In this essay, we’d like to conduct an exposition on Romans 11, as it has come up a number of times in comments from our readers. The passage is really a cornerstone piece in many debates — mostly given Paul’s propensity to explain and prove what he believes — rather than when he merely gives certain commands to his audience. Everyone acknowledges that Paul is explaining something — but as with most of the Scripture, we tend to see what we want to see.
Although we must always be able to reconcile the things which Paul explains in epistles such as Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians and Hebrews with the commands we receive in the gospels and other epistles. The matter has come up multiple times of late — therefore, we’d like to give our own exposition on the passage and show how it fits into the New Testament and the Father’s plan for salvation.
We’d like to “place our stamp” on it as it were, with the hope that it will clarify our position as well as facilitate discussion on the topic.
RECAP OF ROMANS
Romans 11:1 doesn’t begin in isolation — rather, it is the logical follow-up from what Paul has explained in Romans 10. Verily, Paul’s discourse from Romans 1-11 all flows logically — step by step. Romans 11 forms the cornerstone of many doctrines because Romans 11 is the conclusion of Paul’s discourse.
As such, we will briefly recap Romans 1-10, although as always we include links to some of our writing which explains our position in far more detail.
In Romans 1-2, Paul explains that both the Israelites and the Genesis 10 nations need the gospel — because whether anyone has received the Law or not, “it is not the hearers of the Law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the Law who will be justified.” (Romans 2:13) Furthermore, we must specifically note Paul’s words in Romans 2:27-29,
27 And he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a violator of the Law? 28 For he is not a Judean who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Judean who is one inwardly; and circumcision is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from people, but from God.
In other words, Paul tells us that one becomes an Israelite through the inward circumcision — which is keeping the Law by the Spirit. Although we will see that Paul builds on this argument throughout Romans.
In Romans 3, Paul takes his argument further by elaborating that all are under sin — Israelites and non-Israelites — but through faith in the Lord Jesus, the Father is willing to “let the sins previously committed go unpunished” (Romans 3:25). More importantly, we are “justified by faith apart from works of the Law” (Romans 3:28) — that is, there’s nothing the Law could have done to help Israelites or non-Israelites escape their guilt.
Herein Paul furthers the idea that “it is the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:22–23). In other words, through a faith in Jesus Christ, there is no distinction between Israelites and non-Israelites as Paul explicitly says later in Romans 10:12 — because “he is a Judean who is one inwardly.” (Romans 3:29)
Paul is building on this idea that whether or not one is an Israelite according to the flesh, one may become an Israelite only through faith and the Spirit. To this end, without faith and the Spirit, it doesn’t matter if one is born an Israelite according to the flesh, because “he is not a Judean who is one outwardly.” (Romans 3:28)
We can see by this point that Paul is addressing some consternation between the Israelites and non-Israelites in the Roman congregation. Some of the non-Israelites seemed to be engaged in the sin of homosexuality — while the frustrated Israelites were not helping things by their own actions. Paul needed everyone to stop sinning — and for them to understand their place with one another.
In Romans 4, Paul uses Abraham as precedent for the righteousness faith — and uses him an example of the effects a personal faith must have for every believer in Christ. He also uses the example to augment his argument that the Genesis 10 nations may also enter the Abrahamic covenant through a personal faith — because Abraham accessed the Abrahamic covenant through faith, not the Law. Therefore, the nations — who are not of the Law — may access the promises to Abraham via the faith.
In Romans 5, Paul’s elaborates on God’s graciousness in the Lord Jesus — and his argument can really be encapsulated by verses 20-21,
20 The Law came in so that the offense would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, so also grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
By this point, Paul has sufficiently argued that the work of the Lord Jesus shows no distinction between Israelites and non-Israelites — that both Israelites and non-Israelites are in desperate need of the gospel — that justification comes from a personal faith in the Lord Jesus instead of the Law — and ultimately it is the following of the Law in the Spirit which defines who is a true Israelite.
Then in Romans 6, Paul goes on to explain what effect a faith in the Lord Jesus must have in our lives. He argues that anyone who has a faith in the Lord Jesus really must stop sinning — that we must be freed from sin, so that we may become slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:18). Having been freed from sin and being enslaved to God — and righteousness — is the very benefit we receive, which results in our sanctification and eternal life (Romans 6:22). That’s what sanctification is — being freed from sin and being enslaved to righteousness in the most practical way.
In Romans 7, Paul tells us that all have died to the Law in Christ Jesus — “so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.” (Romans 7:6) In this way, Paul clarifies what being righteous — or sinless — really entails in terms of the focus of our lives.
He relates his own experience in keeping the letter of the Law — his own sin in the flesh used his desire to keep the Law to cause him to sin — despite the fact that in his mind, he did not want to sin. In this way, Paul shows us that merely wanting to practice righteousness does not in and of itself guarantee our ability to do so. Though our minds desire to serve the Law of God, we unintentionally end up serving the law of sin through our flesh (Romans 7:25).
In Romans 8, Paul gives us the solution — that we can indeed fulfill the requirement of the Law only if we walk according to the Spirit — which we naturally conclude means “that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin” (Romans 6:6). Thus the “law of sin through our flesh” (Romans 7:25) no longer has power over us, because we are no longer motivated by fleshly desires.
Thus we are motivated by the Spirit of God toward the Spirit of the Law — and unless we have followed this process, we do not belong to Christ (Romans 8:9) — and we are not children of God (Romans 8:14). Then going on toward the end of Romans 8, he tells us that being led by the Spirit of God means being courageous in the face of anything and everything the world has to throw at our fleshly bodies.
By this point, Paul is very self-aware of a glaring hole in his own argument which needs to be reconciled. How is it that Israelites according to the flesh could be promised the promises of Abraham — along with many other promises — and yet not even be considered Israelites at all? After all, if one is a violator of the Law, then “circumcision has turned into uncircumcision.” (Romans 3:25) In other words, one becomes not an Israelite — and we see very many Israelites in the Scripture who turned their circumcision into uncircumcision by their evil deeds.
Therefore, in Romans 9, Paul immediately tells us that this reality about his “kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons and daughters, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the temple service, and the promises” (Romans 9:3–4) — that their circumcision is being turned to uncircumcision — causes him “great sorrow and unceasing grief.” (Romans 9:2) This is the appropriate response to everything he has argued so far — he takes no pleasure in the reality his kinsmen face — and neither should we.
Paul then reconciles the logical problem by essentially restating his argument he has been making all along — “it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.” (Romans 9:8) Recall that Paul said in Romans 4:16-17,
16 For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 (as it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed, that is, God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that do not exist.
Yes, Abraham “would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.” (Romans 4:13) Therefore, “the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants” (Romans 4:16) — Genesis 10 nations included — “through the righteousness of faith.” (Romans 4:13) In other words, again, “it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.” (Romans 9:8)
That is the promise to Abraham — and the promises to Israel (Romans 9:4) — through the righteousness of faith, not the physical requirement of the Law through physical circumcision and Israelite ancestry according to the flesh.
Then in verses 19-24 he justifies the position morally from God’s perspective and concludes rather plainly in verses 23-24,
23 And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon objects of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 24 namely us, whom He also called, not only from among Judeans, but also from among nations.
He then prophetically justifies the argument by quoting Hosea 1:10 regarding the Genesis 10 nations which says, “And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, ‘you are not My people,’ There they shall be called sons of the living God.” (Romans 9:26) Thus he reconciles the idea that nations would be welcomed into Israel.
Then he prophetically justifies the idea that Israelites according to the flesh would be cut off by quoting Isaiah 10:22, “Though the number of the sons of Israel may be like the sand of the sea, only the remnant will be saved” (Romans 9:27) and Isaiah 1:9, “If the Lord of armies had not left us descendants, We would have become like Sodom, and would have been like Gomorrah.” (Romans 9:29)
Therefore, he has sufficiently argued that Israelites would be cut off — Genesis 10 nations would be brought in — and that it all comes down to faith, because the nations pursued the righteousness of faith (Romans 9:30) — whereas Israel did not (Romans 9:32). Recall that Paul already argued the case for the righteousness of faith earlier in Romans — and that through faith there is no distinction between Israel and the Genesis 10 nations.
Then in Romans 10, with all of these conclusions and arguments in mind, Paul begins to explain his own place in everything. By extension, he tacitly explains the place of Israel according to the flesh in everything — that is, he is tacitly explaining why the benefit of being an Israelite according to the flesh is “great in every respect….that they were entrusted with the actual words of God.” (Romans 3:2)
In the midst of explaining his own purpose and ministry, he says again rather plainly in Romans 10:12-13,
12 For there is no distinction between Judean and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
THE REMNANT OF ISRAEL ACCORDING TO THE FLESH
Now Paul uses all of his arguments so far — tying them all together — to deliver his final conclusion. Romans 11:1 says,
I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? Far from it! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
Paul tells us that of all the conclusions we should make from his arguments, we should not at all conclude that Israel according to the flesh has been completely rejected, because Paul himself is an Israelite according to the flesh.
He continues in Romans 11:2-6,
2 God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed Your prophets, they have torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.” 4 But what is the divine response to him? “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, since otherwise grace is no longer grace.
Yes, “God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew.” Anyone who has concluded that Israel according to the flesh have been done away with or completely forgotten make a grave error — despite everything Paul has explained so far. Paul quoted Isaiah 10:22 saying, “Though the number of the sons of Israel may be like the sand of the sea, only the remnant will be saved.” (Romans 9:27) In order for this prophecy to be true, there needs to be a remnant of the promise by the gracious choice of God in and amongst a multitude according to the flesh.
This represents Israel across all time for whom there will always be a remnant according to the promise — and only that remnant will be saved. According to Paul’s example, there was a “remnant according to God’s gracious choice” back in Elijah’s time, just as there was a remnant according to God’s gracious choice during Paul’s own time. All remnants across all time put together represent the total remnant — in the singular — of Isaiah 10:22 who will be saved.
Note that Elijah and the 7000 prophets had “not bowed the knee to Baal” — in other words, they kept the very First and Second Commandments. As such they were righteous men who practiced righteousness at the cost of their own material well-being. If that’s the standard for the righteous remnant back then, then that constitutes the same standard for the righteous remnant during Paul’s time — and the remnant of Israel across all time. If one considers oneself to be a part of the remnant, they must exhibit the righteousness of the remnant. Recall that Paul already argued that one who has faith in the Lord Jesus must be “freed from sin” and become “slaves to righteousness.” (Romans 6:18)
Here we can conclude that replacement theology is not completely true — that is, Israel is not being completely replaced — but they are being replaced to some extent. Paul himself is witness of this fact — along with the remnant during Elijah’s time. Consider for a moment that Elijah and the remnant during his time will be saved — and they will be in eternity with us. They are a part of the body and bride of the Lord Jesus. There’s just no way Israel has been completely done away with.
Moreover, despite replacement theology being somewhat true, Paul has still made abundantly clear that the Genesis 10 nations are becoming Israelites according to faith — along with the Israelites according to the flesh who do likewise. The Lord Jesus did not create a new entity called “the church” — rather, He was building up Israel out of true believers from Adamkind.
7 What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; 8 just as it is written: “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes to see not and ears to hear not, down to this very day.” 9 And David says, “May their table become a snare and a trap, And a stumbling block and a retribution to them. 10 May their eyes be darkened to see not, And bend their backs continually.”
Note how Paul says, “What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained.” Paul told us earlier that Israel pursued a law of righteousness, but they did not arrive at the Law (Romans 9:31). The Lord said to Israelites that “many….will seek to enter and will not be able.” (Luke 13:24) While He said that to Israelites, the same, of course, applies to the Genesis 10 nations as we will see.
Paul then says that “those who were chosen obtained it” — that is, not those who chose, but those who were chosen. John tells us our salvation does not come from “the will of a man, but of God.” (John 1:13) He tells us that the ones who practice the truth and come to the Light reveal that their deeds have actually been performed by God (John 3:21).
In the parable of the marriage feast, the Lord tells us that “those who were invited were not worthy.” (Matthew 22:8) In other words, the heirs according to the flesh were not worthy to attend the wedding supper. Paul tells us that those who are not worthy — those who were not chosen — “were hardened.” (Romans 11:7) That makes sense because the examples Paul used of the remnant of Israel were righteous Israelites — whereas hardened Israelites are not righteous.
Paul likely quotes Isaiah 29:10 in Romans 11:8, but even as far back as Israel’s time in the wilderness Moses says, “to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.” (Deuteronomy 29:4) In other words, this phenomenon of a remnant according to choice in the midst of a hardened Israel has essentially been going on since Israel’s inception.
Then Paul quotes David from Psalm 69:22-23:
22May their table before them become a snare; And when they are in peace, may it become a trap. May their eyes grow dim so that they cannot see, And make their loins shake continually.
When David prayed these words against Israel, he did not show partiality to his kinsmen according to the flesh. Rather, he sought only God’s ways and through that endeavor he rightly acknowledged that his sinful kindred were not worthy of God’s blessing. As such, he pleaded God to not to bless them. Likewise, we should not plead for God to bless a sinful Israel according to the flesh.
We, as the true Adamic Israel should recognize this sinfulness about our own kinsmen according to the flesh — just as Zionist Christians should have also realized the sinfulness regarding the false Israel found in modern Jewry — and not prayed for their blessing, according to their favorite, go-to verse, Genesis 12:3.
ISRAEL’S FAILURE — RICHES FOR THE NATIONS
Here we reach a part in Romans 11 which can be very confusing for anyone who wants to understand it without considering the arguments Paul has made leading up to it. Paul words his conclusion very beautifully — and we presume he takes this liberty only because of the confidence he has that his audience takes cognizance of and understands the arguments he has made so far. He finds the positive in Israel’s failure — and the wisdom of God in a seemingly dire situation — but we should not become distracted from all that Paul has concluded so far.
In other words, we cannot interpret Paul as suddenly engaging in a non sequitur — or saying something which would suddenly disagree with any of his own conclusions — or even any of the teachings in the rest of the Scripture. We must interpret everything he says in light of the arguments he has already made — not as stand alone verses.
11 I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? Far from it! But by their wrongdoing salvation has come to the nations, to make them jealous. 12 Now if their wrongdoing proves to be riches for the world, and their failure, riches for the nations, how much more will their fulfillment be!
Now some time back one of our readers attempted to argue that because Israel’s failure brought about a blessing for the nations — then Israel, therefore, somehow should be rewarded for their failure. This follows similar gnostic and Satanic logic that the serpent is somehow a hero for supposedly kicking off the salvation plan by deceiving Eve. Or that Judas Iscariot should be rewarded for betraying the Lord Jesus — because how else would the gospel have come to the nations if the Lord didn’t get betrayed?
Of course not. In the same way, the Israelites who were hardened — because of whom “salvation has come to the nations” — do not deserve anything either. Moreover, Paul never actually makes that case anyway.
Recall how Paul said, “What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it.” (Romans 11:7) That’s exactly how Israel “did not stumble so as to fall.” (Romans 11:11) In other words, Paul established in verse 7 that the subject here is Israel generally. They stumbled, because some Israelites were hardened — but they did not fall, because some Israelites were chosen.
Moreover, “God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew” (Romans 11:2) — because there has come to be “a remnant according to God’s gracious choice.” (Romans 11:5) Through a personal faith in the Lord Jesus, the current remnant of Israel live in righteousness through the Spirit of the Law — while their kinsmen according to the flesh were hardened.
Then Paul tells us that their wrongdoing and their failure — through the Israelites who were hardened — proved to be riches for the world and for the nations. Recall that Paul already argued that the Israelites who were hardened are not even considered to be Israelites anymore. By their own failure, space in the Kingdom literally opened up for the nations.
In the parable of the wedding feast, given that “those who were invited were not worthy” (Matthew 22:8) — the king commanded his slaves, “go to the main roads, and invite whomever you find there to the wedding feast.” (Matthew 22:9) After dealing with the non-Israelite centurion, the Lord says in Matthew 8:11-12,
11 And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; 12 but the sons of the kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Yes, the “sons of the kingdom” — the Israelites according to the flesh — will be thrown out and replaced by the Genesis 10 nations who come from the east and west. But they won’t recline as a new material entity called “the church” — no — they will recline with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — that is, they will join Israel.
In Luke 13:28-29 — after the Lord told Israelites “many….will seek to enter and will not be able” (verse 24) — He said the same words,
28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out. 29 And they will come from east and west, and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God.
We just cannot possibly come up with any interpretation involving some kind of reward or reconciliation for the hardened Israelites based purely on the fact that their own failure caused themselves to be replaced. They will be “thrown out into the outer darkness” (Matthew 8:12).
Paul has endeavored to argue across all of the chapters of Romans that if one does not keep the Law in accordance with a personal faith in the Lord Jesus and a leading of the Spirit — whether they are Israelites according to the flesh or not — then they will not be considered as Israelites at all in the first place.
Herein we also understand what Paul means when he says, “how much more will their fulfillment be?” (Romans 11:12) The many that “will come from the east and west” (Matthew 8:11) constitutes that very fulfillment. In other words, Israel will be filled up — or fulfilled — by the nations themselves — because Israel’s failure proved to be riches for the nations (Romans 11:12)
Israel’s failure did not prove to be riches for themselves.
Then Paul says something in Romans 11:13 which proves this beyond a shadow of a doubt,
But I am speaking to you who are nations. Therefore insofar as I am an apostle of nations, I magnify my ministry
Paul states that this truth which he explained constitutes a magnification of his own ministry. Paul spent all of Romans 10 explaining his own ministry to the nations specifically. If what he said in Romans 11:11–12 magnifies his own ministry — and his ministry is specifically being “an apostle of nations” — then we could hardly conclude that Paul is magnifying Israel — or that in a roundabout way he was somehow trying to explain something about Israel’s own redemption.
No, Paul is telling us that he himself is playing an active part in Israel’s fulfillment — which is the bringing in of the nations as a result of Israel’s own failure. But again, Paul himself is an Israelite according to the flesh — and Paul told us that the benefit of being an Israelite according to the flesh is “great in every respect….that they were entrusted with the actual words of God.” (Romans 3:2)
Paul himself was entrusted with the actual words of God — and he is taking those words to the nations. That is what he explained in some detail in Romans 10. Then Paul continues in Romans 11:14-15,
14 if somehow I may move my own people to jealousy and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection proves to be the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
Here Paul refers back to his words in Romans 11:11 — which he already explained in Romans 10:19 by quoting Deuteronomy 32:21 — when he was explaining his own ministry. Paul is explaining his own place — and the place of his ministry — within the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 32:21 and many other passages. He is saying that if God Himself will provoke Israel to jealousy with “not a nation” (Romans 10:19), then Paul endeavors to do exactly the same thing.
Paul himself is a cherubim — he is an executor of God’s will which He has announced to his servants the prophets (Amos 3:7) — and Paul certainly is a prophet. Paul actively seeks the fulfillment of God’s word in his own ministry. In this way, Paul is implicitly telling us that by being an apostle of nations, he is tacitly being an apostle to Israel as well — because the fulfillment of Israel through the nations may provoke Israel to jealousy.
Now Paul tells us that jealousy may “save some of them.” Not all of them, but just some of them — and not definitely, but he may move his own people to jealousy. We should not consider anything Paul is saying as some kind of universal reconciliation for Israel which discards everything Paul has argued so far.
He says that their rejection proved the reconciliation of the world — which as we have covered, refers to the magnification of his own ministry — the fulfillment of Israel by the bringing in of the nations. Israel’s rejection proved to be the reconciliation of the world — not Israel specifically.
Then if some Israelites are provoked to jealousy and they are saved, then their own acceptance — through a personal faith in the Lord Jesus and adherence to the Spirit of the Law — will be “life from the dead” for those some specifically.
THE OLIVE BRANCH ANALOGY
Paul begins his analogy in Romans 11:16,
If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are as well.
According to Numbers 15:20–21, Israel were supposed to bring the first of their grain produce as an offering to God. As we can see in places like Haggai 2:12–13 or Mark 7:2, items ran the risk of becoming unclean if it touched something unclean. If the initial grain was holy, then the bread — or lump of dough — made from that grain will be holy as well. Herein Paul tells us that nothing unclean may enter the dough, or it will become unholy.
In the same way, if the root of a tree is holy, then all of its branches must be holy as well. In Paul’s analogy, there can be no room for anything which is unholy to be a part of that which is holy. The word translated as “saints” in most Bibles — like “beloved of God in Rome, called as saints” (Romans 1:7) — literally comes from the Greek word for “holy” (Strong’s G40) — that is, “saints” actually means “holy ones.”
Paul also said that “the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (Romans 7:12) — and that “the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4) Paul is telling us that everyone who is a part of the lump — or the root — must be holy by actually fulfilling the holy Law.
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree
In other words — as Paul has explained in detail so far in his epistle to the Romans — the Israelites were “broken off” — they were cut off from being Israelites. They grew as natural branches on the tree, but through their unholiness they had to be removed. We see the same lesson in Matthew 7:19, Luke 3:8–9 and John 15:5–6 — and as we have covered in depth, it has everything to do with their faith and their actions — just like what Paul has taken great pains to argue in detail in the chapters of Romans leading up to this point.
So Israel were broken off — while the nations — being a wild olive — that is, not a natural part of the root — were grafted in among them to partake of the holy root of the olive tree — which is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ as He says in John 15:1-3,
1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.
The Lord says that his apostles were clean because of the word which He had spoken — not because they were somehow born holy according to the flesh. In the same way, the wild olive may be grafted in if it receives the word of the Lord Jesus and is made clean — and holy — therein. As we have already covered, Paul has made this same argument leading up to this point — the nations may become slaves to righteousness and dead to sin — partaking in the promises to Abraham’s through faith in the Lord Jesus.
do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.
As the Lord Jesus said, “salvation is from the Judeans.” (John 4:22) He also tells us He is “the root and the descendant of David.” (Revelation 22:16). In that way, the Lord is both the root and a branch, just as Isaiah 11:1 says, “a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch from his roots will bear fruit” — and Jeremiah 23:5, “I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king” — and Zechariah 6:12, “a Man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the Lord.”
Paul is telling the nations that if they are arrogant toward the natural branches — toward Israelites according to the flesh who have not been cut off — “from whom is the Christ according to the flesh” (Romans 9:5) — then that is tantamount to arrogance toward the Lord Jesus who is Himself a natural branch who was not cut off — and also the root.
You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”
Again, Paul confirms for us that branches were broken off specifically so that others might be grafted in. They were broken off not because they were the wrong kind of branch — not because they were not of pure Adamic or Israelite stock as some wrongly contend — but because of their unbelief. Paul already told us that “Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith” (Romans 8:31–32).
Romans 11:20-21, Paul admonishes those grafted in from the nations:
20 Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; 21 for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.
If the nations who were grafted in wanted to remain in the root, they had to stand by their faith. They were grafted in because of faith — and they were going to remain only by that same faith. If they did not remain in faith — and God removed the natural branches because of their unbelief — then it stands to reason that God would just as well remove the nations for the same reasons.
Wild branches should never be arrogant toward the natural branches because Israel has not been completely replaced. Israel still shares in the root — and Israel was “entrusted with the actual words of God.” (Romans 3:2) The Lord Jesus chose Israelites like Paul and the rest of the apostles to bring the gospel to the Genesis 10 nations. The Lord gave Israel a truly eminent position in the building of His body — despite the fact that there is no distinction between Israelites and non-Israelites within the body itself — they all come from the same, original Adamic root (Genesis 5:1).
1 Peter 1:10-12 says,
10 As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.
Peter tells his Genesis 10 nations audience that even the ancient prophets were serving them, along with those who preached the gospel to them — all of whom were Israelites.
22 See then the kindness and severity of God: to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; for otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?
Here Paul confirms once again that the failure of some Israelites could never bring about their own benefit because God showed severity to those who fell — and they would never, ever be grafted in again unless they did not continue in their unbelief. However, if they were broken off and may be grafted in again, then we have confirmation in the clearest terms that the analogy of the olive tree — which is comprised only of Adamic people — has nothing to do “race” — but it has everything to do with faith.
Yet Paul warns the nations that they should never be arrogant toward the natural branches because God can graft them in again. As such, everyone should always show a disposition of kindness and forgiveness toward others — whether they have been broken off or not — because if we truly love another as ourselves, then we should earnestly desire for them to be grafted in.
In the same way, by his ministry, Paul desired the wild branches to be grafted in — and by jealousy, he wanted the natural branches to want to be grafted in again through faith in Christ. Whether we are wild branches or natural branches, we should desire for all Adamic branches to be grafted in.
When we overlay the analogy of the Adamic olive branches with the rest of what Paul has argued in Romans — and with the rest of the Scriptures — then there really can be no doubt about what Paul is actually telling us — and what he is not telling us. Paul was very careful to tell us — in no uncertain terms — what it is that we should believe.
Israelites were broken off because of unbelief and they were replaced by the nations who believed. Israel’s failure was a benefit to the nations — not themselves. If any Adamic continues in belief, they will be grafted in, but if any Adamic is found to be unbelieving, they will be cut off. In this way, faith is really synonymous with righteousness because all of the Adamic branches must be holy. In the same way, Paul tells us in Galatians 5:5-6,
5 For we, through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.
As such, in the matter of faith in the Lord Jesus and the temple of His body, “There is neither Judean nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for [we] are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) All Adamics come to be a part of Israel in the same way — through Christ Jesus.
ALL ISRAEL WILL BE SAVED
For I do not want you, brothers and sisters, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the nations has come in;
In this passage, many are tempted to infer that given a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the nations has come in — that the partial hardening will end when the fullness of the nations has come in — and Israel — in its entirety — will somehow be grafted back into the tree.
Paul certainly does tell us that a partial hardening will come upon Israel until something — and that something will happen after that hardening, but at no point does Paul tell us that the hardened Israelites will all become unhardened suddenly — such as at the return of Christ as many would like to contend. We should note that Paul does not at any point actually state in plain words that Israel will suddenly be unhardened — or give any inkling whatsoever from his arguments that we should infer such a scenario from his words.
If Paul was telling us that Israel would become unhardened suddenly, it would be a non sequitur.
Paul tells us that the partial hardening will happen until such time as the fullness of the nations has come in. It logically follows that this would be the case because it was the partial hardening on Israel which allowed the nations to join Israel in the first place — therefore, the partial hardening would have to continue until that time.
Paul wasn’t telling us the partial hardening would continue until a certain time because the hardening was going to end — rather, he worded it that way because the hardening necessarily had to continue until that time. Recall that Paul said in Romans 11:12,
Now if their wrongdoing proves to be riches for the world, and their failure, riches for the nations, how much more will their fulfillment be!
When Paul says “fulfillment” here in verse 12, he uses exactly the same word in the same grammar as “fullness” in verse 25. In other words, their fulfillment is the fullness of the nations. The nations fulfill Israel — therefore, Paul magnifies his ministry by fulfilling Israel in his apostleship to the nations. In that way, Israel’s fulfillment is something which the Israelites “who were chosen” (Romans 11:6) must actually do and partake in.
Revelation tells us that a woman — who is Israel — gave birth to the Lord Jesus, the righteous Branch of Israel — “who is going to rule all the nations.” (Revelation 12:5) Later, she has children — or seed — “who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” (Revelation 5:17) This is exactly what Paul is telling us in Romans 11v– the bringing in of the fullness of the nations by chosen Israelites is like a woman with her children. Isaiah 49:18-21 says of Israel portrayed as a woman,
18 “Raise your eyes and look around; All of them gather together, they come to you. As I live,” declares the Lord, “You will certainly put them all on as jewelry and bind them on as a bride. 19 For your ruins and deserted places and your destroyed land— Now you will certainly be too cramped for the inhabitants, And those who swallowed you will be far away. 20 The children you lost will yet say in your ears, ‘The place is too cramped for me; Make room for me that I may live here.’ 21 Then you will say in your heart, ‘Who has fathered these for me, Since I have been bereaved of my children and cannot conceive, and I am an exile, and a wanderer? And who has raised these? Behold, I was left alone; Where are these from?’”
Since the destruction of the temple in 70AD, the woman — the chosen Israelites — has been a wanderer and an exile (Isaiah 49:21) on the earth. The Revelation tells us that Satan — a great red dragon — persecuted the woman, that she had to receive wings and be taken into the wilderness — flying to the farthest reaches of our physical world to get away. Luke 21:24 tells us that Israel “will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the nations until the times of the nations are fulfilled.”
Yes, this is what history teaches us of the true faithful among the white, Adamic peoples.
As such — through her dire circumstances — the natural, Israelite children she has lost (Isaiah 49:20) are gone forever and she is unable to conceive and have any more — when suddenly she has children that she does not even know where they come from saying, “Where are these from?” (Isaiah 49:21). Isaiah 49:22-23 continues,
22….Behold, I will lift up My hand to the nations and set up My flag to the peoples; and they will bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters will be carried on their shoulders. 23 Kings will be your guardians, and their princesses your nurses. They will bow down to you with their faces to the ground and lick the dust from your feet; and you will know that I am the Lord; those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame.
Yes, the woman receives her children from the nations — and her children are the fullness of the nations. The woman has survived for almost two thousand years because Israel are guaranteed to always have a remnant of chosen and faithful believers (Romans 11:5). That’s what it means to be “entrusted with the actual words of God.” (Romans 3:2) Paul, the Israelite according to the flesh, proved this principle by his arguments in Romans 11 — and he proved it by his very own actions and ministry.
Revelation 7 — which refers to the same events — tells us that the woman would constitute 144,000 Israelites (Revelation 7:4) — who are the remnant of Israel that would be saved eternally (Isaiah 10:22, Romans 9:27) — and her children would be “a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all the tribes, peoples, and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands” (Revelation 7:9).
They are “clothed in white robes” because they “keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” (Revelation 12:17) Again, they are Israel’s fulfillment and the riches of the nations in Romans 11:12 — they are in the holy lump and the wild but holy branches in Romans 11:16 — and they are the “fullness of the nations” in Romans 11:25.
But there’s no room here for a sudden unhardening of Israel — nor also any kind of “all Israel according to the flesh will be saved” doctrine.
26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written: “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.” 27 “This is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”
Paul qualifies “all Israel” with prophecy showing that “Israel” will have ungodliness removed and they will have their sins taken away. This falls exactly in line with the fact that we must die to sin and become slaves to righteousness. The lump must be holy and the branches must be holy — and that one’s righteousness comes through personal faith in the Lord Jesus. “All Israel” could never include natural branches who have no belief.
Paul already told is in the clearest terms, “it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.” (Romans 9:8)
Moreover, “all Israel” will not be saved until the fullness of the nations has come in — because “all Israel” includes the fullness of the nations. If it didn’t include the fullness of the nations, it wouldn’t be “all Israel” yet.
Revelation 21 describes the “bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:9) firstly, with a city of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel (Revelation 7:4, Revelation 21:12) that had a wall measured by 144 cubits (Revelation 7:4, Revelation 21:17). Then it says “the nations will walk by its light” (Revelation 7:9, Revelation 21:24) and “they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it” (Revelations 7:9, Revelation 21:26).
Revelation 21:24 is quoting Isaiah 60:3, where it says in Isaiah 60:3-4,
3 Nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising. 4 “Raise your eyes all around and see; They all gather together, they come to you. Your sons will come from afar, And your daughters will be carried on the hip.
Therefore, again, even the Revelation 21 prophecy concerning the nations place in Israel makes very clear they are Israel’s children. Moreover, just because there are only twelve gates for the twelve sons of Israel in the city doesn’t constitute any kind of prima facie evidence that only Israelites will be saved — because those very gates will always be open (Revelation 21:25) and the nations will bring their glory into the city through those gates (Revelation 21:24,26).
This proves the exact opposite of “only all Israel according to the flesh will be saved.” It gives us clear insight into the truth and glory of a situation which we cannot yet comprehend — and that is, the glory of the nations will not enter the city of paradise (Revelation 2:7), the tree of life (Revelation 2:7) and the water of life (Revelation 22:1) — to obtain the glory of God for all His children (Romans 8:21, Revelation 21:11) — except that they enter through the twelve tribes of Israel (Revelation 21:12,25) — and by the authority of the Lord Jesus’ twelve apostles (Revelation 21:14). After all, Isaiah 2:2-3 says,
2 Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it. 3 And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let’s go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; so that He may teach us about His ways, and that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go out from Zion And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
Zechariah 8:20-23 tells us,
20 “The Lord of armies says this: ‘It will yet turn out that peoples will come, that is, the inhabitants of many cities. 21 The inhabitants of one city will go to another, saying, “Let’s go at once to plead for the favor of the Lord, and to seek the Lord of armies; I also will go.” 22 So many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek the Lord of armies in Jerusalem, and to plead for the favor of the Lord.’ 23 The Lord of armies says this: ‘In those days ten people from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Judean, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”’”
And so successful is Israel’s teaching, that “nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:27) In other words, the lump and the branches will be holy through a practicing of righteousness by faith in the Lord Jesus which Israel must teach.
There’s just no way in all of this that “all Israel” could mean only “all Israelites according to the flesh.” What it really means is firstly:
- The “remnant according to God’s gracious choice” (Romans 11:5) who are the chosen Israelites (Romans 11:7)
- The remnant of Israel according to the flesh (Isaiah 10:22)
- The 144,000 (Revelation 7:4)
- The bereaved woman (Isaiah 49:21, Revelation 12:1).
- The city of the twelve sons of Israel (Revelation 21:12) measured with a wall of 144 cubits (Revelation 21:17)
- The riches of the nations and the fulfillment of Israel (Romans 11:12)
- The “fullness of the nations” (Romans 11:25)
- The “great multitude which no one could count, from every nation” (Revelation 7:9)
- The bereaved woman’s unexpected children (Isaiah 49:21, Revelation 12:17)
- The nations who walk by the city’s light (Revelation 21:24) and bring their glory into it (Revelation 21:26)
THE GIFTS AND THE CALLING OF GOD ARE IRREVOCABLE
28 In relation to the gospel they are enemies on your account, but in relation to God’s choice they are beloved on account of the fathers; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
Now we’ve heard many Christians say, “Ah-hah! See, ‘In relation to the gospel they are enemies.’ That settles it, Israel are the enemies of the gospel.” Unfortunately, modern Jews — who are not even Israelites — are so obviously odious to any believer in the Lord Jesus — given that denying Him is a fundamental part of their identity — that they find all manner of ways to somehow remove Israel from the New Covenant.
It escapes their notice that Paul was an Israelite according to the flesh who has preached the gospel more than any non-Israelite. However, in a way, we can understand and sympathize with the desire to find Scriptural justification to deny the Jews. Indeed, there is Scriptural justification to deny modern Jews — but there is no Scriptural justification to deny the chosen Israelites according to the flesh.
Paul tells the nations they — Israel — are enemies on their account — meaning, for their benefit. Paul already told us that “by [Israel’s] wrongdoing salvation has come to the nations” (Romans 11:11). He said that Israelite branches were broken off so that the Genesis 10 nations might be grafted in (Romans 11:19).
But he also said, “do not be arrogant toward the branches” (Romans 11:18) — and, “Do not be conceited, but fear” (Romans 11:20). How could we possibly then take Paul’s words in Romans 11:28 to mean that Israel are some kind of eternal enemies of the gospel? Furthermore, Paul said that “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God” (Romans 5:10) — that is, everyone has been an enemy at some point in time in their lives. It just so happens that Israel’s status as enemies ended up being for the Genesis 10 nation’s benefit.
Israel are the only nation who were guaranteed to have a remnant (Isaiah 10:22) — whereas the Genesis 10 nations were guaranteed to have only a remnant if — and only if — they joined Israel (Obadiah 1:17). In this way, “in relation to God’s choice [Israel] are beloved on account of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:28–29) God’s promises to Israel will not fail — and we should not for a second think that they might.
Then in relation to this matter, Paul says exactly the same in plain words what we have explained above in Romans 11:30-32,
30 For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. 32 For God has shut up all in disobedience, so that He may show mercy to all.
Paul summarizes the relationship between Israel and the Genesis 10 nations. The nations received mercy because of Israel’s wrongdoing. Israel received mercy because the nations received mercy. Everyone was disobedient and God showed mercy to all — as Paul said in Romans 10:11-13,
11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Judean and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Now we have seen it argued given that God “may show mercy to all,” then He definitely will show mercy to all in the most unqualified manner. That’s not what Paul has argued at any point in the book of Romans — and no one in the entirety of the Scripture makes that argument. In fact, Paul says the exact opposite in Romans 9:14-18,
14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? Far from it! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I have mercy, and I will show compassion to whomever I show compassion.” 16 So then, it does not depend on the person who wants it nor the one who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very reason I raised you up, in order to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the earth.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.
Therefore, God certainly will have mercy on some, He will harden others and we could never conclude that “all” in Romans 11:32 comes without qualification — because Pharaoh and Esau were definitely hardened according to God’s choice in Paul’s Romans 9 argument. The same can be said of many Israelites in the Scripture.
Moreover, the passage says that God may show mercy to all — written in the subjunctive mood in the Greek — denoting the expression of a desire which may be realized but is not ensured. This perfectly lines up with Paul’s argument and the rest of the Scripture.
With this conclusion, Paul has theologically and rhetorically resolved a tense situation between the Israelites and non-Israelites in the Roman community. Each of them needs to stand by their faith (Romans 11:20), else they demonstrate God’s hardening on themselves just like Paul said, “God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; for otherwise you too will be cut off.” (Romans 11:22) Paul says something similar to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 13:5,
Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you are unapproved?
For us mortals who cannot see clearly who are the chosen — the children of the promise — when we demonstrate unholiness in our lives we merely demonstrate we have been hardened into disapproval. Especially as it relates to love, as 1 John 2:9 says,
The one who says that he is in the Light and yet hates his brother or sister is in the darkness until now.
From Romans 12 and onward — after having lain the theological framework — Paul goes on to provide more practical and specific exhortation for how the Roman Christian community should live with one another — which applies to all of us to this day. After completing this article, we’d recommend a full reading of Romans from start to finish.
But before moving on to Romans 12, Paul concludes his argument with a beautiful flourish and a kind of ode to the infinite and invisible God of reality and beyond — Romans 11:33-36,
33 Oh, the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? 35 Or who has first given to Him, that it would be paid back to him? 36 For from Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.