By Joshua Winslett
These passages are two beautiful verses showing God’s judgment, mercy, and preserving grace. Before we can fully understand what these verses are teaching, we have to understand who they are talking about.
Paul starts the context in Romans 9. Paul prays for his “kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came.” Paul’s prayer was for his fellow Israelites, his family. Yet Paul’s description does not stop there. He further clarifies that he is praying for those Israelites who God’s sovereign grace had chosen in election.
Notice these proof texts:
Rom 9:6 – Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:
Rom 9:7 – Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.
Rom 9:8 – That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
Rom 9:9 – For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son.
Rom 9:10 – And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;
Rom 9:11 – (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)
Rom 9:12 – It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.
Rom 9:13 – As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
Rom 9:14 – What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
Rom 9:15 – For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
Rom 9:16 – So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
Paul leaves no doubt that he is not talking about the entire nation of Israel, but he is speaking of those “physical Israelites” that were also “spiritual Israelites.” Being a physical Jew does not insure that they are a child of God. He says that, “they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.”
In John chapter 8, Jesus had a discussion with a group of Jews and Pharisees. Jesus told them that following in His truth will set someone free. Some of the Jews tell Jesus that they do not need to be made free because they are Abraham’s children. Jesus then replies to these wicked Jews in a very telling way. Here are a few things he says unto them:
V 37 – “I know that ye are Abraham’s seed”
V 39 – “If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.”
V 42 – “If God were your Father, ye would love me:”
V 44 – “Ye are of your father the devil,”
V 47 – “He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.”
In verse 37, Jesus acknowledged that their physical lineage was from Abraham. Yet after that He, in multiple places, told them that they were not from God, nor Abraham, and that their real father was the devil. Once again, there are physical Jews who are not spiritual Jews.
So, in reading these verses we need to remember who Paul was speaking about. When Paul writes about Israel, he is talking about all the living descendants of Jacob who were eternally saved individuals. Now, let’s take a look at these verses.
Romans 11:25 – “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.“
The Jews sought diligently for the coming of the Messiah. Yet when he came, they did not believe on him. Jesus was not the savior they thought that would come. He did not arrive riding on a great white horse regaining Israel’s former glory. He came with humility with his eyes focused on the cross. This confused the Jews and most fell in unbelief. God darkened their eyes and left them in unbelief. Whether their eyes were darkened because of their perpetual disobedience or because of their initial disbelief at Christ’s arrival is a mute point. The fact is that most were blinded.
…blindness in part… I say most because this verse states that they fell in unbelief “in part.” We can see multiple Jews throughout the gospels that believed on Jesus; the apostles, Mary Magdalene, Martha, Lazarus, thousands on the day of Pentecost, etc. Yet they were still only a small minority. The majority of the Jews had their eyes darkened, that they may not see. God left them in judicial blindness. Although the fact that they, at one time, had the ability to believe teaches us that they were children of God. Only a child of God can believe (John 6:26). They had spiritual eyes. Those eyes were just blinded. We further see this point emphasized when Paul says that they may be grafted back in (Romans 11:23).
We do not fully know whether this judgment was on the Jews of the first century only, or if it was a perpetual curse that exists until this day. It is my opinion that it was primarily towards that generation yet the consequence continues until now. For instance, only that generation experienced God’s devastating judgment in 70 A.D., yet the consequence from that judgment lasts until this day, as there is still not a temple for them to worship. From this judgment God then showed mercy on a very unlikely group of people.
…until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in… Even though this curse (judicial blindness) came upon the Jews because of their continual disobedience, this blindness (or cutting off) had a greater purpose. Because of their unbelief the gospel and N.T. church was given unto the Gentiles. Since the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, their lineage had had the special blessing of having the knowledge of God (Romans 3:1-2). Yet at this point in history, God took this privilege away from the Jewish people and gave it unto the Gentiles. Prior to that verse, Paul illustrates this concept with comparing this process to grafting branches into a tree. He says the natural branches (Jews) are broken off so that wild branches (Gentiles) may be grafted in. Once again, I think that this is a judgment that was primarily given to that generation of Jews and Gentiles yet the consequence continues until now.
Romans 11:28 – “As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.“
In this verse, Paul reaffirms that the Jews did not believe the gospel. He goes as far as to say that they are “enemies.” Yet their hostile position against the gospel did not detour God’s sovereign grace and love towards these Jews. Paul states, “touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.” Election in this verse must be the same election (and elect) Paul referrers to in Romans four other times (Rom 8:33, Rom 9:11, Rom 11:5, Rom 11:7). We have to ask ourselves, how are they beloved for the fathers’ sake. Notice it does not say “father’s sake.” If it said “father’s sake”, it would be referring to God, our Father. Yet it says fathers’ in plural, as in many fathers’. I want to first state that I do not believe that God’s eternal grace was given to any or all Jews because of their family relation to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We have already seen in multiple places where there were many physical Jews who were not children of God. In many places in John’s gospel, Jesus condemned many Jews as being whited sepulchers, children of the devil, ect. If it was not by their family relation to their fathers’ that made them beloved, then what was it?
God did respect the covenant that he made with Abraham. Yet at a greater examination of that covenant we see who it was really made with. Notice Galatians 3:16, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” Even though Abraham was the beneficiary of this covenant, in that through him all nations would be blessed (Genesis 22:18), the covenant was truly made with Christ. Any view of the Abrahamic covenant has to be diligently compared to this verse. Even when examining the entire actions between God and Abraham in Genesis 15, when the sacrifice was made for the covenant, Abraham was in a deep sleep watching in his dream and was not involved with the ceremony. This covenant was made within the God-head for the purpose of saving an innumerable host from every kindred, tongue, people, and nation (Genesis 22:18, Revelation 5:9). These Jews were beloved for the same reason that the Gentiles were beloved; God’s purposing to elect Hell deserving individuals. In context, this seems to be the covenant spoken of; Romans 11:27, “For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.”
What does this mean for us? Often when I read scriptures, I get the basic understanding but fail to realize the gravity of their words. Paul’s main reason for writing these verses were to keep the Gentiles from being wise in their own conceits. These verses seem to be a strong caution to Gentile believers. Paul writes, “Be not highminded, but fear.” These Jews were broken off. They were the natural branches. We have been shown great mercy. If God spared not them, where do we stand?
Romans 12:1 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”
Note: When comparing these verses to soteriology, they can be very good when disproving two false doctrines: extreme perseverance (lordship salvation) and the idea that all of God’s elect will hear and believe the gospel. These beloved Jews neither persevered nor believed the Gospel.