Romans Chapter 11

1 I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

The physical descendants of Abraham (that is, the Jews) are not getting saved. However, the reason is not that God has rejected them. Paul himself is proof that God has not rejected the physical descendants of Abraham because Paul is a physical descendant of Abraham and he yet is saved.

2 God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in {the passage about} Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?

3 "Lord, THEY HAVE KILLED YOUR PROPHETS, THEY HAVE TORN DOWN YOUR ALTARS, AND I ALONE AM LEFT, AND THEY ARE SEEKING MY LIFE."

4 But what is the divine response to him? "I HAVE KEPT for Myself SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL."

5 In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to {God's} gracious choice.

God has foreknowledge. This means that God knows what will happen before it actually happens. It is important to recognize that Paul is using God’s foreknowledge (and not arbitrary election) to explain how God determines whom to choose or reject. The apostle Peter also tells us that God uses foreknowledge to choose people (1 Pet 1:1-2).

God knew that some of the Jews would believe the gospel when it would be preached to them just as He knew that some of His prophets would not bow down to Baal in the time of Elijah. Paul’s point in using the example of the prophets of Elijah’s time is to show that God does indeed have foreknowledge.

Since God knew beforehand which of the Jews would believe the gospel and be saved, God chose those Jews as agents through which He would fulfill His plan. He then gave them the grace (that is, the power) to fulfill His plan.

These chosen Jews are the remnant whom God chose to fulfill His plan for spreading the gospel to the Gentiles.

6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.

Paul emphasizes that the fact that these chosen ones do actually fulfill God’s plan is because God empowered them, and not because of their own strength.

7 What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened;

8 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."

9 And David says, "LET THEIR TABLE BECOME A SNARE AND A TRAP, AND A STUMBLING BLOCK AND A RETRIBUTION TO THEM.

10 "LET THEIR EYES BE DARKENED TO SEE NOT, AND BEND THEIR BACKS FOREVER."

So we see that while God did not reject all of the Jews He did reject some of them. God chose those whom He foreknew to be agents through whom His plan would be fulfilled. The others were hardened – hardened in the sense that even though the gospel would be preached to them they would not believe. They were hardened, as we see in the next verse, so that the chosen ones would be so frustrated in preaching the gospel to them that they would go and preach the gospel to the Gentiles too. In this way, the gospel would be made known to the Gentiles too.

Keep in mind that God was not the one who initially decided whom to harden and whom to not harden. He hardened individuals based on His foreknowledge that they would not believe the gospel. That is, upon seeing who would believe the gospel and who wouldn’t, God decided to use the ones who believe to be messengers of the gospel, and the ones who didn’t believe as agents of frustration to the messengers of the gospel. He did this so that the messengers of the gospel would preach the gospel to the Gentiles as well. This is the reason why Paul is including foreknowledge over here.

11 I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation {has come} to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.

The hardened that God did to those whom He rejected was not to the extent that they would never have an opportunity to believe and be saved. In fact, due to their hardening Gentiles would get saved. Then, when these hardened Jews see the Gentiles getting saved they would become jealous and be even more motivated to return to God.

12 Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be!

13 But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry,

14 if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them.

Clearly, verse 14 shows that Paul believed that even these hardened Jews could be saved. Paul wouldn’t believe and say such things if he thought that salvation was through election. If salvation were through election then it would be futile for Paul to try to make the Jews jealous in order to motivate them to be saved. Yet Paul clearly says here that he magnifies his ministry to the Gentiles in order to make the Jews jealous and motivate them to be saved through faith in Christ.

15 For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will {their} acceptance be but life from the dead?

Here again, Paul points out that if the hardened Jews (whom God rejected) believe they too will be made spiritually alive.

Note that Paul is intent on explaining that the hardening is not going to continually prevent the Jews from getting saved if they want to. He says in verse 11 that they didn’t stumble so as to fall, and then in verses 12 and 15 he talks about the great benefit of their return. He continues to repeat this thought throughout the rest of the chapter (verses 23, 24, 28, 29, 30, 31). The point that he is trying to make is that even though God hardened them God is not being unjust because He will remove that hardening once His plan is accomplished and then they will have the opportunity to believe and be saved just like everyone else.

16 If the first piece {of dough} is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too.

17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree,

18 do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, {remember that} it is not you who supports the root, but the root {supports} you.

19 You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in."

20 Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear;

21 for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.

22 Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.

23 And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.

24 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?

Here again Paul is explaining that some Jews were rejected (broken off) so that the Gentiles could be saved (grafted in).

Paul takes this opportunity to warn the Gentiles that just because God went so far as to reject some of the Jews so that they could be saved the Gentiles should not be complacent in their faith. He points out that God rejected the Jews because of their unbelief, and He will also reject the Gentiles too if they stop believing.

In verse 20 Paul says that we stand by our faith. Note that Paul does not say that we stand because we are elected. If Paul believed in election he would not have said that we stand by our faith – he would have said that we stand because of our election.

Notice that in verse 22 Paul says that God showed severity to those who fell. They did not fall because of God’s severity, but they experienced God’s severity (in that God hardened them) because they fell.

Notice also in verse 22 that Paul clearly makes that case that those who do not continue to believe will be cut off. He is talking about being cut off from the root (i.e. Christ) which means a loss of salvation. There is no talk of being cut off from reward here.

To sum up, these verses clearly show that salvation is not by election but by faith. The Jews who believe will be saved even if at some point God rejected them (for salvation) because of their unbelief at that time. In the same manner, the Gentiles, who are saved because of their faith, can be cut off from the root (that is, lose their salvation) if they stop believing. All this cannot be so if salvation was by election.

25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery--so that you will not be wise in your own estimation--that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in;

Once again, Paul explains the mystery of why some of the Jews were hardened – it was so that the Gentiles could be saved. This hardening of some of the Jews will be in effect throughout the generations so that the gospel will always be preached to the Gentiles, until all the Gentiles that God foreknew will believe do actually believe.

Even though God hardened the unbelieving Jews for the sake of us Gentiles we must not think that we are special in any manner. That is the reason why Paul is taking the trouble to explain this mystery to the Gentiles in this letter.

26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, "THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB."

26 "THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS."

The hardening is partial (or temporary) in two senses. One, it is in the sense that the Jews are hardened just until the message gets sent to the Gentiles. Two, it is in the sense that once all the Gentiles who will be saved are saved then all the remaining Jews will be saved (which will happen when Christ returns).

It is in these two senses that we can say that indeed all Israel will be saved. That is, until Christ returns, the chosen Gentiles and the remnant of the Jews, these constitute the true Israel, and they all will be saved. Then, after all the Gentiles are gathered in, Christ will return, all the remaining Israelites will be saved. Thus God’s word that says that all Israel will be saved is true and has not failed.

28 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;

29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

30 For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience,

31 so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy.

32 For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.

Paul is once again reminding the Gentiles that even the Jews that God rejected are special in God’s eyes, and that God is not going to take back the promises He made to them (especially the one that salvation is available to all). The hardening that God did to them was not so that they would be incapable of being saved. After accomplishing His plan via their hardening God will show mercy to all of them by removing the hardening.

After all, the Gentiles were disobedient to God and yet God went as far as hardening some Jews just so that the Gentiles could have a chance to believe and be saved. If God could go to that extent to make salvation available to the Gentiles He will definitely also go to the extent of removing the hardening from the rejected Jews so that they will have the opportunity to believe and be saved.

33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!

34 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR?

35 Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN?

36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him {be} the glory forever. Amen.

The question that Paul had posed in the beginning of Chapter nine (which was whether God’s word had failed) is now answered to his satisfaction. Having been given insight into this plan of God that was hidden in the past Paul is ecstatic and full of praise to God at the end of chapter eleven.


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