In the previous posts (1, 2, 3) we looked at Romans 9 and 10. The focus throughout the passage is the nation of Israel. Has God broken his promises to the Jewish people? No, he has not.
We noted the following: The election described in Romans 9 is for the human ancestry of Christ (9:5). Jacob and Esau are nations (9:11-13). Pharaoh is a parallel to the nation of Israel (9:14-17). Pharaoh was used by God to proclaim his name to the world (9:17). Israel depended on their works instead of believing in Jesus (10:1-4). Anyone can be saved by confessing and believing that Jesus is Lord (10:9-13). God genuinely desired to save Israel, yet they resisted his grace (10:16-21).
In the opening of Romans 11 we see that God still loves Israel, even though they have been disobedient. In addition, not all of Israel has turned away from God. Some have remained faithful. Others have become faithful. Paul gives himself as an example (11:1-6).
Also discussed is the election and hardening of Israel:
What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened…(11:7)
The “hardening” here is not by arbitrary decree. Rather, Israel has been hardened by God because of their disobedience. The hardening is also not without purpose. Through it the Gentiles have been shown mercy. Importantly for Israel, the hardening is not a permanent condition. Salvation is available for them too. They have not stumbled beyond recovery.
Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!
In Romans 11:13 Paul makes a transition from Israel to addressing Gentiles. He gives an analogy of some branches being cut off and other branches being grafted in. Salvation is now available to the non-Jew. Israel has been “cut off” due to their disobedience, and the Gentiles have been “grafted in” as a result. Importantly to Arminians, Paul makes it clear that we can lose our salvation through unbelief. We should not take our current standing for granted. Just as Israel was cut off, so we can be too.
Romans 11:17-21 (bold and parenthesis mine)
If some of the branches have been broken off (Israel), and you (gentiles), though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 1do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they (Israel) were broken off because of unbelief, and you (gentiles) stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.
There is still good news for Israel. If they do not persist in disbelief, they can be grafted back into a relationship with God. Since they are the original branches, it is more all the more natural for them.
Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!
Mercy for All
Paul closes his argument in Romans 11:28-32. He concludes that Israel will be saved in the end, because God is faithful to keep his promises. God has mercy on all of us! This conclusion is the opposite of what Calvinism teaches.
Romans 11:28-32 (bold mine)
As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; 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 all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.”
Romans 9-11 is very unfriendly to Calvinism when read in context. Consider the following:
- God wants everyone to know who he is (9:17).
- Anyone can be saved (10:9-13).
- Grace is resistible (10:16-21).
- Hardening is not arbitrary, it is a punishment for transgression (11:11).
- The accepted can become rejected (11:22).
- The rejected can become accepted (11:23)
- God has mercy on all (11:32).
Isn’t it interesting that Paul concludes his argument by stating that God has mercy on us all? The whole point of Paul’s argument throughout Romans 9-11 is that our God is faithful! He is good. He is genuine. He keeps his promises. He is merciful to Israel. He is merciful all. Amen to that!