The eleventh chapter of Romans closes up the special discussion of Israel. In each of these three chapters we are plainly shown that the Gentiles, if they believe, have an equal share with the Jews, and that the latter forfeit all the privileges of the people of God through unbelief. Nothing could show more plainly than do these chapters that all men are on a level, and that the promises of God are to all who believe, irrespective of birth or nation.
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. 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. 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. 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 is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. 7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded 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. 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. 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. 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? 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. 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? 16 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. 17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, were graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; 18 boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. 19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. 20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: 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.
Not a Castaway. The apostle Paul knew that God had not cast off his people, the lineal descendants of Abraham, and his proof was the fact that he himself was accepted with God. If the Jewish nation [people] had been cast off by the Lord, then there would have been no hope for Paul, because he was "an Hebrew of the Hebrews." The words "God forbid" mislead some people. The idea obtains that Paul was praying that the Lord would not cast off his people, lest he also should be cast away. Instead of "God forbid," read, "by no means." Then all is clear. Thus: "I say then, Hath God cast away his people? By no means." How do you prove that? Why, "I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin."
Who Are Rejected? Although God had not cast away his people, they were in a bad way. The fact that God had not cast them off, did not prove that they would be saved. Paul intimated that there was danger that even he, after he had preached to others, might be a castaway. 1 Cor. 9:27. The case, however, lay wholly in his own hands. There was no danger that God would cast him away against his will. We have the words of the Lord, "Him that cometh to me I will in nowise cast out." John 6:37. And all may come; for he says also that "whosoever will" may come. God casts no one off; but if they utterly reject him, then, since he forces no one, he has no alternative but to leave them to themselves.
"Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at naught all my counsel, and would none of my reproof; . . . therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them." Prov. 1:24-32.
God stretches forth his hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people (Rom. 10:21), and they have it in their own power to say if they will be saved. God accepts everybody; the only question is, Will they accept him?
The Remnant. In the illustration from Elijah's time, we learn something further about the matter of acceptance and rejection. It seemed then as though all Israel had departed from the Lord, but there were seven thousand men who had not acknowledged Baal. "Even so at this present moment there is a remnant according to the election of grace." The grace of God appears to all men, and is extended to all. Those who accept the grace are the elect, no matter of what tribe or nation they are. Although the plan of salvation embraces all the world, it is a sad fact that but few of any people or generation will accept it. "Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved."
The Olive Tree. While there are single expressions in the eleventh chapter of Romans that are difficult to understand, the chapter as a whole is very simple. Under the figure of an olive tree, the people of God are represented, and by the figure of grafting, the relation of all men to God is shown. Before going into the particulars of this illustration, we must for a moment consider the Commonwealth of Israel.
In the second chapter of Ephesians we learn that as Gentiles, the Ephesians had been "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel," "having no hope, and without God in the world." That is, those who are not of the commonwealth of Israel are without God; or, those who are without God are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.
Now Christ is the only manifestation of God to man, and "he came unto his own, and his own received him not." John 1:11. Therefore the mass of the Jewish nation were without God, just as surely as the heathen were, and consequently were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel. The same chapter of Ephesians tells us that Christ came to reconcile both Jews and Gentiles unto God, showing that both were separate from him. Still further in the same chapter we learn that the commonwealth of Israel is the "household of God," and is composed of saints, those who are reconciled to God. Only such are not "strangers and foreigners" from Israel.
The Origin of Israel. The name originated that night when Jacob wrestled with the Lord, and finally by his faith obtained the blessing that he sought. He could not gain anything whatever by his physical strength; indeed, one touch by the Lord was sufficient to make him utterly helpless; but it was when, in his utter helplessness, he cast himself in simple faith on the Lord, that he gained the victory, and was named Israel prince of God. This title was applied to all his descendants, although it strictly belonged only to those who had living faith in God, just as we use the term "Christian" of those who are in "the church," with no thought of asserting that they really know the Lord.
Everyone Has to be Grafted in Romans 11:23-26
23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. 24 For if thou were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? 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. 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.
A Righteous Nation. Much is said of the unbelief of the children of Israel; but there were times when they as an entire nation had faith to a marked degree. One instance will suffice at present. "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days." Heb. 11:30. Thirteen times the whole host marched round the city, seemingly to no purpose, without a murmur. Such faith showed that they were then a righteous nation, in close union with God; because, "being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Rom. 5:1. Then their name truly indicated their character; they were Israelites indeed. They were walking "in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham."
Severed Branches. But they did not keep the faith. "We are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end." Heb. 3:14. This they did not do, and so they became "without Christ," "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel." Eph. 2:12. In Romans 11:17 the apostle asks, What "if some of the branches be broken off?" etc., not meaning, however, to imply that some were not broken off, as we learn from what follows. For he says, "Because of unbelief they were broken off" (verse 20), and again, "God hath concluded them all in unbelief" (verse 32), thus showing that all were broken off. So we find the people who were "beloved for the fathers' sakes" (verse 28) and who had at one time in their history been "children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:26) reduced through their unbelief to the level of those who had never known God.
Grafted Branches. All the branches of the olive tree Israel were broken off through unbelief. To supply their places God took branches from the wild olive tree the Gentiles and grafted them on. This grafting was "contrary to nature" (verse 24), since it was wholly a work of grace. If it had been according to nature, then the branches would have borne natural fruit, and there would be no gain from the grafting, since the natural fruit was bad. See Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 2:1, 2. But a miracle was wrought by grace, and the branches that were grafted in partook of the nature of the root. The fruit of the grafted-in branches is no more natural, but that of the Spirit. Gal. 5:22, 23.
A Reunion. We must remember that God did not cast off his people. They fell away through unbelief. "They also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in; for God is able to graff them in again." Vs. 23. The Jew has as good a chance as the Gentile. "There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek; for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him." Rom. 10:12. Christ came "that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross," and "through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father." Eph. 2:16, 18.
No Change of Plan. Let us not forget that in thus grafting in the Gentiles to take the place of rebellious Israel, there has been no change in God's plan. It was all included in the original promise to Abraham. "Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before [beforehand] the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed." Gal. 3:7, 8.
In the beginning God made Adam, the father of the human race. Adam was the son of God (Luke 3:38); therefore all his descendants are by right God's people. He did not cast them off because they sinned. His love embraced the world (John 3:16), and it did not contract in the days of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The only advantage of Israel was that they had the privilege of carrying the glorious gospel to the Gentiles, for whom it was always designed as much as for them.
Visiting the Gentiles. The Gentiles, as well as the descendants of Jacob,
were from the beginning intended to become Israel. This was shown at the
conference in Jerusalem. Peter told how he had been divinely sent to preach
the gospel to them, and that God put no difference between them and the
Jews. Then James said: "Simeon hath declared how God at the first
did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And
to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I
will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen
down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up; that
the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon
whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known
unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world." Acts 15:14-18.
See also Amos
From the above we learn that the "tabernacle of David," the house or kingdom of David, is to be restored through the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles, and that this is according to the mind of the Lord from the beginning of the world. What these scriptures need is not comment, but believing thought.
"The Fulness of the Gentiles." "Blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in." Rom. 11:25. Until the fulness of the Gentiles "be come" into what place? Into Israel, of course; for it is by the bringing in of the fulness of the Gentiles that "all Israel shall be saved." When will the fulness of the Gentiles "be come" in?
The Lord himself furnishes the answer: "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." Matt. 24:14. God is visiting the Gentiles, "to take out of them a people for his name." By them Israel is to be made full or complete. As soon as this work of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles is finished, then the end will come. There will then be no more preaching to anybody, not to the Gentiles, because they will all have made the final decision; and not to the Jews, because then "all Israel shall be saved." There will then be no more need of the gospel; it will have accomplished its work.
A Great Ingathering of Jews Romans 11:27-36
27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. 29 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. 29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. 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. 32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. 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 counselor? 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.
All through Christ. Note carefully verses 25-27. When the fulness of the Gentiles shall have been brought in, "all Israel shall be saved." Indeed, it is only by the bringing in of the Gentiles that all Israel will be saved. And this will be a fulfillment of that which is written, "There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob." Only through Christ can Israel be saved and gathered; and all who are Christ's are Israel; for "if ye be Christ's then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Gal. 3:29.
Taking Away Sin. There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, who shall turn away ungodliness from Israel. Christ is "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." John 1:29. "He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." 1 John 2:2. The high priest Caiaphas spoke by the Spirit "that Jesus should die for that nation; and not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad." John 11:51, 52.
So Peter, speaking in the temple at Jerusalem, said: "Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindred of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities." Acts 3: 25, 26. The blessing of Abraham is the forgiveness of sins through Christ; and people of all nations become Israelites indeed by the taking away of iniquity.
All of Faith. It was through faith that Jacob became Israel. It was through unbelief that his descendants were broken off from the stock of Israel. It is through faith that the Gentiles are grafted in, and only by faith that they stand; and it is through faith that the Jews may become reunited to the parent stock.
Faith in Christ is the only thing that makes one an Israelite, and only unbelief cuts one off from being an Israelite; this was fully shown by Christ when he marveled at the faith of the centurion, saying; "I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness." Matt. 8:10-12.
All in Prison. "God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all." The word "conclude" means literally "to shut up," as indicated in the margin. He hath "shut them all up together." So in Galatians 3:22 we read that "the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe."
And the next verse speaks of all being "shut up" and guarded by the law. Both Jews and Gentiles "are all under sin." Rom. 3:9. All are shut up in prison together, with no hope of escape except by Christ, "the Deliverer," who proclaims "liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound." Isa. 61:1. He comes as the deliverer "out of Zion," bringing the freedom of "Jerusalem which is above." Gal. 4:26. All therefore who accept the liberty wherewith Christ makes free, are the children of Jerusalem which is above, heirs of heavenly Canaan, members of the true commonwealth of Israel.
Wonderful Knowledge. "By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities," says the Lord. Isa. 53:11. Thus by forgiving sins he will build the walls of Jerusalem (Ps. 51:18), and restore her captive children. "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!"
Let no one, therefore, presume to criticize God's plan, or to reject
it because he can not understand it. "For who hath been his counselor?"
"For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things; to whom be glory