Lesson 19: In This Way All Israel Will Be Saved (part 1)

Paul may have had great sorry for his Jewish kinsmen (9.1-3) and prayed to God for their salvation (10.1), but things were not looking good for most of them. They were lost, but their condition was their own doing and blame could not be lain at the feet of God. They may have been God’s elect people, but they had pursued a righteousness of works rather than the righteousness of faith (9.30-32). They had heard the message of Christ, but had remained disobedient and obstinate (10.17-21).

Was that it? Had God rejected His people? That’s the issue Paul dealt with in this chapter. The surprising answer is found in vs. 26, “and in this way all Israel will be saved.” What did Paul mean by this? Some, including most premillenialists, assert that before the end of time (or in conjunction with the end of time), all of fleshly Israel will be saved. This verse is used as a primary proof text of their position. But, is that what Paul was saying? He had already stated that a remnant was what would be saved (9.27) and he made the same case for a remnant of Israel in the opening verses of chapter 11. Furthermore, Paul had stated in 9.6-7 that, “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring”. Finally, remember that the true Israel is comprised of those who are circumcised in the heart (2.28-29).

What this passage does is expound on how God’s great promise to Abraham was fulfilled. You’ll recall that God promised, “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed,” (Gen. 12.3). Paul stated in Eph. 3.4-6 that the “mystery” was how the Gentiles could become “fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” In Romans 11 Paul elaborated on how this occurred, showing how remarkable and improbable God’s plan was! This was how all Israel would be saved!

The Remnant of Grace (Vss. 1-6)

  1. The outlook for Israel was pretty bleak. The chosen descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had missed out on God’s righteousness as they tried to establish their own (see Romans 9.30-32; 10.3-4) and even though the gospel message still had the power to save (Romans 10.8-13) Israel was still disobedient (Romans 10.21). So, had God rejected His people? Of course not! Paul was living proof that some Jews (a remnant) had accepted the gospel message and put their faith in Christ.
  2. Paul will speak of God’s “people whom he foreknew” (vs. 2) those “chosen” (vs. 5) and “the elect” (vs. 7). I believe each refers to the remnant which Paul referenced in Romans 9.27. “To say that God “foreknew” his people Israel means that even before he singled them out for a central role in his redemptive plan, he knew in advance the kind of people they would be all along the historical path to the Messiah and beyond. Nothing about them—their weaknesses, their failures, their unbelief, their idolatries—took him by surprise. He foreknew all these things and chose them anyway, because he also foreknew that there would always be a faithful remnant who would turn to him with believing hearts, who would keep the messianic hope alive, and who would turn to the Messiah when he came.” (Jack Cottrell, College Press Commentary)
  3. Paul’s quotation from 1Kings 19 in vss. 2-4 expounds on the idea of a remnant. In the days of Elijah, the vast majority of Israel had turned to Baal, but a remnant of 7000 remained true to Jehovah God. So, while the vast majority of Jews had rejected Christ, there was still a remnant of grace who believed in Him.
  4. Unfortunately, vs. 5 is used by many as a proof-text for Calvin’s doctrine of unconditional election. In their minds the remnant being chosen by grace is God choosing them unconditionally. But this interpretation makes a mockery of the context. Throughout Paul’s letter to the Romans he had described the gospel of faith in Jesus as a matter of “grace” (see Romans 3.24; 5.2, 20-22; etc.) Paul’s point was that even then, there were some of his kinsmen who put their faith in Christ; there was a remnant of grace among physical Israel. But what about the rest of Paul’s kinsmen?

Israel’s Hardening (Vss. 7-10)

  1. The elect remnant (i.e. those who put their faith in Christ) had found God’s grace. But what of the rest? They were hardened. This is not a new thought as Paul had already spoken of God hardening various people in chapter 9:
    • God hardened Pharaoh by commanding him to do something that the “god of the Egyptians” would not do (Romans 9.17-18).
    • Likewise, Israel stumbled over the stumbling stone of Christ (Romans 9.32-33), likely in reference to the deity of Jesus (see Romans 9.5).
  2. Just as Pharaoh was not excused for his hardening, neither was Israel. The works of Jesus should have convinced the Jews that He is the Son of God (see John 5.36), yet they would not believe that a man could be divine. However, while God was not to blame for their hardening, God had a purpose for Israel’s hardening. That is Paul’s point in this passage. Paul uses OT quotations from Isaiah 29.10 and Psalm 69.22-23 to bolster his point (note that Isaiah 29.13 also shows Israel’s blame in the matter).
  3. Cottrell has some good thoughts on the idea of Israel being hardened: “The following facts concerning this hardening will emerge in the course of Paul’s argument, but may profitably be summed up before we go any further. (1) Whatever the nature of this hardening, it is not the cause of anyone’s unbelief. The only ones hardened are those who have already rejected God’s righteousness in Christ. (2) Whatever the nature of the hardening, it is not irrevocable and final. Those hardened are still able to come to faith, as the next point indicates. (3) God’s purpose for this hardening is to use it as a means of converting many Gentiles, which in turn will be a means of converting many of the hardened Jews themselves. Thus paradoxically the ultimate goal and result of the hardening is the salvation of those who are hardened! The sequence of events is as follows: the bulk of the Jews reject the gospel; they are hardened; as a consequence Gentiles are saved; as a consequence of this, many of the hardened Jews are made jealous and are saved; and as a consequence of this, even more Gentiles are saved!

The Results of Israel’s Hardening (Vss. 11-16)

  1. This section begins with another question: “did they stumble in order that they might fall?” Israel had stumbled in rejecting Christ, but was this permanent? Could they no longer be saved? Absolutely not! They could be saved and Paul revealed how all was working according to God’s wondrous plans.
  2. Paul’s basic argument in this text is simple: the Jews’ rejection of Christ had opened the way of righteousness to the Gentiles (It’s probable that Christ’s crucifixion is in view here). Since the Gentiles were being saved, the Jews might be moved to jealousy (i.e. longing for the relationship with God that the Gentiles enjoyed) and would thus be saved.
  3. A few notes on the text:
    • Paul speaks “full inclusion” of the Jews in vs. 12. (I believe this is a bad translation in the ESV. “Fulfillment” in the NASB or “fullness” in the NKJV is better). This is used as proof by some that all Jews will ultimately be saved. But one will note that the same term (fullness) is used of the Gentiles in vs. 25. Paul’s point was that the salvation of the Jewish remnant is a part of God’s plan. Paul goes on to say that the Gentiles inclusion would “thus save some of them” (vs. 14), so he was not saying all of Physical Israel would be saved.
    • Paul speaks of the first piece of dough and the root being holy in vs. 16, but he does not define it. It seems most likely that Paul has Abraham in mind, specifically the promise that was made to him (note vs. 28 where Paul says the Jewish people are still beloved “for the sake of the fathers”). Paul’s point seems to be that what began as holy (national Israel’s patriarchs) had not become unholy. However, what Paul would go on to show is that the “whole lump” and “branches” no longer refer only to Jews, but to Gentiles as well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: