Israel has stumbled because of unbelief, thus failing to obtain the righteousness that it zealously pursued. The Gentiles, however, have obtained God’s righteousness by faith. Does this mean that God has forsaken Israel whom He had once chosen? “By no means!” Paul answers emphatically. In the present chapter in Romans, Paul expounds on God’s marvelous plan for Israel and exhorts the Gentile believers to humbly remain in God’s kindness.
Did You Know...?
- “Firstfruits” (11:16): See the background of this analogy in Numbers 15:17–21, where the LORD commanded the people of Israel to present a loaf of the first of their dough as a contribution.
- A Remnant Chosen by Grace (11:1–6)
- Israel’s Trespass and Salvation to Gentiles (11:7–16)
- Kindness and Severity of God (11:17–24)
- Salvation of All Israel (11:25–29)
- God’s Mercy to All (11:30–32)
- Doxology (11:33–36)
Why does Paul identify himself as an Israelite?Hide Answer
Paul is a living example that God has not rejected Israel because he, an Israelite, has received the grace of God.
Who were the remnants chosen by grace that Paul alludes to in verse 5?Hide Answer
They were those who had believed in the Lord Jesus and obtained the righteousness of God, including believers of Jewish descent like Paul. Many of the early believers were Jews (cf. Acts 21:20)—a fact that demonstrated that God had not rejected Israel.
How is election itself a gift?Hide Answer
God’s election is not based on man’s works but on God’s sovereign choice and grace (Rom 9:10–16; 11:5–6).
What did Israel seek but fail to obtain?Hide Answer
They pursued a law of righteousness but failed to attain it because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works (Rom 9:31–32).
What is the effect of God’s hardening?Hide Answer
When a person is hardened, his spiritual eyesight is darkened and his spiritual hearing is impaired (Rom 11:8–10). He hears the gospel and sees the work of God, but his heart remains callous and refuses to obey (cf. Acts 28:25–27).
How was the stumbling of Israel a blessing for the Gentiles?Hide Answer
Through Israel’s trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles (Rom 11:11). During the period of the early church, when the Jews continued to resist the gospel, the apostles began to turn their focus to the Gentiles (cf. Acts 13:46; 22:17–21; 28:28).
Explain the main point of this segment.Hide Answer
This segment continues the line of reasoning that Paul has begun to expound at the beginning of the chapter, that God has not rejected Israel His people. Their stumbling and hardening would not be final, but only served to bring the gospel to the Gentiles. Israel is like the firstfruits of the dough and the root of the tree because they were the original chosen race. God has not abandoned them despite their unbelief. God will extend to them His grace once again, and that will be the climax of God’s redemptive plan for the whole world.
Recap the meaning of the analogy of grafting in this segment.Hide Answer
The Jews are like the branches of an olive tree. They have been broken off because of their unbelief, meaning that they had been cut off from God’s salvation. The Gentiles, on the other hand, used to be like an wild olive shoot because they were strangers to God’s covenant (Eph 2:11–12). But they have been grafted onto the olive tree in the sense that God had chosen them by grace to come into His kingdom.
What kind of arrogance is Paul warning us against?Hide Answer
Paul quotes rhetorically the words of the hypothetical proud Gentile, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in” (Rom 11:19). These words betray the presumption that the Gentile believer is more worthy than the Jews. This attitude is the pride that Paul warns against. As Gentile believers, we must remember that it is by grace that we have been saved, not because of our merits.
In what ways could we possibly make the same mistake that the Israelites made?Hide Answer
The longer we have believed in the Lord and the more good work we have done, the more we may become tempted to think that we deserve salvation more than the unbelievers. This mentality is not much different from that of the Israelites who took pride in their observance of the law. Our zeal may tend to nurture pride inside us and make us blind to our unworthiness and need for God’s grace.
What does Paul’s warning tell us about God’s salvation and kindness?Hide Answer
While God saves us by His grace and kindness, He can just as well cut us off from His grace and kindness if we fall from His grace through unbelief. This biblical truth is contrary to the popular idea that the moment a person accepts Jesus Christ, his salvation is guaranteed and he would never fall from it. Verse 22 clearly warns of the possibility of a Christian being cut off from God if he does not continue in God’s kindness.
How does the possibility of regrafting imply hope for Israel?Hide Answer
If Israel does not continue in disbelief, God will show them His kindness again and save them.
When will the salvation of all Israel take place?Hide Answer
A partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (v. 25). The following verse reads, “And in this way all Israel will be saved” (v. 26). The implication is that the salvation of all Israel will take place when the salvation of the Gentiles has been completed.
What will the Deliverer do for Israel?Hide Answer
The Deliverer will come from Zion, banish ungodliness from Jacob, and take away their sins (v. 26–27).
Why will God come to rescue Israel?Hide Answer
God had chosen the forefathers of Israel and made a covenant with them to be their God. His election of the whole nation of Israel is irrevocable (vv. 28, 29) because He is faithful to His word.
Who are “you” and “they” in this segment?Hide Answer
“You” refers to the Gentile believers, to whom Paul is speaking to. “They” refers to Israel.
How are human behavior and decision under God’s sovereign control?Hide Answer
Israel’s disobedience resulted in salvation for the Gentiles. The mercy shown to the Gentiles despite the Gentiles’ former disobedience will also be equally given to disobedient Israel. (vv. 30–31). While it is man who chooses to disobey God, God in His sovereignty has made use of man’s disobedience to show His mercy. That is why verse 32 says that “God has consigned all to disobedience.”
How does God’s sovereignty inspire you to praise Him?Hide Answer
It is encouraging and reassuring to be reminded that our God is in full control. Even in the midst of human failure and sinfulness, God is still above all and works in all things for the good of those who love Him. We are so minute in comparison to God’s boundless and perfect wisdom and power. As the questions in verses 34 and 35 point out, no one can possibly contribute to God’s knowledge and deeds. He is our Maker and our everlasting Father. He is worthy of our praise and honor.