All Israel Shall Be Saved
Concluded In Unbelief

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 56c of 83


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. 26  And so all Israel shall be saved…” (Romans 11:25-32).

[We have seen thus far that what the apostle Paul mean in this text is simply that the blindness of Israel is part of God’s strategy to save all His elect, i.e. “All Israel”, which includes both elect Jews and Gentiles. In this concluding instalment, we shall see Paul’s further argument which confirms the wisdom of God in this plan. -JJL]


3.  Concluded in Unbelief

Paul says:

 30 For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:  31 Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.  32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

What is Paul saying?

Simply this: God would have all his elect (whether Jews or Gentiles) know that salvation is entirely by His grace and mercy. This is very clear for the Gentiles, since they know that they are sinners deserving God’s wrath.

But what about the Jews? Well, it is not so clear cut for the Jews, for many of them grew up thinking that they are Abraham’s children’s and therefore would be saved. Remember how they argued with the Lord that they are Abraham’s children, whereas the Lord tells them that they are the children of the devil?

Well, in order to make it very clear to the Jews that they are saved not by works, but by His grace and mercy, God concluded or bound them all in unbelief. He cut them off from the Olive Tree. And then through the ministry of the Gentiles, He grafts back His elect, one by one!

Can you see the wisdom of God in what He is doing?

Had it not been so, there would surely be much uncertainty as to who is saved and how they are saved. But now it is very clear. All who are saved must come by way of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Can you see God’s marvellous plan?

He cast away the nation of Israel to punish them for their idolatry. But He did so also so that the apostles would be thrusted out into the world to call in His elect Gentiles.

He grafted in the Gentiles to provoke the ethnic Jews to anger and jealousy as part of their punishment. But He also did so in order that His elect Jews might be brought in to the Olive Tree again in a way that is unmistakably by God’s mercy and grace, that no one can boast!

Praise God for His wonderful plan! Can you see now why the apostle Paul breaks into doxology immediately?

“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” (Rom 11:33).

Conclusion

We will look at the doxology in our next study; but for now, we have come to the end of the apostle Paul’s inspired instruction with regard to God’s plan for the nation of Israel and for all Israel, —the Israel of God.

I trust that you can see how the apostle Paul is not teaching in this chapter that God will one day deal distinctly with Israel as a nation again.

By why do we spend so much time and energy to correct the error? Does it make a difference to us at all whether God would deal distinctly with Israel as a nation again? Does it matter that we understand that God has not cast away Israel completely rather than permanently?

Well, let me, as we conclude highlight five reasons why it is important to understand the chapter correctly.

First, we must remember that we dealing with God’s Word. God’s Word sanctifies us in that it is true. The Lord Jesus in His high priestly prayer pleaded with His Father: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (Jn 17:17). Therefore, unless we deal with the Word accurately that we know the truth, we will never grow. This is the first reason why we must understand what Paul is teaching us accurately.

Secondly, we must realise that a wrong interpretation of Romans 11 has contributed to a false distinction between Israel and the Church.

Now, we are not saying that the nation of Israel and the Church is the same; nor are we saying that the Church has replace Israel.

If you understand Paul correctly, you will see that the nation of Israel was essentially the Church in the Old Testament and that the Israel of God today is largely Gentile.

When you understand this, you will see that much of the Old Testament prophecies about Israel has been fulfilled or are being fulfilled in the Church.

Thus, for example, you will see that the prophecies about the regathering of Israel from the four corners of the world find their full fulfilment not in May 14, 1948 when the godless and anti-biblical, nation of Israel was re-constituted. No, no; it was fulfilled and is being fulfilled in the gathering of the Gentiles into the Church.

Thirdly, and closely related to the second point is the fact that a false interpretation of Romans 11 and of prophecies regarding Israel have led to political decision surrounding Palestine and the Middle East that have added to the chaos around the world.

Let me put it this way, while we may be more sympathetic to the Jews than their Arab neighbours who are seeking their extermination, the re-constitution of Israel as a nation is not in fulfilment of biblical prophecy. It is due to politicians thinking that the nation of Israel is still God’s people, and that the land of Israel is Holy Land. But think for a moment: Is it more conducive for Jewish elect to be converted to Christ while dispersed in the world, or in the modern state of Israel with all its oppressive laws against Christianity?

Fourthly, let us realise that a false interpretation of Romans 11 would lead to a low view of God’s grace toward the Gentiles. God’s love for His people is without distinction. He does not love the Jews more than the Gentiles. But a wrong interpretation of Romans 11 has contributed to the idea that there will be a Jewish Millennium and the Jews will be government officers while the Gentiles would be cooks and road-sweepers. Some think that since we deserve nothing from God’s hand, we should humbly thank God for these positions rather than to burn in hell. Well, if it is true that in God’s appointment we are to be second-class citizens, then blessed be the LORD. We must take what He gives us with gratitude. But the fact is that this second-class citizenship idea is based on a false interpretation of Scripture. As such, to believe it is to dishonour God.

Finally, do you see how a proper interpretation of Romans 11 displays the wisdom and understanding of God in a way that the false interpretation cannot. Only the right interpretation of Romans 11 shows us the reasons why God cut off the nation of Israel.

  • He cast away the nation of Israel to punish them for their apostasy.
  • But He did so also so that the apostles would be thrusted out into the world to call in His elect Gentiles.
  • He grafted in the Gentiles to provoke the ethnic Jews to anger and jealousy as part of their punishment.
  • But He also did so in order that His elect Jews might be brought in to the Olive Tree again in a way that is unmistakably by God’s mercy and grace, that no one can boast!

Can you now see why it is important for us to have a right view of Romans 11?

But let us take heed not to think of these things theoretically.

The chief reason why God cast away the nation of Israel only to regraft the elect Jews, is so that they may learn with the Gentiles that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Those of us who grew up in covenant homes grew up in exactly the same situation as the children of Israel. You are Christian because you grew on the Olive Tree. But you must remember that you will not get to heaven on the basis of your parent’s faith. You must be personally united to Christ. You must be a true Christian.

A true Christian believes in Christ. You must believe! You must repent of your sin and walk in the way of the Lord. If you become lazy and careless and unbelieving, you would be of all men most miserable, for you have such great privileges, but you would be cut off from the Tree.

If that is the only way for you to know that you can be saved only by grace and mercy and not by works or relationship, God will cut you off! O Olive Shoot, do not wait to be cut off: for if you are cut off, there is a strong possibility that you will be lost forever.

Oh repent of your sin and walk in ways of the Lord Jesus for He loves you and laid down His life for you. Amen.

—JJ Lim