Romans 11:25-26a – A Mystery Revealed

Introduction:

Paul has just finished his olive tree metaphor.

  • Gentiles are grafted in by faith.
  • Hardened Israel is broken off due to faithlessness.

 

He warns Gentiles that they were wild olive shoots.

  • Incapable of bearing fruit.
  • Their participation in the all that God promised to the patriarchs (the root) is by the grace of God.

 

Because they were grafted in, “contrary to nature” (vs. 24)…

  • They have nothing about which to boast.

 

Importantly…Paul ends with a hopeful expectation…

  • Hardened Israel is not contrary to nature.

 

God can easily graft them back in…

  • If “they do not continue in their unbelief” (vs. 23).

 

This expectation is a return to where he started:

  • Paul laments for hardened Israel (Romans 9).
  • But God has not rejected them (Romans 10).
  • God’s “purpose of election” may look problematic for Israel…
  • But be sure that God has not passed them up in favor of the Gentiles (Romans 9-11).

 

Paul continues…

 

 

Our Text:

Romans 11:25–26a (ESV) — 25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26a And in this way all Israel will be saved…

 

This text is easy enough to follow:

  • (1) Don’t be wise “in your own sight”…or you will be “unaware”…
  • (2) What is happening in God’s purposes of election as it pertains to Israel is a “mystery”…
  • (3) They are now experiencing a “partial hardening…until”…
  • (4) Until such time that the “fullness of the Gentiles has come in”…
  • (5) “And in this way all Israel will be saved”.

 

The question is what do all of these statements actually mean!

  • We will try to find out.

 

 

(1) Verse 25a:

Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware

 

Paul is reminding the Gentiles that once again…

  • Any claims they think they have to privilege before God are worthless.

 

I love how Fitzmyer puts it:

  • “Gentile Christians should not conclude that their view of human history is the only valid one or that their share in salvation history is owing to their own merits” – Fitzmyer.

 

Why?

  • They are claims from their “own sight” – ethnic pride and exclusiveness (Moo).
  • They are not from the “sight” of God.

 

Paul will spell out what things look like from God’s “sight” in just a moment.

 

But first Paul says he doesn’t want them to be “agnoeo”.

  • Uninformed
  • Ignorant

 

Paul knows that the believer’s understanding of God’s redemptive work…

  • Has an impact on the direction of a believer’s actions.
  • Wrong knowledge can lead to wrong practice.
  • Right knowledge informs right practice.

 

Here are a couple of other examples from Paul where he makes this connection.

  • 1 Corinthians 10:1–6 (ESV) — 1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:13 (ESV) — 13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.

 

The right practice in jeopardy if the Gentiles get it wrong in our text is found in verses 33-36:

  • Worship!
  • Awe!
  • Humility!

 

 

(2) Verse 25b:

of this mystery brothers

  • What is “this mystery”?

 

There aren’t but 4 choices.

  • Either number 3, 4, or 5 from above – or all three of them.
  • The hardening, the Gentiles, the salvation of Israel or all three.

 

To unpack this, it might help us to understand what Paul means by “mystery”.

 

Ephesians will help us here:

  • Ephesians 3:3–9 (ESV) — 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things,

 

In this text, Paul tells us what he might mean by “mystery”.

  • He seems to refer to it generally as…
  • A plan that was previously unknown…
  • Because it was “hidden for ages in God”…
  • But is now known by Paul through “revelation”.

 

G.K. Beale puts it like this:

  • “…the knowledge of a ‘mystery’ entails insight into the message of Scripture, which, although present, formerly was hidden and unknown” – Beale.

 

Fitzmyer points out that Paul’s use of “mystery” seems to include…

  • “…an unfolding manifestation of God’s eschatological activity” – Fitzmyer.
  • In other words, it involves a revelation about the future that God had always intended.

 

So whatever we conclude about the content of the “mystery” in our text…

  • Paul is declaring that it was always part of God’s “purpose of election”…
  • And that he is the one tapped to reveal it.

 

So back to our question…what is the mystery?

 

Doug Moo says this:

  • “…what Paul has not yet explicitly taught, and what entails a reversal in current Jewish belief, is the sequence by which ‘all Israel’ will be saved: Israel hardened until the Gentiles come in and in this way all Israel being saved” – Moo.

 

So…

  • “…the heart of the mystery: the restoration of Israel” – Moo.
  • That would be our number 5.

 

Why aren’t all of the choices the “mystery”?

 

Moo, and others, make the case that…

  • Both a hardening of Israel and Gentile inclusion are present both…
  • In Paul’s teaching elsewhere and in the OT.
  • They haven’t been hidden!

 

But what Paul is revealing here for the first time is the mechanism for hardened Israel’s salvation.

  • This has been hidden.
  • So it is the “mystery” to which he is referring.

 

In fact, it is this mystery by which:

  • “…God’s faithfulness to his promises to Israel is manifested” – Doug Moo.
  • This is something new to Paul and his fellow Jews.
  • (Some think he even came to this realization while writing this part of the letter).

 

 

(3) Verse 25c:

a partial hardening has come upon Israel until

 

Paul has made this clear throughout Romans 9-11.

  • It’s been one of his motivations for writing this section.
  • He is working out how to make sense of Israel’s rejection of its Messiah.

 

Knowing, of course, that a small number of Jews have given “pistis” to Christ the Lord.

  • Remember – Paul’s entire ministry was predicated by Jewish rejection of Christ.

 

What is curious about Paul’s discussion of hardening here is his grammar.

  • has come upon Israel until

 

The ending of the hardening is contingent upon a future event.

  • And it can actually be read in two different ways given the grammar.

 

Doug Moo puts it like this:

  • Either “…Paul is teaching [1] only that Israel’s hardening will continue ‘right up to’ the last day. No removal of that hardening is then envisaged. The Greek construction Paul uses could mean this, but it more naturally suggests [2] a reversal of the present situation…” of hardening – Moo.

 

 

(4) Verse 25d:

the fullness of the Gentiles has come in

 

This bit takes us into Paul’s ministry – his call to speak the Gospel to the Gentiles.

  • He is saying that even his efforts to usher in Gentile inclusion…
  • Are directly related to God’s purpose of election for Israel.

 

Specifically:

  • “Israel’s partial hardening will last only until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in – and then it will be removed” – Doug Moo.

 

This sounds fantastic!

  • What does this “fullness of the Gentiles” bit mean?

 

We have two choices:

  • (1) Qualitative
  • (2) Quantitative

 

In other words, as Fitzmyer puts it:

  • “…until the full number of the Gentiles’ [a number] has accepted the gospel, as foreseen by God’s foreknowledge; or until the salvation of the Gentiles occurs to its ‘fullest extent’” – Fitzmyer.

 

Even on the qualitative view, it’s hard to escape the idea of a number being relevant.

  • I like Michael Bird’s take…
  • “…until such time as the Gentile mission is completed” – Bird.

 

 

(5) Verse 26a:

And in this way all Israel will be saved

 

Here we arrive at the heart of Paul’s “mystery”.

  • The “in this way” – the partial hardening of Israel & Gentile inclusion – is the mechanism by which…
  • All Israel will be saved”.

 

Three questions arise here.

  • What is “all Israel”?
  • When do they get saved?
    • In other words – when is the fullness of the Gentiles event?
  • How will they “be saved”?

 

Michael Bird provides a helpful chart of the possible answers:

All Israel will be saved

 

 

Question 1 – Who Is “All Israel”:

Doug Moo makes an obvious point:

  • “Paul writes ‘all Israel,’ not ‘every Israelite’—and the difference is an important one” – Moo.

 

This does is a helpful distinction.

  • It points out that Paul is likely using a figure of speech.

 

G.K. Beale points out that this figure of speech comes from Paul’s Bible.

  • Deuteronomy 1:1 (ESV) — 1 These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab.
  • Joshua 3:7 (ESV) — 7 The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.

 

In these examples, the language “all Israel” is making reference to:

  • The nation/people of Israel generally, not to every single person.

 

Beale fleshes this out:

  • “ ‘All Israel’ does not signify every descendent of Abraham for all time; rather, as an allusion to Scripture, it speaks of Israel as a corporate reality… Israel as a nation, as a people with a history, as an ethnic reality” – Beale.

 

Moo Agrees:

  • “[It] has a corporate significance, referring to the nation as a whole and not to every single individual who is a part of that nation. The phrase is similar, then, to those that we sometimes use to denote a large and representative number from a group; that is, ‘the whole school turned out to see the football game’; ‘the whole nation was outraged at the incident’” – Moo.

 

The problem is that this is not an option in Bird’s chart.

  • He left it out.
  • We’ll have to make the Moo/Beale idea letter “d”.

 

***See chart above***

 

Bird opts for “b” – which could easily be folded into what we just learned about “all Israel”.

  • Those that go to the game, or those who are outraged…
  • Are those that purchased tickets or were invested in the nation.
  • These could be seen as the “elect” in a NT salvific sense.

 

Interestingly, N.T. Wright takes a different route all together:

  • “Paul here takes it and widens its scope. All Israel? That means all the family of Abraham—and that includes believing Gentiles as well as believing Jews” – Wright.

 

 

Question 2 – When Does “All Israel” Get Saved:

The options here are essentially:

  • Across time
  • At one moment in time – the second coming of Christ

 

The answer seems pretty clear – both.

  • But the 2nd coming of Christ…where does that come from?
  • Apparently, Paul’s modified use of the OT in 26b through 27 is where this idea comes from.

 

However some, like Fitzmyer, argue it’s not both – it can only be the second.

  • “The salvation of ‘all Israel’ can and will only occur when the full number of the Gentiles has come in” – Fitzmyer.

 

In other words, Paul is talking about a massive event future event.

  • Whatever we call it when Jews, like Paul, come to Christ before this event….
  • It wasn’t/isn’t the “all Israel” event Paul is talking about in our text.

 

Why?

  • Because for Fitzmyer…
  • It must be a massive eschatological event – “all Israel”.
  • That is, after all, how Paul uses “mystery” – it has eschatological implications.

 

 

***See chart above***

 

 

Question 3 – How Does Israel Get Saved:

We really have two options to this question.

  • By “pistis” in Christ…
  • Or some other way.

 

A possible example of “some other way” would be:

  • “God would honor that everlasting covenant by delivering Israel from its hardened position. Thus God himself would bring about the salvation of Israel—apart from Christ” – Fitzmyer.

 

Some argue for this approach because Paul hasn’t mentioned Christ since 10:17.

 

However, there is a problem with this “some other way” view:

  • “…it is difficult to see how Paul would envisage two different kinds of salvation, one brought about by God apart from Christ for Jews, and one by Christ for Gentiles and believing Jews. That would seem to militate against his whole thesis of justification and salvation by grace for all who believe in the gospel of Christ Jesus (1:16)” – Fitzmyer.

 

Romans 1:16:

  • Romans 1:16 (ESV) — 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

 

So our answer must be “a”.

 

***See chart above***

 

 

Conclusion:

I want to close this lesson with some helpful summations.

  • “The present situation in salvation history, in which so few Jews are being saved, cannot finally do full justice to the scriptural expectations about Israel’s future. Something ‘more’ is to be expected; and this ‘more,’ Paul implies, is a large-scale conversion of Jewish people at the end of this age” – Doug Moo.
  • “The final act in the drama of redemption is not the formation of a church that consists largely of Gentiles, but the creation of salvation for the people of Israel” – Beale.

 

In other words, something big is coming.

  • And it ain’t all about us Gentiles!

 

 

Romans 11:20b-24 – Gentile Admonition

Romans 11:20b–24 (ESV) — 20 So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note 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. 23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.

 

Last week Paul spoke of the nature of Gentile inclusion.

  • Specifically its relationship to Israel.

 

Gentile inclusion was linked to hardened Israel’s exclusion…

  • Which prompted the Gentiles to have an over inflated view of themselves.

 

But Paul reminded them that both inclusion/exclusion revolve around the same thing – faith.

  • They were broken off by faithlessness and you have stayed in place by faithfulness” 11:20a (DBH).
  • Gentiles have no reason to boast.

 

This discussion of Paul laid the groundwork for the admonition he now makes in our text.

  • Doug Moo gives a great summary:
  • “In good diatribe style, Paul now puts a further argument on the lips of a hypothetical Gentile Christian who seeks to justify his feeling of superiority over the Jews” – Doug Moo.

 

 

Verse 20b:

So do not become proud, but fear.

  • Paul starts with two imperatives.
  • Do not become proud”…
  • But fear

 

These imperatives are his entryway into a stark, but loving admonition he is about to give Gentiles.

  • Before we get into the contents his admonition…
  • We need to see what Paul has in mind with his “proud” and “fear” language.

 

 

Pride:

His use of “pride” (hypselos) in verse 20b…

  • Is obviously meant to pair with his use of “arrogant” (katakauchaomai) from verse 18.

 

The ideas conveyed with each overlap and connect:

  • Katakauchaomai = “to boast at the expense of another, boast against, exult over” – BDAG.
  • Hypselos = “to be or become arrogant by superiority to and disdain of those one views as unworthy” – BSL.

 

So Paul rightly sees the following connection between the two:

  • (1) Status (vs. 18) – Gentiles have mistakenly taken their Gentile inclusion as an indicator that they have achieved some special status over and against hardened Israel.
  • (2) Stance (vs. 20) – This warped and wrong thinking about their status will only further entrench them in a stance of superiority over hardened Israel.

 

BTW – too many Gentile Christians throughout history have fallen woefully short of Paul’s admonition.

  • Say for example, the Nazis.

 

 

Fear:

Instead of an inflated view of their status which leads to a wrong stance…

  • Paul tells them to “fear”.

 

What does it mean to fear?

 

Translations show a bit of a range:

  • “be afraid” – NIV, HCSB
  • “fear what could happen” – NLT
  • “fear” – ESV, NET
  • “stand in awe” – NRSV

 

A couple of OT texts will help us here.

  • Proverbs 28:14 (ESV) — 14 Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.
  • Isaiah 66:2 (ESV) — 2 All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

 

These texts convey the idea that…

  • Fear is a posture before God – the opposite of being hardened.
  • And it’s a posture of humility and malleability.
    • A willingness to be molded by him and his word.
  • And it involves the realization that God is creator…we are mere creature.

 

And these texts teach us that if we resist such a posture before God…

  • We will “fall into calamity”.
  • Makes sense – opposition to Creator is problematic.

 

When we put all this in context of Paul’s use…

  • It appears the NLT captures the best meaning – “fear what could happen”.

 

Having set the table with these imperatives…

  • Paul is now ready to serve a hardy meal of admonition.
  • To show them “what could happen”.

 

 

Verse 21:

For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.

 

The meaning here is straightforward.

  • God cut off branches he made…from the tree he made – Israel.
  • The very people that are his inheritance.

 

And given that Gentiles are the “lesser” in Paul’s rhetoric (see earlier lesson)…

  • Gentiles should not for a moment think they are “cut off resistant”.

 

Michael Bird sums this text up as follows:

  • “The reason why Gentile Christians need a healthy fear of the Lord is because God did not spare Israel from the consequences of their unbelief even though they naturally belonged to the patriarchs. Therefore, God is even less likely to spare Gentiles who are outside the covenants made with the patriarchs” – Michael Bird.

 

 

Verse 22:

Note 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.

 

Paul then gives them another imperative in light of verse 21.

  • He says they need to “note”, “notice” or “consider” (depends on the translation) two things.
  • God’s kindness.
  • God’s severity.

 

He elaborates:

  • God’s “severity toward those who have fallen”.
  • God’s “kindness to you”.

 

Given our context, we already know exactly what Paul means by these two.

  • God’s severity is shown in that he cut off hardened Israel from the tree.
  • His kindness is shown in that he grafted the Gentiles – an unfruitful, wild olive shoot – into the tree.

 

Paul’s point then is to reinforce his admonition from verse 21.

  • And He does so with a serious warning.

 

Though you may be experiencing God’s kindness now…

  • You need to beware that, like hardened Israel, you are not cut off resistant.

 

Why are neither Israel nor Gentiles “cut off resistant”?

 

Paul says the reason has to do with this idea of “continue in”.

  • The experience of kindness or severity is dependent upon this “continuing in”.

 

What is this “continue in” stuff?

We only need to look back again at verse 20.

  • They were broken off by faithlessness and you have stayed in place by faithfulness” 11:20a (DBH).

 

Given this context…

  • That the nature of Gentile inclusion and hardened Israel’s exclusion…
  • Is deeply related to faith.
  • We can assume he means to say, “Provided you continue in [faith].”

 

In other words:

  • Severity is shown to faithlessness.
  • Kindness is shown to faithfulness.
  • So…Gentiles…beware!

 

 

Verse 23-24:

And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.

 

Paul then inserts hardened Israel back into the equation as one further foil to Gentile arrogance.

  • He says hardened Israel will “be grafted in” if they return to faith.
  • Because…his point all along to both parties…“God has the power to graft them in again”.

 

And with one final admonition flourish he reminds them, once again, who is the lesser and who is the greater.

  • Gentiles – cut from wild olive tree; contrary to nature grafted in
    • HOW MUCH MORE…
  • Hardened Israel – natural branches of the olive tree, “their own olive tree”, easily grafted back in.

 

At this point…

  • Paul drops the mic.
  • The Gentiles have been thoroughly schooled in the reality of redemptive history!

 

To quote John Barclay:

  • Paul, “takes the story of Israel to be central to all God’s dealings with humanity” – John Barclay.
  • And he just made that loud and clear to the Gentiles with a brilliant bit of logic and rhetoric.

 

But we aren’t done with this text.

  • There is an obvious question to contend with.

 

 

Obvious Question:

Did Paul just teach that one who currently has faith – and is thus grafted in…

  • Can lose that faith and thus be broken off?

 

We will contend with this rabbit trail in our next lesson.

 

 

Romans 11:16-20a – Grafted In

Today we dig into verses 16-20a.

  • Romans 11:16–18 (ESV) — 16 If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17 But 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, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.

 

 

Intro:

We need to remember that Paul is still focusing in on the Gentiles.

  • Last week he used a lesser-to-greater logical rhetoric to provide the context for their inclusion.

 

This week he does at least two more things.

  • (1) He lays the groundwork for a serious admonition (we’ll get to that next week).
  • (2) He unpacks the nature of Gentile inclusion in the people of God.

 

 

Verse 16:

If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.

 

We are dead in the water if we blow through this verse.

  • There’s a lot going on and we need to unpack it.

 

To get us started, we just need to parse out the verse.

  • The “dough”, which is given as a “firstfruits” offering, comes from the “whole lump”.
  • The “root”, which is the ‘first’ part of the tree, is related to the “branches” (the olive tree) in the same way.

 

In each case, because the “dough” and “root” are holy – set apart by and for God…

  • Because of this, Paul says it follows that the “whole lump” and the “branches” are also holy.

 

As Moo points out, Paul is telling us that…

  • “…part of something can convey holiness to the whole…” – Doug Moo.

 

This makes sense with the root/branches metaphor.

  • The root feeds the tree – branches and all.

 

But the dough metaphor doesn’t seem to work that easily.

  • Once you take a piece off, it’s separate from the whole lump and loses its cause/effect relationship.
  • So how do we make sense of his use of the firstfruits dough?

 

BTW – What does “holy” mean?

  • The Greek is “hagios”.
  • In this context, it simply means to be consecrated “to the service of God” or “worthy of God” – BDAG.
  • Same word is poorly translated as “saints” when referring to those in Christ.

 

We have to start with Numbers, Paul’s source, to answer our question.

  • Numbers 15:19–21 (ESV) — 19 and when you eat of the bread of the land, you shall present a contribution to the Lord. 20 Of the first of your dough you shall present a loaf as a contribution; like a contribution from the threshing floor, so shall you present it. 21 Some of the first of your dough you shall give to the Lord as a contribution throughout your generations.

 

Bird says this text teaches us:

  • “…once the firstfruits of the dough have been offered to God, the whole batch is considered holy and consecrated for use” – Michael Bird.
  • I still don’t see this relationship in the text.

 

Tom Schreiner can help us here:

  • Paul’s logic, “…stems from the OT, in which the offering of the ‘firstfruits’ to God allowed one to use the rest of the food for general use. [So Paul argues] that the hallowing of the firstfruits also consecrates the rest of the batch of dough” – Tom Schreiner.

 

Schreiner’s take is better – provides a little more insight.

  • The “whole” – the part eaten by the person – is declared ready to eat in service of God (holy)…
  • When part of it is first offered to God.

 

But….the text doesn’t actually say that.

 

Schreiner continues…

  • “The OT itself does not deduce that the rest of the food is ‘holy,’ but the argumentation of Paul here is typically Jewish and not alien to the OT” – Tom Schreiner.

 

In other words, Paul’s logic here is mainly part of his 2nd Temple Jewish thinking.

  • His logic comes mainly from his Jewish worldview.
  • Aha!
  • The need to know contextual background strikes again.

 

 

Quick Summary:

So the firstfruits dough makes the whole lump holy – set apart for God.

  • And the root makes all the branches holy – set apart for God.
  • Fantastic!

 

 

Who or what are the dough, roots, whole lump and branches?

  • Do the dough and the roots represent the same or different people?
  • Do the lump and the branches represent the same or different people?

 

Well, given the context of Romans 9-11…

  • It’s not a stretch to guess that the likely candidates…
  • Are all those Paul’s discussed thus far.

 

The list of possibilities would include…

  • All Israel – the elect in the broadest sense.
  • The remnant of Israel
  • Hardened Israel
  • Gentiles
  • Jesus

 

And there is one more candidate Paul mentions in 11:28.

  • Romans 11:28 (ESV) — 28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.

 

 

Discuss!

 

 

Scholars take:

Let’s take a look at what the scholars say.

  • Doug Moo – “the branches are the Jews…”, the root is the patriarchs, the whole lump “stands for Jews”, and the firstfruits dough is the patriarchs.
  • Tom Schreiner – “Paul is more likely using two illustrations to make the same point: God’s choice of the patriarchs indicates that the people of Israel as a whole are consecrated to him” – same in each metaphor, the patriarchs and Israel (same as Doug Moo).
  • Michael Bird – “the ‘whole lump’ and ‘branches’ are symbols for ethnic Israel in its state of unbelief…”, the root is the patriarchs, and the firstfruits dough is “the remnant of Jewish Christians”.
  • Joseph Fitzmyer – “…Israel is compared with a tree [the branches]; its roots are the patriarchs”, the firstfruits dough is the remnant, the whole lump is Israel (so like Bird).
  • Craig Keener – He agrees with Moo and Schreiner.

 

Personally, I have to go with Moo, Schreiner and Keener on this one.

 

 

Summary:

Tom Schreiner sums up verse 16 as follows:

  • “Thus both illustrations make the same point: the election of the patriarchs sanctifies Israel as a whole. Ethnic Israel is not cast off but still remains the elect people of God because of the promise made to the fathers” – Tom Schreiner.

 

But, we need to be careful!

  • “Paul is not here asserting the salvation of every Israelite but the continuing ‘special’ identity of the people of Israel in the eyes of the Lord” – Doug Moo.

 

So what Paul has just declared to the Gentiles is this:

  • The Jews, even the hardened Jews, are not out of the picture.
  • By virtue of being God’s elect and inheritance, they are part of the redemptive history that began with God’s promises to the patriarchs.
  • As long as they remain connected to the patriarchs through these promises they are “holy”.

 

 

Verses 17-18:

But 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, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.

 

So given what we concluded with verse 16…

  • How do we parse out this verse?

 

Paul says some of the branches were broken off of the olive tree.

  • Who are these branches?
  • This is obviously Israel, but specifically it is hardened Israel.

 

Previously, Paul has said that God hasn’t rejected them…

  • But here Paul says God broke them off of the tree.
  • How does this square?

 

Paul then calls the Gentiles who have come to confess Christ as Lord…

  • A “wild olive shoot”…
  • That was grafted into the tree that is Israel – the people of God.

 

Doug Moo says this about Paul’s use of “wild olive shoot”.

  • “Gentiles…have no ‘natural’ relationship to the patriarchs and the promises given to them. Only by God’s grace and their faith have they been able to become ‘fellow participants’ (with Jewish Christians) of the rich root of the olive tree” – Doug Moo.

 

Moo also points out:

  • “The ‘wild olive tree’ was notoriously unfruitful” – Doug Moo.

 

BTW – How are Gentiles grafted into the olive tree that is the people of God?

 

He goes on to say that Gentiles were grafted in with “others”.

  • Who were the “others” that Gentiles were grafted in with?
  • Presumably Jews – the remnant.

 

Paul then gets down to the “root” of the matter (pun intended).

  • He says confessing Gentiles now “share in the nourishing root of the olive tree”.

 

What does he mean by this?

  • Does he mean that Gentiles are now connected to the patriarchs in some way and are now saved?

 

He likely means that the Gentiles are now part of the people of God (the olive tree)…

  • And so are connected to the promises and faithfulness of God that attend this new status…
  • Of which the patriarchs are exhibit A.

 

Paul goes on to say:

  • do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.

 

As a Gentile, I read this and I’m thoroughly admonished!

  • Paul has just described a side of the coin of Gentile inclusion that portrays us as helplessly passive.

 

He said:

  • The “branches were broken off…
  • You “…were grafted in…
  • You “…share in the nourishing root…

 

Who is in charge of this olive tree?

  • Who is the pruner?
  • Not us!

 

The picture Paul paints here is all about God’s work in redemptive history, including the Gentile inclusion.

  • God breaks off branches.
  • God grafts in.

 

So because of this God-centered and Israel-centered nature of redemptive history…

  • Paul goes on to say…
  • Gentiles, have no right to be “arrogant toward the branches”.

 

Why?

  • Because, “…it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you”.

 

This is worth repeating!

  • Gentiles (us) do not support the root…
  • The root supports us!

 

And this root is a thoroughly Jewish OT and a thoroughly Jewish Messiah spoken of by the OT.

 

The implications of this are massive.

  • For starters, is it incumbent upon a Gentile to apprehend the root that nourishes and supports us?
  • How might we do this?

 

Scholar Brent Strawn recently wrote a book – The Old Testament is Dying.

  • In his book he documents the decline of the OT in evangelical churches.
  • Is not this decline evidence that we have grown “arrogant toward the branches” and have neglected the root that supports and nourishes us?
  • My answer – YES!

 

 

Verses 19-20a:

Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith.

 

Paul now imagines his Gentile audience objecting to his warning about their arrogance towards Jews.

  • He anticipates what their objection will be.

 

“Oh yeah, Paul. But you yourself told us that…

  • Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in”.

 

Paul grants this point…“that is true”.

  • But this doesn’t mean what the Gentiles think it means.
  • Paul makes this clear with 20a.

 

He says, “Yep. Hardened Israel was broken off for your sake…

  • But here is the thing to keep in mind…
  • The reason they were broken off was, because of their unbelief”.

 

In other words…

  • It wasn’t because you Gentiles are special.
  • Remember…you are a wild olive shoot.
  • You bear no fruit.
  • It’s because of Israel’s unbelief.

 

He then reminds the Gentiles of how they were grafted in.

  • In contrast to hardened Israel’s separation from the tree due to a state of unbelief…
  • He speaks of the Gentiles in the context of faith – pistis.
  • He says that they “Stand fast through faith”.

 

What does Paul mean by “stand fast through faith”?

 

Interestingly, this is not a command.

  • It’s in the indicative mood.

 

I like the way the NIV84 puts it:

  • Romans 11:20a (NIV) — 20a But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith.

 

This means it is not something they did or earned.

  • Yet another reason they are not to be arrogant.
  • It is something in which one already exists who is in Christ.

 

Joseph Fitzmyer puts it like this:

  • “The situation of the Gentiles is owing to God’s gratuitous election and their response in faith, not to any merits of which Gentile Christians can boast” – Fitzmyer.

 

With these words, Paul is setting the Gentiles up for a serious warning.

  • We will cover that next week.

 

 

Romans 11:12-15 – Failure to Full Inclusion

Review:

We saw last week Romans 11:11 can be summarized:

  • “Israel has stumbled over Christ, but it has not fallen down completely so that it cannot regain its footing. Indeed, its stumbling has been providential in that apostles turned from them to preach the gospel to the Gentiles” – Joseph Fitzmyer.

 

We called this the Gentile intermission.

  • It is nestled between and intricately part of two acts.
  • Both of which revolve around God’s promises and plans for Israel.

 

Last week we saw that, in spite of the current Gentile intermission…

  • “Paul looks forward to a time in which Israel will recover its footing, Israel’s disbelief will disappear, and its trespass will be no more” – Joseph Fitzmyer.

 

 

This led to a number of questions.

  • How will Israel “recover its footing”?
  • When is this Gentile intermission over?
  • How does Act 2 – “all Israel will be saved” – begin?
  • How exactly is this Gentile intermission relevant to Paul’s hope for “all Israel”?

 

We saw last week that the answers to these questions is wrapped up in a peculiar relationship.

  • The Gentile intermission has a purpose – “So as to make Israel jealous

 

How this might happen is up for debate.

  • We saw that Craig Keener thinks Paul tapped into a “Gentile repentance” strand of OT prophecy.

 

The Hebrew Bible speaks of a future event – the “Gentile repentance” strand of OT prophecy.

  • This “Gentile repentance” event is happening now, Paul says.

 

And this gives us the perfect segue to our text today.

  • This “Gentile repentance” event is good news for Israel!
  • Act 2, Israel’s “full inclusion”, follows it.

 

 

Romans 11:12–15 (ESV) — 12 Now 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! 13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?

 

 

Intro:

Paul makes a transition in focus here.

  • He uses the same themes pertaining to the Jewish problem…
  • But he begins to frame them around Gentile inclusion specifically.

 

So much so that he actually begins to specifically address…

  • The Gentile Christians in the Roman church.

 

John Barclay says this transition is important.

  • “Here lies a clue to Paul’s [hope] that the strange reversals of the present time (Gentile wealth…and the diminution of Israel) represent not the replacement of Israel by Gentiles, but a precursor to Israel’s own ‘fullness’ (11:12) and ‘acceptance’ (11:35)” – John Barclay.

 

 

Verse 12:

Now 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!

 

Verse 12 continues the “trespass” language from verse 11.

  • Although he also characterizes Israel’s trespass – its rejection of the Gospel of Jesus Christ…
  • As “their failure”.

 

Paul goes on to say that…

  • Jewish rejection of the Messiah “means riches for the world” and “riches for the Gentiles”.

 

What does this mean?

  • What are the “riches” given to the world/Gentiles?

 

The word literally means “abundance” or “wealth”.

  • Apparently, the idea here is that the Gentiles will partake of…
  • The enormous bounty and blessing that comes from union with Christ.
  • This would include, obviously, salvation.

 

But there is something else going on with this word choice.

  • John Barclay points out that the word is “gift-word”.

 

In other words, it is part of Paul’s “grace” infused world view…

  • The dominion or address of grace.

 

This means, then that Paul is picking up on his discussion of God’s incongruent, effective grace!

  • Something we spent a couple of weeks on at the beginning of chapter 11.

 

Suffice it to say, the idea in mind here is that:

  • God’s grace is so unrelenting and effective…
  • That even in the face of Jewish rejection…
  • It’s power remains.

 

John Barclay puts it like this:

  • The power of God’s grace released through the Gospel of Christ is remarkable.
  • So much so that its, “power is operative in the worst of conditions, in or through the unbelief of Israel…a sign of its invincible strength” – John Barclay.
  • This, as we have seen, explains the source of Paul’s hope for hardened Israel.

 

Paul then engages in a bit of rhetorical logic.

  • His line of thinking follows a lesser to greater logic.

 

It plays out like this.

  • If Jewish rejection of Christ brought “riches” to the Gentiles…
  • Then Jewish “full inclusion” will bring something even better – “much more riches”.

 

There are a couple of things here that need unpacking.

  • (1) Implications of the lesser to greater logic.
  • (2) The meaning of “full inclusion”.

 

(1) So what is the implication of Paul’s logic?

  • Or to put it another way…
  • Who are the lesser and the greater?

 

The answer is pretty wild!

  • In Paul’s logic…
  • The Gentiles are the lesser…
  • And the greater is Israel.

 

Remember…Gentile inclusion is the intermission between two acts.

  • The story has to and will turn back to Israel.

 

I love how Barclay puts it:

  • “Paul presumes throughout this letter that the salvation of Gentiles is an anomaly, the [fruit] of a promise whose origin and home is Israel” – John Barclay.

 

Because of this, Paul knows this about God’s grace that brings so much riches…

  • “If God’s grace spills over into the Gentile world, how much more must it rebound on Israel” – John Barclay.
  • It must rebound on Israel!

 

(2) What does “full inclusion” mean?

  • The Greek word is “pleroma”.

 

There are some obvious differences between translations.

  • The NIV translates is “fullness”.
  • The NLT treats it as reversal of their rejection of Gospel of Christ – “finally accept it”.
  • The NET translates it as “full restoration”.
  • The HCSB translates it as “full number”.

 

From this range of interpretations…

  • We can see two options available to us.

 

“Pleroma” can be understood…

  • In a quantitative sense.
  • Or a qualitative sense.

 

Which is it?

 

Doug Moo teases these options out as follows:

  • “With a qualitative connotation, plērōma, as the opposite of Israel’s ‘trespass’ and ‘defeat,’ would refer to her ‘completion,’ the full restoration to Israel of the blessings of the kingdom that she is now, as a corporate entity, missing. If, on the other hand, we give a quantitative sense to plērōma, Paul’s reference would be to the ‘full number’ of Jews. The implication in this case would be that to the present remnant there will be added a much greater number of Jewish believers so as to ‘fill up’ the number of Jews destined for salvation” – Doug Moo.

 

 

Verse 13:

Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry.

 

Here Paul makes his interesting transition to the Gentile audience at the Roman church.

  • After all, as he says, he is “an apostle to the Gentiles”.

 

The reason for this transition is, he says…

  • To “magnify” his Gentile ministry.

 

Why would Paul want to magnify his Gentile ministry?

  • His answer is in verse 14.

 

 

Verse 14:

in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.

 

Paul tells us why he wants to magnify his Gentile ministry.

  • He wants to “somehow…make my fellow Jews jealous”.

 

This again confirms for us that Gentile inclusion…

  • Is directly related to the story of Israel.
  • Or, as we just saw, we are the lesser and Israel is the greater.

 

It’s also interesting here that even Paul isn’t sure exactly how Israel will become jealous.

  • He says, “in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous…

 

Somehow”, in Paul’s words, his Gentile ministry…

  • Which is the Gentile intermission in the story of Israel…
  • Will make Israel “jealous”.
  • We covered how this might pan out last week.

 

It seems that all Paul knows for sure is that…

  • He is called to speak the Gospel to the Gentiles…
  • And somehow his ministry might save “some of them”…
  • And provoke jealousy among the rest.

 

 

Verse 15:

For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?

 

Here Paul parallels his logic from verse 12.

  • Jewish “rejection” (the “trespass” vs. 12) brings “reconciliation of the world” (“riches for the world” vs. 12).

 

However, whereas “rejection” and “trespass” are pretty much synonyms…

  • Paul’s “reconciliation” and “riches” language refer to different blessings of the Gospel.

 

We saw what “riches” may mean earlier.

  • What is reconciliation?

 

The BDAG puts it like this:

  • The “reestablishment of an interrupted or broken relationship”.
  • The relationship in question is, of course, with God.

 

Paul also adds a new twist to his earlier “full inclusion” idea.

  • He says that he will include an “acceptance” of the Gospel of Christ…
  • That will “mean…life from the dead?

 

This language also parallels verse 12.

  • acceptance” here is connected to his “full inclusion” language.
  • life from the dead” here is connected to “how much more”.

 

It seems clear that the “how much more” is “life from the dead”.

  • The question is what does “life from the dead” mean?

 

The Greek here is “zoe ek nekros” – life from or out of death.

  • It sounds like resurrection.
  • The problem is that Paul’s normal resurrection language is missing – “anastasis”.

 

So is Paul referring to resurrection or something different?

  • The jury is out – take your pick.

 

The “something different” than resurrection would be some sort of figurative use.

  • Fitzmyer gives an example…
  • It refers to, “their identification with Christ, as in baptism (6:4), and above all to the new life that would be theirs as a result of their acceptance” – Joseph Fitzmyer.

 

Whatever all this refers to…

  • It is some awesome stuff!

 

Point of Interest:

There is a propensity for us lay folk to take Paul’s language in these verses…

  • full inclusion” and “acceptance” and create a eschatology.

 

In other words…

  • When the final number of Jews “accepts” Christ…
  • Consummation of the Kingdom of God begins.

 

Every scholar I read rejects such an implication.

  • Bird says, for example, it doesn’t mean “Israel’s acceptance of the Messiah will usher in the day of resurrection” – Michael Bird.

 

 

Conclusion:

I want to close with this thought.

  • T. Wright wants us to consider the following possibility in Paul’s words.
  • He thinks Paul, by virtue of his use of “trespass” is tapping into Romans 5…
  • And thus the Adam-Jesus connection.

 

For example:

  • Romans 5:17 (ESV) — 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

 

Wright frames it like this:

  • “[Paul] is asking us to imagine that what has happened to ethnic Israel in the purposes of God is nothing short of an acting out of what happened to the Messiah. He was brought low so that the world might be lifted up. He was cast away for the reconciliation of the world, and brought back to life so that all might live through him (4:24–25; 5:8–11)…The only way Paul knows how to understand what has happened to Israel is the pattern of Jesus the Messiah…Once [Jews] learn to recognize God’s hidden plan revealed in Jesus, all things are possible” – N.T. Wright.

 

 

Romans 11:11 – A Stumbling, Trespassing, Jealous Israel

Review:

Last week we finished up with hardened Israel.

  • We came a general consensus about the nature of their hardening.

 

Specifically, there were multiple causes – horizontal and vertical.

  • (1) God as Cause
    • Romans 9 is full of God’s sovereign actions – counting, promise, purpose of election, prepared beforehand, etc.
  • (2) Israel as Cause
    • Romans 9 and 10 are full of examples of Israel’s rejection of the righteousness and faithfulness of God found in Christ – pursuit of Law instead of Law-giver, and stumbling over Christ, etc.
  • (3) Unfaithfulness to God’s Faithfulness as Cause
    • Israel failed to recognize that God’s promise of a Circumcision of the Heart…
    • Came to pass in the Person and Work of Christ – (10:8-9).
  • (4) Refusal to Hear God’s Word as Cause
    • Paul emphasizes his role in preaching Gospel, but Israelites refused to obey the Gospel.

 

We speculated that these causes coalesce together around God’s revelation of himself through his (W)word.

  • Moses spoke God’s word to Pharaoh.
  • Isaiah spoke God’s word to Israel.
  • God spoke his word to Israel.
  • Paul spoke God’s word to Israel.

 

And in each case, the result was a response that hardened:

  • Refusal to hear
  • Disobedience
  • Stubbornness

 

In other words…

  • It might be that when an unbelieving/stubborn heart under the dominion of sin (or perhaps even under grace – 2nd Corinthians example) encounters the word of God…
  • A hardening occurs.
  • Unless…God’s grace mitigates the hardening.

 

So, in some wild way…

  • God as a Cause
  • And the individual or persons as a Cause are both taking place.

 

What seems to lend further credence to this “dual simultaneous causality” is our 2nd Corinthians example.

  • 2 Corinthians 3:12–16 (ESV) — 12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

 

Notice here the solution Paul gives to hardening.

  • Interestingly, it parallels the two main Causes we encountered in our survey – horizontal (person) and vertical (God).

 

Paul finds the solution in both Christ and the hardened Person:

  • Only through Christ is it taken away” (vs. 14)
  • When one turns to the Lord [confesses Christ is Lord]” its removed (vs. 16)

 

Paul seems to be saying that both God and Person are involved in the “unhardening”.

  • So this appears to correlate with a Cause that is both God and Person.

 

 

This brings us to our text today – Romans 11:11-15.

  • Romans 11:11–15 (ESV) — 11 So 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. 12 Now 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! 13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?

 

 

Introduction:

Paul’s argument from 11:11 and following:

  • “…proceeds on the assumption that the present situation [hardened Israel] has to be overcome if God is to be proved faithful” – T. Donaldson.

 

To this end…

  • Our text today is Paul’s transition into the second reason he has hope for hardened Israel.
  • That God will in fact be proved faithful.

 

What was Paul’s first reason for hope?

  • Paul saw in himself and the remnant…
  • Evidence that God’s effective grace had not been thwarted.
  • God was still at work in Israel.
  • God was still faithful to his promises.

 

But is God still at work within hardened Israel?

  • How might God’s incongruent and effective grace permeate their stubborn hearts?

 

This leads us to Paul’s second reason for hope.

  • This hope is centered not on God’s grace to Israel.

 

But, oddly, it flows out of God’s mission of Gentile inclusion.

  • This actually sounds counterintuitive.

 

Another way to put it is like this:

  • Paul’s first hope for hardened Israel is, sensibly, Israel centered.
  • But Paul’s second hope for hardened Israel is, oddly, Gentile centered.

 

John Barclay unpacks this paradox for us:

  • “Gentile mission is oriented for, and not against, the salvation of Israel” – John Barclay.
  • “Paul has grounds for believing that God’s promises to Israel will be completed in full: the evidence lies, oddly enough, in the overflow of wealth to the Gentile world” – John Barclay.

 

This means that:

  • Even the Gentile mission flows out of God’s faithfulness and mercy toward Israel.
  • How humbling is that?

 

Paul is confident that the kind of grace that invaded the hearts of the remnant…(first hope)

  • And the kind of grace that invaded the hearts of the Gentiles…(second hope)
  • Will do so with the rest of Israel.

 

Barclay puts it like this:

  • “The power let loose for the salvation of the Gentiles is remarkable enough (cf. 1:16); [and] that this power is operative in the worst of conditions, in or through the unbelief of Israel, [demonstrates] its invincible strength” – John Barclay.

 

This Gentile connection to Paul’s second hope is made even more evident with a peculiar appeal.

 

Previously, Paul has continually appealed to his Bible to find hope.

  • Moses, Isaiah, Psalms, Elijah, Isaac and Esau, Promised Offspring, etc.

 

But as Barclay notes, to support the reasons for his second hope…

  • Paul doesn’t appeal to his Bible…
  • He appeals to the Gentile mission!

 

 

Verse 11:

So 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.

 

Three huge points are contained within this one verse (its almost as impressive as verse 7).

  • (1) Israel’s Stumble
  • (2) Israel’s Trespass
  • (3) Israel’s Jealousy

 

 

Israel’s Stumble:

Paul asks if hardened Israel stumbled “in order that they might fall?

  • His all too familiar answer – “By no means!

 

What is Paul talking about here?

  • Romans 9:31–33 (ESV) — 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

 

This stumbling Paul is referring to is obviously Israelite stumbling over:

  • The Gospel of Jesus Christ…
  • And the crucified, risen Lord.

 

But what we didn’t talk about back at chapter 9 was the imagery behind Paul’s words.

  • What does it mean to stumble?

 

Evidently, stumbling has a redemptive connotation.

  • To stumble over Christ is to reject him as the way into the righteousness of God.

 

This sounds like a done deal.

  • They blew it.
  • They stumbled over Christ.
  • They fell down.

 

Apparently not!

  • “By no means!”

 

Israel stumbled over Christ, Paul says.

  • They. Didn’t. Fall. Down.

 

That seemingly puts Israel in a strange no-man land.

  • In limbo.

 

But, apparently, Paul’s hope is that…

  • God will deploy some sort of safety net at the appointed time and catch the stumbling Israelites.

 

 

Stumbling Video:

This stumbling imagery might be best understood as a slow motion video:

  • Scene 1 – Israel stumbles over Christ.
  • Scene 2 – Paul interrupts stumbling Israel scene and cuts to Scene 3.
  • Scene 3 – Jewish rejection of the Christ.
    • Pursued Law over Law-Giver; Rejected the Gospel; etc.

 

The tension builds:

  • The audience is left with the impression that Israel will certainly fall flat on its face.

 

The video continues:

  • Scene 4 – Paul cuts to the effective, incongruous, promise-keeping grace of God.
    • Remarkably, God did not reject Israel.

 

The tension eases:

  • The audience has hope for Israel.
  • Perhaps Israel will not fall flat on its face.

 

The video continues:

  • Scene 5 – Paul cuts to an Israel that has become hardened.

 

The tension builds…again.

  • This is not going to end well.

 

The video continues:

  • Scene 6 – Paul cuts back to the stumbling footage.
  • He takes the video off of pause.
  • Here comes the face plant…

 

But…something remarkable happens:

  • Their stumbling does lead to a face plant “beyond the pale of redemption” – Bird.
  • God’s grace saves them from destruction.
  • The safety net is successfully deployed.
  • Set in motion, in some weird way, by Gentile inclusion.

 

 

Israel’s Trespass:

“Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles”

 

First, we need to notice that Paul reminds us that Israel has culpability.

  • It is “their trespass” that he is talking about here.
  • Trespass being their rejection of Christ.

 

This, then, fits with our discussion on the causes of hardening.

  • Paul sees hardening as a coin with a least two sides (or a die w/many) – God and Israel.

 

But, more importantly, Paul reinforces the link between the Gentile mission and Israel’s rejection of the Christ.

  • We need to unpack this idea a bit more.

 

 

Jewish-Gentile Connection:

It seems clear that for Paul…

  • Jewish rejection of Jesus is the vehicle “through” which “salvation has come to the Gentiles”.
  • We hit on this connection a little last week.

 

 

(1) This idea raises some questions.

  • First, does Paul mean that the Gentiles were out of luck if not for Israel’s rejection?

 

I don’t think so.

  • God had always intended to bring the nations to himself.

 

We might remember that Paul quoted Hosea in Romans 9 to make this very point.

  • Hosea 1:10 (ESV) — 10 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.”
  • Hosea 2:23 (ESV) — 23 and I will sow her for myself in the land. And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’ ”

 

 

(2) So what does Paul mean with this “through” business?

  • Salvation of the Gentiles didn’t really come “through” Israel’s trespass.
  • It obviously came through Christ.

 

So what does Paul mean?

 

Interestingly, there is no Greek word holding the place of “through” in the Greek text.

  • The choice of “through” is entirely interpretive.
  • It is based on the grammatical clues around it.

 

A better translation, I think, is the NIV.

“Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.”

 

This approach makes Paul’s point clearer.

  • Paul sees Jewish rejection as the reason that prompted God…
  • To initiate at this point in redemptive history…
  • A massive Gentile intermission.

 

John Barclay elaborates:

  • “…the trespass of Israel…is the occasion or mechanism for the salvation of the Gentiles” – John Barclay.
  • God’s countdown timer to “Gentile inclusion” hit “0” with Israel rejection of their Messiah.

 

 

Quick Summary:

So thus far then, Romans 11:11 can be summarized:

  • “Israel has stumbled over Christ, but it has not fallen down completely so that it cannot regain its footing. Indeed, its stumbling has been providential in that apostles turned from them to preach the gospel to the Gentiles” – Joseph Fitzmyer.

 

And this:

  • “Israel’s repudiation of the blessings naturally belonging to her has caused them to be diverted into another, wider, channel, in which they are now flowing to the whole world” – Doug Moo.

 

The book of Acts, by the way, bears this fact out.

  • Acts 28:26–28 (ESV) — 26 “ ‘Go to this people, and say, “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” 27 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ 28 Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”

 

We finish the middle of verse 11 with some tension in Paul’s hope for Israel.

  • That tension is a massive Gentile intermission.

 

But, in spite of the current Gentile intermission…

  • “…this is not the end of the story” – Doug Moo.
  • “Paul looks forward to a time in which Israel will recover its footing, Israel’s disbelief will disappear, and its trespass will be no more” – Joseph Fitzmyer.

 

 

(3) So this leads to a third set of questions and to the end of verse 11.

  • Why will Israel “recover its footing”?
  • Why is it “not the end of the story”?
  • When is this Gentile intermission over?
  • How does Act 2 – “all Israel will be saved” – begin?
  • How exactly is this Gentile intermission relevant to Paul’s hope for “all Israel”?

 

 

A Jealous Israel:

Paul’s answers to these questions revolve around one word – “jealous”.

  • He says the Gentile intermission has a purpose – “So as to make Israel jealous

 

The Gentile intermission is not just Gentile focused.

  • It is not disconnected from Act 1 – God’s promises to Israel.
  • Even the Gentile intermission is designed to demonstrate God’s faithfulness to Israel.

 

In fact, the reason that Act 1 was not:

  • The end of Israel’s story.

 

The reason that Israel will:

  • “…recover its footing”

 

The reason the Gentile intermission is relevant to Paul’s hope for Israel…

  • Is that it will “make Israel jealous”.

 

That sounds great!

  • But what on earth is this supposed to mean?

 

Let’s start with the basics – a definition.

  • The BDAG says the idea behind this word is…“provoke to jealousy”.

 

Provoke them to be jealous of what?

 

Perhaps to provoke Israel to notice that what is happening with the Gentiles…

  • Involving Jesus Christ…
  • Is grounded in OT declarations about YHWH’s return to Israel to heal and set the captives free, etc.

 

Doug Moo puts it like this:

  • “Paul apparently thinks that the Jews, as they see the Gentiles enjoying the messianic blessings promised first of all to them, will want those blessings for themselves” – Doug Moo.

 

Or, like Chad said last week…

  • The idea here is that Israel will be provoked to take notice of…
  • The very thing they are stumbling over…
  • Jesus Christ the Lord.

 

All this helps us understand the basic gist of what Paul is saying.

  • But how does the Gentile Intermission provoke Israel to emulate the Gentile response to Christ?

 

Michael Bird has a theory:

  • “The picture is that of Israel, seeing the Gentiles enjoying their messianic blessings and their covenant renewal, in turn become desirous for it and want it for themselves, and resultantly come to faith so that they might possess the riches of God in Christ. In other words, Israel will get jealous when she sees Gentiles playing her part in the redemptive drama!” – Michael Bird.

 

Wouldn’t there have to be a revival within Judaism grounded in the Torah, Prophets and Writings before Israel would even notice this Gentile “part in the redemptive drama” about which to be jealous?

 

Craig Keener has a more specific idea in mind for how Paul sees this playing out.

  • I think I like where he is going.

 

He suggests that Paul is making a very specific allusion with this jealous language.

  • “Perhaps [Paul] alludes to the line of Jewish eschatological expectation in which Gentiles would come to obey Israel’s God and king” – Craig Keener.

 

What are the details of this “eschatological expectation”?

 

Keener puts it like this:

  • “Prophets envisioned Gentile repentance (e.g., Isa 19:19–25; Zech 2:11), subjugation (Isa 60:12; Zeph 2:11), or destruction (Joel 4:19; Zeph 2:9–15); these diverse strands also appear in early Jewish eschatology. Paul is apparently able to piece together an end-time scenario only in Christological retrospect. This may reverse some conventional expectations of Israel’s end-time repentance and restoration leading to an ingathering of Gentiles (Allison 1985: 23–30; Sanders 1985: 93)…” – Craig Keener.

 

In other words, Paul is tapping into the OT/Gentile connection in a very deliberate way.

  • The Hebrew Bible speaks of a future event – the “Gentile repentance” strand of OT prophecy.
  • This “Gentile repentance” event is happening now, Paul says.
  • And this “Gentile repentance” event is good news for Israel!

 

After all, the prophet Zechariah said this:

  • Zechariah 2:10–12 (ESV) — 10 Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord. 11 And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. 12 And the Lord will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem.”

 

God has come to his people – “dwell in your midst” – through his Son, the Messiah.

  • Gentile inclusion is the evidence.
  • Your Jewish Bible says so.

 

God said he would even provoke you to jealousy (Paul alluded to this in Romans 10:19)..

  • Deuteronomy 32:21b (ESV) — 21b So I will make them jealous with those who are no people…

 

Wake up!

 

That Paul is tapping into this “Gentile repentance” event makes sense to me.

  • It parallels the connection he made between Moses’ circumcision of the heart event and the Jesus event in Romans 10.

 

If this is what he is doing…

  • It might be that what he is ultimately hoping for from hardened Israel…
  • Is that they recognize that they are not stumbling over something entirely new…
  • But over events spoken of in their own Hebrew Bible!

 

As Moses said:

  • “…the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God…” (Deut. 10:17).
  • The Jesus Event and the Gentile Repentance Event demonstrate this in HD 4K color!