ROMANS STUDY – SESSION 15

Romans 11:1-36

 

We have seen that Romans 9-11 contain the third major section of this letter.  While this section emphasizes that the gospel is for all people, it gives special attention to the place of the Jewish people in God’s redemptive plan.  The basic thought of these chapters is the following:  While God, in His sovereignty, selected the Israelites to be His chosen people and while the Israelites, as a whole, chose to reject God, God has not rejected Israelites.

 

We have been exploring these chapters using the following outline:

9:1-5 – Paul’s lament for Israel

9:6-29 – The mystery of God’s sovereignty

9:30-10:21 – Israel’s rejection of God

11:1-36 – Israel’s hope

 

Israel’s Hope (Romans 11:1-36)

Three major thoughts are developed in this chapter each supported by an illustration from the Old Testament:

  • Israel’s rejection of God’s redemptive plan is partial.  There is a remnant of Israelites who responded to God in faith.  The Old Testament illustration in this paragraph is taken from the time Elijah complained to God that he was the only true prophet left in all Israel. (vv.1-10)
  • Israel’s rejection of God’s redemptive plan aided in the salvation of the Gentiles. The Old Testament illustration in this paragraph is the familiar use of the olive tree as a symbol for the nation Israel. (vv.11-24)
  • At some point in the future there will be great turning of Israel to God. (vv.25-36) The Old Testament illustration in this paragraph is a quote from the prophecy of Isaiah about the future restoration of Israel. 

 

Israel’s rejection of God’s redemptive plan is partial (Romans 11:1-10)

The main point of this paragraph is that all of Israel has not rejected God’s redemptive plan in Christ.  Paul begins by reminding his readers that he was an Israelite and he had not rejected God’s plan (v.1).  The point of the illustration from the life of Elijah (vv.2-4) is that God has always had a remnant of people who have responded in faith to Him.  Notice that in this paragraph Paul divided Israel (God’s chosen people!) into two broad categories:

  • The first category is described with the phrases: 
    • “a remnant according to God’s gracious choice” (v.5)
    • Those who experience God’s favor on the basis of “grace” (v.6)
    • “those who are chosen” (v.7)
  • The second category is described with the phrases:
    • “the rest were hardened” (v.7)
    • “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes to see not and ears to hear not” (v.8)

These statements should not be interpreted to mean that God predetermined who would respond in faith and who would not.  Instead, those who respond in faith become the “chosen” and those who continually refused to respond become calloused to God’s call.  William Barclay puts it this way:  A CALLUS HAS GROWN OVER THE HEARTS OF    THE PEOPLE.  WHEN A CALLUS GROWS ON ANY PART OF THE BODY THAT PART LOSSES FEELING.  IT BECOMES INSENSITIVE.  THE MINDS OF THE MASS OF THE PEOPLE HAVE BECOME INSENSITIVE; THEY CAN NO LONGER HEAR AND FEEL THE APPEAL OF GOD. IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANY PERSON.  IF A PERSON TAKES HIS OWN WAY LONG ENOUGH, HE WILL IN THE END BECOME INSENSITIVE TO THE APPEAL OF GOD. IF HE LIVES SELFISHLY LONG ENOUGH, HE WILL BECOME INSENSITIVE TO THE APPEAL OF FINE THINGS.  IF HE GOES ON SINNING, HE WILL IN THE END BECOME INSENSITIVE TO THE HORROR OF SIN...JUST AS A CALLUS CAN GROW ON THE HAND, A CALLUS CAN GROW ON THE HEART. THAT IS WHAT HAPPENED TO THE MASS OF ISRAEL.” [Barclay, Daily Bible Study Series, Romans]

 

 

 

Israel’s rejection of God’s redemptive plan aided in the salvation of the Gentiles. (Romans 11:11-24)

 

Paul points out in this paragraph that even in Israel’s rejection of the gospel God was at work.  The basic thought of this paragraph is as follows:

·         Through the rejection of the gospel by Israel, more Gentiles were exposed to the gospel.  This happened because the Jewish rejection motivated the early Christians to take the gospel to Gentiles. (vv.11-12)s

·         The salvation of Gentiles would cause some Jews to take another look at the gospel and respond to God in faith. (v. 14)

·         As more Jews respond to the gospel, more Gentiles will respond as well. (v.15)

 

Romans 11:11-24 built on illustration of an olive tree.  The olive tree is the most cultivated tree in Mediterranean world.  In the Old Testament it is often used as a symbol of the nation Israel.  In this passage, the olive tree represents the true Israel – those who respond to God on the basis of faith and not works.  The branches broken off the tree represent those among the Jews who rejected the gospel.  The branches grafted on to the tree represent the Gentiles who accepted the gospel.

 

At some point in the future there will be great turning of Israel to God. (Romans 11:25-36)

 

In verses 25-26 Paul assets that when “the fullness of the Gentiles have come in” then “all Israel will be saved.”  As one might imagine, there are many different views of how to interpret this passage.  Among them are the following: 

·         Some say this means all people, both Gentile and Jew, will ultimately be saved.  They say "the fullness of the Gentiles" (v.25) means every Gentile and "all Israel" (v.26) means every Jew.  This universal view of salvation is not supported and in fact is contradicted by many other Bible passages. 

·         Some say means these statements are a reference to the church.  This view spiritualizes the term "all Israel" to refer not to Jewish people but to all those who respond in faith to the gospel.  There is something to be said for this view, especially in light of what Paul said in Romans 2:28-29a – “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh.  But he is a Jew who is one inwardly…”  However, to say that the term “Israel” in this passage refers to the church as a whole seems to undermine the contrast Paul has drawn through Romans 9-11 between the Israelites and the Gentiles. 

·         Some say these verses are to be taken literally and that they mean that all Jews will one day respond in faith to Christ.  Those who hold this view generally see this great conversion of the nation Israel taking place at the second coming of Christ.  There are a number of variations of this view depending on how one interprets the events surrounding Christ’s return.  In my opinion, there is not sufficient biblical evidence to support this view. 

·         Another view, and one with which I am most comfortable, is that "all Israel" does not mean every single Jewish person.  The phrase means that at some point there will be a great turning of the Jewish people to Christianity.  Those who hold this view argue that Paul was speaking more in a collective sense than individual sense.  I like how Curtis Vaughan, one of my teachers in seminary put it:  “WHEN ALL ISRAEL IS SAVED, THERE MAY YET BE UNBELIEVING JEWS, BUT THE HISTORICAL ENTITY CALLED JUDAISM WILL BECOME SUBJECT TO THE GOSPEL…” (p.130) 

 

What is the point of all that for us today?  Is there anything here that can be of practical value to us?  I think there is.  If God did not abandon nation Israel in spite of her continuing mistakes and rejection of Him, we can be certain that He will not abandon us    either.  I find great comfort and encouragement in the promise that God will eventually accomplish His purpose for Israel.  That should remind us that God will accomplish His purposes for our lives as well.

 

 

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