Romans 11 Study Notes
Here are my notes from Romans 11. Enjoy!
Chapter 11 has a fair amount of disagreement in some of the passages and it also wraps up this 3-chapter section in the middle of Romans.
Frédéric Louis Godet writes, “This chapter embraces the development of two principal ideas, and then a conclusion. The first idea is this: The rejection of Israel is not total, but partial (Rom 11:1-10). It bears only on that portion referred to in the demonstration of God's right, given in chap. 9. The second: This partial rejection even is not eternal, but temporary (Rom 11:11-32). For after it has served the various ends which God had in view in decreeing it, it shall come to an end, and the entire nation shall be restored, and with the Gentiles shall realize the final unity of the kingdom of God.”
1 I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
So in the previous verse at the end of chapter 10, Paul quotes from Isaiah about how Israel has disobeyed God and so God has rejected them as we saw in the last two chapters. Now, Paul emphatically denounces the charge that ethnic Israel is entirely cast out and without hope; it isn’t a total rejection. The proof of this is that Paul himself is a saved Christian with Jewish heritage.
2 God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel saying,
3 Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.
So God is clearly not done with the Jews who were His people in the Old Testament, but today Christians are called the chosen or elect of God. Even though most of Israel HAS turned away from God to pursue their own righteousness, there is still a remnant. Elijah cried to God that in his day there were none who followed God except himself…look at the next verse:
4 But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.
These verses are quoted from 1 Kings 19, and the point being made here is that just as God preserved a remnant, a small percentage of believing Israel back in Elijah’s day, a remnant also exists today which the next verse says.
5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
John Chrysostom says here, “If we are all saved by grace, some might argue, why is everyone not saved? ‘Because they did not want to be’ is the answer. For grace, even though it is grace, saves the willing, not those who refuse it and turn away from it.”
Grace and works are incompatible. One drives out the other and works require compensation, but grace is a free gift out of love. This is the running theme through all the book of Romans so far.
7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.
The Jews sought their own righteousness by works, and so they didn’t obtain it (see Romans 9:31; 10:3). By the way pretty much all other Bible versions have “hardened” instead of “blinded”. But why were they hardened? Because they were rebellious and rejected salvation.
8 (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.
This is quoted from Isaiah 29:10, and you can see similar verbiage in Deuteronomy 29:4, Isaiah 6:10, Matthew 13:14-15, John 12:40 and perhaps some other places. The Jews in the time of Jesus saw His miracles, yet didn’t receive Him as Lord. We can say that they were hardened in order to accomplish His will in being crucified. Jewish hardening has other purposes as well that we’ll see in just a couple verses.
9 And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them:
10 Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.
These verses are quoted from Psalm 69:22-23, and it’s interesting that the verse before (21) is a pretty clear reference to Jesus on the cross: “They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” Then the passage mentions a stumblingblock which is Jesus as mentioned back in Romans 9:32.
Albert Barnes says the meaning of these prophetic verses seems to mean that the Jews’ “very enjoyments, their national and private privileges, had been the means of alienating them from God; had been a snare to them; and was the cause of their blindness and infidelity. This also is introduced in the psalm as a punishment for giving him vinegar to drink; and their treatment of the Messiah was the immediate cause why all this blindness had come upon the Jews.”
11 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.
Now this verse 11 is very important and goes along with Romans 10:19. Is their blindness or hardening or stumbling a complete thing for all Jews for all time? Are they beyond redemption? Absolutely not. Look back at the first verse of this chapter. Their transgression (rather than the second “fall” in this verse) brought salvation to the Gentiles, and that seeing the Gentiles become saved and worship “their” God, the Jews might grow jealous and come to faith. Or as Charles Hodge puts it, “The rejection of the gospel on the part of the Jews was the means of its wider and more rapid spread among the Gentiles, as clearly intimated in several passages of the New Testament.”
One of the NT passages is Acts 13:46 which reads, “Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” Another passage is Acts 28:27-28.
12 Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?
Paul is saying that if this disgrace and unbelief of Israel has brought forth such blessings to the world, think of the even greater blessings that would come from a believing Israel. Now if you read from this verse through verse 26 and accept the plain meaning of the text, I think you’ll get a good picture of what Paul is saying.
13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:
14 If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.
Paul is explaining these things to us Gentiles, and reckons his office, his ministry, as highly important. The reason for this in part, is that if Paul is successful in converting numerous Gentiles, the hope is that his Jewish kinsmen will be more jealous and interesting in joining the Faith and so be saved.
15 For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?
This is a tough verse with numerous explanations. One commentary even says this verse should “felt rather than explained.”
The first part of the verse is easy enough, just compare it with Acts 13:46 that we read above, and the second part has two primary explanations in my opinion.
1) Some people view this “life from the dead” as referring to the bodily resurrection at the second coming and compare it with the prophecy in Ezekiel 37:1-14.
2) The verse literally reads, “For if casting them off is the reconciliation of the world, what the receiving if not life out of death.” And so some people view this as simply saying that when Jews as a whole believe the Gospel they will be delivered from death.
We can take this on extremely simple terms and just say that the rejection of the Jews has benefited the world, and when they receive the Gospel that will be even better. God wants everyone saved, so the more people saved the better.
16 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.
So here Paul begins his analogy of the olive tree and how jew and Gentile are part of that same tree.
The majority of commentors take the view that the “firstfruit” and the “root” refer to the patriarchs of Israel, and the “lump” and “branches” refers to the nation progressing through time. The other dominant view is that the “firstfruit” represents Christ.
17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
The Gentiles have been grafted into this tree, this one family of God, this church.
18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.
Many Jewish branches were broken off, and we see why in a couple verses, and Gentile branches were grafted into their place.
19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.
20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:
“It was not God who cut them off but rather they broke themselves off and fell” – Chrysostom
The branches that were broken off represent ethnic Israel as whole, and the Gentiles who largely believe in Christ are attached because of faith. This whole metaphor isn’t talking about individuals but nations, large groups of people.
21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.
23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again.
God could, and arguably has, cut off various Gentile nations. I just saw a chart that showed “certain belief in God” by percentage and MOST of Europe was between only 10-30%, so at least 70% of Europe does not believe in God. The percentage of Bible believing Christians then must be extremely small, maybe just 5%. I bet just one or two hundred years ago it was closer to 90%+ that believed in God.
And so as this verse is saying that if Jews come to belief in Christ their nation will be easily grafted back into the tree.
24 For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?
If the branches of a wild olive tree (Gentiles) can be grafted into the family of God, how much more easily would an olive tree’s natural branches (Israel) be grafted in.
25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
So hardness of heart has happened to a portion of Israel like was mentioned back in verse 7. This hardness will last until a certain time, until the fulness of the Gentiles. There’s plenty of disagreement on this but I think it’s natural to connect this with the end times near the Second Coming.
Luke 21:24 is talking about this event and reads, “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” It’s also natural to connect this with Revelation 11:2 where the Gentiles will tread Jerusalem under foot for 42 months.
Godet says, “Till the accomplishment of the conversion of the Gentiles, there will be among the Jews only individual conversions; but this goal reached, their conversion en masse will take place.”
Now verse 26 is probably the most disagreed upon verse in all of Romans:
26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
This verse quotes rather loosely from Isaiah 59:20-21 and 27:9.
The Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament notes there are at least 6 different ways this verse 26 has been interpreted. We won’t look at all of these for the sake of time, but here’s a couple thoughts:
Does “all Israel” mean spiritual Israel like in Galatians 6:16, or Romans 9:6, that is, the children of promise? If so, then they would already be saved. This is about ethnic Israel like in verse 25, and “Jacob” in verse 26 always refers to ethnic Israel. Paul isn’t changing the definition of Israel back and forth here.
Cyril of Alexandria, who died in 444, on verse 26 writes, “Although it was rejected, Israel will also be saved eventually, a hope which Paul confirms by quoting this text of Scripture. For indeed, Israel will be saved in its own time and will be called at the end, after the calling of the Gentiles.”
Many people connect this with Zechariah 12:10 which is describing the battle of Armageddon and the Second Coming and says in part, “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced.” Perhaps this hardness of the Jewish people will dissipate around the time of the Second Coming.
It’s also interesting that in the book of Revelation we see 144,000 of the tribes of Israel which may be part of this “saved Israel.”
Another similar view is that Israel will be a saved nation in the Millennial Kingdom – Matthew 19:28 reads, “And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Albert Barnes, “the word [regeneration] also means any great change, or a restoration of things to a former state or to a better state. In this sense it is probably used here. It refers to that great revolution - that restoration of order in the universe - that universal new birth which will occur when the dead shall rise, and all human things shall be changed, and a new order of things shall start up out of the ruins of the old, when the Son of man shall come to judgment.”
There’s a lot to speculate on in this verse but we simply aren’t given a lot of details. Let’s move on.
28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the father's sakes.
29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
The jews are presently enemies of the Gospel by making themselves enemies of God in their rejection of Christ and the Gospel. However, God still cares about them because of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the patriarchs.
Sometimes God operates this way, remember in 1 Kings 11 God said he would take the Kingdom away from Solomon but said, “Notwithstanding in thy days I will not do it for David thy father's sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son.”
30 For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:
31 Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.
Gentiles spent much time in unbelief, but have obtained mercy by being admitted into the family of God by the unbelief of the Jews. Matthew 21:43 says, “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.”
In the present time Jews do not believe but through our mercy in giving them the Gospel they will one day believe and be shown mercy from God.
32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.
This is similar to what it says in Galatians 3:22, and the verse literally means that God has “shut them all up into disobedience.” Godet writes, “The domain of disobedience, within which God has successively shut them all up, leaves both in the end only one issue, that of humbly accepting salvation from the hand of mercy.”
This chapter and section within Romans ends with a beautiful doxology that glorifies God as well as reminds us that there are countless things God has not revealed to us.
33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?
35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
Praise the Lord! In the end we know for certain that His ways and His judgments are perfect whether we understand it all right now or not.
R.M. Edgar: The apostle has been throwing a very clear providential light upon God's dealings with his ancient people. He has shown how their unbelief and fall were permitted in order to the gathering in of the Gentiles; and that the Gentiles thus brought in are to gird themselves for the ingathering of the Jews. But he does not profess to have sounded the depths of the Divine wisdom and knowledge by these suggestions. Before that mighty ocean he stands in unfeigned humility. He may have picked up one or two pebbles on the strand, but he has not explored the caves of ocean that lie before him. Yet amid the unsearchable character of God's judgments, he can see one supreme end in everything, and this is God himself; "For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things."