscience.
Chapter 3 – We are all sinful and separated from God, without the death of Christ.
Chapter 4 – Faith is the way back to God.
Chapter 5 – Christ’s death on the cross paid the price for our sin.
Chapter 6 – Positional sanctification is through faith (chapter 4) in Christ’s death (chapter 5).
Chapter 7 – Experiential sanctification is not through the Law. It’s a battle with our sin nature.
Chapter 8 – Ultimate sanctification is certain for those predestined to be saved.
Chapter 9 – The call of God is according to the sovereignty of God.
Chapter 10 – Currently, the nation of Israel is rejecting God.
Chapter 11 – In the future, the nation of Israel will return to God.
Chapter 11 – God’s choice should produce humility
I was once told by a friend of mine, there is a method to my madness. Unable to figure out what he was up to, he assured me that he knew exactly what it was he was doing even though I was confused by his actions. When the outcome was clear, it was then obvious how all of his actions and decisions made sense. We often find ourselves struggling to understand what it is God is up to as well. We have to frequently wait until the outcome is clearer before we can understand what it is God is up to, if, sometimes, even at all. In Romans 11 God is filling us in on His plan for the nation of Israel. There is a method to what can seem maddening or we can marvel at His plans are for Israel in the future.
GOD HAS NOT REJECTED ISRAEL PERMANENTLY
Verse 1: It could seem like it though after 2500 years. I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? Paul was being rhetorical about this, some by then 600 years into God’s judgment on Israel by Babylonian captivity. May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. The proof is that Paul himself was a member of the believing remnant, a Christian Jew, descended from Abraham and ethnically of Benjamin’s tribe. If God could save Paul, he could save other Jews. In fact, the core of the church at this time, particularly the apostles, were Jews.
Verse 2: So he declared positively that God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. It was unthinkable that a nation God so impressively anticipated and promised each step of the way (foreknew by specific promises to Abraham through 25 years of assurances) would now be cast away. Paul rejects such an idea categorically. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? In Elijah’s day Israel’s departure from God was widespread. So, Paul’s and other believing Jews, though relatively few compared to the total number of ethnic Jews, proved that God had not completely rejected the people. God’s scattering and setting aside of Israel was not once for all time. This was not to be a permanent arrangement which Paul points out later.
Verse 3: In his day, Elijah concluded that he was the only Israelite who had remained faithful to the Lord. “Lord, they have killed Your prophets, they have torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.” God assured him that He had preserved other Israelites who constituted a believing remnant within the unfaithful nation.
Verse 4: Specifically, what is the divine response to him? God informed him that he had 7000 in Israel who have not bowed the knee to Baal. “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” God still had a small number, a remnant, to work through and fulfill His promises even in the worst of times.
Verse 5: The same thing is still true even today. In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant. There may not be many believing Jews, but there are some. And if this is true it cannot be said that God has failed His promises to Israel or has completely rejected His people. And it has all been done according to God’s gracious choice. The real reason for the presence of this remnant was God’s gracious choice that it be so.
Verse 6: But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works. It is the grace of God, not the works of the remnant, that is the real cause of their condition. Otherwise grace is no longer grace. Emphatically, grace and works mix like oil and water. The entire package of salvation is God’s grace delivered to us without any participation on our part. So, no one can proclaim in either dispensation, Elijah’s or our present church age, that works had anything to do with saving Jews.
Verse 7: What then? What happened to Jews rejecting the grace of God in Christ? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained. They had zealously sought to be accepted by God on the basis of their works. But those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened. Only this chosen remnant by God has obtained God’s righteousness because of His grace. The rest were hardened. They resisted receiving spiritual truth in the same way that hardened ground is resistant to planting of seeds. Nothing can grow because nothing can penetrate the hard soil. In this case, hard hearts. All on their terms.
Verse 8: This spiritual resistance and blindness is the result of God’s punishment. Just as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes to see not and ears to hear not, down to this very day.” They had been unfaithful to God even though they saw miraculous deliverance from Egypt, preservation in wilderness, heard warnings of prophets—failing to respond with their eyes and ears their hardening involved spiritual drowsiness, blindness and deafness (Deuteronomy 29:3-4; Isaiah 29:10).
Verses 9-10: And David says. Paul explained that God had brought upon the Jews what David had prayed would happen to his enemies. “Let their table become a snare and a trap, and a stumbling block and a retribution to them. He wished his enemies tables (blessings) would become something that they stumbled over. Here It would be like a person losing his appetite for steak because he eats steaks everyday. The very promises and favor of God that should have gotten Israel’s attention became the occasion for their rejection by God. “Let their eyes be darkened to see not, and bend their backs forever.” So their spiritual blindness remains as they live out the consequences of resisting God by rejecting His Son. The imagery of their backs bent under the weight of guilt and punishment continually.
BUT GOD IS ABLE TO RESTORE THOSE WHO REJECT HIM
Verse 11: Is God through with Israel? Is it too late to use them as He promised? No! I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! The stumbling of Israel was not beyond recovery. It was not a permanent fall, but a stumbling. They will be placed back into the starting lineup. But in the meantime, by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles. God used Jewish rejection as the springboard of the gospel to Gentiles. But also to make them jealous of the gentiles as recipients of God’s favor so Israel would turn back to God.
Verse 12: Now if God could do something so great and wonderful with Israel’s rejection of Jesus if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, then imagine what He can do with her acceptance of Jesus how much more will their fulfillment be! How much more of God’s riches (bounty, favor, provision, creativity) will come to the world when Israel turns back to God than is coming to the world now while she is in rebellion against God!
Verses 13-14: But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles. Paul was playing a part in bringing some Jews to faith even though his priority was the Gentiles. Thus, thereby I magnify my ministry? Paul had a twofer. By evangelizing Gentiles Paul was also causing more Jews to become jealous of God’s blessings on Gentile converts. Not that jealousy is an end in itself. But if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen that is, if they are jealous of Gentiles being in God’s favor, they may be willing to listen to gospel, turn back to God, accept His mercy freely independent of the Law and save some of them. There is hope for the Jews even being temporarily set aside in this age.
Verse 15: For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? When they return to God en masse the results for mankind are comparable to life from the dead. God’s favor on humanity will pale in comparison with what the world will experience then in the Millennium. This 1000-year reign of Christ will unleash the currently cursed potential of creation!
Verse 16: We, the church age believers, share common roots with Israel. If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too. Paul uses two illustrations with the same meaning. In both, the original source (dough and root) represents the Old Testament revelation, the Jewish patriarchs, and, more specifically, Abraham and the Abrahamic Covenant. The extension of the source (lump and branches) is the Jewish people, the descendants of Israel. The point is that God has promised a literal future restoration of a remnant from all the tribes of Israel.
Verse 17: The cultivated olive tree was a symbol of the nation of Israel in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 11:16-17; Hosea 14:4-6) making it a fitting illustration at hand. Some of the branches were broken off is the entire nation of Israel. And you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree. The wild olive tree represents the Gentile world. As wild olive branches, the current church age has replaced those natural olive tree branches broken off to become the current program of God grafted into the root of this tree. This church age does not belong to this olive tree, but enjoys the nourishment that the root of this tree supplies. And what is this root? It is the promise of Abraham that God would bless all nations through His descendent, Jesus Christ. Paul did not say that the Gentiles became part of Israel, only that they partake with Israel of the blessings of the root. We have not replaced the tree.
Verses 18-21: So, listen do not be arrogant toward the branches. Keep in mind that we have been grafted into something God was already doing through those Jewish broken branches. But if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. This program supports us not the other way around. We benefit spiritually as Gentiles from the promises given to Israel literally and physically. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” Yes, quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. While it is true that we have opportunity because of Jewish unbelief, the only reason we do is because we believed God for it. We did not earn it. The only proper response is do not be conceited, but fear. Be humble! For if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. There is no reason for any of us to assume that we were worthy of our gift of salvation. Or that we can sin with impunity. God hates pride. Pride is the root of all evil. Pride is independence from God—to focus on my status or achievement independent of God. Sin always invites God’s wrath.
Verse 22: Behold then the kindness and severity of God. The church and this age of grace can be cut off from the goodness of God and suffer His sternness just as easily as Israel did. To those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness. The kindness of God is not an attribute of God because His kindness can come to an end. If you continue in His kindness; otherwise, you also will be cut off. If Jewish disobedience catches on to then become a Gentile disobedience also, then Gentiles must expect the same outcome—God’s temporal wrath. It is our response to this kindness that determines whether this age will be cut off or spared.
Verses 23-24: And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in. The Jews as a nation, when she believes will be grafted back into this tree again. That will happen after the church is removed, during the tribulation period, when 144000 are preserved and others Jewish conversions. The reason is simple. For God is able to graft them in again. How natural it is and how well they will fit back as natural branches. For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree? Natural branches are easy to re-graft. If God can do the difficult thing, namely grafting wild olive branches onto cultivated stock, it is not hard to believe he will do the easier thing of restoring pruned branches of a cultivated tree to its former position in the future.
SO GOD’S REJECTION OF ISRAEL IS ONLY TEMPORARY
Verse 25: For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery. A mystery is new revelation from God, something the Old Testament prophets did not know about (Ephesians 3:3-9; Colossians 1:26). It can be pictured as a valley, which is the Church Age, between the First and Second Comings of Christ. We are about to learn something never known before this. The reason to not be uninformed about God’s intentions for rejecting Israel is so that you will not be wise in your own estimation. Again, a warning about arrogance which God characterizes as arrogance whenever we are speculating on God’s dealings He has not revealed to us. In this case that [only] a partial hardening has happened to Israel. God never intended for Gentiles to be a permanent replacement for the Jewish “branches.” The hardening was partial even though removal from the tree was total. Some Jews were not hardened like the apostles, converts of Acts 2-4, or converts of John the Baptist (Acts 19)—these were all taken into the church age.
PT— We must be careful not to equate the modern State of Israel with the Israel spoken of in the Bible. Biblical Israel was a sovereign nation among nations in the world that lost its sovereignty when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C. The present State of Israel is presently not enjoying the abundant blessings God promised to bring on Israel when Christ returns.
God’s rejection of Israel lasts until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. That is, the full number of Gentiles believe. This coincides with the removal of the Church at the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), and the end-time events including the Tribulation period and the Second Coming of Christ (Matthew 24; Revelation 6–19), followed by the Millennial Kingdom (Revelation 20:1-10), which Paul refers to in the next verses.
Verses 26-27: And so all Israel will be saved refers to Isaiah 59:20 to describe not the salvation of each and every individual Israelite, but Christ saving the believing remnant of Jews during the Tribulation who survive to be taken into the Millennial Kingdom. Just as it is written, “The deliverer will come from Zion He will remove ungodliness form Jacob.” When this happens God will bring about a complete restoration of His promise to this nation. The timetable is the coming of their deliverer, the Second Coming of Christ to establish a future kingdom for Israel. When he comes he says “this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.” This believing Jewish remnant will be those whose sin is removed to be spiritually prepared for the new Millennial administration to begin.
Verses 28-29: In the meantime, what is said about the Jews is from the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. The Jewish religion is an enemy of the Christian Gospel message, even though the Jewish people are genealogically carrying the line of Israel into the future and a believing remnant will come from them. So, for example, we should nationally be favorable to the Jewish nation because it is filled with those whose descendants will some day become the people of God again. But today’s rabbinical Judaism is basically a Jewish cult following the oral traditions of the Pharisees collected in the Mishnah, Gomorrah, and the Talmud. To follow rabbinical Judaism is like imposing Mormonism on the Scripture in order to understand it. Modern rabbinic Judaism religiously is an extension of the Pharisees, the enemies of Jesus, the apostles, and the Gospel message. Rabbinical Judaism should not be allowed to influence biblical interpretation.
For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For us today, in this age of grace, God’s rejection of Israel means Gentiles are the beneficiaries of His grace. And from God’s ultimate purpose, Israel is the object of God’s love because of His commitment to their fathers. Since He did not choose Israel for her goodness, he will not abandon her for her badness, but fulfill promises which are irrevocable.
Verses 30-31: For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience. This re-emphasizes the idea that God ended His dealing with Israel because of their disobedience. So these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. But the same thing can (and will) happen to the Church. Very simply put, should the Gentile world cease to be a responsive instrument for the gospel, God could return His focus to Israel. This would mean the cessation of the present period of Gentile privilege and a return to the original privilege of Israel as the chief vehicle for the divine message. This is next.
PT—Today the Gentile world largely rejects the gospel in the form in which it was preached by Paul and by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Its message is no longer really the message that Paul proudly preached (Rom 1:16-17). Much that passes as Christianity today in the Gentile world is not Biblical Christianity at all. Just as the Judaism of Jesus’ day rejected the true Christian gospel, so also does much of Gentile Christianity in our own day and time. The issue for Paul was not whether Judaism continued in his own time (it did), but whether the Gentiles might actually fall into the same pattern of unbelief as Judaism had. If they did, they would lose their present privileged place in the good olive tree. As a matter of fact, Jesus prophesied this degeneration in the parables of Matt 13:31-33. Christendom, having grown from its tiny beginnings into a huge worldwide tree (religion), now finds its branches weighed down by every satanic evil bird (Matt 13:31-32; cf. 13:4 and 19). In addition, the truth of God, like three measures of wheat flour, is now fully mixed with the leaven of false doctrine (Matt 13:33; cf. Matt 16:12). Gentile failure is thus more and more evident as time passes. It seems that at the rapture only a Gentile remnant will be translated into heaven. Global unbelief encroaches upon former godly territory.
Verse 32: For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all. Basically, Paul said God has designed, or predestined, everything to not work by having shut up all in disobedience. Every age, the age of Law, and now this current church age, and even the millennial age yet to come, is an act of the grace of God, and it is designed in such a way that humans will not use the commandments given to that age to seek God. That, in turn, will demand them to be judged by God, who will then extend to them an unmerited favor – mercy. Sin invites God’s wrath and dispensationalism captures this concept by illustrating the failure of each successive administration to obey God and end with God’s wrath. The cycle continues until the last dispensation, the kingdom, with one last failure and judgment of God’s wrath at the one final great battle. Then, finally, the ultimate eternal wrath of God given through the Great White Throne judgment. All the while, God gathers a believing remnant from each age to become the people of God for the eternal ages to come.
WE MUST ADMIT THAT GOD’S PLAN FOR THE AGES IS WISE YET COMPLEX
Verse 33: God’s wisdom is His ability to arrange His plan so it results in our good and His glory. He constructs His plan logically extending beyond human comprehension. His procedures so complex we cannot discover them without divine revelation. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! Although we can know something about God, He can never be completely known or understood. Therefore, we should act on what we know, make logical conclusions and applications from what we know, but not speculate about what we don’t know since they are unsearchable and unfathomable (Deuteronomy 29:29).
Verse 34-35: Isaiah said no one can know mind of God fully. So wise God needs no counselors. “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Job observed God never needed to depend on human help putting him in our debt. The fact that God includes us in executing His will does not mean He cannot get along without us. Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again?
Verse 36: For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. God is the source from which all things come—means by which all things happen—the goal toward which all things move—originator, sustainer of all things ultimately and so He deserves our praise and worship forever! God does not owe us anything. Since no one has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again, God has no obligations to His creation. Anything God does for us is pure grace and mercy.
This passage demonstrates clearly:
o The distinction between Israel and the Church
o The different programs for Israel and the Church
o The temporary nature of the Church
o The future restoration of Israel