Romans Chapter 11 Bible Study and Commentary

In Romans chapter 11 the apostle Paul unveils the mystery of God’s dealings with both Jews and Gentiles. The insights he presents may stretch our understanding, but they also have the power to deepen our faith.

At the heart of the New Testament lies a central theme – the full inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s redemptive purposes and the future restoration of Israel. Through Paul’s words, we are drawn into the mystery of God’s sovereign plan, marveling at His wisdom and grace.

Grab your Bible and let’s dive into Romans 11.

Romans Chapter 11:1-10 – The Remnant of Israel

Paul begins this chapter by declaring that God has not rejected His chosen people.

Verse 1a

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means!

This question would make sense at this point. Chapter 9 taught that Israel’s current rejection of Christ was part of God’s eternal plan, also Chapter 10 teaches that their rejection was because of their choices. It would appear that God is done with Israel; all hope is lost.

Paul responds to this question with an emphatic “No!”. God has not rejected Israel. Paul will go on to explain this further later in the chapter. 

Verse 1b-2a

For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.

Paul uses himself as an example by reminding his readers that he is part of the Jewish nation from the tribe of Benjamin. He is of the nation of Israel and among God’s chosen people; God has not rejected Him.

Paul’s faith in Christ is proof that there were Jews who had chosen to embrace the gospel.

Verse 2b-5

Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, and how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4 But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.

Paul uses the example of Elijah to prove how the Lord always leaves a remnant of His people. We can trace this concept all the way back to the days of Noah and the flood.

We see that Elijah actually pleads with God against His own people. From Elijah’s perspective, he was the only prophet who had not forsaken God by worshipping other gods. God speaks to Elijah assuring him that he was not alone.

God always preserves a portion of His people.

Paul is saying that even now, God has left a remnant. However, this remnant of His people is based upon grace.

Verse 6

Bible Study Worksheet Kits

But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise, grace would no longer be grace.

Grace and works are like oil and water; they don’t mix well. God has chosen to establish and preserve the remnant of His people based upon His grace and mercy.

Romans 11:7

What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 

Many of the Jewish people failed to obtain the righteousness they sought because they refused to submit to God’s plan. They continued to try and earn their righteousness through works of the law, rather than humbly accepting God’s grace through faith. 

For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. – Romans 10:3-4

The elect among Israel are those who did accept and submit to God’s grace in Christ.

Verses 8-10

as it is written,

“God gave them a spirit of stupor,
    eyes that would not see
    and ears that would not hear,
down to this very day.”

9 And David says,

“Let their table become a snare and a trap,
    a stumbling block and a retribution for them;
10 let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,
    and bend their backs forever.”

Paul quotes from the Old Testament to show that God is sovereign and just to enlighten only a remnant of Isreal at the present time. God may do as He wills regarding His people. 

However, as we continue reading through Romans Chapter 11, we will discover that the current rejection of the Jews is part of God’s beautiful, redemptive plan. 

This post may contain affiliate links. See my full disclosure for more details.

Romans Chapter 11:11-15 – Salvation Has Come to Gentiles

Paul continues by showing that the Jew’s rejection of the gospel means salvation for the Gentiles.

Verse 11

I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? Far from it! But by their wrongdoing salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.

First, we must understand the question Paul is posing here. The Greek word for “fall” here would imply that they have fallen from the position of God’s people, not only for a time but forever. To this idea, Paul answers “Far from it!”. 

We read a passage in Acts that shows us that the Jew’s rejection of the gospel prompted Paul and Barnabas to proclaim the message of salvation to the Gentiles.

The next Sabbath nearly all the city assembled to hear the word of the Lord. 45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. 46 Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first. Since you repudiate it and consider yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. – Acts 13:45-46

God was and continues to use the salvation of the Gentiles to make the Jews jealous with the hope of turning their hearts back to Himself and to Christ Jesus.

Verses 12

Now if their wrongdoing proves to be riches for the world, and their failure, riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be!

God’s plan for the Jews is not yet complete. For now, their loss is our gain. Their rejection of the gospel means riches for the rest of the nations and salvation for all through Christ. However, this passage shows us that a day is coming when Israel will be restored. 

Verse 13-15

But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Therefore insofar as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 if somehow I may move my own people to jealousy and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection proves to be the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 

Much of Paul’s writing in Romans chapters 3-10 was directed to the Jews. Here, we see him directly address the Gentiles.

While many of the other apostles were called to take the message of the gospel to the Jews, Paul’s ministry was specifically to the Gentiles. Paul is saying that his hope for this ministry is not just to save the Gentiles, but also to turn the hearts of his fellow Jews toward Christ.

Romans Chapter 11:16-24 – Gentiles Grafted In

In this section, Paul uses two different illustrations to show God’s design for the full inclusion of nations into salvation.

Verse 16

If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are as well.

Paul begins this section with a couple of metaphors. The first is a lump of dough. He says that if a piece is broken from this lump is holy, then the entire lump is. 

Leaven is used throughout scripture to illustrate slow, pervasive growth. We see leaven used to picture the growth of God’s kingdom in Matthew 13:33, and the growth of sin in 1 Corinthians 5:6-8.

The metaphor of the lump in this passage is used to show the growth of the church of Christ.

The second metaphor is the root and branches. This illustration Paul goes on to explain further in the next passage.

Verses 17-18

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.

The root is a picture of that which is holy. We learned back in Romans 4 that Abraham was holy, or considered righteous, because of His faith. Therefore, the root is a picture of Abraham.

The branches represent His descendants through Isaac and Jacob; His chosen people.

The broken pieces represent the unbelieving portion of the 12 tribes of Israel. 

Because they refused to believe (like their Father Abraham believed), they were removed from their place of privilege as God’s chosen people. 

Fortunately, not all of them refused. Paul and many others received the Lord. God always leaves a remnant of His people.

The wild olive shoot represents the Gentiles who have placed faith in Christ, joining themselves with the household of God.

Paul warns the Gentile world not to become arrogant because of their inclusion into the nation of Israel. They did nothing to earn this position of favor that was originally given to the Jews.

We need to realize that the trunk of this tree is not just the nation of Israel. It represents the lineage of people throughout the centuries who have received blessings from God.  

Verses 19-21

You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; 21 for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.

Paul anticipates these metaphors to cause more questions in the minds of his imaginary readers. The reasoning in verse 19 questions the faithfulness of God to His people.

Paul reassures that the branches were broken off because of unbelief; not because God failed in keeping His promise.

“It is also important to remember that the wild olive branch is not the church but the Gentiles viewed collectively. Otherwise, you face the possibility of true believers being cut off from God’s favor. Paul has already shown that this is impossible. (Romans 8:38-39 NASB) – Believers Bible Commentary

Verses 22

See then the kindness and severity of God: to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; for otherwise you too will be cut off. 

Here we see two contrasting characteristics of God’s nature, His severity and His kindness. His severity towards those who chose not to believe, and his kindness towards us who do. However, we must remember that God’s severity is partnered with His love. He shows His severity with the hope that people will turn to Him. We will see this more in Romans 11:22-24.

Paul’s exhortation to continue in His kindness echoes the words of Christ in John 15:1-8. We must not take His kindness for granted and persevere in our faith by abiding in the Lord Jesus Christ.

It must be constantly borne in mind that Paul is not speaking of the church or of individual believers. He is speaking about the Gentiles as such. Nothing can ever separate the Body of Christ from the Head, and nothing can separate a believer from the love of God, but the Gentile peoples can be removed from their present position of special privilege. – Believers Bible Commentary

Verse 23-24

23 And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?

This illustration paints a picture of God’s heart for Israel. Even in His severity, He longs for them to turn their hearts back to Him.

Many Jews, even today, believe that salvation for the Gentiles means that God is done with the Jews; the Gentiles are His new chosen people.

Paul assures that this couldn’t be further from the truth. God is not done with Israel. He can take the fallen branches and graft them back in.

Romans Chapter 11:25-36 – The Mystery of Israel’s Salvation

Romans Chapter 11:36

In this section, Paul begins to unveil a beautiful mystery.

Verse 25

For I do not want you, brothers and sisters, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in

Paul says God’s plan for the Jews is still a mystery. It’s been hidden in past generations but now, is beginning to be uncovered. Paul wants these Gentiles to be aware of God’s plan to save the Jews so they do not become conceited or boastful towards them.

The mystery Paul unveils is the partial hardening that has come upon Israel until the full number of Gentiles has come in. In other words, God has allowed a temporary blindness to affect Israel, opening the door for the inclusion of the Gentiles in His redemptive plan. 

This divine strategy is difficult for us to comprehend now, but it reflects God’s mercy and sovereignty over all peoples. 

Verses 26-27

26and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written:

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.”

27 “This is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”

Here, Paul points to the future restoration of Israel through the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. This reaffirms God’s faithfulness to His covenant promises and His desire for the salvation of both Jews and Gentiles. It also affirms the ultimate fulfillment of God’s covenant with Israel, highlighting the removal of their sins through the atoning work of Jesus Christ.

This passage echoes the broader theme of mystery woven throughout the Scriptures. In Ephesians, Paul expounds on the mystery of the gospel, revealing God’s eternal purpose to unite all things in Christ (Ephesians 1:9-10). For generations, God’s people and even the angelic beings watched and waited to see how God would fulfill His promise to Abraham that all the nations of the earth would be under God’s blessing. For years, it was only the Jews who were invited to partake of these things.

How was God going to reconcile all people to Himself? It was a mystery. That mystery was revealed in Christ.

He marvels at the profound truth that Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel (Ephesians 3:6).

The mystery of the gospel, once hidden from past generations, has now been revealed through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a message of hope, reconciliation, and redemption for all who believe.

Once this mystery was uncovered, it proved the wisdom, kindness, and goodness of God. We can be assured that once this mystery that Paul refers to in Romans 11 is unveiled, it will be just as beautiful.

Verses 28-29

In relation to the gospel they are enemies on your account, but in relation to God’s choice they are beloved on account of the fathers; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 

Here, Paul addresses the tension between Israel’s rejection of the gospel and God’s enduring love for His chosen people. Despite their current state of enmity towards the gospel, Paul emphasizes that the Jews are still beloved by God on account of the patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

“for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable…” This powerful statement reaffirms the unchanging nature of God’s purposes and His steadfast commitment to fulfill His promises. Despite Israel’s disobedience and rejection, God’s calling and gifts remain unchanged, illustrating His boundless mercy and faithfulness.

Romans 11:30-32

30 For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. 32 For God has shut up all in disobedience, so that He may show mercy to all.

Here, Paul unveils the divine paradox of mercy – that through Israel’s disobedience, God extends mercy to the Gentiles, and through God’s mercy to the Gentiles, Israel will ultimately receive mercy.

God loves showing mercy to His people. He has intricately woven the revealing of His mercy throughout the phases of His divine story.

Verses 33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? 35 Or who has first given to Him, that it would be paid back to him? 36 For from Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

What a great way to end this section of Romans. Since Chapter 1, Paul has been uncovering the multi-faceted design of God’s grand plan for salvation piece by piece. Each layer has revealed the wisdom and knowledge of God.

Beginning in Chapter 12, Paul shifts gears and begins instructing his readers on how they are to respond to all the knowledge he presented to them.

Our understanding of God’s love, wisdom, and kindness must touch the way we live and the way we love others because from Him, through Him, and to Him are all things. 

In conclusion, the journey through Romans 11 has been nothing short of enlightening and transformative. From the mystery of God’s plan for both Jews and Gentiles to the depths of His mercy and grace, this chapter offers a panoramic view of God’s redemptive work.

Ultimately it invites us to behold the majesty and mystery of God’s redemptive plan. It challenges us to trust in His wisdom, to marvel at His mercy, and to respond with gratitude and obedience.

Related Posts and Resources: