Recently Added
to Exposition of Romans:

3:9–20—Conclusion: OT confirms that humanity is under sin’s power
(January 26th 2019)
Romans 11:28–29—Israel’s salvation is rooted in God’s faithfulness.

28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Paul makes sure his Gentile readers understand two things: (1) Israel’s animosity toward the gospel works “for your sake,” that is, for Gentiles’ salvation and enrichment (see 11:12); and (2) God remains devoted to Israel because of his election of that nation’s forefathers.

Still front and center is God’s sovereign mercy bestowed on both ethnic groups. It has been the main theme of chapters 9–11, and now verses 28–32 bring that theme to its climax. Douglas Moo points to verse 28 as a succinct summary of “the dilemma that drives the whole argument of these chapters: the Israel now at enmity with God because of the gospel is nevertheless the Israel to whom God has made irrevocable promises of blessing.”

Paul reminds Gentiles of the benefit they derive from Israel’s temporary hardening, which should foster in them an attitude of humility (11:17–21). And he stresses God’s lovingkindness for Israel even though the nation as a whole has ignored or actively opposed the gospel. Thus these verses highlight the key points of Paul’s proclamation throughout chapters 9–11:
1. Israel’s rejection of the gospel (9:32)
2. Gentiles’ access to the gospel through Israel’s rejection of it (9:30, 10:19, 11:11)
3. God’s election of Israel’s patriarchs as the ground of his abiding love for Israel (9:11, 11:1–5)
4. The underlying themes of God’s mercy and faithfulness (9:23, 11:5, 11:27)

The meaning of “enemies”
Moo points out that this word can be either active (“those who hate God”) or passive (“those hated by God”). If passive, the word would be parallel with “beloved,” God being the assumed actor. Moo favors giving the word a dual meaning. On one hand, Israel by her rejection of the gospel has made herself an enemy of God. On the other hand, God has hardened Israel so she cannot see the gospel (11:8–10).

So merciful is God that he loves even his enemies (a truth we encountered in 5:10) and so faithful that he calls those enemies “beloved” because he will not renege on his promises.

This word and “calling” in verse 29 have a different meaning than the effectual call to salvation we saw in 8:30. Here Paul uses the words in the OT sense of God’s choice of Israel to enjoy a special relationship with him and to serve his purpose in salvation history. Through Israel God sought to redeem humanity, and even in her disobedience Israel brings riches for the world (11:12). This election is of the nation as a whole, and it does not mean that every single Jew will be saved.

Colin Kruse says this is the only place in Paul’s letters he speaks of the election of Israel as a nation. Joseph Fitzmyer points out that God’s call of Abraham (Genesis 12:1–2) led to God’s election of Israel to be his chosen people (Deuteronomy 7:6–7), and “now that call must also include God’s summons of Israel by the gospel.”

“Gifts and calling”
Paul listed in 9:4 the gifts or privileges God granted Israel. Moo regards God’s “call” as one of the most important of those gifts, and he paraphrases the phrase accordingly: “the gifts and especially, among those gifts, the call of God.”

“Without repentance” or “without regret” is the basic meaning of the Greek word translated “irrevocable,” and it appears at the beginning of the sentence for emphasis. In no way does God regret having bestowed gifts on Israel and having called the nation to be his own.

Celebration of grace
Because God’s promises to his chosen people rest on grace, not their performance, truly it can be said that God’s word has not failed (9:6) and he has not rejected his people (11:1). Grace will guide Israel all the way to salvation—through her stumbling, fall, and persistent unbelief to eventual repentance and faith amid her spectacular rescue by the Lord of glory.

We can rest secure in God’s grace to us, as did Abraham and Isaac in their day. The two patriarchs are celebrated not because of their character but because they believed in God and took to heart his gracious acceptance of them. Bruce Waltke and Cathi Fredricks write:
Neither patriarch is perfect. Isaac shares some of his father’s weaknesses, but like his father he does not allow his failures permanently to damage his faith. The bearers of Christ’s kingdom are sometimes strong and sometimes weak. The faithful celebrate God’s grace and are not overcome with self-guilt or destroyed by self-contempt.