Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Much of the past few chapters has been focused on the Jews, specifically on the many errors of their religion that blinds them to their God. Yet, as we will see, all this condemnation is but the prelude to a message of grace.
I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
2 God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel saying,
3 Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.
4 But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.
5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.
8 (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.
9 And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them:
10 Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.
11 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.
12 Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?
13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:
14 If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.
15 For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?
16 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.
17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.
19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.
20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:
21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.
23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again.
24 For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?
25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the father’s sakes.
29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
30 For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:
31 Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.
32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.
33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?
35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
Yet the Jews are not Abandoned
Paul has spoken at great length about the many issues of the Jewish people before God, yet he is himself a Jew among Jews. He can trace his lineage to Abraham through Benjamin, so clearly it is not true that none of the Jews are saved. God has not simply cast aside his people like a worn-out sock, because these are the people he chose to choose. The prophet Elijah himself cried out to the Lord, lamenting that Israel had killed God’s prophets and abandoned their God (and, indeed, they wanted him dead). But God responded that he had set apart seven thousand men who were still His, who had not been given over to worship of false gods. In the same way, he has promised that a remnant would be saved of Israel.
This is a lesson to learn, here. Even if an entire people seem entirely gone away, and none of them good, there may yet be some among them whom God has chosen and called toward salvation. I believe it was Spurgeon who, when asked why he preached knowing that only some would be saved, replied, “If I knew that every man who would be saved had a star-shaped mole in his right asscheek, I would stop preaching and start pulling down pants.”
Election of Grace
Paul says that he is convinced that a remnant of Israel are called according to the election of grace. What is this election? God alone can show His grace, and He alone can give it freely of his own volition. It is not anything related to good works or right action, because the fallen man is already dead in his transgressions and sin. The scripture does not call the old man “dying” or “sickly” or “in need of help,” but “dead,” so there is no more ability to do anything good (as a corpse cannot do any good works).
So it is that grace is a gift, not by works. If it could be earned, it would not be grace.
Failure to Obtain
If grace is not something that can be earned, then the Jewish practices are for nothing. They strain to earn something that can never be earned, but we who have not struggled in this way have received the election. Indeed, those among the Jews who have received the election have received it as a gift of God, but the rest cannot perceive this.
The scriptures say that God has blinded them, made them deaf to the gospel, and put their spirits to sleep unto this day. That is, they are blinded by their traditions and rabbis; they are deafened to the gospel by the lies (intentional or innocent) of their peers and teachers; they are unable to awaken to the truth because their souls are lulled into a deep slumber. King David said (perhaps cursed) that their tables should be made a trap and a stumblingblock, a retaliatory punishment for them. He further cursed that they should be blinded to God, and turn their backs in their blindness.
This series of curses is not something that the Jews have done (even intentionally). They did not stumble, and so pass on the gospel of life, but they were made blind so that the good news would be spread among the Gentiles, as well. If only the Jews were saved, Christianity would be just another Jewish cult, but because they did not listen the Gospel was made available to the world. This has made them jealous, for we claim to know intimately the God they only know of in their texts and lectures.
Magnification of Riches
Their loss is our gain. Because they missed the Gospel (and continue to miss it), the Gospel is given to all the world. Because the Jews rejected Christ, we Gentiles have received all the goodness He offers. If this loss is such a gain, how much more of a gain will it be when the riches are restored to Israel?
We Gentiles who believe live in the fullness and richness of Christ, being made co-heirs with Christ by His death and resurrection. Paul speaks of the failures of the Jews and praises the faith of the Gentiles, in part, to make the Jews jealous. When they envy us, they will seek to emulate us, and so they will come to know the goodness and richness of God’s mercy and grace. It is not a gift solely for the Jew or the Gentile, but the Gospel is to all peoples of the world.
Because the Jews rejected Christ, the world is redeemed. When the Jews come to embrace Christ, they will also be raised from the dead as we have been. For we are the first fruits of salvation – if the first fruit of the tree is holy, the rest will also be holy; if the root of the tree is holy, the whole of the tree must also be holy.
Grafting of the Tree
We have a holy root – that is, Christ – and we have a holy firstfruit in Him, as well. The Jews were stripped from the tree so that we could be grafted onto it (and, by extension, be made holy). We have a seat at the table because they lost theirs, and we partake of the holiness of God because he allowed the Jews to first reject Him. We did not do anything to boast of, certainly nothing which the Jews did, but we have received as a gift the holiness of God.
We must not take any sort of pride in this. They were broken off because they lacked belief, and we were grafted in because we were given belief (that is, faith as a gift of God). God did not spare his own people when they lacked faith, so why would we expect him to spare us if we also lack faith? We must always keep this in mind – we are not better than they by nature, but because we are grafted to God’s tree. If we should fail to bear fruit, or wither from lack of faith, we should also be cast off so that new branches might be grafted in.
Behold the goodness and severity of God. When he condemns, his wrath is fearful and swift, but he has shown to us a greater goodness than we should ever expect. Therefore, we must live in this goodness, taking nothing for granted, because we were grafted in for a purpose (to bear fruit, and multiply). And, if a Jew or anyone else was cut off for unbelief, he might also be brought back, for the God who cut them off is also the God who grafted us onto the tree.
Think about it this way. We were from a wild fruit tree, one which was not tended and beloved by the gardener. But, when the branches withered, he cut from our tree and grafted us to His so that the tree might flourish and bear much fruit. Some of the withered branches might again spring to life, and so the gardener might choose to graft them back onto the tree he first cut them from (because it is his tree, and each branch is a part of the tree he carefully groomed).
The Redemption of Israel
Paul spoke all this to warn us against the blindness of the Jews, which comes in part from thinking that you’re somehow special and gifted with special wisdom and truth. We are as prone to error as any man, and our mere blood will not save us. Only the pleasure of our God has saved us and preserves us.
Indeed, all of Israel shall be saved, for it was prophesied long ago. A Deliverer would come down from Zion (that is, Christ coming from God the Father in Heaven) and turn away ungodliness from Israel. God promised this would come to pass, and he would take away their sins. This promise, as with all of God’s promises, will come to pass.
While this promise is yet to be fulfilled, the Jews are enemies of the gospel (and, by extension, the elect – for this reason, it is dangerous to believe in a “Judeo-Christian” anything). They are made our enemies for our own sakes, but they are still beloved by God the Father. God does not take away his gifts and calling, nor apologize and repent for them.
We all were once dead, same as all men, but we are made alive by God. We once lived in unbelief, yet now we believe because God has shown us mercy. He showed us mercy because they did not believe, and by showing God’s mercy to the Jews they, too, might obtain mercy. God has included the Jews with the Gentiles in unbelief, so that he might show mercy to all.
Our Unknowably Wise Lord
God’s ways are beyond our ways, and his thoughts beyond our thoughts. All this we have learned may not make any sense, even if we try to convince ourselves it does, because God’s thoughts and ways are further beyond ours than our ways and thoughts are beyond those of the tiniest amoebas. What does an amoeba know of computers, or physics, or chemistry, or math? An amoeba simply does things, not knowing why or how, and so it is with our understanding of God.
Who has ever truly understood the mind of God? The mind with such vast knowledge and ability as to create all the universe, set down immutable laws for his creation, and cause it to continue to function as planned? The mind that knows our needs before we ask (or know to ask), the mind that knew us and called us before our conception? The mind that continues to sustain all of creation? What hope can we have of understanding that kind of mind, when we cannot even fully understand the minds of our fellow men or even our own minds?
Of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things. Let all glory be to God now and forever, amen!
Let us Pray
Mighty and unsearchable Lord, knower of all things visible and invisible, you who know our hearts, let all glory be unto you alone! In you we find the author and sustainer of all of creation, the perfect giver of good gifts, the root of mercy and justice, the source of all good things.
We thank you that you have given your Son to us, who were lost, who had only the promise you gave to Eve to give us any hope of salvation. You have blinded the Jews so all might be saved, Jew and Gentile alike. You came first unto the Jews, as promised, then let them reject you so that your Word would spread among the Gentiles. And yet, Lord, we grieve with our sleeping brother Paul that the time of salvation for the Jews is not yet at hand. Bring it swiftly, O Lord, so that we might rejoice with the children of Abraham in the fullness of Your Glory.
We ask these things of you who has shown us mercy and grace, undeserved and unasked for yet sorely needed, while we were yet dead in our transgressions and sins. Give us everincreasing faith and understanding, as you will, and drive us to share Your Word with all men, that in the fullness of time all might be made to believe.
We ask these things in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, one God now and forevermore,
Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey all that Christ has commanded us, for He is with us always, unto the very end of the age.