Romans 11:1-24

Thursday Evening Bible Study

February 28, 2008


Paul has been talking about how salvation comes to those who believe (Rom.10:9-11).

He’s talked about how not all of Israel has chosen to believe in the gospel (Rom.10:16).

He’s talked about how God had predicted that the Jews would be stubborn and rebellious (Rom. 10:21).

Now the question comes up, “Is God finished with the Jews then?”

:1-10 Not all Israel are rejected

:1 I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

Is God finished with the Jews?

cast awayapotheomai to thrust away, push away, repel

Paul’s answer is that he is an Israelite.  How could he be saved if God has cast away His chosen people?

There are segments of the Christian church that think that God has finished using Israel; that they are no longer God’s chosen people.  Now the church are the “chosen” people.

Benjamin – was supposedly one of the ten “lost tribes”, according to some goofy teachers, yet here is Paul claiming to be from the tribe of Benjamin.

There is quite a fundamental Biblical truth in this chapter.

There are some who teach that when Israel was destroyed in 70 AD, that God was finished with them, and now God’s “chosen people” are in the church, and all of God’s promises in the Old Testament that were given to Israel are now properties of the church, that Israel equals the church.

When you begin to hold to this view, it will affect the way you see the end times.  You will not be looking at an actual nation of Israel being on center stage, but it’s the church.  They take all the promises to Israel, and since Israel isn’t Israel, they have to spiritualize and symbolize them. Almost without exception, those who hold to these views will teach that the church will have to go through the Great Tribulation.
The truth is, Israel is not the church.
God isn’t finished with Israel.

:2 God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying,

:3 "LORD, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life"?

:4 But what does the divine response say to him? "I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal."

Elijah’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Day

Elijah had just come off the great victory on Mount Carmel where he stood against the prophets of Baal and had called fire down from heaven.  After that, he had ordered the prophets of Baal to all be killed.

(1 Ki 19:1-18 NKJV)  And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. {2} Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, "So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time." {3} And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.

Here was the great, fearless prophet Elijah.  Afraid of a woman’s threat, running for his life.  James calls Elijah a man of “like passions” as we are.  We have scary days too.

{4} But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, "It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!" {5} Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, "Arise and eat." {6} Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. {7} And the angel of the LORD came back the second time, and touched him, and said, "Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you."

It sounds kind of trivial, but if you don’t take care of your physical body, you ain’t gonna make it.
The saintly young Scottish minister Robert Murray McCheyne lay on his deathbed when only twenty-nine, completely worn out by his unremitting labors.  To the friend sitting at his bedside, McCheyne said, “The Lord gave me a horse to ride and a message to deliver.  Alas, I have killed the horse and I cannot deliver the message!”

- J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Discipleship, pg.110.

Take care of your physical body.  Don’t kill the horse.

{8} So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God. {9} And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" {10} So he said, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life."

Elijah was feeling like he was the only true follower of the Lord left.  He was feeling like nobody served the Lord as good as he did.

{11} Then He said, "Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD." And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; {12} and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. {13} So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" {14} And he said, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life."

I wonder if it isn’t possible that the times when we get into our pity parties about serving the Lord, that perhaps it’s because we haven’t been spending enough time listening to the “still, small voice”.
It’s when we get away from the close, intimate communion with the Lord, that we are running on our own strength.  It’s when we are running on our own strength that we burn out.
Take time to be quiet before God.  Take time to be refreshed by Him.

{15} Then the LORD said to him: "Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria. {16} "Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. {17} "It shall be that whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill; and whoever escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill. {18} "Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him."

God had quite a few more servants than just Elijah.  It might be that they weren’t all doing the same thing that Elijah was doing, but God still had MANY servants.
Be careful about becoming burned out and embittered against God’s saints.  Just because others may not be burning out like you, doesn’t mean that they aren’t serving God.  It’s possible that they could even be a little bit closer to Him that you are.


Avoiding burn out.

Take care of your physical body.
Don’t kill the horse.
If you are struggling with depression and you have not been taking good care of your body, either by not getting enough rest or lack of exercise or poor eating habits – pay attention.  Take care of yourself.
Take time with God.
If you don’t have that time alone with God, you are heading for burn out.
We need time when we can hear that “still, small voice”
Appreciate the saints.
If you start thinking you are all that God has left, you are wrong.
You aren’t the only one serving God.
Encourage the rest of the team, don’t criticize them.

Back to our passage:

The temptation might be to think like Elijah that there are no more believers in Israel.  We might think that God is now done with Israel.  He’s not.

:5 Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.

remnantleimma a remnant; from leipo, the root of the words translated “left” (vs. 3) and “reserved” (vs. 4)

Even as there was a “remnant” in Elijah’s day, Paul is saying that there is a remnant today, those that have been chosen by God for receiving His grace.

There are Jews who are going to heaven.  They are the ones trusting in Jesus.

:6 And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.

How does salvation come?  What is the basis on which God decides who goes to heaven?

Grace is a gift.  An undeserving gift. 

Works result in earning a wage. 

Paul is saying that the two are mutually exclusive.  You can’t be saved by grace and then think that you have to do good works to be saved.

The Catholic church has it wrong.  Our good works do not save us.

You can’t have grace and works.

Some teach that we are saved by grace, but then you have to stay saved by doing good works.

Salvation is a gift, not a wage.

:7 What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded.

The nation of Israel as a whole has not been saved yet.  But those who have been chosen, the “elect”, have chosen to believe and receive salvation.  The rest of the Jews are for now “blinded”.

blindedporoo – to cover with a thick skin, to harden by covering with a callus; become dull

:8 Just as it is written: "God has given them a spirit of stupor, Eyes that they should not see And ears that they should not hear, To this very day."

stuporkatanuxis a pricking; severe sorrow; exhaustion that comes from being too burdened or grief ridden.

Paul quotes from Is. 29:10

(Isa 29:10 NKJV)  For the LORD has poured out on you The spirit of deep sleep, And has closed your eyes, namely, the prophets; And He has covered your heads, namely, the seers.

They have chosen not to believe, and so God has responded by making them “senseless”.

:9 And David says: "Let their table become a snare and a trap, A stumbling block and a recompense to them.

Warren Wiersbe:

Their “table to become a snare” means that their blessings turn into burdens and judgments. This is what happened to Israel: their spiritual blessings should have led them to Christ, but instead they became a snare that kept them from Christ. Their very religious practices and observances became substitutes for the real experience of salvation. Sad to say, this same mistake is made today when people depend on religious rituals and practices instead of trusting in the Christ who is pictured in these activities.

:10 Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see, and bow down their back always."

Paul quotes from Ps. 69:22-23

(Psa 69:22-23 NKJV)  Let their table become a snare before them, And their well-being a trap. {23} Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see; And make their loins shake continually.

Those of Israel that have not understood that Jesus is their Messiah have a sort of “blindness” on them.

:11-35 God isn’t done with Israel

:11 I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.

The idea is:  “Have the Jews fallen in a way that they can never recover from?”  The answer is an emphatic “NO!”

During Jesus’ earthly ministry, the preaching was done primarily to the Jew and very few Gentiles heard about Jesus.

He came to His people, Israel.

The rejection of Jesus by His own people opened a door for the gospel to be preached to the Gentiles.

provoke them to jealousy – that the Jew might see what God is doing among us pagan Gentiles and be jealous to have the same relationship with Yahweh that we have.

I think this is one of the things that God will do through our lives as we live close to the Lord.

Unbelievers around us will want what we have – whether they are Jew or Gentile.

For the Jew to be provoked to jealousy, perhaps it’s important that they know that we “get it” as to who God is.

Many people have this idea that Christianity and Judaism are two distinct religions.
Christianity is dependent upon Judaism.  Christianity comes from Judaism.  Do we “get it”?

:12 Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!

If the falling away of Israel from their Messiah has been such a blessing to the world by allowing the gospel to come to us Gentiles, what do you think will happen when God’s very chosen people wake up and one day embrace Yeshua as their Lord.

I can hardly wait for that day!

:13 For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry,

:14 if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them.

Paul’s ministry was primarily to Gentiles – though he did have a practice of always going into the local Jewish synagogue and preaching there first whenever he entered a new city.

(Rom 1:16 NKJV)  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.

Yet after the local Jewish population would reject Paul’s message of the gospel, he would then turn to the Gentiles of the city and share the gospel to them.

One of Paul’s hopes for his ministry was not just bringing many Gentiles to the Lord, he was also hoping that he might make the Jews jealous of what God was doing among the Gentiles.

:15 For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

When Israel, as a nation, rejected Jesus as their Messiah, it opened the door for the gospel to be preached to the Gentiles, us.  At this time, the Jews lost their place as God’s “most favored nation”.  But it is only temporary.

When the Jews come back to Jesus, they will truly be as a nation returning from the dead.

When the Jews come back to Jesus, it will be the thing that ushers in the Millennial Reign of Christ on earth.

(Zec 12:10 NKJV)  "And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.

:16 For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches.

firstfruitaparche (“from” + “the first”) – to offer firstlings or firstfruits; the first portion of the dough, from which the offering was prepared

The picture Paul is giving goes back to the “Feast of Firstfruits”.

(Num 15:18-20 NLT)  "Give the people of Israel the following instructions: When you arrive in the land where I am taking you, {19} you will eat from the crops that grow there. But you must set some aside as a gift to the LORD. {20} Present a cake from the first of the flour you grind and set it aside as a gift, as you do with the first grain from the threshing floor.

The “first fruit” would be Abraham.

The argument is that if Abraham is holy, then the rest of the lump that he is a part of, Israel, is holy too.

The root is also Abraham.

The point Paul is trying to make is not that Israel is saved because they’re descendants from Abraham, but that there’s a special relationship they have with God because of Abraham.

:17 And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree,

:18 do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.

The olive tree was a picture of the nation of Israel.

(Jer 11:16 NLT)  "I, the LORD, once called them a thriving olive tree, beautiful to see and full of good fruit...

Side Note:  We think of olives as being something to eat.  The ancients didn’t eat olives.  The fruit of the olive tree was used to produce olive oil.

It is interesting that oil is often symbolic of the Holy Spirit in the Bible.  The oil comes through the olive tree.

The Jews who did not believe were the ones who have been broken off.  The Gentiles are pictured as branches from a wild olive tree, which have been grafted into the proper tree.

As wild olive branches, the Gentiles have benefited of the life, the sap, of the main tree. 

We Gentiles are like branches of a wild olive tree.

In order to become grafted into God’s special olive tree, branches were broken off, so we would have a place to be grafted in.

We Gentiles need to be careful that we don’t get a bad attitude against the original branches, the Jews, because we owe our connection with God to them.

Even if we boast in our relationship with God, we need to remember that we’re not the original branches, and it’s the original branches that form the foundation for what we believe in.

There is no place in the church for anti-Semitism.

:19 You will say then, "Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in."

:20 Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear.

haughtyhupselophroneo (higher + minded) – to be high minded, proud


Spiritual pride.

Pride is an ugly thing.
A group of chess enthusiasts had checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories.  After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse.  “But why?”, they asked, as they moved off.  “Because,” he said, “I can’t stand chess nuts boasting in an open foyer.”
I think there are two kinds of spiritual pride that are dangerous:
1)  When we think we’re better than other Christians.

Sometimes it’s because we think we go to a “superior” church. 

Do you ever meet someone new, find out they’re a believer, then ask them what church they go to?  What do you think if they responded with “I go to the Episcopal Church” or “I go to the Baptist Church”?

It could be because we think that we have a more “mature” walk in the Lord.

Only mature Christians go to church on a Thursday night.  Only mature Christians read their Bibles every day.  What do you think of those people who don’t make the effort that you do with their Christian walk?

2)  When we think we’re better than non-Christians.

We can cop an attitude because we were “smart enough” to believe in Jesus.

This is the attitude that Paul is warning the Gentiles about – not to be haughty toward the unbelieving Jews.

The Bible says:
(1 Cor 10:12 NKJV)  Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
(Prov 16:18 NKJV)  Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.

Spiritual pride is a dangerous thing.  Watch out.

It was the spiritual leaders of the day, the scribes and Pharisees that just couldn’t get through their pride to accept Jesus as their Messiah.  What?  An uneducated carpenter?  A group of uneducated fishermen?  Coming from that backwoods area of Galilee when all the real preachers come from Jerusalem?

(Prov 13:10 NIV)  Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.

When we’re witnessing to friends, if we come off with a haughty attitude, we only end up arguing with them.  Listen. Be humble.  Are you teachable?  Even from an unbeliever or a backslidden Christian?

Don’t misunderstand.  Humility doesn’t mean that we tell people we must be wrong, and that we apologize for being a believer.  But humility means that you take the time to listen to people.  You can be teachable in that you learn about new aspects of life from them, but in reality you are the one who understands what spiritual truth is, and you stick to the truth.

:21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.

It seems that Paul is hinting that if the natural branches could be broken off, then the grafted ones could be too.

Perhaps this could be speaking about the end times apostate church.  There will be a “church” in the end times that will have fallen away from the Lord.  They will be “cut off”.

(1 Tim 4:1 NKJV)  Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,

Could this mean that an individual person might lose their salvation?

It sounds like it’s a possibility.

:22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.

goodnesschrestotes – moral goodness, integrity; kindness

severityapotomia – severity, roughness, sharpness

continueepimeno – to stay at or with, remain; denoting the action persisted in

cut offekkopto – to cut out, cut off.  It’s the same word used in:

(Mat 7:19 NKJV)  "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

What happened to Israel in rejecting God’s Messiah could happen to us as well.

We need to maintain a healthy humility and fear about continuing with the Lord.

It sounds to me like Paul is saying that if you do not keep yourself in that place of communion with God, you may find yourself straying into unbelief and eventually face the possibility of being cut off.

:23 And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.

:24 For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?

Just as it’s possible for a Gentile believer to not continue in their faith, and end up being cut off, it’s also possible for a Jew to not continue in their unbelief and find themselves grafted back into God’s tree.

In fact, in a sense it’s much more natural for a Jew to be grafted into God’s tree than it is for us Gentiles.


Hang in there.

We call this the doctrine of the “perseverance of the saints”.  It means that truly saved people will continue to cling to Jesus.
There are two ways of looking at this, but it’s all really basically the same. 

One view says that if you are truly saved, then you will continue to cling to Jesus as a natural result. 

The other view says that to continue to be saved, you must continue to cling to Jesus.

Note that the perseverance (“continue”) is in the “goodness” of God (vs. 22), not perseverance in works.
It’s a matter of staying connected to God, communing with God, walking with God.
There will be good works in the life of the person who is connected to God’s goodness.
But you don’t get to the goodness by good works, you get there by grace.
The bottom line is that we must continue to cling to Jesus.
Jesus taught about this subject, even using a word similar to Paul’s “continue”:
(John 15:4-8 NKJV)  "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. {5} "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. {6} "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.

The word for “abide” is the root of the word for “continue”.

Don’t look at this like God is putting a gun to your head and saying, “If you want to go to heaven you better work your tail off and stay close to Jesus!”

This is more like,

If you want to keep dry during the thunderstorm, stay under the umbrella” or,

“If you want to grow the flowers in your garden, don’t forget to water them” or,

If you want to stay healthy, take your vitamins, watch your weight, and exercise…”

What do we do to “abide” in Jesus?

{7} "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. {8} "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

I think the disciplines of reading the Scriptures and prayer are a great place to start.

Be careful you aren’t reading and praying out of obligation, but for the purpose of intimacy.