By Andrew E. Courtis
This chapter brings the section on the sovereignty of God and righteousness (9-11) to an end. Israel’s present rejection has opened a door to a large number of Gentiles coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Though Israel as a whole has rejected the gospel of Christ, this does not mean that God is finished with Israel. In His sovereign plan, He will bring about a future restoration of Israel. Paul begins this chapter by providing three evidences of Israel’s future (11:1-6). Firstly, Paul uses himself as an example as a remnant (11:1). Secondly the foreknowledge of God provides basis for their future (11:2a). Finally, though there is only a remnant now, the example of the prophet Elijah is a reminder of that this has happened before (11:2b-6). The rest of the chapter can be divided into two main parts: Israel’s stumbling (11:11-24) and Israel’s salvation (11:25-32). It then concludes with a doxology proclaiming and praising God for His great glory (11:33-36).
1. ISRAEL’S STUMBLING (11:11-24)
The sovereignty of God and His righteousness is seen in Israel’s rejection of Christ. How? The stumbling of Israel leads to the salvation of Gentiles (11:11-15). One of the reasons for Gentile salvation in this present age is to provoke Israel to jealousy, with the purpose of Israel repenting and returning to the Lord in salvation. In God’s time, the salvation of many Gentiles will lead to the salvation of Israel (11:16-24). Paul provides his readers with two illustrations that reveal that God is not finished with Israel: the lump of dough and the olive tree (11:16). In these illustrations his point is that if the portion (which is representative of the whole) is holy, then the whole is also holy. The first fruits of the lump of dough and the root of the tree refer to Abraham and the promises God made to him and possibility the patriarchs – whereas the rest of the dough and the branches refer to Israel as a whole. Paul now elaborates on the illustration of the olive tree (11:17-24). He speaks about branches that were broken off (unbelieving Israel), wild branches grafted in (Gentiles) and then the broken branches grafted back in again (Israel). This section is designed to help the readers understand God’s dealings with Israel and their own inclusion in the tree. Such an inclusion ought not lead to pride, but gratitude (11:17-18). If the Jewish people repent and believe, God will graft them back into the tree (11:23-24). The point of this section is to show that Israel’s stumbling is not final – it is only temporary.
2. ISRAEL’S SALVATION (11:25-32)
In this section, Paul provides his readers with insight into Israel’s future. Though they have stumbled, the day in coming in which Israel will be saved. When will this happen? When the complete number of Gentiles comes to saving faith in Christ, it is then all Israel will be saved (11:25-26). This is not referring to all Jewish people of all time, but rather to all the remnant of Jews in the time prior to the return of Jesus Christ (cf. Zech. 12:10). God will not reverse His sovereign promise, because the “gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (11:29).
As Paul brings this section to a close, he declares the greatness of God’s plan by praising Him. The final words of this chapter are fitting to conclude this study, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (11:36).
- When you read about God plans for the future, what does this tell you about God?
- What are some of the lines of evidence that Paul uses to argue that God is not finished with the people of Israel? See 11:1-6.
- How did Israel’s rejection of the Messiah benefit Gentiles? See 11:11-15
- What do the different parts of the olive tree represent?
The Root: ________________
The Branches: ________________
The Wild Branches: ________________