Romans 9-11

Romans 9‑11  •  16 min. read  •  grade level: 7
The apostle now turns back to the subject of Israel, and the Gentiles. He has now gone into the great subject of man’s personal relationship with God, the law question, and God justifying Jewish and Gentile believers alike, on the ground of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. But then there was the question of promise. The promises were given to the Jew; How was it that the Gentiles had the blessing? Had God cast away His ancient people forever? The apostle answers these questions from Romans 9-11.
His deep affection for his own nation bursts forth. Deep anguish and uninterrupted pain had taken hold of his heart; he could even have wished himself accursed from Christ for his brethren, his kinsmen according to the flesh, who were Israelites, whose was the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose were the fathers; and of whom after the flesh the Messiah came, who is over all God blessed forever. In the dispensations of God Israel had the central place amongst the nations. But now, Where was that nation? About to be handed over to judgment.
Not as though the Word of God had failed, for, He proves from Israel’s own history, that they were not all Israel who are of Israel, neither because they were of the seed of Abraham were they all children, otherwise Ishmael would have come in for a share of the promises, as well as Isaac; but the scripture said, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” The same thing took place in regard to Esau and Jacob, for before the children were born, and had done anything good or bad, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him that calleth, it was said, that the elder should serve the younger; according also as it is written, Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated.
The truth was, God was a sovereign, and He acted according to the principles of sovereign grace and His own choice, as was manifested in Israel’s own history, so that on this principle He could let in the Gentiles, as He was indeed now doing.
Israel as a nation was saved from ruin, on the occasion of the golden calf, by the principle of God’s sovereign grace, when all was over on the ground of the law which was then broken, for He said again on that occasion, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” God was a sovereign. He had mercy on whom He would; and whom He would He hardened, as was manifested in the case of Pharaoh, Israel’s enemy. So that Israel had to own that they themselves owed everything to the sovereignty of God. They could not claim an exclusive right to anything. It was no use either arguing against God. Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, “Why hast Thou made me thus?” Had not the potter power over the clay, out of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and one to dishonor? At the same time whilst He made known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy which He had before prepared for glory, He endured with much long-suffering vessels of wrath fitted for destruction (not whom He had fitted), in order to make known His wrath and His power. On these principles of sovereign grace, He called the Gentiles as well as the Jew, as Hosea had prophesied (Hosea 2:2323And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God. (Hosea 2:23)). In the case of Israel a remnant should be saved otherwise they would have been like Sodom and Gomorrah (Isaiah 1:99Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah. (Isaiah 1:9)).
What then shall we say, as to the present state of things? That the Gentiles have attained to righteousness, that which is on the principle of faith. But Israel, who pursued after a law of righteousness, have not attained unto that law. Wherefore? Because it was not on the principle of faith, but as of works. For they stumbled at that stumbling-stone, that is, the Lord Jesus Christ, as it was written, “Behold I lay in Zion a stumbling-stone and rock of offense; and whosoever believeth on Him should not be ashamed” (Psa. 118:2222The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. (Psalm 118:22); Isa. 28:1616Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. (Isaiah 28:16)).
The apostle’s desire after Israel now breaks out again; he confesses to their having a zeal after God, but not according to full knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, had not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God. For the end of law is Christ for righteousness to every one that believeth. Where the law ends for righteousness, Christ takes its place. So it is in the history of the soul.
Romans 9:5-145Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. 6Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: 7Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. 8That 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. 9For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son. 10And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; 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;) 12It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. 13As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. 14What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. (Romans 9:5‑14). The two righteousnesses are now contrasted. Moses wrote concerning the one, “The man having done the righteousness should live in it.” The law was man’s righteousness, it was God’s perfect measure for His creature. It required man to give the righteousness to God that the law demanded; if he did he lived in it. The righteousness of faith, on the other hand, brings righteousness to man. It speaks on this wise, Say not in thine heart, who shall ascend up to heaven, (that is to bring Christ down from above); He has come down even to death; or who shall descend into the deep, (that is to bring up Christ again from the dead). He has been raised; God has raised Him; a dead, risen, and glorified Christ is set forth as the display of the righteousness of God. This is in direct contrast to human righteousness, which would be keeping the law.
And now what saith the righteousness of faith? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that is, the word of faith which we preach concerning this dead, risen, and glorified Christ; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth, Jehovah Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation; thus, first, we have a dead and raised Christ set forth as the display of God’s righteousness. Secondly, the word of faith brings it up to the man’s mouth and heart, for him to believe. Thirdly, confessing with his mouth Jehovah become a man to die for him, and believing in his heart that God has raised this man from the dead, and accepted Him, he is saved.
Two scriptures are now quoted in confirmation; “Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed.” This applies to Gentile as well as Jew, to all that call upon Him. And then the second scripture from Joel 2:3232And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call. (Joel 2:32) is quoted, which brings out that Jesus quoted above is the new name of Jehovah after He became a man; “Whosoever shall call on the name of Jehovah, shall be saved.” In the very next verse (Acts 2:2121And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Acts 2:21)) to where this is quoted the apostle Peter applies the name to Jesus, the man approved of God. This latter quotation seems to answer to the word, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the *Lord Jesus;” the former to, “And believe in thy heart that God hath raised Him from the dead.” Jesus is the name uniformly in Scripture connected with the thought of salvation. It signifies Jehovah the Saviour.
(* When the title “Lord” is without the article, as it is in Rom. 9, 12, 13, 16, it is ordinarily Jehovah, unless other grammatical rules so order it. The Septuagint translates it given. (See JND translation, Revised Preface to 2nd Edition).)
If then it was God’s plan that the Gentiles should attain to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith, and that the principle now of attaining it was according to the Scripture, “Whosoever shall call on the name of Jehovah shall be saved;” How could they call on Him of whom they had not believed? And how could they believe on Him of whom they had not heard? And how could they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things” (Isa. 52:77How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! (Isaiah 52:7)). It was the purpose of God that Israel, converted themselves by the gospel, were to be the heralds of God’s salvation to the ends of the earth (Isa. 52:1010The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. (Isaiah 52:10)). But alas, the prophet has to break out in this lamentable strain at the beginning of Isaiah 53. Lord, who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? Israel itself had not believed the gospel. Nevertheless the great point was established, that faith came by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.
But had not the Gentiles heard? Yes, for the Scripture said, “Their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words unto the ends of the earth;” (Psa. 19), so Israel ought to have known that it was God’s purpose to bless the Gentiles, seeing that the testimony of His creation power had thus gone forth.
But the apostle says, “Did not Israel know? for Moses had said, I will provoke them to jealousy by those that are no people, and by a foolish nation will I anger you” (Deut. 32:2121They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation. (Deuteronomy 32:21)). Isaiah also testified boldly, saying, “I was found of them that sought me not, I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me;” whilst to Israel he said, “All the day long I have stretched out my hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people.” Thus Israel clearly ought to have known from their own scriptures about God’s purposes to bless the Gentiles, as well as about their own rejection. Thus the present position of Israel and the Gentiles is established from the Jews’ own scriptures. What had they to say now against the Gentiles being blessed through the word of hearing?
But then the question rose, “Hath God cast away His people?” for they had the promises. Nay, verily, says the apostle, for there remained to that day an election according to grace, of which Paul himself was a sample. God hath not cast away His people whom He foreknew, and a witness of this was given to Elijah in his day, when Israel had apostatized from the worship of Jehovah to Baal, and when the prophet himself interceded against them; for Jehovah then said, “I have reserved to myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal”; so the apostle argues, “there is a remnant at this present time, a remnant according to the election of grace.” Be God had not cast away His people. In this chapter this question is answered by three strong reasons. First, because an election remained, which we have already seen; secondly, because salvation had come to the Gentiles, in order to provoke Israel to jealousy (Rom. 11:1111I 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. (Romans 11:11)); thirdly, because the Redeemer would return to Zion, and would turn away ungodliness from Jacob (Rom. 11:2626And 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: (Romans 11:26)).
Thus Israel was dependent on the same sovereign grace for their not being finally cast away which now received the Gentiles. But if it was of grace, then it is not of works. It is a totally opposite principle. The present conclusion is, Israel hath not obtained what he sought for, but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded. He quotes Isaiah to show this in regard to all but the election (Isa. 6:99And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. (Isaiah 6:9)), and also David (Psa. 69:22-2322Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap. 23Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake. (Psalm 69:22‑23)).
But then the question comes in as to the mass that were cast off, “Have they stumbled that they should fall altogether”? Nay, but through their offense salvation is come to the Gentiles for to provoke them to jealousy. Thus Israel is not cast off for this second reason. The Jew still remains in the world, though cast out for a time, and the remnant received into the assembly. What God is doing now is that He is showing mercy to the Gentile, and by that dealing provoking Israel to jealousy.
The apostle’s heart enlarges as he now dwells on the future ways of God in regard to His earthly people: he says, “If their fall is the riches of the world, how much more their fullness! If the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what will the receiving of them be, but life from the dead!” The apostle here bursts out with fervent desire in regard to his brethren after the flesh. He seems to have the history of Joseph before him, who after having been rejected of his brethren, and put into the pit and the prison, was exalted to the throne of the world, next to Pharaoh. His advent was the riches of the world, during the seven years of plenty; and then on the return of his brethren to him in repentance in the years of famine, it was like life from the dead! So will it be when Israel is finally restored.
The apostle now gives a lovely sketch of the ways of God from Abraham downwards, to illustrate his previous arguments. To Abraham were the promises made, and to his seed, but if the firstfruit was holy, the lump is also holy, and if the root be holy, so are the branches. The Jewish branches were taken off, some of them, and the Gentiles being a wild olive tree were graffed in. Boast not against the branches. For unbelief the Jewish branches were broken off, and you Gentiles stand by faith. Be not high-minded, but fear. For if God spared not the natural branches, that is, Israel, take heed that He spare not thee, Gentiles!
“The goodness and severity of God is thus manifested; to them that fell, severity, but to you Gentile, goodness, if you continue in His goodness; otherwise you also shall be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in again, for God is able to graff them in again If the Gentile was cut out of the olive tree, which is wild by nature, and was graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree; how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree!”
And now he finally unveils the purpose of God, to the intent that the saints might not be wise in their own conceits, that blindness in part had happened to Israel, till the fullness of the Gentiles had come in, and so all Israel should be saved, as it is written, “There shall come out of Zion a Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. For this is my covenant with them when I shall take away their sins” (Isaiah 59:2020And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord. (Isaiah 59:20)). Thus God is true to His promises. The gifts and calling of God are without repentance. Israel is still beloved for the fathers’ sakes, and will finally be graffed in again to their own olive tree. The Gentiles could only claim the ground they now occupy through mercy. Israel will finally get the blessing on the same ground. They originally had the promises! God will assuredly fulfill His promises to them. He hath not cast away His people!
Thus we have had a beautiful summing up of the ways of God — Israel first growing out of the original stock of promise; on account of unbelief some of the branches broken off; the Gentiles, or wild olive tree, gaffed in; then Israel again, on Gentile apostacy, graffed into their own olive tree. Well might the apostle burst out in his song of praise (Rom. 11:33-3633O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! 34For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? 35Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? 36For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. (Romans 11:33‑36)), as he grasps hold on God’s wonderful ways.
An important truth comes out here, as shown in these chapters, that the Gentiles stand as a dispensation solely on the ground of sovereign mercy on God’s side, and the righteousness which is by faith. This was the wonderful truth recovered at the Reformation! To forsake this ground then, as they are doing, is to forsake their own mercy. To go to the law, which never belonged to them, is to destroy themselves! They stand by faith. Oh the blindness of the Gentile profession! The Gentiles therefore will be cut off, and Israel finally graffed in again. The olive tree is simply a beautiful symbol of the line of promise running down from Abraham to the second coming of Christ. But it is promise, the only standing of the Gentiles is “by faith;” if they depart from this they will be cut off.
The reader will observe that Romans 11 to Romans 11:2626And 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: (Romans 11:26) refers entirely to God’s ways with Israel, and the Gentiles. It has nothing to do with the position of the body of Christ, or the Assembly, as such. It is wholly a profession of faith in both cases. Israel failing through unbelief, the Gentiles standing by faith. The principle is the same in John 15:1-71I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 4Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. (John 15:1‑7). It is not union with Christ, which is by the Holy Spirit, (see 1 Cor. 6:1717But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:17); Eph. 4:44There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; (Ephesians 4:4); 1 Cor. 12:1313For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:13)) though it may go so far as a profession of unity! The vine is a unity, so is the olive tree. But in both cases branches can be taken away, which in the vital unity of Christ’s one body is impossible. You cannot cut off a member of the body of Christ Union with Christ is more than faith, which is always connected with life in Scripture! (See John 1:12; 3:16, 36; 2412But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: (John 1:12)
16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
36He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36)
, and so forth.) Life is given to sinners! The Holy Spirit seals believers! (Eph. 1:1313In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, (Ephesians 1:13); 2 Cor. 1:2222Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. (2 Corinthians 1:22); Gal. 4:66And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. (Galatians 4:6).)
Of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things! Let us recapitulate a little! This is true, as a summary of the doctrine of Romans 1-8, concerning ourselves individually! It is also true concerning the ways of God dispensational towards Israel and the Gentiles in Romans 9-11. God is the source of our individual salvation, Christ is the workman, and the result is that by the power of the Holy Spirit we are finally brought to God, body as well as soul. So also in Romans 9-11, God is sovereign in calling and finally blessing Israel and the nations. Thus in Romans 9 we have Israel as God’s chosen nation traced down from Abraham, then God’s sovereignty working through Christ, and letting the Gentiles in; they standing on the ground of the righteousness by faith, Romans 10, and in Romans 11. Israel finally graffed into their own olive tree. Thus God’s promises will be all fulfilled, and Israel with all the nations will finally be blessed and brought to God at the return of the Lord from heaven. The unbelieving mass alone will be cast out, whether Jew or whether Gentile! Well might indeed the apostle burst out in the magnificent strain he does at the end of our chapter!
Thus Part 3, is ended. Paul ends by applying the truth already brought out to practice.