Through the Bible in One Year

Day 274

Romans 11:25-36

We saw in the previous section Paul using the analogy of olive branches to describe how the Gentiles have been brought into the family of God.  Paul concluded that section by saying that if wild olive branches have been unnaturally grafted into a cultivated olive tree, then the branches that have been cut off from the cultivated olive tree are also able to be grafted back into it.  And that is what Paul is explaining in this last section of Romans 11 and this last section of the third quarter of Romans.

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number 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 turn godlessness away from Jacob.

And this is my covenant with them

when I take away their sins.”—11:25-27

Paul explains that Israel is going through a hardening in part during the time when the Gentiles are coming in.  But this time when the Gentiles are coming in is also the time when Jews are, by God’s provocation, coming in.  Paul has also just said that the natural branches broken off (the Jews) will only be grafted in again if they believe.  Therefore, when Paul says “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26), he is probably talking about “all Israel” in the sense of the full complement of Israelites (like the full number of the Gentiles).  Paul see his own ministry of provoking the Jews to envy within God’s plan to provoke the Israelites to envy and thereby bring about their salvation.  This is the way all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26).  The salvation of Israel is not something that happens outside of history but happens in the course of the last days.  The future tense in the prophecy does not mean that Paul sees the activity of salvation as not yet begun: the deliverer’s coming was future from the perspective of the Old Testament prophet (Isaiah).  And now Jesus has come from Zion, the headquarters of Israel, to bring freedom from sin and forgiveness.

As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.—11:28-32

Paul is still addressing Gentile Christian, stating that Jews are enemies of the Gospel for the sake of Gentiles in the sense that they have been put on hold so that the Gentiles can come in.  At the same time this is only a temporary situation for the Jews since they are still God’s elect because of the promises God made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob about their descendants (Genesis 17:1-7).  Hence God’s election is irrevocable (Romans 11:29).  As Paul indicated in the olive tree image (Romans 11:17-24), Israel will follow the pattern of the Gentiles: from disobedience to mercy (Romans 11:30-31).  This whole pattern has been determined by God.  We saw in Romans 1:18-32 that God has handed over the Gentiles to disobedience, but this was a revelatory process, and now God is bestowing mercy on them.  Similarly, Israel has also been handed over to disobedience, and so they are also to receive mercy (Galatians 3:22).  Nothing that has happened in the course of history is outside God’s plan.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

How unsearchable his judgments,

and his paths beyond tracing out!

“Who has known the mind of the Lord?

Or who has been his counselor?”

“Who has ever given to God,

that God should repay them?”

For from him and through him and for him are all things.

To him be the glory forever! Amen.—11:33-36

Paul concludes this remarkable third quarter of Romans with praise for the mysterious workings of God’s providence.  No one could have predicted that God would act the way described by Paul in these chapters, nor could anyone have read it out of history.  God’s supremacy in everything—in creation (Romans 11:36), in his purpose (Romans 11:33-34) and in his self-sufficiency (Romans 11:35)—means he is worthy of everlasting praise.  And that is where we will pick up tomorrow as we move into the fourth and final quarter of Romans.

Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:

Isaiah 66, Philippians 3:4-21, Psalm 74:1-23 and Proverbs 24:15-16

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