1I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
2God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?
3"Lord, THEY HAVE KILLED YOUR PROPHETS, THEY HAVE TORN DOWN YOUR ALTARS, AND I ALONE AM LEFT, AND THEY ARE SEEKING MY LIFE."
4But what is the divine response to him? "I HAVE KEPT for Myself SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL."
5In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice.
The question then at hand is whether or not God will reject Israel forever. In other words, did the church replace Israel in terms of God’s promise of restoring Israel and in preserving a remnant of them, or will God still do that for Israel? Paul is emphatic that God has not rejected His people. They have rejected Him, but He will keep His unilateral promise to them. His promise to them to eventually write the law on their hearts will still happen. He will replace their hearts of stone with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19). Yet even in the present time, some of the faithfulness of God to Israel is already realized in that some Israelites have responded already to the gospel of Christ. Paul gives himself as an example of a Jewish believer. So his life is evidence of God’s faithfulness to Israel. God foreknew that Israel would be His people, and He will see to it that one day in the future they as a people will be His once again. Elijah felt after his showdown with the prophets of Baal that there was no one in Israel who was faithful, when indeed there was. He felt that God had given up on Israel completely, when indeed He had not. God responded to him that there were still seven thousand men in Israel who had not given in to Baal worship. Seven thousand is a lot more than none. God did preserve a remnant of those who were faithful, even at the end of the Old Testament in the time of Malachi’s ministry. In the same way (as is true even in our day) there is a faithful remnant of Jews who are believers in Christ as the Messiah. God has not cast off His people, but He has merely expanded who can be His people.
6But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.
This major theme of the epistle is again reiterated stating that salvation is by grace through faith. If it was by works, then grace would not be grace. One cannot earn a free gift. It can only simply be received. Such is our salvation, and such is the way that the remnant is saved.
7What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened;
8just as it is written,
"GOD GAVE THEM A SPIRIT OF STUPOR,
EYES TO SEE NOT AND EARS TO HEAR NOT,
DOWN TO THIS VERY DAY."
9And David says,
"LET THEIR TABLE BECOME A SNARE AND A TRAP,
AND A STUMBLING BLOCK AND A RETRIBUTION TO THEM.
10"LET THEIR EYES BE DARKENED TO SEE NOT,
AND BEND THEIR BACKS FOREVER."
What Israel has sought through keeping the Law and the outward rites they have not obtained for they did not respond in faith. Only the chosen of God obtained it while they rest were hardened. The Divine Potter has made some vessels for honor and others for dishonor, yet at the same time men are free to choose to respond to God in faith. God doesn’t force anybody to go to hell, though He knows beforehand who will respond in faith and who will not. Israel has been given a spirit of stupor even in Paul’s time and even in our day. They can’t see or hear the truth because God by and large has hardened their hearts for a time so that the gospel can be taken to the rest of the world. Yet God in His mercy will eventually deal with Israel once again.
11I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.
12Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be!
Israel is not so far gone that God will never restore them again. God has not cast Israel off forever. There is a great difference between stumbling and falling. Stumbling means that one can regain his balance. Falling means that the damage has been done. Israel has merely stumbled in the divine scheme of things. God is still working on Israel, trying to get them to come back to Him. Their hardness of hearts has enabled salvation to come to the Gentiles not simply because God loves the Gentiles but also because God is still trying to get the Jews to respond to Him. By sending the gospel to the Gentiles, God is making the Jews jealous. This is a means of God for trying to get the Jews to turn back to the one true God. So even the hardening of Israel has served to get the gospel to the ends of the world. How much more wonderful and beautiful will it be when Israel itself responds to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
13But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry,
14if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them.
15For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
Paul, speaking to Gentiles specifically at this point, magnifies his ministry as the apostle to the Gentiles. This is because if he is effective in calling Gentile sinners to repentance, it will make Israel all the more jealous and eager to respond to the gospel as well. Thus, he views his ministry as utterly important because there is a secondary element to the evangelization of the Gentiles in that ultimately it is part of God’s plan in calling the Jews back to Himself. Israel’s rejection of Christ served as a means of reconciliation to the rest of the world by the gospel going to the Gentiles. It will be even greater when they themselves respond to God. It will give them eternal life just as God already has to the Gentiles.
16If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too.
17But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree,
18do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.
In the system of offerings to God, the firstfruits of the dough was given to God. This setting apart of the first and best part to God meant that the rest of the dough was also consecrated to God. In the same way, Christ was the firstfruits (1 Corinthians 15:23) of all of those who would inherit heaven and be adopted as sons of God. He is our only means of being grafted into God’s family as God’s people with the righteousness to stand in God’s presence. He is our Root (Romans 15:12), and if we are in Him, then we as the branches (John 15) are holy also. Our only hope is being grafted into His vine and root. Since Christ is holy as the firstfruits, we too are holy as we are the rest of the lump of dough, all those who believe in His name. Our belief in Him allows us to be grafted in as branches. Some of the branches had been broken off because of rebellion and stubbornness on the part of Israel, which is metaphorically speaking the natural olive tree. The Gentile believers are those who are metaphorically the wild olive tree. They by the mercy of God are grafted in among the natural branches and become partakers with them of the same rich root of Christ. Since we as Gentile believers are grafted in, we must be careful to not become arrogant, thinking that the Gentile church is the main attraction in the overall scheme of God. We are mere beneficiaries of the hardness of heart of Israel. Israel is the main event. God is not finished with them yet. Thus we are not to be disdaining of the branches, but honoring God’s people, the Jews, though in many cases we need to witness to them of the gospel. We, as the branches, do not support Christ, but Christ supports us by giving us His righteousness. The branches need the root. Thus, since God has chosen Israel, we must remember that He will keep His promises to them to restore them one day.
19You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in."
20Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith Do not be conceited, but fear;
21for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.
It is right for the believers of our day and of Paul’s day to say that Israel’s stubbornness caused them to be temporarily cast aside so that we could be grafted in as the people of God. They were cast off because of a lack of faith whereas we stand upon faith in Christ as our salvation. Since we are saved by grace through faith, we must not be arrogant and conceited. Rather, we are to fear since God will not spare the Gentiles anymore than the Jews if they harden their hearts against God and do not receive Christ in faith. The Gentiles may mock Israel for being so foolish but they themselves will be judged in the same way if they, too, reject the Messiah.
22Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.
Here we see two sides of God. God pours out justice and wrath upon those who reject Him. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” says Hebrews 10:31. Yet for those who respond to his kindness, there is grace and perfect love. Speaking then to the Gentiles as a whole, if they continue in God’s kindness in responding to Him in faith, then God will continue to pour out grace and mercy upon them. However, if they, like Israel, harden their hearts against God and do not receive the gospel any longer, then they too will be cut off. Indeed this is what will happen when Christ returns and establishes the millennial kingdom, calling Israel back to Himself and punishing the Gentiles for their unrighteousness.
23And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
Speaking then of Israel, if they do not continue in unbelief, God is able to graft them in again just as He grafted the Gentiles in. God gives Israel room to repent if they choose.
24For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?
After all, it is much more natural for the natural olive branch to be put into the natural olive tree than a wild olive branch. It is humbling as Gentile believers to admit that we are wild olive branches and not the natural branches, but we must do this and give Israel their rightful place and honor.
25For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery--so that you will not be wise in your own estimation--that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in;
Part of God’s mysterious and sovereign plan is that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. In other words, Christ will not return until the gospel has been preached to the ends of the earth so that all the Gentiles can respond in faith. Thus, there will be people of every tongue, tribe, and nation in heaven. We need to remember that Israel is still the main event and that we are mere beneficiaries of God’s mercy in His divine plan as He deals with Israel (and us as Gentiles) with great patience.
26and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,
"THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION,
HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB."
27"THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM,
WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS."
All Israel will be saved according to God. This is essential for interpreting prophecy. God has not cast off His people forever. Christ will come as the Deliverer from Zion. Just before Israel is destroyed, Christ will come down to the Mount of Olives, and preserve a remnant of His people (Zechariah 14). He will remove their ungodliness and give them a heart that loves Him and receives Him for Who He is. Salvation is always by the mercy of God, and this will be no exception. God has made this promise to them regardless of their heart at the time: He will take away their sins and give them a new heart.
28From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God's choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers;
29for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
From the perspective of the gospel, Israel is at enmity with God and thus with the church of God. They must be preached to with the good news of Christ. Yet from God’s perspective they are beloved because of His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which God will not forget. God’s promises, calling, and gifts, when made unilaterally, are irrrevocable because God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). For example, God will complete the good work that He began in us no matter what. That is unilateral. Such a gift of God in salvation and subsequent glorification is irrevocable as is His call to receive Him in faith. God has made similar promises to Israel to give them a new heart, and He will do that.
30For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience,
31so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy.
32For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.
We as Christians must remember that we were once disobedient to God also, being born in sin. Yet God showed us mercy because of Israel’s disobedience. Their disobedience has led to God showing us mercy so that ultimately they too will be shown mercy. The story doesn’t end with the church. It finishes with God restoring Israel in His great mercy. All men by nature fall short of God’s glory and are mired in disobedience. It is only the mercy of God that allows any person to respond in faith and be saved. Yet the key is that just as all have been shut up in disobedience, helpless to save themselves, God has shown mercy to all in sending Christ to die on their behalf. Yet the question remains: will they respond in faith to the mercy available to them? Some will and some will not.
33Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!
34For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR?
35Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN?
36For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
When we get a glimpse into the divine plan and especially the mercy of God, we must simply stop and marvel as Paul does here. That God has all of these things planned out before the foundation of the world is mindboggling. That He would use human vessels like Paul and us to do His work is amazing. The depth of the riches and knowledge of God are unsearchable. How much grace and mercy He gives and how much understanding He has. His ways are so far above us that there is no way that we can understand fully how He makes decisions and goes about what He does. That is why He is God and we are not. None of us can tell God what to do or how to change His plans as if we are His counselor and know better than He does. God doesn’t need anybody or owe anybody anything since He is self-sufficient. He is in debt to no man, for everything is His. All things have been created by Him through the word of His power for the glory of His name. The ultimate centerpiece of all of time and space is God Himself. God is writing this masterpiece of the story of human existence for His own glory and to demonstrate His glory to man so that man will glorify Him in return. Thus Paul rightly gives Him the glory that is due Him, which is forever. May it be so.