Verse by Verse Study of Romans 11:25-36
In the last blog post, we studied Romans 11:1-24 which ended with the illustration of the olive tree. Paul uses the olive tree to illustrate being in a right relationship with God. The roots of the olive tree represent the chosen patriarchy of Israel, those who had faith in God such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The original branches of the tree represent the rest of the chosen people of Israel who followed Abraham and obeyed God’s laws.
In Genesis 15, God counted Abraham as righteous because of his faith. God made a covenant relationship with Abraham and proclaimed that all those that followed Abraham in faith, we’re God’s ‘chosen people’.
Count the Stars
I was reminded of Abraham on a family camping trip. One night, while my children were sound asleep in the tent, my husband and I sat around the campfire. All we could hear was the sound of the waves on the shore and the crackle of the fire. As the campfire began to smolder, and the glow of the fire was fading, the night sky came into focus. Everything else fell away as I noticed how immense the sky full of stars was. It was absolutely breathtaking. If you live near city lights, you never truly get to experience the awesomeness of a starry night. I might be able to count the stars I see in my own backyard, but these stars were countless!
I thought of how God showed Abraham the stars in Genesis 15:5 –
‘Then the Lord took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have.”
But God wasn’t primarily concerned with filling the earth with people of Jewish descent. His goal was to fill the earth with people who had faith in him, as Abraham did.
God wants to be in a relationship with us. But it’s important to make clear that being in a right relationship with God, and being incorporated into God’s tree, requires faith in God.
Over time, the people of Israel lost sight of the reason they were made right with God, and ultimately rejected him.
Israel Rejected God’s Covenant for Two Reasons
1. Rather than obtaining God’s righteousness by faith, they tried to obtain it by works, and
2. They rejected their promised Messiah and the gospel message. They did not believe that Jesus was who he said he was.
This led to the removal of the original branches, and wild branches – representing believing Gentiles – were then grafted in after a New Covenant was made through Jesus Christ.
But Paul warns these new believing Gentiles not to feel superior over Israel, because just as Israel was removed for their unbelief, so could the Gentiles. They were not brought into a right relationship with God because of anything they had done to earn it. The original branches could be grafted back in if they turned from their unbelief.
Paul Warns Us About Pride
Verse 25 begins with another warning to the believing Gentiles. Paul says that it is of the utmost importance that they understand how they were grafted in, or brought into a right relationship with God, so that they don’t become proud and wise in their own eyes.
Though it may seem obvious that they were only grafted into God’s tree because of their belief in the New Covenant established by Jesus Christ, it is something that we all need to be reminded of.
It can become so easy to fall into the trap of pride in our own behavior, attitudes, actions, accomplishments, and even knowledge. We mistaken our service for God, knowledge of God and His Word, or dedication to the church as a way of being better than others – godlier than others, and therefore earning our place in God’s kingdom.
If we are honest, haven’t we all had similar thoughts? I know I have. And this is what Paul is warning against. We have only been grafted in because of our faith, not because of anything we have done to earn our place.
What Does “All Israel Will Be Saved” Mean?
And Paul continues to say in verse 25, that some of Israel have had their hearts hardened, or become blind (in the New King James Version, NKJV) until the full number of Gentiles become saved. Now the phrase full number, or the word “fullness” used in NKJV does not mean that Israel’s hearts will be softened again, or their blindness removed only when every Gentile is saved. But rather it refers to the number of Gentiles who will get saved. God has foreknowledge and knows who will choose to have faith in him.
In verse 26 Paul makes another inclusive statement. He says, ‘and so all Israel will be saved’. When the full number of the Gentiles have accepted the Messiah, and Israel’s heart is again softened to the truth, Paul says that all of Israel will be saved.
But Paul doesn’t mean that there will be a time when every person of Jewish descent will be saved. Instead, there will be a time when Israel – God’s chosen remnant – will embrace Jesus as their Messiah. Israel does not refer to all those who are Jews, but rather the name Israel was the name given to Jacob by God, meaning ‘Let God prevail’. Those who followed in the ways of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – obedience and faith in the one true God – are included in this remnant.
He quotes from Isaiah 59:20-21 and Isaiah 27:9 (Greek version, Septuagint) as evidence of when Isaiah prophesied that Israel would turn from their ungodliness and have faith in Jesus as their Messiah.
A Necessary Condition
And the Bible indicates that this is a necessary condition for Jesus’ return.
In Matthew 23:37-39 Jesus addresses the nation of Israel and says this in verse 39:
‘For I tell you this, you will never see me again until you say, ‘Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’ (NLT)
In this passage, Jesus is referring to his second coming, and that it won’t happen until Israel recognizes him as Lord.
Prophecies Foretold of Jesus
Zechariah 12:10 is a prophecy about Israel. It says,
‘…They will look on whom they have pierced and mourn for him as an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as a firstborn son who has died.’(NLT)
The Book of Zechariah was written between 520-518 BC, over 500 years before Jesus was born. This is just one of the many prophecies in the Old Testament that foretold of Jesus coming. And with incredible detail. Jesus could have died in many ways. In fact, death by crucifixion would not have been the most obvious choice.
The Jews were the ones who wanted to put Jesus to death, and they usually did that my stoning, especially for the charge of blasphemy. The Romans had no quarrel with Jesus. But for Old Testament prophecy to be fulfilled, which is one of the ways God speaks and proves who he is, Jesus had to be pierced as part of his punishment and death. And this was fulfilled in two ways: by the nails in his hands and feet, and by the spear in his side.
God Remains Loyal to His People
All this tells us, that God plans to focus his saving mercies on Israel once again, and Israel will respond to God and believe in Jesus as their Messiah.
Verse 28 tells us that God still loves Israel, his chosen people and
Verse 29 tells us that God does not give up on us. His invitation is never withdrawn. The gift of salvation is always on the table. He leaves the path to restoration open for all who will enter it.
In verses 30-31 Paul is again reminding the Gentiles who are now believers in Jesus, that they once rebelled against God. When Israel became disobedient, God showed the Gentiles his mercy instead. But God can also use the mercy shown to the Gentiles for the mercy of Israel, to draw them back to him.
Verse 32 is a strangely worded verse.
‘God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone.’(NLT)
It almost sounds like God is making everyone disobedient just so he can show us mercy.
But this is not at all what this verse means! Notice the word imprisoned. This a metaphorical way for Paul to say that God holds both Jews and Gentiles in custody as lawbreakers. He holds our offenses against us but offers all prisoners mercy based on the work of Jesus on the cross.
God’s Knowledge, Wisdom, and Ways are Beyond Our Understanding
In verse 33, as Paul has been considering God’s great plan for all mankind, he breaks out in spontaneous praise, and he tells us an important truth:
When we can’t seem to understand God and his ways, like Paul, we need to realize that God’s ways, knowledge, and wisdom are far beyond our understanding.
In verses 34 Paul quotes Isaiah 40:13 (Septuagint), in which Isaiah states that no one can give God advice.
And in verse 35 Paul quotes Job 41:11 in which Job says that we can never make God a debtor to us. There is nothing we could give him in which he would ever need to pay us back.
And finally verse 36, which is packed with meaning:
‘For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All the glory to him forever! Amen’ (NLT)
3 Important Truths We Need to Know About God
1. Everything comes from God: The plan of salvation came from God. It wasn’t man’s idea. In our spiritual indifference, we didn’t even care about or consider the need for a plan. And even if we did care, we aren’t wise enough to make one. It was all God.
2. Everything exists through God’s power: Even if we had a plan of salvation, we wouldn’t be able to make it happen. We would not have been able to free ourselves from our sinful natures. Through the great work of Jesus on our behalf, salvation was brought into existence.
3. Everything is for God and for his glory: None of this is about you or me, but its all for him. It was for his pleasure that we were created, and we find our purpose and fulfillment in bringing him glory and honor.
Notice what led Paul to say all of this: The fact that Paul realized that he couldn’t understand God, made him glorify God. The more we realize the greatness of God, the more we will worship him passionately.
How Can I Do All Things for God’s Glory? by Joseph A. Pipa Jr. – Christians often talk about glorifying God, but is this phrase used without thinking about what it means? Has it become an empty slogan? This book helps us understand what God’s glory is, the ways we glorify God, and principles we can follow for glorifying God in all things.
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