Summary: In today’s lesson, Paul helps us understand God’s plan of salvation for Jews and Gentiles.
Romans 11 has been the occasion of many disputes and interpretations over the matter of God’s dealing with Israel and the end times. Some come to Romans 11 and say that this chapter predicts that Israel will come together as a nation before the return of Christ, and that there will be an almost or complete conversion of Israel as a nation state, and that there will be a reign of one thousand years of that nation state on earth prior to Christ’s return.
Others have said, “No. This passage says nothing about the Israel of the future. It’s all about the present, and there is no future role for the nation of Israel in God’s plan of redemption.”
So, there have been many disputes about what Romans 11 means.
The famous Southern Presbyterian theologian, James Henley Thornwell, received a letter when he was about forty years old from a man inquiring as to what his views of the end times were, and especially of Romans 11. Thornwell wrote back a letter and said, “I’m only forty years old and I consider that I am too young to have an answer to that question.”
11So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!
13Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? 16If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.
17But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. (Romans 11:11-22)
Paul is writing in Romans 11 to a congregation that consists predominantly of Gentile Christians. There are Jewish Christians that are part of the congregation but Paul is writing to a church where Gentile Christians are in the majority. And he is teaching them the correct understanding of how God deals with both Jews and Gentiles in terms of their salvation.
In today’s lesson, Paul helps us understand God’s plan of salvation for Jews and Gentiles.
I. God’s Plan Is Gracious (11:11)
First, Paul teaches us that God’s plan of salvation is gracious.
Look at what Paul does. He begins by asking a question in verse 11a, “So I ask, did they [i.e., Israel] stumble in order that they might fall?” And he answers, “By no means!”
Now, you may have been expecting him to say, “Yes. Israel stumbled over the stumbling stone and they fell. Yes, they did fall finally. God is done with them.”
But Paul’s answer is the opposite. He says, “No. God didn’t do it for that purpose, and he isn’t finished with his people.”
On the contrary, in verse 11 Paul says that God’s purpose in sending his Son into the world and being rejected by his people, as well as sending the apostles into the world and their gospel being largely rejected by the Jewish people was to enable salvation to come to the Gentiles.
But that’s not where Paul stops. Salvation has not only come to the Gentiles, it has also made Israel jealous. Paul’s point is this: The conversion of the Gentiles itself has a view to the evangelism of the Jews.
Now you say, “Oh that’s all well and good, and that’s very interesting, but what in the world does that have to do with my day to day walk with Christ?”