The Grace of God

That Brings Salvation Has Appeared to All Men (Titus 2:11)

Commentary on Romans 11, All Israel Shall be Saved

Because I have been asked about certain verses in Romans 11, I have decided to offer a commentary on this chapter, verse by verse. By summarizing the verses “in my own words,” I do not mean to add to the Scriptures, but only to show how I understand them. I will also reference other verses if I think they are helpful in interpreting these.

It was needful to address the whole chapter, because the underlying theme of the entire chapter is more clearly seen this way. For the sake of space, I will not include the actual verses. Please open Rom. 11 here to follow along, or keep your own Bible open before you.

Note: some Bibles include man-made headings which give a certain slant to the material. It can be difficult to ignore these headings, but remember they were written by men and can be in error!

God bless you as you study God’s Word!

Romans 11, verse by verse:

1. Paul is living proof that natural Israelites can be saved. They are not barred from salvation (as some Gentiles might have supposed).

2.  Those who are “foreknown” of the natural family are not cast away, for they will repent.

3-4.  When Elijah thought he was the only one saved, God told him there were 7,000 others.

5.  In exactly the same way as in Elijah’s day, in Paul’s generation, not every Jew will be saved, but only a remnant (those who have faith.)

Remember that Paul has just stated in Rom. 9:6-7 that “not all Israel are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the [natural] seed of Abraham…the children of the flesh are not the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as the [spiritual] seed.” Paul believes in two Israels–the Israel after the flesh, and the Israel of God–and this is important. He will get back to that soon in this chapter.

6.  Salvation is by faith, not by the works of Judaism (or any other ism, but Paul is here thinking of his own people).

7.  Israel as an entire natural nation has not obtained what it looked for (salvation from God). Only the elect remnant obtained it (those, like Paul, who repented).

8-10.  This blindness of most of natural Israel fulfills Old Testament prophecy. Just as it was prophesied that Judas would betray Jesus, it was prophesied that most of natural Israel would reject the Savior. They stumbled at the Stumbling Stone, being disobedient (I Pet. 2:8).

11.  But was God intending that the Hebrew family should fall to the point of being barred from salvation? No, but their rejection of the gospel (which was not God’s will) allowed the gospel to go forth to the Gentiles (as God always intended one way or another). As they rejected the message and persecuted Jewish Christians, the Jewish Christians were spread out and took the message to other peoples. Read what Paul and Barnabas stated in Acts 13:46.  God also hopes that the Hebrew family will be provoked to jealousy when they see that the Gentiles have obtained salvation.

12.  Natural Israel’s fall / apostasy brought riches (the gospel) to the world/Gentiles.  Just think of what a blessing it is then, when one of them repents and is grafted back into his own olive tree. He becomes even more useful to God. While vessels of dishonor are used by God, vessels of honor are more useful to God (2 Tim. 2:20-21).

Note:  natural Israel has fallen. It began as a theocracy ruled by God, but rejected its king in both Testaments (I Sam. 8:6-7; Lk. 19:14, 27). The kingdom has been taken from it and given to another nation that submits to the King (Matt. 21:43). But the opportunity for individual incorporation of natural Israelites into God’s Israel is still available to them, just as it is available to people from other nations.

13-14.  Paul hopes–through his ministry to the Gentiles–to provoke his countrymen to jealousy (as described in vs. 11) so that some of them will be saved.

15.  He recognizes that their salvation would be a tremendous blessing (life from the dead), and reiterates the same idea as in vs. 12.  But remember in vss. 13-14, he has already stated that he hopes to save some, not all. The “some” = the “foreknown” = “the remnant” of vss. 2-4.

16.  God has ensured that the root and the first fruit of His olive tree are holy. I believe the root is Jesus.  The firstfruit may refer to the natural Israelites who were saved in both Old and New Testament times.  Later on, Paul will mention that there is a “firstfruit” from Gentile nations also (Rom. 16:5).  But in any case, the tree is judged by its fruit–”If the firstfruit is holy, the lump (whole tree) is holy.” Only the holy can be part of the olive tree of God.

17-22.  Jewish branches are broken off the olive tree due to unbelief, and Gentile branches are grafted in due to faith, but Gentiles ought not to boast in their position, but remember the root supports them. We owe a debt of gratitude to Jesus and to the believing remnant of His natural family, who believed and brought to us the gospel. Rather than becoming high minded because we were chosen over the unbelieving Jews, we should fear, because we too can lose our position in the Olive Tree.

I think it is possible that Paul recognized that, just as many Jews considered themselves superior to the Gentiles, the temptation was also there for saved Gentiles to adopt an elitist view over the Jews because so many of them had fallen. Just as Paul offered helpful insight about co-dependence to husbands and wives, in order to head off feelings of superiority between the sexes (I Cor. 11:11-12), he here heads off any feeling of superiority that might cause Gentiles to despise the Jews. Martin Luther ought to have taken heed to this warning, instead of calling for the persecution of Jews and burning of their synagogues in “The Jews and their Lies.” Other Gentiles throughout church history have also stereotyped all Jews as evil, a view which is just as errant as thinking they are all saved.  In God’s salvation plan, the Jews and Gentiles have been used to help one another find faith.

23.  The condition is given by which a Jew can be grafted back into the olive tree (faith.)

24.  If God can graft Gentiles into the olive tree, who were not previously exposed to the law and the worship of YHWH as were the Jews,  how much easier is it for Him to graft in a repentant Jew?

25.  point #1–The building of God’s olive tree is declared a “mystery.”

These things are also a mystery in Scripture:  the kingdom of God (Mk. 4:11), the gospel revealed to all nations (Rom. 16:25-26), the gathering together of all things in Christ (Eph. 1:9-10), the Gentiles being made “fellow heirs” of the same Body with Jews (Eph. 3:3-6), Christ and His church (Eph. 5:32), Christ in you [Gentiles] the hope of glory (Col. 1:27).   All of these things refer to the same mystery. All these things refer to the bringing together of Jews and Gentiles into one new entity. In this particular passage, that mysterious entity is pictured by the olive tree.

point #2–One reason why God permitted the children of natural Israel to be blinded was to issue the call to the Gentiles, so that the aforementioned olive tree could be built, and the “mystery” He had been creating could progress. It is good to remember that God allows blindness on any people who reject truth, not just Jews, as shown in Rom. 1:18-32.  As many Jews lost their position in the olive tree, so can we Gentiles.

26-27.   Once the olive tree is completed, ALL ISRAEL (the entire olive tree) shall be saved. That is, all who are the seed of Abraham by faith (Rom. 4:13;16), throughout all the ages, will be saved.  Every single person!

Again, remember what Paul has just stated in Rom. 9:6 “They are not all Israel who are of Israel.”  Or, in my words, “They are not all God’s Israel who are of natural Israel.”

The Israel of God, the mystery, is now in view. All of it shall be saved.

The natural israelites cannot be the “All,” for Paul only hoped to save SOME of them. Also, since some Jewish branches have been cut off, and many natural Jews have perished while still unbelieving, no one can claim that every natural Jew will be saved. Isa. 10:21-22 prophesied that although natural Israel was many people, only a remnant would be saved.

We CAN claim that all spiritual Jews will be saved! Paul has already stated in Rom. 2:28-29 what God’s definition of a true Jew is. A true Jew is of the children of Abraham, and part of God’s Israel.

28. Those unbelieving Jews who were, in Paul’s time, enemies of believers, were beloved for the sake of their fathers;  God yet offered them mercy if they would repent/believe, and some would. Paul himself was a perfect example.  I think Paul was urging his Gentile brethren to have compassion rather than disdain for the unbelieving Jews, for whom he himself had “great sorrow and continual grief in his heart” (Rom. 9:2-3).

29.  God gave the Jews gifts (Rom. 9:4-5) and a calling (to be a blessing to all nations.) These still stand, though God has had to change the way He is currently using the unbelieving Jews (He is now, in Paul’s day, using their hatred for the gospel to drive it into Gentile territory). Ultimately the Seed of Abraham (Jesus) is the blessing that has come to all nations through the Jews.

30.  Though God is unable to use the disobedient Jews as “the light of the world,” He is now (in Paul’s day) using their disobedience to bless the Gentiles with the gospel. God also intends that the mercy He pours out on the Gentiles will in turn help the unbelieving Jews to repent and be saved also, perhaps looking forward to a time when Gentiles would evangelize Jews (a reiteration of vss. 11, 13, 14)

32.  All–both Jews and Gentiles–have sinned, and all need mercy. God has made a way for all to obtain that mercy.

33-36.  Praises to God for the wonderful and wise way in which He works.

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