(from a manuscript of a sermon preached on 11/9/14 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
It’s good to be back to worship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let’s begin by reading the entire chapter of Romans 11:
Romans 11: (1) I say then, Did not God thrust away His people? Let it not be! For I also am an Israelite, out of Abraham’s seed, of [the] tribe of Benjamin. (2) God did not put away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture said in Elijah, how he pleaded with God against Israel, saying, (3) Lord, they killed Your prophets, and they dug down Your altars, and only I am left, and they seek my life. (4) But what does the Divine answer say to him, I reserved to Myself seven thousand men who did not bow [the] knee to Baal. (5) So then, also in the present time a remnant according to election of grace has come to be. (6) But if by grace, no longer [is it] of works; else grace no longer becomes grace. But if of works, it is no longer grace; else work is no longer work. (7) What then? What Israel seeks, this it did not obtain, but the election obtained [it], and the rest were hardened; (8) even as it is written, God gave to them a spirit of slumber, eyes not seeing and ears not hearing until today, [this] day. (9) And David said, Let their table become for a snare and a trap, and for a stumbling block, and a recompense to them; (10) let their eyes be darkened, not to see, and their back through all bent. (11) I say, then, Did not they stumble that they might fall? Let it not be! But by their deviation [came] salvation to the nations, to provoke them to jealousy. (12) But if their deviation [is the] riches of [the] world, and their default [the] riches of [the] nations, how much more their fulfilling? (13) For I speak to you, the nations, inasmuch as I am indeed an apostle of the nations (I glorify my ministry), (14) if [some]how I may provoke to jealousy my flesh, and may save some of them. (15) For if their casting away [is the] reconciliation of [the] world, what [is] the reception, except life from [the] dead? (16) Now if the firstfruit [is] holy, so also the lump. And if the root [is] holy, [so] also [are] the branches. (17) But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree were grafted in among them, and became a sharer of the root and the fatness of the olive tree, (18) do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, [it is] not you [that] bears the root, but the root bears you. (19) You will say then, The branches were broken off that I might be grafted in. (20) Well! For unbelief they were broken off. And you stand by faith. Do not [be] highminded, but fear. (21) For if God did not spare the according to nature branches, [fear] lest neither He will spare you. (22) Behold, therefore, [the] kindness and severity of God: On the [ones] having fallen, severity. But on you, kindness, if you continue in the kindness. Otherwise, you will also be cut off. (23) And those also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in. For God is able to graft them in again. (24) For if you were cut out of the according to nature wild olive [tree], and against nature were grafted into a cultivated olive [tree], how much more these, the [ones] according to nature, will be grafted into [their] own olive tree? (25) For I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be wise among yourselves, that hardness in part has happened to Israel until the fulfilling of the nations comes in; (26) and so all Israel will be saved, even as it has been written, The [One] delivering will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob. (27) And this [is] My covenant with them, when I take away their sins. (28) Indeed, as regards the gospel, [ones] hostile toward you, but as regards the election, beloved on account of the fathers. (29) For the free gifts and the calling of God [are] not to be repented of. (30) For as you then also disobeyed God, but now have obtained mercy by the disobedience of these, (31) so also these now have disobeyed, so that they also may obtain mercy by your mercy. (32) For God shut up all into disobedience, that He may show mercy to all. (33) O [the] depth of [the] riches and of [the] wisdom and [the] knowledge of God! How unsearchable [are] His judgments and His ways past finding out! (34) For who has known the mind of [the] Lord? Or who came to be His counselor? (35) Or who first gave to Him, and it will be repaid to him? (36) Because of Him, and through Him, and to Him [are] all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.
We first saw in this chapter that God did not reject ALL of Israel; there has always been a remnant. And that remnant is made up of those whom God foreknew and whom God elected according to grace. We also saw that since this election was by grace, it could not have been by works. They are mutually exclusive. ALL of salvation, from election to final glory, is totally, 100% by grace, and 0% by works. We then saw that what the lost Israelites sought, they did not obtain, which was righteousness. They were seeking to obtain righteousness by their own works. We saw that it was the ELECT, the REMNANT, who obtained righteousness in the only way that it can be obtained, which is by grace, through the work of Jesus Christ alone. The believing Gentiles were grafted into the covenant. When it says that “All Israel will be saved” in verse 26, it is talking about the children of the promise, which is spiritual Israel. The promise is that Jesus Christ - the Redeemer, the Deliverer, the Savior – will take away their sins.
We’re now on verse 28:
Romans 11: (28) Indeed, as regards the gospel, [ones] hostile toward you, but as regards the election, beloved on account of the fathers.
So who is the “you” here when it says, “hostile toward you”? Well, if we look at the “yous” prior to this verse, we will see who they are. Verse 17 says, “and you, being a wild olive tree.” Verse 19 says, “You will say then, The branches were broken of that I might be grafted in.” Verse 20 says, “And you stand by faith.” Verse 24 says, “For if you were cut out of the according to nature wild olive tree.” I didn’t go over all the “yous,” but you get the point. It is talking about the Gentile believers. So who are the ones hostile to the Gentile believers as regards the gospel? Again, in context, it is the branches that were broken off for unbelief and that were hardened. It’s talking about the unbelieving Jews. So Paul is saying here that the unbelieving Jews are hostile toward, are enemies of, the believing Gentiles when it comes to the gospel.
Now look at the second half of the verse. Regarding the gospel, these unbelieving Jews are enemies of the Gentiles, but regarding ELECTION, they are beloved on account of the fathers. Now what does this mean? Again, we have to look at the context. Remember when I talked about the ROOT in verse 16? It has to do with the initial sanctification of the nation of Israel, whereby God chose Israel to be His people. The promise was made to the patriarchs, and this promise was a gospel promise of salvation conditioned on the work of Christ alone. So even though the unbelieving Jews are currently the enemies of the believing Gentiles, they did not stumble that they might fall completely, as we saw in verse 11. God did not fully, finally put away His people whom He foreknew, as we saw in verse 2. God has not rejected all the Jews. There is still hope of salvation for the Jews. Our current verse shows that there are some unbelieving Jews who are beloved, who are among the elect.
This gets into the concept of “elect” versus “regenerate” or “elect” versus “saved” or “elect” versus “believers.” Now since the “regenerate,” the “saved,” and the “believers” are all the same people, I’ll just talk about “elect” versus “regenerate,” okay? We’ve run into some people who equate “elect” and “regenerate.” They use the terms interchangeably. And they’re the ones who also many times use the terms “reprobate” and “unregenerate” interchangeably. I want to point out how these are errors. Let’s first look at the truth that we’ve seen in verse 28. In the first half of the verse, Paul talks about some people who are currently HOSTILE toward believers regarding the gospel, so they must be UNREGENERATE. (I’m not going to get into the “regenerate unbelievers” heresy.) Yet in the second half of the verse, these UNREGENERATE people are described as the ELECT. So what can we conclude regarding “elect” versus “regenerate”? They are NOT the same thing. There are some ELECT people who are UNREGENERATE. There are some people whom God has chosen to save from before the foundation of the world who are still unregenerate. So there is a category of people who are the UNREGENERATE ELECT. What do we know about the unregenerate elect? We know that they currently do not believe the gospel. But we ALSO know that at some point during their lives, God WILL regenerate them, and they WILL believe the gospel. There will not be a single elect person who will die in unbelief. So these unregenerate elect Jews that Paul is talking about in this verse will eventually be regenerated, saved by God, and immediately caused to believe the gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone. So once these elect are regenerated, they become part of the category of people called the REGENERATE ELECT. But there’s really no need to put “elect” after “regenerate,” because ALL regenerate people are elect. Yet not all elect people are regenerate, which is why we need to put “elect” after “unregenerate.” Now is there any other category of people other than the elect unregenerate and the elect regenerate? Yes, there’s one more category. These are those who are NOT ELECT. We call them the REPROBATE. These are people whom God has chosen to harden and damn from before the foundation of the world. These people will never become regenerate. They will never be saved. So you could call them the UNREGENERATE REPROBATE. But again, there’s really no need to put “unregenerate” before “reprobate,” because ALL the reprobate are unregenerate. But are all the unregenerate reprobate? No – as we just saw, some of the unregenerate are elect; they just have not yet been saved. So it is an error to call all unregenerate people “reprobate.” I want to summarize this to make sure you understand. There are three categories of people. Among the unregenerate, there are the elect and the reprobate. And then there are the regenerate. So there are the reprobate, the unregenerate elect, and the regenerate elect. Now - are we able to tell the difference between the reprobate and the unregenerate elect? They’re both unregenerate. They’re both unbelievers. They’re both dead in their sins. They both hate God. They’re both children of wrath. We can’t tell the difference. In fact, Jesus Christ said in Matthew 13:24-30 that we are NOT to judge unregenerate people to be reprobate. In our passage here in verse 28, the believers were NOT to judge the unbelieving Jews to be reprobate, because there are some who are beloved on account of election – these are the unregenerate elect. Think of Saul of Tarsus before he was saved. He hated believers so much that he devoted his life to persecuting them. He was famous and feared for his hatred of the gospel, Christianity, and Christians. Believers at that time judged Saul as a virulent God-hater. But what about judging Saul to be reprobate? If judging someone to be reprobate were based on a person’s level of hatred for Christianity, Saul would have definitely been judged as reprobate. But we know what happened to Saul of Tarsus. This God-hater became Paul the Apostle who was God’s primary instrument in spreading the gospel and who died for the faith. Keep that in mind when you think of those who hate the gospel. We should pray for them and witness to them, because they might be God’s elect.
We also come to the word “beloved.” The word for “beloved” is a-ga-PAY-tos, which means “dearly loved” or “well-loved.” How can the ones hostile to believers, enemies of believers and the gospel and thus enemies of God, be called “beloved”? Haven’t we seen that God is at enmity with all who do not have a righteousness that answers the demands of His law and justice? Haven’t we seen that God hates the wicked? Yes. In fact, Ephesians 2:3 says that before the elect are regenerated, they ARE BY NATURE the CHILDREN OF WRATH, EVEN AS THE REST. They are UNDER GOD’s WRATH. The total depravity of the unregenerate elect is NO DIFFERENT than the total depravity of the reprobate in the eyes of God's law and justice. Because God is totally holy and righteous and just, He can ONLY show wrath to those who do not have a righteousness that equals His. And before Christ's righteousness is imputed and received by faith, the elect do not have a righteousness that equals His and are no more deserving than the reprobate. But how can such a person also be “beloved”? Because of God’s relation to the elect in Christ in the eternal sense. Romans 8:29-30 says, "because whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be the First-begotten among many brothers. But whom He predestinated, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified." "Foreknew" means fore-LOVED. God fore-LOVED His people from before the foundation of the world. His decree to predestinate came from his LOVE for His people. In the eternal sense, God has LOVED His people from all eternity in Christ. Interestingly, from this verse, God's people are CALLED, JUSTIFIED, and GLORIFIED from eternity in Christ. In the eternal sense, God's people are already GLORIFIED! Does that mean that, temporally, God's people are glorified in their sinless state while on the earth? No. But because of Christ's work, they are GLORIFIED from the eternal perspective. So we see here the difference between the TEMPORAL and ETERNAL senses. There is a time in each elect person's life that he is LOVED by God as considered eternally in Christ Jesus AND under God's WRATH as considered temporally before the elect person has the righteousness of Christ imputed to him. Is this paradox? In no way. Consider this: When the sins of Christ's people were imputed to Him on the cross, and Christ suffered the WRATH of God on behalf of His people, did God stop LOVING Christ? No. Yet, because of imputed sin, God FORSOOK Christ, according to Mark 15:34, because God, in His holiness, righteousness, and justice, CANNOT look upon sin and MUST show wrath toward sin and MUST punish sin. Yet through all this, God LOVED His Son, who remained holy, harmless, and undefiled in His own personal character and conduct. God LOVED Christ in one sense and poured out His WRATH on Christ in another sense. So TEMPORALLY considered, there is a time before the elect are regenerated when they are the ENEMIES of God, and God shows WRATH toward them. In fact, God MUST show wrath toward them, or else He wouldn't be God. In time, the elect are called, justified, and glorified. And ETERNALLY considered, God LOVES the elect from before the foundation of the world, and they have been called, justified, and glorified from eternity in Christ. I hope that’s helpful in understanding God’s love and hatred toward the unregenerate elect.
Now on to verse 29:
Romans 11: (29) For the free gifts and the calling of God [are] not to be repented of.
This is saying that, in light of God’s loving them and electing them, God will not turn back on His purpose and promise of salvation to the Jews. God is a promise-keeper. He both able and faithful to keep His promises, because He both works all things and loves His people, as Romans 8:28 says. And as we saw in Romans 8:29-30, every single person whom God fore-loved, He predestinated; every single person whom God predestinated, He called; every single person whom God called, He justified; and every single person whom God justified, He glorified. There is no thwarting God’s purpose. The unbelief of the Jews does not in any way nullify the faithfulness of God, as Romans 3:3-4 says, and does not in any way mean that God has failed in His promise to save Israel, as Romans 9:6 says. First of all, not all the ones of Israel are Israel, and secondly, God still has purposes of saving some national Jews. So, including the Gentiles who have been grafted in, all Israel will be saved.
Verses 30 and 31 compare the disobedience of the Gentiles and the Jews and how this relates to their respective obtaining of mercy. Think of how this relates to what we have seen earlier in Romans. Verse 30 talks about the Gentiles:
Romans 11: (30) For as you then also disobeyed God, but now have obtained mercy by the disobedience of these,
So the Gentiles were initially in disobedience in heathenism, as the end of Romans 1 shows. When the Jewish branches were broken off because of unbelief, the Gentiles were grafted in when God justified them through faith. Abraham is the father of all who are justified by faith, including the Gentiles, as Romans 4 shows. Those who were not God’s people and were not pursuing righteousness became God’s people through a righteousness of faith, as the end of Romans 9 shows. Verse 31 talks about the Jews:
Romans 11: (31) so also these now have disobeyed, so that they also may obtain mercy by your mercy.
So the Jews were in disobedience in their self-righteous religion, as Romans 2 shows. They did not obtain righteousness, even though they were pursuing righteousness, because it was not of faith, but of works, and they stumbled at Jesus Christ as the end of the law for righteousness, as the end of Romans 9 and the beginning of Romans 10 shows. These Jewish branches were broken off, and the Gentiles were shown mercy. And this is how the Jews obtained mercy - through the mercy shown to the Gentiles. God provoked the Jews to jealousy, as the end of Romans 10 and the beginning of Romans 11 says, and they were re-grafted in in the same way that the Gentiles were grafted in – when God justified them through faith. Notice that God uses MEANS to accomplish His purposes. He used the means of the disobedience of the Jews to show mercy on the Gentiles, and He used the means of showing mercy on the Gentiles to show mercy on the Jews.
Now to verse 32:
Romans 11: (32) For God shut up all into disobedience, that He may show mercy to all.
What does the first part of this verse remind you of that we’ve previously seen in Romans? It’s a reiteration of Romans 3. Paul had been talking about the wickedness of the Gentiles and then the wickedness of the Jews and concluded in Romans 3 that all – the heathen Gentiles and the religious Jews – were unrighteous in their natural state. Romans 3:19 says, “But we know that as many things as the law says, it says to the ones within the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world be accountable to God.” God has stopped every mouth. God has shut up all into disobedience. “All” here means both the Jews and the Gentiles. The second part of verse 32 shows WHY He did this. It was in order to show mercy to all. Again, “all” here means both the Jews and the Gentiles. God had a purpose in shutting up the Jews and Gentiles into disobedience. It was to show that none of them had a righteousness that answered the demands of God’s law and justice. They were all equally in need of a righteousness that they could not produce, no matter if they were religious or irreligious. Romans 3:23 says, “For all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That is where mercy comes in. The very next verse, after God says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, says this: “being justified undeservedly by His grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus.” The only way that there is mercy and grace is if fallen man is totally depraved and can do nothing to gain or maintain salvation. Shutting up all into disobedience is the only way that mercy can be shown. Because if even the slightest part of salvation is conditioned on the sinner, then it is not of grace, but of debt, as Romans 4:4 says. If it is by grace, it cannot be of works, or else grace is no longer grace. And if it is by works, it cannot be of grace, or else work is no longer work, as Romans 11:6 says. If someone asks you why God causes people to be totally depraved, totally unable and unwilling to come to Him, here’s the reason. God causes this to show His grace and mercy. And think of this: We who are God’s regenerate elect used to be totally depraved, totally unable and unwilling to come to Him, children of wrath even as the rest. But then what happened? Let’s turn to Ephesians 2 and read verses 1 through 10:
Ephesians 2: (1) and you being dead in deviations and sins, (2) in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience, (3) among whom we also all conducted ourselves in times past in the lusts of our flesh, acting out the wills of the flesh and of the understandings, and were by nature the children of wrath, even as the rest. (4) But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love [with] which He loved us, (5) even we being dead in deviations, [He] made us alive together with Christ; by grace you are having been saved, (6) and [He] raised [us] up together and seated [us] together in the heavenly [realm] in Christ Jesus, (7) that He might demonstrate in the ages coming on the exceeding great riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus, (8) for by grace you are saved, through faith, and this not of yourselves; [it is] the gift of God; (9) not of works, that not anyone should boast; (10) for we are [His] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God before prepared that we should walk in them.