Romans - Lesson 46

Romans 11:25-32

Lesson 46
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Romans 11:25-32

IV. The Defense of the Gospel: the Problem of Israel (9:1–11:36)

A. Introduction: The Tension Between God's Promises and Israel's Plight (9:1-5)

B. Defining the Promise (1): God's Sovereign Election (9:6-29)

C. Understanding Israel's Plight: Christ as the Climax of Salvation History (9:30-10:21)

1. Israel, the Gentiles, and the Righteousness of God (9:30-10:13)

a. The Righteousness of God and the "Law of Righteousness" (9:30-33)

b. The Righteousness of God and "Their Own Righteousness" (10:1-4)

c. Gospel and Law (10:5-13)

2. Israel's Accountability (10:14-21)

D. Summary: Israel, the "Elect," and the "Hardened" (11:1-10)

E. Defining the Promise (2): The Future of Israel (11:11-32)

1. God's Purpose in Israel's Rejection (11:11-15)

2. The Interrelationship of Jews and Gentiles: A Warning to Gentile Believers (11:16-24)

3. The Salvation of "All Israel" (11:25-32)

F. Conclusion: Praise to God in Light of His Awesome Plan (11:33-36)

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Class Resources

Dr. Douglas Moo, from Wheaton College Graduate School, offers an exegetical examination of the book of Romans. This course was recorded during a D.Min. seminar at the Carolina Graduate School of Divinity in May 2012.

Please note that the audio mp3 file numbers on downloaded files are two greater than each lecture number beginning with number 15.

This transcript follows the main points of the speaker but is not always word-for-word.

Romans 11:25-32

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.


A. Post Holocaust Hermeneutics:  It is clear that verses 25-26 is the climax of the chapter now. Paul turns to them and says that he doesn’t want them to be ignorant of this mystery. When Paul uses this word, he usually refers to something that was hidden in the Old Testament but now revealed in the New Testament. He is worried about this arrogance because he says this so that they may not be conceited. Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. We see a reflection of this sequence one more time. He goes on to say that in this way, all Israel will be saved. The question is which of these moments does this language refer to? One way of viewing this is to see it as referring to the entire process, but another way of understanding, it is seeing it to refer to this particular stage in the process. So, all of Israel will be saved. There are those who say that this is a verse promising that the people of Israel will be saved by their own covenant, apart from Christ. In academic theology, there is this idea of post holocaust hermeneutics, which says in light of the holocaust of World War II, we need to rethink the way we are interpreting Scripture with respect to the people of Israel. We need to remove any possible anti-Semitism from our interpretation. So, one thing that we should do in light of that is to recognize Israel’s valid relationship with God through her own covenant. Sometimes this is called bi-covenantialism because of the idea that God has established two distinct salvation covenants; one with the people of Israel who are saved by their covenant which is focused on the Torah and another covenant that is focused on Christ and is for the Gentiles. I mention this because it has become a popular view in some circles, appealing to our era of tolerance and pluralism. But this is plainly not what Paul is teaching here. Paul doesn’t specific say that all of Israel will be saved by believing in Jesus, but he defines salvation clearly enough that it is implied here. The salvation that God now offers people is for everyone, Jew and Gentile which goes back to 1:16. God righteousness is tied to Christ; it is in Christ and faith in him. We just need to be aware of this as we may hear it at some point, but it needs to be rejected.


B. Who Is Included and When: More interested is the question of who and when. All Israel will be saved; does that mean that all Jews and Gentiles who are elected by God will be saved throughout history? Does it mean that all elect Jews will be saved throughout history? Or is it referring to an end time salvation of a large number of Jews? These are the points we have to consider. Good evangelical interpreters hold each of these views. It is one of those matters where we can’t be certain about as to what Paul intends here. For me, it is likely that the reference is to the third view but I have struggled with this point. The evidence is just isn’t clear as I would like it to be. There is also a question of Israel and the church. The first view takes the reference to Israel as referring to the entire church. Calvin, Luther and many of the reformers along with Tom Wright argue that view. That assumes that the word Israel can be applied to Gentile Christians. Personally, I think he does do that in Galatians 6:16 where Paul talks about the Israel of God. I think that is a way of saying the whole people of God who are called Israel that the church inherits in the new covenant age. The first view is the one that has been maintained by traditional dispensationalism where that particular movement and way of reading Scripture clearly distinguishes always between Israel and the church. Traditional covenant theology tends to move more toward the second way of reading Israel and virtually equate the two. My former colleague Greg Beal for instance argues this very strongly. The third view, a kind of mediating one, saying sometimes Israel does refer to national people of God, the Jews. Sometimes, Paul uses it in the theological sense and I am more in that third camp. For me, it is possible that Israel in verse 26 might include the Gentiles. I can’t rule that out, but in this context where Paul in verse 25 distinguishes between Gentiles and Israel. So, it is very unlikely that verse 26 suddenly shifts to another meaning of the word.


The word at the beginning of the verse probably should be translated ‘in this way.’ People who hold each of these views are happy in arguing that. Some who hold the third view want to translate it as then, in other words, to make it a clear sequence. This is possible but it is not the normal meaning to the world. So if you translate it then, you have the sequence of Israel experiencing a hardening until the full number of Gentiles comes in and then once that happens, all Israel is saved. This makes a neat sequence where the salvation of Israel is yet future. In my view, I tend to agree with people like Greg Beal who think that the promises made to Israel is now being fulfilled in the church. However, I do see in Romans 11 a place where Paul says that God still has a future for some of the people of Israel that he is going to save a significant number of them at the end. The deliverer that will come from Zion will be Christ who comes at the end of history. So, at the end of history when Christ returns again, God in his grace is going to reach out and save a significant number of Jewish people demonstrating his faithfulness to his promises to them. What the problem is, when and what is the sequence of the events that are to happen. Some say that it will be the appearance of Christ that is going to cause the salvation of the Jews. It may not precede the coming of Christ’s glory. We are just not sure of what that sequence is. You need to understand that the phrase, ‘all Israel’ is used quite widely in a sense of a representative and significant number of some sort. It is certainly not promising salvation to every Jew or every Jew that is alive when Christ returns. Paul is saying that in contrast to the small number we see now; there will be a greater number coming in at the end. There are long discussions by Jews as to what it means to be Jewish. The State of Israel has had to set up very strict qualification in terms of what this means.


C. On What Basis are People Elected: I think that we all agree that people are elected; the question is on what basis. And regards to the word ‘all’, there no neat mathematical formula for this word; sometimes it doesn’t just mean all but other things. Sometimes it includes all of the group that I’m talking about but not all unrestricted. Sometimes it just means the majority of people. You need to look at every text and Scripture and consider each one separately. In verse 32 we have this and we ask what does ‘all’ mean. Do you see how this is setting up Romans 14-15? This whole theology about Israel and the Gentiles; Paul is telling them to stop fighting with each other. You Jews need to recognize that the Gentiles are part of the picture because God is bringing them in and you Gentiles need to stop being prideful and arrogant. You need to stop looking down at the Jews as if God has given up on them. It is a little difficult to know whether Paul is talking about not boasting over the natural branches. Is he talking about Jewish Christians or Jews? It is probably a little of both.


D. The Mystery of Salvation History: I want to talk about this mystery finally as we look at this text of which I think is a sort of an Old Testament issue. If we are doing our work carefully, we come to Paul’s quotation in verse 26; the deliverer will come from Zion and will turn Godliness away from Jacob. What does Isaiah 59:20-21 say? This is what Paul is quoting here. The redeemer will come to Zion and Paul says that deliverer will come from Zion. The Hebrew of Isaiah 59:20 can either mean to come to or come for the sake of. It can’t mean from and yet that is how Paul quotes it here. What we find Paul doing here in the New Testament, a use of the Old Testament is a quotation of the Old Testament in light of the fulfillment in Christ. Paul has changed the ‘to’ with the ‘from’ and the question is why? In Isaiah, you have this kind of typical sequence that the prophets talk a lot about. Isaiah talks about Israel’s sin at the beginning of the chapter and then says how God is going to intervene. He is going to judge Israel’s enemies and he is going to gather together the exiles and the deliverer will come to Zion. God will manifest himself for his people. He will come to Zion to deliver the people and judge God’s enemies. Yet Paul says that the deliverer is coming from Zion and I think what that means, Paul is reflecting on what that means in light of the coming of Christ. In the Old Testament, you have a fairly common sequence; God will deliver Israel. He will rescue the people from their enemies and will exalt Jerusalem and make the land fruitful again. This will be something that will bring Gentiles in; they will then join in with Jews in a restored Zion. This is a typically familiar theme in Isaiah. Paul, now looking at what God has done in salvation history, sort of reverses that theme. Gentiles have already come into Zion as he suggested in 9:33. I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble, a rock that makes them fall and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.


Paul quotes this later on in chapter 10. There is this puzzling turn that salvation history has taken that Paul continues to comment on. In fact, Gentiles are coming in first and making Jews jealous whereas people would have thought that God was going to deal with the Jews first and make the Gentiles jealous. So, there has been a reversal which leads Paul to change the wording of this verse. Gentiles has come into Zion but Israel is still in sort of in exile because they have not responded to the grace of God in the Gospel. So, the deliverance of Israel will come from Zion since God has already restored Zion by bringing the Gentiles in.