Not Final but Temporary Part 1 – Romans 11:11-15
Pastor Mark Hardy August 11, 2013
The counselors of Florence asked Leonardo da Vinci, then Italy’s most celebrated artist, to submit sketches for the decorations of the grand hall at Florence. One of the counselors had heard of a young and little-known artist who had done good work. His name was Michelangelo, and he was also asked to submit sketches.
The sketches of Leonardo were superb, in keeping with his genius, but when the counselors saw the sketches of Michelangelo there was a spontaneous expression of wonder and enthusiasm. News of this reached Leonardo. He also heard that one of the counselors had said, “Leonardo is getting old.” From that moment on, he was never able to get over the eclipse of his fame by Michelangelo, and the remaining years of his life were clouded with gloom and sorrow.
That is a good example of the evil twin of envy and jealousy, which are often used synonymously and are like two sides of the same coin. Both involve displeasure and resentment toward another believed to enjoy an advantage over us. The distinction lies in that envy desires to deprive another of what he has, while jealousy desires to possess the same advantage for itself. But they are both negative. However, jealousy is seen to be a positive thing in the passage we will be looking at this morning.
Now in the first major section of chapter 11, we saw in vv. 1-10 that Israel’s rejection of Christ is not total but partial because God has preserved for Himself a “remnant” of Jewish Christians. However, in judgment God has hardened the “rest” or the majority of Israel, so that they are spiritually insensitive, blind and deaf making it impossible for them to perceive and comprehend the gospel.
But does this mean that God’s hardening of Israel is permanent? This is what Paul addresses as we now begin to look at the second major section of chapter 11: Israel’s rejection of Christ is not final but temporary in vv. 11-32. Turn in your Bible to Romans 11.
In Romans 11:11-15 we see three parts of Paul’s argument to show that Israel’s rejection of Christ is not final but temporary.
The first part is this:
I. The Question about Israel’s Rejection being Permanent
A. Look at v. 11: I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? (Stop there)
1. Just as he did in the first section in v. 1, Paul introduces this second section with the phrase “I say then.” He then asks another rhetorical question worded to elicit the negative answer “No.”
2. Look again what he says, “…they (i.e. the Jewish majority God had hardened) did not stumble so as to fall, did they?” Notice the contrast between stumble and fall.
3. The word “stumble” (eptaisan) means to morally trip, falter, and stagger. Whereas the term “fall” (pesosin) here means to fall into spiritual ruin, to be unsalvageable and beyond recovery.
4. It is a clear fact that the Jewish majority severely stumbled in their unbelief and rejection of Jesus as her Messiah. Paul said back in 9:32b-33, “…They stumbled over the stumbling stone (e.g. Jesus Christ), just as it is written, “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”
5. However, does this mean that God’s hardening of Israel caused her to “fall” so as to rise no more? Is Israel’s failure to obtain God’s saving righteousness irreversible and irrevocable?
6. This brings us to the second part of Paul’s argument, which is this:
II. The Denial that Israel’s Rejection is Final
A. Look again at v. 11 where Paul cries out emphatically: May it never be!
1. This is the tenth and last time in Romans where Paul uses this expression (3:4, 6, 31; 6:2, 15; 7:7, 13; 9:14; 11:1, 11). As we have seen before in this letter, this phrase (me genoito) is the strongest negative expression in the Greek language, which indicates utter shock, disgust, and a recoiling abhorrence.
2. It has been translated by others as: “Never!” “No way!” “Not at all!” “Certainly not!” “By no means!” “God forbid!” “Perish the thought!” “Not on your life!” and “Not in a thousand years.”
3. As tragic as God’s hardening of Israel and her culpable unbelief and rejection of Christ and His gospel, Paul repudiates the idea that Israel’s rejection is final as a nation is forever finished and lost. He rejects any suggestion whatsoever that God has allowed His chosen people to stumble so as to irreversibly and irrevocably fall into permanent spiritual ruin.
4. The fact that Israel’s stumbling has not resulted in her final ruin, is because God has sovereignly planned this. We see this in the third part of Paul’s argument, which is this:
III. The Explanation why Israel’s Rejection is Temporary
A. Look at the last part of v. 11: But by their transgression (e.g. the Jewish majority) salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.
1. The word “But” (alla) here shows that although Israel rejected her Messiah, this did not thwart God’s sovereign plan. Douglas Moo said it well, “In contrast to the inference that Israel’s rejection of Christ has forever excluded her from any special place in God’s purposes is the actual situation: Israel’s sin is the starting point of a process that will lead back to blessing for Israel.” (pg. 687)
2. In vv. 11-12 Paul now explains why Israel’s rejection is not final but only temporary. He does so by revealing a three-step process that shows how God uses Israel’s sin to accomplish His sovereign purposes.
3. The first step of the process shows how God causes blessing to go from Israel to the Gentiles. Look again at v. 11, “But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles…”
• Here Israel’s sin is called “their transgression” (paraptomati), which is the term for high-handed sin and stepping over the line (5:15-18, 20). It speaks of Israel’s responsibility for rejecting Jesus as her Messiah.
• But notice how God sovereignly takes something heinously bad and turns it into something gloriously good—salvation to the Gentiles! This was not an afterthought with God and was often predicted by Jesus (Matt. 8:11-12; 21:43; 22:1-14).
• It was always God’s intent that His chosen people should be the instruments of bringing salvation to the Gentiles. For God said to Abram in Genesis 12:3 says, “And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
• Therefore, since the masses of Israel rejected Christ, salvation was predominately directed toward the Gentiles. This is clearly seen in the book of Acts:
o Acts 13:45-48: But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, “I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.” When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”
o Acts 18:6: But when they resisted and blasphemed, he (i.e. Paul) shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
o Acts 28:24-28: Some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe. And when they did not agree with one another, they began leaving after Paul had spoken one parting word, “The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers, saying, “GO TO THIS PEOPLE AND SAY, YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; AND YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, AND WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARECELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT SEE WITH THEIR EYES, AND HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.” Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will also listen.
• But it must be understood that this was not a wholesale replacement—Jews out, Gentiles in, as most Amillennialists like to say. Breaking ranks with his fellow Amillennialists, John Murray eloquently states, “The unbelief of Israel is ordained to promote the salvation of the Gentiles. But this implied faith on the part of the Gentiles is not, in turn, to be prejudicial to Israel’s salvation; it is to promote the same.” (pg. 77)
4. We see this in the second step of the process, which shows how God causes blessing to go from the Gentiles back to Israel. Look again at v. 11, “But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make Israel jealous.”
• Here Paul reverts back to 10:19 where he cited Deuteronomy 32:21 as evidence that God would use the Gentiles to provoke Israel to jealousy, “I WILL MAKE YOU JEALOUS BY THAT WHICH IS NOT A NATION, BY A NATION WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING WILL I ANGER YOU.”
• By the Jews rejecting the gospel and the Gentiles accepting it, this was intended by God to make the Jews jealous. These passages show how God uses even human jealously to be a positive thing.
• John MacArthur accurately states, “Although jealousy is essentially a negative term, God’s intention was for Israel’s jealousy of Gentiles to be a positive stimulus to draw His people back to Himself. But Jews had long disdained Gentiles, whom they considered to be outside the boundaries of God’s grace. To be told they had lost their special relationship to God was distressing enough, but to be told that God offered that forfeited relationship to Gentiles was a bitter pill indeed.” (pg. 109)
• The intention is as the Jews saw lived out in the lives of Gentiles the reality of the New Covenant blessings of a new purity, a new identity, a new disposition, and a new power originally promised to Israel (Jer. 31:33-34; Ezek. 36:25-29) but inaugurated by Christ in the church age, they would be jealousy want what they didn’t have and be drawn to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
• The principle here is this: Our transformed lives as believers’ are to draw unbelievers to want what we have and open the door to be a witness for Jesus Christ.
B. Paul further elaborates on this process in v. 12: Now if their transgression (e.g. the Jewish majority) is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be!
1. Here we see that Israel’s rejection of Christ is described as both a “transgression” (same word as in v. 11—paraptoma) and a “failure.” The word “failure” (hettema) is a military term that means defeat, downfall, overthrow, and loss.
2. John Murray says about this word, “What is in view is the great loss, as by overthrow in battle, sustained by Israel when the kingdom of God was taken from them. They are viewed after the figure of a defeated host and deprived of their heritage.” (pg. 78)
3. Originally, God intended that Israel be His witness to the world in righteousness. But since she wasn’t, God has sovereignly caused her unrighteousness to be “riches for the world” and “riches for the Gentiles.”
4. The parallelism here indicates that “the world” refers to “the Gentiles.” Therefore, Israel’s temporary loss is the Gentiles permanent gain!
5. By Israel’s rejection of Christ the Gentile world has received God’s “riches,” which primarily refers to His gracious salvation given to all those who call on His name (9:23; 10:12-13; Eph. 1:7, 18; 2:7; 3:8; Col. 1:27).
6. Notice that Paul is arguing from the lesser to the greater. If it is true that Israel’s sin and failure brings the riches of salvation to Gentiles, how much more blessings will the Gentiles receive by Israel’s “fulfillment?”
7. Here we see a hint of the third step of the process that shows how God causes blessing to go from Israel back to the Gentiles again. This centers around the word “fulfillment” (pleroma), which means thoroughness, fullness, completeness, and totality.
8. This is a reference to the conversion of “all Israel” and marks an end of their hardened hearts that now characterize the nation, which we will see in vv. 25-26. At the Second Coming of Christ God will graciously cause the Jewish remnant to explode in number so as to “fill up” those Jews destined for salvation.
9. This is why Paul is convinced that Israel’s rejection of Christ was not final but temporary. Regardless of what most Amillennialists who hold to Covenant Theology like to proclaim, God is not through with Israel.
10. Staying with the text, John Murray states, “Hence nothing less than a restoration of Israel as a people to faith, privilege, and blessing can satisfy the terms of this passage.” (pg. 79)
11. Paul’s point is that if Israel’s sin and failure brings the blessing of salvation to the Gentile world, how much more blessing will Israel’s large-scale conversion to Christ bring! Now Paul doesn’t tell us what this greater blessing to Gentiles is until we get to v. 15.
12. But having stated that the Gentiles salvation play a significant role in the future blessing of Israel, Paul now talks about his own ministry to the Gentiles.
C. Look at vv. 13-14 where Paul addresses the Gentile Christians directly in the church at Rome: But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them.
1. The majority of the Roman church was made up of Gentiles. But since as a Jew he was commissioned by God as “an apostle to the Gentiles” (Acts 9:15; 22:21; Rom. 1:5; 15:16, 18; Gal. 1:1, 16; 2:7; Eph. 3:1, 6, 8; 1 Thess. 2:15-16; 1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 4:17), he didn’t want them to think that he or God had given up on the Jews.
2. Therefore, Paul tells them his role in God’s redemptive plan and how seriously he took his ministry to the Gentiles. The statement “I magnify my ministry” means that he worked hard at it with all his strength and devotion to accomplish what God had entrusted to him.
3. In v. 14 Paul then communicates one of the purposes for which he magnifies his ministry with the phrase “if somehow.” Although he magnified the privilege of service to the Gentiles, he never gave up hope on his own people.
4. Paul knew that “salvation was from the Jews” (Jn. 4:22) and that “the gospel. . . .is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16).
5. Therefore, in every city that he went to preach he would first go to the synagogue. Paul’s special calling to unsaved Gentiles in no way diminished his heartfelt love and affection for his unsaved kinsmen (9:2-3; 10:1).
6. Paul’s hope was that his ministry to the Gentiles would help contribute “to move (or provoke) to jealousy (his) fellow countrymen and save some of them.” The more God used him as an instrument in bringing Gentiles to saving faith in Jesus Christ the more his fellow Jews would become jealous and want what they had.
7. As a result, Paul would be involved in helping to “save some of them.” Now Paul knew that he couldn’t save anyone in himself, for salvation is by God alone, but he rightly saw himself as part of the means that God uses (1 Cor. 3:4-9; 9:22). We too must take seriously our responsibility as the means that God uses in leading people to saving faith in Jesus Christ!
8. Notice again that Paul modestly says “save some.” Paul didn’t believe that he would be part of Israel’s in-mass conversion when “all Israel will be saved” (v. 26) or expect to bring in the kingdom of God by his labor.
D. Paul now essentially repeats and expands on what he said in v. 12 as he comes to v. 15: For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
1. Notice how Paul continues the argument from the lesser to the greater, but this time instead of saying as in v. 12, “if…how much more” he says “if…what.” Paul says the lesser blessing is “…if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world…”
2. The word “rejection” (apobole) here speaks of Israel being rejected or cast away temporarily by God Himself. Just as Israel’s transgression and failure led to riches for the Gentile world in v. 12, so their “rejection” (apobole) by God has led to reconciliation of the Gentile world.
3. The word “reconciliation” (katallage) refers to God’s act of bringing sinners into a peaceful relationship with Himself (5:10-11). Israel’s rejection has made it possible for Gentiles, as a group, to experience Christ’s reconciling work.
4. The death of Jesus Christ on the cross is what provides the objective grounds of this reconciliation. But reconciliation only takes place when a sinner receives these benefits through saving faith in Him.
5. Now although this lesser blessing of being reconciled to God through faith in Christ is a tremendous blessing, Paul goes on to give the greater blessing when he says, “…what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?”
6. In stark contrast to God’s rejection of Israel, the word “acceptance” (proslempsis) emphasizes God’s sovereign initiative and work in reinstating Israel to His favor. This is a reference to Israel’s salvation.
7. And notice that their acceptance or salvation by God brings about an even greater and more climactic blessing than reconciliation to the Gentiles, which is described as “life from the dead.” This was hinted at by the word “fulfillment” in v. 12, but is now spelled out.
8. But what does “life from the dead” mean? Some say that this greater blessing is the spiritual coming back to life of Israel, but notice again that it follows and is the result of Israel’s salvation. Others say that after Israel is saved it means that the gospel will have even greater success among Gentiles. But this is not consistent with Scripture.
9. Personally, I believe it is best to see the greater blessing of “life from the dead” as referring to the physical resurrection of the dead. Thomas Schreiner describes this well when he says, “…the salvation of ‘all Israel’ (cf. 11:26) will be the climax of this age, and will be followed by the resurrection. . . .What is finally decisive for the last interpretation is the argument of Rom. 11:23-27. Paul argues that the salvation of Israel will follow the salvation of the Gentiles. It is after the ‘fullness of Gentiles enters in” (11:25) that ‘all Israel will be saved’ (11:26). If the fullness of the Gentiles enters in before Israel is saved, it is inconceivable that there will be a great in-gathering among the Gentiles after this event. The physical resurrection of the dead and the climax of history are almost certainly in view.” (pg. 599)
10. Douglas Moo agrees with this saying that according to vv. 25-26 “…the salvation of Israel comes only after God has brought into the kingdom all the Gentiles destined to be saved. No room is therefore left for a spiritual quickening of the world; all that remains is the consummation.” (pg. 695)
11. Therefore, if the negative sin of Israel has led to the riches of salvation and reconciliation for the Gentiles, then the positive effect of the conversion of the Jews will be even more astounding for the whole world. Israel’s salvation will signal the arrival of the end of history and the physical resurrection with its new glorified life that ushers in Christ’s millennial kingdom (Rev. 20:4-6).
In closing, the Word of God is very clear if you just stay with the text that God is not through with Israel. Since God is sovereign He is working out His plan by using Israel’s sin to temporarily redirect His blessing from Israel to the Gentiles, in order that His blessing can then go from the Gentiles back to Israel. And at that time in the future when “all Israel” is saved (v. 26), God will then cause His greatest blessing to go from Israel back to the Gentile world.
Therefore, in beginning to answer the question, “Israel did not stumble so as to fall into irreversible and irrevocable spiritual ruin, did they?” Paul emphatically replies, “May it never be!” And he clearly explains how Israel’s rejection is not final but temporary.
These truths should greatly encourage our hearts as Christians! For even though the world we live in today is full of problems both nationally and internationally, and our personal lives are full of struggles, our God is sovereignly in control of everything. History is merely His Story and He is right on schedule. Therefore, we should not fear and fret about what is going on in our lives and in the world but tenaciously cling to the truth of God’s Word, wholeheartedly trust in our Sovereign and loving God, and in dependence on Him faithfully obey what He tells us to do until He comes.