3b - Romans 9-11 - God's Future for Israel (detailed notes)

  • Our understanding of this difficult passage must fit in with the context
    • i.e. the argument and purpose of the section.
    • The purpose is to show how Israel fits into God’s plan of salvation.
  • Connection with what has gone before
    • The theme of the book in 1:16,17 needs an answer to the “for the Jew first and also for the Greek”
    • The subject of election has been briefly mentioned (1:6,7; 8:28-33) and needed explaining.
    • Romans 3:1-3 and 9:6 point forward to 9-11
    • Romans 1:18-2:29 is resolved first by chapters 3-8 and then chapters 9-11 resolve the other issues.
    • Some say that chapters 9-11 parallel chapter 3.
  • The problem:
    • “how is it that Gentiles are entering into the promises to Abraham so readily while most of his own people to whom the promises were given seem to be missing out?” (Dunn)
    • The answers are in B, C & D below.

A. [9:1-5] Introduction—Paul is grieved by Israel’s’ rejection of the Gospel

  • Does Paul really want to be “cut off from Christ”?
    • Does he love the Jews more than he loves Christ?
    • Is there anyone else in Scripture who spoke like this?
  • To emphasise the seriousness of the statements, Paul uses the very effective method of saying everything twice.
    • It really comes across how weighty and important it is.
      • I tell the truth in Christ,         I am not lying,
        my conscience also bearing me witness         in the Holy Spirit,
        that I have great sorrow         and continual grief in my heart.
        For I could wish that I myself were accursed         [separated] from Christ
        for my brethren,         my kinsmen according to the flesh,
  • In the Greek, the next six lines all end with a similar sound, giving a poetic force to the words.
    1. who are Israelites,
          to whom pertain the adoption,
          the glory,
          the covenants,
          the giving of the law,
          the service of God,
          and the promises;
    2. of whom are the fathers and
      from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came,
      who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.
  • Paul’s strong wording here prepares the reader for the terrible things he will say about Israel in the next chapters.
    • It pre-empts the charge of being anti-Israel, and demonstrates his tact and sensitivity.
    • There is an allusion to Ex. 32:32 where Moses prays to be blotted out of God’s book for his people’s sake.
    • Paul is almost putting himself in Moses’ place and his love and self-sacrifice alongside that of Moses. Note:
      1. He does not say wish but could wish.
      2. The context is his feelings, not a precise theological statement. “There is something within me that would give myself in the place of my people”.
      3. The context of 8:38,39 shows that the reality of his union with Christ is so firm that this statement here is just a strong figure of speech.
    • This great list emphasises the mercy that God has shown them, and prepares against the criticism that God’s election is not merciful.

B. [9:6-29] Not all Israel are of Israel—God’s sovereignty (Israel has no automatic right)

  1. [6-9] Paul needs to explain the current spiritual state of Israel. Has God failed?
    • No, because he never intended to save every single child of Abraham anyway
      • This can be proved from the case of Ishmael
    • Two questions: How is his word to be performed and Who are the true seed of Abraham?
  2. [10-13] In order to answer these two questions, Paul needs to talk about election
    • Jacob & Esau are an even better example than Isaac & Ishmael
    • They were twins, and God had elected one of them before they were born
    • However, The Genesis account tells how much care God took over Esau
      • How can that be consistent with “hating” ?
      • hating is simply in comparison with the love to Jacob, not to be taken by itself
        • “not the one on whom God has set his love”.
    • The basic principle is that God has the right to make promises to some and not to others—because they have not earned it anyway!
  3. [14-18] Now Paul has to counter an accusation against God. Election is not fair!
    • He replies with two quotes from the O.T.
    • God is free to have mercy on any that he chooses, and may harden any by withdrawing mercy.
    • The first quote is very significant because it is part of God’s revelation of his glory and his name to Moses.
      • Mercy is the core of God’s being. Who can dare to call him unjust?
      • No-one deserves it so no-one can claim it. (“who runs”=“who tries by his own effort”)
    • The second quote is stronger, and brings with it the negative aspect.
      • Does God force anyone to sin? No!
        • So what does this mean? How should we understand it?
      • God’s saving power was shown in the Exodus, and in the 10 plagues that preceded it.
      • Exodus repeatedly says that Pharaoh hardened himself,
      • but Rom. 1 tells us that God punishes people for sin by giving them over to more sin.
      • The hardening is therefore Pharaoh’s fault, a punishment from God.
    • Hardening here is seen as the opposite of mercy.
      • When God withdraws mercy, it results in hardening.
      • Another example would be King Saul
  4. [19-23] There is another protest from the imaginary listener about God’s fairness
    • the picture of the potter is presented.
    • Who can question his right to do anything he wants?
    • Yet he has mercy and shows forth his power in salvation
    • The illustration of the potter is brought in to show how ridiculous it is to reply against God.
      • (dishonour = pot for a very lowly use.)
    • But God is not actually a hard-hearted potter (although he has a right to be), but is longsuffering.
      • The reference is to Jer. 18:1-6 where the potter is ready to re-make the spoiled pot into a good one.
  5. [24-26] Having dealt with the objections to election, he returns to the original questions
    • Having dealt with the objections to election, he returns to the question of who God has loved and called to be his children:
      • the Gentiles as well as Jews.. See above in 1. and 2. the references to call (counted) [9:7,11], children of God [9:8], and loved [9:13].
    • The true seed include the Gentiles
      • God has a right to extend mercy to the Gentiles as well as the Jews and call them his sons
  6. [27-29] But God will also save a remnant of Israel, bringing to pass his word
    • Now the original questions may be answered (v6,7):
      • How will God’s word be performed;
      • Who are the true seed.
    • Not only the Gentiles, but God will perform his word by saving a remnant of Israel. (This is expanded in ch. 11).
      • The word for work in the original is literally “word” as in 1. [9:6]
    • Compare with 9:6,7 and see how 6. answers them.

C. [9:30-10:21] Israel has “missed the Gospel” and is totally without excuse

  1. [9:30-33] Israel tried to gain righteousness through the law
    • This section is full of contrasts.
      • 9:30 as against 9:31-33
  2. [10:1-4] They had a lot of zeal for their own way of serving God, but rejected Christ
  3. [10:5-13] The Gospel is not about self-effort but is about believing and trusting
    • The point of 10:5-8 is that the gospel is not hard, it is easy
      • So they do not have the excuse of complaining it is too hard for them!
    • 10:9-13 puts the gospel in a nutshell
  4. [10:14-21] God has constantly reached out to them, but they rejected him
    • They cannot give the excuse that they haven’t heard!
    • The conclusion to the problem is that it is their own stubborness [10:21]

D. [11:1-32] but God has purpose for Israel that will demonstrate his kindness & mercy

  1. [1-6] Even now there is a remnant saved (including Paul!)
    • v1 starts with “I ask then” or “I say then” (legō oun, mē) similar to 10:18,19 and 11:11, tying them all together.
    • The the questions in 10:18,19 raise the question in 11:1 about whether the Jews have indeed been cast away.
    • v1 God would hardly have chosen a Jew to be his special apostle to the Gentiles, had he cast off his people, the Jews.
      • “Tribe of Benjamin:” simply that he may be regarded as a true Israelite.
    • 1 Sam 12:18-22 —promise never to cast away his people.
    • Ps 94:14 —similar promise
    • v5-6 The very fact that it is a remnant “according to the election of grace”, and therefore not a remnant “standing by its own deserving”, makes its existence full of promise for the rest of the nation, a pledge of God’s continuing interest.
  2. [7-10] But many are hardened
  3. [11-15] Yet God has a purpose—to bring salvation to a greater number of people
    • If the present exclusion of the majority of Jews means so rich a benefit for the Gentiles,
      • what glory shall accompany their final restoration?
    • Purpose: to warn the Gentiles at Rome against an unchristian attitude to the Jews.
    • v12: fullness refers to full and completed number as against remnant.
    • v15 the reconciling of the world is the actual death and resurrection of Christ (Rom 5:10,11),
      • The casting away of the Jews is their rejection in the same event.
    • life from the dead must surpass salvation of v11.
    • v15 “life from the dead” —There seems to be a sequence:
      1. Jews reject and Gentiles receive the gospel
      2. Jews are accepted back (mass revival?)
      3. The final resurrection as Christ returns
  4. [16-24] Picture of root and branches—Gentiles should not be complacent
    • v16 picture of offering a cake from the first of the dough (Numb. 15:17-21)
      • The first fruit is the patriarchs, as is the root in the second illustration
    • There is a pattern in these verses:
      1. Natural branches broken off and wild ones grafted in [17,18]
        1. It was because of unbelief they were broken off, and the grafting in is by faith [19-20]
          1. Don’t be proud because you could suffer the same fate [21]
            1. Consider God’s goodness and his severity [22]
            1. Severity on the unbelievers, but goodness towards you
          1. Don’t be proud because you could suffer the same fate
        1. If they have faith they will be grafted in again [23]
      1. Natural branches will be grafted back in again to their own roots [24]
  5. [25-32] Future revival among the Jews, in God’s grace and mercy
    • Three separate stages in the divine plan:
      1. hardening in part has happened to Israel
      2. until the “fullness of the Gentiles” has come in.
      3. And so all Israel will be saved,
    • hardening in part has happened to Israel
      • Not all Jews were hardened
    • until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
      • ending the period of time during which it is mainly Gentiles being saved
    • And so (in this way) all Israel will be saved,
    • In this order, opposite to the order in which the Gospel message was offered (1:16).
    • What does “all Israel” mean?
      1. all elect
      2. all elect of Israel
      3. every single Jew alive at the time
      4. the nation as a whole, so that Israel becomes essentially Christian
    • my opinion:
      1. rejected: cannot understand Israel different to v25, especially in view of the sustained contrast between Israel and Gentiles throughout vv. 11-32.
      2. Also to be rejected, since the truth would be so obvious as to be an anticlimax. v12, v15 and the grafting references point to more.
      3. Impossible to define who is a Jew. The word all is often used in Greek qualitatively, rather than a strict numerical quantity (e.g. “all Judea went out to hear John preach”)
      4. is the most likely. Praise God!

E. [11:33-36] Conclusion: To him be the glory forever.

  • A song format in the original