The Rich Blessings of God’s Plan
A mystery revealed (Romans 11:25-26)
The reason Paul wrote at length about Israel’s rejection of Christ and the Gentile’s acceptance was so that the Gentiles would better understand what had been kept hidden in the past. God saw fit to keep His plans hidden until the proper time (Romans 16:25). That secret was the saving of the Gentiles through Christ (Colossians 1:26-27; Ephesians 1:7-10; 3:1-11).
But Paul didn’t want the Gentiles to get prideful and think that their salvation came because it was owed to them. God encouraged the partial blindness of Israel so that the Gentiles could be brought in. Not all of Israel was lost (Romans 11:7; II Corinthians 3:14-16).
It is not necessary to conclude that the hardening or blindness of much of Israel would cease when the entrance of the Gentiles was fully mature. “Until” does not always mean the prior condition ends. For example, in Romans 5:13 sin did not cease when the law arrived. Or in Revelation 2:25 Christ isn’t saying that people could stop holding fast once he arrives. Or that the creation has now stopped groaning in Romans 8:22. “Until” can indicate the purpose of the prior condition.
Salvation will not be withheld from all of Israel. Loosely quoting Isaiah 59:20, Paul points out that the Messiah would turn the people of Israel away from sin. The word translated “so” in Romans 11:26 means “in this manner.” All Israel would be saved by the Christ turning them from sin. It does not imply that those who remain in sin would be saved; the manner offered to all Israel is in the turning from sin.
- Does the “fullness of the Gentiles” mean all the Gentiles will be saved? Why?
- Is Paul saying all the Jews will be saved in the future? Why?
- Could Paul be speaking of the church as Israel, as in Galatians 6:16?
God keeps His promises (Romans 11:27-29)
Continuing his quote from Isaiah, Paul also quotes Isaiah 59:20, blending it with Isaiah 27:9 and Jeremiah 31:31-34. God made a covenant to take away sin, which He fulfilled in Christ. He isn’t going to deny the Jews salvation when He promised it.
Right now the Jews, as a whole, oppose the Gospel which was encouraged so that the Gentiles could enter into God’s covenant. But the Jews remain able to return to God because of His promise to their forefathers (Deuteronomy 7:8; 9:5; 10:15). God won’t completely destroy them, despite all their sins (I Thessalonians 2:14-16). God doesn’t remove His promises (Numbers 23:19). This doesn’t mean that the consequences to any individual or generation remain the same regardless of their behavior (Jeremiah 18:7-10). However, the chance to benefit from God’s gifts remains, waiting for people to turn from their sins. God doesn’t pull His offers back (I Samuel 15:29; Psalms 89:35-56; Ezekiel 24:14; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18; James 1:17). Paul’s words explain what God put up with Israel all these years and why God continues to put up with us (II Peter 3:9).
So God can show mercy (Romans 11:30-32)
The Gentiles have benefitted from God’s mercy which came about in a way that caused the Jews to reject God. This came despite their sins (Ephesians 2:1-7; Colossians 3:6-7). One can’t expect anything different for the Jews. Despite their sins, God will also show them mercy – the same mercy that He showed the Gentiles. The Greek word apeitheia means both disbelief and disobedience.
This is not universal salvation. Just as the Gentiles’ salvation depended on their faith and obedience to God, so the same is expected of the Jews (II Corinthians 3:15-16).
God has committed or shut up (as in a jail cell) all in disobedience. This does not mean God compelled or forced people to disobey. Just as people voluntarily commit crimes and are locked up for committing them, so too sin is voluntarily done by all (Romans 3:23), and God has issued a just condemnation of those sins (Galatians 3:22).
But the emphasis is not on the condemnation but that God can also show mercy on all.
To Him be the glory (Romans 11:33-36)
Paul concludes with praise for the vastness of God’s riches (the blessings He bestows), His wisdom, and His knowledge. There are three things being praised and not two as seen in the English translations. We cannot comprehend its extent (Psalms 36:6; Colossians 2:3). God has accomplished what man could not – salvation from sin.
His decisions and His methods cannot be determined in advance (Psalms 77:19; Job 11:7). We can admire the complexity and neatness in which God accomplished His designs while looking back on what He has done, but trying to guess where He is going in the future is too difficult for any.
Quoting Isaiah 40:13 with a slight modification, Paul points out that no one knows how God thinks or advises God. His decisions are His own (Jeremiah 23:18). Nor does God’s richness come from others nor does His generosity result from owing others (Job 41:11). It all comes from His own being and nature. Salvation can never be owed to any individual or group because God cannot be made obligated to anyone.
The world and all the universe belong to God (Deuteronomy 10:14; Psalms 24:1). The world exists because God created it. It came into being by God’s power. And it was created for His purpose. See I Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16; I Timothy 1:17; Jude 25.
Literary Style: Romans 11:33-36
The conclusion, though written in Greek, is in the form of a Hebrew-style poem.
O the depth of riches
and of wisdom
and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable His judgments
And untraceable His ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who became his counselor?
Or who first gave to Him and it shall be recompensed to him?
For of Him
And through Him
And unto Him
Are all things.
To Him be the glory for ever. Amen.
This quote is based on the Greek text since many translations will reverse some of the phrases when translating to English. The first section is a chiasm – a nested series of ideas. The three outer layers going inward talk of the vastness of what God has. Going outward, the point is that these are things God has on his own. The focus at the center is that we cannot figure out God or outguess God. The end of the poem is a list of prepositions that ends with a climactic statement that concludes all that Paul has said so far in his letter.