A motley of comments on Romans 11:8-14

Paul writes,

as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.”

And David says, “Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them;

let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs forever.”

So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.  Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!

Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. – Romans 11:8-14

Paul has just begun answering the anticipated objection that if what he has been saying about election and salvation is true, then God’s promises to Israel have failed.  He says that no, he himself is a Jew, so he is living evidence that God has not forsaken Israel.  Instead, while most of Israel has turned away from Him, He has preserved a remnant for Himself.

Paul further explains that the elect have been given understanding, but the rest of Israel was hardened.  In verses 8-10, he gives Old Testament examples, prefiguring this kind of hardening.  In other words, God has done this before, and He is doing so now.

Paul then asks the next logically anticipated objection, did they stumble in order that they might fall?  In other words, did God do this just so that they would fall?  Me genoita! he says.  By no means!

Here’s the beauty of God’s plan.  Because Israel sinned, because they rejected Christ and persecuted the Christians, this is what caused the gospel to spread out of Judea into Gentile country.  Isn’t that amazing?  Their God-ordained rejection is the means that God used to save Gentiles.

This is a temporary means.  Eventually by His grace, He’s going to remove this partial hardening so that a great number of Jews will turn back to Him.  This has been a recurring theme throughout redemptive history, and it’s a beautiful picture for us today.  Though the church is the New Israel, God still has redemptive plans for the nation of Israel, which we’ll explore as we move through this chapter. 

Then, Paul turns his attention to the Gentiles in the Roman church.  Paul gives some insight as to why he is an apostle to the Gentiles and why he magnifies his ministry.  His hope of being widely known as the apostle to the Gentiles is that it would make his fellow Jews jealous.  When they see this pattern of God turning away from Israel and going to the Gentiles, hopefully, they will turn back to Him.

His desire is to save some of them.  This is difficult for our minds to grasp.  We know that it is God who saves.  We don’t save.  We bring people to the Savior, who saves as He pleases.  At the same time, Paul knows that he is used as a means to save some, and that’s what he means here.  He fully acknowledges God’s sovereignty over salvation, but he does not deny his responsibility in being the tool God uses to do so.

Lord willing, we are to be used to save some also.  We should be careful to remember that we are not the ones who do the saving, but we should also be careful to remember that we have been called to be the means through which He saves.


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