Gospel 43

Gospel 43 December 31, 2008

No matter how you read it, the end of Romans 11 is tough stuff:

25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

 “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. 27 And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”

 28 As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. 30 Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, 31 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. 32 For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

V. 28 is the focus: when it comes to the gospel preaching of redemption in Christ, the unbelieving zealous Jewish opponents of the gospel are “enemies” but that does not rule out their election. God’s gifts and God’s call – his gracious election of Israel from the time of Abraham and Jacob – are irrevocable. God must remain true to his promises to Israel, the nation.

The gospel Paul preaches elicits rejection, sometimes by the very people the gospel was designed to redeem – Israel. (There is a debate about the meaning of “Israel” and some think it refers to the scattered, dispersed, northern kingdom.)

"I had a different avatar name back then.But I could have sworn we exchanged posts ..."

The Linchpin of Our Faith (RJS)
"Hi Glory,That's ok. We may have run into each other online in some form or ..."

The Linchpin of Our Faith (RJS)
"I thought I exchanged posts with you a long while ago and you sent me ..."

The Linchpin of Our Faith (RJS)
"Erm, hi.I confess, I'm not sure what all this is supposed to mean. I'm a ..."

The Linchpin of Our Faith (RJS)

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Dan

    I have struggled deeply with this passage for some time. I’ve heard it preached that the saved Jews Paul is referring to are the ones that eventually (pre-death, of course) accept Jesus as Lord. I get no explanation for how that is derived from the scripture other than it jives with other passages of how salvation is granted. Can’t be contradiction, of course. I want to better understand what I think you’re saying here, because I’ve not heard a preacher/scholar before say it. Are you implying that the people of Israel are part of the saved elected regardless of their personal relationship/belief in Christ prior to his return? — assuming that at his return every knee will bow and tongue confess…
    There is a part of me that believes the Jews (people of Israel) already have rooms in the mansion set for them. It’s only a matter of time, not confession, that will bring them home. The debate for me, which I’m not interested in, is who are the people of Israel. I’ve heard others go farther and debate the difference of election v. saved – which doesn’t quite make sense to me.
    This inclusiveness leaning on my part sets me at odds with other brothers and it causes me a bit of distress. Can you shed more light on this for me?
    P.S. To provide more insight into my thoughts, I read the Four Views of Salvation this past term and really really appreciated Clark Pinnock’s view…although I still wasn’t completely convinced…

  • Your Name

    Hi Scot,
    Just yesterday I put up a post about this very passage after someone quoted it to me in support of the current actions of the modern state of Israel in Gaza.
    The mammoth post can be read here. I’d love your opinion:
    I found your post because I respect your thoughts and thought I would do a search to see if you had written anything on Romans 11 on this blog.
    I’m inclined to agree with Bishop N.T Wright in his commentary on Romans for the New Interpreter’s Bible commentary series and say that the Israel of 11:25 represents ethnic Israel and 11:26 represents the Israel of God that Paul references in Galatians 6:16.
    Such a view seems to line up with the whole argument Paul has presented in Romans up that point – talking of what a true Jew is (inward) and pointing out in Romans 9 that not all Israelites truly belong to “Israel”. He seems to build the argument that not all ethnic Israelites will be saved and throws the citizenship of the Kingdom wide open to Jew and Gentile.
    It would seem contradictory to then be stating that all ethnic Israel will be saved. Believing that would also raise questions – if talking of ethnic Israel, who would that mean? All Israelites alive at some point in the future? All Israelites since Abraham… it gets very murky very quickly.
    Rather, I think the picture that he is painting is the mystery of how all of the Israel of God will be saved.
    It’s such a tricky passage that can get very messy.

  • Dan

    Your Name (lol),
    I’ve also heard/read that argument and I appreciate cross referencing the bible in support of stronger theological theories. However, the Romans to whom Paul wrote to could not have done that. So, given they did not have Galatians to reference or may not have even know the letter existed, what was Paul saying to the Romans? Better still, what did/were the Romans to interpret from Paul’s letter. Why even include it?
    Paul had never met them but knew they were there and growing. His reason for going there was to of course server them as he too was a Roman citizen. Yet, he was also going to use the trip as a launching pad to head west. Could the visit have also been a visit to gain more missional support? It was said to be a large church by the 50s AD.
    I understand the people of Israel v. nation of Israel argument. I guess I can swallow that pill. I’ve also heard different interpretations of the word “all” in 26. My problem then comes down to interpretation. Why use “all” or “Israel” (which implies the nation) if that’s not what it means?
    Again, what were the Romans to believe/interpret? Why not be specific and say what you (and most others) say about the passage? Those who on faith accept Jesus and worship the Lord in righteousness will be save and those who do not won’t be. Why instead write to the Romans reminding them of the promises in Isaiah and Jeremiah – that God will save “Jacob”, redeeming them of their sins, through the liberator from “Zion?” These are holistic names. There is nothing I can read which is limiting in the letter. You can only come to that conclusion if you pull from other letters which the Romans did not have.
    It really hurts to think on this. I believe truly converted Jews deeply cared about other Jews’ salvation and wanted desperately for them to be eternally saved. Paul could have brought the hammer down on that desire by saying, “Only your deeply devout Jewish friends and family that convert like you will be eternally saved. The others will perish from the same wages of sin I spoke on earlier…” but that’s not what he did. He made a special point to talk about this special group of people and special circumstances set by God only for them.

  • HAHA, I’m not sure why it put “Your Name” when I typed my name… oh well, I must have done something wrong.
    I hear what you’re saying Dan, but I’m still not convinced he’s actually talking about all of ethnic Israel finding salvation as we commonly understand it – I can’t help but feel that such a thing would contradict his whole argument leading up to 11:26.
    I do hear your point in relation to Galatians 6:16 though, the church in Rome may not have had access to that letter, which leads me to wonder what the church in Galatia understood to be the “Israel of God” when that phrase is only used once in that letter.
    For me the main crux of the argument that Paul differentiates between ethnic Israel and the greater Israel in 11:25-26 actually comes from other parts of the letter to the church in Rome where Paul redefines what a real “Jew” is Romans 2:28-29, where judging by the preceding verses, he is giving the Gentile the status of “Jew”. Then there is Romans 9:6 where the definition of Abraham’s children is defined beyond ethnicity and instead by faith.
    Paul works through such redefinitions time and time again in his letters.
    I agree with what you’re saying about converted Jews wanting their kinsfolk to find salvation and I believe Paul would have shared that desire, which is why he had to wrestle with the tension of salvation only being found in the redeeming work of Christ, the rejection of that work by his own people and the promises God had made. He also had to deal with it in the face of his own argument that God no longer plays favourites and has thrown the gates of citizenship wide open.
    It is a tough passage to work with and interpret.
    I have found Wright’s commentary very helpful as he links the whole argument of Romans together very well.

  • Dan

    Thank you, Frank. You got a “hmm” out of me. Let me work it…