ROMANS CHAPTER 11
I) THE CONTEXT IS NOT INDIVIDUALS BUT GROUPS OF PEOPLE BEING GOD'S CHOSEN PEOPLE TO PROVIDE HIS MESSAGE OF SALVATION TO THE WORLD
Verse 1 begins:
(v. 1) "I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin.
(v. 2) God did not reject his people [unfaithful Israel], whom he foreknew. Don't you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah--how he appealed to God against Israel."
The context continues on through verse 5 with a major doctrinal point:
(v. 5) "So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.
(v. 6) And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
[If anything is by grace then it is no longer by works, i.e., by any human doing, otherwise grace would be no longer grace. This covers salvation which by this cannot be by anything one does. So being faithful is not in view in order to be saved which involves human doing]
(v. 7) What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened
The context of groups of people continues on through verse 11:
(v. 11) Again I ask: Did they [unfaithful Israel] stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.
[Notice the group of people, the Gentiles is in view here, not individuals]
(v. 12) But if their [unfaithful Israels] transgression means riches for the world, and their [unfaithful Israels] loss means riches for the Gentiles [Notice: a group of people], how much greater riches will their fullness bring!
(v. 13) I am talking to you Gentiles [ a group of people]. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry
[Notice that the focus is on the ministry of Paul to and through a group of people, the Gentiles. Paul goes on to indicate that this ministry to and through a group of people, Gentiles is the ministry of salvation to the whole world, as it was formerly and to be reinstituted through the people Israel, (v. 1, 15, 29-32]
(v. 14) in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people [unfaithful Israel] to envy and save some of them
[some of the Israelites are saved but not through Israels ministry, now through Pauls ministry to the Gentiles].
(v. 15) For if their [unfaithful Israels] rejection [as the ministry of the gospel to the world which leads to the Gentiles now being that ministry instead, v. 13)] is the reconciliation of the world, what will their [unfaithful Israels] acceptance [again as the ministry for the gospel to the world] be but life from the dead? [i.e., the ministry of the gospel of eternal life]
(v. 17) If some of the branches have been broken off, and you [Gentiles - again the context is whole groups of people, not individuals], though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root,
["If some of the branches have been broken off" = "some" refers to a partial rejection of unfaithful Israel for there is a remnant of Israel still faithful and still under God's blessing, (v. 5). "Some" does not refer to individuals but to the specific group of unfaithful Israel that has turned away from God]
(v. 18) do not boast over those branches . If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.
(v. 19) You will say then, 'Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in. [Gentiles - again the context is whole groups of people, not individuals], '
(v. 20) Granted. But they [unfaithful Israel] were broken off because of unbelief, and you [Gentiles]stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid.
[Notice that the whole group of Gentiles is in view, not individuals. And they stand by faith as a whole group of people as Israel attempted to do in the past and failed and were cut off as Gods chosen people temporarily to deliver the message of salvation to the world. So whole groups of people are in view and their corporate faithfulness, not individuals. And the result of corporate unfaithfulness is being cut off:]
(v. 21) For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you [branch of Gentiles] either.
[So "will not spare" does not have individual salvation in view but not being spared from being cut off as a whole group of people from Gods chosen people to proclaim the message of salvation to the world]
(v. 22) "Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell [unfaithful Israel], but kindness to you [Gentiles], provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off [as a whole group of people from Gods chosen people to proclaim the message of salvation to the world]"
II) [Ro 11:1-2a; 6, 26-29]:
(v. 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.
[Notice that Paul indicates here that the physical seed of Abraham has not been rejected relative to the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant]
(v. 2a) God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew...."
[And what God has foreknown He had called, i.e. predestined or decreed, (Ro 8:29), and thus it will inevitably and unchangeably come to pass, (v. 29)]
"And if by grace, then it is no longer by works, if it were [by works] grace would no longer be grace"
[Verse 6 is a general statement about grace vs works being mutually exclusive being applied to the remnant of Israelite believers being preserved throughout history. It indicates that you cannot have anything which is by grace and also by works - all or in part. The clear definition of grace demands this mutual exclusivity: unmerited favor!!! In other words, in order for God to provide unmerited favor/blessings to someone, that someone cannot have done anything to receive that favor/blessings in any way. Otherwise some or all of it is merited. Therefore salvation or anything cannot be by grace and works at the same time. Notice the 'if' is not qualified which points to anything not just limited to a remnant of Israelite believers being preserved throughout history. Notice that "by works" is also not qualified, such that works which are considered works of faith are excluded as well from anything that has to do with grace.
So if an individual were to trust in Christ as Savior with the mental attitude that he must provide something himself in addition to that trust in order to gain entrance or to earn entrance into heaven, (water baptism, no more serious sinning, taking the Lord's Supper, i.e. the mass; going to church, making Jesus the Lord of his life, etc., etc.), then the grace basis - the gift basis - of his salvation would "no longer be grace" as Ro 11:6 says above. And his salvation would not be salvation at all, for God saves on a grace - a gift - basis only. One can neither pay for nor do something to deserve a gift. A gift by definition is something that is freely given and freely received - without strings - without attachments]
Israel's Salvation by Don Rumble Israel's rejection of her Messiah had awesome consequences not only for her but for the whole world as well. Jesus prophesied that great judgment would come on that first century generation of Jewish people (Mt. 23:29-36; Luke 21:20-22). Jerusalem would be crushed and Israel carried away into captivity because she did not recognize the time of her visitation (Luke 19:44). Yet Jesus also clearly prophesied that the time would eventually come when Jerusalem would no longer be trampled by the Gentiles (Luke 21:24).(1) Indeed, that one statement by our Lord guaranteed the regathering again of Jews from around the world to their own land. (2) Today Israel is like a great valley of dry bones being assembled by the word of the Lord but without the Spirit or breath of God within her. Some would doubt that God can perform His will in the midst of an unsaved people. How could He be gathering together people who do not know Him? Just consider how He worked in your life before you were even aware of His presence. He brought you personally to a divine appointment with Himself that you might come into a relationship with Him. You did not deserve it; God's drawing in your life was totally because of His grace and mercy. Israel as a nation has the same appointment awaiting her in the days ahead. The consequences for the world will be startling. Israel's Fall Now if their transgression be riches for the world and their failure be riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! (Rm. 11:12) What was their transgression? They did not receive their Messiah. What were the resulting riches for the world? Messiah, salvation and eternal life came to us; we are going to live forever with God. That is good news indeed! Their transgression resulted in riches for the nations. Compare the chart below with the verse above. Israel --> The Nations Their transgression --> Riches Their failure --> Riches Their pleroma --> Something greater than Riches! Israel is on the left; the nations are on the right. Their transgression resulted in riches for the nations. We do not have just a little sprinkling of eternal life, we have the riches of God poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Not only that. Paul says, how much more will their fulfillment (pleroma) be? In other words, when that which God starts in Israel comes to the fulness of what He intended, it is going to result in something greater for the nations than what we have seen so far. Their fulness will bring something greater than riches for us. This is not difficult reasoning; it is quite logical. From Israel's transgression and failure, riches have come to us. But when they repent and turn to the Lord it will result in something for us greater than the riches we have yet seen. First there will be a fulness (pleroma) achieved among the nations in order to get Israel's attention (Rm. 11:25,26) [See below]. When she turns to the Lord the next phase of God's plan will be set in motion. It will then result in something greater than riches for the nations. (3) Israel --> The Nations Partial Hardening until.... Pleroma --> Israel saved Paul Understood God's strategy. But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. (Rm. 11:13-14) "Paul, do you love Israel and want to see her saved?" "Yes," he says, "I really do." And we ask again, "So what are you going to do about it?" "I am going to the Gentiles," he replies. "Now, wait a minute," we say, "you love Israel and you want to see her turn to the Lord. So, in order to effect this, you're going to the Gentiles? Are you sure that makes sense?" Paul astounds us by finishing, "Yes. If I go to the Gentiles, God will start a marvelous work, bring it to fulness, get Israel's attention causing her to be jealous and then to turn back to Him." Life From the Dead For if their rejection be the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? (Rm. 11:15) Israel --> The Nations Their rejection --> Reconciliation Their acceptance --> Life from the dead! When Israel rejected her Messiah, God turned to the nations and began to bring reconciliation to the world through the power of the gospel. That process continues today. However, the question Paul raises is, "What will be the full result on the world when Israel finally gets the point God has been making through His Church? (i.e., that He loves her and has been wooing her back to Himself) [How the Church has failed grievously at this task of expressing God's heart for Israel!]" Their acceptance of their Messiah will result in something called "life from the dead". What does this phrase mean? There are many believers who think that Paul has in view the second coming of Christ and the resurrection. If Jesus does return when Israel is converted we will truly rejoice. However, it is doubtful that this is the focus of Romans 11. Whenever he writes about the resurrection, Paul is quite clear and uses that specific term. On the other hand, "life from the dead" sounds more like the spiritual resurrection that occurs when one is born again. For example, just a few chapters earlier, Paul uses the almost identical phrase: ...and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (Rm. 6:13) Consider the words of Jesus. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming possibly referring to future physical resurrection], and now is [Jesus definitely refers here to spiritual resurrection], when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. (Jn. 5:25 NKJV) "Life from the dead", something "greater than riches" is to occur on a world-wide scale when Israel turns to the Lord. Is it possible that Paul has reference to such a dynamic outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the face of the earth that literally countless millions of people will come to the Lord? A Wheat Field We have often had the perspective that the Church is as wheat among the tares. However, Jesus said that the tares were among the wheat. The slaves' suggestion was to get rid of the tares so there would be just a pure wheat field. The Lord said, "No, let them grow together and in the time of harvest I'll have the angels remove them." Still, it is clear that Jesus' perspective was that the world at the end of the age would be a wheat field with tares in it, not a tare field with some wheat in it. In other words, in some sections of the Church, we have tended to look negatively at the Church's future. We have tended to be small in our vision and to focus on the coming of the Anti-christ, darkness and the great tribulation. And we have failed to see God's heart to take the gospel of the kingdom to the nations with power and extend His purpose into the ends of the earth. While it is true that there is coming on the earth greater darkness and ultimately the revelation of the man of lawlessness in God's sanctuary (4), there is also coming a revelation of the glory of God that shall be revealed in the ends of the earth. No part of the globe shall be untouched (Num. 14:21). The revelation of God's glory shall be so much greater than what Moses experienced, that it will amaze the Church, the angels, and the world. The Lord will clearly reveal and make Himself known before He returns. The nations will be without excuse as the kingdom of God comes into clarity before the eyes of men. The signs, wonders and power of His kingdom that Jesus revealed in Israel over 1900 years ago, will again be displayed, only this time in every nation. Today the Church needs a spiritual awakening if we would ever change the face of the earth. However, let's be clear. That awakening is coming and in the end, the devil will lose and we will win. Satan is not taking over; the Lord is. Amen. And if the first piece of dough be holy, the lump is also; and if the root be holy, the branches are too. 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, 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. You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you. 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. And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again. 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 shall these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree? (Rm. 11:16-24) If God can take wild uncultivated branches like us Gentiles and graft us into His purpose, how much more will He be able to get Israel's attention and graft her in?! The remnant of Israel has existed for close to two thousand years. In the first century, Jews such as Peter, James, John and Paul along with many others made up that remnant. Today, a Messianic movement is increasing in size as Jewish people turn to the Lord. The remnant is multiplying. That is wonderful. However, the increase of the Jewish remnant is not the subject of Romans 11. Paul's message is that the nation of Israel will turn to God! The Israel Connection For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in; and thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, 'The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.' (Rm. 11:25,26) When we use the term, "body of Christ", what comes to mind? We think of the Lord's bride, His flock, His house, etc. But when we say, "body of Messiah", what nation comes to mind? Israel. Christ and Messiah are the same word (Jn. 1:41; 4:25). When we translate the Hebrew word Maschiach into English, it is Messiah. The same word translated into Greek is Christos which is Christ. The body of Christ is the body of Messiah. We consistently use the term "body of Christ" because the New Testament was written in Greek. In the process, we miss the connection between Israel and the Lord's body. However, Paul's revelation was simple and yet profound. The Messiah must again be revealed to the nation of Israel, only this time through a body. (At the root of it, the apostolic vision of planting local churches is an expression of God's heart not only for the world, but for Israel.) Did not Peter allude to this on the day of Pentecost when he referred to Jesus' messianic ministry as having barely begun even though His earthly ministry was over? For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: "The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet.'" Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ (Messiah) -- this Jesus whom you crucified. (Acts 2:34-36) Jesus' Messianic ministry to Israel did not cease when He ascended to heaven. The crucified One is indeed still God's answer for them. The Lord is establishing the revelation of Messianic reality from heaven in corporate expressions of His life all over the face of the earth. There is to be no nation where a Jew lives that there is not also a corporate expression of his Messiah. In fact, has not Israel's scattering to the ends of the earth brought this very blessing of God's response of raising up New Testament fellowships in those very nations? Is this not, in part, a fulfillment of God's intention to bless the nations through the natural seed of Abraham? Jesus came to the Jewish people as a single individual the first time. However, God intends to send Him in our day through His people, not for judgment but for redemption. There must come to fulness (pleroma) among the nations the corporate expression of Israel's Messiah. (5) Christ's body must grow up into Him who is the Head. The body of Messiah must mature in the secular nation of Israel in our day as well. There must arise apostolic men in that nation with insight into the raising up of Messiah's body. Along with this, the Lord will continue to regather Jews to Israel from the nations and there will be many in their midst who will have already found the Lord. Some of these will have apostolic and prophetic anointing and insight to implement the Lord's plan. Indeed, the two-fold witness of the Lord's body both in Israel and in the nations will spearhead God's campaign to bring the age to an end. The Body "Bodyness" is not a mystical concept that simply refers to all Christians in the earth. Rather, it has very practical implications. God intends to establish in every locale, a corporate expression of His life where the mind of Israel's Messiah is accurately revealed through His people. Surely it is significant that immediately after Paul ends his great discourse on Israel in Romans 11, he articulates in the very next chapter one of his clearest teachings on the practical functioning of Messiah's body (Rm. 12:1-21). Israel's salvation is to be one of our major motivations to express Christ as we: 1. Present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God 2. Respond to God in our specific spiritual gifts and ministries according to the measure of faith he has given us 3. Express love without hypocrisy 4. Are devoted to one another in brotherly love 5. Refuse to take our own revenge and overcome evil with good, etc. Paul's teaching (Rm. 11) first laid out God's vision for Israel and then followed up with insights for practical obedience to fulfill that vision (Rm.12). Christians over the years have failed to see the significant connection between Israel's conversion and the Church's obedience to simply love God and each other. The local church is not to express simply the mind of its leadership, its prophets, its administrators, etc. The local church is where Christ arises in the midst of His people. As we "tap into" the flow of His life, His mind is revealed. The church is to constantly experience more than the expectation of its leadership, more than the visions of its prophets and more than the strategies of its apostles. The purpose of God for each gathering is greater than our abilities to quantify and define. However, as God's vision is expressed, He will corporately reveal Christ - Israel's Messiah. We must lay aside our limited interpretations of God's purpose and watch Him arise in our midst with great diversity of function through His body. As corporate Messianic reality is revealed through His body and comes to a fulness (pleroma), God will arise in convicting power turning the nation of Israel to Himself. Today, because there is only a partial hardening of Israel's heart, individual Jewish people are being saved and added to the remnant. But the nation as a whole must turn to the Lord. Paul saw God's strategy and gave his life to see it come to pass. He longed to see Israel's Messiah come forth corporately in town after town and city after city. And he poured out his life to see this blessed vision come to fulness. When the fulness of God's working among the Gentiles to again reveal Israel's Messiah is realized, Israel will be saved. This event will result in something greater than riches, even life from the dead springing out into all the earth! The hope we have of ultimately seeing God's glory filling the earth rests on the fact that Messiah has now come to live in the hearts of Gentile believers. ...the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ (Messiah) in you (the Gentiles), the hope of glory. (Col. 1:26,27) In past generations, Israel was the only hope that the nations had of God's glory ever filling the earth. However, today the hope of glory rests in Messiah's presence in His Church. It is crucial that in ministering in His house, we do it right. We simply do not have the right to try and propagate whatever seems best to us or what seems to work well. We are not here to extend our ideas in the earth. Rather, Israel's Messiah must be revealed in every place where local churches gather. Israel's conversion will probably occur during a time of great opposition from the enemy. How he hates the purpose of God. Yet, in the end, his doom is sealed. Indeed, there is much to look forward to, there are exciting days ahead. Let us look to the future with a bold expectation of glory and faith-filled hearts of worship. Footnotes (1) Jesus prophesied of the Jewish people in Luke 21:24 that, "...they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." The times of the Gentiles to trample Jerusalem were fulfilled in 1967 when Israel reestablished Jewish control over the city. Never again will the nations hold the power to rule Jerusalem. They may come close to it just prior to Israel's conversion. However, God's sovereign intervention will thwart their plans (Zech. 12,14). (2) Jesus' prophecy that Jerusalem would eventually revert back to Jewish control also undermines the idea that the early Church believed in the imminent return of Christ. (3) It is likely that Israel's conversion will occur in a time of great upheaval and war. Zechariah 12 seems to indicate a yet future period when the nations will gather against Jerusalem to destroy her. God's response will be to pour out the Spirit of grace and supplication. As a result of this gracious outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Jewish people will suddenly look, see and recognize as their Messiah the One they pierced. Great repentance will sweep the land in those days. It will be very personal and individual yet affecting whole families from all strata of Jewish society. (4) Satan's war against the Church has always had two fronts. He comes against her from the outside through persecution and from within through deception. (5) What we await is the fulness of God's intent in expressing Israel's Messiah through a body, not simply a full number of people being saved from the nations. The NIV translates Romans 11:25,26 this way: "...Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved." However, that would indicate that no more Gentiles could be saved after Israel turns to the Lord. How then would something "greater than riches" be brought to the nations at her conversion? The second coming of Christ will only bring judgment, not blessing to those who do not know Him. Besides, the word "number" is not in the original text. Don Rumble is an elder of Saugerties Christian Fellowship in Saugerties, New York Return to Home Page
(v. 26) And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
(v. 27) And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins."
[Bible Knowledge Commentary, NT, Walvoord & Zuck Eds., Victor Books, USA, 1987, p. 486]:
"After 'the fullness of the Gentiles' (11:25) the partial hardening of Israel will be removed and all Israel will be saved, that is, 'delivered' (in the OT 'saved' often means 'delievered') from the terrible Tribulation by the Messiah, the Deliverer. To confirm this, Paul quoted from Isaiah 59:20-21 and 27:9. The statement, 'All Israel will be saved' does not mean that every Jew living at Christ's return will be regenerated. Many of them will not be saved, as seen by the fact that the judgment of Israel, to follow soon after the Lord's return, will include the removal of Jewish rebels (Ezek 20:34-38). Following this judgment God will then remove godlessness and sins from the nation as He establishes His New Covenant with regenerate Israel (cf. Jer 31:33-34).'''
(v. 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; [to whom the promises of the Covenant were made]
(v. 29) for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable."
[Loss of salvation cannot happen since it is a gift and God's sovereign calling. So since God already unconditionally promised salvation to the newborn believer as a gift]