Paul begins Romans 11 by asking the question:
(Rom 11:1 KJV) 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. . . .
Paul answers his own question by saying God has not cast them away because he himself is an Israelite so how could God have cast them off for good. To further show the truth of his statement, in verse 2 he then relates what the word of God says about Elijah to show that God has not, indeed, cast off Israel forever:
(Rom 11:2 KJV) . . . 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.
The point of these verses is that even though many in Elijah's time had bent their knee to Baal, God still had a remnant of 7,000 who hadn't. Paul's point is that even though Israel had been cut off from the olive tree, there was a remnant chosen by grace through which God would fulfill His purpose. The prophet Amos and others give us this same idea of a remnant to be saved from Israel:
(Amos 9:8 KJV) Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth; saving that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the LORD.
9 For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.
(Micah 2:12 KJV) I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of thee; I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah, as the flock in the midst of their fold: they shall make great noise by reason of the multitude of men.
(Zephaniah 3:12 KJV) I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the LORD.
13 The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.
(Ezekiel 14:20 KJV) Though Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness.
21 For thus saith the Lord GOD; How much more when I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast?
22 Yet, behold, therein shall be left a remnant that shall be brought forth, both sons and daughters: behold, they shall come forth unto you, and ye shall see their way and their doings: and ye shall be comforted concerning the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, even concerning all that I have brought upon it.
God's promises to save and preserve Israel as a nation are true, but it becomes obvious in Scripture that only Israelites with personal faith in God's promises would be part of the remnant He had saved in the past or would save in the future. This holds true even till the end of the age:
(Zechariah 13:8 KJV) And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein.
9 And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.
It is within the scope of these verses that Paul says that God has not cast of Israel for good, that there will be a nation of Israel gathered at the end of the age which will consist of a faithful remnant. The results will be the same as the Jewish remnant that preached at Pentecost which were the branches not cut off from the olive tree Paul described in Romans. Between now and then, any Jew and Gentile can belong to the body of Christ by believing on Him, but besides these, there will be a remnant saved by grace for God's purposes as there was in the time of the Lord Jesus:
(Romans 11:6 KJV) 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 recompense unto them:
10 Let their eyes be darkened that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.
Again, Paul asks if Israel has stumbled to the point where it has fallen for good:
(Romans 11:11 KJV) 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.
God forbid!, Paul answers. The purpose of Israel's stumbling was not so they would be forever cut off, but that the Gentiles might be saved:
(Romans 11:12 KJV) 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.
Here Paul says he desired to save some of them, but I'm sure he would have saved them all if he could have. Paul then says after the nation has, for a while, been cut off, the nation (the believing remnant) will be received by God again:
(Romans 11:15 KJV) 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 grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
Paul here describes two olive trees. One is a wild one and the other is not. He also speaks of three kinds of branches:
- unbelievers in Israel who were branches broken off the olive tree
- Jewish believers who were branches which remained in the olive tree
- the Gentiles who believed which were the branches from wild olive tree grafted into the good olive tree
Not mentioned were the wild olive branches which remain on the wild olive tree which had no access to the promises of God through the Jewish remnant nor salvation in Christ because they refused to believe the gospel.
Paul also mentions the root of the olive tree:
- The root cannot be unbelieving Israel because they are the branches that were cut off
- The root cannot be the believing Jews because they are the branches which remained in the olive tree
- it certainly can't be the Gentile believers because they are the wild branches grafted into the olive tree
It makes more sense that the root points to Christ as the one who would inherit the promises made to Abraham as the Seed of Abraham and who is also the center of the Gospel through which God would bring together both Jew and Gentile in Him. I think the words of Jesus apply here, that salvation is of the Jews, but He is the true vine. The analogy fits well:
(John 15:1 KJV) I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
Jesus also said in reference to Him being the Rock on which the Church was to proliferate:
(Matthew 16:18 KJV) And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
(1 Peter 2:7 KJV) Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,
8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.
9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
It could also mean the apostles and prophets which proclaimed Christ as the one who would fulfill all things. This is spoken of in the context of the Jews and Gentiles being "of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel":
(Ephesians 3:5 KJV) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
Paul then gives a strong admonition to the Gentile believers that they not get proud and arrogant against the Jews because they, the Gentiles, have been grafted into believing Israel. If anything, it should be the Jewish believers who would boast against the Gentiles (though Paul wouldn't condone that either):
(Romans 11:18 KJV) 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 grafted 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.
- Verse 19 - the Gentiles should not think they are better than the Jews just because they were grafted in
- Verse 21 - God cut of the natural branches in part and He can do the same to arrogant Gentiles
- Verse 22 - they would do best to remain in the goodness, mercy and grace of God regarding their present position
Paul then goes on to assure the Church that God will again graft Israel into the olive tree after the fullness of the Gentiles has come in:
(Romans 11:23 KJV) And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again.
24 For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?
25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
Paul calls the remnant who will be saved "all Israel." He is speaking here of the remnant who will be saved at the end of the age, the third which God brings through trials to Himself, the third of which Zechariah spoke. Thus, just as the Gentiles received mercy through Israel being cut off in part, so shall Israel receive the same mercy through God bringing history to the time when fullness of the Gentiles arrives at the coming of Christ:
(Romans 11:26 KJV) 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:
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.
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.
After all is said, Paul cannot help but praise God for His wisdom and knowledge and judgments and ways to save all men:
(Romans 11:33 KJV) 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.
(2 Peter 3:9 KJV) 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.
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