The Conversion Of The Jews
Their Fulness

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 53c of 83


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.…” (Romans 11:11-16).

[We are in a chapter of in Romans that is somewhat controversial. A majority of interpreters understand Paul to be suggesting that God has not permanently cast away Israel, and therefore he is expecting a massive conversion of the Jews in future. But as we saw, a careful study of the passage without prejudice and preconception indicates that Paul actually mean to say that God has not cast away Israel completely, and therefore he is expecting some of the Jews to be converted even in his own days.

In this third instalment of our exposition of our text, we will look at the last two verses and briefly confirm that this is indeed Paul’s expectation and desire . —JJL ]

3. Will any Ethnic Israelites 
be Converted?

Paul says in verse 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?

We have already looked at this verse. Paul is speaking about the blessing that would come upon the Church of Christ whenever the Jews are converted.

But Paul adds a rather difficult statement.

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

What does this mean? Well, Paul is using two metaphors. In the first metaphor, Paul is referring to the meal offering. Moses instructed the Jews: “Ye shall offer up a cake of the first of your dough for an heave offering” (Num 15:20). Wherever the people harvested, and made flour or dough, they must consecrate the first-fruit unto the Lord, and when that is done then the rest of the dough is considered holy.

The second metaphor has to do with a tree. A tree is organically one, so if the root is holy, then the branches are holy.

But now, the question is: What is Paul trying to convey with this metaphor?

Well, to put it very simply, the firstfruit and the root refer, no doubt, to the patriarchs. Is Paul then trying to show that even the unbelieving Jews are morally holy? No, he is merely seeking to show that there is a certain relationship between the unbelieving Jews and the Fathers of the Faith with whom God established His covenant.

What is this relationship? This relationship is that, —for the father’s sake, —there will always be a remnant according to the election of grace amongst the Jews (v. 28).

Will any ethnic Israelites be converted? The answer is obvious. There will definitely be, because the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

We must never think that the Jews have been completely cast away. And the Jews should never be condemned and persecuted by the Church. No, no; although the nation of Israel is under a curse for crucifying the Lord, we should never boast against them, much less persecute them. We should, rather, desire that good may come upon them. We must, therefore, pray for their salvation.

Conclusion

What do we say to these things? This is a difficult passage. It is difficult because there are a number of ambiguous words and sentences. It is difficult also because a popular thinking about the chapter has over-clouded most interpreters.

But I trust that you can see that the common interpretation that Paul was looking to the national conversion of the Jews is not tenable.

Paul, no doubt, desired that more of the Jews be converted. And we should have the same desire. But Paul does not expect a national conversion of the Jews. At least we don’t see it in the paragraph we have just considered.

Knowing these things, what shall we do? Let me suggest three simple lessons.

·       let us thank God for His mercy toward us. It is entirely by His sovereign will and providence that we have come to enjoy His blessing. We are no better than the Jews. Our fathers were idolaters for many millennia. And yet God showed us His mercy and made us his children. Let us therefore always be grateful to Him

·      Secondly, let us remember to pray for the salvation of the Jews. Remember Paul’s assertion that if God would do good to us in His rejection of the Jews, then how much more He will do good to us whenever He receives the Jews back into the Church.

·      Finally, let us remember that God’s ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isa 55:9). Who could imagine that the rejection of the nation of Israel could bring such glorious blessings to the world?


Does this not remind us that God is working all things together for the good of His elect children and for His own glory?

Shall we not therefore wait upon and hope in Him through every trial in our life and in our church. May the Lord glorify His own name through our lives! Amen.

—JJ Lim