Election: Romans 11, Part 6 (“they are enemies on your account”)

(Rom 11:28-29) 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, 29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.

Notice that Paul again refers to the Jews — all of them, not just the remnant — as elect, and yet they’ve not been justified. Rom 8:29-31 does not mean that every individual among the elect will be justified and glorified! Paul is telling us that the nation of Israel, having been elected, will be justified and glorified, even if only through a remnant.

Moreover, we see Paul’s use of “call” — Israel has been irrevocably called but not irrevocably saved as individuals! Rather, God’s promise remains outstanding. If they’ll come to faith, they’ll be saved.

(Rom 11:30-31) Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, 31 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.

Israel disobeyed, and so, according to Deu 32 and other passages, God extended his election to the Gentiles in order to provoke the Jews to jealousy. But the disobedience of the Jews leads not only to the salvation of the Gentiles (some, not all), it leads to the salvation of the Jews (some, not all), because they are accepted by God on the very same terms as the Gentiles: faith in Jesus — and, Paul hopes, because the conversion of Gentiles will make many of the Jews envious enough to reconsider Jesus.

(Rom 11:32) For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

This is not saying: man is totally depraved so God can elect them all (neither Calvinists nor Arminians teach this!) Rather, the disobedience of the Gentiles and the disobedience of the Jews (presented by Paul in Rom 1 – 3) has created the condition necessary to bring God’s salvation by grace.

We miss this because we think it’s all about faith — and faith is critically important. But Paul makes much better sense when we consider the Spirit’s work in us, as explained in the first half of Rom 8. You see, Paul explains in Rom 7 how we cannot be obedient by our own power. Therefore, we must receive the Spirit, which changes everything.

Why does God send the Spirit — and so save us? Because our disobedience requires it. It all fits together.

(Rom 11:33-36) Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

The final answer, of course, is that God is wiser than we are! Now, Paul isn’t saying: this is impossible to understand. He’d just explained it! Rather, Paul’s point returns to the beginning question: why hasn’t Israel believed in Jesus and so been saved?

The answer is, in part, because God says so. In more detail, it’s because this is how it had to be for the nations to be brought in to the Kingdom. And because God kept a remnant, just as he promised. And because, over time, more Jews will be saved by coming to faith.

But why this way? Why not some other way? And here Paul says, “How unsearchable his judgments!” And then he gives glory to God, although he began by saying he wished things had turned out differently.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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2 Responses to Election: Romans 11, Part 6 (“they are enemies on your account”)

  1. Kyle says:

    I really enjoyed this presentation/ series Jay. Yesterday I heard a podcast by Matt Chandler…Channler?…someone with a name similiar to that. Anyways, he said that Romans 9-11 was really a summary of God's metanarrative..and not predestination.

    I thought that was really interesting especially given in light of what you've said here. Perhaps our interpretations of this texted depend on whether we read them as a narrative or whether we read them as a system of beliefs….or maybe I'm completely off on that one.

  2. Jay Guin says:


    Thanks for a very perceptive comment.

    It's entirely true that Rom 9 – 11 is a re-telling of part of God's story, for the purpose of understanding how things wound up this way (the Jews largely rejecting the Messiah). It's important that Paul sought a solution through revisiting the story rather than simply declaring that God's elections are whatever he wants them to be. Nor does Paul start by scouring the scriptures for rules — he starts by seeking God's own story.

    As a result, while there is certainly doctrine to be found in these chapters, the doctrine derives from the telling of the story. And that should tell us that, until we get the story right, we have no chance of getting the doctrine right.

    By the way, just like baseball, the series isn't over until it's over, and it's not over.

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