Romans Chapter 11: Favor to Return to Israel after Gentile Church is Complete

Dec 11th, 2009 | By | Category: Romans, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Romans Chapter 11: Favor to Return to Israel after Gentile Church is Complete

Rom. 11:1 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.

“Hath God cast away his people? God forbid.” Earlier Paul used a similar question method with regard to the Law. Is the Law bad? By no means! Paul answered hypercritical Jews, who thought God should have no dealings with Gentiles, by showing that He foretold not only His dealings with the Gentiles but also Israel’s disobedience. Certainly, however, God did not cast off the Israelites forever, for Paul himself was a Jew. An Israelite “of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin,” he had the faith and spirit of an Israelite indeed.

Incidentally, the order, or sequence, of the jewels on the high priest’s breastplate indicates the honor and rank of the 12 tribes. The names of the 12 tribes engraved on the two black onyx stones on the shoulder epaulettes show the sequence of natural birth. Benjamin and Judah were associated as tribes and were more honorable, generally speaking. The other ten tribes seceded under Jereboam after Solomon’s death.

Rom. 11:2 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,

“God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew.” Not only was the promise given to Abraham, but for more than 1,800 years, the principle for Israel was, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth” (Amos 3:2). “Elias” is the Prophet Elijah.

Rom. 11:3 Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.

Rom. 11:4 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.

Rom. 11:5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.

Many of the 7,000 in the Old Testament were from the school of the prophets. When we read verses 1-5, the logical question is, Why did Paul bring up the subject of the 7,000 who did not bow the knee to Baal?

Elijah had said, “Lord, they [the Israelites] have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars [and replaced them with their own altars]; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.”

From the perspective of looking over the scene, it appeared that Elijah was 100 percent correct.

Jeremiah, too, seemed to be alone, although a few individuals obeyed God’s instructions by repenting and changing their works. Here Paul was saying that the nation of Israel persecuted all of the prophets God sent unto them. In reading this letter from Paul, the Christian Jews in Rome were hearing about their own past history, which should have taken a little air out of the balloon of their feelings of superiority. They looked down on Gentile Christians, who did not know the Law and lacked the Jewish background. The attitude was, “We have been instructed from our youth up, and these newcomers do not even know the God of Israel.” However, the honest-hearted Jew listening to Paul should have realized, “A Jew per se has no cause for boasting.” Paul further deflated the Jews by mentioning that Abraham was not even a Jew when he was called, so being of the seed of Abraham did not prove one was great. Abraham had other seed through Hagar and Keturah, but the calling went through Isaac. Therefore, Paul was saying, “You have to analyze God’s calling and dealings.” A large part of the strife he was trying to settle was the Jewish feeling of superiority over the Gentile Christians. The logic Paul used here was a very effective way of deflating such supposed superiority.

While Elijah thought he alone was left, there were actually 7,000 others. Drawing an analogy, Paul said, “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” While the Christian Jew might think of himself as special, the history of Israel shows that the great majority of Jews failed. Therefore, Christian Jews could not use their background as a proof of superiority. In fact, they should fear being identified with forebears who disobeyed the prophets.

In regard to the remnant, we believe Paul was saying that God had a purpose with the Gentiles who were accepting Christ and coming into the early Church. Paul reasoned that God could be doing things the Christian Jews were not aware of as individuals, even though the condition of Israel was as Elijah had described it. The Israelites had killed the true prophets and destroyed God’s altars. With Jeremiah, God pointed out how the Jews had disobeyed the prophets of old, and He said in effect, “If the Jews are flint, I am making you, Jeremiah, an even harder flint so that you can get my message across to my people to wake them up to their situation.” Then God said that in the streets of Jerusalem—that is, out in public—Jeremiah would not find one individual who was faithful. The same situation exists today.

Therefore, in spite of the fact that Elijah thought he was correct in saying he alone was left, God contradicted him. Including Elijah, there were 7,001 faithful individuals. We know about some of the 7,000 in another way because Obadiah helped 100 prophets by hiding them in a cave to protect them from the authorities (1 Kings 18:3,4).

Paul was saying that God knows those who are His, whereas we ourselves are not sure. We cannot say as individuals that we alone have the truth, for God has others of whom we are not aware. We do know that the brethren we meet with have truth, but that does not mean we are the only ones. The mood and attitude of Laodicea is, “We are rich and in need of nothing, and others are very poor.” Sometimes we refer to Christians in the nominal Church as babes—and most of them probably are—but we cannot make a blanket statement about all of them. The point is that we have to be very careful when speaking on the subject of whom God favors.

These principles are very important to observe lest we get high-minded as individuals. Paul used Scripture to illustrate that as great as Elijah was, he was not aware of 7,000 others who had not yet bowed the knee to Baal, and it took character to remain loyal to Jehovah during Jezebel’s reign. Certainly the 7,000 are not to be equated with Elijah, for he was specially chosen as a leader and was more prominent, but the others were also chosen and believed as he did.

To Christian Jews who listened to Paul, his whole line of reasoning seemed to be against them. They got the gist that he was criticizing the Jews who were judging. First, he kept giving them a black mark. Then he switched and counterbalanced his reasoning by saying God had not cast off the Jews forever and He had a remnant. Later in this eleventh chapter, Paul showed that Gentiles replaced the Jews who were broken off. In the Abrahamic tree of promise, the Jewish branches that did not bear fruit were taken away, and Gentiles were grafted in. While Paul was deprecating the Jews lest they boast above themselves, he also said they were not entirely cast off. Gentiles, who were on the sidelines listening to his reasoning, were replacements of the Jews who were cast off the Abrahamic tree of promise. Paul was giving the lesson to both Jewish and Gentile Christians, but since he used so many Scriptures about Israel, he wanted the Jews to know that they had not been entirely cast off and that there would be a remnant.

Paul had quoted Isaiah, who spoke to Israel on behalf of God: “All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people” (Rom. 10:21). The same principle was stated in the Book of Jeremiah. The lesson was an encouragement to the Gentiles, and the Jews were being told, “The number is small, so do not be heady.” The “remnant” of 144,000, a predetermined number, first consisted of Christian Jews, but since not enough Jews accepted Christ, the “election of grace” went to the Gentiles.

Rom. 11:6 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.

“And if by grace, then is it [election, the high calling, salvation] no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it [election] be of works, then is it [election] no more grace.”

What is the thought of the last clause, “Otherwise work is no more work”? Works are not meaningful in the calling of God because election is by grace. Nevertheless, a living faith produces works. Stated another way, if works are not produced, the faith is dead (James 2:17,18,20). The reasoning of James harmonizes with what Paul said.

Notice the use of present tense. Paul was speaking of the calling of God, the election of God. The setting here in Romans is the early development of the children of God, for the real election takes place later, when 144,000 have been proven faithful. At the end, those who are more than overcomers will inherit the chief grace, the prize of the high calling. Paul was speaking to Christians at the beginning of the Gospel Age, in the Ephesus period, the first stage of the gospel Church. This doctrine was new, and to be a Christian in Paul’s day required one to make stark decisions about his life, his job, and his safety. When witnessing, he had to be discreet with his words. But Paul, sent out as an apostle with a special charge, was a leader, so he stated matters strongly. As others consecrated and grew and developed more zeal, they became more like Christ and Paul. Paul had been consecrated for a long time, probably even prior to his becoming a Christian, but not with knowledge until Jesus appeared to him on the way to Damascus. Until then he was very dedicated to and concerned about the Law.

If we are saved by grace—by the gift of God—then we are not saved by works. A gift is gratis; it is not earned (like wages) by works. God deals with us by grace. After we consecrate, we work out our own salvation, but since works are always imperfect on this side of the veil, grace must accompany our works (Phil. 2:12). Initially, we come to God on faith, belief, and His grace in recognizing the arrangement through Christ. Based on justification and the robe of Christ’s righteousness, God accepts us by grace, not works. If the two are mixed, both deteriorate.

Paul sat at the feet of Gamaliel to learn. His reasoning is sometimes foreign to our way of thinking today, but we try to follow his reasoning.

Comment: On the subject of foreknowledge, predestination, and God’s will, God said He would have mercy on whom He would have mercy. He raised up Pharaoh to show His great power, He predestinated a class to be conformed to the image of His Son, etc., so in the final analysis, the plan is God’s creation. As the Potter, He has power over the clay, and everything will work out according to His plan, precisely as He laid it out before ever creating Adam. Thus His plan seems to be less than individual predestination but more than foreknowledge.

Reply: Whatever God does, He has a good reason. We do not have to know every little detail,  for that is where faith and trust come in. First, natural faith sees the great God, and that realization is mind-boggling. He states, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8,9). When God uses human instruments to speak in the Scriptures, some things are purposely stated in hyperbolic fashion. He condescends to talk in our language so that we can understand, but His true language is so far above us that we have to say, “I know He has the best reason for what He is doing.” For example, God was partial with regard to His Son, but when we see what Jesus did, we know God had a good reason for choosing him. When a strong angel proclaimed with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?” no one was found until Jesus came (Rev. 5:2-5). When the holy angels saw Jesus’ life and his sacrifice on the Cross, they would humbly say in their heart, “I question whether I could ever do that.”

One by one, each angel would admit Jesus’ superiority. God also chose Paul, and when we study Paul’s life, we ask, “Could we do the things he did and suffer what he suffered?” We would quail by comparison, for what he did was startling, consistent, and fervent.

Jesus and Paul were leaders, but God also has reasons with the lower level of the Little Flock as a whole. Of course God does not tell us all of His reasons. However, we are told that Paul and Jeremiah were chosen from the womb, and we can see that is true when we study their characters. Based on knowing that God had reasons for choosing Paul and Jeremiah, we trust He also had a good reason for choosing the other Ancient Worthies and members of the Little Flock. Pharaoh, a vessel of dishonor, was responsible for his own actions and destiny. Even though God chose Pharaoh to show His glory to all the nations by having plagues come upon this stubborn character, Pharaoh exercised his own free will. By faith, we extend this principle and realize that God chooses other individuals as well. God merely foresees what decisions and actions an individual will take and uses them. In fact, God even uses Satan, the chief enemy. In His own time and way, God can and will overrule Satan’s efforts to destroy, belittle, retard, and reject. Meanwhile, He allows Satan to be a taskmaster to prove the mettle and character of the people he is subordinating. However, God made Lucifer perfect in the beginning, and Satan himself chose to rebel when his ego got inflated. We see only chief characters in Scripture, such as Jesus, Paul, Pharaoh, and Satan, but when God makes a broad statement about election by grace with regard to all He has called in the Gospel Age, we can say by faith that He has a reason, of which we are not given the details.

Rom. 11:7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded

Rom. 11:8 (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.

“The election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded [or hardened—see King James margin and Diaglott interlinear] … unto this day.” Israel is in much of the theme of this epistle, but Paul was writing to a mixed class. Therefore, the Gentiles were also drawing lessons from Paul’s reasoning, and they knew that election by grace included them.

Paul quoted Isaiah 29:10, “For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.” This prophecy applies to the ends of both ages (Jewish and Gospel). Paul characteristically quoted a text and assumed the Jews knew the Scriptures and what he was talking about. He frequently quoted the Old Testament, preceding the quote with “It is written” or the name of the individual who uttered it. In addition, he often used an Old Testament Scripture without specifically saying it was a quote.

Getting the right slant was most important. Paul often paraphrased a Scripture, even though the translators stated or implied that it was an exact quote. Because his purpose was especially to note the prophetic standpoint or a principle, there are sometimes differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament. For example, in quoting Jeremiah 31:31-33 in regard to the New Covenant in the Kingdom Age, Paul might be showing that since a change will come, the Christian should expect that some changes have already taken place in the Gospel Age. Paul wrote with emotion, power, and energy. His heart and soul were in the epistles, not just intellect!

If an individual Jew knew that God gave Israel the “spirit of slumber” as a whole, he would not feel hopeless or be discouraged—and he would look just for those with a hearing ear. The same principle applies to our day in regard to nominal Christendom and the true Church.

However, we should not be smug and think we have all the truth. It is important to always remember that God gave us whatever truth we have. We should view Bro. Russell as a messenger only and not use his Volumes as a catechism.

Rom. 11:9 And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them:

Rom. 11:10 Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back always.

To show a principle, Paul quoted David, who prophesied of Jesus’ words and thoughts at the time of the Crucifixion. “Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap. Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake” (Psa. 69:22,23). Earlier Jesus said of the Jewish nation, “I would have taken you under my wings like a hen with her chicks,” but instead the nation crucified him (Matt. 23:37 paraphrase). Technically speaking, until the nation rejected him, there was opportunity for change, but once Jesus was nailed to the Cross, that act spoke volumes as to what the nation did.

“Let their [the Jews’] table be made a snare.” Spiritual pride in works under the Law kept the vast majority of Jews from accepting Christ. Forms, ceremonies, and works led to false righteousness and self-satisfaction, whereas the Law should have been a schoolmaster to bring them to Christ (Gal. 3:24). Incidentally, a “table” back there was laid out on the ground.

“Let their eyes be darkened.” Natural Israel’s eyes have been darkened and their backs are bowed down so that they see only the natural promises, not the spiritual.

Q: What is the thought behind David’s writing, “Make their loins continually to shake”?

A: The Jews figuratively shook in vain in the trouble of AD 69-73 and during the Diaspora, when they were chased from nation to nation by fear and persecution.

Rom. 11:11 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.

Rom. 11:12 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?

First, Paul said, “Have they [the Jews] stumbled that they should fall? God forbid.” Then he said, “But rather through their fall[,] salvation is come to the Gentiles.” In pointing out that God now deals with the Gentiles, Paul hoped the Jews would be provoked (in a favorable sense) to accept Jesus.

Next Paul said, “If the fall of them [the Jews] be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles, how much more their fulness?” As Paul was speaking this way, he knew, and had in mind, that at the end of the Gospel Age, all Israel (that is, the Holy Remnant) would be saved, and favor would return to natural Israel. With his first question, he meant, “Have they [the Jews] stumbled that they should fall forever?” Later Paul clarified these points, and the right-hearted Jews would hear the entire epistle before making a judgment.

As was common knowledge even among the Gentiles, Paul was saying that the nation of Israel had rejected Jesus. Since unconsecrated Gentiles tended to think that the Jews were out of grace forever, Paul needed to teach a lesson to Gentiles who consecrated and came into the truth. Therefore, he added, “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?” In other words, if the Gentiles were enriched when Israel fell, then more abundant blessings would go to the world when Israel’s “fulness” comes in at the end of the present age.

We believe Paul knew, through multiple revelations, about the coming holocaust in AD 69-73.

Not only did the Crucifixion of Jesus portend judgment, but John the Baptist had said that the nation would have a baptism of fire (Matt. 3:11,12). After that event occurred, the gospel Church would consist predominantly of Gentile Christians—in fact, almost exclusively.

Rom. 11:13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:

Paul said, “I am the apostle of the Gentiles.” He had been reasoning with Christian Jews, but now he began to reason with Gentile Christians. The commission at the time Ananias anointed his eyes was that Paul would bear the Lord’s name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel (Acts 9:10-16). Therefore, Paul was commissioned to teach both Jews and Gentiles.

Q: How did Paul “magnify” his office?

A: In speaking to Gentiles, he enlarged his apostolic office beyond teaching primarily Jews.

Rom. 11:14 If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.

These were strong truths to those who heard the epistle being read. Of course most were Christians, but some unconsecrated who attended the meetings were among the hearers. Later on in the epistle, Paul gave encouragement to and tried to persuade the latter group to become Christians, but at this time, he was mainly interested in straightening out the consecrated on the subject of the calling.

Paul said the Jews were his “flesh.” If they would truly hear the gospel message he preached, their aggressive stance with that enlightenment would be greatly blessed.

Rom. 11:15 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?

The Jews were once greatly blessed, but when they were cast off, a blessing went to the Gentiles. If this verse were read alone, out of context, we would have the nominal view that the Jews are permanently cast off from favor unless they accept Christ in the present age. In the Middle Ages, this view created enmity toward the Jews.

“What shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” When the fullness of the Gentiles is come in at the end of the Gospel Age, all Israel will be saved (verses 25 and 26). At that time, Israel will be reconciled primarily along earthly lines. There may be a slight surprising influx of Jews with a spiritual hope at the end of this age, but generally speaking, it will be time for the establishment of the Kingdom on earth and the receiving back of Israel with the Holy Remnant, who will be delivered out of Jacob’s Trouble. “At midnight,” the Ancient Worthies will be resurrected (Psa. 119:62), and later, when the Kingdom is established and everything is in order, past generations of the dead will begin to return, with the last to die being first out of the tomb. In other words, Adam’s generation will be raised last.

Q: Will the “receiving” of the Jews be the ratification of the New Covenant?

A: The ratification of the New Covenant will begin then but not be consummated until the end of the Kingdom Age. As an illustration, the beginning of the ratification was emblemized when the blood of bulls (representing Christ) and goats (picturing the Little Flock) was sprinkled for purification, but since the sprinkling has to take place on the dead when they come out of the tomb, as well as on the living, ratification is a process. The purpose of the New Covenant is to bring together, or into harmony, two parties who are at enmity: God and the alienated people of mankind. When that process is consummated, the covenant will be fully in effect and will have accomplished its purpose of reconciling the world. This reasoning comes from studying all of Paul’s epistles, and of course the Bible was not completely collated until the third century, although most of it had been brought together by the year 100, the close of the first century.

Rom. 11:16 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.

Paul explained the olive tree in verses 16-21, beginning with the root. His reasoning was unusual with regard to the “firstfruit” and the “lump.” If the firstfruit is holy, so is the lump, or “afterfruit.” (Paul stated this principle in 1 Corinthians 15:23, “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.”) And if the root is holy, so are the branches.

Comment: Verse 16 reads as follows in the Amplified: “Now if the first handful of dough offered as the first fruits [Abraham and the patriarchs] is consecrated (holy), so is the whole mass [the nation of Israel]; and if the root [the Abrahamic promise] is consecrated (holy), so are the branches.”

Reply: The term “firstfruit” ordinarily makes us think of just the fruit, the end product, but the seed and the bud are also involved. In ancient times, the term was sometimes used in a generalized way that can be misleading to us today. Similarly, a “meat offering” was a meal or cereal offering (Lev. 2:1). When the King James Bible was published in 1611, it was a sterling translation, but those living back there could more easily understand the vocabulary.

God called natural Israel the “lump.” Just as sin leavens dough, so the holiness of Abraham and the patriarchs purified the whole lump. According to nature, the opposite usually occurs. For instance, if a drop of black ink is put in a glass of water, the pure glass of water does not swallow up the color of the ink. Rather, the black ink begins to discolor the water. However, here the lump and the branches became holy.

An illustration was given in the Old Testament. If one touched the garment of the high priest, he became holy. However, for the high priest to sanctify the people in the Court by letting them touch his robe when they were not in the proper heart attitude would be inappropriate.

Therefore, a separation was made between the priest and the people. When a woman who had suffered with an issue of blood for 12 years touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, she followed the principle of the Law, which is contrary to nature, and she was healed (Matt. 9:20-22).

Paul used Jesus’ type of reasoning, wherein a tree is judged by its fruit. If the fruit is good, the tree is good (Matt. 7:17,18). Jesus is the first of the household of faith. If, therefore, the “fruitfruit” is acceptable, the “afterfruit” (the Church class) will also be acceptable.

Rom. 11:17 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;

Rom. 11:18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.

Why did Paul say, “If some of the branches be broken off”? Although the branches that were broken off were the majority of the nation of Israel, some of the Jews remained on the olive tree by accepting Christ and thus running for the high calling. As used here, the word “some” usually means “relatively few.” Paul was addressing the Gentile Christians and their attitude, telling them to be humble.

A broad-brush summary of this letter to the Romans is as follows. Paul first showed that all have sinned and are depraved, Jew and Gentile alike, for he was speaking to a mixed group.

Then he began to address the Jews and subsequently turned to the Gentiles. Overall, he addressed the Jewish Christians with a disproportionate number of verses and Scriptures. Now, in this chapter, he switched back and forth between the two elements, for he was beginning to sum up what he had been trying to say in the previous ten chapters.

Abraham was brought in because the Abrahamic Covenant really embraces three covenants:

(1) the Law of Moses (pictured by Hagar—Gal. 4:24), (2) the Sarah (Grace) Covenant, and (3) the New Covenant (represented by Keturah). Even though Jacob, the father of the nation of Israel, came much later, Abraham was of Eber, a Hebrew (Gen. 11:14-26). Therefore, the Abrahamic promise is the root of the olive tree.

Paul compared a cultivated olive tree (Israel) to a wild olive tree (the Gentiles). “If some of the [Jewish] branches be broken off, and thou [the Gentiles], being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them [the Jews], and with them partakest of the root [the Abrahamic promise] and fatness [the sap, or oil] of the olive tree; Boast not against the [Jewish] branches.” Just as the sap of the olive tree becomes oil with growth over a period of time, so the fruitage of the Holy Spirit comes slowly.

Gentiles, the branches of the wild tree, were grafted into the cultivated tree to replace the broken-off Jewish branches. The cultivated olive tree more specifically represented Israelites indeed—and hence had the Abrahamic promise as the root. The Abrahamic promise has two kinds of seed: earthly (as the sand of the seashore) and heavenly (as the stars of heaven). The Gentiles were not to boast against the Jewish branches, for they did not bear the root, but the root bore them.

Comment: The Amplified has, “If you do boast and feel superior, remember it is not you that support the root, but the root [that supports] you.”

Rom. 11:19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.

Back there some of the Gentile Christians would have thought: “The Jewish branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” This was the old man (or old woman) speaking— “The Lord must have seen some innate quality in me that He liked.” It is true that being consecrated, we have truth others do not have, for unless a person is Spirit-begotten, he cannot perceive spiritual things, but if we speak from an individual standpoint, we can get highminded.

Also, since God calls only those with faith, we can say that we had inherent natural faith—that we were blessed with natural faith when we were born (Heb. 11:6). However, many others also have natural faith, including some who have not consecrated. Therefore, we should not be hasty in making rash statements or judgments.

Rom. 11:20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:

The Jews were broken off because of unbelief, and now we, as Christians, have faith. But we must not boast or be high-minded lest we subsequently develop a condition where we begin to doubt and even become an unbeliever. Then we, too, would be broken off. We have this treasure in an earthen vessel, and sometimes the vessel spoils the treasure (2 Cor 4:7).

Rom. 11:21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.

In summary, verses 16-21 are saying that if Gentile Christians are grafted in among Jewish Christians and partake of the Abrahamic promise, outnumbering the Jews, the Gentiles should not boast, for they can be broken off because of pride and the Jews grafted back in. In Christ, all are equal, being children of Jehovah and brethren of Christ.

The word “also” reveals an unusual standard of God that makes Him what He is—just, reliable, and not wishy-washy. Human society shows favoritism. For example, the old nature makes excuses for a friend, but if the friend becomes an enemy of God and we continue to make excuses for him, we put ourselves in a very precarious situation. God taught the human race a lesson when He spared not His dear Son but allowed Jesus to go through a very severe testing period culminating on the Cross. One reason for the testings and sufferings was to show that Jesus was selected because he is the best one for the office. Otherwise, many would not see his sterling character and would just assume he was God’s favorite. God is principled and has standards. It is true that He does have favorites, but that favoritism is based on the degree of obedience, not emotion. Jesus also had favorites. He loved all of his apostles, but he favored Peter, James, and John in some instances because they were more zealous than the others.

Rom. 11:22 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.

Paul anticipated Gentile thinking. A grafted-in branch is more precarious than a natural branch.

Therefore, he said, “Gentile Christians, do not be high-minded. You were accepted through faith. Be in awe of your acceptance, and fear lest rejection come.” Paul used natural reasoning. The gist of verses 20-22, which were addressed to the Gentile Christian, is as follows: “Fear … [lest] thou also shalt be cut off [from the spiritual favor or seed].” Paul was trying to bring harmony between Jewish and Gentile Christians so that neither group would be high-minded.

Hence he was discussing the gospel calling here, not Second Death. Israel could have been a nation of spiritual priests, but the nation was broken off from the spiritual blessing.

The tree illustrates three ages: Jewish, Gospel, and Millennial. The nation of Israel was broken off as respects the Gospel Age, but the Jews will be reinstated in the Millennial Age under the New Covenant. Thus the nation of Israel was on the tree during the Jewish Age, and it will be on the tree again in the future. To repeat: The Abrahamic Covenant embraces the Jewish, the Gospel, and the Millennial ages. The Abrahamic promise existed before the Jewish nation. Those Jews who accepted Christ were allowed to remain on the olive tree.

Verse 22 does not refer to emotions but to the value of what was lost: the high calling. We are to have faith and humility, for our standing is based on grace—God’s grace. Although this eleventh chapter can be used to teach the principle of being cut off as individuals into Second Death or the Great Company, it is really a simple lesson on humility.

The pronoun “his” is supplied. When included, the thought is, “Continue in God’s goodness.”

When omitted, the thought is, “Continue in goodness”; that is, we are to maintain the integrity of our vow to the Lord. Both thoughts are helpful, although with the latter thought, we should remember Jesus’ words: “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God” (Matt. 19:17). Thus there are brakes in Scripture and modifying factors in Christian liberties.

Rom. 11:23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again.

Rom. 11:24 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?

Jews can be re-engrafted during the Gospel Age, but they will definitely be re-engrafted in the future. Grafting in the same kind of branches is relatively easy, whereas grafting in foreign branches is more difficult and requires time to see if the graft is successful. The same principle applies to transplanting human organs from one person to another. Donors are sought with similar genetic factors so that the organs will not be rejected.

Certainly a holy remnant will be brought back into the fold to work with the Ancient Worthies when the Kingdom is established, for the Word of God will go forth from Jerusalem—a city with no thefts, adultery, crimes, or misdeeds at that time (Isa. 2:3). The Jews will be a holy nucleus, for they are to be the channel of the New Covenant, and Gentiles will have to become proselytes of the Jewish religion in order to get restitution blessings in a proper sense. In the Kingdom Age, therefore, both the channel and the Gentiles will have to be grafted in. In that day, “there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts” (Zech. 14:21).

Paul used the same principle in verse 24 but in a reverse fashion. He was saying, “If the Gentiles were cut out of the wild olive tree and grafted, contrary to nature, into a good olive tree, how much more easily could the natural branches be grafted back into their own cultivated olive tree?” Sometimes, as here, Paul turned things around with a purpose in mind.

This approach was better, especially for the mixed Jewish and Gentile Christian element, for both groups would benefit. At times, Paul patted one group on the back and scolded the other, and then he reversed his reasoning and scolded the first group and patted the second group. At other times, he scolded both groups or encouraged both. This technique was very good because it avoided sectarianism, which is a form of favoritism that is improperly based.

Rom. 11:25 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.

Paul was speaking to both groups here, Jewish and Gentile Christians: “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits.” “Blindness” has happened to almost the whole of natural Israel, but Paul minimized the situation by saying, “Blindness in part is happened to Israel.” Earlier he similarly minimized the situation by using the word “some”: “And if some of the [Jewish] branches be broken off….” This method deepened the principles underlying Paul’s reasoning and made the Jews more amenable to receiving his instruction.

Among those who call themselves Christians, some anti-Semitism exists. In fact, anti-Semitism has been so rampant down through the Gospel Age that some have likened the persecution of the natural Jew to that of the true Christian.

The statement “I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant” was characteristic of Paul (Rom. 1:13; 11:25; 1 Cor. 10:1; 12:1; 2 Cor. 1:8; 1 Thess. 4:13). For that reason, he could faithfully declare at the end of his ministry, “I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Some feel it is being “Christian” to compromise truth, but that policy can be dangerous. Of course there are times when a tactful approach is in order but not always.

The “mystery” was that “blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” The blindness is temporary. Stated another way, total blindness happens to the majority of Israel until the 144,000 are all selected. All of the Little Flock could have been Jews if enough had accepted Christ and been faithful. However, since not enough Jews responded, the call went to the Gentiles. When the number (144,000) is complete, Israel’s blindness will be removed, and all of the Holy Remnant will be saved out of Jacob’s Trouble. At that time, the situation will be favorable to Israel.

The end of the general call occurred in 1881 and the end of the general harvest in 1914. Since that time, the call has been a gleaning period, and replacements of crown losers will continue until the number is complete.

The clause “until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in” does not refer to Gentile Times, which ended in 1914, for it is more inclusive. The clause is sometimes confused with Luke 21:24, “And they [the Jews] shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” It is interesting that in November 1917, shortly after Gentile Times ended, came the Balfour Declaration, which alleviated the Turkish control of Jerusalem because General Allenby had conquered Palestine in a sudden fashion. He was outnumbered, but through a providential quirk of misunderstanding, he was assumed to be the “prophesied one” in human form. When the name “Allenby” is not heard properly, it sounds like “Allah.” Therefore, the Arabs, who are also looking for a messiah, thought he was Allah’s messenger.

Incidentally, in the past, some Jews have expected that when Messiah comes in the future, the Golden Gate will be ruptured and the dead will be raised. During the Diaspora, many of the Jews were more sober-minded in their thinking and less frivolous and high-minded than the Jews of today.

Romans 11:5, considered earlier, states, “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” The thrust of Paul’s message to the Romans addressed the problem of harmony between Jewish and Gentile Christians, but he used careful wording to leave open the possibility that a remnant of Jews would accept Christ at the end of the Gospel Age and partake of the spiritual phase of the Kingdom; that is, a remnant of natural branches might be re-engrafted to the olive tree, having a hope of the high calling. At the First Advent, when Greeks began to inquire into the gospel message, Jesus realized it was time for his mission to end (John 12:20-23). If there is an antitype with a small group of Jews not only starting to inquire but also accepting present truth, we will know it is the very end of the Gospel Age. That event will be a sign to us that something is happening—that very soon the Church, the feet members, will have their change.

If (or when) that situation occurs, the “fulness of the Gentiles” will be a full number minus the small number of Jews who come in at the very end of the age. There would then have to be a very short time period and process in which not only is the removal of blindness possible for a spiritual hope, but subsequently blindness will be removed from the Holy Remnant, who have a natural hope. Thus the possibility is left open for some Jews to be favored with a spiritual hope, and a little later blindness will be removed with regard to the Holy Remnant when they see an overhead hologram of Messiah and the Crucifixion at the time of their deliverance from Jacob’s Trouble. This extraordinary singular event will suddenly and completely remove their blindness. They will be awakened in a startling fashion reminiscent of the Apostle Paul’s experience on the way to Damascus. He, too, was a natural Jew.

Certainly those Jews whose names are written in the book to be survivors at the end of the age will need preparation (Isa. 4:2-4; Dan. 12:1). The first part of their preparation is their turning to God, the supreme Deity. The second part is their turning to Jesus Christ as the Messiah. The removal of prejudice for Jesus will require a different type of revelation preceded by contrition. And a deeper type of contrition will occur when (or after) they recognize Jesus as their Messiah.

God’s dealings with Israel are a signpost, an indicator of where we are on the stream of time. The fig tree putting forth leaves in 1948 with the establishment of the nation of Israel alerts us to the nearness of the end of the age.

Rom. 11:26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:

“There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.”

What was Paul really saying here? Isaiah 59:20,21 reads, “And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD. As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.”

“The Deliverer” that shall come out of Zion is The Christ, Head and body members, the “saviours” (plural), who “shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the LORD’S” (Obadiah 21). The quote from the fifty-ninth chapter of Isaiah shows that the Deliverer will literally come out of Israel in the sense that The Christ will use Israel as the capital of the world and set up the Kingdom from there.

Comment: David believed in a Kingdom on earth under the reign of Messiah. In Psalm 14:7, he wrote, “Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the LORD bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.”

Comment: Paul was saying not only that the Holy Remnant will be saved when the Church is complete but that the event cannot happen until the Deliverer, Head and body, is complete.

Rom. 11:27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.

Paul was referring to Jeremiah 31:31-33, “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” The New Covenant will have an initial beginning, but to “write” the law of God in the heart is a process that takes a little time.

Comment: In that same chapter, Jeremiah 31:37 reads, “Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD.”

Reply: We would call that statement a challenge by God to man. Of course men theorize on the measurements of the heavens and the foundations of the earth, but they do not know them. When scientists today talk about the height of heaven, the astronomer’s yardstick is the speed of light, which is about 186,400 miles per second. However, the measurements include only the most distant stars that astronomers can see, and there are more stars beyond that point. And beyond the stars themselves is the real heaven, God’s heaven. God dwells in the “heaven of heavens” (Deut. 10:14; 1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chron. 2:6; 6:18; Neh. 9:6).

Rom. 11:28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.

“As concerning the gospel, they [the Jews] are enemies for your [the Gentiles’] sakes: but as touching the election, they [the Jews] are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.” In other words, as concerning the spiritual gospel, the Jews were cast off for the sake of the Gentiles, but as touching earthly election, the Jews are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. This statement is another humbling factor. For one’s own good, a proud person needs to be constantly clubbed over the head, figuratively speaking. Paul said he himself would be a castaway if he could open the eyes of his fellow Israelites (Rom. 9:3). He revealed his innermost being by saying that his criticisms were not given with a bad feeling toward the Jews. Rather, he was trying his uttermost to bring about peace in any dispute or schism in the Church, particularly in the ecclesia in Rome in this case. Not a physical separation, the schism was doubts and conflicts of thinking between Jews and Gentiles. Paul reasoned that the conflicts should be eliminated, for in the body of Christ, there is neither male nor female, bond nor free, Jew nor Gentile (1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:28).

If God calls an individual and the individual consecrates, he is in the family as much as the most mature Christian. How long one stays in the body and to what degree he matures is another matter, but all consecrated individuals start out in the spiritual family.

Rom. 11:29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

The “gifts and calling” of God will not be changed. The meaning of the word “repentance” in present-day English is much more limited than in the past. God will not change His mind with regard to the gifts and calling. The same principle is shown in the statement “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever” (Heb. 13:8). That is also true of God, with whom there is a constancy of reliability. If one goes out of the truth, it is his own doing and not because of God or Jesus. Other laws come into effect that change character, like the searing of a conscience. Therefore, when one goes out of the truth, it seems that just as there are laws in the natural world of physics, so in the spiritual world of character, very real laws take place without special thought. Similarly in principle, a mountain erodes because of other elements.

Rom. 11:30 For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:

Rom. 11:31 Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.

“For as ye [Gentiles] in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their [the Jews’] unbelief: Even so have these [the Jews] also now not believed, that through your [the Gentiles’] mercy they [the Jews] also may obtain mercy.” Paul was talking to the Gentiles, and others who were listening benefited. The mercy obtained by the Gentiles was the opportunity for an extraordinary salvation, but how will they show mercy to the Jew? The “saviours,” the glorified Church, will come from Mount Zion. In addition to being instructed to save the Holy Remnant, the Little Flock will be filled with compassion for the situation that exists at that time because they will have gone through a process of indoctrination. Paul said that the dead in Christ were raised first, and the majority of the Christian Church was raised in 1878. Faithful individuals since that time, and up until the final collective rapture of the feet members, are gathered to Jesus and the risen saints in earth’s atmosphere, where orientation has been going on, with accurate information, in preparation for the climax at the very end of the age. Moreover, details of Scripture continue to clarify for those who are still in the flesh.

Rom. 11:32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

God concluded all Jews in unbelief so that He might have mercy on them. Paul showed the principle of mercy. God humbles both Jews and Gentiles—Jews through the loss of the chief blessing and Gentiles by having to become Israelitish in the Kingdom. All should be humble before God, for all are benefactors of His goodness and mercy. He has compassion—and so should we!

Rom. 11:33 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!

Paul became poetic in verses 33-36. What a beautiful personal testimony and expression of thanksgiving in praising God for His wisdom! Verse 33 is no exaggeration. In fact, this statement is low-key, for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so God’s wisdom and knowledge are deeper than man can know. His judgments and ways are “past finding out!” However, Paul was not saying that we should not try to understand and search out God’s judgments and the reasons He does certain things. As long as the heart attitude is proper, we believe that such a search is proportionately rewarded if the time is due for the understanding.

In other words, no matter how holy or zealous a Christian is, dispensational truth is locked until the due time comes for its revealment. Then, if one is in the proper heart condition, it stands to reason that the zealous Christian will be rewarded.

Rom. 11:34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?

Paul used a similar expression in 1 Corinthians but gave it a different twist. “But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:15,16). Even though man makes judgments, he cannot read the heart. Therefore, another party might misjudge one who is truly the Lord’s. However, one who is spiritual does discern or recognize “all things” to a certain extent, for Jesus said, “Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God” (Luke 8:10). Those who ask questions and desire to know are given information—of course they do not know everything, but they are rewarded.

“Who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him?” We can pray and ask if certain things are permissible, but we can neither fathom the mind of God to a great depth nor counsel Him. Paul’s adding, “But we have the mind of Christ,” suggests that we do know something. “We have the truth” is a cliché, but we know the truth only in part. By having the “mind of Christ,” we know some of God’s thinking, that is, to a certain extent.

Rom. 11:35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?

God had no beginning and is the Creator, so “who hath first given to him”? No one!

Rom. 11:36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

For of, through, and to GOD (not Jesus) are all things. To God “be [the highest] glory for ever.

Amen.” What an exalted statement! Truly Paul was the chief apostle. He had common-sense logic, God-given wisdom, love like that of the Apostle John, and the fire and zeal of Peter.

Summary of Romans Chapter 11

In this chapter, Paul directed attention primarily to the Gentiles. Before that, he spoke mostly to the Jewish portion of the class and discussed the prejudices they had to override in order to live together in harmony with the Gentile converts to Christ. After speaking to the Jewish element, and sometimes rather strongly, Paul now turned to the Gentiles and said they, too, should not be high-minded. If some of the natural branches of the olive tree had been broken off in order that wild branches could be grafted in, then the wild branches could also be broken off and the natural branches grafted back into the stock of the olive tree. Paul added that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles is brought in, and then “all Israel shall be saved” (Rom. 11:26).

The olive tree—its root system and trunk primarily—represents the Abrahamic Covenant, but why was an olive tree used for the illustration? In the vision of Zechariah 4:2,3, two olive trees stood on the right and left sides of a golden seven-branched candlestick with a bowl above it.

Oil from the two olive trees flowed through two pipes to the bowl and then through seven pipes to the candlestick. The two olive trees were described as “the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth,” that is, they represent the Old and New Testaments (Zech. 4:11-14). The olive tree serves several functions. Not only are olives a food, but the oil has medicinal value as an unguent and provides light, or illumination, in a lamp. Accordingly, the Abrahamic Covenant will provide light (truth) and fruitage.

When Noah sent out a dove from the Ark, it came back with an olive branch in its mouth (Gen. 8:11). The dove, a gentle bird, was a symbol of peace, and the olive branch gave evidence of life, hope, and encouragement in connection with the Flood being assuaged. The fruitage and blessing attendant with the olive tree picture the Abrahamic Covenant, which is a covenant of promise, hope, and life to come.

Comment: The Abrahamic Covenant applies  to all three ages—Jewish, Gospel, and Millennial. It has brought light to the nation of Israel and to Christians, and it will bring light to the world in the Kingdom.

The Abrahamic Covenant has two seeds: (1) a natural seed that is likened to the sand of the seashore, and (2) a spiritual seed that is compared to the stars of heaven. Of course the application in Romans 11 to the calling of the Gospel Age pertains only to the spiritual seed.

However, there were two promises to the Jew: a natural promise and a spiritual promise. In other words, had the Jews been faithful, God would have made of them “a kingdom of priests” (Exod. 19:6). Stated another way, if the Jewish nation had accepted Christ, they would have inherited not only the natural promise but also the spiritual promise. Because only a remnant, a small number of Jews, accepted Jesus as Messiah, God sent out the call to Gentiles to fill up the predestined number of 144,000. Thus He grafted Gentile branches into the natural olive tree to fill up the number. When the fullness of the Gentiles is brought in—that is, after the Church is complete and in glory—“all Israel” (the Holy Remnant) will be saved. The expression “until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in” means after a sufficient number of Gentiles have made their calling and election sure to complete the 144,000. At that point, the purpose of the Gospel Age will have been accomplished. The next primary event will be the salvation of the world of mankind with the Jewish seed and with Jerusalem as the capital. Of course the Great Company will be completed in the interim period, but Paul was talking on the issue of Jews and Gentiles.

When we reason on Paul’s statement that the Jewish branches were broken off and the Gentile branches grafted in, what were they grafted into? The Gentile branches were grafted into the heavenly seed, or Sarah feature, of the Abrahamic Covenant. Abraham had three wives— Hagar, Sarah, and Keturah—who represent three covenants. From one standpoint, the Abrahamic Covenant is all-embracive, but the Sarah and Keturah portions are prophetic. The point is this: when Paul said, “And so all Israel shall be saved,” he was referring to the Millennial Age application. Nevertheless, although the Jewish branches were broken off the olive tree and the wild Gentile branches were grafted into the spiritual seed, Paul admonished the Gentiles not to be high-minded because that which was once broken off could come back in. His choice of words leaves the door ajar for the possibility that at the end of the age, some Jews will come into the Gospel arrangement with the hope of the high calling. Paul was not pursuing that argument because he jumped over the completion of the Great Company and into the next age with the statement “And so all Israel shall be saved.” However, if we stop before that last statement and follow Paul’s preceding argument—that the Jewish branches were broken off so Gentiles could come into the spiritual seed class but that the Gentiles should not be high-minded because the Jewish branches could be grafted in again—it leaves open the possibility of some Jews even coming into the spiritual segment at the end of the age. However, Paul’s emphasis on all Israel’s coming back pertained to the natural seed. (See again Romans 11:20-26.) To clarify a point: the Jewish branches that were broken off were not just the natural part of the Abrahamic Covenant, for the breaking off had to do with the Jews who did not accept Christ and thus lost out on the opportunity for the high calling.

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