Romans 11 - Part 1
This chapter could be given the following outline:
I. God's faithfulness to His people: 11:1-6
II. The Stumbling of the Bulk of Israel: 11:7-10
III. The Jewish Stumbling and Gentile Connection: 11:11-32
A. Gentile blessing an incentive to the Jew: 11:11-16
B. Words of warning against Gentile conceit: 11:17-24
C. The hardening and blessing of Israel: 11:25-32
IV. A hymn of praise of God: 11:33-36
This Section and Premillennialism
"There is a large element of the religious world which believes that God must bring the Jew to Christ on a national scale in order to be faithful to his promises to Abraham" (Romans, McGuiggan pp. 277-278). This is how the Premillennialist views Romans chapters 9-11. They say that God in the future is going to bring a whole generation of Jews to faith in Christ (against their will?) claiming that Romans 11:26 teaches this. In this way they believe Paul solves the problem of millions of Jews in his day being outside of Christ, millions of Jews who hadn't received the blessings and promises of God. "Some people talk as if the conversion of a generation of Jews in the future would wipe out the non-conversion of a hundred generations. If God did indeed make oath-bound promises to 101 generations we can hardly call Him faithful if He forsakes 100 generations. Picture two generations of Jews at the Judgment. Both of them had unconditional and oath-bound promises made to them by God (this is what Premillennialists claim). One goes off to glory and other goes off to perdition. They claim: ‘He had to bring this generation of Jews to glory, because, after all, He had to be faithful to His oath-bound and unconditional promises’. Yet, why then is He not bound to bring the other generation to glory?" (p. 278). Here is what we need to make up our minds about: Either God gave unconditional promises to every Jew, or conditional promises to every Jew, that is, obtaining the blessing of salvation was conditioned upon an obedient faith in God (Romans 1:16; 5:1; 11:20).
Romans 11:1 "I say then, Did God cast off his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin"
"I say then": "I ask then" (Gspd). "Then" introduces the question as an inference from the whole previous discussion, especially 10:19-21"(Vincent p. 119). "Paul's critics might claim that he was teaching God's utter rejection of all Jews" (Whiteside p. 224). "Can Jews be converted to faith in Christ? Is Jewish evangelization a futile and impertinent enterprise? Is the spiritual condition of Israel hopeless? To these important and searching questions of the present day, Paul here gives his inspired reply" (Erdman p. 131). "Cast off": "To push away, to repel" (Robertson p. 392). "The verb simply means to thrust or shove" (Vincent p. 119). "Has God repudiated His people?" (Gspd)."For I also am an Israelite": "If God had been anxious just to be faithless to His promises, Paul, a persecutor of the Church as well as a Jew of the Jews, would have qualified as a rejected one". "Of the seed of Abraham": "A Jew by nurture and nation, not a proselyte, nor the son of a proselyte, but a lineal descendant from Abraham" (McGarvey p. 444). "Of the tribe of Benjamin": "A member of the tribe which, with Judah, formed the restored nation after the exile and became the hope of the world" (Erdman p. 131) (Ezra 4:1; 10:9). As we enter this chapter we must clearly understand the following. The only people that God rejects are people who refuse to believe (11:20 "they were broken off for their unbelief"). God is not against Jews nor is He against Gentiles, rather He is against both Jews and Gentiles who are unbelievers (11:20-21). God only rejects those that reject Him (1:24,26) and as long as one continues in their unbelief, they are rejected (Romans 1:28; John 3:36). Secondly, God is never unfaithful to any of His promises(Heb. 6:18). God will never reject those that exercise an obedient faith in Him.
Romans 11:2 "God did not cast off his people which he foreknew. Or know ye not what the scripture saith of Elijah? How he pleadeth with God against Israel"
"His people": "Again Paul repeats that God has not proven faithless to His people. The real question is: ‘Who are the people of God?’ The quoting of the Bible at this point is to settle the issue as to the identity of God's people" (McGuiggan p. 318). "Which He foreknew": The term "foreknew" means to know beforehand. "God has not cast off those whom He had before purposed or designed to be His people"(Barnes p. 243). Now did God foreknow and predestinate the salvation of specific individuals regardless of their own free will choice? But if this is what Paul is teaching here, how could such individuals have ever been "broken off"? (11:20). This type of predestination is certainly not taught in this chapter, for this chapter teaches that the people of God can lose their salvation, if they cease to act like God's people (11:20-22). Rather, God foreknew the type of person that would be part of His people, that is, believers. Important point to Note: God never rejects a person that meets the conditions for being "His people", someone who is willing to believe and obey. But if one of His people veers off into unbelief, they have ceased to be "His people" (John 8:39-44; Romans 2:28-29; Revelation 3:9).
"What the Scripture saith of Elijah": "Paul had the distressing habit of bringing people back to the Bible. That is something of a novelty now, isn't it?!" (McGuiggan p. 318).
Romans 11:3 "Lord, they have killed thy prophets, they have digged down Thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life." See (1 Kings 19:10,14).
"The Apostle (Paul), like the prophet, was lonely and persecuted and Israel as a whole seemed to have abandoned God" (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 676).
Romans 11:4 "But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have left for Myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to Baal".
"The answer of God unto him?": Another proof that the O.T. is the inspired word of God (1 Kings 19:18). "I have left for Myself": "To myself as my property, and for my service" (McGarvey p. 446). Yet not against their will! (1 Peter 1:5-9; 2 Timothy 2:11-13). "Elijah had claimed he was the only child of God left, but God denied that, God did not deny it by saying: ‘Come on Elijah, there are millions of my people.’ On the contrary He lays explicit claim to 7000" (McGuiggan pp. 318-319). These were the people of God. What distinguished them as the people of God? Their faith and that manifested in practical obedience. "Who have not bowed the knee to Baal". God has never cast off such believing Jews.
Romans 11:5 "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace."
"Even so": "In the same way" (NASV). "At this present time": "Having made his point that 7001 constituted God's people in the days of Elijah, Paul makes the application to his day. The multitudes of Jews around who are unblessed is no stranger a spectacle than the millions of Jews in Elijah's day who were not in union with God and therefore unblessed" (McGuiggan p. 319). "Remnant": A remainder, "a portion left, but the main bulk gone" (Lenski p. 683). This agrees with the truth taught in 2:28-29 and 9:6-7,27. The number of true believers in the nation of Israel was always smaller than the actual number of physical Jews. It was true in Elijah's time and it was true in Paul's time. In the book of Acts we are allowed to observe "true Israel" coming out from Judaism, when God signaled that a New Covenant had been enacted(Acts 2:41,4:4,5:14,6:7; 13:43,14:1,17:4,18:8. When Crispus, the leader of the synagogue in Corinth obeyed the Gospel message, he demonstrated by his faith that he was part of the remnant, that is, that part of the nation of Israel who would obey God at any cost! Is there a "remnant" among Christians?
Is the number of Christians that God considers to be "His people", actually smaller than the number of people who profess Christ? This section of Scripture contains a truth that many in our society need to hear. Many religious bodies just assume that if you say you are a Christian, that God is bound to save you. The nation of Israel had made the same mistake! "According to the election of grace": "According to God's gracious choice" (NASV); "in accordance with God's unmerited favor" (Wms).
Romans 11:6 "But if it is by grace, it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace".
"No more of works": "It is no longer on the basis of works" (NASV). Remember, in the Book of Romans Paul is not contrasting grace and obedience (4:1-5), rather he is contrasting grace and earning or meriting salvation. In addition, He is contrasting faithfulness to Christ and His word to inventing one’s own salvation (Romans 10:1-3). God did not place obtaining salvation on the basis of earning it or being born of the right ancestry. Rather God placed salvation on the basis of an obedient faith (1:16; 5:1; Ephesians 2:8) a condition that all can meet. "No amount of works can blot out sins already committed. Forgiveness is a matter of grace, no matter how many conditions one must fulfill in order to be forgiven, works by which a man merits justification, and commands which one must obey to be saved, are distinct matters"(Whiteside p. 225). In this is letter Paul has already stressed the need for repentance, to be saved (2:4-5), Confession (10:9-10), and Baptism (6:3-5); yet Paul considers all of these conditions as being a part of a salvation based on grace. The "remnant" that existed because of God’s grace, existed because they had obeyed these conditions (Acts 2:38,41).
Hence Paul proves that God has not cast off "His people" by revealing the true definition of "His people". God's people have always been the faithful and such individuals did receive God's promises (Acts 2:38-39). These people were enjoying the blessings that God had promised in the O.T. (Acts 3:19,26; 13:38-39; 13:32**; 10:43). What about all the unblessed Jews in Paul's day? Had God been unfaithful to them? No! They had cut themselves off by their own unbelief. God had never promised to bless unbelievers!
McGuiggan makes a good point when he says, "Prove that God cast off one Jew to whom He made unconditional Messianic promises and the sky falls away" (p. 319). Therefore all the promises to the Jewish nation in the O.T., in reference to enjoying the blessings that the Messiah would bring, were conditioned upon faith.
As we close we need to emphasize the point that "salvation by grace" and Jesus being the author of eternal salvation to all who "obey Him" is the same thing (Hebrews 5:9). God’s grace simply allows people who want to obey Christ the opportunity to be forgiven. All the obedience in the world would not move us one inch closer to salvation if Jesus had not died for our sins, and all the grace in the world will not save someone who refuses to obey Christ.
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017