NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER ELEVEN (Lesson XXXIV)
John Calvin agrees that God always keeps His promises. Even though the Gentile’s chief fault was misbelief, and for the Jews it was unbelief, even so, the Jews were blinded for a time and that made a way for the Gentiles to hear the Gospel, God still did not excluded the Jews forever from receiving His grace. So Paul openly admits that though the Jews were alienated from God during his time, yet God was ever mindful of the covenant which He had made with their forefathers. God made it known that according to His eternal purpose He still loved that nation: and He confirms this with a remarkable declaration, – that the grace of the divine calling cannot be made void1.2
John Locke does not take what Paul says of the Jews as “enemies of the Gospel,” to suggest that they were trying to destroy the Church and wipe it off the face of the earth. That’s why in his paraphrase he calls them, “strangers to the Gospel.” The reason they were strangers, is because the Gospel was strange to them since they were so alienated from God. That’s why they were not familiar with what their own prophets had to say about the Messiah. So they refused to embrace the Gospel that Paul preached, even though he told them that he had received it directly from God’s Son, the Messiah, Yeshua of Nazareth. So as long as they refused to accept Yeshua as their Messiah, their Lord and Savior, they would always be alien to the kingdom of God. How sad for Paul, that those who were originally chosen as the children of God were now no longer able to claim that title. Unfortunately for them, it had been given to the Gentiles whom they hated and despised. Perhaps that was another reason why they rejected the Gospel as having any meaning for them.3
Daniel Whitby sees the picture of a “double election4” of the Jews here in verses 28-29. The first election was through Abraham, and passed on to them physically through Isaac and then later through Moses and the Law. The second election will be brought to them spiritually through Abraham and Isaac and then Yeshua and the Gospel. The first was election by obedience through works of the Law, the second will be by obedience through faith to the words of the Gospel. In the first election it was because of their forefather’s sake, in the second it will be because of Yeshua’s sake. The first election was to make them a peculiar people among the nations to share the Law of Moses and it’s form of salvation through works. The second election will be to make them a peculiar priesthood among the nations to share the Gospel and it’s form of salvation through faith. The first took place before Christ came and was to be initiated once He arrived. But they rejected His message and dismissed His claim of being the Messiah. So they will be given a second election just before He returns, and that will be the last.
John Bengel feels that the stubbornness of the Jews should not be thought of as a reason to discount their eventual conversion. Right now they are called “enemies” in an active sense, but “beloved” in a passive sense.5 However, Bengel says that the “calling” Paul speaks of here is that of the Gentiles. In other words, even though Israel was God’s people called through Abraham, He does not regret sending the same calling out to the Gentiles. Furthermore, He will not take that calling back. At the same time, the calling of the Gentiles does not cancel out the eventual calling of Israel.
With respect to God’s gifts and calling of Israel being without any expiration date, Adam Clarke feels that the gifts and calling which God bestowed upon the Jews will never be revoked. In reference to this point, there has been no change in God’s of mind. Therefore, the possibility and certainty of their restoration as the people of God, enjoying every spiritual blessing with the fullness of the Gentiles, may both be reasonably and safely inferred. Repentance, when applied to God, signifies a simple change of purpose relative to some declarations made subject to certain conditions. Jeremiah explained this very well by using himself as an illustration6.7
Robert Haldane now points to the Gospel as revealing that although the Jews rejection of the Messiah led to the Gentiles becoming part of the family of God, still as far as their being His chosen people is concerned they are still beloved by Him. Haldane believes that Paul is attempting here to put to rest any objection that might be brought against the future recall of the Jews. The great body of the nation — all whom the Apostle declared to be judicially blinded – were now the enemies of God with respect to the Gospel. They had rejected God’s message by His Son, and, thereby, became His enemies while they called Him their God.
The Gentiles, then, might object, How can the Jewish nation ever be grafted into the true olive tree again, seeing they continue to refused to listen to God’s message of reconciliation? The Apostle gives his own answer to this. First, Paul admits that the Jews had become hostile to God, and were dealt with as enemies for their contempt and disbelief of the Gospel. In the next place, he says that this was for the sake of the Gentiles. The rejection of the Jews was, in the incomprehensible mind of Yahweh, connected with and overruled for the salvation of the Gentiles. Some understand the words, “for your sake,” as implying that the Jews were enemies to God because of His sending the Gospel to the Gentiles. This no doubt gave the Jews great offense, but it was before this event that they rejected and crucified Christ.8
Then Haldane touches on the subject of how the gifts and calling are without repentance and cannot be voided. This is something that many preachers, teachers, and scholars have misinterpreted as being a reference to the gifts of the Spirit and the calling into the ministry. But when seen in the context of these verses, it is clear that Paul is saying that even though the Jews became hostile to God’s plan of salvation that included the hated Gentiles, yet He will never deny that He called them to be His people and the promises He made to them are still valid. Also, since the salvation of the Gentiles was a gift from God, that will He never withdraw or ask to be returned.
Haldane sees Paul’s reasoning here is based on the fact that since God never changes, then His purpose for the ones He called also does not change. In other words, what He has given the Jews He will not withdraw, and His choice of them as His special people will never be altered. “Calling” in this verse equivalent to “election” in the preceding verse. This election or calling as a nation cannot be revoked, and that national election was connected with and subservient to the election to eternal life of multitudes of their descendants, at the period when all Israel shall be saved. For this purpose, it was that in the destruction of Jerusalem the whole Jewish nation was not exterminated. But how much longer can this standoff last. Jesus made one thing clear when He said: “If those days had not already been shortened, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.9”
Haldane then goes on to point out that the term “elect” here cannot be applicable to those Jews who had already embraced the Gospel, for the tribulations of those days, even had they not been shortened, would not have caused their destruction, scattered as they were through many countries. It must refer to the elect of God in that future age when all Israel will be offered salvation. It was for their sake, who were to descend from the Jewish people, that the destruction of that people was limited, and for which God was pleased to preserve a part of them, and continues to preserve them to this day. The same reason, then, for this miraculous preservation, had likewise been given by the Prophet Isaiah, “But I will not destroy them all,” says the LORD. “For just as good grapes are found among a cluster of bad ones (and someone will say, ‘Don’t throw them all away – some of those grapes are good!’), so I will not destroy all Israel. For I still have true servants there.10”11
When it comes to God’s invitation to all people to come and partake of His goodness, grace, and favor, this He did without any thought of canceling that call. Albert Barnes gives his thoughts on why this calling is without termination: First, he says, all the promises made to the people of God will be fulfilled. Secondly, His people need not be discouraged or despondent during times of persecution and trial. Thirdly, none who become His true friends will be forsaken, or thrown away. God does not bestow the gift of repentance and faith, of pardon and peace, on people, for a temporary purpose; nor does He withdraw them for no reason and leave the soul to perish.
When He renews a soul, it is with reference to His own glory; and to withdraw those favors, and leave such a soul once renewed to go down to hell would be as much a violation of all the principles of His nature as it would be to all the promises of the Scripture. Fourthly, for God to forsake such a soul, and leave it to ruin would imply that He repented of His actions. It would suppose a change of purpose and of feeling. It would be the character of an impulsive individual with no settled plan or principles of action; no confidence could be placed in Him, and His government would be unworthy the affections and trust of His intelligent creation.12 What Barnes does not say is that if there is any breakdown in the completion of that calling and the awarding of those favors promised, it is on man’s side, not God’s.
Henry Alford offers his opinion on how the Jews can be both “enemies” and “beloved, and how the “gifts” and “calling” should be understood with regard to the Jews and Gentiles. He says that when we look at the Jews from the pages of the Gospel, they are enemies of God’s Good News of salvation by grace not works. But when we look at them from the view of ancestry, they are the beloved because of God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob so often referred to by God as a cause for His favorable remembrance of Israel. Then Alford says that for an explanation of how God still regards them even in their state of exclusion because of their rejection of Jesus and the Gospel, the “gifts” (generally) and “calling” (as the most excellent of those gifts) cannot be recalled or repeated. Alford agrees with Bengel that the “gifts” are meant for the Jews, and the “calling” is meant for the Gentiles.13
1 See Galatians 3:17
2 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
3 John Locke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 357
4 Daniel Whitby: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit. p. 66
5 John Bengel: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 335
6 Jeremiah 18:7-9
7 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 229
8 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 544
9 Matthew 24:22
10 Isaiah 65:8-9
11 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 545-546
12 Albert Barnes: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
13 Henry Alford: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 107