“For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.’ Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” Rom. 11:25-29
Many scholars and theologians consider the book of Romans in the New Testament to be the Mount Everest of theology and chapter 8 as its peak. In the church not many would disagree with such a majestic assessment. A believer can peruse through Romans and be comforted by its profound truths and assured of the permanency of their salvation. In fact, there is not a clearer verse in the N.T. of salvific assurance, than the familiar: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. (Rom. 8:1).
Briefly summarizing the doctrinal portion of Romans [chapters 1-11], one is instructed on man’s inherent depraved nature [Rom. 1-3], justified by faith , Christ’s incredible and selfless sacrifice on behalf of undeserving sinners [Rom. 5], free from sin’s slavery , free from the Law , and the guarantee of salvation and God’s inseparable love [Rom. 8]. In the ensuing chapters [9-11], Paul provides a powerful example of that inseparable love, by writing that God will save and restore Israel in the future. I find it to be perplexing and disillusioning, why this straight-forward truth is difficult for many in the church to accept.
Tragically, Romans 9-11 is rarely preached or taught in context and as a complete unit, emphasizing the salvation of national Israel. Those chapters [9-11] must be taken in succession in order to understand correctly Israel’s relationship and standing with God. In brief, chapter 9 addresses Israel’s sovereign election; chapter 10, focuses on their rejection of their Messiah and their refusal to heed the gospel. Chapter 11, culminates with God’s steadfast faithfulness to the promises He made to Israel’s patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Gen. 12:1-3, 15:18-21, 26:2-5, 28:10-17).
Unfortunately, many pastors utilize only a few selected verses extracted from chapters 9 and 10 and preach them in a topical fashion. Typically these verses are utilized to explain individual election, salvation, or evangelism; and are always applied to the church. Worse still, I have observed that most of them bypass chapter 11 altogether, with the exception of referencing Paul’s profound doxology at the chapter’s conclusion (Rom. 11:33-36). Additionally, those who deny God’s election of “national” Israel, say the Apostle is solely reflecting over the doctrinal truths, he had just written [chapters 1-11], and therefore erupts in a paean of praise. Although this observation is certainly true, I believe it’s not the only reason why Paul so enthusiastically praises God. His rejoicing also includes the mercy God presently displays toward the Gentiles, believing Jews, and will in the future toward his “countrymen according to the flesh” (Rom. 11:32). The scope of God’s salvation will include the current unbelieving Israelites for whom Paul had wished himself to be accursed, if it meant their salvation! (Rom. 9:3). The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, states: “Paul bursts out with a marvelous doxology, in which he rejoices that God’s temporarily setting Israel aside glorifies his incomprehensibility.” 1 Referring back only eight verses, Paul declared the beauty of God’s mercy and the saving grace He will grant Israel:
“For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and thus “all Israel will be saved”; just as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.’ And this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.” (Rom. 11:25-27).
Therefore, God’s revealed plan of salvation mercifully encompasses “all” believers, even the obstinate, rebellious, and unbelieving Israelites will eventually embrace Jesus as their Messiah. Why is that so? Paul writes: “Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your [Gentiles’] sake, but concerning the election they [unbelieving Jewish people] are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Rom. 11:28-29–NKJ–emphasis added). This inarguable truth is at the climax of Paul’s doctrinal teaching and instructs on the permanency of God’s sovereign election.
At this point, I must make a word of clarification, there are currently believing Jewish people who are part of the church today. Like all Christians, they believed in Jesus Christ by grace through faith alone (Rom. 11:5, 7, Eph. 2:8). However, in Rom. 11:26, “And so all Israel will be saved“; Paul is referring to Jews who are currently in unbelief [branches broken off from the “olive tree”–Rom. 11:17]. But, in the future those unbelieving Jewish people will be grafted back into the “olive tree” [Rom. 11:23-24]; they will “miraculously” believe Jesus is their Messiah (Rom. 11:26-28).
That is why all Christians ought to believe “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” [Deut. 8:3, Matt. 4:4]. Especially since, “all things are possible with God” [Matt. 19:26] and He made promises that currently remain unfulfilled. The writer of Hebrews for instance, records the solemn promise God made to Abraham [not “with” Abraham, but “to” Abraham]: “For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself… Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us” (Heb. 6:13, 17-18–see Gen. 12:1-3, 15:18-21). We ought to be exceedingly thankful that God does not change or rescind what He previously decreed–In Israel’s case, “He swore by Himself” (v. 13). What greater guarantee can there be than that?
Therefore, it’s mystifying to me why Romans chapters 9, 10, and particularly 11, are routinely cherry-picked or ignored altogether by many in the church. Is it at all possible because those chapters in context concern the “nation” of Israel and therefore are treated as doctrinally insignificant? Many in the church believe Israel’s continual unbelief and rejection of their Messiah, finally caused God to cast them aside permanently. In response to this notion I say, if God showed mercy to Saul [Paul] and saved him, despite his severe persecution of Christ’s church [Acts 9:1-4, 15, 1 Tim. 1:13-16], He will indeed have mercy on Israel. Moreover, if God’s saving love remains on His “elect” despite their wretchedness, then He will forgive Israel for their wretchedness (Rom. 5:8). It’s an amazing example of God’s unbreakable bond of love (Rom. 8:35-39)!
I am not saying that important truths from Romans 9-11 cannot be gleaned and applied by the church, for there are many applicable truths. But, to consider carefully the immediate context of a passage [or chapters] in the Bible, especially the prophesies regarding Israel. Ask yourself, why are they there and why are the prophesies so numerous? If you believe God has castaway Israel and that He no longer will bless them in the future, I humbly appeal to you to re-think that position. Such a view denies the prophets who spoke for God at His explicit instruction–27% of the Bible is prophetic and 47% of the Old Testament is prophetic. Furthermore, many of those prophesies are yet to be fulfilled and most of them concern Israel. For example, some of the prophetic O.T. passages regarding the restoration of Israel: Isa. 27, 42-44, 65, 66; Jer. 30-33; Ezek. 36, 37, 40-48; Dan. 9:20-27; 12:1-3; Hos. 2:14-23, 14:4-7; Joel 3:18-21; Amos 9:11-15; Obad. 17, 21: Micah 7:14-20; Zeph. 3:14-20: Zech. 13, 14; Mal. 4:1-3; 2
Additionally, I believe Romans 11, is the quintessence of God’s sovereign election, because His Word provides a powerful testimony of its permanency. It demonstrates that, once God chooses an individual [or in this case the “nation” of Israel], he abides in that love forever (Rom. 8:29-30, 35-39). Incidentally, Israel is the only nation ever to have been elected by God (Deut. 7:6-8). In fact, God referred to Israel as “My people”, even before freeing them from Egyptian slavery: “And the LORD said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. (Ex. 3:7–emphasis added).
In closing, by disregarding or denying the promises God made to Israel, one attacks the very character of God and deems Him to be a liar who cannot be trusted. Why at times is it so difficult to accept biblical truth, even if it cannot be fully understood by our finite minds (2 Pet. 3:15-16)? Does not God require us to walk by faith (Hab. 2:4, Rom. 1:17, Gal. 3:11, Heb. 10:38, 2 Cor. 4:18, 5:7)? Why do we who are “wise in our own estimation” [Rom. 11:25], question the ways of the Potter (Rom. 9:20-21)? We should rejoice with Paul over the salvation of Israel. And even though they currently reject Christ, one day they will embrace their Messiah and mourn for the “One they had pierced!” (Zech. 12:10). “O Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. (Ps. 95:1). Amen!
1 The MacArthur New Testament, Romans 9-16, Moody Press, 1994, pg. 135
2 The MacArthur Study Bible, Word Publishing, 1997–Charted on pg. 1287