Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on July 22nd, 2018.
Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
In This Way All Israel Will Be Saved – Romans 11:25-36
Please turn to our text for today Romans 11:25-36. In honor of the reading of God’s word, please stand.
25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,
“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
27 “and this will be my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”
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. 30 For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. 32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.
33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
I have taken my title for today’s sermon from the first part of verse 26 in this way all Israel with be saved. Today Paul will be wrapping up his argument, the argument he started back in Romans 9. But notice how Paul starts our text today with a warning about the danger when Christians think they know, through their own wisdom, why so many of Israel, the Jews, have rejected their Messiah – Jesus. Many Gentile Christians in Rome may have been arrogant towards the Jews because so many Jews rejected their own Messiah. We saw Paul address this last week by using the Metaphor of an olive tree.
It would be easy for Gentile Christians to look at the branches of Jews who have been cut off for their unbelief in Jesus and think we, Gentiles, are better than Jews. Some Gentiles believers could be thinking, the number of growing Gentile believers and so few Jewish believer, is evidence that God has rejected his chosen people Israel or that so many Jews failure to believe is fatal for Israel as a people. Both of these conclusions Paul has emphatically denied earlier in chapter 11, saying by no means!
In the olive tree metaphor, Paul spoke specifically to Gentile Christians and reminded them that, the tree that they are now grafted into - is Israel, those who received the promises of God going back to the forefathers (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). While some branches were broken off, they were broken off because of unbelief and the result was that Gentile believers are now being grafted in. Now God is using Gentile believers, like us, and Jewish believers, like Paul, to make unbelieving Jews jealous for what we have, their Messiah – Jesus. In fact, Paul magnifies his own ministry to the Gentiles to make his fellow Jews jealous and thus save some of them.
Here in this warning in verse 25, Paul wants Gentile believers not to come up with worldly, man-made wisdom about ideas about the plan of salvation for Israel, God’s chosen people, the Jews - because it is a mystery. Paul has been, by the power of the Holy Spirit, unwrapping this mystery of God’s plan for his people Israel throughout chapters 9, 10 and 11. Here we have Paul summing up God’s word on what this mystery, to keep us from using worldly wisdom to try to explain this. Paul does not want his Christians brothers to be unaware of this mystery.
Before we go too far into this mystery, it would be helpful to have a biblical context for mystery. The word mystery is used 32 times in the bible - 8 times in Daniel, 4 times in Revelation, and the Apostle Paul used the word 20 times in his letters. In Romans Paul uses the word mystery 1 other time at the end.
The word mystery is used to describe things marriage, Jesus, Gentiles, and God’s will, to name just a few. But it is where Paul uses the word at the end of Romans that we get a good definition of mystery in the biblical context.
Romans 16:25-26 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith.
Here we get insight into the word’s use. Paul tells us it is something that has been kept secret and some of these mysteries are now being revealed, made known to all the nations, by God’s command to bring about obedience of faith.
So Paul is going to reveal something here that is a mystery about God’s plan for salvation for his people Israel, the Jews. Now I want to preface my message today and say there are many godly men who differ on the details of this mystery. You would think that in revealing this mystery - Paul would make it clear, but like many mysteries some have been revealed, some will be revealed, and some are still being revealed. In our mystery today, there is a present tense of the revealing – in verse 25 a partial hardening has come upon Israel. The “has come” here tells us that it has been revealed. But there is also a future aspect of this mystery that will occur that should give us caution. The end of verse 25 says until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. The “until” here, tells us this mystery is still being revealed and there is a future aspect or prophecy here that is not yet complete.
Herein lies a danger so we need to be cautious not to go too far with this mystery. In the Old Testament, the test of whether a prophet was a true prophet is given in Deuteronomy 18:22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.
Seems fairly straight forward and simple. If the prophecy comes to pass it is true, if not, it is not the word of God.
As we look at this mystery today, I pray that the Holy Spirit guides us to his truth, that we stay grounded in God’s word because his word is truth.
To help us break down this mystery today, I want to focus our attention on the who, what, when, how and why of this mystery today, not necessarily in that order. We are covering a lot of text today, so we will not get too deep into all the aspects of this mystery. But I will do the best to stay true to the context of this mystery and cover the text we have today.
There are many pastors who spend a lot more time in Romans 11 than we will, in fact, I was looking at some sermon from Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones and I believe he has 30 sermons on chapter 11. We will have done three. So I encourage you all to look at this more, and deeper for yourselves. God reveals mysteries so we are not left wondering Deuteronomy 29:29 “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
The context of this mystery, I believe Paul has been unraveling throughout chapter 9-11. Paul is making a summary statement here in Romans 11:25-26: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved (stop there). Verse 26 sums it up - 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, but I want to help us see the who, what, how, and when in this verse, the title of my message today and then we will end with the why.
Let’s start with probably the least controversial question - the WHAT in Romans 11:26 And in this way all Israel will be saved.
God’s plan of salvation is the issue, the What, that Paul has been unpacking. He has started with the remnant Romans 11:5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.
Paul reached back into Old Testament to remind us that when Elijah was in fear for his life, thinking he was the only one left. God had kept for himself 7,000 men who had not bowed the knee to Baal. Even when things look the darkest, God is still faithful to his people Israel. He had kept for himself a remnant of 7,000, plus Elijah.
Then Paul goes on to unpack the Gentiles grafting and their full inclusion or salvation and finally the full inclusion or salvation of Israel.
The What is: Salvation Romans 11:26 And in this way all Israel will be saved.
Now let’s turn to the Who. Which may be one of the most disputed portions of this text. Paul has been talking about the salvation of a certain people in Romans chapter’s 9-11, although it is obvious by this point - it is Israel, he restates it in Romans 11:26 as all Israel. But what does Paul mean when he says “all Israel”?
This is one of those areas where godly men may disagree on the interpretation of “all Israel”. There are different thoughts about who Paul means by – all Israel. There are probably 3 main camps that most theologians fall into regarding who this all Israel is referring to.
The second camp argues “all Israel” is all believers, both Jews and Gentiles. If we look at the context of Paul’s statement in verse 25, Paul is contrasting Israel’s partial hardening now with the Gentiles coming fullness - which will bring about all Israel’s salvation. Here we see Paul has in mind two groups of people Jewish people of Israel and the Gentiles.
Also, last week in the Olive tree metaphor Israel represented the tree (going back to the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and some branches stayed on, but some were broken off (for unbelief) - then some are grafted in – both believing Gentiles and Jews that were made jealous. God grafted them back into their own olive tree. I believe we can rule out all Israel being all believe Jews and Gentiles.
I believe that leads us to the simple answer that is the context of Paul’s argument going back to chapter 9. WHO is “all Israel”? – it is all believing Jews. Paul has made clear all are saved by faith in Jesus Christ. Our first memory verse Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. It came to the Jew first through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I believe the “all Israel” here is also inclusive of the remnant of Israel that he spoke of in Romans 11:5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But our text today also points to a future Israel, that will believe, after the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. So the simplest obvious answer to WHO is all Israel? It is All believing Jews from Abraham until Christ returns.
That leads us into the when, which I have already touched on it. When will “all Israel” be saved? Romans 11:26 And in this way all Israel will be saved. The will be saved, points us to some future time when all Israel will be saved and just before, in verse 25, we are given some clarity. The partial hardening is temporary, there is a point in the future, when the fullness of the Gentiles comes in that “all Israel” will be saved.
This is where we need to be especially careful. This is pointing to a future time. While it may not be crystal clear as to the mystery of when it will happen, it will happen sometime in the future. What that looks like exactly, I don’t know, but at some point in the future, God will finish calling Gentiles to faith in Jesus and also finish calling Jews to faith in Jesus. Today we still see a remnant of Jews, still in relatively small numbers, turning to Christ. But there will come a time – at, around or after the fullness or completeness of the Gospel message to the world – when the good news of Jesus Christ will have reached to the ends of the earth, to all the nations.
At or about that time there will be a pouring out of the spirit of grace that is described in Zechariah 12:10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.
And going down to Zechariah 13:1 “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.
There is a future time when all Israel’s salvation will be complete. It will be amazing. We see this foreshadowed in Zechariah over 500 years before Paul wrote Romans about something that still is not complete today. God is pouring out the spirit of grace on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the people of Israel. We also see a repentance when they look on him whom they have pierced - Jesus. We also see a fountain opening up to cleanse them from sin. The answer to the mystery of when? Is in God’s timing, but Paul reveals it will be when the fullness of the Gentiles come in, then all Israel will be saved. He does not give us all the specifics so we must trust in what he does reveal about the future timing of when. There is an aspect of end times here that my ammillenial position influences, but that is probably another sermon, if you would like to know more, I would be happy to discuss it with you.
Now let’s turn to the mystery of how? How is all Israel saved? I have also touched on this already, but Paul goes on to use scripture to help inform us here. He says at the end of Romans 11:26 .. as it is written,
“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”
Paul is quoting from Isiah 59:20 “And a Redeemer will come to Zion,
to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the Lord.
So How is all Israel saved? By the Deliverer, the Redeemer, the Messiah Jesus Christ - by faith in him. Jesus spoke of Abraham’s faith in John 8:56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”
Then Paul tells us Jews, like Gentiles and everyone else, are disobedient. That disobedience or stumbling is ultimately seen in the rejection of the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but it is for your sake Romans 11:28 for the sake of Gentiles.
Remember, the church in Rome that Paul is addressing is made up of probably mostly Gentiles since only recently had Jews returned to Rome after Claudius had commanded them to leave, mentioned in Acts 18. Paul wants Gentiles to understand that they have benefited from Israel’s rejection of the Gospel also illustrated by their being grafting into the olive tree.
There is only one way for salvation, faith alone, grace alone and Christ alone. There is one olive tree to illustrate that it is by the same kind of faith that both Jew and Gentile are saved. There are not two different ways that we are saved - there is only one way. One way to Christ and that is by faith, faith like Abraham, so that we all may be called sons. So that we all may have life in the Spirit and be heirs in Christ. Jew and Gentiles by Faith. So the answer to how is all Israel saved is, by faith.
So that leaves us with one more question? Why is this mystery revealed? There are many ways to answer that from our text today. The second half of verse 28 But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. One simple answer goes back to election, God choses. Not you, not me, not Jew, not Gentile – God’s sovereign choice of election is one answer to the why all Israel will be saved. God promised the Jewish forefathers, and God is always faithful, even when they are not. Then going on in Romans 11:29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. God has given his best for all who believe, Jew and Gentile. God has given his son. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. This is gift is irrevocable, it will not be taken back. We have seen this described before in Romans 8:30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. There is no revoking of God’s promise. It is a certainty – those who are predestined, called and justified he also glorified - both Jew and Gentile believers. There is no break or dropping off in this chain of salvation by God.
-Another why is found in Romans 11:32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. Why are the Jews like the Gentiles, disobedient? Our disobedience deserves hell, but instead God show us mercy, that he, God, may have mercy on all, the all who believe, both Jew and Gentile.
-Ultimately, the why behind this mystery is summed up in Romans 11:36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. It is ultimately about God’s glory. Why is God worthy? Because all things are from God, through God and will return to God. Revelation 4:11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”
God is worthy of glory because he created all things, everything seen and unseen, Jew and Gentile.
As we look at God’s plan of salvation for his people - Israel, we should stand in awe. Our response should be our memory verse, Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
Why, because he is God. It is about him, the bible - God’s revelation of his redeeming a people for himself, for his glory and for our good. Here in Romans chapters 9-11 we get an insight into this mystery of God’s people - saving “all Israel” who they are, what God is doing, when he is doing it, how he is doing it and why he is doing it. We have seen and will see God’s faithfulness to Israel and our role as Gentiles in this plan. We will also spend eternity and not reach the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God and his plan of salvation for both Jew and Gentile!
The warning that we saw Paul start with here in Romans 11:25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, is further emphasized in Romans 11:34-35 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
When we think we know better, or that we may become arrogant towards others, Paul again uses scripture to remind us who God is, Here in verses 34-35 Paul quotes from Isaiah and Job.
Paul has also clearly stated earlier who we are in Romans 3:10-12 as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
Not only do we not know the mind of the Lord or counsel him, unless he reveals himself to us we do not understand or try to seek him. We may try to offer up works, but all our works are worthless they will not save us. The Jews had missed that point, but God has not forgotten his promises and he is always faithful. That leaves us with one response - praise him for what he has done.