We are continuing our study in Romans 11. One of the interesting things about Romans chapter 11 is the reaction of many of the outstanding expositors of the Word of God to it.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon has a number of studies in the preceding chapters of the Epistle to the Romans, but when he comes to Romans 9, 10, and 11, there are very, very few sermons on this section, and he has no studies at all on Romans chapter 11, because Mr. Spurgeon was, for a large part of his life, troubled over whether Israel really had a future or not.
Alexander McLaren is another of the great expositors of the word of God, He has eleven studies on Romans chapter 8 in his expositions of the Scriptures, and then there is nothing on Romans 9, 10, or 11. Then he has 12 studies on Romans chapter 12 as he goes on the through the Epistle to the Romans.
So many commentators don't touch Romans 11, but the majority of those who do see it as promising a future for ethnic Israel. John Murray, perhaps the premier Calvinistic exegete of the 20th century, stated that Romans chapter 11 predicts very plainly an ethnic future for the nation Israel.
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 NASB
Who are "His people"? Is it the nation Israel? Many say that it is, but I think it is a reference to the remnant within the nation Israel. They are a people that He called, a people that He predetermined to love, a people that He chose. The nation as a whole was never His people. His people are the elect remnant, those foreknown within the nation. Let's look at some Scripture:
"You are the sons of the LORD your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave your forehead for the sake of the dead. "For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. Deuteronomy 14:1-2 NASB
Does this refer to the whole nation? Were all in the nation "sons of Yahweh"? Look at:
"They have acted corruptly toward Him, They are not His children, because of their defect; But are a perverse and crooked generation. Deuteronomy 32:5 NASB
Does this refer to "His people"? No, this is directed toward the nation:
"For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. "The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, Deuteronomy 7:6-7 NASB
Is the whole nation loved and chosen of Yahweh?
For they provoked Him with their high places And aroused His jealousy with their graven images. When God heard, He was filled with wrath And greatly abhorred Israel; Psalms 78:58-59 NASB
Did Yahweh hate His elect, those whom He had chosen? No, this is speaking of the nation. Yahweh's people are the remnant, those within the nation Israel whom He has chosen for His own. As Paul teaches us in Romans 9:6, "For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel." Within national Israel is the true Israel, the chosen remnant:
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 NASB
John MacArthur writes, "The present time, as we've been learning, however, is a time when God is chastening the nation for their unbelief. It is not that He is putting them out of existence, it is that He is chastening them. And that's Paul's message in this chapter."
This chapter is not about "present day" Israel, it is about Israel in Paul's day. And Paul lived in the last days, so things were about to change very soon.
Remember that I said that Romans 11 subdivides into 11:1-10 and 11-32. 11:1-10 say, Can any Jews be saved? And Paul's answer is, "Yes." Then in 11:11-32, Can any more Jews be saved? And again Paul says, "Yes." In verses 11-15 we see the two-fold purpose of God as it relates to Jewish unbelief and Gentile conversion:
I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. Romans 11:11 NASB
"I say then"--that little three word phrase, which is the translation of a two word phrase in the original text, is precisely the same as that which began the chapter in the 1st verse, "I say then." So these are the two points of division in the chapter.
Who is the "they"? The "they" in verse 11 is corporate, ethnic Israel as a whole. As Romans 9:3 said, "[They are] 'accursed and cut off from Christ.'"
We need to realize that when Paul speaks of Israel he is not speaking of every single Jew, but rather he addresses them corporately without implying all of them. We might say, "Americans have an entitlement mentality and are looking for a handout from the government." Does that mean every single American? Certainly not ,but it does mean that such a statement reflects the majority. That's how Paul uses Israel in our text when he refers to them by the plural pronoun.
"They did not stumble so as to fall, did they?"--there is no question that Israel stumbled:
but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, Romans 9:31-32 NASB
And as we saw in our last study, they fell with the gravest consequences 11:7-10. Notice what Paul says inverse 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 NASB
So, yes, they have stumbled and fallen, no question about it. What is their corporate transgression? The greatest sin Paul's people have been guilty of is rejecting their Messiah, and their part in His death:
"You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. "Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; Acts 7:51-52 NASB
They stumbled at the stumbling stone of the cross, the nation did, and they turned their back as a whole upon Jesus Christ, and they have come under the discipline of God.
Put Paul says, "May it never be!"--that is a false conclusion based upon a correct premise. How can Paul give a negative reply to this question? The sentence construction supplies the answer. The question is not, "Did they stumble and fall?" The answer to that question would be affirmative. The question is, "Did they stumble 'that' they should fall?" The word "that" is hina, which means: "in order that." Paul is not stressing the stumbling and the fact of the falling, but he's looking at the purpose. Have they stumbled that they should fall and that be all? May it never be! The stress rests on the purpose of Israel's fall.
Virtually all commentators agree that the question, "Have they stumbled so as to fall?" asks whether Israel's failure to obtain salvation is irrevocable and irreversible.
"But by their transgression"--this is "but rather," which is purpose, through their transgression. "Transgression"--here is from the Greek paraptoma. This is the same word Paul uses five times in Romans 5:15-20:
The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, Romans 5:20 NASB
"The transgression"--is singular and is a reference to the singular transgression of Adam. Why would God want to increase sin? God gave the Law to Israel to show that men, all men, are sinners. If we had not fallen in Adam, each of us would have sinned personally and fallen. God was just to make Adam our federal head. Just like Adam was given law and broke it, so also Israel was given Law and broke it. So Adam's sin was duplicated by Israel and thus increased. They sinned in the likeness of Adam.
When Paul refers to "their transgression," he means that the Jewish nation (through its leaders) rejected Christ, putting Him to death on the cross:
"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-- 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 NASB
So Israel's transgression was their rejection and murder of their Messiah Yeshua.
And it was through their transgression that, "Salvation has come to the Gentiles"--the word "Gentiles" here is ethnos.
The hardening of Israel was not a capricious act on God's part. From eternity past, it was the will of God that through the disobedience and unbelief of Israel the Gentiles would come to faith in God. Yahweh had a purpose in Israel's sin.
Many believers have a hard time understanding that Yahweh has a purpose in sin and unbelief. But He clearly does as we see here and in the story of Joseph's abuse by his brothers, selling him into Egypt:
"As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. Genesis 50:20 NASB
God meant their evil for good, and he meant Israel's evil for good also. And the first purpose for Israel's sin is Gentile salvation.
Through Israel's transgression, salvation has come to the nations. Before their stumbling Yahweh dealt with the human race through the nation Israel alone. Jesus affirms this when he says to the Samaritan woman:
"You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. John 4:22 NASB
No Gentile could come to Yahweh unless they came through the nation Israel. Well that had now changed as Yeshua made clear in the Gospels. After the centurion called upon Jesus to heal his servant while confessing his unworthiness for Yeshua to come under his roof, Yeshua declared this man's faith greater than any He had found in Israel. Then He spoke piercing words of judgment:
"I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Matthew 8:11-12 NASB
The salvation of Gentiles came about on a wide scale because of the fall of Israel and the reaching out of the Gospel to the Gentiles. The saving of Gentiles was not an afterthought, it was part of the predetermined plan of God.
How did Israel's sin bring salvation to the Gentiles? Well first and foremost their sin lead to the crucifixion of the Lord Yeshua Ha'Moshiach, which brought salvation. But secondarily, Israel's sin moved Christians out of Israel. After Pentecost, Jewish believers settled into the routine of living as Christians in their homeland. No real efforts were made to take the Gospel beyond Judah. But then came persecution--not at the hand of Rome, but at the hand of the Jews. And Christians began to scatter!
Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Acts 8:1 NASB
The Jews hated Samaritans! But now Philip, a Jewish Christian, went to Samaria due to the transgression of the Jews in rejecting the Gospel. As he preached in Samaria "there was much rejoicing in that city" as many came to faith in Christ (Acts 8:4ff.).
Then an Ethiopian believed the Gospel. Why did it happen? The Jews had transgressed by rejecting the Gospel that caused Philip to leave Jerusalem and be right where he needed to be to explain the Gospel to the Ethiopian (Acts 8:26-40).
Acts 11:19-30 tells the story of Jewish believers "who were scattered because of the persecution" making their way "to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch." Some spoke only to Jews:
But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. Acts 11:20-21 NASB
Why did it happen? Jewish rejection of the Gospel and consequent persecution of Christians launched Jewish Christians into the world with the Gospel.
So in Yahweh's eternal purpose the rejection of the Gospel by the Jews works to the salvation of the Gentiles, but it doesn't end there. He goes on to say,
"To make them jealous"--the "them" is Israel. This is quoted from Deuteronomy 32, The Song of Moses, which is a prediction of Israel's last days. Let's look at the context:
"They have acted corruptly toward Him, They are not His children, because of their defect; But are a perverse and crooked generation. Deuteronomy 32:5 NASB
This marks the unbelief of Israel, and verse 20 marks the judgment of God:
"Then He said, 'I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end shall be; For they are a perverse generation, Sons in whom is no faithfulness. Deuteronomy 32:20 NASB
Then the next verse, verse 21, is the one Paul quotes:
'They have made Me jealous with what is not God; They have provoked Me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation, Deuteronomy 32:21 NASB
God is telling Israel, "I'm going to turn to another people, another nation, a Gentile nation and bless them and provoke you to jealousy." This prediction of Moses' could find its fulfillment only in the conversion of the Gentiles through the Gospel of Christ. They were the "no people" brought into intimate relationship with God. And the Jews should have remembered Deuteronomy 32, they should have repented, they should have seen the truth of the Gospel as it went to the Gentiles.
"To provoke them to jealousy"--this is an infinitive with a preposition, which means it indicates purpose. The purpose of Israel's stumbling was that the Gentiles would be saved and the Jews in seeing their blessing going to the Gentiles would be drawn by jealousy or envy, a desire to possess what the Gentiles possess in being blessed by God, and therefore, would come to salvation. So the word "jealousy" here is used in a positive sense.
So the unbelief of Israel is ordained to promote the salvation of the Gentiles, which in turn promotes Jewish jealousy, which leads to their salvation:
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 NASB
The method of argument in this verse was well known in Judaism. If negative events bring positive results, then positive events would bring positive results of a greater magnitude. This is what is called an "a fortiori argument."
Let's focus on the term "riches" for a moment. In Romans 9:23 he refers to "the riches of His glory" that God made known upon "vessels of mercy." That context obviously points to riches, meaning: "the Gospel." He uses the verb form of "abounding in riches" in 10:12, in reference to the grace of God shown commonly to Jews and Greeks in the Gospel. So when he speaks of "riches for the world…riches for the Gentiles" in verse 12, it is the riches of the Gospel that he has in mind.
"Fulfillment"--is from the Greek word pleroma, which means:" completeness or totality." Some say that this refers to the restoration of national Israel. I think that's iceogeses. Let me ask you something, Does the New Testament justify the expectation of a future restoration and conversion of Israel as a nation? Jesus spoke of the destruction, but He does not even hint at any prospective restoration of national Israel. I think the silence of Jesus is significant.
I think that "fulfillment" here is referring to the age to come. This happens at the parousia of Christ. This is restored Israel. This is Revelation 21 and 22. This is the New Covenant age. This is where we are today, we are living in the fulness.
But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, Romans 11:13 NASB
It seems that beginning at verse 13 and continuing through verse 24 Paul is addressing especially the Gentile portion of the church at Rome. The majority of Gentile believers in Rome were probably proselytes. Something we need to understand here is a little bit of history: In A.D. 49 the Roman Emperor Claudius expelled all Jews from Rom e. We see this in:
After these things he left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them, Acts 18:1-2 NASB
Why did Claudius kick all the Jews out of Rome? The conflict between Jews and Jewish Christians in Rome was about who "Christ" was; the Christians saying that Yeshua of Nazareth was the Christ. As a result of these disturbances, Claudius banished the Jews from Rome. This dismissal of the Jews from Rome had a significant affect on the Roman churches, they became mainly Gentile. These Gentile house churches developed for a number of years apart from Jewish influence. Then when Nero became emperor in A.D. 54 many Jews returned to Rome along with Jewish Christians. Paul probably wrote Romans in A.D. 55 or 56 when the Jews had just begun to return to Rome. The sudden influx of Jewish believers in the Gentile churches would have no doubt caused some tensions, to say the least.
The Roman Christians may have been ready to move on without any Jews in the church. And Paul, as an apostle to the Gentiles, is seeking to promote unity. So he literally says, "I glorify my ministry":
if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. Romans 11:14 NASB
Paul literally says, "If I might make my 'flesh' jealous and so save some of them." As we saw in Romans 7 Paul uses "flesh" in talking about the Old Covenant mode of existence. The flesh is the body of Adam under the Old Covenant. Believers are not in the flesh, we are in the Spirit. Paul says that part of his ministry to the Gentiles is directed towards his "flesh" those Israelites living under the Old Covenant mode of existence.
"And save some of them"--the use of the term "some" is telling. Paul is not expecting that the entire nation of Israel will be saved through his ministry. He understands the promise to Abraham was there will always be a true seed.
Now Paul is aware that only Yeshua can save, but he sees himself as an instrument that Yeshua uses to bring men to Himself. Salvation is of the Lord, but Yahweh works through His people:
I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment, Philemon 1:10 NASB
I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand, I will repay it (not to mention to you that you owe to me even your own self as well). Philemon 1:19 NASB
Paul is saying, I brought you to Christ, you owe me:
For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? Romans 11:15 NASB
The "if" here is a first class condition and could be translated "since." Who is the "their"? It is Israel. "Rejection"--is from the Greek word apobole; it means: "repudiation, to throw from ones self." Compare this with verse 2:
God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? Romans 11:2 NASB
As you compare these two verses, remember the principle of 9:6, "For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel". So Yahweh has not rejected "His people," the remnant, but He has rejected Israel.
"Reconciliation of the world"--the accent is placed upon the action of Yahweh. Reconciliation implies that two parties are estranged, and in this case, at enmity with each other. It is an adversarial condition. We were God's adversaries; God was our adversary. Reconciliation implies that every barrier to the relationship, everything that hinders it, has been removed. We did not decide to reconcile ourselves to God. Keep in mind that "world" does not mean every single person, but non-Jews.
If rejection of Israel has been able to occasion the reconciliation of the Gentiles, what will their acceptance do?
"What will their acceptance be but life from the dead"?--the word "acceptance" here is proslepsis ; it is found only here in the New Testament. Their acceptance will be "life from the dead," resurrection. What does Paul mean by "life from the dead"?
John MacArthur writes, "Life from the dead refers to the rebirth, if you will, of the nation and the rebirth of the world in the glory of the Kingdom. I think that's the proper way to interpret it... I believe it refers to national resurrection of the nation Israel to the place of blessing."
John Piper writes, "I take this to mean that when God's mission to the Gentiles is complete and the hardening of Israel is removed, then the Lord will come and the dead will be raised, and we will enter the kingdom with everlasting joy."
Tom Holland writes, "The expression of "life from the dead" echoes Ezekiel 37, the vision of the valley of dry bones where Israel was resurrected. It spoke, of course, of her return from exile."
The acceptance of Israel, all Israel, which would be the remnant of Israel and the remnant of Judah, happens at the resurrection. It marks the end of the Old Covenant and the consummation of the New Covenant.
Paul taught that the resurrection was the hope of Israel:
"And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; 7 the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God night and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews. 8 "Why is it considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead? Acts 26:6-8 NASB
Israel's hope was to be restored into the presence of Yahweh, this was life.
Let's go to the First Testament text that speaks of resurrection, Ezekiel 37. The historical context of this text is that the children of Israel have been carried off into Babylonian captivity, and the Babylonian captivity has assimilated into it the Assyrian captivity. Because the Babylonians destroyed the Assyrians, now all those that were in Assyrian captivity are now in Babylonian captivity:
The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry. He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" And I answered, "O Lord GOD, You know." Again He said to me, "Prophesy over these bones and say to them, 'O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.' "Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones, 'Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. 'I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the LORD.'" So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then He said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life."'" So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. Ezekiel 37:1-10 NASB
The dead bones are a picture of death, separation from Yahweh. They are made to stand up. Then they come to life, this is resurrectio:
Then He said to me, "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.' "Therefore prophesy and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. Ezekiel 37:10-12 NASB
God is talking to physical Israel; they say their bones are dried up and their hope is gone. They weren't saying they were physically dead, they were separated from God, out of the land. According to the rabbinic writings, any time Israel was out of the land they were dead. Life is in the land where God dwells.
God said He was going to open their graves, these weren't physical graves, because they weren't physically dead:
"Then you will know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. "I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken and done it," declares the LORD.'" Ezekiel 37:13-14 NASB
When did God put His spirit within Israel and bring them to life? Pentecost!:
"They will no longer defile themselves with their idols, or with their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. And they will be My people, and I will be their God. Ezekiel 37:23 NASB
God is going to cleanse them and make them His people. This sounds like the New Covenant. This is spiritual life:
"I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever. "My dwelling place also will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people. Ezekiel 37:26-27 NASB
Notice Revelation 21:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, Revelation 21:3 NASB
God is promising Israel resurrection life, spiritual life in His presence in the New Covenant. And I believe that this is what Paul is talking about in Romans 11. Israel's acceptance is resurrection life, to be brought into the presence of Yahweh. And this happens at the Second Coming consummating the New Covenant age. If Israel isn't saved, then there is no life from the dead for Gentiles.
Paul is saying to the Gentile Roman believers, Don't give up on Jewish evangelism. Yahweh is gathering in His remnant and will give them life from the dead.
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