Manuscript of this sermon is available for reading services.
Reading: Romans 11
Text: Romans 11
Romans 11 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Israel Is Not Cast Away
11 I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, [a]a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 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 [b]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 [c]gracious choice. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer [d]on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.
7 What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but [e]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.”
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. 12 Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their [f]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 [g]fellow countrymen and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 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 [h]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?
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; 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.”
27 “This is [i]My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”
28 [j]From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but [k]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.
33 Oh, the depth of the riches [l]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 [m]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 [n]forever. Amen.
Hope for the future
In Romans chapters 9 & 10 the apostle expresses his great sorrow for his countrymen the Jews, many of whom rejected Jesus as the Messiah. He acknowledges God’s sovereignty in salvation but also knows that most of the Jews who were covenant children became covenant despisers. We see that from time to time, a covenant child grows up and turns his back on the faith and despises his birth right the way Esau despised his.
The underlying problem in all of this is faith or lack of it. The Jews heard preaching, they had the OT scriptures but lacked faith. Instead they made up their own version of the faith like Korah, Dathan and Abiram whose ecclesiology was warped and coveted Moses position as leader. (Numbers 16) They claimed to be religious but on their own terms rather than God’s.
This saddened Paul because the Jews were his own people. It also saddens us when someone leaves the church because of unbelief but does that mean there is no hope?
No where there is life there is hope. The last verse of chapter ten is filled with hope. God is one who waits patiently for the disobedient and obstinate to come to their senses and so Paul wrote in the first verse of chapter 11, “Has God rejected his people? May it never be he says, God has not rejected his people whom he fore-knew.”
So there is hope for the future and in Romans 11 we find two aspects to this hope.
First, the rejection of the Jews was not absolute. There is a remnant.
Second The rejection of the Jews was not final there is hope.
1. First God has not rejected Israel but kept for Himself a remnant according to His gracious choice. In verse 1 Paul wrote “I say then has God rejected his people? May it never be. For I too am an Israelite a descendant of Abraham of the tribe of Benjamin. Paul was once a blasphemer and persecutor of Christians who contended with God and later converted to Christianity. Paul is the first example here in Romans 11 that God had not rejected the Jews.
The second example is seen in verse 2-4 which takes us back to Elijah and the days of the kings when Baal worship which was widespread. At the time when Elijah was contending with Ahab and Jezebel he thought the situation was hopeless, that He was the only one left who didn’t worship idols. But God reassured Elijah saying he had reserved 7,000 souls who didn’t bow the knee to Baal.
Then verse 5 says, “In the same way there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s grace”. Acts 21:20 shows us what this remnant looked like. Paul was in Jerusalem relating to the elders of the Jerusalem church what God had done among the Gentiles. The Jews responded by praising God and then saying “You see brother how many thousands there are among the Jews who have believed.”
Paul then says that this remnant of believers are those whom God foreknew and who became believer because of God’s gracious choice. Paul knows from personal experience that salvation is entirely by God’s grace and that if it wasn’t for God’s grace he too would have been lost.
Conversely the fact that many did not believe is also down to God’s sovereign will. Look at verses 7 & 8. “The rest were hardened and God gave them a spirit of stupor.” And think back on Romans 9 and the “potter and the clay”. Since the fall all people are spiritually (according to their fallen nature) like inanimate lumps of clay. It takes the potters hands and intelligence to work and turn the clay into vessels for his use. . It’s entirely God’s prerogative as to who he chooses and to what use he make of us.
Even so God has not rejected Israel altogether for he is a God of grace and has preserved for himself a remnant. For that reason there remains a very real hope for Israel especially in the light of Revelation 7 where we find that those who represent the innumerable multitude of those who are the saved come out of both the Old and New covenant dispensations.
And where do we find this remnant today?
They are those who find salvation in God’s son and worship God alone. They’re not trying to work out their own righteousness or secure the favour of God by their own efforts but are looking to Christ alone for their righteousness.
And the remnant today know that the faith we have is entirely a gift of God. There is no room for any pride. We know that we are all are like clay in God’s hands. According to our sinful nature we know that we have forfeited any claim to His favour and have no power to bring ourselves into God’s favour. Therefore we are the faithful remnant by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
2. In the second place just as the rejection of the Jews was not absolute neither should anyone think that God’s rejection of the Jews is final. There is hope.
Paul says they did not stumble as to fall then did they? May it never be! By their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles. To put that another way. Israel didn’t stumble so as to fall beyond recovery but to rise, as a remnant and in doing so bring great blessing to the Gentiles.
It was because of Israel’s transgression that Christ was crucified. It was because of the crucified Christ’s resurrection and ascension that the Holy Spirit came down at Pentecost on the disciples who preached the Gospel with the result that the early church grew rapidly. So through the Jews disobedience and then through the remnant of believers salvation has come to the whole world.
Paul says this made the Jews envious. They saw the church growing. They noticed the large crowds listening to the apostles preaching. For some it created resentment and they tried to stop the Jews, but for others such as Crispus the synagogue ruler the jealousy led to conversion. (read about that in Acts 18:8) In any case the over-all result was the rapid growth of church and kingdom now consisting of Jews and Gentiles.
Paul illustrates this phenomenon with a lump of dough saying if the first piece of dough is holy then the whole lump is also. That appears to be a reference to Numbers 15:71-21 where the first fruits of the dough for bread making was offered to the Lord which in turn consecrated the whole lump. What Paul meant with this was that those Jews who first believed the gospel and were devoted to the Lord were the first fruits of all who were to be saved.
A second illustration in verse 16 of the root and branch is similar. The Jews who were first converted to the Christian faith were the root which supplied nourishment to the tree representing the church universal. These roots go all the way back to the father of believers Abraham and the patriarchs. And so just as the roots are holy so too are the branches, providing they remain healthy.
That takes us to the next illustration of the olive tree commonly cultivated in olive groves throughout the land of Israel. The Olive tree was a very valuable asset to the Jews. It provided them with food, oil, medicine, hairdressing lotion and fuel. The timber when seasoned and polished can be used for fine cabinet work. According to 1 Kings 6:23 the Cherubim in Solomon’s temple were made out of olive wood.
In the Bible the cultivated olive tree is also symbolic of godliness. In Psalm 52:8 we find that the olive tree’s virility and fruitfulness represents the righteous man whose children are like olive branches. In Zechariah 4:3 the two olive trees represent the generous way God provide for his people.
However Romans 11:17 says “some of the branches were broken off.” That is a reference to the unbelieving Jews who rejected the Messiah. Jesus in his parable of the fruit bearing vine also explains that where a branch fails to bear fruit it is cut off and thrown into the fire.
But then tending the tree and the vine isn’t just about pruning to remove the dead wood. It also includes grafting in new branches which come from wild olive trees. According to Paul these wild olive shoots were the Gentiles. They were strangers and foreigners to the covenant of God ignorant of the scriptures and the good influence of Judaism.
Paul says these Gentiles have now been grafted into the covenant community and become part of the flourishing and fruitful tree which is the universal church.
Now we notice in verse 17 that Paul warns the Gentile Christians against pride or arrogance towards those unbelieving Jews who had been cut off. Paul reminds them that they, the Gentiles are not the root and the trunk. The Jews are. In fact salvation came to the Gentiles through the Jews not vice-versa and so there is no excuse whatsoever for any kind of Anti-Semitism. The Hebrews are the nation who gave us the word of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul adds a further warning in verse 20. “Do not be conceited but be afraid for if God did not spare the natural branches he will not spare you either.” In other words if God judged the Jews for their unbelief then any church or Christian who also falls away and rejects the gospel can expect the same judgment.
Because as the next verse says God is both “kind and severe.”
He is severe in his judgments to those who reject the saviour and who persist in unbelief but kind to all who repent and believe.
And that kindness even extends to grafting old branches back in again. Paul is leading into something here and we see what this is in 25. “For I do not want you to be uninformed of this mystery lest you be wise in your own estimation that a partial hardening happened to Israel until the fullness of the gentiles has come in and thus all Israel will be saved. What does it means where it says “all Israel will be saved?” Interpreters are evenly divided on this one.
For some the picture we have here is as follows. God begins his plan of salvation with the Hebrews until the time of Christ. By then the nation has to a large degree fallen into unbelief and apostasy only a remnant are saved. Yet God uses that remnant to spread the gospel so that the Gentiles can be grafted in. This grafting in of the Gentiles continues until all the elect are brought into the kingdom and then all Israel will be saved. Now about this several scholars say that the context strongly suggests that Paul is talking about the Jews. Not every Jew that ever lived necessarily but the nation as a whole because until now a part of the nation has been blinded and cut off and excluded from the kingdom of God That was the state of affairs in Paul’s day the Jewish nation was still under judgement. Verse 28 says that they are enemies for your sake. Israel and the church were not on very friendly terms.
However God’s promise to them is as verse 29 says irrevocable and so as the argument goes a time is coming when the Jews will be grafted back in en-mass. Again not every Jew that ever lived but that the nation as a whole will repent and believe. And that will take place when the work of world-wide evangelism comes to an end. And so all Israel will be saved.
That’s one popular view. The other is that the term ‘all Israel” is used to refer to the true Israel or the remnant of Jewish as well as Gentile believers. Both groups together constitute “all Israel.” This is thought to be so because in the first three chapters of Romans Paul is very careful to show that there is no distinction between Jew or Gentile, either in sin or in salvation. Jew and Gentile have been together in the prison of disobedience and they are together as recipients of God’s mercy. Furthermore what was true then remains true now. The gospel is still being preached and both Jews and Gentiles are embracing it and entering the Kingdom of God and so in the end “all Israel that is all believers, Jew or Greek, male or female slave or free there is no distinction, will be saved.
Revelation says that this new Israel will be a huge number of the redeemed which no one can count. A great multinational multitude who have received God’s mercy will reign with Christ in eternity. For this Paul ends the discussion with his doxology, “O the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God” and “to him be the glory for ever and ever.”
So though Paul expresses sadness on account of the Jews he nevertheless finishes this section with a strong affirmation of hope for two reasons
1. God is merciful. Just as he had mercy on us who were once the disobedient Gentiles there will also be mercy for the disobedient Jews according to verse 31.
2, The second reason given for hope is that God’s call is irrevocable, he doesn’t renege on his promises towards his elect; both Jew and gentile.
It also saddens us when someone leaves the church under a cloud. But does that mean there is no hope?
No it doesn’t. We can’t say who the elect are only God knows that so where there is life there is hope. God may yet be merciful. Even the branches that have been broken off can be grafted back in
Paul praises God for this at the end of this chapter for His grace and His mercy lets also do that now with the word s of our song of response “Zion founded on the Mountains.