Romansby David Cook
Paul, a Jew himself, is an example of the fact that God has not abandoned Israel (v. 1). God has always reserved a remnant who will never be abandoned. Paul, Elijah, and the 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal (see 1 Kings 19:10, 14, 18) are examples of that (v. 4). Similarly, at the present time, Paul says there is a small remnant within Israel (v. 5). This remnant is chosen by grace, not by merit (vv. 5–6).
Israel’s resistance and blindness are no surprise to God. In fact, “God gave them a spirit of stupor” (v. 8), an insensitivity to revelation. It is God’s judgment upon their refusal to heed the gospel. The darkening of their spiritual eyes (vv. 9–10) has overtaken them all, except for the faithful remnant.
Quoting Deuteronomy 29 and Psalm 69, Paul shows that Israel’s resistance and blindness are the verdict of Scripture, and that God superintends all this activity. But what is God’s purpose in all this? Is this hardening permanent? No (v. 11). Bible commentator Charles Hodge says, “The rejection of the Jews is not total, neither is it final.”
We see this pattern repeated in the book of Acts. The gospel comes to the Jews first, then upon their rejection it goes to the Gentiles who accept it, and Israel becomes envious of God’s blessing upon the Gentiles (v. 11). Paul therefore makes much of his ministry to the Gentiles, for this is a means of arousing Israel to envy and bringing her to her senses (vv. 13–14). In the economy of God, Israel’s stumbling is the means of bringing many Gentiles to Christ.
In verse 16, Paul uses two metaphors: dough in baking, and the root and branch of a tree. The principle is that if one part is holy, then the whole of the bake run, or the tree, is holy. Therefore, if the firstfruit or root is the Lord’s, then the rest is His as well. Hence, if the patriarchs are God’s, then those who follow them—elect Israel and elect Gentiles—are His as well. And if Paul and his fellow Jewish believers are the Lord’s, then all who follow them with faith in Christ are the Lord’s as well.
These are difficult verses. However, we can see that God has a plan and He is working it out. He is the great superintending evangelist, working out the salvation indicated in verse 26. Trusting Him does not lead us to inactivity, but to the activity indicated in Romans 1:14–16.
What do you think about God’s ongoing purpose for the Jews?
Should we be especially supportive of evangelism among Jews? Why?