Our text here is Romans 11:25-32, and as I mentioned last time, they follow the context set up in 17-25. This is very important to keep in mind, especially for those who use the NIV. The reason I say this is that the NIV has left a word out, the word gar which means “for or because”. Verse 25 begins in the NIV, “I do not want you…” and the Greek (as well as the NASB, KJV and many others) actually says, “For I do not…” I am pointing this out because that little word “for” connects 25 ff. with 17-24 and the metaphor of the olive tree.
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.”
The mystery Paul refers to here is the same as the olive tree, the means by which God brings all peoples together through Christ. Old Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, meaning that those among the Jews who had rejected the Son have been hardened to allow the Gentiles to enter God’s family. Thus “all Israel” comprised of both Jew and Gentile may be saved by faith in Christ. This is followed by a fascinating quote from Isaiah 59:20-21 that so clearly refers to the New Covenant (see also Jeremiah 31:33-34). If this seems hard for you, remember that the Old Covenant Law does not take away sins and can only condemn a person. When we put this together it is clear that “all Israel” must refer to those who have been saved by grace through faith in Christ, and cannot refer to ethnic Israel.
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.
If you only read this paragraph, then your understanding of it will be quite different than if you have been following along with us through the whole of chapter 11; you will probably conclude that Paul is saying that all Jews will be saved in the end whether or not they have believed, and some actually teach it that way.
But they are mistaken.
Remember, Paul is elaborating on the olive tree metaphor of 17-24 which is a warning to the Gentiles. The Gentiles are the branch from the wild olive tree that was grafted into the cultured tree after old branches were torn away because of their unbelief, and they must not become arrogant or they too can be torn out (11:22-23). Taken all together, these verses tell much the same story as do verses 11-16.
Verse 28 carries a meaning similar to that of 11:23-24. Some of the branches of the olive tree have been cut off for their unbelief, but even though they have chosen to be God’s enemies by rejecting the Gospel, God still cares for them because they were called to His service through the patriarchs, and if they will only repent, He will take them back in a New York minute, because His goal in all of this is to give His mercy not only to Gentiles, but to all people if they will only believe Him and His offer of grace through faith.