Romans 11:1-36


Throughout this section, we have been asking some key questions about God’s righteousness as it relates to the nation and people of Israel.


Romans 9

Romans 10

Romans 11

God’s sovereign choice in rejecting Israel

Israel’s choice in rejecting the Lord

Is this rejection permanent?


In chapter nine, Paul asked the question, “Has the Word of God failed because Israel has failed (see 9:6)?”  Now he will ask, “Is there any hope for the nation Israel, or was her failure fatal and final (see 11:1, 11)?”





Paul has been speaking at length of Israel’s rejection of the gospel of Jesus.  This rejection is a rejection of God and His program.  This rejection brings us to a question.


I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? (Romans 11:1a).


Is Israel finished as a people?  Are they no longer the people of God?  Is God finished with ever dealing with the Jews?  The answer which Paul brings is a resounding, “NO!”


1.         The Evidence of Paul’s own Life.


            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. (Romans 11:1).


For a Gentile to say the things that Paul says in Romans 9-11 would smack of anti-Semitism.  But he is Jewish.  An Israelite.  A descendant of Abraham.  This is not merely spiritual Israel.   This is a reference to the physical descendants of Abraham.  He is an Israelite from one of the 12 tribes of Israel.  And Paul stands as proof that God is still dealing with Jews.


2.         The Evidence of God’s Foreknowledge:  God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew (Romans 11:2a).


If God’s foreknowledge is complete and inerrant (and it is), then God knows the end of the story regarding Israel’s future.  If God foreknows that a person is going to be saved, then that person WILL be saved.  Such salvation is not independent of faith in Christ.  God foreknows the means as well as the end.


What is true of individuals is also true of Israel as a people.  God’s foreknown and forechosen people have not been permanently rejected, even if it looks as though permanent rejection has set in.


3.         The Evidence of Scripture


            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?

            “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.”

            But what is the divine response to him? “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” (Romans 11:2-4).


The Scripture which Paul uses is 1 Kings 19:10-18.  It is the story of Elijah.  You remember his story.  He had become disheartened.  Jezebel said that she was going to have him put to death and he left town in a hurry and traveled all the way down to Mount Sinai where he became depressed.  He was ready to give up and even prayed that he might die (if he had really wanted to die, he would have stayed in Israel where Jezebel would have been happy to accommodate him).


Elijah complained that he was the only one left who was faithful to God.  And the Lord reminded Elijah that he had a remnant.


Elijah’s Words

God’s Words

“Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.”

“I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”

Man-centered in outlook

God-centered in outlook


Paul points out that the same is true today.  Even though it looks as though Israel as a nation has turned away from God and has in turn been rejected by God, there are those Jews who are still believers.


Here is the principle.  God always finishes what He starts.  He does this, not because we are faithful, but because HE is faithful.


4.         The Evidence of the Present Remnant.


            In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice.

            But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. (Romans 11:5-6).


Just as there was a remnant of faithful Israelites in the days of Elijah, so Paul also sees a remnant of Jews in his day who continue to believe God.


Why?  What is the basis for this hope?  It is not based upon the faithfulness of Israel.  It is not based upon how faithful the church is.  It is not based upon anything that people DO.  It is based upon God and upon His GRACE.  That is what grace is.  It is the undeserved and unmerited gift of God.





While the rejection of Israel is not complete and does not preclude a remnant, it is nevertheless real.  Jesus made this very clear when He confronted the leaders of the nation of Israel and said to them, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.” (Matthew 21:43).  It is evident from His words that the kingdom WAS to be taken from the generation of that day and to be given to someone else.


1.         The Fact of Israel’s Present Rejection.


            What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; 8 just as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes to see not and ears to hear not, down to this very day.” (Romans 11:7-8).


What was it that Israel was seeking?  She was seeking the righteousness of God.  That is was the Law was all about.  The Law was a reflection of God’s perfect righteousness.  The Jews sought to attain to that standard through their laws and traditions.  They missed it.  But some DID obtain it.


Unbelieving Israel

Believing Israel

Israel did NOT obtain the righteousness of God

Those from among Israel who were chosen DID obtain it.

The rest were hardened.

Those who were chosen believed.


There are those whom God has chosen.  At the right time, He regenerates them and opens their eyes and opens their heart so that they will believe.  But there are other who have determined to go their own way.  And the Lord hardens them and blinds them to the truth.


2.         The Prophecy of Israel’s Present Rejection.


            And David says, “Let their table become a snare and a trap, and a stumbling block and a retribution to them.  10  Let their eyes be darkened to see not, and bend their backs forever.” (Romans 11:9-10).


This is a psalm of David (Psalm 69:22-23).  It is an imprecatory psalm - a psalm in which David prays for the wrath of God to fall upon his enemies.  It is written from David’s heart as he has been attacked by his own countrymen.  He calls upon the Lord to respond to this attack by punishing his enemies.


By rejecting him as their king and resisting his rule, they are resisting God. Their opposition to David is really opposition toward God. Because of this, David pleads with God to deal with these rebels as their sin deserves.  They do not want grace, so let them have justice.


The point that Paul is making is that these enemies of David were JEWISH enemies.  The prayer that David prays and the curse which he calls down is against those fellow Israelites who have rejected God’s anointed one.


3.         The Reason for Israel’s Present Rejection.

Paul will further explain this “jealousy” in verses 13-14.


            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. (Romans 11:11).


The rejection of Israel did not nullify the plan of God.  Rather it fulfilled God’s plan.  The sin of Israel resulted in bringing salvation to the Gentiles.  Because of the sin of Israel, God has reached out to the Gentiles.  But this is not a complete shutout for the Jews.  In fact, it is to the betterment of the Jews since it is designed to make them jealous and bring them back to God.


4.         The Result of Israel’s Rejection and Return.


            Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! (Romans 11:12).


This is an argument from the lesser to the greater.  If the Jewish rejection led to the evangelization of the world, then what great things will come about if the Jews believe?


There are glorious possibilities.  Paul implies that Israel has the potential to turn to God and, if they ever do, they will turn the world upside down.


This suggests to me that both the Dispensationalist scheme with its recapitulating promises, first to Israel, then to the church, and then back to Israel, as well as what has been classified as Replacement Theology are in error.  Paul’s words suggest to us a third alternative:


NOT Dispensational Theology

But a Remnant Theology

NOT Replacement Theology

Views the church merely as a parenthesis in which the plan of God for His chosen people is paused while the church age is culminated after which there is a return to the law and to dealings with national Israel

Sees the church as made up of a believing remnant of Israel into which Gentiles have been ingrafted and into which Israel can also be ingrafted should she come to believe the gospel

Views the church as replacing Israel as God’s chosen people so that Israel is, both now and in the future, necessarily excluded from all of God’s promises





Paul has been talking about Israel’s unbelief.  But most of those to whom Paul is writing are not Jewish.  They are Gentiles.  And so, Paul takes his message to the Jews and makes it practical for the Gentiles.


1.         We are Here for Them.


            But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14  if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. (Romans 11:13-14).


Paul was commissioned by God to take the gospel to the Gentiles.  That does not mean that he never preached to the Jews.  Indeed, it was his habit to approach the Jews FIRST in each city to which he came to preach.  It was only after the Jews of a given city rejected the gospel that Paul would turn to preach to the Gentiles.  And even when he did so, it was with a purpose of continuing to reach out to Israel.  If he could not win Israel by preaching the gospel to Jews, then he would attempt to win Israel by preaching the gospel to Gentiles.  This reference to “moving Israel to jealousy” is an Old Testament concept.


“They have made Me jealous with what is not God;

They have provoked Me to anger with their idols.

So I will make them jealous with those who are not a people;

I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.” (Deuteronomy 32:21).


What God is doing in the New Testament, He first promised in the Old Testament.  It is not as though God had one program in the Old Testament and then another in the New Testament.  That which is taking place today was foretold long ago.


2.         Repentance is a Win/Win Situation.


            For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? (Romans 11:15).


This is a movement from the bad to the good and from the good to the better.  The worst that could happen is Israel’s rejection of their Messiah.  That is BAD.   But that bad thing resulted in the world being reconciled as the world received the gospel and believed.


Israel’s Rejection

Results in...

The reconciliation of the world

Israel’s Acceptance

Life from the dead


If the result of the very worst possible scenario resulted in reconciliation for the world, then how much better will be the outcome of the very best possible scenario?  Here is the principle.  We Gentiles ought to covet and to pray for and to desire the conversion of Israel because this will bring about the very best for the world.


3.         We have no right to be Arrogant.


            If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too.  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, 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. (Romans 11:16-18).


Paul uses two illustrations in verse 16.  The first is of a lump of dough.  The second is of a root.


If the First Piece of Dough is holy...

The rest of the lump of dough is also holy.

If the Root is Holy...

The branches are also holy

If Abraham is holy...

His descendants, the Jews, are also holy


Here is the point.  If God had a special purpose for Abraham in which He promised that all the world would be blessed through him, then God also has a special purpose for the descendants of Abraham, even though they have for the present time rejected God.  Paul then goes on to take the second illustration and to expand upon it.



What it Represents

The Tree

God’s People

The Root


Some of the Branches

The unbelieving nation of Israel

Wild Olive grafted in

Believing Gentiles


Throughout most of the history of the Old Testament, the repository of faith was to be found exclusively among the Jews.  When a Gentile wished to come to God, he must go to Israel.  The place of worship and of sacrifice was the Temple in Jerusalem.  Sacrifices must be administered by a Jewish priest.  The words of God were written in Hebrew by Jewish prophets and taught in Jewish synagogues by Jewish rabbis.  There were two classes of people -  the Jews and the pagans.  But now there has been both a breaking off and a grafting in.  The Jews have now become the pagans.  And those who were pagans have now been grafted into the promises of Abraham.


Paul issues a warning.  The warning is to remember from whence you came.  Remember your spiritual heritage.  The Gentiles had no spiritual heritage of their own.  And this is the point Paul wants them to remember.  They cannot be proud of their heritage because they have none of which to be proud.


This attitude of spiritual pride has become evident in the church.  Church history shows us that Christians have often forgotten that Christianity has Jewish roots.  We have at times acted as though we are the only branches which have every graced the tree of God.


It is like a flea being proud of the dog on which he rides.  “Look at this dog which I have been given.  Am I not a magnificent flea to have such a dog?”


4.         A Warning against Conceit.


            You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”

            Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; 21  for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. (Romans 11:19-21).


Paul anticipates another objection from the mouth of the Gentile believer.  “It is true that I cannot be arrogant of any spiritual heritage because I have no spiritual heritage, but I can be arrogant because God broke off His relationship with the Jews so that He might make a new relationship with me!”


Paul points out that this fact does not push us to conceit but to fear.  Rather than being arrogant, we should be humble.  What happened to Israel can also happen to the Gentiles if we do not continue in faith.


The breaking off of the one branch and the grafting in of the other has nothing to do with the worth of the branch.  There is really no difference between an unfruitful “natural” branch and a worthless “wild” branch.  It is the case of the “pot calling the kettle black.”


The issue is not the Gentile branch’s works or its worth, as compared to the other Jewish branch.  The issue is faith.  The Jewish branch was removed because of unbelief.  The Gentile branch was grafted in because of faith.  The Gentile branch is in error by comparing itself to the Jewish branch when the Gentile branch should be looking to the trunk ‑‑ God.


Here is the principle.  Salvation by grace gives no believer any basis for pride.  Blessings bring greater responsibility, but they do not indicate superiority.  Israel in the past was given great blessings.  The church today has been given even greater blessings.  These blessings are the result of God’s grace and not an evidence that we are better than others.  Our response to these blessings is to be one of humility and thankfulness as we realize that grace is always unmerited and undeserved.  Arrogance flies in the face of grace.  It is a perversion of grace.  Grace is given only to the undeserving, never to the self‑righteous who think they are better.





1.         The Possibility of Regrafting.


            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.

            And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.

            For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree? (Romans 11:22-24).


There is a warning here.  It is a warning to continue in faith.  Paul is not trying to teach that those who are saved can lose that salvation.  He is saying that those who are saved should remember they are kept in the same way they are saved, by trusting in God.  It is a warning against self‑sufficiency.


With this warning comes a promise.  This promise is given to Israel.  It is given to those who will repent of their self-sufficiency and who will return to the Lord.




Wild olive branch

Natural olive branch

Was grafted in through faith

Was broken off because of unbelief

If you continue in faith, you will remain

If they do not continue in unbelief, they will be grafted back in

You were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree

How much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?


There is a principle here.  It is that God is no respecter of persons.  The Jew comes to God in the same way that the Gentile comes to God - through faith.


2.         The Mystery of Grafting.


            For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery ‑‑ so that you will not be wise in your own estimation ‑‑ that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26  and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.  27  This is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.” (Romans 11:25-27).


Paul now reveals a mystery - the Greek term is a mystery - a truth which is now being revealed for the first time.  The Greeks were big on mysteries.  There were an entire series of “mystery religions,” each having its own hidden secrets which were only known to the initiated.  Now Paul reveals a Christian mystery.  It is that the unbelief of Israel is only temporary.  It will continue until “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”


a.         The hardening of Israel is only partial.


Paul has already pointed to himself as an example of this.  He is an Israelite and also a believer in Jesus Christ.  The hardening which hardened Israel has not hardened him.  Throughout the history of the church there have been and will continue to be Jewish believers.


b.         The hardening of Israel is to continue for a season.


This is implied by the fact that Paul’s statement that it will continue until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.


c.         The hardening of Israel will eventually pass away.


When Paul says that it will continue until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, the implication is that after the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, the hardening will pass away.


At such a time, the prophecy will be fulfilled that all Israel will be saved.  Does this mean that each and every Jewish person shall receive Christ?  Not necessarily.  But it does mean that the people of Israel will no longer be characterized by a rejection of Jesus.


Notice the flow of thought:  The end result of this entire flow is seen in verse 27 - the Lord’s covenant with Israel is fulfilled as He takes away their sin.


Jesus told His disciples that they would see Jerusalem surrounded by armies and that this would mark the advent of a great destruction that would come upon the city.  Jerusalem would fall and and be “trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke 21:24).  Are the “times of the Gentiles” the same thing as the “fullness of the Gentiles”?  They seem to be connected.


3.         The Attitude of Regrafting.


            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; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:28-29).


Throughout the history of the church there has been an enmity between Israel and the church.  It began with a Jewish persecution of the church.  But as the church grew in power, the tables were turned and most of that history is a story of the church persecuting the Jews.  Somewhere along the line the church forgot to have an attitude of regrafting.  Paul calls for such an attitude in this passage.


Physical Israel

From the Standpoint of the Gospel

From the Standpoint of God’s Choice

Enemies of the Church

Beloved for the sake of the Fathers


Why do the people of Israel continue to be “beloved” from the point of view of God?  It is because the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.


4.         The Unity of Regrafting.


            For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, 31  so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy.

            For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all. (Romans 11:30-32).


The enmity between the church and Israel ought not to exist because they are alike both in the fact of their disobedience as well as in their need for mercy.  Notice the comparison.




Were once disobedient to God

Has now been disobedient

Now have been shown mercy because of Israel’s disobedience.

Because of the mercy shown to Gentiles, they may now be shown mercy

All shut up in disobedience

All shown mercy


Here is the point.  There was a time when all Gentiles were hopelessly lost in their sins to the point where it looked as though there were no hope for them -- at least, that was the opinion of the Jews.  In Paul’s day, the Jews were becoming increasingly hardened to the gospel so that it may appear to the Gentiles as though the Jews are hopelessly lost in their sins to the point where it looks as though there is no hope for them.


Are the Jews without hope?  No more than the Gentiles are without hope.  The truth is that ALL men are equally without hope apart from the power of God.  And so as ALL have been shut up in disobedience, ALL will be shown mercy.





            Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!   34  Or who had known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?  35  Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again? (Romans 11:32-35).


Having concluded his warning, Paul closes this section of his epistle with a hymn of praise to the Lord.  This hymn is set in a chiastic parallel.


O the depth of the riches



Both of the wisdom



And of the knowledge of God!



How unsearchable His judgments


And unfathomable His ways!


Or who had known the mind of the Lord?



Or who became His counselor?


Or who has first given to Him,

That it might be paid back to Him again?



As he asks these rhetorical questions, Paul borrows phrases from two different Old Testament passages (Isaiah 40:13 and Job 41:11).

The attitudes against which Paul has warned in this chapter are pride and arrogance and conceit.  The remedy for such attitudes is to see God in all of His wisdom and knowledge and power.


Show me a man who is proud and I’ll show you a man who has lost touch with who and what God is.  He may know it academically.  But he has lost touch with it personally.


These closing words of Paul form a fitting conclusion, not only to this chapter and to the questions of chapters 9-11, but to this entire first half of the book of Romans.


Do you remember what has been the overall theme and subject of the book of Romans?  It has been the righteousness of God.  That righteousness has been seen in all of its wisdom and in all of its depth.  The result of seeing such righteousness is to recognize our own inability, not only to measure up to that righteousness, but even to fully understand it.





            For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:36).


This is a summation of Paul’s doctrine of the righteousness of God.  All true righteousness is found in God.  It comes from Him alone.  It also comes THROUGH Him.  It comes through Him when we believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior.  It is a perfect righteousness that comes through Christ.  And it also comes TO Him.  Indeed, as we shall see in the next several verses, our response to this gift of righteousness is that we offer ourselves as a sacrifice to God as an offering of worship.


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