Romans 11:11 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. 11:12 Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?
There was a remnant of Israel who was of faith, of whom, Paul was included. However, the vast majority of Israel did not bow to Christ as Jehovah Saves but were effectually bowing to the alter of self – seeking to be righteous in the sight of God by the works of their own hands. Paul says that God has not cast away His people, but has bestowed grace upon those of faith and has blinded the rest. Paul says that these who are blind, having stumbled, are not so in order to defeat them, but rather to use their stumbling to bring salvation to the Gentiles.
Recall that Israel’s chief advantage over the other nations, according to Paul in Romans 3, is to bear the oracles of God. It was given to Israel to bring the salvation of God to the world, which is the Oracle of God Himself, Jesus Christ. However, despite Israel’s stumbling, God still brought salvation to the Gentiles. Paul says that if the diminishing of them be the riches of the Gentiles, how much more would their fulness be? Remember that they were diminished in the sense that the vast majority of them were blinded. If, through the blinding of those who are not of faith, brings salvation to the world, can you imagine what the fulness of Israel (all of faith) would bring?
Romans 11:13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: 11:14 If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. 11:15 For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?
Paul says that he is speaking to the Gentiles so that they understand something. Paul magnifies the purpose he was given. Recall that in Acts 9, we see what Paul’s purpose was:
Acts 9:15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 9:16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.
Paul exalts his purpose, which included Jews and Gentiles alike. However, for a Jew, seeing a kinsman (Paul) bring Gentiles to understand who Christ is, would have stirred jealousy among them. This is just like Jonah, who seeing the salvation of the Gentiles in Nineveh, determined to live the rest of his life in bitterness. Jonah is a type of the Jew who is jealous over the Gentiles getting what they perceived was rightfully (and solely) theirs. But, Paul sees that this jealousy could work in their favor as he hopes that through this jealousy, it will bring these blinded Jews into seeing the truth of Christ. Christ declares in John 14:6 that He is the Life. In John 11:25, John writes, Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. If the casting away of them (the blinded Jews) result in the reconciliation of the world, then the reception of these blinded Jews (having turned to Faith), would be nothing more than a resurrection – life from the dead. This requires these blinded Jews to make the confession called for in Romans 10 – to call upon the NAME of the Lord – Jehovah Saves – to declare that Jesus Christ is exactly who He claimed to be – the Salvation of God.
In the meantime, what do these Gentiles get to enjoy along with the remnant of faith of Israel?
Romans 11:16 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. 11:17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; 11:18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. 11:19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. 11:20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: 11:21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. 11:22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. 11:23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. 11:24 For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?
You’ll not find a commentary out there that doesn’t make much of this section of scripture. I’ll not claim to have it fully understood, but I’ll simply describe some observations that are hopefully in line with the context.
The fatness of the olive tree is a reference to its abundance of its substance – olive oil. The fruit (produce) of the tree is the olive itself. It is an oily fruit, yet highly desired. Israel is likened unto an olive tree in Jeremiah and we see that there were branches broken off due to their Baal worship (as noted in the first few verses of Romans 11).
Jeremiah 11:15 What hath my beloved to do in mine house, seeing she hath wrought lewdness with many, and the holy flesh is passed from thee? when thou doest evil, then thou rejoicest. 11:16 The LORD called thy name, A green olive tree, fair, and of goodly fruit: with the noise of a great tumult he hath kindled fire upon it, and the branches of it are broken. 11:17 For the LORD of hosts, that planted thee, hath pronounced evil against thee, for the evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah, which they have done against themselves to provoke me to anger in offering incense unto Baal.
In the context of Romans 11, if Israel, as a whole, were to bring forth a fruit of abundance and it is associated with their opportunity to bear the oracles of God, then it would stand to reason (and should be no surprise) that this oily fruit of abundance is the very Salvation of God – Jesus Christ. Therefore, those of Israel who were not of faith were broken off so that the Gentiles of faith could be graft in, sharing in the same opportunity to produce the fruit of abundance to the world.
But, Paul gives a warning that unbelieving Israel was not broken off merely for the sake of being broken off, but were done so so that the Gentiles of faith could partake of the root and the fatness of the tree. Therefore, God is likewise able to break off any unbelieving Gentiles from this tree and graft unbelieving Israel back in again, should they believe. I think what we should note here is that this tree is not picturing one’s justification/righteousness before God. This is about nations being given the opportunity to bear Jesus Christ.
Romans 11:25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. 11:26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: 11:27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
Paul makes sure to conclude that God will indeed graft all of Israel back in again once the fulness of the Gentiles is complete. Blindness has happened in part to Israel – this is the part of Israel that were blinded, from verse 7.
Romans 11:7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded
How is Paul able to declare that this blindness will one day be resolved? Because out of Zion will the Deliverer come and turn ungodliness from Jacob (Israel). How so? Because this Deliverer will take away their sins.
Romans 11:28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. 11:29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. 11:30 For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: 11:31 Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. 11:32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.
Just as God offered mercy to the Gentiles through the unbelief of Israel, He likewise will use the mercy the Gentiles obtained to woo Israel back to belief/faith, and therefore His mercy. God concluded Israel in unbelief in order to have mercy upon all. Even though these of unbelief are enemies concerning the gospel, they are beloved of the Father. God’s gifts and callings (to bear His oracles) are without repentance, meaning, God is not going to change His mind about Israel’s purpose – hence why God would send the Deliverer to them.
This unfolds the masterful plan of God, where He uses what we would see as unfortunate (Israel’s unbelief) to bring mercy upon all.
Romans 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! 11:34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? 11:35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? 11:36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
Not only is there a national implication, shared with Jews and Gentiles, to bear His oracles, but there is also something special regarding individual Jews and Gentiles, where being in Christ is concerned. This will be the subject of Chapter 12.
Our story continues…