But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.
(a) It is by grace. We are saved and kept by the grace of God alone. See entry for 1 Pet. 5:10.
(b) No longer on the basis of works. You can trust in his grace or your works, but not both because grace and works don’t mix. The context is Israel’s refusal to trust in Jesus, but the lesson is universal. We all have the choice to trust in ourselves or in the Savior.
Repenting from dead works and having faith in God is one of the elementary teachings about Christ (Heb. 6:1), yet many haven’t grasped it. They’re trying to keep the law or make themselves holy, and they are exhausting themselves in the process. They have forgotten that in the kingdom, all is grace.
Further reading: “How to recognize a mixed-grace gospel”
But 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,
(a) Some of the branches. The broken off branches refer to the nation of Israel. “As for Israel” (Rom. 10:21). Paul is talking about the Jews (Rom. 11:1, 2) in comparison with the Gentiles (Rom. 11:11, 12, 13).
(b) Some of the branches were broken off. It sounds like divine judgment but it isn’t. The Israelites cut themselves off. “God did not reject His people … they stumbled … they were broken off because of unbelief” (Rom. 11:2, 11, 20). Even though they were broken off the Jews are still loved “on account of the patriarchs” and will be immediately grafted in if they do not persist in unbelief (Rom. 11:23, 28).
(c) You were grafted in. Paul is not speaking about individuals but groups. He is talking about Jews and Gentiles.
(d) Became partaker with them. Prior to Jesus, God’s favor had been shown exclusively to the nation of Israel. But after the cross, his favor is offered to all (see Rom. 10:12).
do 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.
(a) Do not be arrogant. “Don’t boast over the Jews – you Gentiles have a window of opportunity, like they did, and it won’t last forever. Receive God’s goodness! Receive Jesus! Confess him as Lord (Rom 10:9). Clothe yourself with Christ (Rom 13:14).”
(b) The root supports you. We are saved and sustained by Jesus (1 Cor. 1:8-9).
Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear;
(a) They were broken off. Some use this verse to frighten Christians. “If you’re not careful, God will reject you.” Yet God did not even reject the unbelieving Jews (Rom. 11:1). They cast themselves away through unbelief. Paul is not talking about individuals but the Gentiles as a group. “I am speaking to you who are Gentiles” (Rom.11:13).
(b) But fear. The fear is not that the believer might lose his salvation, but that the Gentiles as a group may follow the unbelieving Jews in rejecting God. Paul was anguished that his Jewish tribe remained lost (Rom. 9:2). If it meant their salvation, he would have wished himself cursed and cut off from Christ (Rom. 9:3). There is no joy in knowing that you are saved while those of your family and tribe remain lost.
for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.
The Jews, as a group, were written off even as individual Jews, such as he and the other apostles, were grafted in through faith. Similarly, the Gentiles as a group have benefited from the kindness of God, but individual Gentiles may yet miss out through unbelief.
Romans 11 is a warning to those who, like the Jews, stubbornly refuse the grace and goodness of God. Reject his blessings and you’ll curse yourself.
This should not frighten the believer. Although the Gentiles as a group may receive or miss out on God’s grace, the body of Christ will never, ever experience the sternness or severity of God.
Behold 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.
(a) His kindness. God’s kindness refers to his unmerited favor or grace which comes to us through Jesus. See entry for Rom. 2:4.
(b) The severity of God. For fourteen centuries, the nation of Israel had the inside track when it came to the favor of God, yet they did not receive it. God reached out to the Jews in love but they gave him the cold shoulder. Yet God did not reject them or cast them away (Rom. 11:1), but they cut themselves off through unbelief (Rom.11:20)
(c) Continue in his kindness. God’s favor and kindness are for the whole world, both Jew and Gentile alike. His kindness is meant to lead us to repentance (Rom. 2:4) and reconciliation. However, those who reject his love, will find themselves cut off.
(d) Otherwise you also will be cut off. Again, Paul is speaking of the Gentiles as a group; he is not threatening individual believers. One with the Lord, your future is eternally secure.
If the Gentiles as a group repeat the mistakes of the unbelieving Jews, they too will find themselves cut off from God’s favor. The condemnation of unbelief is self-inflicted. Refuse his blessings and you won’t be blessed. Refuse to come to Jesus for life and you won’t have life.
Further reading: “Consider the severity of God”
And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
As long as there is life, there is hope. Any unbeliever who turns to the Lord, whether Jew or Gentile, will be grafted into that life-giving Vine (Rom 10:12).
for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
Our heavenly Father never takes back his good gifts. When we suffer loss, we may say things like “God gives and takes away.” But such an attitude reveals more about our pain than the shadowless generosity of our good Father.
Further reading: “Does God give and take away?”
For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.
Mercy to all. Like grace, God’s mercy is unmerited and freely offered to all (Tit. 2:11).
The Grace Commentary is a work in progress with new content added regularly. Sign up for occasional updates below. Got something to say? Please use the Feedback page. To report typos or broken links on this page, please use the comment form below.
- Romans 11:6
- Romans 11:17
- Romans 11:18
- Romans 11:20
- Romans 11:21
- Romans 11:22
- Romans 11:23
- Romans 11:29
- Romans 11:32