Home Articles & Books Andy's Index
In Part I of this essay, I pointed out that Romans 8:28-29 left us with a problem about God's plan of salvation for the lost. If it is true that God, today, promises that our salvation is secure in Christ, then how do we explain the apparent failure of God to honor His Old Testament promises to Israel? If, indeed, God has failed there, it certainly calls into question His sovereignty and the security of our salvation. Maybe the critic is right--the world's a mess, and God's plan has failed. Paul answers this problem in Romans 9-11.
It would seem that the correct way to approach this would be a verse-by-verse exposition of these three chapters. Such an approach, however, would be fitting for a commentary but not an essay. Once again, I want to keep the essay as simple as I can, though I do have some footnotes for the serious student of the Greek New Testament and theology. Also, I deal with a couple of problem passages that I explain in the footnotes.
My approach will be to focus on chapter eleven where Paul makes an excellent summary, starting with the question, "I ask then, Did God reject his people? By no means ..." (Rom. 11:1a).
As I go through Chapter 11, I shall refer to Paul's previous argument in chapters nine and ten where he gives more detail to his summary.
Outline of Romans 11
1) All Of Israel Has Not Been Rejected (11:1-6). All of Israel has not been rejected-only those who rebelled against God. God has His chosen (elect) and called remnant:
"So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen [elect] by grace" (unmerited favor) (Rom. 11:5).
Only those who have rebelled against God are rejected. God has His remnant, elect and called (Rom. 9:11). Not all descendents of Abraham will be saved any more than all the human race. In Romans 1, individuals are condemned because of their continued rebellion. In
Romans 9-11, the nation Israel is condemned for it's continued rebellion as a nation.
I should expand a bit on this matter of election, particularly with what Paul says in Romans 9:13-"Jacob has I loved but Esau have I hated." Since my response is so lengthy, I've put it in a footnote so as not to interrupt the flow of the Romans 11 summary (see footnote 1.).
2) Not By Works of the Law but By Grace (11:7-10). The problem with Israel as a nation is that they tried to obtain God's promises by works of the law rather than by grace through faith. They were hardened, just as those in Romans 1 who were hardened and turned over to depravity, because of rejection. Those who were elect and called believed God as Abraham did, and it was counted for righteousness.
It was not descent from Abraham as a blood relative, as a Jew, that guaranteed the promises. It was the believing Jew's connection to Abraham by faith, not by blood, that made the difference.
3) Israel Set Aside Temporarily (11:11-16). God, therefore, turned to the Gentiles to offer His grace--faith salvation (Rom. 1-8). But God's plan for Israel was only interrupted. I'll have more to say about this.
4) But the Gentiles Should Beware (11:17-21). Paul is not warning the Gentiles that they will lose their salvation. He's warning them about their attitude toward the Jews. Wuest is helpful here:
"The ancients used the wild olive graft upon an old olive tree to invigorate the tree precisely as Paul uses the figure here, and that both the olive tree and the graft were influenced by each other, though the wild olive graft did not produce as good olives as the original stock. But it should be noted that in verse 24 Paul expressly states that the grafting of the Gentiles on to the stock of the spiritual Israel was 'contrary to nature.'
"Paul then exhorts the Gentiles not to boast against the branches, saved and unsaved Jews, really, against the Jew as such. The Gentile
is to remember that, in the words of Denny, all that he boasts of he owes to an artificially formed relation to the race he despises" (Kenneth S. Wuest, Romans in the Greek New Testament, p. 196).
Jews today should know that there is no place for antiSemitism in a true Christian.
5) The Kindness and Sternness of God (11:22). Wuest says:
"The Jews lost their standing because they had come to believe that it was indefectible, and independent of moral conditions; and if the Gentiles commit the same mistake, they will incur the same doom. It is not to Israel only God may say, 'The Kingdom is taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.' The visible organized church on earth today is for the most part modernistic, and at the Rapture will be set aside in favor of Israel which will be restored as the final channel through which God will work to bring the good news of salvation to the human race. In this sense, the Gentiles will be cut off as Israel was A. D. 70, and for the same reason, failure to function as the means through which God works for the salvation of sinners. 'Cut off' is literally 'cut out' as a branch is cut out of the main trunk of a tree" (Ibid., p. 197).
Concerning the reference to "the kindness and sternness of God," I should say that God shows His sternness to all, Jew and Gentile, who persist in their rejection of Him (Rom. 1). But He also shows His kindness by saving some by His grace, His free gift.
6) Christian Roots In Israel (11:23-24). Believing Jews will be saved. But Gentiles need to be careful not to think that somehow the church is superior to Israel. We owe our roots to the Jew-Abraham, the example and father of faith, and Jesus, the God-man, a Jew, for our salvation.
7) The Hardening of Israel (11:25-27). This hardening of unbelieving Israel will continue until God is done with the Gentiles--when "the full number of the Gentiles has come in." When the rapture of the
believing church occurs, God's attention returns to Israel.
But what does it mean, "All Israel shall be saved"? See Romans 9:6-9). True Israel is the descendant of Abraham who believes in Christ (Rom. 10:9-13). It is not enough for them to be children of Abraham. They must have the faith of Abraham. When Christ comes again at the end of the tribulation and the battle of Armageddon, those Jews who see and believe in Christ will be saved. In that sense all Israel, the true believing Israel, will be saved.
8) Christian Gratitude To Israel (11:28-32). Our attitude toward the Jews and the nation Israel should be one of gratitude. Our Christian roots are there.
The critic will still mumble over the unfairness of God to pass by some unbelievers and let them resist Him. Listen! This is what the freedom of man is about! Unbelievers say, We don't want a God who decrees what will happen. We want freedom. Well, sir-you have it. It's called moral freedom, and you can hang on to it like a subway strap, resisting God all the way to hell!
This is what Romans 1 is all about. Knowing God, they don't want to know any more about God. They will not glorify Him or give thanks (Rom. 1:21).
I should say one more thing about man's moral freedom. It is limited. The Holy Spirit, who is called "The Restrainer," holds back how evil the world will be (2 Thess. 2:3-10). When He is taken out of the world at the rapture, the tribulation that follows will give Satan a freedom he does not have now. For seven years man will experience a hell on earth. Only the second coming of Christ will stop it.
Paul says in Romans 9:
"One of you will say to me: 'Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?' But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?
"What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath--prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy whom he prepared in advance for glory--even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?" (Rom. 9:19-24).
God's plan is designed to reveal both His sovereign wrath and the riches of His glory. Man is mere clay. The Potter has the right to do with it what He will. The cynic's problem is that he thinks too much of man and too little of God!
My poor cynical friend, you asked for freedom-you have the moral freedom to resist God. You're just like your father Adam!
>To Israel: A Warning and A Promise
What Paul says in Romans 9-11 should not come as a surprise to the nation Israel. Just as the individual has moral freedom to reject God's offer of salvation, so the nation Israel had moral freedom to reject Jesus Christ when He came as the Messiah.
This is the sin of Adam all over again. Though the leaders of Israel knew God, they rejected the Messiah because they wanted something for themselves--their positions of power. They were not only willing to reject Messiah but to do it by murdering Him. Do you remember the story?
After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, we read:
"Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary [Lazarus' sister], and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin [Israel's highest court].
"'What are we accomplishing?' they asked. 'Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will
believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.'
"Then one of them, named Caiphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, 'You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish'" (Jn. 11:45-50).
Here's moral freedom for you-the moral freedom of the nation to kill its Messiah. We have the moral freedom of the individual to resist God in Romans 1-8, with the consequences of God's wrath; we have here, in Romans 9-11, the moral freedom of the nation Israel to resist God, with the consequences of God's wrath.
But there's a future for the nation Israel. God has not rejected his people.
Jesus, before His death, gave the Jews some important parables telling them that He would be coming again to fulfill God's covenant promises to Israel. But a warning came with these promises (Matthew 24:37-25:30).
Three times in these parables the individual Jews are told to watch, because when Jesus comes again, they better be ready. Those who do not believe and are not ready, will perish.
Here we have the division of Israel spoken of by Paul in Romans 9-11. It is not the physical sons of Abraham that are counted the true Israel but those elect Jews who are waiting and watching for their Messiah to come and fulfill the covenant promises.
The sequence of events is this: The rapture of the church (taken out of the world to be with Christ), a seven year tribulation, the second coming of Christ, and the Millennial (thousand year) Kingdom in which the covenant promises are fulfilled for believing Israel.
This, then, answers the question, Did God reject his people. By no means! True Israel, believing Israel, has a future in their promised land.
Doesn't God Promise To Save Everyone?
One final objection remains concerning the salvation of those who are elect (chosen) for salvation and called. Two passages of Scripture seem to suggest that God intends to save all people. Is there a contradiction in the teaching of Scripture?
2 Peter 3:8-9. The first passage says this:
"But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."
The KJV says that God is "not willing that any should perish." There are two words for "willing" in the NT when it refers to an action by God. They are boulomai and thelo. Some theologians maintain that boulomai means "to wish or desire" while thelo means "to will or determine."
They say that when Peter uses the word boulomai--to "wish or desire"--he is saying that God doesn't "wish" anyone to go to hell. If he used thelo, he would be saying that God doesn't "will or determine" that men will go to hell.
This may well be the case. But it is more difficult to argue this case in the next passage.
1 Timothy 2. The second passage that sounds like God intends to save all men says:
"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone--for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one
mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men--the testimony given in its proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle--I am telling the truth, I am not lying--and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles" (1 Tim. 2:1-7).
In this passage the word thelo is used and is translated, "God ... wants all men to be saved...." The context seems to support this idea that God intends to do just that-to save all men.
The answer to this problem is that thelo is not always used to indicate God's determined will. The meaning of the words is dictated by the grammatical construction, or as it's sometimes called, lexical meaning.
This is going to be a little hard to explain in understandable English. Footnote 2 will give the serious Greek NT student something to chew on.
But in Greek, a grammatical construction can influence meaning, particularly with words indicating an obligation, a wish or desire. This particular construction always occurs with boulomai and thelo.
The point is this: The assertion (whether the word is boulomai or thelo) is always in desire and not in the doing. 1 Timothy 2:4, in the English translation, and in the context, sounds like it is something God is going to do, not something He simply desires. But the lexical meaning demands we read this as something God desires. (Since the word "ransom" in 1 Timothy 2:6 is not part of this discussion, I put it in footnote 3 where we see that it has to do with the question of atonement.)
Given Paul's assurance that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28-29), and the assurance that God has not rejected His people (Rom. 11:1), we can appreciate Paul's doxology in Romans 11:33-36:
We cannot fathom the depth of God's wisdom and knowledge. > God's judgments and ways are beyond our ability to follow. > God's mind is beyond our fully knowing. > God does not need our advice. > God owes us nothing--but we owe Him glory forever.
1. On the issue, "Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated, Wuest says this:
"A Jewish opponent might say, 'Ishmael was in illegitimate child, who naturally had no rights as against Isaac; we are the legitimate descendants of the patriarch, and our right to the inheritance is indefeasible.' To this the apostle replies in verses 10-13, Not only did God make the distinction already referred to, but in the case of Isaac's children, where there seemed no ground for making any distinction whatever, He distinguished again, and said, The elder shall serve the younger. Jacob and Esau had one father, one mother, and were twin sons; the only ground on which either could have been preferred was that of priority of birth, and this was disregarded by God; Esau, the elder, was rejected, and Jacob, the younger, was made heir of the promises.
"Further, this was done by God of His sovereign freedom: the decisive word was spoken to their mother while they were as yet unborn and had achieved neither good nor evil. Claims as of right, therefore, made against God, are futile, whether they are based on descent or on works....
"The word 'hate' is miseo, 'to hate.' However, when it is used in contrast to 'love' here, it does not retain its original meaning of a literal hatred, but of a lesser degree of love. God cannot be said to hate anyone. The idea is, 'Jacob I loved, but Esau, I loved less.'" Wuest, Romans In the Greek New Testament, p. 159-60).
J. Dwight Pentecost, in his seminary class on Romans, takes issue with this view. He says:
Some say it means "loved more" and "loved less." But this is not a comparison of degrees of love. It is a term which is used in a legal sense of choosing an heir. Godet says, "I have loved and I have hated do not signify merely I have preferred the one to the other; but, I have taken Jacob to be mine while I have set aside Esau. God has made the one the depository of His Messianic promise and of the salvation of the world and denied the other all cooperation in the establishment of His kingdom."
It is not a question of personal animosity, or of merit, but the rejection of a rival claim. Calvin uses two Latin words meaning "to receive" and "to reject."
This word, according to Hebrew usage has to do with constituting one an heir and rejecting any alternative claims to heir ship. So when twins are both eligible for heir ship, God chose one and set the claims of the other aside as a spurious claim. This is the Hebrew usage of love and hate.
This, then, does not indicate the character of God's love but rather of God's predeterminative choice in putting one son in the line of promise according to the Abrahamic covenant. So the line of the Abrahamic covenant promise is set apart to Jacob, and Esau's position is rejected in the Abrahamic covenant line.
Understand why Esau sold his inheritance for bread and a pot of lintels. His appetite was more important than the inheritance. It was an act of his own will that rejected his position in the Abrahamic covenant line of promise.
I would add to this that he was doing what every unbeliever does today--exercising his moral freedom to disobey God. Man cannot have moral freedom to disobey God and yet hold God responsible for the consequences.Back
2. Daniel B. Wallace in Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics says this about 1 Timothy 2:4:
"The indicative is used with verbs of obligation, wish, or desire, followed by an infinitive. The nature of the verb root, rather than the indicative, is
what makes it look like a potential mood in its semantic force. This usage is fairly common.
"Specifically, verbs indicating obligation (such as opheilo, dei), wish (e.g., boulomai), or desire (e.g., thelo) are used with an infinitive. They lexically limit the overall assertion, turning it into a potential action. It is important to understand that the normal force of the indicative mood is not thereby denied; rather, the assertion is simply in the desire, not the doing ..." (p. 451).
The grammatical construction I refer to in 1 Timothy 2:4 is thelo used with the aorist passive infinitive, sotheinai. This is what gives it the lexical meaning that it is God's desire, not His intention to do.
This interpretation is supported by what is said in 1 Timothy 2:8:
"I want [boulomai] men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer ...."
It is true that Paul cannot will men to do anything. But he could command. But he doesn't. He speaks of his strong desire for men to do this. Here we have the word boulomai (want) plus the present infinitive of proseuchomai (to pray). He desires or wants men to pray.
This is the same construction used earlier in verse four with the word thelo. Note that in the same context both boulomai and thelo are given the same meaning--to want, wish or desire. The reason for this is not the isolated meaning of the words but the grammatical construction. They are both connected with infinitives. This is what is meant by lexical meaning.
The closest thing we have in English is words in context. How many times have you heard a politician defend a statement he made by saying, "My words have been taken out of context." In Greek, we have lexical meaning. In English, we have context, which changes the meaning.Back
3. In 1 Timothy 2:6 Christ is said to be "a ransom for all men." This raises the question about the Calvinistic doctrine of limited atonement--that Christ died only for the elect. This passage seems to be arguing for unlimited atonement--that Christ died for the whole human race.
Wallace, in his Greek Grammar, has a lengthy discussion on atonement--whether Jesus died "instead of" (anti) the unbeliever or "in behalf of" (huper). In 1 Timothy 2:6 the Greek text uses the word, huper, "in behalf of."
The English reader will see no problem here. But the Greek student may argue that huper nails down substitutionary atonement. Others claim that huper can mean both-Christ died instead of us and on our behalf--raising the question, can huper just mean here in behalf of?
The point is that if huper can mean both, that it does also mean, instead of us, then we can argue for limited atonement, because it may just refer to that.
Wallace summarizes it this way:
"... no one of the theories of the atonement states all the truth nor, indeed, do all them together. The bottom of this ocean of truth has never been sounded by any man's plumb-line. There is more in the death of Christ for all of us than any of us has been able to fathom.... However, one must say that substitution is an essential element in any real atonement" (Wallace, Ibid., p. 389).
Five-point Calvinists use the ideogram, TULIP, to express their five points: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement (or redemption), Irresistible (or efficacious) grace, and the Perseverance (security) of the saints. Four-point Calvinists leave out limited atonement, favoring instead, unlimited atonement.Back
# # #
Click here to read responses to this
Click here to email andy Return to Top