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  • Writer's pictureBrian O'Kelly

36 - Romans 11 - Will All Israel Be Saved?

Updated: Dec 3, 2023

2.1. This is one of the most controversial and difficult chapters in the book of Romans.

2.2. This chapter and chapter 5 create confusion and difficulty between Calvinists and non-Calvinist theologians as well as between dispensationalists and non-dispensationalist theologians.

2.3. Because of this will bring one of the verses near the end of the chapter up to the beginning. In verse 26 of this chapter Paul quotes Isaiah 59 and verse 20. Here is verse 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; 27 For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”

2.4. The “and so” here in the new King James is rendered “and in this way” in the NIV and ESV. The Greek word here is “hoo-to” spelled h-o-y-t-o and it means “thus”. There are two things to keep in mind as we go through this chapter.

2.4.1.The first is that it is a continuation of what Paul has been saying, really since the beginning of the book, but especially in chapters 9 and 10. Remember that the chapter divisions were added later. The “in this way” or “so” is in the way he has described in chapters 9 and 10. Not by the choice of God, not because of ethnicity, but because of a heart toward God and intention to serve him.

2.4.2.The second thing to keep in mind is that Israel is defined as those who are followers of God not those who are ethnically Jewish. There are great number of pastors today who use this chapter and especially verse 26 to make the case that ethnically Jewish people will be saved based on their ethnicity alone. They apparently have forgotten John 14:6 “6 Jesus saith to him, I am way, truth, and life; no man cometh to the Father, but by me.” In fairness, some of them would say that all ethnically Jewish people will accept Jesus in the end-times. The problem with this idea of course is that this would remove their freedom of choice.

3. So let’s begin the chapter: God has not rejected Israel

3.1. 11 I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, 3 “Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life”?

3.1.1.Paul is anticipating their question again. Has God cast them away? Remember this is the 3rd time now that we hear Paul pleading for the historic Jewish people. He’s indicating here that God will never turn his back on them because he doesn’t turn his back on anyone. The prophet Isaiah is asking God to judge them for their bad behavior here. Isaiah is telling God, that these people deserve to be punished.

4. God always has a remnant

4.1. 4 But what does the divine response say to him? “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.

4.1.1.God tells Isaiah that even when it appears that everyone is against God, he always has a remnant who are the true Israel. Remember that Israel means “governed by God”. No matter what happens, God has some loyal people who are “governed by God”. This part about “election of grace”, the Calvinists love this verse because in their mind and in their theological construct, they are saying that God chose the people who are the remnant. The whole of Scripture and the whole of the Old Testament, as well as Paul throughout this book, says exactly the opposite, that these are the people who have chosen God. They have chosen to live according to his tenants.

5. Not of works

5.1. 6 And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.

5.1.1.Paul has already told us that even in his own case while he intends to do what he knows he should do he finds himself not doing it. This is where grace comes in. No matter how hard we try we will never be able to obtain righteousness through our works. What that doesn’t mean is that we shouldn’t have an orientation toward God and be making an effort to live in a godly fashion. The grace of God is not one that picks winners and losers, it is one that does for us what he did for Abraham in Genesis 15:6 where Abraham believed God and was counted to him for righteousness. Abraham never lived a perfect sinless life, no one has done that except Jesus, and no one ever will. The idea here isn’t that you can somehow “earn” your salvation but rather that by believing what God says and earnestly acting on it you demonstrate your loyalty to God and he responds with grace to forgive.

6. National Israel has not obtained

6.1. 7 What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. 8 Just as it is written: “God has given them a spirit of stupor, Eyes that they should not see And ears that they should not hear, To this very day.”

6.1.1.Paul is quoting Isaiah 42:19-20 this verse and the next verse can be seen as like what Paul is saying about Pharaoh’s heart being hardened in the last chapter. Again here, my belief is that the elect represent those who have elected for themselves to be followers of God and he says here “the rest were blinded”. God has elected that all be saved. The context of this verse in Isaiah 42 is best understood by reading two verses earlier in verse 17 or Isaiah says “They shall be turned back, They shall be greatly ashamed, Who trust in carved images, Who say to the molded images, ‘You are our gods.’ It is the act of directing your worship toward anything that isn’t God the causes God to finally blind one’s eyes. If you refuse to see God long enough, He will remove your ability to see in the same way that if you harden your heart long enough in such a way that you are committed to never softening your heart, and remember God can see the future, then God will harden your heart.

6.2. 9 And David says: “Let their table become a snare and a trap, A stumbling block and a recompense to them. 10 Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see, And bow down their back always.”

6.2.1.Here Paul is quoting Psalm 69:22-23.

6.2.2.This is one of the imprecatory Psalms. An imprecatory Psalm is one where the psalmist, in this case David, is calling for God to curse his enemies. Again we find the key to understanding the versus Paul quotes in the verse immediately before, verse 21 says “They also gave me gall for my food, And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink”.

6.2.3.David in this case is asking God to punish his enemies who have been pitiless with him. Paul is referencing these verses to indicate that this is how God will be with those who have been unjust and pitiless toward Jesus.


7. Is fallen their final state?

7.1. 11 I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. 12 Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!

7.1.1.Paul doesn’t see the stumbling of Israel that causes a fall to be intended as a fall since no one stumbles on purpose and God is not the one who causes people to stumble. Nor does he see it is a permanent condition. Rather that through their fall and the salvation of the Gentiles they would become jealous enough to turn toward Jesus. Further since through the fall of unbelieving Jews the Gentiles were brought into the church for the benefit of the world how much better will the testimony be when the unbelieving Jews become believers.

7.1.2.Again some see this as a prophecy about the end times believing that in the end times all Jews will become believers. Again this would make God a racist who is preferring one race or family group over another. It would also mean that God is choosing people independent of their attitudes toward him. When he says their fullness I don’t believe he means every last person with Jewish blood. I believe he means of fullness for the individual who chooses God.

8. Apostle to the Gentiles

8.1. 13 For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14 if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. 15 For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

8.1.1.Paul’s ministry is magnified by how broad it was. Through Paul the gospel went out way beyond the borders of Israel, remember he is writing to the Roman church here, that was pretty far away. His expressing here his hope that the widespread adoption of the gospel by the Gentiles will result in the Jews being jealous, wanting what the Gentiles have. As the Jews rejected Jesus and the Gentile world was being reconciled to Him, when the Jews accept Jesus they will be brought back into the family of God. To be brought into the family of God is to be given new life, a new spirit (that of the Holy Spirit) which is to be given life from the dead.

9. The root is holy

9.1. 16 For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches.

9.1.1.What is the firstfruit? It is Jesus, the firstborn from the dead. Remember that in baptism we symbolize our own death and rebirth in Jesus. The first fruit of the kingdom is the resurrected Jesus. The lump here is national Israel, the Jewish people, from whom Jesus came. Jesus came from the nation God had selected as a holy nation.

9.1.2.The root now represents Jesus. The branches represent the believers, the church, those of us who are dependent upon the root.

10. The tree can be pruned and grafted

10.1. 17 And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree,

10.1.1. remember here the whole chapter as well as the last two chapters were in the context of the new Israel, the new covenant, those who are “governed by God”

10.1.2. the branches that were broken off are those who had been in the original root of national Israel but who have not believed in Jesus.

10.1.3. Paul says “and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them” the “you” that he is writing to is the Roman church, a Gentile church who now partake in the “root and fatness”.

10.1.4. Jesus said in John 15:5 “5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.”

10.1.5. The life is in the vine. To have life you must be in the vine. Paul is using the example of an olive tree to make the identical point that Jesus made. That no one can claim or have life in any other basis than being in Christ. This would exclude anyone (including people with Jewish blood) from having life.

11. Being grafted in doesn’t make you special

11.1. 18 do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.”

11.1.1. There should be no pride in being a grafted in branch. These branches were not broken off by God to make room for you as though there is a limited space. He explains next in verse 20.

12. Broken off for unbelief

12.1. 20 Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. 22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. 23 And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?

12.1.1. The Jews were broken off because of their unbelief. He is telling the Romans that they were added to the tree by faith. They too are nothing special. It is the goodness of God because of their faith that allows them to be in the tree and partake of the root. In the same way if these believing Gentiles moved to a position of unbelief they will cease to be on the tree, and if the unbelieving Jews choose to believe they will be grafted back into the tree. Paul indicates here again that it should be even easier for the Jews because they have the law and the prophets to recognize and follow the Messiah.

13. Until the fullness of the Gentiles

13.1. 25 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.

13.1.1. We have to be careful here because Paul “ping-pong’s” back and forth a little bit on his use of the word Israel. In this case he means national Israel, the Jewish people, saying that they have been blinded because of their enmity of Jesus and unbelief.

13.1.2. He indicates that this blindness will be until the “fullness of the Gentiles”. There are some who believe (mostly dispensationalists) that fullness of the Gentiles means until the last Gentile has been saved and at that point the eyes of the Jewish people will be opened. I don’t believe this can be true for the simple reason that Paul is pleading even then with the Jewish people to see Jesus, to embrace the Messiah. Further, once again, it would make God a racist who would be offering to the Jews at that point a special ability to see. If we assume that at this point there are both unbelieving Jews and unbelieving Gentiles on the face of the earth, would it be loving for God to offer special vision to one group of people over another. In addition, it would mean that for all of the Jewish people who died before that point, God had intended for them to not know Jesus.

13.1.3. My own belief here is that “fullness of the Gentiles” is Paul’s way of saying that the Gentiles who were filled with the Holy Spirit have come into the view and the experience of the Jewish people. The “fullness” means being full of the Holy Spirit as a witness to the Jewish people and to the world of God’s goodness by including them in the tree. It is this witness that would provoke the Jewish people to jealousy.

13.2. Now we come to our difficult verse, the one I talked about at the outset. Here Paul reverts back to his definition of Israel as those “governed by God”. The faithful, the new covenant, this is the “Israel of God”. The “Israel of God” has always been and will always be those who are the faithful believing remnant. Today that is the church, the Christians, you and I.

13.2.1. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; 27 For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”

13.2.2. Paul says “as it is written” and here combines three statements of the prophets together; Isaiah 59:20, Isaiah 40:9, and Joel 2:32.

13.2.3. Remember from the introduction that the “and so” means “thusly” or “in this way”. Those who are saved, will be saved by the deliverer as part of the new covenant with their sins taken away by Jesus. What do we call the Jew who is converted? A Christian. The “all Israel” that will be saved will be the Christians. Ethnic background won’t matter. Take a look at the following verses: Exodus 12:37-38 37 Then the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children. 38 A mixed multitude went up with them also, and flocks and herds—a great deal of livestock. The mixed multitude that came out of Egypt who became the Israel of God didn’t include only Jewish people. Matthew 13:47 47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, Revelation 7:9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands,

14. Beloved for the sake of the fathers

14.1. 28 Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

14.1.1. The unbelieving Jews, who Paul is still grieving over, are enemies of the gospel but this does not make them enemies of God. This election here is God’s choice of them, a choice they have to respond to. Whether they respond or not the gift in the calling of God remains. In other words, if someone doesn’t respond to the call of God it doesn’t mean that God stops calling.

14.1.2. Isaiah 65:2 “I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people”

15. Everyone is disobedient and can obtain mercy

15.1. 30 For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, 31 even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy. 32 For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.

15.1.1. God has made man in such a way that we quite literally can’t be obedient to God. No matter how hard we try we find ourselves unable to be fully obedient. The disobedience of the Jews being evident is one of the reasons that the gospel went out the Gentiles. Now in like fashion the mercy shown to the Gentiles will be one of the evidences to unbelieving Jews which will cause them to seek the mercy of God.

16. The Lord works in mysterious ways

16.1. 33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!

16.1.1. God knows what he’s doing, and his methods are sound. He knows how men will react to certain events and brings these events to pass to get exactly that reaction. The “wisdom and knowledge” of God so surpasses ours that we would never even consider doing things the way he does them. A good chess player looks several moves ahead and considers each of these before making a current move. Imagine how much more so with perfect knowledge of the future God is making his moves.

16.2. 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?” 35 “Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?”

16.2.1. Paul is combining Isaiah 40:12 and Job 41:11 together here. In Paul’s writing you have to look out for this. Remember he was a Hebrew of Hebrews, a Pharisee and he knew the law and the Prophets intimately.

16.2.2. Paul’s point here is that we shouldn’t second guess God because we can’t possibly know his mind or give him any advice. We have nothing to offer him in terms of insight. One of the great errors is assuming that we can understand everything God does and all of his reasoning. We simply lack either the mental capacity or sufficient perspective for this. God has perfect knowledge and perfect vision not only of the physical world but of the hearts and minds of men and the spiritual dynamics surrounding us.

16.2.3. Isaiah 55:8-9

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,

Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.

9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

So are My ways higher than your ways,

And My thoughts than your thoughts.

17. Conclusion of the section

17.1. 36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

17.1.1. Of, through and to him. It’s all from and about God.

17.1.2. There are some who would have Paul positioned as oppositional to the gospel writers that somehow Paul had a separate gospel. We can hear in this last verse, verse 36 him echoing the first chapter of the Gospel of John in verses three and four “3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men”.


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