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BibleTrack Summary: August 21
<< Rom 8

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Romans 9-12    Listen Podcast

 

Israel's spiritual position before God (Romans 9:1-33)
There is not a more thorough chapter in scripture that more clearly defines the doctrine of God's foreknowledge, election and predestination than Romans 9. Admittedly, God's attribute of omniscience is a paradox, but only because of our inability to conceptualize it. No conclusive discussion on the issue can be settled without the inclusion of this chapter...the whole chapter.

1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,
2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.
3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:
4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;
5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

For the first 8 chapters of Romans, Paul has led us through the process of sin, salvation, security and perseverance for believers. Now, with those principles firmly established, Paul begins a discussion of the spiritual position of Israel before God. In this chapter he goes to great measures to show a distinction between the physical promises made to Israel and the spiritual promises made by God to Abraham's seed. That difference is not clear in the minds of many Christians today. Paul begins by expressing his great burden for his blood kinsmen, Israel (verses 1-3), even to the point of a willingness to (if it were possible) sacrifice his own spiritual state of salvation in exchange for the spiritual safety of his Jewish kinsmen (verse 3). Here, he mentions them as beneficiaries of national physical blessings, but not as beneficiaries of eternal life. He is careful to point out in verse 5 that the Messiah was born from their lineage.

Here's what Paul says regarding the Israelites in verses 4-5:

These are NATIONAL attributes, NOT SPIRITUAL attributes. You cannot understand this chapter without understanding the difference. Nationally, God has promised to physically prosper Israel and its people. Yet, that promise DOES NOT invalidate the personal need for every Jew or Gentile to establish a personal, spiritual relationship with God through Jesus Christ. DO NOT GET NATIONAL PHYSICAL BLESSINGS CONFUSED WITH PERSONAL SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS! They are different in outcome.

6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:
7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.
8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son.
10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;
11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)
12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.
13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

In verses 6-13 Paul explains that just because you are a descendant of Abraham, does not necessarily mean that you have leverage with God. He specifically alludes to the fact that neither Ishmael nor Esau were included in the special blessings given to Isaac and Jacob. The promise to Abraham was specifically directed through Isaac over Ishmael (Genesis 21:12, see notes) and later through Jacob over Esau (Genesis 28:1-5, see notes). In verse 12, Paul refers to Genesis 25:23 (see notes) and quotes exactly the Septuagint of Malachi 1:2-3 (see notes) in verse 13. His point is that God knew and prophesied before they were born through which of them God would bring the physical blessings of a whole nation, Israel. Therefore, the physical blessings of national prosperity were not assigned to all of Abraham's descendants, nor through all of Isaac's descendants. Likewise, on the personal spiritual level, all born of Israel do not have a reservation in Heaven simply because of their Jewishness; they must be saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ as well. That's Paul's point here.

The comparative usage of the word "hate" (Greek: "μισέω"/"miseo") has caused concern to many. Jesus used the term similarly in Luke 14:26 (see notes) when he challenged would-be disciples to count the cost of discipleship as it meant forsaking family in lieu of a grueling road of service that would soon lead to the death on the cross of the discipler himself. Just as there, Paul is comparatively demonstrating that Jacob received the "seed" blessing of Abraham (verse 13); Esau did not, based upon Malachi 1:2-3 (see notes). This love/hate analogy is extracted directly, without revision, from Malachi's words as had been translated by the Old Testament Septuagint.

14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

Beginning with verse 14, Paul then deals with the "that's-not-fair" issue of the whole selection process. From man's perspective, if God knew before they were born which of the two, Jacob or Esau, would receive the birthright, then that really doesn't seem fair. Yet, keep in mind, God is omniscient; he knows every intricate detail of everyone's future. As it happens, he doesn't abuse that attribute like we would if we were omniscient (we'd probably use omniscience to go buy a lottery ticket). God did not cause Jacob to negotiate Esau out of his birthright, but He did know it would happen in advance - even before their birth. Click here to see the notes on the lost birthright from Genesis 27.

Incidentally, the KJV translation of "God forbid" in verse 14 for the Greek term "me genoito" is based upon a figure of speech widely used in 1611. When someone during that era intended to express the sentiment, "absolutely not," they often said the words, "God forbid." The Greek word for "God" is not actually in that phrase. See the notes on Romans 6:15 for more details.

Paul is working hard to make certain his readers understand the God-ordained selection/rejection process, so here we have yet another example in Pharaoh (verses 15-18) - what caused that man to be such a stinker to God's people, Israel? Incidentally, Paul quotes from Exodus 33:19 (see notes) in verse 15. In verse 17, Paul quotes Exodus 9:16 (see notes).

There can be no question about what happened between Pharaoh and Israel; look at these verses in Exodus regarding Pharaoh:

I guess you see the point here; Pharaoh's heart was hard toward Israel, and God was responsible for making it hard. Now here's the explanation as I see it: God knew from creation that a man, Pharaoh, would be used as his instrument to challenge the people of Israel; God knows everything about the future (remember, he's omniscient). He knew that early in Pharaoh's life he would reject the One True God and go after strange gods instead. So, when it came to Israel's release, God did harden Pharaoh's heart that he might show his power to deliver to the people of the Nation of Israel. Even when Pharaoh's resolve weakened during the course of the plagues, God hardened Pharaoh's heart.

19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?
20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,
24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
25 As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.
26 And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.
27 Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:
28 For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.
29 And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.

Let's review: We saw Isaac over Ishmael and Jacob over Esau (verses 6-13). Then we saw an explanation concerning Pharaoh (verses 14-18). Now, Paul then deals with the "that's-not-fair" issue of these situations and others in verses 19-29. Paul, in essence, says in these verses, "I don't really understand how God's omniscience works, but I know that God is just." He points out that, without omniscience ourselves, we can't really comprehend its vast implications. While it may seem unjust to us, we defer to God's wisdom and know that it is not.

Then the application of this truth: God calls Believers to salvation. Is it arbitrary? Well, men who try to over simplify omniscience conclude that it is, but not me. While I can't mentally separate the concept of omniscience from divine selection, God can distinguish them. That doesn't make God unfair; it just means I'm stupid (compared to God). I just know that Romans 10:13 (see below) says, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." And Peter says in II Peter 3:9 (see notes), "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." So, who is salvation for? Everyone! I John 2:2 (see notes) says, "And he (Jesus) is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." It just so happens that the God who revealed the Revelation to John outlining with great detail the events in our earth's future, also knows already who will be saved during that time as well as now. I can't grasp that kind of foreknowledge, but I accept that God possesses it. Who believes that the so-called "Antichrist" (Beast of Revelation 13, see notes) will get saved? Well...nobody who has read John's prophecy believes the antichrist will get saved. Why? Because John says that the Antichrist will battle against Christ. Based upon my understanding of the principles of God's foreknowledge, it is my opinion that the Antichrist will be one who will choose to reject Jesus Christ as his personal Savior at some point earlier in his life; and...like Pharaoh...his heart will be hardened by God.

With regard to foreknowledge, there's one more point worth noting here. In Jeremiah 18:7-12 (see notes), and other places, we see Jeremiah prophesying (600 B.C.) to Jerusalem/Judah that they should turn back to God and avoid God's judgment. However, this is 100 years or so after Isaiah (700 B.C.) prophesied in Isaiah 39 (see notes) that Jerusalem would fall to the Babylonians because they would not repent. So...you see, God knew they would not repent, but inspired Jeremiah (as well as Ezekiel) to extend the invitation to them anyway to avoid the judgment of God. Could they have repented? Yes, but God knew they would not - just like Pharaoh - foreknowledge at work.

With that said, I'm fully convinced that God prefers to save every person on the face of this earth (Romans 10:13; II Peter 3:9; I John 2:2), but many will decline salvation...and God knows who they are. Here's the deal, though: I don't know who they are. My responsibility is to regard everyone I meet as a candidate for salvation.

With all that explanation, some are still looking over chapter 9 and scratching their heads. For you, may I make this plea: Can we just accept it as a natural-mind paradox and move on! Can we just acknowledge that this whole notion of what it would be like to have omniscience as God does is a brain exploder to our human, four-dimensional minds! There are some concepts that simply can't be fully comprehended without the mind of God. This issue of foreknowledge, election and predestination is simply one of those concepts. Imagine how Jeremiah must have felt when he was pleading with people to turn to God, but knew from Isaiah's prophecy that it wasn't going to happen. Yet Jeremiah didn't miss a beat in his efforts to go and preach a message of repentance to Israel.

In verses 24-26 Paul refers to Hosea 2:23 (see notes), which actually deals with the reversal in Israel’s status from being called "not my people" (Hosea 1:9) to being restored, but in verse 25 Paul broadens the application to include Gentiles.

Then, in verses 27-29, Paul turns to Isaiah 10:22 (see notes) where the prophecy assures, "yet a remnant of them shall return." In this, Paul expresses thankfulness for the minority of Jews who will embrace the Gospel and be saved. Paul tops it off with a quotation regarding Sodom and Gomorrha, taken from Isaiah 1:9 (see notes).

30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.
31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.
32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;
33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

Finally, in verses 30-33 Paul points out that Israel has stumbled over the concept of righteousness attained through faith; they just did not embrace it. The passage Paul quotes in verse 33 is a combination of Isaiah 8:14 (see notes) and Isaiah 28:16 (see notes) with regard to the Gospel being a stumblingblock to the Jews. He continues the discussion of Israel's spiritual shortcomings in the next chapter.

So, to sum up chapter 9, here's the essence of what Paul has just expressed. We don't have the mind of God - not Paul...not us. Therefore, as hard as we try, without the attribute of omniscience, possessed only by God, we'll always reason that there seems to be something a little bit unfair about the workings of God's sovereignty. Paul's point to be taken in chapter 9 is that our failure to understand is not God's fault; it's our fault. Therefore, we'll just trust God that his judgment of the saved and condemnation of the lost is completely fair.

Israel needs salvation (Romans 10:1-4)

1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

Paul is very clear here: Israel is, for the most part, a nation of people in a state of rejection with regard to Jesus as the Messiah. Their attempts at righteousness are misdirected, as he points out in verse 2, "...they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge." Paul expresses a great burden for his fellow Israelites because they do not realize that righteousness only comes through Christ. Verse 4 says, "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law, just as he said he would in Matthew 5:17 (see notes), "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil."

The message of salvation is universal (Romans 10:5-13)

5 For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.
6 But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)
7 Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)
8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;
9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

With regard to the Old Testament Law, Paul quotes Leviticus 18:5 (see notes) here in verse 5 regarding keeping the commandments. Then he moves on to grace; salvation is easy. He quotes from Deuteronomy 30:11-14 (see notes) here in verses 6-8 to show the simplicity of just obeying God. These verses proclaim that it's not about what a person can DO, but simply trusting Christ as Savior constitutes salvation. Some simple action-item verses are found here beginning with verse 9. Salvation is a personal born-again experience (I Peter 1:23, see notes; John 3:3-7 see notes) and is supernaturally achieved when one experiences this transformation of the Holy Spirit as a result of calling upon the name of the Lord in prayer for salvation. Prayer for salvation is not a daily activity and needs to be done only once. When a person is born again as a result of the salvation prayer, he becomes a member of God's family which we call the Body of Christ. It's not individual church membership, but a spiritual entrance into a covenant relationship with God that is eternal - and it's all done by an act of faith in trusting Christ as Savior in prayer - one time - once for all.

Verses 9-10 merit some additional explanation here. Keep in mind that this is a challenge to the Jews here. You must not overlook the mission of chapters 9-11 - to deal with the Jewish rejection of Jesus. Their lack of faith included two denials on their part - the confession of Jesus as Lord and his resurrection from the dead. Jesus as "Lord" here, without question, refers to Jesus' identification as the Jehovah of the Old Testament. Click here to gain an understanding of the dual meaning of the Greek word for "Lord." That point can be proved from Joel 2:32 (see notes), as discussed in the next paragraph. Secondly, the resurrection from the dead validates the eternal power and Godhead of Jesus Christ. Only a living Jesus can one day serve as the Messiah prophesied by the Old Testament prophets. So, this very specific invitation to salvation here includes those two issues of denial for unbelieving Jews - Jesus as the "Jehovah" of the Old Testament and his resurrection, enabling him to fulfill Messianic prophecy. Paul and Peter often customized their invitations for their particular audience.

Paul then provides a near Septuagint quote of Isaiah 28:16 (see notes) in verse 11 and quotes exactly Joel 2:32 (see notes) when he says in verse 13, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Per the discussion above regarding the dual meaning of the Greek word for "Lord," the Hebrew word "LORD" in Joel 2:32 is the word "Jehovah" (aka "Yahweh"). As a matter of fact, Romans 10:13 is an exact quotation of the Septuagint of Joel 2:32, so we know that it is a "Jehovah" reference.

It's a mission field (Romans 10:14-21)

14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?
17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
18 But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.
19 But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.
20 But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.
21 But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.

The message of salvation must be heard (verse 14) as Paul asks three rhetorical questions, and a fourth in verse 15. Paul then answers these questions with a quote from Isaiah 52:7 (see notes) in verse 15 regarding the pleasure God receives when someone carries the Gospel to another. He then points out that Isaiah had prophesied a rejection of the Gospel by Israel when he quotes Isaiah 53:1 (see notes) in verse 16. Verse 17 is key here, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Hebrews 4:12 (see notes) adds to this concept, "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Here's what these two verses mean: God's Word is an offensive weapon. People come to trust Christ as a result of hearing the Word of God. It doesn't matter what people believe about the Word of God, use it anyway; it's the supernatural tool of God that brings a person to a faith relationship with God through Christ.

Paul, in verse 19, quotes from the song of Moses found in Deuteronomy 32:21 (see notes) to demonstrate that it's no surprise that Israel has rejected the Christ. He then quotes again from Isaiah 65:1-2 (see notes) regarding this rejection in verses 20-21.

Hey! Is this passage rich in Judaism or what! Just look at all of the Old Testament quotations packed into chapters 9-10. These two chapters are designed to show that Israel had their chance, but just as was prophesied, they passed on it.

So, what about those promises to Israel, anyway? (Romans 11:1-10)

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.
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
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 recompence unto them:
10 Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.

Paul answers a question here with a lesson from history. Even though Israel was chosen of God as the people through whom God would manifest his glory, what is their condition now - abandoned? No! He cites the depravation of Israel during Elijah's tenure as God's prophet (I Kings 19:1-18, see notes). Paul points out that God preserved a meager 7,000 righteous in Israel among all the idolaters in Elijah's day. Even so, God has preserved Israel through a few saved-by-grace Jewish Believers in Paul's day.

Two verses of clarity need to be viewed very closely here as Paul compares believing remnant Jews of his day to those of Elijah's day:

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

Here's the big question in verse 7, "What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded." In other words, the Jews looked for the Messiah; he came; but only a few received Jesus while the rest were blinded...just like Pharaoh in chapter 9 (see above). Paul then (verse 8) weaves together two passages (Deuteronomy 29:4, [see notes] and Isaiah 29:10 [see notes]) so as to provide examples from two periods of the same kind of rejection in Israel's history. In verses 9-10 he tops it off with a quote from David in Psalm 69:22 (see notes) regarding this snare to the Jews.

Please answer this question for me: How can Paul be so very, very clear about the fact that grace does not mix with works as a basis for salvation, but Christians today are still mixed up on the subject? Why is it that many teach that salvation is by grace, but something besides faith is required to consummate the deal? Why is it that many teach that salvation is by grace, but some work must be done in order to preserve that salvation? In light of Paul's adamant comments about grace and faith not mixing, how can people attempt to modify God's plan? Just quote 'em Romans 11:5-6. If it's grace (and it is), then it simply can't have anything to do with works.

An illustration from horticulture (Romans 11:11-24)

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.
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?
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?
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 graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
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 graffed 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.
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.
23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again.
24 For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?

Here Paul proposes an interesting analogy of the Gentiles being grafted in after the fact. His point is that, while many Jews did not pursue God, Gentiles have been raised up and grafted in to become part of God's family of Believers. Now we are all blessed by grace through the shed blood of sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. Whether the Jews like it or not, God's favored folks are now those who have trusted Christ by faith.

Charles Ryrie (The Ryrie Study Bible) explains this analogy as follows:

When Israel rejected Jesus Christ, the nation lost her favored position before God, and the gospel was then preached also to Gentiles. Hopefully the Jews would become jealous and be saved (v. 11). But the casting off is only temporary. When the Lord returns, the Jewish people will be regathered, judged, restored to favor, and redeemed (v. 26). This will be for them life from the dead. The olive tree is the place of privilege that was first occupied by the natural branches (the Jews). The wild branches are Gentiles who, because of the unbelief of Israel, now occupy the place of privilege. The root of the tree is the Abrahamic covenant that promised blessing to both Jew and Gentile through Christ.

Paul emphasizes that it's not too late for the Jews to turn to Christ and accept - thus being grafted back in themselves.

The fullness of what? (Romans 11:25-26)

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:

In these two verses we see some prophecy unfolding from Paul. He has already told us about Israel's blindness with regard to the Gospel message. Now he addresses the length of this rejection on their part: "until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in." The Greek word for Gentiles here is "ethnos." It is a frequent reference to non-Jewish people in the New Testament. Verse 26 goes on to further identify what happens when this "fulness" has taken place - "...all Israel shall be saved..." Paul makes reference to some Old Testament passages to validate his point - Isaiah 59:20-21 (see notes); Isaiah 27:9 (see notes) - verses that project Israel's return to God as a national entity when the Messiah will reign. That makes identification of the "fulness of the Gentiles" easy; it's after Revelation 19:11-21 (see notes), the end of the Battle of Armageddon. It's at that point that the millennial reign begins with only saved people inhabiting the earth (the rest will have been wiped out in the battle), and the Messiah will be reigning over Israel and the world. This is a fulfillment of the Davidic covenant - out with Gentile domination; in with Jewish Messiah domination i.e. "the fulness of the Gentiles." (Click here to see the specifics of this promise we know as the Davidic Covenant.)

From the beginning of the millennium forward, all Israel will enjoy salvation under the terms of the New Covenant found in Jeremiah 31:31-34 (see notes). The rebellion that takes place at the end of the millennium, found in Revelation 20:1-10 (see notes), consists only of Gentile nations; no Jews are specified there.

A promise is a promise (Romans 11:27-29)

27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.
29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

Paul then explains that God made a promise to Israel that he must keep. Verse 27 is a quote from Isaiah 59:21 (see notes), continued from the preceding verse. They have positioned themselves as enemies of the Gospel, but nonetheless, God made a promise ("covenant") to them as a nation anyway. Then we see an oft-misused verse 29, "For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance." This verse says that with God, a promise is a promise. When God says he will do something, he cannot fail to do it. He promised to restore Israel; he cannot fail to do so. So, let's be clear here about the fulfillment of this promise God made to Israel: God promised to restore the throne of David. It just so happens that this prophecy will be fulfilled with Messianic rule at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

The tables are reversed (Romans 11:30-36)

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

We see a role reversal in verses 30-32. In the past, the Jews were favored by God and not the Gentiles. However, today Gentiles have embraced the Gospel, and we are praying for the salvation of the Jews. Does this changing of roles seem funny to you? In verses 33-36 Paul expresses just that sentiment leading him to conclude: "...and his [God's] ways past finding out!" That's not really an original thought with Paul; he's really gleaning from Isaiah's prophecy to Israel in Isaiah 55 (see notes); there, Isaiah prophesies regarding the appeal that will be made by the Messiah to the Gentiles for salvation. The millennium will not be inhabited by only Jewish people, but by all the righteous coming out of the tribulation, Jew or Gentile.

A living sacrifice is better than a dead one (Romans 12:1-2)

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

We're back from a three-chapter trip down memory lane with the God-rejecting Jews. Paul makes a contrast here. The Jews were still into making burnt sacrifices of innocent animals even though the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus Christ, had been made on the cross. Believers are to present their own bodies (not that of an innocent animal) as living sacrifices - bodies that are committed to God's service. How! Verse 2 says that this is done when we stop conforming to the world and let the transforming power of the Holy Spirit direct our lifestyle...as living sacrifices. I have a saying that, at least, amuses me with its conciseness, "The only problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar." By that I mean that many Christians go through periods of their lives when they are completely committed to God's service only to find months or years later that they have backed off from that commitment. When Paul says in verse 2, "and be not conformed," he's talking about a continuing relationship with God as a living sacrifice which sustains a continuing attitude towards our world order from God's perspective.

Just remember the contrast: Observant Jews killed a sacrifice as an offering to God; committed Christians present THEMSELVES to God as LIVING SACRIFICES.

Sometimes you can be just too proud (Romans 12:3-8)

3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

Paul deals with the diversity of spiritual gifting among Believers. In my opinion, these gifts in verses 6-8 have been way over taught by teachers over the years. Even I have spent two successive Sunday-morning messages in the past just teaching these 3 verses. While it is interesting to peruse the list of gifts here and begin to assign them to our friends and loved ones, Paul's main emphasis is that different Believers exercise their faith in Christian service in several diverse ways. He presents this list to show those diverse ways and to prevent one Believer from thinking that he is more important to the Body of Christ than another. Let me emphasize that these gifts of the Spirit are not equivalent to personality tendencies or temperaments. These gifts represent the service a Believer renders when he is full of the Holy Spirit and, therefore, led by the Holy Spirit.

So...let's have a look at the list of verses 6-8:

These have often been referred to as "motivational gifts" - what a Believer is motivated to do by the Holy Spirit. The gifts of I Corinthians 12 (see notes) have often been classified as "manifestation gifts." Their purpose and place are different. For perspective, you may want to take a look at the gifted people of Ephesians 4:11 (see notes) also. For a complete view of spiritual gifting, both I Corinthians 12 (see notes) and Ephesians 4:11 (see notes) should be studied along with these three verses in Romans 12.

Positive Believer attributes (Romans 12:9-21)

9 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.
17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

So, what do you look for in a Believer who is led by the Holy Spirit? Well, besides the gifts of 6-8, certain attributes are going to identify Spirit-led Believers. Galatians 5:22-23 (see notes) says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." This is what people see in a Believer who is being controlled by the Holy Spirit. Here's the deal: when Galatians 5:22-23 is working in a Believer's life, the challenges of verses 9-21 are...well...really not challenges at all; the Holy Spirit takes control and overcomes them. Inversely, however, show me a professing Christian struggling with the admonitions of verses 9-21, and I'll tell you that they are really suffering spiritually in their lives - no leadership of the Holy Spirit.

When a Believer exercises good spiritual hygiene, the pesky attributes of our old nature are subdued by the Holy Spirit's power. What are these action items of good spiritual hygiene? It's simple really: reading your Bible, praying, fellowshipping with Believers (church is a great place for that) and involvement in ministry that results in sharing the faith. Do those things regularly, and victory will fall into place in your Christian life. For more information, read the article entitled, "How to develop good spiritual health" by clicking here.

So...from verses 9-21 we see that a victorious Holy Spirit led Believer will:

...all of which which come naturally when one is led and controlled by the Holy Spirit.


For commentary on another passage, click here.


Copyright 2003-2011 by Wayne D. Turner