A Study of Romans 11
For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature (Gentiles), and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree (Israel): how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?
Here is indeed an odd thing! Paul uses the example of grafting to explain how some Gentiles are saved along with some Jews – they are all placed into the the same body. Paul’s message is to the Gentiles, which is not a strange thing as he is the apostle to the Gentiles, and what has happened to them is explained by Paul as graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree. This procedure is against nature as one does not take bad branches and graft them into a good tree, but it is normally quite the opposite.
Luther Burbank proved you could grow prunes on an almond tree by grafting prune buds on the almond tree where almond buds had started. While Burbank speaks of two different trees, Paul speaks of two olive trees, one wild, bearing no fruit, and the other a fruit-bearing tree. While it does not make sense to graft branches from a bad tree to a good tree, yet it can be done against nature, especially if you wished to increase the production on the good tree. This our Lord did, in his including the saved Gentiles in the same body as the saved Jews. Paul gave this message concerning Gentiles who were once apart from Christ:
Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ”
After the Lord revealed Himself to Jacob (his given name means “heel”) Israel was added as another name, (which means “Prince of God.”) it is a lesson which tells us, Israel, the prince of God, is the one the Lord calls Israel. Sometimes Jacob is called Israel, and sometime he is referred to by his original name, Jacob. The nation Israel is represented by the branches of the good olive tree which now includes saved Gentiles grafted in from the wild olive tree. There were some branches of the good olive three which had been broken off from their own olive tree. It appears Paul intended to show the good olive tree represents saved Jews and saved Gentiles in the same body. Our Lord told the disciples He was the vine, and they were the branches (John 15:1-6).
A. The evidence that Jew and Gentile would be a union of believers in Christ:
1. In the book of Genesis we are told this concerning the sons of Noah, Japheth (patriarch of the Gentiles) would dwell in the tents of Shem (patriarch of the Semitic race).
2. Abraham was told his seed would be a blessing to all nations and the fulfillment of that promise, that is the seed is Christ.
3. In Isaiah we are told,
And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth. (Isaiah 49:6)
4. The apostle James said,
Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.
And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,
After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:
That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.
B. Paul goes to great ends to tell us that God has not cast away His people, that it is a matter of identifying just who are His people. They are those He has foreknown and chosen whether they be Jews or Gentiles. He tells us God has a remnant according to the election of grace, which is no more than saying God has chosen some of them to be His spiritual people, as well as some Gentiles. Isaiah and David have told us the problem the entire nation had in believing, and we have heard before that the children of the flesh are not the children of God (Romans 9:8). The good olive tree given in this chapter informs us of all the true children of God. Some have been removed from it, and some have been grafted in from the wild olive tree, the Gentiles. Upon these only will God save and bestow mercy.
C. Explanations by Paul in answer to the question:
“…hath God cast away His people?…”
1) — “God has not cast away His people WHICH HE FOREKNEW.”
Paul himself answers the same question he asks!
While some have been passed by, yet not all, and Paul is living proof that those of the nation Israel which He foreknew He has not cast away. “For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin” (Romans 11:1b). The foreknown people of God are those whom God has called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Since His purpose was to save Paul, He thus foreknew Him, and having foreknown him, predestined him, called, and glorified him. Foreknowing did not precede His purpose, but followed it, as well as predestination. God’s purpose is to save some Jews, and some Gentiles, and these are that remnant according to the election of grace.
There are those who make his people to mean the nation Israel, but this is confronted with great difficulty as the people are His people which He foreknew, which, in one sense, represents His people of both Jew and Gentile, for God has only one people, those who are the called according to His purpose – they are the ones He foreknew (Romans 8:28,29). Charles Hodge, knowing that some refer these words to the nation, said more stress is to be laid upon the words:
Which he foreknew, as qualifying and distinguishing the preceding phrase “his people”. God has indeed rejected his external people, the Jewish nation as such, but he has not cast away his people which he foreknew. According to this view, his people means the elect, his spiritual people, or the true Israel. This interpretation seems decidedly preferable. (Romans p.354)
Recall Elijah’s despair after his encounter with the prophets of Baal. While some of the nation rejoiced in his victory, the vast majority did not.
What was the message our Lord gave to him?
Out of the many in the nation, seven thousand had been reserved to God, who had not bowed the knee to Baal. Ah, the remnant! not even the majority, and certainly not all, make up the remnant of the spiritual people. So it is today, and will be unto the end of the age. And the truth of the matter is, it is also true of the Gentiles as well, for there is a remnant of them upon whom God has mercy.
2) — As in Elijah’s day GOD HAS A REMNANT ACCORDING TO THE ELECTION OF GRACE which are chosen out from among the nations: (v 3-7)
“Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace”
And to show it was by grace, and not the foreseen faith of some, Paul tells us, since it is by grace, it is no more of works (v. 6). Salvation cannot be by grace and works at the same time. While we are saved unto good works (Ephesians 2:10), we are not saved by good works. Even faith is not of ourselves (Ephesians 2:8,9), but is the gift of God. Too many people today seem to infer that faith is of man while they attempt to say salvation is by grace.
The people which God foreknew (notice it is not what He foreknew, but whom, that is, people) are those who are the remnant, chosen, according to the election of grace. Whatever your idea of faith is, it cannot be meritorious as Paul tells us, “it is of faith, that it might be by grace” (Romans 4:16). Paul is very clear that we are saved by grace, through (not by) faith (Ephesians 2:8). It means that grace is the condition (one that God meets), and faith the means God uses to convey unto His people the fact of their salvation. Faith is the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1), that is, it is evidence that God bestows so that we might know.
3) — Isaiah and David have foretold of the INABILITY OF SOME WITHIN THE NATION to see and hear the truth: (vs 8-10)
Paul quotes the prophet who said, “God hath given them the spirit of SLUMBER, eyes that they should NOT SEE, and ears that they should NOT HEAR.” (Romans 11:8).
One might ask the question:
How does anyone see enough, or hear enough truth to be saved?
The answer is given in that one must be given eyes to see, and ears to hear.
Does it not seem, as you witness of God’s salvation through His blessed Son, and they continue to deny and resist, that they seem to be asleep?
According to Paul they are, and that, a divinely wrought sleep!
Do you remember the answer to Peter’s confession that the Lord Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16), that which a man must believe in order to be saved?
Was he not told, “Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee … but my Father which art in heaven” (Matthew 16:17)?
Man can preach; man can read the holy Scriptures, but unless God reveals the truth to him from heaven, it is all ineffectual, and man with uncircumcized heart and ears, will resist until divine regeneration has brought him out of his sleep.
How did the seven thousand come to be?
God reserved them unto Himself – and he spake to them in a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12).
4) — The purpose of God in their fall is that SALVATION NOW COMES TO THE GENTILES which should provoke some to jealousy: (vs 11-15)
“I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.”
Paul’s message does not indicate this word tells us that a nation shall be restored to its former place in God’s sight, as that in verses 13 and 14 indicate differently.
“For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: if by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, AND MIGHT SAVE SOME OF THEM.”
The only hope for Jews (or Gentiles) is in this age in Christ. The inclusion of some Gentiles, along with the salvation of some Jews, was to be an easing of tensions between men of differening nations. Jewish jealousy could be a means of some turning to Christ through the Gospel. Some Gentiles and some Jews was Paul’s goal. He speaks of some (v. 14), and thus infers not all! The nation was rejected but not all within that nation – the remnant according to the election of grace would bring in those God foreknew, that is, His people.
He says some, not all, for he was aware that the body of the nation was at that time rejected, but he knew not who among them were of the remnant according to the election of grace, who, although still rejecting the Messiah, might, by means of the Gospel which he preached, be finally saved.” (Haldane, Romans p. 533).
5) — The promise made to Abraham which is unto all nations, Israel and Gentiles, is likened unto TWO TREES – A GOOD OLIVE TREE AND WILD OLIVE TREE – and from the GOOD OLIVE TREE some branches are removed and from the WILD OLIVE TREE some branches are removed and grafted into the GOOD OLIVE TREE: (vs 16-24)
“And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.”
The passages, vs. 16-24, would seem to settled forever the identity of All Israel (v. 26). The two nations are pictured as two olive trees, a good, and a wild one. Remember Jesus is the vine, and the people are the branches (John 15). It is quite obvious the branches of the good olive tree represents people of the nation Israel, and the branches of the wild the Gentiles. Some of the branches have been removed from the good olive tree, and some have been removed from the wild one, the latter being grafted into the good olive tree.
6) — The good olive tree now remains of all God’s people and they are the saved from both JEW AND GENTILE, and are called the ISRAEL OF GOD (Galatians 6:16), and the branches in this tree are those God has bestowed mercy upon and are the saved: (vs 25-32).
1. TWO JEWS have always existed, one referred to as outwardly and the other as one inwardly. The earthly Jew, in God’s sight, has no spiritual significance today, as we are told, The Jew is not one outwardly, but one inwardly – where circumcision is of the heart and not in the flesh (Romans 2:28-29). All who have have had circumcision of the heart (that is, the old removed, and replaced with a new one – Ezekiel 36:26) are God’s true Jew. God has always had a spiritual people as opposed to earthly people!
2. TWO ISRAELS have always existed, one fleshly, the other spiritual. “For we are told, They are not all Israel which are of Israel” (Romans 9:6), and again the fleshly people are not the people of God (Romans 9:8).
3. Paul tells us:
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace [be] on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.”
The new creation and the Israel of God are one and the same!
How do we come to understand Israel in verse 26?
God’s people are those He foreknew (v 2);
God’s people are the remnant according to the election of grace (v 2-5);
God’s people are those who are saved by grace through faith and not works (v 6);
God’s people are those who are represented by the good olive tree which consists of both saved Jews and Gentiles (vs 16-17) (23-24);
God’s people are those whom he calls his people – they are the All Israel (v 26).
If I had two trees, one a good tree, and another tree which does not of itself bear fruit, and I brake some of the branches off of the bad tree and graft them into the good tree, is not the first tree still a good tree though it has branches from a bad tree?
Together the branches bear good fruit.
Does not the grafted branches partake of the root of the good tree?
and, do I not still call it by it’s original name?
It was the primary tree, and the bad tree secondary?
I do not give it a new name, but I call it by its first name. Thus Israel today (“the prince of God”), speaks of the spiritual people of God consisting both of saved Jews and Gentiles, and is the Church of God.
Listen to Calvin:
(All Israel): Many understand this of the Jewish people, as though Paul had said, that religion would again be restored among them as before: but I extend the word “Israel” to all the people of God … The same manner of speaking we find in Gal 6:16. The Israel of God is what he calls the Church gathered alike from Jews and Gentiles; and he sets the people, thus collected from their dispersion, in opposition to the carnal children of Abraham, who had departed from his faith” (Romans p.437).
Unless one understands the two Israels, the one in the flesh, and the other spiritual, the term all Israel is an enigma. Those who hold to the continual use of a literal translation face a great problem with the term, for if every Israelite is meant (and would be if literal), even those already dead would of necessity be included. Griffith Thomas, one who maintains the term means the restoration of the nation Israel, said this of it:
All Israel does not necessarily mean every Israelite, but the whole nation, a future national conversion, as distinct from the present conversion of individuals (Romans, p.304).
Yet if one sees the term including all the saved, all those in Christ, whether Jew or Gentile (for after all, God only has one saved people), then the all can be taken literally. As we have seen, the Israel of God is the new creation in Christ (Galatian 6:15-16). Whether Jew or Gentile as to national origin, the only salvation is in this age, and it is in Christ. When our blessed Lord returns, it is the end of any hope of obtaining eternal life – it is only in Christ this day. Today is the day of salvation. And it is also written, There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord is rich unto all that call upon Him.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. God’s word says, “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.”
By D. Dewberry