Romans 11 has an elegant simplicity to its argument, but Paul takes a lot of verses to make it.
The line of thought in Romans 11 goes something like this.
- God has not rejected his people, genetic Israel.
- What he is doing is using their failures to save the whole world.
- When they come back (and they will come back) to grace and faith, imagine what it will mean for the whole world.
- It is a complicated plan, but who can understand God’s ways–certainly not us.
In addition to this outline, there is buried within the chapter a strong, terrifying tone exemplified in a warning. It is a warning that most people don’t notice and that most Calvinists simply ignore. Verse 21 teaches us that if God wasn’t squeamish about cutting off parts of his chosen people, genetic Israel, neither will he hesitate to cut off us gentiles. It is a terrifying warning that should cause all of us sober reflection.
In verse 3, most English translations use helping verbs, “have killed, have dug up” but the verbs are aorist (past) tense, so I kept them that way. No helping verbs needed.
Verse 12 ends with a difficult rendering. The word is usually written as “fullness” and is translated various ways in this verse. I prefer here, given Paul’s comparison of Israel’s past behavior, to use the word ‘success’ as a polar opposite of failure.
The word “irrevocable” in verse 29 is such a weird word for the modern ear. Perhaps irreversible or unchangeable would have been better for reading, but in the end I decided that the older, legal word was better especially given the context of a discussion about covenant.
1. Am I, therefore, saying that God rejected his own people? Never! For I myself am an Israelite, the family of Abraham, the tribe of Benjamin.
2. God has not rejected his people, whom he foreknew. Do you not know in the Scriptures what it says of Elijah, how he pleaded with God about Israel?
3. Lord, “They killed your prophets. They dug up your altars. I alone am left, and they seek my soul.”
4. What did the oracle say to him? “I have left myself seven thousand men who have not bent the knee to Baal.”
5. So now, in this time too, a remnant has come to be by the free choice of grace.
6. But if by grace it is no longer by works, since the grace would no longer be grace.
7. What then? Israel pursued and did no obtain, but now those chosen attained it, while the others are hardened.
8. Just as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that do not see, and ears that do not hear until today.”
9. David says, “Let their table became a trap, a snare, a stumbling block of payback to them.
10. Let their eyes be darkened, not to see, and their back always bent.”
11. I ask, therefore, did they stumble so as to fall? No! Instead their lapses lead to the salvation of the gentiles, who then made them jealous.
12. If their lapses are riches for the world, and their failures are riches for the gentiles, how great will their success be?
13. But I say to you gentiles, that even though I am an apostle to the gentiles, and it is a ministry of honor,
14. nevertheless I will make some of my people jealous and will save some of them.
15. For if their rejection is reconciliation of the world, what can acceptance be except life from the dead?
16. If the first pinch is holy, so also is the whole batch of dough, and if the root is holy, then so are the branches.
17. If some of the branches were broken off, but then you wild olives were grafted in, you became sharers in the root of faith on the olive tree.
18. You branches should not boast. The root sustains you, not you the root.
19. You will then say, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.”
20. True, the faithless were broken off, but you have stood by faith. Do think highly of yourselves, instead, be in fear.
21. For if God did not spared natural branches, neither will he spare you.
22. See then, the goodness and severity of God. Severity upon those having fallen, but upon you the goodness of God to preserve you in goodness. Otherwise, you would be cut off too.
23. Even those, if they do not persist in unfaithfulness, might be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
24. For if you naturally wild olives were cut off and against nature you were grafted onto a tame olive tree, how much more will those be grafted back into their same old tree?
25. For I do not wish you brothers and sisters to not know the mystery, and then think yourself wise, because a hardening upon part of Israel has come until the full number of gentiles should enter in.
26. Just as all Israel will be saved, exactly as it is written, “The deliverer will come out of Zion, he will turn ungodliness away from Jacob.
27. And this is my covenant to them, when I might take away their sins.”
28. On one hand they are enemies of the gospel because of you, but on the other hand they are chosen because of their beloved forefathers.
29. For the gifts and call of God are irrevocable.
30. It is the same way as when you disobeyed God, but now you found mercy because of their disobedience.
31. Thus, they now disobeyed for your mercy so that they themselves might find mercy.
32. For God linked together everyone in disobedience so that everyone might find mercy.
33. O the depth, riches, wisdom, and knowledge of God! His judgments are inscrutable and his ways are untraceable.
34. “For who has known the mind of the Lord, who has become his advisor?
35. Who has given to him that he should repay?”
36. For everything is from him, through him, and in him—to him be the glory in eternity. Amen.
Click on the links below to read other chapters from the Book of Romans.