This great word underlies the whole purpose of grace, and mainly belongs to
doctrine, but it is used in Romans 9 to 11 in the exposition of Dispensational
Truth, as it pertains to that part of the purpose of God that relates to Israel,
and we therefore give an analysis of these three great chapters together with a
few comments on those passages which speak of election, but necessarily leave
the great question of Election itself untouched. The matter will come up again
when we deal with the peculiar constitution of the Church of the one Body when
examining the distinctive teaching of Ephesians,
and again when dealing with the word
Predestination. Romans 9 to 11 is bounded at either end with the
tremendous thought that ‘God is over all’ (Rom. 9:4,5 and 11:33-35).
We must first of all obtain a view of these chapters as a whole.
Romans 9 to 11
A 9:1-5. Sorrow.
Doxology. ‘Over all (panton),
God blessed unto the ages’ (9:5).
B 9:6-29. The
Remnant saved. Mercy on some. Corrective as to ‘all Israel’
C 9:30 to
11:10. The stumbling stone. The Lord of all that believe.
Christ the end of the law. No difference.
B 11:11-32. All
Israel saved. Mercy on them all. Corrective as to the
A 11:33-35. Song.
Doxology ‘Of Him, through Him, and to Him are all things
(ta panta). To Him
be glory unto the ages’ (11:36).
The Nation and the
The fact that the bulk of the nation was in a state of unbelief at the time
that Paul wrote, did not in any way throw doubt upon the accuracy of prophecy,
and the promises. Rather the reverse, for there are a number of references in
the Old Testament to Israel’s apostasy, and the preservation of a remnant.
Isaiah, in a day of departure, speaks of this remnant in 1:9; 10:21,22, etc.,
and is quoted in Romans 9:27 :
‘Though the number of the children of Israel be as
the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved’.
On the day of Pentecost, Peter omitted the close of Joel 2:32
because the appeal was to the nation. Subsequent events, however, proved that
what Joel had prophesied was fulfilled. The omitted words ‘and in the remnant
whom the Lord shall call’ were applicable then, and will again be true in the
future day of Israel’s restoration. When, therefore, we read in Romans 11:26,
‘and so all Israel shall be saved’ we must read the words ‘all Israel’ in the
light of Romans 9:6-9. The ‘all Israel’ that shall be saved is not co-extensive
with the total number of Abraham’s descendants, but indicates a definite company
- ‘children of promise’, a ‘reckoned seed’.
Dispensational not Doctrinal
Had the apostle, when writing Romans 9, intended to discuss the doctrines of
free will, and eternal election and reprobation, he would have been obliged to
have introduced many different arguments. His purpose in this chapter is much
simpler. He is pointing out that the whole history of the people of Israel is
the outworking of an elective purpose, and that if this elective purpose is
satisfied for the moment by the salvation of a remnant, then there can be no
truth in the suggestion that the Word of God has failed. When seen in their true
context, the words ‘hate’ and ‘love’ in verse 13 create no insuperable
difficulty, but if the apostle’s object in Romans 9 is misunderstood, then we
must expect confusion, and the inevitable evils that flow from a false
representation of the sovereignty of God. Just as the advocates of eternal
punishment can only find a basis for their dreadful creed by ignoring the
qualifying statements of Scripture, and applying what is peculiar and limited to
what is universal, so in Romans 9, we can only build up the Calvinistic doctrine
of eternal reprobation, with the allied error which regards sin as part of the
Divine decree, if we fail to see that Paul is here dealing with the
dispensational question of Israel’s rejection and failure. We give the structure
of the passage just considered.
The remnant, and
the Word of God (Romans 9:6-13)
A 9:6-8. THE
WORD OF GOD.
B 9:6-8. IN
ISAAC, A SEED RECKONED
a All out of Israel, these are not
b The seed of Abraham, these are
not all children.
c In Isaac the seed shall be
a The children of the flesh, these
are not the children of God.
b The children of promise.
c Counted for a seed.
A 9:9. THE
WORD OF PROMISE.
B 9:9. TO
SARAH A CHILD PROMISED.
a At this time.
b Will I return.
c Sarah shall have a son.
A 9:10-13. IT
WAS SAID UNTO HER.
TO REBEKAH A NATION CHOSEN.
a Rebekah ... Isaac. Common
b Purpose according to election.
c Greater, lesser, loved,
The rejection of the Jewish people in the apostle’s own time was no more
contrary to the promises of God than the rejection of the ten tribes who were
carried away into captivity by the Assyrians; for though the number carried away
were like the sand in multitude, a remnant returned. Instead of reproaching God
with the smallness of the remnant, the apostle says that we should rather be
glad to think that a remnant had been spared at all, for as Isaiah has already
said, the people had become like Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Lord, apart from
His sovereign will, might have left them also to perish.
Before concluding, let us review this intensely difficult passage in broad
God’s promise has not been broken by the failure and rejection of the
bulk of Israel (6-13).
The children of ABRAHAM (7-9).
Everything depends upon what we understand by ‘Israel’. We have Abraham’s
children, Ishmael and Isaac, but in Isaac the seed was called.
The children of ISAAC (10-13).
The purpose of God according to election was signally manifested in the
choice of Jacob, and the rejection of Esau.
God is therefore just when He shows mercy on some, and allows others to
go the natural road to perdition. This is later proved from the argument
from ‘the same lump’ (14-18).
As to MERCY. - This prerogative is
claimed by God Himself in Exodus 33.
As to HARDENING. - This is written
large in His dealings with Pharaoh.
God, therefore, has always acted in accordance with His sovereignty, and
in harmony with Old Testament Scripture (19-29).
Man, as a creature, has no right or power to reply to God.
God has dealt with ‘vessels of wrath’ and ‘vessels of mercy’ according
to His sovereign will.
In the inclusion of Gentiles and the saving of a remnant of Israel, God
is acting in harmony with Old Testament Scripture.
Quotation from Hosea. - He calls a people ‘My people’ who once were
‘not My people’.
Quotation from Isaiah. - He saved but a remnant at the captivity of
Israel years before.
Structure of Romans 9:14-29
The Sovereignty of God Established.
A 14. WHAT
SHALL WE THEN SAY?
MOSES AND MERCY.
PHARAOH AND HARDENING.
Divine election established from the law.
A 19. THOU
WILT THEN SAY.
Divine election, an essential prerogative of
Creator, illustrated from common usage.
A 25. AS HE
HOSEA - NOT MY PEOPLE.
ISAIAH - REMNANT.
The purpose of Divine election further
illustrated from the Prophets.
The two apparently opposite aspects of truth represented by sovereignty and
responsibility meet together in Romans 11:1,2, summed up in the word ‘foreknew’.
(See articles on PREDESTINATION, and
Were the Bible nothing but Romans 9:14-29 we might all be Calvinists. Were it
nothing but Romans 10, we might all be Arminians. As it is, we cannot be either
to the exclusion of the other, for each system contains an element of truth, in
spite of the admixture of error.
Discovering the Structure
Romans 9:30 to 10:21 deals with the question of Israel and righteousness, and
it has been suggested that the subject is handled in a threefold way: Israel’s
failure in spite of the prophets (9:30-33); Israel’s failure in spite of the law
(10:1-11); and Israel’s failure in spite of the gospel (10:14-21). Upon
examination, however, it would seem that this subdivision of the subject-matter
is not justified. It will be observed that the apostle uses twice over one
particular quotation from the prophet Isaiah: ‘Whosoever believeth on Him shall
not be ashamed’ (Rom. 9:33; 10:11). This fact must certainly be given a place in
any structural outline. Further, we notice that the Greek word
skandalon ‘offence’ (Rom. 9:33) and
‘stumbling block’ (Rom. 11:9,10), is used in two passages with evident and
intentional parallelism. This, too, must find a place in the structure, and
extends the section beyond the limits of Romans 10. Again, we observe that the
subject-matter of Romans 9:30-32, the fact that the Gentiles attained what they
did not follow after - is echoed in Romans 11:6,7. These items are decisive, and
demand recognition. We accordingly give them their place in the structure, which
is as follows:
Romans 9:30 to 11:10
‘The Election hath obtained It’
a What shall we say then?
b Gentiles followed not; yet
Israel followed; yet attained not.
c Faith versus Works.
Skandalon. The rock of offence.
Kataischuno. Whoso believeth, not
D 10:1-10. d
Paul’s prayer for Israel.
e Israel ignorant and
f The word of faith which
Kataischuno. Whoso believeth, not
D 10:12 to 11:3. f
The word of faith that was preached.
d Elijah’s intercession
e Israel gainsaying and
a What saith the oracle of God.
c Grace versus Works.
b Israel seek, but obtain not.
Skandalon. The stumbling stone.
In the earlier verses of Romans 11 the apostle has shown that the failure of
the bulk of the nation of Israel in no way invalidates God’s purpose of His
faithfulness. We have seen that the prophets foretold ‘a remnant according to
the election of grace’, and we also learn that the defection of Israel has been
overruled to bring about the reconciliation of the Gentile world. Looking on to
the close of the chapter, we find that ‘all Israel’ shall be saved, because ‘the
gifts and calling of God are without repentance’. The words ‘all Israel’,
‘Jacob’ and ‘Zion’ together with the prophecy alluded to, preclude our making
any deduction from these verses but one - namely, the national restoration and
blessing of Israel according to the terms of the New Covenant.
Quite a number of questions suggest themselves as we read this section, but
it is evident that the apostle, when he wrote about the olive tree, had no
intention of introducing a theological argument at this point. He had one and
only one purpose before him - to show, by the figure of the olive tree, how the
Lord had used Gentile believers, in order, if it were possible, to ‘provoke’ the
nation of Israel ‘to emulation’. This, and this only, is the reason for
introducing the figure, and the recognition of this will save us from almost
endless argument as to the ultimate destiny of the branches that remained.
Before attempting any exposition of these verses, it will be wise to see what
particular parts of the passage are emphasized by the structure, which we set
ISRAEL’S FALL OCCASIONS GENTILE RECONCILIATION.
11. PROVOKE. ‘If’.
FULNESS of Israel.
FULLNESS of Gentiles.
A 26-32. MERCY
TO GENTILE OCCASIONS ISRAEL’S RESTORATION.
26. All Israel shall be saved.
f 26. Deliverer: turn away
g 27. The covenant.
h 28. Enemies. Gospel. For
h 28. Beloved. Election. For
the fathers’ sakes.
g 29. The gifts and calling.
f 32. Concluded in unbelief.
e 32. Mercy upon them all.
It is evident that the apostle is speaking here of the
dispensational aspect of truth, for no
Gentile could be justified by being placed in the position forfeited by one of
the natural branches of Israel’s olive tree. No believer, who is justified by
faith, can ever be separated from the love of God, or can ever be condemned
(Rom. 8), so that the threat of excision in Romans 11:22 must refer to the
dispensational position which then obtained.
The introduction of the figure of the olive tree, especially the strange use
of the grafting of a wild olive, is considered separately under the title
We pass on here to the conclusion of the question of the bearing of election on
the dispensational place of Israel. At the first advent, the bulk of the nation
rejected the Saviour, and but a remnant according to election was saved, but at
the consummation ‘All Israel shall be saved’ (Rom. 11:26). This is in fulfilment
of the terms of the New Covenant, and fully recognizes the sinful character of
this elect people, while magnifying the sovereignty of electing grace.
‘As concerning the gospel, they are ENEMIES
for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are BELOVED for the
fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance’ (Rom.
Thus this dispensational chapter opens with sorrow and ends with song. At the
beginning is set out in detail the privilege of Israel ‘according to the flesh’
but at the end the salvation of Israel by sovereign grace. The elect remnant,
like the Pentecostal harvest were a kind of firstfruits, a pledge of the great
ingathering when Israel shall look upon Him Whom they pierced, and become at
long last a kingdom of priests in the earth. For a fuller dealing of the place
of Israel in the purpose of the ages, see