Romans 11:25-36

Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
“and this will be my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”

As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Observation

  • Paul did not want his readers to be unaware of the mystery of the partial hardening of Israel.
  • Paul did not want his readers to be wise in their own eyes.
  • A partial hardening has come on Israel until the fullness of Gentiles has come.
  • Israel will be saved by the banishment of ungodliness.
  • In regards to the gospel, Jews were enemies for our sake.
  • But by election the Jews were beloved.
  • The Jews were beloved for the sake of their forefathers.
  • The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.
  • Gentile believers were at one time disobedient to God.
  • Gentile believers have received mercy
  • Gentile believers have received mercy because of the disobedience of the Israel.
  • Israel is now disobedient to God.
  • Israel is to receive mercy by the mercy shown to the Gentiles believers.
  • Everyone is disobedient so God can show mercy to everyone.
  • God’s wisdom and knowledge is deep and rich.
  • God’s ways are unknowable.
  • All things are from, through and to God.
  • No one knows the mind of God
  • No one is, or has been God’s counselor.
  • No one has given anything to God to repay Him.
  • God is to receive glory forever.

Interpretation

Paul once again cautions his readers against arrogance in thinking that they are been chosen over the Jews. It is tempting to think the Jews rejected the grace and God and therefore God has abandoned them. God has hardened the Israel’s heart but shown mercy to the Gentiles. Just as the elect were not chosen because any of their efforts or will, so too the Gentiles have not received grace because of anything they have done. Therefore, Paul warns against looking down on the Jews.

Israel received “a partial hardening” until the fullness of the Gentiles has come. Partial hardening refers to more than a time or a number but to clarify the previous statement which was very severe. God had blinded Israel so that while they refused the grace of God, it is transferred to the Gentiles. Thus, it served the providence of God to fill the church, as He designed, with more than a few proselytes. The Gentiles now would form almost the entire body of the Church. Israel was to be a priest to the world. In the providence of God this was fulfilled even in their disobedience.

Some believe that when Paul says “this way all Israel will be saved,” he is referring to the re-establishment of Israel as it was before. Instead I believe this means that when the Gentiles come in and the Jews return from their disobedience it will complete the salvation of the whole Israel of God, which is comprised of both Jew and Gentile. But in such a way that as Paul said earlier the Jews are in first place.(2:9-11) We find this same idea in Galatians 6:16. The Israel of God is the church which is made of both Jews and Gentiles.

Paul quotes from Isaiah 59:20. God will send a deliverer from Zion which is Christ. And God will deliver His people. God’s people are not limited to those who are biological descendants of Israel. The true Israel are those who are the born of the spirit. (9:6-8) All the people of God are Israelites and God will make His people holy.

Paul reminds us of the crime committed by the Jews, unbelief. But that is also the crime of the Gentiles. Therefore, no Gentile should ever consider himself better the Jews or condemn the Jews. There is no difference. It is only the mercy of God that changes us.

In verse 32 Paul says that we have all been disobedient to God, both Jew and Gentile. God ordained our disobedience so He may show His mercy on us all. What Paul is intending to teach here is that there is nothing in us that God should prefer one over the other. It is purely God’s grace. The emphasis is on God’s mercy which is intended to indicate that God is not bound by anyone, either Jew or Gentile.

But Paul says God shows His mercy to all. How does God show mercy on the non-elect? It is only by the grace and mercy of God that we draw our next breath. We all deserve death. But God has postponed that sentence out of His mercy. How does God show mercy to the unrepentant? In a multitude of ways but the most obvious is by letting them continue to breath. As Christ said, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:44-45)

Paul, unlike most Christians today, recognized the magnitude of our sin. The fact that in our wretchedness God still grants anyone mercy so over whelmed Paul, he could not help but exclaim, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” How often we presume on God that He will forgive us. He owes us no forgiveness. He owes us no mercy. The fact that He not only forgives our sinfulness, but allows us to commune with Him ought to make us to exclaim, Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!”

Paul says that we can never know God fully. God’s judgments, knowledge and riches are not fully knowable. Paul is revealing that the true nature of God is unknowable. The more Paul elevates the height God’s divine mystery, the more he deters us from investigating it. But Paul is not claiming that we should not search the scripture to understand God. It is in the scripture God reveals Himself to us. Through the scripture God reveals want He wants us to know about Him. Paul goes on to ask the rhetorical question, who knows the mind of God? And, who can give God advice? The answer is obviously no one.

By presenting this argument Paul intends to address the audacity of men who complain against God’s judgment. First we are incapable of understanding God’s reasoning for showing mercy to some and not to others. To reason because a thing is unknown, it is arbitrary is arrogant, and presumptuous. Second, to assume that God’s owe anyone anything demonstrates the lack of understanding of our complete dependence on God. We depend on His mercy to draw our next breath. We owe God everything. He owes nothing.

Application

Gods’ nature is beyond our comprehension. We should learn to search no further than the scriptures as to the nature of God. It is in the scriptures God reveals Himself. Paul is not suggesting the God’s nature is so unknowable that we are not to search for any of God’s mysteries. We are simply not to search for those which are hidden within God himself. These are only to be admired and adored by us since they cannot be comprehended.

The idea of election and predestination is not a Calvinist idea. It was not even first revealed in the New Testament. It is taught as far back as the book of Genesis. Election and predestination was revealed as God’s method of saving a remnant for Himself. God elected Abraham out of all other people of the earth. God elected Isaac over Ishmael. God elected Jacob over Esau. God elected the tribe of Judah over the northern tribes. God preserved a remnant every time Israel turned from Him. It is God who saves a remnant for Himself.

Though we have been chosen by God, we should take no pride in that. We had nothing to do with our being chosen. God chose us for His purpose. Just like the Jews had nothing to do with being chosen. God chose the Jews for His purpose. God has given us a gift of mercy. It is only by God’s mercy that he has saved us. For we all, Jew and Gentile alike, deserve God’s punishment. Our response then should be one of gratitude. We try to follow His Law not because following His Law will save us but it pleases Him.

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