Romans 11:1-35

Romans 11:1-35

by | May 25, 2002 | Uncategorized

Romans 11:1 – This section which begin in Romans 9 was written to demonstrate the faithfulness of God to His promises. That we can know that nothing will separate us from the love of God. Paul uses God’s faithfulness to Israel to illustrate this truth.

Some of His promises for Israel and us are conditional, they have to do with blessings but as to His promise of an everlasting relationship, those are unconditional. God is not finished with the nation of Israel because there are many of His promises to her that have not yet been fulfilled.

The apostle begins this chapter by stating this truth in the form of a rhetorical question: Did God reject his people? The Greek root for the word “reject” means to thrust away. Paul is not asking whether He has thrust away from Himself the people He received as His own. Paul immediately answers his own question declaring “By no means!” Impossible! The expression used here is the strongest negative in the Greek language.

That is the theme of Romans 11. It is inconceivable that God would break His unconditional promise to Israel. In spite of all her rebellion and stiffness to God and His Spirit, Scripture is clear that the Lord will never to forsake His chosen people.

(1 Samuel 12:22 NIV) For the sake of his great name the LORD will not reject his people, because the LORD was pleased to make you his own. It is God’s faithfulness to Israel that guarantees her ultimate redemption and restoration Psalm 89:31-37, declares this as does Ezekiel 36 in the face of the taunts of her enemies who have occupied her land.

(Psalm 94:14 NIV) For the LORD will not reject his people; he will never forsake his inheritance. We see this theme repeated in Psalm 106:44-45. God’s grace always surpasses His people’s sin. Psalm 105 is devoted entirely to thanking and praising God for His unchangeable and permanent covenant relationship with Israel.

In the context of God given Israel a New Covenant we find Jeremiah repeating this same theme (Jeremiah 30:10-11;31:10). Romans 11 develops this theme so that Gentile Christians might be assured of the steadfast promises of God and surrender their lives to His Lordship. We can never lose His love so let us yield to that love that His will might be done through us.

Romans 11:1-6 – Contrary to what some sincere Christians maintain, God cannot be finished with the nation of Israel because all of His promises to her have not yet been fulfilled. If God were through with His chosen nation, His Word would be false and His integrity discredited. In fact this is the core reason for anti-semitism Revelation 12:13.

Among those who most strongly insist that God is through with the nation of Israel are those whose theology is commonly referred to as covenant theology. What is so ironic is that because of their distorted view of Israel, they fail to realize the implication that God is not faithful in fully honoring His covenants. God’s first covenant with Israel was through Abraham, the father of the Jewish people.

God promised, “I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3). After Abraham had fulfilled the conditions of that covenant by separating from Lot God further promised to give him and his descendents the land (Genesis 13:14-16). Some years later, God reiterated the promise based on his faith in the coming Messiah (Genesis 5:5) and confirmed the covenant by dividing the pieces and by passing alone between them (Genesis 15:8-21).

The terms of the covenant were unconditional, and it was sworn to and affirmed by God with Himself (Hebrews 6:13). God has obligated Himself to ultimately redeem the nation of Israel and to establish her as a purified and glorious kingdom above all others in the world.

Moreover God has promised to bless all the peoples of the world through Abraham and his descendants, and the fulfillment of that promise has come through Yeshua the Messiah. But because Israel as a nation rejected their Messiah, God temporarily set that nation aside “until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25).

It will be at that time, with unfailing certainty, “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26), when God will fulfill His promises to restore Israel in her own land (Jeremiah 31:31). So Paul begins by stating the truth in the form of a rhetorical question, God has not rejected His people, has He?

Rejected means to thrust away from oneself. Paul immediately answers his own question, based on God’s character and knowing His promises to Israel, there could be but one answer, “by no means”, Impossible! That is what Romans 11 is all about, It is inconceivable that God could renege on His unconditional promises to Israel.

The expression that is translated “by no means” was the strongest negative in the Greek language, translated in the King James Version as “God forbid.” Despite Israel’s being “disobedience (Romans 10:21), Scripture is clear that God would never forsake His chosen people (1 Samuel 12:22;Psalm 89:31-37;94:14;106:44-45).

God’s grace is always greater than our sin. It is because of that truth that Paul affirms that God’s present setting aside of Israel is only partial (Romans 11:1-10). The first proof that God had not rejected His chosen people was that Paul, not only a believer in Messiah and an apostle was also an Israelite.

In fact the majority of the early believers were Jewish. Paul’s faith made it obvious that God did not reject all Israel. He was of the tribe of Benjamin, one of the most favored tribes of Israel, because they as well as Judah remained faithful to the Lord and the line of King David when the tribes split after Solomon.

He cites this to demonstrate his authority to speak to both Jews and Gentiles of the grace and faithfulness of God. The second proof that God had not cast off Israel was the reality of the remnant. There have always been Jewish people who have come to faith in every generation. Paul identifies Israel here not as individuals but as a nation.

Individual Jewish people can and have been lost but the nation as a whole will never be cast off and to demonstrate that, God has always kept for himself a remnant until the time when all Israel will return to the Lord. The idea here of foreknowledge is not just being aware of something beforehand but it is related to the Biblical concept “to know”, which speaks of intimacy, such as that of a husband and wife, characterized by devotion and love.

Israel is the only nation God has foreknown and predetermined to be His people and the recipients of His love and grace. Just as God deals with us individually so God dealt with Israel as a nation. That is why our relationship with God is rooted in our being grafted into Israel. God has done for the nations what Israel refused to do, bring the Good News to them as well. He did this by the same means, grace. God graciously chose Israel to be His special people and treasured possession (Deuteronomy 7:6-8).

Because God foreknew and predetermined before the foundation of the earth to set His special love upon Israel forever, He can never totally reject them. If He did this would invalidate His divine promises, nullify His divine faithfulness, discredit His divine integrity, and compromise His divine love. The prophets began to see that there never was a time, and never would be, when the whole nation was true to God; nevertheless, always within the nation a remnant was left who had never forsaken their loyalty or compromised their faith. Prophet after prophet came to see this.

Amos 9:8-10 thought of God sifting men as corn is in a sieve until only the good are left. Micah 2:12;5:3 had a vision of God gathering the remnant of Israel. Zephaniah 3:12-13) had the same idea. Jeremiah foresaw the remnant being gathered from all the countries throughout which they had been scattered (Jeremiah 23:3).

Above all, this idea dominated the thought of Isaiah. He called his son Shear-Yashuv, which means The Salvation of the Remnant. Again and again he returns to this idea of the faithful remnant who will be saved by God (Isaiah 7:3;8:2,18;9:12;6:9-13).

This remnant was not chosen because they were more virtuous than the others but God makes clear that it was according to His sovereign election, as is true of all believers in all ages (2 Timothy 1:9).

Romans 11:6-12 – Paul’s argument is that the nation of Israel has not been rejected; but it is not the nation as a whole, but the faithful remnant within it who are the true Jews. What about the others? Paul sees God sending a sleep upon them in which they cannot and will not hear. He puts together the thought through a series of Old Testament passages to prove this (Deuteronomy 29:4;Isaiah 6:9-10;29:10).

He quotes Psalm 69:22-23. “Let their table become a snare.” The idea is that men are sitting feasting comfortably at their banquet; and their sense of safety, prosperity, and security, has become their ruin. They are so secure in their illusion of safety that the enemy can come upon them unaware. That is what the Israel was like. They were so secure, so self-satisfied, and so at ease in their confidence of being the Chosen People, that that very idea had become the thing that was their undoing.

Romans 11:11-22 – God’s temporarily setting Israel had a purpose. God has not allowed Israel to fall into such unbelief and disobedience that they would be unredeemable. He has given them “a spirit of stupor,” and He “let their eyes be darkened to see not” (Romans 11:8,10).

For an appointed time, yet their blindness and darkness was never to be permanent. The stumbling is the result of Israel’s rejection of her Messiah. But Israel’s rejection did not thwart God’s plan. On the contrary, the Lord used that transgression to accomplish His own objective. Which is twofold: to bring salvation to the Gentiles and to the Jews.

In Romans 11:16 Paul gives a stern warning to Gentiles about having the same attitude of arrogant, presumptuous pride that caused unbelieving Israel’s removal from blessing.

God did not judge Israel and offer the gospel to Gentiles because Jews are essentially more unrighteous and unworthy or because Gentiles are inherently more righteous and worthy (Romans 2:14-15). It didn’t take long for the early Gentile Christians to be tempted hold the Jewish community in contempt because they had rejected the Messiah.

That attitude poured fuel on the fire of anti-Semitism that had existed in many Gentile nations and cultures for countless centuries. We it in Scripture in the enmity between Israel and her surrounding neighbors, such as Syria, Phoenicia, Moab, Edom, the Philistines, and other peoples. It is seen in Israel’s conquest and domination by Babylon, Assyria, Greece, and then Rome.

And because many Gentile believers in the early church had been raised in the midst of pagan anti-Semitism, it was not difficult for Satan to tempt them to continue in their prejudice against Jews because of Israel’s rejection and crucifixion of their Messiah. The root of all anti-Semitism really is demonic and we see this in Revelation 12:13. In response Paul uses the illustration of one of the sacrifices outlined in Leviticus, the grain offering.

He is referring to the first portion of an offering which was set aside specifically for the Lord (Numbers 15:19-21). Those loaves, were given to feed the priests, who served and represented the Lord in their ministry in the tabernacle and later in the temple. Before any bread would be eaten by a household, a special portion was first set apart and presented to the Lord. Although only a portion of that special piece of dough represented the entire loaf was considered as being from the Lord. In other words, they were giving back to the Lord a representation of all He had provided for them.

He then gives them another analogy using the figure of a tree or vine. If the primary part of a plant (the root) is holy, then that which it produces (the branches) must also be holy. Paul’s point is the truth that, if the firstfruits and root of Israel, the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) were holy to the Lord, so were their descendants, the people of Israel. Therefore, for God to forsake Israel would be for Him to renege on His promises to those patriarchs—something His holy character will not allow.

In order for God to be faithful to His own Word, He must provide a future salvation for Israel. The patriarchs and Israel were divinely called and set apart for God’s work on the earth and their work will not be complete until they bear the spiritual fruit He intends
to produce in and through them, until the end of the age when they actually become the holy people they were destined to be. Paul continues with the figure of a tree: But if some of the branches were  broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree.

Here the apostle makes his point by referring to the familiar practice of grafting. Olive trees were an agricultural and commercial mainstay in ancient Palestine and much of the Near East and Mediterranean areas, and still support a valuable industry in most of those regions today. Olive trees can live for hundreds of years, but as they age, they become less and less productive, and in order to restore productivity, branches from younger trees are grafted to old ones.

When a branch ceased to produce olives, a younger one was grafted in its place.
That is the figure Paul uses here. The old, unproductive branches of Israel were broken off. Centuries earlier God had warned His people of what their continued unbelief and idolatry would bring.

“The Lord called your name, ‘A green olive tree, beautiful in fruit and form’; with the noise of a great tumult He has kindled fire on it, and its branches are worthless. And the Lord of hosts, who planted you, has pronounced evil against you because of the evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah, which they have done to provoke Me by offering up sacrifices to Baal” (Jeremiah 11:16-17).

Jesus Himself warned His own people Israel, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation [better, “a people” NIV] producing the fruit of it” (Matthew 21:43).

In place of the unfaithful, unproductive branches of Israel, those of a wild olive, the believing Gentiles, were grafted in among them. Those Gentile branches, people from all nations who believe in the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, then became partaker with them, the believing descendants of Abraham, in the rich root of the olive tree, the root of divine blessing and of eternal relationship to God through salvation. At the beginning of that verse, Paul makes clear that some, but not all, of the branches were broken off. That is also indicated by the phrase among them.

There always had been a believing remnant in Israel, and many Jews believed in Christ during His earthly ministry and in the time of the early church. Probably until the end of the first century, most Christians, including all the apostles, were Jews.

Those original Jewish branches remained attached to the rich root of God’s olive tree, as have Jewish branches from then until now. Gentile believers are joint heirs with them and of Abraham, “the father of all who believe without being circumcised [without being or becoming Jews], that righteousness might be reckoned to them” (Romans 4:11).

Now comes a command to the Gentiles based on that truth: Do not be arrogant toward the branches, that is, the unbelieving Jews who were cut off; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root (the promise to Abraham that “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed,” Genesis 12:3), but the root supports you. The Gentiles themselves were not the source of blessing any more than believing Jews had been. Believing Gentiles are blessed by God because they are spiritual descendants of faithful Abraham.

We are blessed because we have been grafted into the covenant of salvation that God made with Abraham and now graciously offers to all who believe in Abraham’s God. As Paul had explained to the churches in Galatia a few years earlier, Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.

Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations shall be blessed in you.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. (Galatians 3:6-9).

A few verses later in that same chapter of Galatians, the apostle explains further that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’—in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Romans 11:13-14).

How ridiculous and presumptuous then, for believing Gentiles to be arrogant toward the natural branches, even those who were cut off in unbelief. Remember, he continues, that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. The blessing of both Jewish and Gentile believers comes through the root of God’s covenant promises and power.

It is tragic and lamentable that, throughout much of church history, Jewish converts to Christ have often been subjected to attitudes of Gentile superiority and been shunned or reluctantly accepted into Christian fellowship. Paul anticipated that, in spite of this clear truth, some of his Gentile readers would continue to argue against him. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”

Quite right, he concedes, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. In other words, the breaking off and grafting in were based on belief, not on any inherent racial or national inferiority or superiority.

The issue is not worthiness and it is not racial, ethnic, social, intellectual, or even moral. The only issue is faith. The Jews were broken off because of that unbelief, and Gentiles who believed were grafted in, that is, made to stand, on the basis of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

You therefore have no reason to be conceited, but very good reason to fear, Paul warns. He gave a similar warning to the church at Corinth: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

For if God did not spare the natural branches, His covenant people Israel, neither will He spare you Gentiles, who are not a part of that covenant. If Israel’s special calling and blessing from the Lord could not protect them from being broken off, then certainly the Gentiles’ lack of that calling and blessing cannot protect them from being broken off for their unbelief. Therefore you would do well, Paul advises his Gentile readers, to have a righteous fear and to strongly resist any temptation to arrogance (Romans 11:18) and conceit (Romans 11:20).

Paul reminded believers at Ephesus, “Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called ‘Uncircumcision’ by the so-called ‘Circumcision,’ which is performed in the flesh by human hands—remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:11-12). If God cut off an apostate Israel because of her unbelief, how much more surely will He cut off an apostate church because of unbelief.

The visible church today is mostly Gentile, and that church encompasses a large percentage of apostates, heretics, and others who reject the absolute and inerrant authority of Scripture and deny its cardinal truths, including the deity of Christ. And the Lord’s judgment will fall on the apostate Gentile church just as surely and swiftly as it did on apostate Israel.

Jesus warned the church at Pergamum, “You also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth” (Revelation 2:15-16). And to the church at Laodicea, He promised that nominal, unbelieving Christians will be spit out of God’s mouth in disgust (Revelation 3:16).

Collectively, they are later referred to as the Babylonian harlot of the end times whom the Lord will cause to be brutally devastated by Antichrist and his ten-nation confederacy (Revelation 17:16).

The apostle had made clear earlier in this passage on Israel (Romans 11:9-11), “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why?

Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone” (Romans 9:30-32). From the beginning and throughout the epistle, Paul repeats that foundational truth over and over. As far as man’s part is concerned, salvation has always been and will always be by faith and faith alone. It is, of course, God’s sovereign grace that makes faith possible, acceptable, and effective, but His grace will not save apart from faith.

Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. Severity translates apotomia, which has the root meaning of cutting right off, or cutting quickly, and corresponds to the verb ekkoptoô (cut off), with which this verse ends. And in this context, piptoô (fell) means to fall down so as to be completely ruined. Paul is therefore speaking of an extremely serious spiritual condition, in which people fell from spiritual opportunity into judgment.

That looks at the past. Paul then warns those in the present who have identified with the saving gospel that they must continue in His kindness or they, too, will be judged severely like those in the past who were near the blessing and fell. That is a familiar New Testament idea, which affirms the reality of true, saving faith by its continuity. That is the perseverance of the saints that evidences their genuine conversion (John 8:31;15:5-6;Colossians 1:22-23;Hebrews 3:12-14;4:11;1 John 2:19).

Because of God’s blessing of ancient Israel as a nation, many Jewish unbelievers shared in that blessing. In the same way, because of God’s blessing on the church, many unbelievers within the church taste that blessing. But if they fall away, God’s patience will be exhausted and His offer of grace withdrawn, that blessing by association will be of no value when unbelievers face the living God in judgment and are eternally cut off from Him. Those who in unbelief refuse God’s kindness in the offer of salvation are destined to be cut off by His severity.

Romans 11:11-22 – God’s temporarily setting Israel aside had a purpose. God has not allowed Israel to fall into such unbelief and disobedience that they would be unredeemable. He has given them “a spirit of stupor,” and He “let their eyes be darkened to see not” (Romans 11:8,10).

For an appointed time, yet their blindness and darkness was never to be permanent. The stumbling is the result of Israel’s rejection of her Messiah. But Israel’s rejection did not thwart God’s plan. On the contrary, the Lord used that transgression to accomplish His own objective. Which is twofold: to bring salvation to the Gentiles and to the Jews.

In Romans 11:16 Paul gives a stern warning to Gentiles about having the same attitude of arrogant, presumptuous pride that caused unbelieving Israel’s removal from blessing. God did not judge Israel and offer the gospel to Gentiles because Jews are essentially more unrighteous and unworthy or because Gentiles are inherently more righteous and worthy (Romans 2:14-15). It didn’t take long for the early Gentile Christians to be tempted to hold the Jewish community in contempt because they had rejected the Messiah.

That attitude poured fuel on the fire of anti-Semitism that had existed in many Gentile nations and cultures for countless centuries. We see it in Scripture in the enmity between Israel and her surrounding neighbors, such as Syria, Phoenicia, Moab, Edom, the Philistines, and other peoples. It is seen in Israel’s conquest and domination by Babylon, Assyria, Greece, and then Rome.

And because many Gentile believers in the early church had been raised in the midst of pagan anti-Semitism, it was not difficult for Satan to tempt them to continue in their prejudice against Jews because of Israel’s rejection and crucifixion of their Messiah.

The root of all anti-Semitism really is demonic and we see this in Revelation 12:13ff. In response Paul uses the illustration of one of the sacrifices outlined in Leviticus, the grain offering. He is referring to the first portion of an offering which was set aside specifically for the Lord (Numbers 15:19-21).

Those loaves, were given to feed the priests, who served and represented the Lord in their ministry in the tabernacle and later in the temple. Before any bread would be eaten by a household, a special portion was first set apart and presented to the Lord. Although only a portion of that special piece of dough represented the Lord’s portion, the entire loaf was considered as being for the Lord.

In other words, they were giving back to the Lord a representation of all He had provided for them. He then gives them another analogy using the figure of a tree or vine. If the primary part of a plant (the root) is holy, then that which it produces (the branches) must also be holy.

Paul’s point is the truth that, if the firstfruits and root of Israel, the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) were holy to the Lord, so were their descendants, the people of Israel. Therefore, for God to forsake Israel would be for Him to renege on His promises to those patriarchs—something His holy character will not allow.

In order for God to be faithful to His own Word, He must provide a future salvation for Israel. The patriarchs and Israel were divinely called and set apart for God’s work on the earth and their work will not be complete until they bear the spiritual fruit He intends to produce in and through them, until the end of the age when they actually become the holy people they were destined to be. Paul continues with the figure of a tree: But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree.

Here the apostle makes his point by referring to the familiar practice of grafting. Olive trees were an agricultural and commercial mainstay in ancient Palestine and much of the Near East and Mediterranean areas, and still support a valuable industry in most of those regions today. Olive trees can live for hundreds of years, but as they age, they become less and less productive, and in order to restore productivity, branches from younger trees are grafted to old ones. When a branch ceased to produce olives, a younger one was grafted in its place.

That is the figure Paul uses here. The old, unproductive branches of Israel were broken off. Centuries earlier God had warned His people of what their continued unbelief and idolatry would bring. “The Lord called your name, ‘A green olive tree, beautiful in fruit and form’; with the noise of a great tumult He has kindled fire on it, and its branches are worthless.

And the Lord of hosts, who planted you, has pronounced evil against you because of the evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah, which they have done to provoke Me by offering up sacrifices to Baal” (Jeremiah 11:16-17). Jesus Himself warned His own people Israel, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation [better, “a people” NIV] producing the fruit of it” (Matthew 21:43).

In place of the unfaithful, unproductive branches of Israel, those of a wild olive, the believing Gentiles, were grafted in among them. Those Gentile branches, people from all nations who believe in the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, then became partaker with them, the believing descendants of Abraham, in the rich root of the olive tree, the root of divine blessing and of eternal relationship to God through salvation.

At the beginning of that verse, Paul makes clear that some, but not all, of the branches were broken off. That is also indicated by the phrase among them.  There always had been a believing remnant in Israel, and many Jews believed in Christ during His earthly ministry and in the time of the early church.

Probably until the end of the first century, most Christians, including all the apostles, were Jews. Those original Jewish branches remained attached to the rich root of God’s olive tree, as have Jewish branches from then until now. Gentile believers are joint heirs with them and of Abraham, “the father of all who believe without being circumcised [without being or becoming Jews], that righteousness might be reckoned to them” (Romans 4:11).

Now comes a command to the Gentiles based on that truth: Do not be arrogant toward the branches, that is, the unbelieving Jews who were cut off; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root (the promise to Abraham that “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed,” Genesis 12:3), but the root supports you.

The Gentiles themselves were not the source of blessing any more than believing Jews had been. Believing Gentiles are blessed by God because they are spiritual descendants of faithful Abraham. We are blessed because we have been grafted into the covenant of salvation that God made with Abraham and now graciously offers to all who believe in Abraham’s God.

As Paul had explained to the churches in Galatia a few years earlier, Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations shall be blessed in you.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. (Galatians 3:6-9).

A few verses later in that same chapter of Galatians, the apostle explains further that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’—in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Romans 11:13-14).

How ridiculous and presumptuous then, for believing Gentiles to be arrogant toward the natural branches, even those who were cut off in unbelief. Remember, he continues, that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. The blessing of both Jewish and Gentile believers comes through the root of God’s covenant promises and power.

It is tragic and lamentable that, throughout much of church history, Jewish converts to Christ have often been subjected to attitudes of Gentile superiority and been shunned or reluctantly accepted into Christian fellowship. Paul anticipated that, in spite of this clear truth, some of his Gentile readers would continue to argue against him. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” Quite right, he concedes, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith.

In other words, the breaking off and grafting in were based on belief, not on any inherent racial or national inferiority or superiority. The issue is not worthiness and it is not racial, ethnic, social, intellectual, or even moral. The only issue is faith. The Jews were broken off because of that unbelief, and Gentiles who believed were grafted in, that is, made to stand, on the basis of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

You therefore have no reason to be conceited, but very good reason to fear, Paul warns. He gave a similar warning to the church at Corinth: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians. 10:12). For if God did not spare the natural branches, His covenant people Israel, neither will He spare you Gentiles, who are not a part of that covenant.

If Israel’s special calling and blessing from the Lord could not protect them from being broken off, then certainly the Gentiles’ lack of that calling and blessing cannot protect them from being broken off for their unbelief. Therefore you would do well, Paul advises his Gentile readers, to have a righteous fear and to strongly resist any temptation to arrogance (Romans 11:18) and conceit (Romans 11:20).

Paul reminded believers at Ephesus, “Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called ‘Uncircumcision’ by the so-called ‘Circumcision,’ which is performed in the flesh by human hands—remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:11-12). If God cut off an apostate Israel because of her unbelief, how much more surely will He cut off an apostate church because of unbelief.

The visible church today is mostly Gentile, and that church encompasses a large percentage of apostates, heretics, and others who reject the absolute and inerrant authority of Scripture and deny its cardinal truths, including the deity of Christ. And the Lord’s judgment will fall on the apostate Gentile church just as surely and swiftly as it did on apostate Israel.

Jesus warned the church at Pergamum, “You also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth” (Revelation 2:15-16).

And to the church at Laodicea, He promised that nominal, unbelieving Christians will be spit out of God’s mouth in disgust (Revelation 3:16). Collectively, they are later referred to as the Babylonian harlot of the end times whom the Lord will cause to be brutally devastated by Antichrist and his ten-nation confederacy (Revelation 17:16).

The apostle had made clear earlier in this passage on Israel (Romans 9-11), “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone” (Romans 9:30-32).

From the beginning and throughout the epistle, Paul repeats that foundational truth over and over. As far as man’s part is concerned, salvation has always been and will always be by faith and faith alone. It is, of course, God’s sovereign grace that makes faith possible, acceptable, and effective, but His grace will not save apart from faith.

Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. Severity translates apotomia, which has the root meaning of cutting right off, or cutting quickly, and corresponds to the verb ekkoptoô (cut off), with which this verse ends. And in this context, piptoô (fell) means to fall down so as to be completely ruined. Paul is therefore speaking of an extremely serious spiritual condition, in which people fell from spiritual opportunity into judgment.

That looks at the past. Paul then warns those in the present who have identified with the saving gospel that they must continue in His kindness or they, too, will be judged severely like those in the past who were near the blessing and fell. That is a familiar New Testament idea, which affirms the reality of true, saving faith by its continuity. That is the perseverance of the saints that evidences their genuine conversion (see John 8:31;15:5-6;Colossians 1:22-23;Hebrews 3:12-14;4:11;1 John 2:19).

Because of God’s blessing of ancient Israel as a nation, many Jewish unbelievers shared in that blessing. In the same way, because of God’s blessing on the church, many unbelievers within the church taste that blessing. But if they fall away, God’s patience will be exhausted and His offer of grace withdrawn, that blessing by association will be of no value when unbelievers face the living God in judgment and are eternally cut off from Him. Those who in unbelief refuse God’s kindness in the offer of salvation are destined to be cut off by His severity.

Romans 11:17- 22 – Paul uses the illustration of one of the sacrifices outlined in Leviticus to describe God’s relationship to Israel; the grain offering. He is referring to the first portion of an offering which was set aside specifically for the Lord (Numbers 15:19-21). Those loaves, were given to feed the priests, who served and represented the Lord in their ministry in the tabernacle and later in the temple.

Before any bread would be eaten by a household, a special portion was first set apart and presented to the Lord. Although only a portion of that special piece of dough represented the Lord’s portion, the entire loaf was considered as being for the Lord. In other words, they were giving back to the Lord a representation of all He had provided for them, this is one example of the law of first fruits.

He then gives them another analogy using the figure of a tree or vine. If the primary part of a plant (the root) is holy, then that which it produces (the branches) must also be holy. Paul’s point is that, if the first fruits and root of Israel, the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) were holy to the Lord, so were their descendants, the people of Israel. For God to forsake Israel would be for Him to renege on His promises to those patriarchs; something His holiness would not allow. In order for God to be faithful to His own Word, He had to provide a future salvation for Israel.

The patriarchs and Israel were called and set apart for God’s work on the earth and their work will not be complete until they bear the spiritual fruit He intends to produce in and through them, until they actually become the holy people they were destined to be. Paul continues with the figure of a tree by referring to the practice of grafting. Olive trees can live for hundreds of years, but as they age, they become less and less productive, and in order to restore productivity, branches from younger trees are grafted to old ones.

When a branch ceased to produce olives, a younger one was grafted in its place. That is the figure Paul uses here. The old, unproductive branches of Israel were broken off. A New Testament illustration of this in regard to the Church is John 15 with the vine and the branches. So in place of the unfaithful, unproductive branches of Israel, those of a wild olive, the believing Gentiles, were grafted in among them. These Gentile branches, people from all nations who believe in the Messiah, then became partakers with them, the believing descendants of Abraham, in the rich root of the olive tree, the place of God’s blessing and partakers of an eternal relationship to God through their salvation.

Paul makes clear that some, but not all, of the branches were broken off. There always had been a believing remnant in Israel, and many Jews believed in Yeshua during His earthly ministry and in the time of the early church. Probably until the end of the first century, most Christians, including all the apostles, were Jewish. Those Jewish branches remained attached to the rich root of God’s olive tree, and their have been Jewish branches from then until now.

Gentile believers are joint heirs with them and of Abraham, “the father of all who believe without being circumcised without being or becoming Jews (Romans 4:11).

The Gentiles who now were part of the family are commanded not to be arrogant toward the branches, the unbelieving Jews who were cut off; they were reminded that it is not you who supports the root (the promise to Abraham that “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed,” Genesis 12:3), but the root supports you. The Gentiles themselves were not the source of blessing any more than believing Jews had been.

Believing Gentiles are blessed by God because they are spiritual descendants of Abraham. Gentiles are blessed because they have been grafted into the covenant of salvation that God made with Abraham and now offers to all who believe in Abraham’s God. Paul had explained the basis of this truth more fully to the churches in Galatia a few years earlier (Galatians 3:6-9,13-14).

It would foolish and conceited then, for believing Gentiles to be arrogant toward the natural branches, who were cut off in unbelief because the blessing for both Jewish and Gentile believers comes through the root of God’s covenant promises and power. It is tragic and sad that, throughout much of church history, Jewish converts to Messiah have often been subjected to attitudes of Gentile superiority and have been shunned or reluctantly accepted into Christian fellowships, and usually with the condition of giving up their Jewish heritage and roots.

Paul anticipated that his Gentile readers would continue to argue against him in Romans 11:19. The breaking off and grafting in were based on belief, not on any racial or national inferiority or superiority. The issue is not worthiness and it is not racial, ethnic, social, intellectual, or even moral. The only issue is faith. The Jews were broken off for their unbelief, and Gentiles who believed were grafted in, because of their faith in the Jesus.

Gentiles are admonished not to be conceited, but fear, we see a similar warning in (1 Corinthians 10:12). If Israel’s special calling and blessing from the Lord could not protect them from being broken off and experiencing judgment then certainly the Gentiles’ lack of that calling and blessing cannot protect them from the same result.

Paul advises his Gentile readers, to have a righteous fear and to strongly resist any temptation to arrogance (Romans 11:18) and conceit (Romans 11:20) and to learn that God’s call for holiness is no less real to us than it was to Israel (Leviticus 19:2;20:26). If God cut off an apostate Israel because of her unbelief, how much more surely will He cut off an apostate church because of their unbelief? The visible church today is mostly Gentile, and that church is filled with apostates, heretics, and others who reject authority of Scripture and deny the deity of Christ. This is the warning to the Church in the Book of Revelation.

Romans 11:23-24 – God’s temporarily setting Israel aside has wonderful promise and purpose and serves to also give us hope and assurance. It is a conditional promise based on their turning from unbelief, and that though the promise is given here with a condition, God has promised in prophecy that this condition will be met. Israel will at the end of the Great Tribulation see Jesus as her Messiah and will repent of her unbelief and mourn over their rejection of Him (Zechariah 12:10).

God is able to graft them in again, and He will. We see this spoken of in Revelation 11:1-4 where John is told to take a measuring rod (cf. Ezekiel 40:5) to mark off His divine possession for preservation. Although at the time John wrote there no longer was a temple, the prophets had often spoken of a temple in the last days (Daniel 9:27;Amos 9:11;Micah 4:1;Haggai 2:9;Zechariah 6:12-13;Malachi 3:1;Matthew 24:15;2 Thessalonians 2:4).

During the time of the Great Tribulation, the Jews will be converted (Zechariah 12:8-14; 13:1-2) and be marked off by God as His own for protection during the Day of the Lord.
John’s measuring of the temple therefore seems to symbolize that the Jews will be His people who will come to salvation and kingdom blessing.

The Revelation scene is similar to that depicted in Zechariah 2:1-5, in which Jerusalem is measured for protection by the divine “wall of fire around her” and experiences God’s “glory in her midst” (Romans 11:5). As the city is measured to mark it out as God’s possession, to be rebuilt in millennial glory, so the temple is measured to affirm that salvation is coming for Israel.

The Gentiles at this time are left out (Revelation 11:2). Most of them appear to oppose all that represents God, although some will receive Christ and be saved—but not as a whole people, as with Israel. Again, it is the future of Israel that is in view.

The identity of the two witnesses also speaks of Israel’s coming salvation. They are called, “the two olive trees and the two lampstands” (Romans 11:4), terminology taken from Zechariah’s vision. The prophet Zechariah lived between the times of Ezra and Nehemiah. The rebuilding of the temple had been approved in Ezra’s time but had not begun. God therefore used Zechariah to encourage two men to lead in the restoration—Joshua, the high priest, and Zerubbabel, the governor of Jerusalem.

The Jews of that day knew they had sinned and feared they had no basis for God’s favor. They knew He could not tolerate their faithless, evil hearts and felt He had forever forsaken them. But the vision recorded in Zechariah 3 graciously promised restoration. Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.

And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel. And he spoke and said to those who were standing before him saying, “Remove the filthy garments from him.”

Again he said to him, “See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.” Then I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments, while the angel of the Lord was standing by.

And the angel of the Lord admonished Joshua saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘If you will walk in My ways, and if you will perform My service, then you will also govern My house and also have charge of My courts, and I will grant you free access among these who are standing here. Now listen, Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who are sitting in front of you—indeed they are men who are a symbol, for behold, I am going to bring in My servant the Branch.

For behold, the stone that I have set before Joshua; on one stone are seven eyes. Behold, I will engrave an inscription on it,’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day. In that day,’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘every one of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and under his fig tree.’” (Romans 11:1-10).

The high priest Joshua, the symbol of the nation of Israel and the representative of the people before God, is cleansed, forgiven, and restored to act as God’s agent in the restoration of the nation. God reiterated His promise of salvation in the covenant, if the people would obey the conditions. When the people obey God, restoration will come. In verses 8-10 we look all the way to Messiah and His kingdom—the great, ultimate, final, and glorious restoration of holiness and peace.

God chose Joshua to stand before Him as the cleansed and forgiven representative of Israel, in a new temple to be built in a new Israel, returned from captivity to its land and its God. That was a taste, a small preview of the ultimate salvation and restoration that will be directed by Messiah at His second coming.

The second key figure, Zerubbabel, is presented next.

Then the angel who was speaking with me returned, and roused me as a man who is awakened from his sleep. And he said to me, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold with its bowl on the top of it, and its seven lamps on it with seven spouts belonging to each of the lamps which are on the top of it; also two olive trees by it, one on the right side of the bowl and the other on its left side.” (Zechariah 4:1-3).

The prophet then describes a spontaneous, automatic provision that is apart from any human agency: “Then I answered and said to the angel who was speaking with me saying, ‘What are these, my lord?’ So the angel who was speaking with me answered and said to me, ‘Do you not know what these are?’ And I said, ‘No, my lord.’ Then he answered and said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:4-6).

The Holy Spirit alone has the power to restore Israel, but that power will flow through “two olive trees.” What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain; and he will bring forth the top stone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!” Also the word of the Lord came to me saying, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, and his hands will finish it.

Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. For who has despised the day of small things? But these seven will be glad when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel—these are eyes of the Lord which range to and fro throughout the earth. (Zechariah 4:7-10).

As seen earlier, Zerubbabel, along with Joshua, is one of the two olive trees God will use. Together, one a priest and one a ruler (governor), they were the human tools the Holy Spirit used to restore the nation. But there was a final component of God’s plan.
Then I answered and said to him, “What are these two olive trees on the right of the lampstand and on its left?”

And I answered the second time and said to him, “What are the two olive branches which are beside the two golden pipes, which empty the golden oil from themselves?” So he answered me saying, “Do you not know what these are?” And I said, “No, my lord.” Then he said, “These are the two anointed ones, who are standing by the Lord of the whole earth.” (Zechariah 4:11-14).

God used those two “anointed ones” to rebuild and restore ancient Israel. Therefore, when we read in Revelation that God has two witnesses who are “olive trees” and “lampstands” (Zechariah 11:3-4), we know what Zechariah’s vision means. God is in the midst of renewal and restoration, only this time the new temple will be millennial, the new work will be national salvation, and the new worship will be of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Joshua and Zerubbabel were God’s tools for the ancient physical restoration of Israel—the “golden pipes” through whom the Holy Spirit flowed. In a similar way the two witnesses of Revelation 11 will be future instruments of Israel’s salvation. They are preaching in Jerusalem (Romans 11:8) at the time they are killed, and their resurrection three and one half days later leads to the salvation of that city (Romans 11:13).

The phrase “gave glory to the God of heaven” is best taken to refer to salvation (Romans 14:6-7;16:9;19:7). After that salvation, the last trumpet will be blown, and “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).

The destiny of Israel can and will be reversed. Her return to the Lord not only is possible but certain. To be true to His own promise, His chosen people cannot continue forever in unbelief. Quoting from Isaiah, Paul declares with absolute finality that “all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob. And this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins’” (Romans 11:26-27, emphasis added; Isaiah 59:20-21).

Romans 11:25-26 – God’s redemptive plan, both for Jews and for Gentiles, is to bring salvation and eternal life, but the purpose of this plan is to bring God glory. The purpose of every created being and thing in the universe is to glorify God (Psalm 19:1;Isaiah 43:1-20) (1 Corinthians 10:31).

In the words of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” Our supreme purpose is to recognize and honor God for His glory and majesty, failure to glorify Him is a characteristic of spiritual rebellion and ungodliness. God chose His people Israel “(Jeremiah 13:11).

Paul tells believing Jews and Gentiles alike that he does not want them to be uninformed of a mystery. Paul defines mystery as being a revelation in Romans 16:26. We see this further clarified in Ephesians 3:4-7. But before identifying the mystery he again warns Gentiles to be on their guard against pride in this case being wise in their own estimations. The first aspect of this mystery is that a partial spiritual hardening has happened to Israel. It is partial which denotes that some of Israel has and continues to believe in her Messiah.

The second component of this mystery is that the hardening will remain only until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. The hardening will last only for God’s divinely determined period of time. It began when Israel rejected Jesus as her Messiah and Savior, and it will end when the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.

This means that Israel’s unbelief will last only until the complete number of the Gentiles chosen by God has come to salvation. Although many Jewish people have come to faith through the ministry of the church, the vast majority of converts have been Gentiles, until their number is complete. When that time occurs that will trigger events that lead to Israel’s redemption, when all Israel will be saved. All Israel refers to the the entire nation that survives God’s judgment during the Great Tribulation. Before all Israel is saved, its unbelieving, ungodly members will be separated out by God’s hand of judgment (Ezekiel 20:33-38).

God will use the preaching of the 144,000 (Revelation 7:1-8;14:1-5), of other converts (Romans 7:9), of the two witnesses (Romans 11:3-13), and of the angel (Romans 14:6), and will be part of that number. (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Just as the fullness of the Gentiles will initiate the salvation of Israel, so the salvation of Israel will initiate the millennial kingdom.

Romans 11:27-29 – Paul is quoting from Isaiah 27:9. The power of salvation is God’s grace, and the condition of salvation is man’s faith. But even that required faith is provided as a gift from God so nobody would ever be able to boast. In order for “all Israel to be saved,” all her sin must be forgiven and removed. The promise is unconditional. It will not depend on Israel’s deciding on its own to come back to the Lord but on God sovereignly bringing Israel back to Himself.

Paul continues to explain that because of Israel’s transgression in rejecting her Messiah, she was set aside – becoming God’s enemies, so that salvation could come to the Gentiles. That was her temporary situation from the standpoint of the gospel. But from the eternal standpoint of God’s sovereign choice, Israel is even now and forever will be beloved for the sake of the fathers—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When the Lord elected the nation of Israel to be His own people, He bound Himself by His own promises to bring the Jews to salvation and to be forever His beloved and holy people.

During this present age, Israel might be called the “beloved” enemies of God. Because of unbelief, they are, like all the unsaved, at enmity with God (Romans 5:10;8:7). But God’s eternal election guarantees that their enmity is not permanent, for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. The word “gifts” is from charismata, which speak of the grace gifts, which are soverignly given by God to all of those whom He has called.

Just as God’s sovereign grace and election cannot be earned, neither can they be rejected or thwarted. They are irrevocable and unalterable. Nothing, therefore, can prevent Israel’s being saved and restored—not even her own rebellion and unbelief, because her ungodliness will be sovereignly removed and her sins graciously taken away (Romans 11:26-27). What is true of elected believers is true of elected Israel: “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

Romans 11:27-29 – Paul is quoting from Isaiah 27:9. The power of salvation is God’s grace, and the condition of salvation is man’s faith. But even that required faith is provided as a gift from God so nobody would ever be able to boast. In order for “all Israel to be saved,” all her sin must be forgiven and removed. The promise is unconditional.

It will not depend on Israel’s deciding on its own to come back to the Lord but on God sovereignly bringing Israel back to Himself. Paul continues to explain that because of Israel’s transgression in rejecting her Messiah, she was set aside—becoming God’s enemies, so that salvation could come to the Gentiles. That was her temporary situation from the standpoint of the gospel. But from the eternal standpoint of God’s sovereign choice, Israel is even now and forever will be beloved for the sake of the fathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

When the Lord elected the nation of Israel to be His own people, He bound Himself by His own promises to bring the Jews to salvation and to be forever His beloved and holy people. During this present age, Israel might be called the “beloved” enemies of God. Because of unbelief, they are, like all the unsaved, at enmity with God (Romans 5:10; 8:7).

But God’s eternal election guarantees that their enmity is not permanent, for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. The word “gifts” is from charismata, which speak of the grace gifts, which are sovereignly given by God to all of those whom He has called. Just as God’s sovereign grace and election cannot be earned, neither can they be rejected or thwarted.

They are irrevocable and unalterable. Nothing, therefore, can prevent Israel’s being saved and restored—not even her own rebellion and unbelief, because her ungodliness will be sovereignly removed and her sins graciously taken away (Romans 11:26-27). What is true of elected believers is true of elected Israel: “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

Romans 11:30-32– God’s dealing with Israel are essential for us to know and understand for it is the basis by which He deals with His Church. (Deuteronomy 32:8) When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind, he set up boundaries for the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel. God’s mercy to Israel is the basis for his mercy to us, we are made partakers of His faithful love for them and so are included in that unfathomable love.

(Psalms 86:5) You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you. Zechariah the father of the John the Baptist rejoiced in the mercy of God to His people (Luke 1:76-79). What is amazing about the Lord is that not only does he grant forgiveness, which is not deserved, but at the same time He rescinds His punishment, which is deserved.

The grace and love of God has come full circle. Because of Israel’s unbelief, the nation was partially and temporarily set aside and the gospel of salvation was extended to the Gentiles. And if God extended His grace to pagan Gentiles even while they were in unbelief, how much more surely will He extend His grace again to His chosen people Israel while they are in unbelief?

Our salvation is based on mercy, not merit. It is an expression of God’s abundant grace. Through the centuries, theologians have struggled with what is called theodicy, the explanation of God’s righteousness and power in the light of evil.

Most of us have at some time wondered about where evil came from and why God allowed it to enter His perfect world. Although God’s Word does not fully answer that question, Paul gives at least a partial explanation, declaring that God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all. God has allowed man intellectually, morally, and spiritually to fall into a state of sin to the extent that he is powerless to save himself.

God allowed man to fall into sin in order that his only hope would be divine mercy. The work of Yeshua on the cross has met the demands of the justice and holiness of God, and has removed every barrier to forgiveness for all, and any person who seeks forgiveness and salvation will receive it.

Romans 11:33-36 – This incredible manifestation of mercy, love and grace leads Paul to burst out in praise, in which he rejoices that God’s temporarily setting Israel glorifies God. The wonder of God is beyond human understanding. All mankind one day will stand in awe of God’s sovereignty, integrity, and generosity. The Greek expression that is translated in the NIV as his paths beyond tracing out, literally refers to footprints that are un-trackable, such as those of an animal that a hunter is unable to follow.

(1 Corinthians 2:10) but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. While God has made it possible for all who seek Him to find Him (Jeremiah 29:13); and that as we study God’s Word can learn and have a certain understanding of His truth—all that is necessary (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Paul challenges all with three questions that serve to exalt God in Romans 11:34-35. He ends the chapter with a simple doxology of praise to God.

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