Romans 11

Romans 11:1

I 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.

God has not rejected His people. Israel rejected the Lord, but he never rejected them. His heart is always for reconciliation and restoration.

Romans 11:2

God 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?

Do you not know? See entry for Rom. 6:3.

Romans 11:6

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

(c) No longer grace. God’s grace (his strength) and our works (our strength) don’t mix (Rom. 11:6). Succumb to the pressure to perform for the Lord and you will fall from grace. You’ll stop trusting in Christ’s finished work and start banking on your own.

Romans 11:8

just as it is written,

It is written. Paul is quoting Isaiah 29:10 and Deuteronomy 29:4. See also Acts 28:26–27.

Romans 11:9–10

And David says,

(a) David says. The quote comes from Psalm 69:22–23.

(b) A stumbling block. The message of the cross was a stumbling block to the religious Jews (1 Cor. 1:23, Gal. 5:11). See also the entry for Rom. 9:32.

Romans 11:11

I 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.

(a) Stumble. Just as the Galatians fell from grace when they put themselves under law (Gal. 5:4), the religious Jews fell from their privileged position by pursuing works-based righteousness (Rom. 9:32).

(b) Salvation; see entry for Salvation.

Romans 11:16

If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too.

(a) The Root. Jesus is the root who supports the believer (Rom. 11:18).

(b) The root is holy. Jesus is the Holy One (Mark 8:38)

(c) The branches are too. Christians are holy branches connected to the Holy Vine.

The moment you put your faith in Jesus, you were made holy (Acts 26:18, 2 Th. 2:13). Jesus is our righteousness and sanctification from God (1 Cor. 1:30). One with the Lord you are as righteous and holy as he is. See entry for Holiness.

Romans 11:17

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).

Romans 11:18

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).

Romans 11:20

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.

Romans 11:21

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.

Romans 11:22

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

Romans 11:23

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).

Romans 11:26

and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,

(a) Written. Paul is quoting Isaiah 59:20.

(b) Zion is another name for the city of God. It is the place God dwells, which in the new covenant is the body of Christ (see entry for Heb. 12:22).

Romans 11:28

From 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;

(a) The gospel refers to the gospel of Christ or the gospel of God or the gospel of the kingdom. These are all different labels for the gospel of grace. See entry for The Gospel.

(b) Enemies. The religious Jews opposed the gospel and the early church. They made themselves enemies of God. But any hostility was only on their side. In the eyes of the Lord they remained dearly-loved on account of the gracious promises he made to the fathers of Israel.

Romans 11:29

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?

Romans 11:32

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).

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