Not Final but Temporary Part 4 God’s Merciful Plan of Salvation – Romans 11:28-32
Pastor Mark Hardy September 1, 2013
The true story is told that one day on a New York City subway, while people were sitting quietly in the car, a man entered with his noisy and rambunctious children. The man sat down and closed his eyes as though he was oblivious to his rowdy children. The once quiet subway car was now a disturbing place of chaos. The children’s inappropriate behavior was obvious to everyone except their father. Have you ever noticed that before that the only ones oblivious to the situation and could change it are the parents!
Finally, someone couldn’t take it any longer and politely confronted the man about his children. The man opened his eyes and evaluated the situation as if he were unaware of all that had transpired. He then said: “Oh, you’re right. I’m sorry. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital, where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”
This doesn’t mean that you never politely talk to parents about their rowdy children, but being merciful and compassionate toward others starts when we begin to understand their hurts. Mercy is having a compassion for those in need that leads to meeting their need. And God is merciful in meeting man’s greatest need, as we will see in the passage we will be looking at this morning.
Now having just revealed in vv. 25-27 the promise that at the end of history “all Israel” will be saved, Paul now clarifies this promise by highlighting God’s purpose of showing mercy to Israel. Turn in your Bible to Romans 11.
In Romans 11:28-32 we see four insights into God’s merciful plan of salvation that explain why God will intervene and save His people Israel.
The first insight is this:
I. The Jews two Relationships to God
A. Still speaking to Gentile believers, Paul says in v. 28: 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;
1. This verse consists of two parallel statements whereby Paul presents the Jews in two different relationships to God. In the first statement Paul summarizes the point he has made in 9:30-10:21 when he states, “From the standpoint of the gospel they (i.e. the Jewish majority) are enemies.”
2. Since both sentences are parallel and the word “beloved” (agapetoi) is passive, it is best to see the word “enemies” (echthroi) here as also passive. In other words, although Israel was and is presently disobedient, unbelieving, and obstinate toward God (9:31-32; 10:3, 14-21; 11:11-12, 20, 23, 30-31), they are “enemies” in that this refers to God’s enmity and hostility toward Israel in hardening the Jewish majority and breaking them off from the olive tree (9:13, 17-23; 11:7b-10, 11, 15, 17, 25).
3. Therefore, “from the standpoint of the gospel,” the content of which is Jesus Christ whom they have rejected and have resisted its proclamation and advance in the world (1 Thess. 2:14-16), the Jews are enemies of God and under His judgment.
4. But notice that in the providence of God, the Jews rejection of Christ and His gospel is “…for your (i.e. Gentile believers) sake.” We saw this same thing in vv. 11-17 where the “transgression” of Israel was the means by which salvation was brought to the Gentiles.
B. However, God’s hostility toward Israel is not the last word, for in the second statement Paul says, “…but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved…” (Stop there)
1. As we have seen before, the word “choice” (ekloge) speaks of God’s election. God’s election here is not the same as in vv. 6-7 where it refers to the salvation of the remnant in contrast to “rest” or Jewish majority that God had hardened.
2. Throughout chapters 9-11 we have seen two aspects of Israel’s election: First, it involves the corporate election of Israel as a whole (9:4-5; 11:1-2, 28b-29; 11:1-2), and second, it involves the individual election of Jews within ethnic Israel, known as the remnant (9:6-29; 11:5, 7).
3. Here Paul is referring to the election of the corporate nation as a whole, which does not mean salvation for every single individual within the nation. Now when Paul says that the Jews are “beloved” (agapetoi), God’s love is often associated with His choice or election (Rom. 9:13, 25; Eph. 1:4-5; 2:4; Col. 3:12; 1 Thess. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13).
4. God has set His love particularly upon Israel and set them apart as His chosen people. We see this in what Moses said to Israel in Deuteronomy 7:6-8, “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”
5. This is why C.E.B Cranfield is right when he states, “Israel is beloved because God is faithful to His own love, which in His sovereign freedom He bestowed upon the fathers on no other ground than His love, which knows no cause outside itself.” (pg. 581)
6. Notice that Paul says God’s love for Israel is “…for the sake of the fathers,” which refers to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. However, it is not because these patriarchs have done anything to merit God’s love for themselves or their descendants.
7. Paul’s point is that Israel is “beloved” by God only because of the covenant promises that God has made to Abraham and again and again to his descendants (Gen. 12:1-3; 17:7; 26:23-24; 28:12-15).
8. Therefore, the two relationships that the Jews have with God is that at the same time both they are both “enemies” and “beloved” of God. They are the objects of God’s wrath and His love simultaneously.
9. This first insight lays the foundation of God’s merciful plan of salvation concerning Israel and brings us to the second insight, which is this:
II. God’s Faithfulness has Guaranteed Israel’s Salvation
A. Look at v. 29: for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
1. Here we see the reason why God is going to one day remove the partial hardening from His chosen people and save “all ethnic Israel” at the end of history. Notice that it has absolutely nothing to do with them!
2. Paul says, “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” The word “gifts” (charismata) refer to grace gifts that flow from the unmerited favor and kindness of God to those who deserve the opposite.
3. We saw these God-given gifts to Israel in the list of privileges outlined in 9:4-5, which were Israel’s adoption as sons, glory, covenants, the Law, service, saving promises, forefathers, and Messiah.
4. And like the word “choice” or election in v. 28, the word “calling” (klesis) here also refers to God’s effectual call of Israel as a nation to be His beloved chosen people, who would fulfill a special function in history.
5. God’s call is effectual in that it always draws a person to God in a unique relationship—whether in general election as the chosen people of God or in specific election of individuals coming into a saving relationship to God through faith.
6. Notice here that both God’s grace gifts to Israel and His calling of them as a nation are described as “irrevocable.” The rare word “irrevocable” (ametameleta) means “not to be regretted, altered, or taken back.”
7. Here we see that Paul is driving home the point that the saving promises that God has made to the fathers of Israel, He will never change His mind about, alter or take back. God is not an Indian-giver!
8. Since God can never cease to be true to His own perfect nature He will never renege on His promises. Even though Israel is faithless and the object of God’s hostility, nothing can ever stop God from fulfilling His covenant promises to Israel.
9. This is because God is faithful. We see this throughout Scripture, for example:
• Numbers 23:19 says: God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
• Speaking about God, 1 Samuel 15:29 states: …the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.
• We already saw in Romans 3:3, “What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it?”
• 1 Thessalonians 5:14 states, “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.”
• And 2 Timothy 2:13 declares, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (Heb. 6:13-18)
10. As we saw last time, God is forever faithful to His promises. He never fails!
11. C.E.B. Cranfield said it well, “The ground of Paul’s certainty that the Jews are still beloved of God, though under His wrath because of their unbelief and opposition to the gospel, is the faithfulness of God, that faithfulness, steadfastness, reliability, without which God would not be the righteous God He is.” (pg. 582)
12. And because God is faithful to us as well, we are to fully trust and rely on Him. For we are told in Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
13. The third insight into God’s merciful plan of salvation is this:
III. God’s Mercy is Central in Salvation
A. Look at vv. 30-31: For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy.
1. Here Paul restates in summary form the substance of what he has said in vv. 11-27. Continuing to address Gentile believers in these two verses, Paul reminds them in v. 30 of their own experience and then in v. 31 he focuses on the Jews.
2. The history of the Gentiles is summarized in v. 30 by the words “you once were disobedient to God…” The word “disobedient” (epeitheate) refers to their rebellious unbelief and sinfulness before God and His holy standards.
3. We saw the sinfulness of all mankind back in 1:18-3:20. And Ephesians 2:2 declares that unregenerate people are “sons of disobedience.” (5:6)
4. However, in stark contrast to what we as Gentile believers once were, Paul says, “…but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience…”
5. The words “but now” refer to the shift from the era when Gentiles were, as Ephesians 2:12 says, “…separated from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world,” to the present era in which God’s saving righteousness has been manifested “through faith in Jesus Christ, for all who believe,” whether Jew or Gentile (3:22; 1:16; 10:11-13).
6. Notice again that it is “…because of their disobedience,” the unbelief and rejection of Christ by the Jewish majority, that Gentiles have been “shown mercy.” This is the saving mercy of God, in that, the gospel of salvation in Christ has come to the Gentiles (10:19; 11:11-12, 14-15, 17).
7. The word “mercy” (eleethete) here carries the basic idea of having a compassion for those in need that leads to meeting their need. And since sinful man’s greatest need is to have his sins forgiven and be given spiritual life, God’s mercy generously provides just that.
8. The mercy of God is the central theme of vv. 28-32. God’s grace and mercy are like two sides to the same coin.
9. Just as God bestows forgiveness and eternal life in Christ, which we don’t deserve (grace), at the same time He rescinds His punishment, which we do deserve (mercy).
10. Notice how both are together in Ephesians 2:4, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).
11. David proclaimed in Psalm 89:5, “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness (or mercy) to all who call upon You.”
12. And 1 Peter 1:3 states, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (Tit. 3:5)
B. Then in v. 31 Paul draws a comparison between the situation of the Jews and the Gentiles. Look what Paul says, “…so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you (i.e. Gentile believers) they (i.e. Jews) also may now be shown mercy.”
1. The Gentiles were disobedient in the past era of salvation history. But Paul say “now” in the present era of salvation history that began with the gospel of Christ and extends to the Second Coming, “…so these (i.e. the Jewish majority) now have been disobedient” (vv. 11b, 14, 25b).
2. And whereas it was by the disobedience of the Jews that the Gentiles came to experience God’s saving mercy, Paul goes on to say, “…that because of the mercy shown to you (i.e. Gentile believers) they (i.e. Jews) also may now (at the end of the Second Coming of Christ) be shown mercy.” This refers to what we saw last time in v. 26 when “all Israel will be saved.”
3. Thomas Schreiner correctly states that God “…structured history so that His mercy to the Jews would be highlighted in the period in which the Gentiles rejected God. With the arrival of the gospel, however, the situation has been reversed. Now the greatness of his mercy to the Gentiles is unveiled, whereas the Jews are blinded and disobedient. Nonetheless, this is not the last word for Israel. God will lift the darkness and shine on them in a saving way again. Thereby they will recognize that their salvation is truly a merciful gift and not deserved.” (pg. 629)
4. Notice that the words “disobedience” and “mercy” are both used three times in these two verses. Paul showing how the two biblical truths of man’s responsibility and God’s sovereignty in salvation are interrelated.
5. Now just as the Gentiles were disobedient before God’s mercy saved them, the same is true for the Jews. Why has God planned it this way?
6. We see this in the fourth insight into God’s merciful plan of salvation, which is this:
IV. God’s Mercy is Magnified against Man’s Sinfulness
A. Summing up his discussion, as well as the whole of chapters 9-11, Paul declares in v. 32: For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.
1. Here Paul picks up the two leading themes of human disobedience and divine mercy in vv. 30-31 and relates them together in terms of the sovereign action of God.
2. The one Greek word translated “shut up” (sunkleiein) means “to shut in on all sides, to enclose, and to imprison.” And notice that it is God Himself who “…has shut up all in disobedience…”
3. Disobedience is likened to a prison in which God has incarcerated all human beings, Jews and Gentiles alike. The same word “disobedience” (apeitheian) again refers to the rebellious unbelief and sinfulness of man.
4. Paul has driven home this point in the 1:18-3:20 as he demonstrated over and over again that all mankind without distinction—Jew and Gentile alike, stands guilty, condemned, and without excuse before the Almighty Judge of the universe.
5. This reminds us of what Paul said back in chapter 1 (vv. 24, 26, 28) about how God “gave them over” to the sins they have chosen for themselves. In 3:23 we were told, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
6. And 6:23 states, “For the wages of sin is death…” Everyone comes into the world spiritually dead and under the wrath of God.
7. And as a result, will not only die physically but also ultimately die eternally in the lack of fire (Rev. 20:14-15) if he or she does not receive at some time in life God’s only way of salvation in Jesus Christ
8. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” And Acts 4:12 says, “And there is salvation in on one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
9. Therefore, sinful man is hopeless and helpless to save himself and in desperate need of a Savior. C.E.B. Cranfield is right on target when he says, “Men are imprisoned in their disobedience in such a way that they have no possibility of escape except as God’s mercy releases them.” (pg. 587)
B. Now although God is not the Author of sin, notice that His purpose in shutting up all in disobedience is “…so that He may show mercy to all.”
1. Now Paul is not teaching universalism here, which says that everyone will eventually be saved. This totally contradicts what Paul teaches in this letter (2:4-16; 9:22) and elsewhere (2 Thess. 1:6-10).
2. Douglas Moo accurately states, “Paul is not saying that all human beings will be saved. Rather, he is saying that God has imprisoned in disobedience first Gentiles and now Jews so that He might bestow mercy on each of these groups of humanity. How many from each of these groups will ultimately be saved Paul does not say.” (pg. 736-37)
3. And Thomas Schreiner states, “The purpose is not to teach that all people without exception are recipients of God’s mercy, but that all people without distinction (i.e., both Jews and Gentiles) are the beneficiaries of his saving grace.” (pg. 629)
4. There is no distinction between Jews and Gentiles either in sin (3:9, 22) or in salvation (10:12). As they have been together in the prison of their disobedience, so they will be together in the freedom of God’s mercy.
5. But it is in the context of the severity of man’s sinfulness that the glory of God’s mercy is most clearly seen. John MacArthur says, “Man’s sin, manifested in His willful disobedience, provides a means for God to demonstrate the magnitude and graciousness of His mercy. Were there no disobedience, there would be no need for and there could be no expression of God’s mercy. To reveal Himself as merciful, He permitted sin.” (pg. 133)
6. Therefore, the shining brilliance of God’s mercy is magnified against the black backdrop of man’s sinfulness. And it is only through God’s saving mercy that sinful man can escape the penalty and power of his sinful condition.
7. Therefore, once again we see that God is absolutely sovereign! He is the bottom line, the final cause of salvation through the means of faith.
8. God receives all the glory for man’s salvation, and man receives all the responsibility for their damnation. Never forget that everyone is saved the same way or not at all—by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
In closing, since Jews and Gentiles alike without distinction are sinners and under the condemnation of God, no one deserves salvation. Therefore, if there is to be any hope for anyone, it must depend solely on God’s unmerited mercy and grace.
Speaking about believers, William Newell accurately says, “We may venture to say that it is only in those who learn to regard themselves as the objects of the Divine mercy, of uncaused Divine compassion, that the deepest foundations for godliness of life will be, or can be, laid” (pg. 441). In other words, only as believers truly understand and constantly appreciate God’s unfathomable grace and inexplicable mercy in saving us, will be so gripped and humbled by this reality that our worship of God will be wholehearted and we will live out this gratitude in a godly lifestyle. May we all be such humble, grateful, and godly people to the glory of God!