Romans Chapter 11 - Israel Hardened So All May Benefit
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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. - Romans 11:1


Paul here is anticipating an objecting that may be raised in lieu of what he said in the last chapter, specifically toward the end when he spoke of Israel not heeding the good news and God saying of Israel that "all the day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people." Interestingly Paul hints at the answer by putting the phrase "His people" within the question in reference to Israel. This very question would properly seem ridiculous as if God would go back on His promises towards Israel, such notion Paul responds with a "May it never be!" (Or in some translations "Certainly not!"). Paul points to himself as an example that God has not rejected Israel, not only is he a Jew but he's one of direct descension, not just a convert. If Paul argued that God has totally rejected Israel then Paul would have been included in that rejection and it would have been equally ridiculous for Paul to be preaching such a notion.


There are some who are very anti-Semitic in the church today who believe the Jews had their chance and blew it and now the prophecies apply to the present day church and no longer apply to Israel as somehow God's promises have changed. These believe God has rejected Israel and therefore they reject them too. Martin Luther, one of the leaders of the reformed theology (also known also as Calvinism), was quite anti-Semitic, especially in his later years, setting fire to their synagogues and schools, advising people to destroy their houses, forbidding them to teach and seeking to remove their writings from places of education, and more. In one of Martin Luther's writings "On the Jews and Their Lies" he deplores Christendom's failure to expel the Jews. Moreover he proposed "What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews". Paul, a Christian who's also a Jew, may have an objection, and if nothing else his objection could be himself. It's interesting because modern day anti-Semitics will hate Jews but love Paul whereas Paul could say, but I'm a Jew.. Along these lines we should not let it escape us that Jesus Himself was a Jew. The early church was largely comprised of Jews as well which is seen heavily throughout the book of Acts. One of the first conversions recorded in Acts 2:41 included 3000 souls who were likely Jewish. With that we can conclude that God has not rejected Israel.


Furthermore most of the new testament authors were Jews as well. The bible is Jews writing to other Jews about the fulfillment of their own scriptures. As gentiles we are grafted in, plugged into this vine but Israel is the natural branches as Paul will get into later in this chapter.


God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. - Romans 11:2a


 It's important that you read this plainly. Some will read this verse with presuppositions adding meaning to it that simply isn't there. What this is saying is God has not rejected His people whom He knew beforehand. Pre-knowing does not equate to pre-determining. To know of something beforehand doesn't mean to make it happen beforehand but rather be aware of something from times past. The greek word for foreknew here is proginóskó which simply means "to know beforehand". So in short, God has not rejected His people whom He already knew.


Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed Your prophets, they have torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.” - Romans 11:2b - 3


This is quoted from 1 Kings 19 and notice what Paul highlights here, that Elijah pleads "against Israel" not for Israel, but against Israel. Why? Because Israel had rejected God and had rejected him and now were seeking to kill him.


Just before this was the Mount Carmel incident. Elijah gathered the people of Israel together and asked them "How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him." (1 Kin. 18:21). The people didn't respond and Elijah said to the people I'm only one prophet of the Lord and Baal has 450 prophets, let's each make an alter with a sacrifice on it and put wood under it, but do not light it on fire, then you all call on the name of your god, and I'll call on the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, He is God. All the people agreed this was a good idea so they did. The 450 prophets of Baal went first, praying and leaping around the alter, crying out, and cutting themselves, and did this all day long. Elijah even mocked them during this saying "Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened." (1 Kings 18:27).


Then Elijah went but first he had the people near him poor 12 pitchers of water on the alter and the wood so that water was flowing from it even filling the trench around the alter. Then Elijah prayed (1 King 18:36-37) and the alter was consumed by the fire of the Lord, even consuming the water that had filled the trench. This didn't make Baal look bad, Baal doesn't exist. This was God showing the reality of His presence and making Himself known to the people of Israel and exposing the foolishness of the false prophets who were leading them astray.


Now Elijah may have been encouraged, thinking now Israel will follow the true God having seen what happened but immediately after we see in 1 Kings 19 that king Ahab told his wife Jezebel (who led Israel astray in the first place) what happened and she, the queen of Israel, sent a messenger to Elijah saying the fate that befell the 450 prophets would fall on him by this time tomorrow. Then Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. Talk about going from a high to a low. Ultimate Elijah settled under a juniper tree and prayed that he might die saying "It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life...", massive discouragement. Feeling like he is the only one left who loves God (1 Kin. 19:14), that everyone else has backslid, he pleads with God against Israel. God then commands him to anoint his replacement Elisha (1 Kin. 19:16), tells Elijah how He plans to let Israel implode on itself (1 Kin. 19:17) but then offers this encouragement.


But what is the divine response to him? “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” - Romans 11:2b-4


God informed Elijah that he is not alone, that there are yet 7000 whom God will spare from the impending implosion that have not bowed to Baal nor kissed him (since he was an idol). This likely would have encouraged Elijah knowing his ministry was indeed not in vain. That Elijah's call to the Israelites to forsake the idol of Baal had some fruition.


What did God foreknow? (meaning, what did God know beforehand?) That there were 7000 Israelites who didn't bow the knee to Baal. God foreknew this about them and therefore He kept them. That those 7000 would not fall to the same implosion about to come upon the rest of Israel, who even though they saw God bring lightning from above to light the alter, they no longer saw fit to acknowledge Him (cf Rom. 1:28) and turn away from their idol Baal. God chose to keep those whom He foreknew. Peter actually pairs this foreknowledge with God's choice the opening greeting of his first letter:


1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. - 1 Peter 1:1-2 (emphasis mine)


Did these men who did not bow their knee to Baal earn God's keeping them? No. There is no obligation from God to have to keep these men. But God chose to keep them according to His gracious choice according to His foreknowledge.


In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. - Romans 11:5


"In the same way", in other words, faith works similarly. It says to Abraham that Abraham believed in God and it was credited (or "counted" per some translations) to Him as righteousness (Gen. 15:6, Rom. 4:3). "Credited" meaning it was given as a gift, not earned, but rather given on the condition that Abraham had faith. Did Abraham's faith earn Him righteousness? No. Faith earns you nothing (see our study Faith is Not a Work). But God credits (not pays) righteousness on the condition of faith. Grace does 100% of the saving, and that grace is credited to those that believe.


But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. - Romans 11:6


This verse destroys the notion of grace and works somehow working together and points out how that is impossible, that they are a dichotomy. Please who view salvation as grace + works are really saying grace is a coupon for salvation and not the free gift that it is. They view grace that helps get the price of salvation down to where they can afford it with their works but grace doesn't work like that. It's either free or it's not grace. Jehovah Witnesses, Catholics, Mormons, and anyone else who thinks we add anything to our salvation, who thinks we contribute to it, who thinks we have a part to play toward earning it, needs to heed what is written here. Grace and works are oil and water, they don't mix. It is either one way or the other but impossible to be both which is the very thing these false gospels try and do.


If faith earned grace it would no longer be grace because grace is defined as undeserved favor. If faith earned grace then it would be deserved favor which isn't grace at all but rather a wage, a payment, a recompense for the faith which earned it. But if it's by grace then the very fact it's by grace, defined as undeserved favor, testifies that it's not according to what's earned because the recipient did not earn it. If the recipient earned it than grace is no longer grace.


Calvinists might come up to you and ask why are you saved and your neighbor is not, whereas you might reply that your neighbor doesn't have Jesus, and that is indeed the difference (John 14:6). They usually will then ask follow up questions like why do you have Jesus and they do not? Whereas you might say you responded in faith, and again you'd be correct. They would then ask you where that faith comes from, whereas you could say God, where the Calvinist says "ah ha!" so then God gave you faith which he didn't give your neighbor and therefore you are chosen and your neighbor is not and they would give a huzzah for Calvinism. Or you could say faith is something you did whereas the Calvinist would call you out for helping save yourself, like God did 99% of the saving but you did the 1% which is faith and therefore you would have reason to boast.


The problem is, in both of these scenarios they've made faith out to be a work. Faith is merely trusting in Christ who does 100% of the saving. It's like if it costs one zillion dollars to get into heaven and Jesus gave you a check to pay it all but you needed to sign the back before the bank of heaven would accept it. Did you make the check worth more by signing it? No. Does anyone boast about signing the back of the check? No. There's nothing to brag about there. Jesus paid it all for you to get into heaven, faith is simply signing the check. Faith doesn't contribute to the dollar amount, nor is faith seen by the bank of heaven as paying toward the amount needed. When the bank of heaven collects payment for that check they are gonna see the account number belongs to Jesus Christ and they are going to extract the one zillion dollars from it meaning Jesus paid it all and therefore it is solely by His gracious choice that you get into heaven. Jesus does 100% of the saving and when you trust in that you endorse the very fact that Jesus does 100% of the saving. Having faith actually nullifies boasting (Rom. 3:27) because having faith means you acknowledge you did nothing to contribute toward your salvation. Endorsing the check that Jesus gives you means you acknowledge you need it. True faith doesn't breed boasting, it breeds humility.


Paul is showing how just as your salvation is secured by grace so Israel's future is also secured by grace. Because it's according to grace, they can't screw it up, nor can they boast. As it is with us and our salvation. The promise to Abraham was without condition, in other words, God said He was simply going to do it (period). Paul has been walking us through just how God is bringing about that promise and reaffirming throughout Romans that this is according to His grace alone.

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This chapter is one of the very few post-Messiah writings from God in regards to Israel's future. To Gentiles this chapter may seem to not apply, but what happens to Israel is quite important to the gentiles as well. What happens to them is tied in with what happens with us, and what happens with us, as you will see later, is tied in with what happens to them. Understanding what happens to Israel brings understanding to other books of the bible such as Acts, Galatians, Hebrews, and even offer more understanding to many of the parables of Jesus, and for that matter, why Jesus chose to speak in parables.


What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; - Romans 11:7


"What then?" Paul, as he's done many times thus far, is answering the anticipated objections of the reader and fellow kinsmen. In the first 6 verses Paul speaks about how God has not cast off His people and then backs that with scripture. Having established what God has not done with Israel, Paul now goes on to talk about what God is doing and going to do with Israel which is likely a burning question for the Israelite, especially those who believe. So Paul asks it for them before he proceeds to answer.


"What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained". Paul is speaking of Israel as a whole here and we saw what they failed to obtain in Romans 10:3 which was their own righteousness before God through the law. "But those who were chosen obtained it". Some translations say "the elect obtained it". You can deduce from this verse who the "elect" or who the "chosen" are. There are basically two groups Paul lays out here, and since he is speaking in regards to Israel as the beginning of this verse and chapter make clear we know this is not being applied to the whole world but rather specifically Israel and therefore these are two groups of people within Israel as a whole. Those two groups can be defined by those who obtained it and those who have not. The group that obtained it are the "chosen", the remnant that is still present in Paul's day (Rom. 11:5), and the larger group of the Israelites that have failed to obtain it which Paul labels "the rest". The rest of what? The rest of Israel. The elect of Israel obtained it and the rest of Israel did not.

Therefore keep in mind the verses that follow apply to Israel and Paul will explain the "why" in a moment.


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.” - Romans 11:8

Stupor: Unable to think or an inability to think clearly about this issue.


Question: If man is unable to respond to the gospel, if man is inherently blind as some Calvinists claim, then why does God have to blind anyone? If man comes completely dead, if their doctrine of "total depravity" is true, then aren't all men totally depraved, totally blind, totally unable to respond to the gospel and it is this way by default? If that's the case, why did God intervene in the rest of Israel as to blind them? Why did God need to blind those who are already blind?


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.” - Romans 11:9-10


"Table become a snare", in other words, the blessings you're given end up tripping you up. Wisdom (worldly) trips up the wise (Rom. 1:22, Job 5:13, 1 Cor. 3:20), craftiness trips up the crafty (1 Cor. 3:19), and riches trip up the rich (Prov. 30:8-9, Matt. 19:22-24). Are riches themselves a trap? No (Prov. 10:22, Ecc. 5:19, 1 Tim. 6:17), but a love of money is (1 Tim. 6:10). Is wisdom itself a snare? No, but if one becomes arrogant and boastful it is (1 Cor. 4:7, 8:1). How do you know if your blessings have become a snare? Well, have those things caused you to turn from God? (1 Kin. 11:4) In other words, if God called you to forsake those things and follow Him, would you so easily part with them? If you can't, or even if you hesitate at the idea, then yes, it has become a snare (Gen. 19:26) If you can't so easily part with your riches and give it all to the poor, then yes those riches have wormed their way into your heart. This is why the Rich young ruler "grieved" (Matt. 19:22) when Jesus asked him to sell everything. A person only grieves when they are asked to part with something they love. Are you a person known to be wise, knowledgeable, superior? Has that wisdom caused you to think more highly of yourself than you ought? (1 Cor 3:18, 10:12, Rom. 12:3). Would you part with that reputation and become a fool for Christ's sake? (1 Cor. 4:10) To forsake the approval of men for the approval of God? (Gal. 1:10, John 12:42-43).


Question: As you read this is there anything prompting in your spirit, a blessing in your life that maybe has become a snare?


We should be deliberate to pray that God would remove snares from us even if that means removal of the blessings which have become the snare. Even Paul was given a thorn in the flesh to keep him from exalting himself in lieu of the surpassing greatness of the revelations given to him. Agur in Proverbs 30:8-9 prayed that God would not give him riches but only give him his portion so that he wouldn't turn from God. Jacob was blessed with a dislocated hip (Gen. 32:25).


At first glance these prophetic verses Paul references from Isaiah 29 and Psalms 69 seems rough but good news is coming for "the rest" of Israel. However, God has chosen to use them in their spoiling for another purpose as He saw fit to do (see our study on the potter and the clay). This hardening of Israel, this spirit of stupor given to them is what is known as judicial hardening which we spoke on in our Romans 9 study in regards to Pharoah. Judicial means because of your actions. This judicial hardening is God's sinless use of man's sinful actions. This is consistent with what we read in Romans 1. "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened" (1:21), Professing to be wise, they became fools..."(1:22), "Therefore God gave them over...(1:24), "For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions..." (1:26), "And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind..." (1:28).


The spirit of stupor is from Isaiah 69:10 and when Paul quotes David about their table becoming a snare he's referencing Psalm 69:22. If you read these in context you will see both of these are because of their sin. Psalm 69 is a Messianic Psalm, and David is a Messianic figure, and David is saying because they have rejected him, God's anointed one, let their table become a snare. As it was with David who was a messianic figure it also is with Jesus who is the actual Messiah. Because of their rejection of the Messiah, the anointed One, God gave them a spirit of stupor. Israel's unbelief and rejection of Jesus has resulted in them being ensnared by that same Blessing.


30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 just as it is written,

Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense,
And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” - Romans 9:30-33


God is allotting to them to stumble because of their unbelief, not because God hates them, but because He has a greater redemptive purpose in mind as we'll see in the next verse. This is God's sinless use of sinful actions. Like Leighton's analogy we covered in Roman's 9:13-18, the police officer hides the truth of his presence to catch speeders with the desire of bringing safer roads for all. So in one sense the officer wants the speeders to continue to speed as to catch them speeding, but his ultimate purpose is the same, to stop speeders for the safety of everyone, for the safety of the speeder and for the safety of everyone else.


This may be similar to why Jesus commanded people to not tell who He was (Mark. 1:43-44, Luke 8:56, Mark 7:36), and why He spoke to them in parables.


10 And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” 11 Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. 12 For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. 13 Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says,

You will keep on hearing, but will not understand;
You will keep on seeing, but will not perceive;
15 For the heart of this people has become dull,
With their ears they scarcely hear,
And they have closed their eyes,
Otherwise they would see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
And understand with their heart and return,
And I would heal them.’

16 But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. 17 For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. - Matthew 13:10-17


This is why Christ and Christians call for people to repent. To repent means "to change one's mind". We're inviting those who are separated from God to change their mind, specifically and most importantly about Jesus. Remember the potter and the clay from Jeremiah 18? The potter's original intent was not to make a vessel of wrath, but when it spoiled in his hands, the potter remade the vessel for another purpose.


Jesus spoke in parables so that those who would later crucify Him wouldn't be swayed from doing so. Even Peter was rebuked for opposing God's will for His Son on the cross (Matt. 26:52-54, John 18:10-11) and Satan rebuked for his influence of Peter on these matters (Matt. 16:21-23), yet this was the very purpose Christ came to this hour (John 12:27).


22 Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— 23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. - Acts 2:22-23 (emphasis mine).


but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; - 1 Corinthians 2:7-8 (emphasis mine)


If the Israelites were made to know, if the rulers had understood, they would not have crucified Jesus. Imagine if that had been the case though. What if the Israelites who shouted "crucify Him" (Luke 23:21) and those in authority didn't carry that out? I can't fathom the catastrophic consequences for God's loved ones had they not done that. If Christ wasn't crucified then there's no atonement, there's no sacrifice, and we'd all be destined to pay for our own sins. If Christ wasn't crucified there would be no hope for mankind whatsoever and the law would then enact it's inescapable justice on us.


11 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. - Romans 11:11


"Did the stumble in order that they might fall?" In other words, is Paul asking if God wanted this hardening with the sole purpose of the Israelites plummeting to their doom? No. That is not in God's heart (Eze. 33:11) and that is what Paul is denying. Rather he tells us here that all of this was for a greater redemptive purpose to result in "riches for the world" (Rom. 11:12). "Through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles". This is the beginning of an exciting section of Romans 11 where Paul lets us in on a mystery of God (Rom. 11:25) to bring salvation to the Gentiles and through the mercy shown to the Gentiles they too may also be shown mercy, one is connected to the other (Rom. 11:31). "To make Israel jealous" a jealousy meant to drive them toward salvation (cf. Rom. 11:14).


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! - Romans 11:12


If the world received riches through the failure of the Jews, how much more the world would become even more rich when the fulfillment of the Jews comes! So the big question is, what are these riches? Well, the mystery being revealed here is twofold. First, that which comes through their transgression which is "reconciliation of the world" (v15), and second, that which comes through their fulfillment which for the world is "life from the dead". The latter is a bit more mysterious and debated by scholars, but if you consider the glory of the riches brought through Israel's transgression, their rejection of the Messiah, and how you, today, in Christ, have reconciliation by their transgression, then consider just how valuable that is (Matt. 13:44-46, Phil. 3:8). Consider then what riches the world would reap that exceeds this which will be ushered in by Israel's fulfillment, their acceptance of the Messiah, or rather the Messiah's acceptance of them, which Paul reveals is "life from the dead". Life from the dead, literally a revival among the Jews!


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. - Romans 11:13-14


Paul is making it clear he is now speaking to the Gentiles in regards his fellow countrymen. You see in Acts Paul going from town to town and when he'd get there he would often go to the Jews first, then after their rejection he would bring the gospel to the gentiles. This was a repeated thing many times in Acts. Though Paul went to the Jews he understood he was called to be an apostle to the gentiles, or as put here "an apostle of Gentiles" but by his own proclamation it was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to the Jews to fulfill scripture (Acts 13:46). Which is fitting as the gospel belonged to the Jews. Gentiles are the outsiders getting grafted in (v19). Yet Gentiles are not merely an after thought with God since this is a plan from old.


Question: How does Paul in magnifying his ministry which is being an apostle of Gentiles potentially provoke his fellow Jews to jealousy thereby saving some of them?


You ever love something so much that you think about everything around it, everything that's involved with it, everything it's involved with? I think Paul, who has expressed his deep concern for his fellow countrymen (Rom. 9:1-3, 10:1), a love for them so that he would wish even himself be accursed that they may be saved, is thinking that by magnifying his ministry to the Gentiles there will be more opportunity for those Gentiles to witness to his fellow Jew and by the blessings given to them provoke his countrymen to jealousy that they too may consider the gospel. Paul loved the Jewish people, it would be no surprise that they would constantly on his mind even though they persecute him.


Picture this magnification for a minute in real life. This letter was written decades after Christ was crucified and had ascended into heaven, so some time has gone by since Jesus walked among them. To a society that prides themselves on knowledge and citing different Rabbis and associating themselves with different teachers (1 Cor. 1:12, 3:4), they would have a very difficult time not recognizing that Jesus was the most influential Jew who had ever lived. If that didn't frustrate them enough, now a bunch of Gentiles are going around teaching them their own scriptures with unveiled hearts! (2 Cor. 3:14-16). Jews priding themselves on their scriptures and their law are being schooled by Gentiles who were raised without it, not only teaching them how Christ is the fulfillment but even claiming to have a direct relationship with God because of Jesus, and by His doing they are without blemish, faultless to stand before the throne.


Could that make them a bit jealous? I could see that. Paul isn't wanting to provoke jealousy for the sake of jealousy alone but rather that by that jealousy save some. Paul has not lost hope that his fellow countrymen can be saved. Some people today believe that God has chosen (or chosen by way of omission) these Israelites specifically to be unbelieving and therefore without hope. Paul disagrees. As we discussed through Romans 9 and 10, these men were not selected for destruction but rather God used them to bring salvation to the Gentiles and now God is using Gentiles to bring salvation to the Jews. This is why Paul rejects the notion that they stumbled so as to fall (in the sense they were ruined without repair). If that were the case then there wouldn't be a future hope but this very section of scripture speaks of their hope!


Let me argue this point a little further before we continue which will also set the stage for coming scriptures. God did allow men to be blinded arbitrarily but specifically those who have rejected believing in Jesus.


in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. - 2 Corinthians 4:4


Furthermore, as a man breathes he may change his mind about Christ and when he does his eyes are opened to see the truth of Christ in scripture!


 14 But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. 15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; 16 but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. - 2 Corinthians 3:14-16


Romans 9:20, 23 speak of the condition of why these Israelites were broken off which was their unbelief and likewise how they can be grafted back in, namely, if they do not continue in their unbelief. The prodigal son is able to come home. Those who shout crucify Him later were saved. God actually used Paul to demonstrate this very reality of His character. Paul writes to Timothy: "yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life."


For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? - Romans 11:15


God is using Israel for good regardless. Their rejection brought reconciliation and their acceptance, life from the dead. Similarly the Potter in Jeremiah 18 when he was crafting on the wheel set out to make something. But the vessel he was making spoiled in his hand and therefore he remade it "as it pleased the potter to make" (Jer. 18:4). While the Potter set out to make something that pleased Him, when it spoiled, He found a way to remake it into another way that yet pleased Him. God loves Israel, God also loves the world. God is using unbelieving Israel to bring salvation to the Gentiles. Amazingly, and in this I believe Paul delights, God is using Gentiles now to bring salvation to Israel both presently in provoking them to Israel and future looking when their fulfillment comes in resulting in even greater riches for all!


16 If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too. - Romans 11:16


This is an analogy I believe Paul is using to drive home the point he just made and lead into the point he's headed into. Paul is arguing that as God made holy ancient Israel, namely the fathers, then the rest of Israel is set apart as well. In other words I believe God's faithfulness to Israel is the same as His faithfulness to us, that God who began a good work in them will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (cf Phil. 1:6). Paul then gets very detailed with this analogy.


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. - Romans 11:17-18


This one convicted me while doing this study.. Through this study I've been doing some extracurricular research on modern day Israel exploring the veil that Paul said remains over the eyes of modern day Jews (2 Cor. 3:14) and I came across this video of a modern Jewish teacher in Jerusalem wrestling with a question someone asked him on a bus in regards to what makes a Jew a Jew. As I watched him wrestle I realized how much I take for granted the things God has made known to us who've turned to Christ. Seeing it from a Jewish viewpoint should have humbled me but instead it gave me this sense of some special "in" club, a boastful sense of superiority. Then a fellow believer in the comments section addressed Christians and reminded us the importance of this very verse above in that we shouldn't be arrogant as if Christians are the ones supporting the root, but that it's just the opposite. The fact is, we are the outsiders who are plugged in. They are the root and we Gentiles are being grafted into their tree, not the other way around. I gave a like to the commenter and thanked God for His grace on me. I hope more often I will stop learning the hard way, but I thank God for putting up with me even though I'm difficult.


Us Gentiles are not the foundation of God's plan, we are part of it but we are not the root. We are made holy because the first fruits were holy. God established Israel and through that grafted us in, not the other way around. There is quite a bit of persecution toward Israel, even from Christians, this is a very wrong stance to take. In so doing we're just chopping at the base of the tree we're grafted into. Love on Israel and you love on yourself. Pray for Israel and the whole world benefits. We are holy because the first lump was holy. In light of this, consider this interaction between Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman.


21 Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.” 23 But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.” 24 But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” 26 And He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 But she said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once. - Matthew 15:21-28


This woman had more understanding of this reality than any I've ever met. I mean, sure we know now because God has told us and hindsight is 20/20, but she wasn't reading the new Testament yet. Jesus even noted her faith in these matters. More than that, like when Abraham offering up his son Isaac, I believe Jesus ignored her not because of a cold shoulder but rather that the prophecy that came out of it would play out. Jesus, once this woman's prophetic revelation is complete, responds with endearing compassion "O woman, your faith is great" almost as if His heart was already with her yet deliberately holding back for the sake of this event.


19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” - Romans 11:19


You cannot graft another branch in without severing an existing branch first that the grafted branch would have a spot to be grafted into. Also take note these branches were broken off, they did not die and fall off, they were deliberately removed.


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. - Romans 11:20-21


They were broken off specifically for their unbelief. This is a faith issue. Faith is the condition whether you are Jew or Gentile. Faith = stand, unbelief = broken off. "Do not be conceited, but fear". Someone may be tempted, like I mentioned above, to feel superior as if God picked you over them. That is not the case. Furthermore, you should be fearful because God deliberately broke off those who were natural branches so don't think he won't also remove a branch that by nature is contrary to the root.


This is a good warning to churches that stray from the faith. Israel strayed and branches were broken off, the church then shouldn't be conceited to think they are good but should conduct themselves in fear. Many times you see church splits. It happens a lot. While on one hand it's devastating yet I wonder how many times it's a period of branches being broken off and a remnant being preserved. When people stop contending for the faith, when they shift to a business model and no longer a model that trusts in God, what then? Conduct ourselves in fear of the Lord and guard yourselves against pride.


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. - Romans 11:22


"Behold". Take time to deliberately notice how God is vastly kind and yet deliberately severe. Some have a skewed idea of who God is either believing God lacks kindness like a harsh taskmaster or that He's a pushover who can be bullied to get what you want. God is both holy and therefore completely and utterly hates sin, even to the breaking off of people into damnation, and He is gracious, to completely and wholly forgive those who continue in His kindness that they may abide with Him for all eternity.


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. - Romans 11:22-23


God's kindness remains available even to the most hardness of hearts. What's amazing is, even someone who has taken on all the luggage of bad decisions, even someone who like the prodigal forsakes their father and spends their inheritance on loose living, even someone who has contempt toward God, should they turn to the Lord they will be grafted in, veil lifted, and they will be born again. As long as the patience of God stands the kindness of God is available to any and all who want it.


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? - Romans 11:24


Amazingly, this root us Gentiles are grafted into supports us yet we remain Gentiles. A Fuji apple tree branch grafted into a Honey Crisp apple tree is still a Fuji apple tree branch. We are branches from wild olive trees and are contrary to the nature of a cultivated olive tree, but God made it work though it is not natural. How much more compatible will a natural branch be grafted back into not only a tree of the same nature, but back into the very tree they were broken off from. 


Speaking to us Gentiles think of this. When you became a Christian did you fully understand scripture? When you read the Old Testament did things all click for you right at first or were some things difficult to understand? Perhaps some things are still difficult to make sense of. As we mature as Christians more and more make sense because we are being cultivated now. But Israel started cultivated. Imagine when the veil is lifted from their eyes as they turn to the Lord (2 Cor. 3:14-16) how much more make sense to them who were raised in scripture, who were raised in the culture of Israel, who were raised in the promises given to the fathers. They are already cultivated. Us Gentiles get together and maybe some of us more mature in our walk with God are able to teach on Israel and God's dealings with them, but we're still a wild olive branch by nature even though we're grafted in to a cultivated olive tree. So much doesn't naturally come to us as it would a cultivated olive branch grafted into a cultivated olive tree.


Yet as a Christian we are indeed grafted in and therefore connected to Jesus from whom all wisdom flows (Col. 2:3). Therefore we have fellowship with Israel's Messiah and so for a time now we have knowledge they do not. We have a relationship with God they do not, and a depth with God they do not, but we should not become arrogant. We are adapted into that relationship (thank God for that!) but they are cultivated for it. Just wait until the partial hardening is lifted! As Gentiles we study the bible trying to catch up on the very things they were raised with and cultivated into.


Paul is speaking to us Gentiles (Rom. 11:13a) so that we may properly see God's plan and not become conceited or arrogant toward Israel but with the grace given us we should conduct ourselves in humility and fear. Though in this current time we are gifted with unveiled eyes and are currently partakers of the root while natural branches have been broken off, yet we are in no way superior to those natural branches so as to think we're more valuable to God. Metaphorically speaking it was not natural for God to do this in order to offer salvation to the Gentiles yet that is what God did. Paul seems to be steering us away from pride in ourselves and away from contempt toward Israel.


It's interesting being a Gentile among other Gentiles trying to understand what God is doing with Israel. The very mystery being spoken of in the next verse, Romans 11:25 (which starts our next study) is something often missed by Gentiles. While Israel is temporarily hardened from seeing the truth, us Gentiles are simply uneducated. While having Christ we have the Spirit teaching us (1 John 2:27), but until we are taught.. watch all of us flounder around such difficult deep truths of God, watch the more mature versions of ourselves look back at our previous naivety and chuckle at our lack of understanding. If you happen to have a true Judeo-Christian in your bible study, let them teach and you'll be taught by someone who both was cultivated for and is connected to Him whom from all wisdom flows (Col. 2:3).

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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; - Romans 11:25


"For I do not want you, brethren" This is a message, a warning to believers, to Christians, to those who have become partakers of the diving gifts of God (2 Pet. 1:4).


"To be uninformed of this mystery" This is largely what Paul has been walking us through in these last three chapters of Romans (9-11). This is in reference to something formerly hidden or obscure which is now revealed by God for all to know and understand (Rom. 16:25, 1 Cor. 2:7, 4:1, 13:2, 14:2, 15:51, Eph. 1:9, 3:3-4, 9, 5:32, 6:19, col 1:26-27, 2:2, 4:3, 2 Thess. 2:7, 1 Tim.3:9,16)


"So that" The reason Paul is informing us of this mystery isn't just to reveal the mystery, but proper knowledge of this mystery should bring a sense of humility.


"You will not be wise in your own estimation" Jesus gave stern warnings to hypocritical Jews, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" (Matt 23:13-29). These Pharisees would often hold those not in their social circles with contempt (Matt. 9:11, Luke 18:11), and they would expect others to hold to laws and rules that they themselves couldn't keep (Acts 15:10). Basically they would look down their noses (figuratively speaking) toward Gentiles. Jesus exposed this foolishness. Now, Paul is warning us to not fall into that same foolish error. That we, who for now being given the Holy Spirit through God's grace, should not look down our noses at the Jews nor should we hold in contempt the Pharisees.

Note: It's ok to judge sin but it's not ok to judge the sinner. We have to be careful when we are judging sin to not do so with a inner arrogance toward the one doing it. This too is judging the sinner.


I remember as a new believer hearing about Israel wandering through the desert wondering how could they not get it! The fact is, without God, we're just as fallible. Just because we have been enlightened by God's Spirit, God's word, we shouldn't boast as if we are superior because of it. We have indeed received enlightenment, but that's just it, we received it.


For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? - 1 Corinthians 4:7


If we, who were wild olive branches (Rom. 11:24) were grafted in to what God is doing, then just wait until those who were broken off by nature, those we may arrogantly hold in contempt, those that are by nature the natural cultivated olive branches, just wait until they are grafted back in. We Gentiles were adapted to fit by God's doing, but they are naturally compatible. By extension we partake of the blessings that they were set apart for. The very reason we are set apart is because we are the remaining lump of dough from the original dough God used to form them (Rom. 11:16). We are sanctified because God set out to sanctify them. So if as a Gentile you feel any sense of anti-Semitism, take heed Paul's warning.


"Partial", not total. It is not all of Israel that has been hardened, even today we see a remnant of Israel who has accepted the Messiah.


"Hardening". The Judicial hardening defined as God's sinless use of man's sinful actions. God is making firm unbelieving Israel in their stubborn position, in order to temporarily prevent them from recognizing the Messiah for the sake of us Gentiles. See our previous study, and especially our studies through Romans 9:13-18, and Romans 9:19-23 or an in-depth look at what this is and why.


"Until" This partial hardening of Israel is temporary. One day it will be lifted, we don't know what day but we know such day will coincide with the fullness of the Gentiles.


"Fullness of the Gentiles", The total number of the elect Gentiles. When this number is reached the blindness, the partial hardening of Israel ceases. We've seen in our study through Romans, especially 9-11 that this hardness has resulted in the blindness of Israelites from seeing the Messiah and other accompanying revelations, therefore when this hardening ceases we can expect just the opposite to occur.


My crude analogies:


Right now a dam has been created by God allowing a remnant of the water through, thereby also allowing the Gentiles entry into the river which otherwise had no room. Right now most of the water is being held back by this hardened dam. A glorious day when the dam is removed and not only does the river flow, but all of the water that has been held back all this time is allowed to flow! However, such a dam must stay in place until the fullness of the Gentiles have made safe passage.


There is only One Narrow Gate entering into Heaven. Many Israelites, though having instruction to enter through the Narrow Gate have failed to heed those instructions (but not all). So the Bouncer (God) halted intervening with them and instead commissioned His staff to send word to those in the streets, even those who did not have an invitation, that they would come, and that without cost. Once all those in the streets respond that are going to respond, then the Bouncer will once again focus on Israel, ushering them in until their numbers are complete.


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 My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.” - Romans 11:26-27


Some feel that Israel represents the church here but that would be confusing since the verse before that Paul contrasts Israel from the Gentiles and it would be unlikely that he would change the definition of Israel in the middle of making a point. Paul is quoting from the end of Isaiah 59 here, verses 20 and 21. Interestingly the quote "When I take away their sins." is not being quoted but rather I believe Paul is paraphrasing the concept of what is being spoken of in these passages from Isaiah. He is properly quoting what the intended message is therefore not perverting the text but rather bring us right to the revelation of the text. Like Jesus explaining parables to His disciples (Luke 8:9-15, Matt. 13:18-23, Mark 4:13-20), Paul brought us to the conclusion.


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; - Romans 11:28


There are two points of view here. One is from that of the gospel and how it looks at Israel and one is from God's choice and how His choice looks at Israel. There are two different points of view, but there is only one object, that is Israel. The good news sees Israel as enemies, why? for Gentiles sake (cf Rom. 9:13). However God's choice views Israel as beloved, why? For the sake of the fathers. The same fathers mentioned in Romans 9:5, namely, Ancient Israel. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The same Israel who may be seen as enemies of the gospel are also beloved for the sake of the fathers.


When you see Jews reject the gospel you aren't also to adopt a rejecting attitude toward them as God is reminding us they are beloved. It is actually for our sake that they are currently enemies of the gospel. When they are attacking Christianity it's not because God is against Christianity but rather because God is for Christians. As their ultimate sin in rejecting Christ resulted in His dying for our sins, as God ordained it, furthermore their present transgression in rejecting Christianity (the gospel) God has ordained for our sake.


29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. - Romans 11:29


According to God's choice (as we covered in Romans 9) they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. God's gifts, promises, callings, are irrevocable therefore not because of Israel's merit are they beloved but rather because God in love made a covenant to Abraham (Gen. 17:7-8) which is reaffirmed to Isaac (Gen. 26:3-5), and Jacob (Gen. 28:13-15). These three are the fathers (Lev. 26:42), it does not repeat after that which is why Jacob is the namesake of Israel (Gen. 35:10). This covenant, this calling of God is irrevocable. Paul is stating the fact that God made an unconditional promise and God cannot then take it back on the basis of a condition. Paul argues that it is solely on this promise that Israel stands otherwise it would have gone the way of Sodom and would have resembled Gomorrah (Rom. 9:29).


Some may argue that Israel failed so God's calling is nullified but this was an unconditional calling, and gifts by nature are unconditional otherwise they are not gifts but a wage. If one were to argue that the law and the rules thereof nullified the promise of God then you could apply what Paul said in Galatians 3:17 "What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise."


Some error in thinking this verse is about gifts of God to the individual but if read in context it seems clear to me it's about Israel. That said, the same God is our God. The concept that God's gifts and promises to you are irrevocable remains true. The same God who promises to remain faithful to Israel; the very same God who gives them grace after grace through their betrayals, doubts, transgressions, offenses, is the same God who is faithful to you! (2 Tim. 2:13, Phil. 1:6).


30 For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, - Romans 11:30


A summary verse of what we've been discussing. Gentiles in the pre-Christian era were disobedient to the knowledge of God, but now because of Israel's unbelief Gentiles have been shown mercy.


31 so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. - Romans 11:31


Israel was in an elevated position, Gentiles were the disobedient outsiders. However Israel moved to a state of disobedience resembling that of Gentiles. Therefore God has shown us Gentiles mercy, partly to make them jealous. Now that God has expanded His grace to include Gentiles, unbelieving Israelites may receive mercy in the same way. It's not as though the latter act of mercy is like the former though, the former was a result of Israel being broken off, the latter act of mercy will be because the Gentiles were included. The latter mercy mysteriously results from the mercy shown to the Gentiles.


32 For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all. - Romans 11:32


"Has shut", the Greek word is sunekleisen which means "to shut together, i.e. enclose" used in Luke 5:6 referring to catching fish in a net, and it's the same word used in a similar passage of scripture found in Galatians 3:22. It's the idea that we are all in custody, all in prison, put there by God but not with the intent to see us rot in Jail but rather that He may show us mercy. For illustrative purposes, if a man does wrong, but remains free, how then will mercy mean anything to that man. But if the man is caught, convicted, and put in prison, he then can be shown mercy by the One who has the power to pardon and release him from prison.


This does not mean all are pardoned. Galatians 3:22 states the condition "might be given to those who believe". Notice the word "may" show mercy.


By imprisoning us all God was able to set a common term of release for all. That condition is not by behaving better or doing good things, but solely available to the one who receive His mercy, that is, heeds the gospel and believes in Christ.

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