1 I say then, Hath God
cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed
of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God hath not cast away his people
which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he
maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, 3 Lord, they have killed
thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they
seek my life. 4 But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved
to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image
of Baal. 5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according
to the election of grace.
Continuing a general discussion of the
spiritual condition of the Jews, having noted sufficiently in the previous
two chapters the need of salvation for the Jews, having noted the use of
certain ones through the ages to bring about the way of salvation, and
having noted how the Jews had rejected the way God provided, Paul now asks,
"Hath God cast away his people?" In other words, Paul is asking if God
had gone back on His promise, now refusing to save the Jews. Is the alienation
between God and the Jews the fault of God? Does God really want the Jews
to be saved? Is there no way for reconciliation to be made between God
and the people that were once His chosen?
Once again, we read this strong apostolic
and habitually used negative, "God forbid." Never could one properly think
God is the fault for the Jews being estranged from the God they formerly
served. Never are we to conclude that God went back on His promise. Never
are we to believe that God did not want the Jews to be saved, or that He
does not want them saved now. Yes, there is a way of reconciliation between
God and the Jews. But the fact of the matter is that the Jews failed to
receive Christ. Already Paul has noted that, even though the Jews as a
nation had rejected the Christ, some of that nation had accepted Him. Those
who had accepted Christ were acceptable to God. Paul cites himself as one
example. Paul was a Jew, the seed of Abraham, specifically of the tribe
of Benjamin. He was not a castaway. To be sure, some of the Jews were not
God's children, but this was because they had chosen to reject the plan
of salvation God had devised. But it was not God's fault, nor was there
any reluctance on God's part to receive them. He did receive all who would
respond to the system of faith.
Paul reminds the reader of the time
in Israelite history when Elijah addressed certain words to God about the
Israel of his day. It was a time when it seemed to Elijah that just about
everybody of the nation of Israel had turned against God except Elijah.
This has specific reference to the time following the great contest on
Mount Carmel that is recorded in the Old Testament, First Kings, chapter
nineteen. Elijah accused the Israelite nation of making all sorts of offenses
against God, and he alone had remained faithful. But contrary to what Elijah
thought, God told him that many had not "bowed unto Baal." So Paul is stating,
that while he does not minimize the overall and general truth that most
Jews had rejected God by rejecting Christ, not all had done so. Nor was
it God's fault that any had done so. There was a remnant that was among
the elect; that is, among those who had partaken of the benefits of the
grace of God, because they had accepted the scheme God devised for their
In this is a powerful lesson for us
today when we get discouraged as we are forced to realize the abundance
of sin, and the influence of wickedness in the world. We may get disheartened
concerning the inroads of error and digression that are often made even
among the ranks of the Lord's church. We may be inclined to despair by
thinking everyone has gone the way of departure. But most likely the truth
is, even though many do go astray, possibly even most as did Israel in
Elijah's day, and as the Jews were doing in Paul's day, there is surely
a remnant that remains loyal and faithful, and pursues the course in life
according to the directions of the Lord given in His Word. We just need
to be sure we are among that remnant, and do all we can to enlarge the
number of that remnant.
Verses 6, 7
6 And if by grace, then
is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be
of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. 7 What
then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election
hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded
In the preceding verse Paul mentioned
the election of grace, having reference to the system of grace, and those
elected to salvation through that system. Having mentioned grace, he says
something more about grace and works. Whenever we study works as given
in the Bible we must understand that there are different kinds of works
discussed. There are works of our own merit by which one might think he
could obligate God to bless him in some fashion. The Scriptures make it
plain that man cannot be saved by such works as these. Ephesians 2:8,9
teaches us we are saved by grace through faith, and not of works of which
we can boast. Titus 3:5 teaches the same lesson. At the same time, there
are works of obedience, such as is described in James, chapter two, and
other places. Whenever man does something God directs him to do, he is
working. But such are not works of merit, nor works like were performed
under the old Mosaic law. There are works of obedience to God. Obedience
is necessary to salvation (Hebrews 5:9; Matthew 7:21; Second Thessalonians
1:7-9). The works under discussion in our passage here have reference to
works of merit, the kind by which we cannot accomplish nor earn salvation.
We can never do enough good to erase even one sin whereupon God would owe
us anything. Remember that the law of Moses was also a law of works because
one would have to live perfectly under that law in order to be saved, and
this none could do.
Election, or belonging to the company
of the saved, was declared to be by grace. The system whereby man can be
saved is in existence because of the unmerited favor God has bestowed on
undeserving mankind. It is a system that relies upon the mercy of God rather
than upon the goodness or perfection of man, which is non-existent. Since
salvation is by grace, it is not of meritorious works. If it were of works
then God could be placed in a situation of owing man salvation, and salvation
then would not be the result of God's grace and mercy. If it were possible
that salvation could be attained by works of merit, then it could not be
a system of grace. Even works of obedience have significance only because
God has graciously declared that they have significance.
The works of obedience which are included
in the system of grace have no righteousness of themselves, but only as
God's grace has announced their worth. So, if salvation were by meritorious
works, the works of obedience would cease to be important because they
are not works of merit. "Otherwise," or if it was any other way, works
of obedience do not count for anything. But they do count, and God expects
man to obey whatever He commands.
There are certain conditions man must
meet in order to benefit from the grace of God, but even meeting these
conditions does not constitute meriting salvation. Meeting certain conditions
is simply the procedure God has devised whereby man comes to partake of
the mercy of God. There is a clear distinction between meeting God's conditions
by being obedient and earning what you receive. We can never earn salvation,
but we must meet the conditions God has specified. Salvation is by grace
which includes works of obedience even as it excludes works of merit.
What does all this mean in relation
to the spiritual condition of the Israelites? Israel did not obtain that
which they sought, which was salvation. Obviously, it was because they
followed another system other than the system of grace through faith. However,
those who are of the elect did obtain the desired salvation through forgiveness,
and have established fellowship with God because they came the way of salvation
that God provided through Christ. In a sense, Israel was, and continues
to be, blinded. They are blinded by their own refusal to comply with the
provisions God has made. For the most part, they have remained blinded
even as they were at the time Paul wrote Romans. They remain blinded because
of an allegiance to a system of works by which none can be justified, and
under which they no longer live even though they once lived subject to
it. (See other passages on this point in Romans 3:20,26; Galatians 2:16;
3:11). Paul follows this with two Old Testament references showing how
this blindness was prophesied.
8 (According as it is
written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should
not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. 9 And David
saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock,
and a recompense unto them: 10 Let their eyes be darkened that they may
not see, and bow down their back alway.
Paul refers to a writing by Isaiah (Isaiah
29:10), and how God had allowed the Jew to possess ("given them") a spirit
of slumber, sometimes rendered more emphatically as stupor. By their own
choosing they had closed their eyes, shut their ears to anything contrary
to what they were determined to follow.
Paul also refers to words of David
(Psalm 69:22) to show how "their table," (that upon which they fed), was
a snare and trap, a stumbling-block, because they allowed that system under
which God had formerly ruled them to block them from accepting the system
God had brought into being through the Israelites themselves.
11 I say then, Have
they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their
fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.
The question is asked, "Have they (Israel,
JWB) stumbled that they should fall?" Was it the design and intent that
Israel should behave in this disobedient fashion? Again, Paul uses the
strong negative, "God forbid." Never did God hope Israel would reject the
very scheme He was providing. Such would have made the work of John the
Baptist, Christ, and the apostles, even the work of the old prophets be
nothing but mockery. The scheme was being provided through God's use of
the Jews, and they were to have first opportunity to receive it. They had
more advantages than anyone to seize it with gladness, but they refused
to do so. But since the Jews did reject Christ, God used that rejection
to appeal to the Gentiles, and also used the acceptance of the Gentiles
to once again appeal to the Jews. Possibly, when the Jews realized that
even Gentiles were becoming children of God, and that God's way of making
children through Christ was true, they would be provoked to desire this
family relationship with God also. Keep in mind, Christ, John the Baptist,
and the apostles had made it plain by this time that physical ancestry
would not make anyone a child of God anymore. Being a descendant of Abraham
did not make the difference it once did. Now God's children are spiritual
children, and "children of Abraham" (Galatians 3:7) are those who belong
to God because they have come to God through the system God has provided
through His Son, Jesus Christ. It is a system of grace, mercy, blood, faith,
law, and obedience to the law of Christ.
12 Now if the fall of
them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches
of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?
Paul once again is very logical in his
presentation. He notes how the fall of the Jews had, in a measure, brought
opportunity for salvation to all mankind. As far as the Jew was concerned,
the idea of the termination of the law of Moses would be a fall. Remember,
however, that God had always intended and planned that salvation be universally
offered. But the Jewish rejection of Christ hastened that opportunity being
extended to the Gentiles. Seeing how the call of the Jews brought opportunity
to others, how much more good could be accomplished if the Jews favorably
responded to the gospel! Jewish influence for truth would have been a powerful
benefit to everyone, Jew and Gentile alike.
13 For I speak to you
Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine
office: 14 If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my
flesh, and might save some of them. 15 For if the casting away of them
be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but
life from the dead?
Paul makes an appeal to Gentiles to assist
in bringing the Jews into the fold. He reminds them that he was an apostle
especially sent to Gentiles, and his work was not a minor one, but a great
one. Yet, he was searching for some means to provoke the people of his
own flesh, the Jews, to be saved. He notes that if the rejection of the
Jews by the Lord because of their rejection of Christ had brought a hastened
opportunity to the rest of the world to be reconciled to God, then if the
Jews would obey, and they would also be received of God, it would be like
a resurrection from the dead. Paul was hoping to find a way to provoke
the Jews to obey as the Gentiles had done. He was seeking help from the
Gentiles to this end.
16 For if the firstfruit
be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.
17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive
tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and
fatness of the olive tree;
In this passage we have a very precise
use of the word "holy." Certainly, all the Jewish people were not "holy"
in the sense of being free from sin, or cleansed by the blood of Christ.
Nor were they "holy" because they were so righteous in themselves. But
the term "holy" has reference to them like the term was used with regard
to certain offerings that were made of the firstfruits of crops that were
harvested. By the acceptance of the firstfruits, God showed that the entire
harvest could be usable and acceptable.
Inasmuch as many Jews were converted
to Christ at the beginning of the Christian age at Pentecost, there is
the demonstration of the desire for all Jews to be saved. In fact, those
on Pentecost who were converted were all Jews. So it was obvious that the
firstfruits were acceptable. That being true, all would be acceptable who
would come to God through Christ. Because some Jews were saved, it was
evident that God wanted all Jews to be saved. The acceptance of the "root"
shows God's willingness to accept the "branches." Here is the answer to
the question of verse one, "Hath God cast away his people?" The answer
is, "No." Unfortunately, many of the "branches" were cast away, but it
was because of their own rejection of Christ.
Paul now refers to the Gentile Christians
as a "wild olive tree," in distinction from the Jew who was a natural branch.
Some wild branches, having reference to Gentiles, had been grafted in because
they had accepted Christ. These granted branches were enjoying unity with
God as much as the natural branches (Jewish converts). Therefore, the Jews
and Gentiles in Christ were enjoying a common salvation. Paul is showing
that the Jews who rejected Christ were as those branches that were broken
off, and the Gentiles who had accepted Christ were branches grafted in.
Again, we have presented the theme aforementioned in this epistle, that
the salvation God offers was for every man without regard to race or nationality.
All may be saved because all need to be saved. All that are saved will
be saved the same way. God wants all men, Jew and Gentile, to be saved.
The precise terms used in these verses
pose somewhat of a problem to get a "word by word" understanding of Paul's
message. But the general thrust of his words can be grasped, and has been
18 Boast not against
the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root
thee. 19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might
be grafted in. 20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou
standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: 21 For if God spared not
the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
Continuing some comments to the Gentiles,
Paul issues a warning that they do not become boastful that they belong
to God rather than the Jews. True, they were in spiritual fellowship with
God, and with converted Jews that may once have excluded Gentiles. But
to now brag that one is saved while the other is rejected would be totally
out of character for a Christian. The Christian, like Christ, wants all
men to come to repentance. But the burden of the warning is that Paul shows
the possibility that the Gentile Christian could also fall away, and be
rejected. Indeed, they would be rejected if they did not remain firmly
united to their Jewish brethren in Christ, and faithful to the will of
God given through Christ. Paul is admonishing the Gentiles not to commit
the same error some Jews had committed, that of thinking themselves more
righteous or possessing such a superior feeling toward others. They were
to remember they were borne out of the root. They came to Christ after
the early Jewish converts, and after the system had been delivered through
the Jews. They were not the natural branches, but grafted branches. Because
of unbelief, natural branches were broken off (referring to Jews who rejected
Christ). If the natural branches were broken off because of unbelief, surely
grafted branches would and could be broken off if the same unbelief overcame
them. It is a strong warning not to be highminded and superior in their
attitudes toward the Jews, but humbly grateful for salvation.
There is also the undeniable significance
that apostasy is a possibility among Christians. But there is a significance
beyond even that. Thus far we have learned all men need salvation, and
God offers salvation to all men, and all men must and will be saved the
same way, through the system of faith given through Christ. What will cause
one man to be broken off will cause the next man to be broken off also.
In this we again see demonstrated how God is no respecter of persons.
22 Behold therefore
the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward
thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt
be cut off.
Two very contrasting characteristics of
God are mentioned. They are in contrast, but not contradictory. Paul mentions
the goodness of God, and also His severity. This first trait we like to
consider because we like to believe we are the beneficiaries and recipients
of blessings because of this quality of God. It is certainly true we are
blessed because God is good, and good toward us. The other trait causes
us to have fear and trembling because it means if we rebel and disobey
we shall be the recipients of the wrath of a just God. His wrath has already
been made very evident toward sin in this book, and it was because of this
just wrath of God that the penalty for sin has to be paid by the death
of Christ on the cross. By unbelief, we deprive ourselves of God's mercy,
and become the targets of the wrath of God that justice demands.
God's severity is meted out on those
who fall from Him. His goodness is manifested to those who come to Him.
In verse twenty-two, Paul explained not only the possibility of falling
away, but shows that we must continue in the goodness of God lest we be
cut off. How can any read such passages and ever believe the false doctrine
of "once saved, always saved," as is generally taught by some denominationalists?
If God just ignored the sins committed by unfaithful children, He would
thereby nullify any claim to justice, one of the qualities that made the
sacrifice of Christ necessary.
It was the goodness of God that allowed
the Jews and Gentiles opportunity to salvation. It was the severity of
God that caused the disobedient "natural branches" of verses nineteen and
twenty to be broken off. Also, his severity would cause the unfaithful
Gentiles (the grafted branches) to be broken off again, if they became
23 And they also, if
they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able
to graft them in again. 24 For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which
is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive
tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted
into their own olive tree?
If those who rejected Christ because of
unbelief, particularly the Jews, would abandon that position of unbelief,
God would restore them into His favor. If God can take the Gentiles, who
were not His chosen people, and make them His people, surely God could
take the Jews, who had been His chosen people, but who for a time rejected
Him, and make them His people again should they return to Him through Christ.
If God could save the Gentiles, He could also save the Jews. But the terms
for both were the same.
25 For I would not,
brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be
wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel,
until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. 26 And so all Israel shall
be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer,
and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: 27 For this is my covenant
unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
Paul more or less repeats much of what
has already been taught. This seems to be a statement of emphasis to the
Gentiles that they not fall guilty of conceit and a feeling of superiority.
While it is true the Israelites were blinded as already discussed, they
still could come to God. Notice Paul said that blindness "in part" is happened
to Israel, which means that some of the Israelites had not been blinded,
but had accepted the truth of Christ.
From what I have been able to learn,
the phrase, "until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in," has been a
subject provoking much comment and speculation about the salvation of the
Jews in some kind of sudden, miraculous, and national form or manner sometime
in the future. There is one point in studying the Bible we need to remember,
and that is that there may well be passages, the meaning of which, we cannot
know for certain, but we can know what it does not mean. When we come to
some passages, and conclude that it teaches something that we know cannot
be true because it would contradict other teaching that is clear and easily
grasped, then we can be sure we have placed the wrong conclusion on the
difficult passage in question. Such is the case here. If it be true that
there is to be a sudden, miraculous, and national salvation of the Jewish
people sometime in the future as some teach, then all we have been learning
this far in the book of Romans is contradicted. How many words have we
read that teach us that the Jews and Gentiles shall be saved the same way,
by the same system, on the same terms? But all this would be nullified,
and we would have a genuine contradiction in God's Word should we look
for a sudden, miraculous, and national salvation of the Jewish people.
I reject the idea that this passage has any reference to some kind of sudden
and total national salvation of Jewish people, or some Jewish colony or
nation. This would be against everything Paul has been declaring to be
true up to this point. Men ought not array God against God because of some
theory they hold, like premillennialism in this instance.
Verse twenty-six mentions, "And so
all Israel shall be saved." It does not say all Israel will be saved. It
says, "And so...," the word "so" referring to the manner by which Israel
shall be saved. What is the manner by which Israel shall be saved? The
previous verses, twenty-three and twenty-four, teach us that the abandonment
of unbelief, which means coming to belief, would cause the broken off branches
(the Jews who had thus far rejected Christ) to be grafted in again. The
manner of salvation for the Jew was the system of obedient faith provided
by God's grace. This is the same manner of salvation for the Gentiles.
That the Jews might be saved has been
God's intent and desire as noted from the word of prophecy from Psalms
and Isaiah. This was God's covenant with them, and God intended and wants,
even yet, to take away their sins. However, there is a role the Jew himself
must play, and that is to obey the law of faith which are the conditions
that must be met to enable him to enjoy the promises of God.
Let us go back for a moment to the
phrase, "until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in." This does not necessarily
state a specific time reference when certain events will take place. It
could well mean that the Jews would remain hardened against the system
of faith that embraces all men until almost nobody except Gentiles would
be among the saved. In other words, what appears to be a time element refers
more to a condition rather than some point in time. Even if that condition
or circumstance did occur, (and historically and actually it is just about
that way even now with almost only Gentiles accepting Christ), the Jews
still could be saved, but only if they abandoned their unbelief, and complied
to the method of salvation God devised through Jesus Christ.
Again, the passage may well mean that
Jews would refuse to accept God's grace through Christ until all realized
that the Gentiles as well as Jews could be saved the same way. This explanation
has real merit.
28 As concerning the gospel,
they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are
beloved for the fathers' sakes.
Paul is again referring to the spiritual
condition of the Jews at the time he was writing. Having rejected the gospel,
they were enemies, enemies of God and enemies of those who had accepted
the gospel. This runs true to the principle that one is either for the
Lord or against Him, there being no middle ground. The Jews were against
the Lord when they, through unbelief, refused to follow the Christ. Nonetheless,
as far as the possibility of them being saved, and as far as God's attitude
toward them, and His desire to save them was concerned, that had not and
would not change. God still wanted them, the Jews, as well as Gentiles,
to be saved.
In this we see a principle that must
always be considered when discussing the love God has for man. God loves
man whether man accepts or rejects God. But God does not always approve
of man. He approves only those who obey Him. We should not confuse love
with approval for the two are not the same. God loved the obedient Gentiles
and approved the obedient Gentiles. But God also loved the Jews even as
He disapproved of the Jews in unbelief.
29 For the gifts and
calling of God are without repentance.
The offer of salvation, the blessing of
a spiritual nature that can belong to a man through Christ, is "without
repentance." This does not mean a man can obtain God's blessings without
repenting of his sins, but that God does not repent, change His mind, with
respect to His offer to save. Nor will He change His plan to save.
30 For as ye in times
past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:
31 Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they
also may obtain mercy.
The Gentiles in times past did not believe
God, as amply noted in Romans, chapter one. Yet, now having come to Christ,
they have obtained mercy. The Jews disbelieved and hastened the opportunity
for the Gentiles to believe. The Gentiles did believe, and thereby obtained
mercy. On the other hand, as things stood at the time of Paul's writing
of Romans, and as they still stand for the most part regarding Jews, the
Jews disbelieved. Yet, it was the hope that through the belief of the Gentiles
the Jews might be provoked to believe for themselves.
32 For God hath concluded
them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.
Paul emphasizes the universal need of
forgiveness, and the universal offer of forgiveness. Once again Paul is
showing that there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles as to how
to be saved. Neither is there any difference between them once they are
saved. The difference exists between the saved and the lost, not between
the saved Jews and saved Gentiles, lost Jews and lost Gentiles. All were
once in unbelief. But God has offered mercy to all because all needed it,
and now, all have been exposed to it.
Verses 33 - 36
33 O the depth of the
riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his
judgments, and his ways past finding out! 34 For who hath known the mind
of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? 35 Or who hath first given
to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? 36 For of him, and
through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
These verses are words of praise toward
God for the great and matchless qualities He possesses. It seems rather
obvious that the provocation to enter into words of praise at this point
was the summary of God's plan for saving Jew and Gentile alike. What a
glorious system! What a glorious plan! What justice and mercy combined!
What a great God that devised such a system! What a Savior that carried
out the system that paid for man's sins! So marvelous is the wisdom and
knowledge of God! So beyond full comprehension by the finite human mind,
The plan of salvation is the great
expression of the wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10). None can give advice
to God. None can be His counsellor. None can fathom the depth of His mind.
None can make any real contribution that would improve on God, or the ways
of God that He has devised. None can ever place God in their debt, or be
such that God would owe them anything. It is the other way. Man owes everything
to God. God is the source of all, the glory of all, now and forever!
These are words praising the author
of the scheme of redemption, the system of salvation. Whereas the human
mind could not devise a system so perfect in every respect, nor can the
human mind fathom the reaches of the wisdom of God, the human mind can
comprehend sufficiently in order to recognize the greatness of the plan,
and the greatness of the source of that plan. Such praise as given here
is the prime theme of the words of Paul in these closing passages of chapter
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