This final section of Romans 11 beginning in v. 25 is in many ways a solidification of what the apostle has been saying throughout the chapter, viz. “A partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (v. 11:25b) We know this, first, because this claim is nothing new to Paul’s discourse, for the section that precedes it contains in it the picture of Jewish branches being broken off of the natural olive tree for the sake of making room for the wild, Gentile branches that were to be grafted in to it (cf. vv. 11:17-24). We know this also because of how Paul introduces this section, viz. “Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers, etc.” (v. 11:25a). In other words, the apostle reiterates this because he especially wants Gentiles to understand this mystery so that they might not be wise by their own estimations, or, perhaps synonymously, so that they would not be arrogant toward the Jewish branches that were broken off (cf. v. 11:18).
Also part of what the apostle wishes the Gentiles to understand is that it is “in this way [i.e. by the present partial hardening of Israel] that all Israel will be saved” (v. 11:26). However, in spite of the apostle’s wish for clear understanding concerning this matter, at least a couple of interpretations have come from this statement. Some have interpreted the apostle’s meaning in this verse to be this: In this way, all of spiritual Israel will be saved, i.e. an Israel comprised of both Gentiles who were grafted in and the remnant of Israel that remained. This interpretation is not too much of a leap, for it acknowledges that all who are grafted into the root of the Promise, whether Jew or Gentile, are in some way a part of the Israel of God (cf. Rm. 9:6; Gal. 6:16).
However, given the context, it is difficult to imagine that the apostle means anything but physical Israel. First, in the verse that precedes our present statement, the apostle refers to Israel as the ones upon whom a partial hardening has come. He then makes our present statement, “In this way all Israel will be saved,” without further clarification of the term “Israel.” Therefore, it must be assumed that the apostle intended the “Israel” of v. 11:26 to be the same as the “Israel” of v. 11:25.
Second, the quotations from Scripture that the apostle gives for his statement demands it. He writes, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins” (vv. 11:26b, 27). From the apostle’s quotation, at least three things confirm that he is speaking of natural Israel. First, the quotation is concerning a future fulfillment when the Deliverer will banish ungodliness from Jacob. Second, the use of “Jacob” rather than “Israel” points to the physical descendants of Israel rather than to the spiritual descendants since it is after Jacob’s name is changed to Israel that the blessing upon him is realized (cf. Gen. 32:26-28). Third, the promise given in the apostle’s quotation is concerning the taking away of sins, which for those who comprise spiritual Israel has already been accomplished by the already imputed work of Christ.
Next: A Partial Hardening Has Come, II. As Regards the Gospel, the Jews are God’s Enemies
Categories: Fridy Night Bible Study