Romans 11




The Jews Rejected, the Gentiles are Called into the Church, but

   the Jews will be Brought into the Church at Last (vs. 1-36)


 Paul, painfully recognizing the fact of the present exclusion of Israel as a nation

from the inheritance of the promises made to their fathers, and having in

chapters  9 &10 accounted for and justified such exclusion, proceeds now to

the question — But is Israel as a nation finally rejected after all? He

answers — No; impossible! God’s ancient covenant with His people stands;

the remnant of believers even now is a sign of His continued favor to His

ancient people, as was, in the time of Elijah, the remnant that had not

bowed the knee to Baal; nor does the fact of its being a remnant only imply

now, any more than then, that the nation as such is cast off; and further, the

calling of the Gentiles, far from being intended to exclude God’s ancient

people, will be the means eventually of bringing it wholly in. Such is the

apostle’s prophetic vision of the future, in view of which he bursts at the

end of the chapter into glowing admiration of the inscrutable ways of God.

In the course of it also (vs. 17-25) he introduces a warning to Gentile

believers not to pride themselves against the Jews because of present

preference to them, or to regard their own position of privilege as

indefeasible. It must still be borne in mind that it is the position before the God

of Israel as a nation that is all along in view.


1  I say then, Hath God cast away His people! God forbid.

For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of

Benjamin.   2  God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew (or,

predetermined. See the same word, ch. 8:29). Wot ye not what

the Scripture saith of (rather, in; i.e. in the passage concerning) Elias (Elijah)?

how he maketh intercession to God against Israel saying,   3  Lord, they

have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left

alone, and they seek my life.   4  But what saith the answer of God (oJ

crhmatismo>v – ho chraematismosanswer - denoting a Divine communication

to man; in this case by the “still small voice” (I Kings 19:12).  Only here in the

New Testament; but see Matthew 2:12,  Crhmatisqe>ntev kat o]nar

chraematisthentes kat ovarwarned in a dream -  also Luke 2:26; Acts 10:22;

Hebrews 8:5; 11:7) unto him? I have reserved to (left to) myself seven

thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.  

5  Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to

the election of grace.”  We cannot see all the good which has been accomplished

through the gospel.  We must let God “write up people” (Psalm 87:6), and make

out His own statistics.  The usual interpretation of this whole passage, and

notably that of the ancients, has been to take the proof of God not having cast

off His people as beginning in v. 1, with “for I also,” etc., and all the rest to be in

sequence. Chrysostom’s explanation of the argument is to the following

effect: God has not rejected his ancient people; for I myself am eminently

of it; and I have been selected as a chief proclaimer and expounder of the

gospel to the world; this would not have been the case if the nation had

been cast off. But it may be said to me,” You are only one of the ancient

people; you are not the people.” Nay, but I do not stand alone; there are

thousands of Israelite believers as well as myself; and these are God’s

true people, the people whom he foreknew. And of them there may be

more than we are aware of; it is as it was in the days of Elias; he had supposed

himself to be left alone; but he was told that there were seven thousand

with him who were God’s true people still. And so now, there is a faithful

remnant, the number of which is known to God alone, which is His people

still, according to the election of grace. (I know this is corny but just for thought,

“They say for every coyote you see, there is a hundred you don’t.” Of

course this is wishful thinking in spiritual matters, but at the same time very

 precarious, especially if you are not trusting Jesus Christ as your

Saviour!  - CY – 2011)  The same Father further understands the citation

of the whole of the passage from I Kings 19:14, though not required for the

apostle’s proof, to be intended as significant. It would have sufficed, he says,

to cite only what was said about a remnant being left; but the whole complaint

of Elijah is cited, so as to show by the way that the present rejection of Christ

and persecution of the Church by the majority of the Jews had also its

 counterpart in ancient times; and thus the apostle says, lanqano>ntwv

th<n kathgori>an au]xei -  lanthanontos taen kataegorian auxei -  - (i.e.

of the unbelieving Jews). It is to be observed that the above

interpretation of the passage, which in its main points has been most

generally adopted, goes on two suppositions; vie. that “for I also, in v.1,

is the first part of the proof that Israel is not cast off; and that “which He

foreknew,” in v. 2, is intended as a limitation of the meaning of “His

people.” According to another view, decidedly upheld by Meyer, “for I

also” is not part of the proof, but connected with mh< ge>roito: “I must

needs say, God forbid! being myself a Hebrew of the Hebrews” Then,

according to this view, comes the positive statement that God has not cast

off His people in the same general sense as before, after which the proof

begins; the addition of o} proe>gnw – o proegon - foreknew - not being a

limitation of to<n lao<n aujtou~ - ton laon autou His people -  but intended

to enforce the idea of the impossibility of the final rejection of the race of Israel

(cf. v. 29; also Psalm 94:14 and I Samuel 12:22). The fact that, throughout the

chapter, it is Israel as a nation that is in view, and that the coming of the whole

nation into the kingdom of Christ is contemplated in the end, adds decided

probability to this view of the significance of o}n proe>gnw – on proegon

whom He foreknew -  though kai< ga<r ejgw< - kai gar ego – for I also etc.,

in v. 1, may still be regarded as possibly part of the proof. Paul’s designation of

himself as “of the seed of Abraham” seems meant to express that he was an

Israelite of pure descent, not a proselyte or descended from proselytes. In

Philippians 3:5, as well as here, he specifies his tribe as that of Benjamin, the

tribe that with Judah had clung to the house of David, and had shared the

privileges of Judah. The quotation from I Kings 19. is given freely from the LXX.,

varying a little, but not so as to affect the meaning.  One variation is in the

feminine, instead of masculine, article before Ba>al – Baal – Ball - which has

been explained by supposing eijko>ni eikoniimage - understood (so in the

Authorized Version, “the image of Baal “), or by there having been a

female Baal, or by the god having been supposed androgynous, or by the

feminine being used of idols in contempt. Paul may possibly have found

this reading in his copy of the LXX. The variation is of no importance with

regard to the drift of the passage. “According to the election of grace,” at

the end of v. 5, does not seem to be directly suggested by the passage

cited, but added by Paul so as to make plain his position — maintained

throughout the Epistle, and about to be pressed in this chapter on the

consideration of Gentile Christians — that the calling of all, whether Jews

or Gentiles, is “of grace,” and not claimable as of right by any on the

ground of the merit of their own works. And in order to enforce this

position, he adds,  6  “And if by grace, then is it no more of works:

otherwise grace is no more grace; i.e. the word “grace” loses its essential

meaning. [But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is

no more work.”] The preponderance of ancient authorities is against the

retention of the clause within brackets, which does not seem required. It is

the same as in Romans 4:4.


7  “What then? (What is the present state of things?) Israel hath not obtained

that which he seeketh for;  (i.e. dikaiosu>nhn dikaiosunaen -righteousness  - 

ch. 9:30-31)  but the election (i.e. the elect of the Gentiles, with a remnant only of

the Jews – hJ ejklogh<  - hae eklogaethe election -  being abstr, pro concret., like

hJ peritomh< hJ ajkrobusti>ahae peritomae, hae akrobustia  - circumcision;

uncircumcision -  elsewhere) hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded  -

(ejpwrw>qhsan eporothaesan – hardened; blinded). The verb denotes callousness

rather than blindness, usually in the New Testament referring to the heart

(cf. especially John 12:40, Tetu>flwken aujtw~n tou<v ojfqalmou<v kai<

pepw>rwken aujtw~n th<n kardi>an Tetuphloken auton tous ophthalmous,

kai peporoken auton taen kardianHe hath blinded their eyes and hardened

their heart). And such hardening is no new and strange thing, or to be taken as

implying failure  of God’s promises to His people; for it is but what Scripture tells us.


8  (“According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of

slumber (rather, stupor. The word is katanu>xiv katanuxis -stupor - cited

from Isaiah 29:10 in the LXX. Cf. Psalm 60:3, where the LXX. has oi=non

katanu>xewvonion katanuxeos – wine of astonishment .  It is from the verb

which means katanu>ssein - katanussein -  properly “to prick” (see Acts 2:37,

katenu>ghsan th|~ kardi>a katenugaesan tae kardiapricked in their

heart ). The noun seems to have got its sense as above from the idea of a

pricking shock, causing stupefaction), eyes that they should not see, and

ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.  9  And David saith, Let

their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling-block, and a

recompense unto them.  10  Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not

see, and bow down their back alway.”  The references in v. 8 are a combination

of Deuteronomy 29:3 and Isaiah 29:10, quoted freely from the LXX.;

that in v. 9 is to Psalm 69:23-24, also quoted freely. (For similar

combination and free quotation of texts, so as to bring out Old Testament

ideas, cf. Romans 3:10-19; 9:32-33.) It is not necessary that the

passages here referred to should be regarded as directly prophetic of the

time of Christ. It is enough for the purpose of the argument that God’s

people should be shown to be liable to the state of stupefaction described,

without ceasing to be his people. And so the thought, which has been in

view all along, is now taken up, of the present hardening of Israel as a

nation not being intended to be permanent.


11 “I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall?”

i.e. in such wise as to fall, rightly given in the Vulgate as sic ut caderent.

There is no need here to press the telic use of i[na hina – that - in i[na pe>swsin

hina pesosinthat they should fall -  so as to require the translation, “that they

might fall.” It is rather the use of contemplated result.  “God forbid:  but rather

through their fall” - (rather, trip, or false step). The word is para>ptwmati

paraptomatifall; offense -  suitably used here in view of the figure of

stumbling. The idea is that they had stumbled over the “stumbling-block”

above spoken of, but not so as to lie hopelessly prostrate.  But the word, as used

in English, is not equivalent. If we retain the rendering “fall,” we must understand

a partial or temporary fall, not prostration from which there is no recovery.

“salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.”

(The word parazhlw~sai parazaelosaito provoke to jealousy -  with the

idea conveyed by it, is from Deuteronomy 32:21, which see.)   12  Now if the

fall (pra>ptwma - paraaptoma fall – as above) of them be the riches of the

world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles, how much

more their fullness?” The words h[tthma - haettaema – diminishing - and

plh>rwmaplaeroma – fullness - rendered in tile Authorized Version

diminishing” and “fullness,” have been variously understood. They are in contrast

with each other, and must evidently be understood with reference to the same

idea. Now, plh>rwma, as used afterwards in v. 25  a]criv ou+ to<

plh>rwma tw~n ejqnw~n ejse>lqh| - achris ou to plaeroma ton ethnon eselthae

until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in ), seems plainly to mean the full

complement of the Gentiles; and so here must surely be meant the full

complement of the Jews, pointing to the same idea as ,as jIsrah<l  - IsraelIsrael

in v. 26. If so, h[tthma (diminishing) must mean the defect from such full complement –

not indeed (as some have explained), the small number (i.e. of believers) now

opposed to the full number in the future, but abstractedly, defect, or

fewness, as opposed to fullness. This interpretation agrees with the meaning

of h[tthma in the only other place where it occurs in the New Testament,

viz. I Corinthians 6:7, where it seems to signify “defect,” though used

in that passage with a moral reference. The reason why the present h[tthma

of the Jews is the riches of the Gentiles is that the refusal of the Jews to

accept the gospel had been the occasion of its being offered to the Gentiles

(cf. Acts 13:46; 28:28; also Matthew 15:24; 22:9). It is not, of

course, meant that the gospel was not originally intended for all the world,

but only that the present and immediate promulgation of it to the Gentiles

had been due to the Jews’ refusal. Otherwise, we may conceive, it would

have been after the fullness of the Jews had come in that it would have been

extended through them to the Gentiles (15:8-9). Cf. Isaiah 60, where, as in

 other prophetic passages, the vision presented is that of the scattered sons of

Israel being first brought into the glorified holy city, and the Gentiles gathering

round them through the ever-open gates.


13  “For (de< - de – but - is better supported than ga<r – gar – for) I speak to

you Gentiles, inasmuch (or, so far) as I am the apostle of the Gentiles,

I magnify my office (glorify my ministry),  I (doxa>zw  - doxazo - glorify) my

 ministry — i.e, my apostleship to the Gentiles — may mean that I add glory to it,

if I may, through it, attain that further purpose. 14  If by any means I

may provoke to emulation (jealousy; the same word as in v. 11) them

which are my flesh (i.e. my kindred), and might save some of them.”

To the Gentiles, whom he now directly addresses, he thus intimates that,

though he is especially their apostle, yet beyond them he has his own

countrymen still in view, whose conversion, through theirs, he has ever close

to his heart.


15  “For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what

shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?”  The vivid force of

this concluding expression is weakened by attempts to define what is exactly meant

by it; as, for instance (as some interpret), that the general resurrection will come

when the fullness of the Jews as well as the Gentiles has come in. It is best to leave

 the grandeur of the conception to be felt rather than explained.



Life from the Dead (v. 15)


The new wine of Christianity burst the old, worn skin of Judaism. Israelites

were indeed the first preachers of the faith, and its first adherents were

largely recruited from the synagogues. Still, as years passed on, it became

apparent that, as a whole, the favored nation was unprepared for a

religion so spiritual, so universal, as Christianity. The rejection of the

gospel by the Jews was the occasion of the progress of the gospel in the

larger, the Gentile world. And the apostle, himself a Hebrew, yet the

apostle of the Gentiles, recognizing this fact as included in the plans of

Providence, yet looked beyond the present into the future, and saw, in the

predicted ingathering of the sons of Abraham, the destined revival of true

religion throughout the world. When an event so remarkable, so unlikely,

yet so clearly foretold, shall occur, its effect shall be prodigious; it shall be

nothing less than “life from the dead.” These words contain a principle

truly and emphatically Christian. Let them be regarded in this light.




throne of His glory Christ describes Himself as the Being who “was dead,

 and is alive again”   (Revelation 1:18).  He must needs suffer, and taste

death for every man (Hebrews 2:9);  but it was not possible that He should

be holden of it (Acts 2:24).  His rising was more than a sign of

His authority and of His acceptance with the Father. He rose as the

Mediator and the Representative and the Forerunner of His people.



OPERATIONS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. The Church professes, in the

ancient Creed, to “believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life.”

Without the influences of the Divine Spirit, the moral results secured by

Christianity could not have been realized. Like the sunshine and the

showers of spring, the Holy Spirit, by His descent and by His shining,

fertilizes the barren soil of humanity. Like the breath which came from the

four winds, and breathed upon the slain so that they lived, is the influence

which awakens the dead. bones of the valley, and makes of them an

exceeding great army (Ezekiel 37).  All spiritual life is evoked and

sustained by the living Spirit of God.




CHRISTIAN CHARACTER. The transforming power of the new

faith was at once revealed, and has ever continued to be revealed, in

the heart and life of the individuals who have received Christ. The

former state, the state of heathenism and irreligiousness, the state of

sensuality, or worldliness, or unbelief, may well be designated, and

by the inspired writers was designated, “death.” And the contrast

between that and the state of fellowship with God and of obedience

to Christ could not be more strikingly described than in the language

of the text, “Life from the dead.”  It is nothing less than this that

Christianity is intended to effect — a change moral, radical, extensive,

and enduring.



SCALE. It is thus that it is represented in the text as operating; it effects

a transformation in human society. To many cities and communities in the

primitive times, the religion of the Lord Jesus proved an impulse of

regeneration. And by it ancient society seems to have been saved from

threatening corruption and dissolution. When death was to all appearance

imminent, the gospel entered into the heart of humanity as a new vital

principle, renewing that which was old, healing that which was sick, and

reviving that which was dead. It is still the one, the only, hope for a race

dead in trespasses and sins.”  (Ephesians 2:1)



LIFE OF CHRIST’S PEOPLE. Both the resurrection of Christ from the

dead, and that transformation of spiritual character which is called “the

first resurrection,” are the pledge and earnest of the immortal life of the

Lord’s people. It is distinctive of our religion that it holds out a definite

and assured prospect of a life beyond the present — a life holy,

imperishable, and Divine. The prospect of bright and blessed immortality

has strengthened the arms of every true Christian laborer, and has cheered

the heart of every Christian sufferer. It has been the joy of the living and

the hope of the dying.


16  For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy:  and if the

root be holy, so are the branches.”  By the firstfruit and the root is

signified the original stock of Israel, the patriarchs; by the lump and the

branches, the subsequent nation through all time. The word ajparch> -

aparchaefirstfruit - being here connected with fu>rama phurama

lump; kneading - may be understood as referring to Numbers 15:19-22.

The people are there enjoined to take of the first dough (fu>rama) kneaded

after harvest a cake for a heave offering, called ajparch> fura>matov

aparchae phuramatosheave offering - (LXX.). This consecrated

ajparch> sanctified the whole fu>rama.


17  “And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive

tree (i.e. of the stock of a wild olive tree) wert grafted in among them,

and with them partakest of the root and the fatness of the olive tree; 

18  Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the

root, but the root thee.”  In thus addressing the Gentile in the second person singular,

the apostle brings his warning home to any individual Gentile Christian who

might be inclined to boast; though regarding him still as representing

Gentile believers generally. They are compared to slips of the wild olive

tree (hJ ajgrie>laiov hae agrielaioswild olive), which was unproductive,

acquiring richness and fertility by being grafted into (hJ kallie>laiov hae

kallielaios - the cultivated tree). Whether or not such a reversal of the usual

system of grafting would have the imagined effect does not matter, as long as the

illustration serves Paul’s purpose well, and helps us to grasp, his conception.

The common process is:


“... to marry

A gentle scion to the wildest stock,

And make conceive a bark of baser kind,

By bud of nobler race.”


In the illustration before us a scion of wildest stock is supposed to be made

to conceive through the stock of nobler race to which it is united. The

selecting the olive tree for illustration is happy, inasmuch as it was not only

a characteristic produce of Palestine, but also regarded as symbolical of a

plant of grace; cf. Psalm 52:8, “I am a green olive tree in the house of

God;” also Jeremiah 11:16; Hosea 14:6. See also the parable of Jotham

(Judges 9:8-9), where the trees apply first to the olive tree to be their king;

and observe also there the word “fatness,” used here also by Paul. The

“branches” against which the in-grafted scion is warned not to boast are not

exclusively either the broken-off or the remaining ones, but, as the sequel

shows, the natural branches of the tree generally. The Gentile Christian is

not to contemn the race of Israel because so large a portion of it is at

present apart from the Church and under judgment; for it is, after all, from

the stock of Israel, into which he has been engrafted, that he derives all his

own fertility. As to the Christian Church being ever regarded as derived

from that of Israel, the fulfillment and outcome of the ancient covenant, see

note on Romans 1:2; and cf. John 4:22, “For salvation is of the



19  “Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I

might be grafted in.”   Though I might not boast against the original

branches that remain, and among whom I have been grafted, yet I may

against those which, for their unworthiness, have been broken off to make

room for me: though not boasting against the faithful Jews, I surely may

against the unfaithful and rejected ones.


20  “Well;” — the fact of the case is as you say; but why? – “because of

unbelief they were broken off; and thou standest by faith.  Be not high-

minded, but fear:”  Unfortunately, the pride of man is a bladder easily

inflated.  Human nature remains true to itself and brings forth the same fruit

in all ages. Even in the renewed nature of the Christian, “the flesh lusteth

against the Spirit”  (Galatians 5:17).  21 “For if God spared not the natural

branches, take heed lest He also spare not thee.” Thou art on thy trial, as they

were, and alike liable to be broken off for the like cause; their present rejection

should inspire in thee, not to boastfullness,  but fear. The question has been raised

whether Paul has now the election and final salvation of individuals in view, or

still only the calling to a state of salvation of races or communities of men — of

the Jewish race on the one hand, and Gentile Churches on the other. The whole

purport of this section of the Epistle (chapters 9-11) seems to demand the latter

view.  Besides, if by the broken-off branches were meant simply individual

unbelievers, how could we explain their being “grafted in again” (vs. 23-

24), seeing that the contemplated restoration is regarded in vs. 25-26 as

something that is to take place in the possibly distant future, after “the

fulness of the Gentiles” has come in? Thus this passage is really irrelevant

to any doctrines about individual election and salvation that may have been

built upon it. It is, however, important as confirming the general view of

Divine election not being irrespective of the conditions of human faith and



22  Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God:  on them that fell,

severity (to be a warning to thee); but toward thee, (God’s) goodness, if thou

continue in His goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.  23 And they

also, if they abide not still in their unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is

able to graft them in again.”   The reference here to God’s power to graft them

in again may be suggested by the apparent impossibility, from a human point of view,

of the Jews as a nation, having rejected Christ in person, and being so inveterately

set against the gospel as they were, ever coming into the Church. But “with

God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 18:27).

Nay — so the thought goes on — it would seem in itself more likely, and

according to the nature of things, that the Jews should be brought into the

Church, which is really their own, and the true fulfillment of their own oracles,

than that Gentiles, who had had no similar preparation, should have been so.


24  For if thou wert cut out the olive tree which is wild by nature,

 (ajgrielai>ou agrielaiouwild olive), and wert grafted contrary to

nature into a good olive tree (kallielai>on kallielaionideal; or

cultivated olive tree ): how much more shall these, which be the

natural branches,  be grafted into their own olive tree?”  In what

follows next the eventual coming of the Jewish nation into the Church is

not only anticipated as possible or probable, but foretold prophetically.

Paul announces it as a “mystery,” which his readers may be ignorant of, but

which he wishes them to know. By the word musth>rion mustaerion

mystery - as used by Paul, is meant something hidden from man in the Divine

counsels till made known by revelation (see I Corinthians 2:7, 10; 15:51; and,

in this Epistle, ch.16:25-26 — a passage which expresses clearly the apostle’s

meaning in his use of the word). In the LXX. it denotes any Divine secret, which

may or may not be made known to man (cf. Daniel 2:18-19, etc.; Job 11:6.

So also in the Gospels (Matthew 13:11; Mark 4:11; Luke 8:10) it is said to be

given to the disciples to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to

others in parables. In classical Greek musth>ria mustaeriamysteries –

were Divine secrets.  Paul uses the word with the same essential meaning;

only he speaks of mysteries which had already been revealed to himself and

others by the Spirit, and has ever in view the Divine purposes, previously

unknown, for the salvation of mankind. Thus in Ephesians 1:9, seq.;

and 3:3, seq., he speaks of the Divine purpose to “gather in one all things

in Christ,” and that “the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs,” etc., as a

mystery, “not made known in other ages unto the sons of men,” but now

revealed to the “holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” (The other

passages in which Paul uses the word are I Corinthians 4:1; 13:2; Ephesians 5:32;

6:19; Colossians 1:26-27; 2:2; 4:3; I Timothy 3:9, 16; II Thessalonians 2:7.) Here

he announces the Divine purpose to save “all Israel at last through the calling of

the Gentiles as a mystery which has been revealed to himself and others, and

which he desires the Gentile Christians to be aware of, lest they should be “wise

in their own conceits,” i.e. presume on their present position of privilege through

ignorance of what is in store for Israel.


25   “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery,

lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness (pw>rwsiv

porosishardness; blindness - see v. 7) in part is happened to Israel, until the

fullness of the Gentiles be come in.   26  And so all Israel shall be saved:”

Pa~v Israh<l pas Israelall Israel - here must mean the whole nation; for

Israel must surely be understood in the same sense as in the preceding verse,

where it denotes the Jewish nation as opposed to the Gentiles. Swqh>setai

sothaesetaishall be saved - as seems required by the whole context, means

coming into the Church (Acts 2:47, JO de< ku>riov proseti>qei tou<v swzome>nouv

kaq hJme>ran th|~ ejkklhsi>a| - Ho de kurious prosetithei tous sozomenous

kath haemeran tae ekklaesiaAnd the Lord added to the church daily such

as should be save).  The following is the Pulpit Commentary’s comments on this

verse:  To them day by day for to the Church daily, A.V. and T.R.;

those that were being saved for such as should be saved, A.V. Added to

them day by day. The R.T. has instead of th~| ejkklhsi>a| (the church) the words

ejpi< to< aujto>, which in <440201>Acts 2:1 are properly rendered “in one place,” but do

not seem to be rendered at all in the R.V. of this verse. In fact, they have

no sense unless you construe them with tou<v swzome>nouv, “those who

escaped to the same place,” i.e. to the Church. But it seems most probable

that the words ejpi< to< aujto>do really belong to Acts 3:1, where they

are found in the T.R. If th~| ejkklhsi>a| does not properly belong to the text

(it is wanting in A, B, C, a, and many versions), then proseti>qei (added) must

be taken absolutely, as prosete>qhsan [there were added] as in v. 41, the

Church, or the disciples, being understood.   Those that were being saved. The

exhortation in v. 40 was “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”

Those who were added to the Church were those who complied with the

exhortation, and escaped from complicity with their unbelieving

countrymen. They were the remnant that escaped.)  “As it is written, There

shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness

from Jacob: 27  For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take

away their sins.” Referring, as throughout the Epistle, to the Old Testament for

confirmation, Paul here, as in former instances, combines passages, and quotes

freely, perhaps from memory. The main citation is from Isaiah 59:20-21, with an

addition from Ibid. ch.17:9, the LXX. being followed. The citations are relevant,

being specimens of many others that might have been adduced, predicting the

final pardon and restitution of the house of Israel itself, notwithstanding judgments,

through the Redeemer who was to come.


What follows, to v. 33, is in the way of summary and further comment.


28  As concerning the gospel, (with regard to acceptance of the gospel now)

they are enemies for your sakes (for their having become God’s enemies by

rejecting and opposing it has been the occasion of your having been now called in):

but as touching the election (God’s original choice of Israel to be his people.

 jEklogh< - Eklogaechoice; election - here cannot well have a concrete sense,

as in v. 7), they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. 29  For the gifts
(cari>smata – charismata - free gifts, gifts of grace) the word used to denote the

special gifts of the Holy Ghost showered after Pentecost in the apostolic Church;

but expressing generally, as here, whatever God, of His own good will, grants freely)

and the calling of God are without repentance.” -  (i.e. unrepented of by Him

and irrevocable; Numbers 23:19-20; also I Samuel 15:29). This denial of

anthropopathy in God is asserted as a general truth, to be applied to His

calling of “the fathers,” i.e. the patriarchs, and their seed after them, to be

His people. It is true that, as is shown in ch. 4., there is a spiritual seed of

Abraham, not necessarily of the house of Israel, to whom the promises in

their ultimate scope were to be fulfilled; but the apostle regards it as

impossible that the promises made primarily to the chosen people

themselves should be revoked or fail of eventual fulfilLment to them.


30  For as ye in times past have not believed God,  (so, except

that the aorist hjpeiqh>sate` - aepeithaesate - have not believed; are

stubborn -  in the margin  “obeyed” for “believed.” The substantive

ajpeiqei>a apeitheiaunbelief; stubbornness -  which follows twice,

should be translated “disobedience” rather than “unbelief,” if hjpeiqh>sate

(is translated “disobeyed.” Properly and usually ajpeiqei>a (unbelief) conveys a

different idea from ajpistia apistia - denoting “disobedience” or “contumacy,”

and not merely want of faith. But it appears to be sometimes used in the sense of

ajpisti>a. For instance, in John 3:36, oJ ajpeiqw~n tw|~ uiJw|~ - ho  apeithon to huio

the one not believing the Son - is opposed to tw~ pisteu>onti eijv to<n uiJo>n

to pisteuonti eis tonh union –the one believing the Son . Most modem

commentators, with reason, understand “disobedience” here. The difference

does not affect the drift of the argument), yet have now obtained mercy

through their unbelief (or, disobedience):   31  Even so have these also

now not believed (or, obeyed), that through your mercy (i.e. the mercy

shown to you) they also may obtain mercy. The position of i[na hina

that - after tw|~ uJmete>rw| ejle>ei – to humetero eleeithrough your

mercy - has led commentators, ancient and modem, to connect tw|~ uJmete>rw|

ejle>ei with the preceding hjpei>qhsan epeithaesan -  unbelief - and to try

to hit upon a meaning in this connection. But the sense of the passage, as well as

the parallelism of the preceding clause, favors the connection of the Authorized

Version, as given above. (For a similar position of i[na (that; lest that)

II Corinthians 12:7.)


32  For God hath concluded them all in (literally, shut them all up into) unbelief

(or, disobedience), that He might have mercy upon all.”  Chrysostom and other

Greek Fathers understood sune>kleisen sunekleiseninclose; shut together;

Shut in on all sides -  to mean only declared them to be unbelieving (or, disobedient),

 or convicted them of being so. Paul elsewhere uses it with a similar reference in

Galatians 3:22, hJ grafh< - hae graphaethe Scripture (hath concluded) - being

there the nominative to the verb. But oJ Qeo<v – Ho Theos  - God - being the

nominative here, the more obvious meaning seems to be that the shutting

up was God’s doing. Some, understanding it so, would soften the

expression by explaining that God allowed them to become so shut up. But we

need not shrink from the plain meaning of the expression, viz. that it was God’s

own act. He is not thus represented as plunging men into inevitable infidelity,

having given them no choice. As in the case of the hardening spoken of’ above,

His dealings are judicial; the state into which they are now by Him shut up

has not been undeserved.  And, further, His ultimate purpose is here distinctly

declared to be one of mercy. The way in which the apostle regards such present

judicial dealing as conducive to final mercy appears to be such as this. It is the

doctrine of the whole Epistle that salvation is to be attained by man’s renouncing

his own imagined righteousness, and submitting himself to the righteousness of

God. It conduces to this end that his ajpeiqei>a (unbelief) should have its course

and consequences; so that, conscience being at length awakened, he may long

for deliverance from his hopeless state, and appreciate the offered salvation

(see ch. 7). So the Gentile world was long shut up in its self-induced, but

also judicial, ajpeiqei>a (Romans 1:18, seq.); that, “the wrath of God”

being at length revealed to it from heaven, the “righteousness of God”

might also be revealed to it and laid hold of. In like manner God deals now

with the Jews, who still persist in going about to establish their own

righteousness instead of submitting themselves to the righteousness of

God. He shuts them up for the present in their ajpeiqei>a, to the end that at

length, after their long judgment, and stirred up by the fullness of the

Gentiles coming in, they may feel their need, and accept salvation. Tou<v

pa>ntav tous pantasupon all - in the concluding clause seems to mean

generally all mankind, Jews as well as Gentiles; and i[na tou<v pa>ntav ejleh>sh|

(that He might have mercy upon all) - as swqh>setai (shall be saved)

was understood above with respect to “all Israel,” as suggested by the

context and the general drift of the chapter) God’s embracing all races of

mankind at last in the arms of His mercy by calling them into the Church.

Thus the latter expression is not in itself adducible in support of the

doctrine of universalism. Certainly the prospect of a universal triumph of

the gospel before the end rises here before the apostle in prophetic vision;

and it may be that it carries with it to his mind further glories of eternal

salvation for all, casting their rays backward over all past ages, so as to

inspire an unbounded hope. Such a hope, which seems elsewhere intimated

(I Corinthians 15:24-29; Ephesians 1:9-10, 20-23; Colossians 1:15-20,

would justify the glowing rhapsody of admiration and thanksgiving that follows

more fully than if we supposed the apostle to contemplate still the eternal

perdition of the multitudes who in all the ages have not on earth found mercy.


33  O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge (or, of

the riches and wisdom and knowledge) of God!”  By gnw>sewv gnoseos

knowledge - is signified God’s omniscience; by sofi>av sophiaswisdom –

His wisdom in ordering events; by plou>tou ploutouriches - if it be taken

as a coordinate substantive, the abundance of His goodness (ch. 2:4, plou>tov th~v

crhsto>thtov ploutos taes chraestotaetosriches of His goodness –

Ephesians 1:7, to<n plou~ton th~v ca>ritov aujtou – ton plouton taes charitos

autouthe riches of His grace).   Coordination of the three substantives is

suggested by the kai< - kaiand - before sofi>av (wisdom); but Paul’s

prevailing usage may rather commend the dependence of sofi>av (wisdom)

and gnw>sewv (knowledge) or plou>tou (riches)  as in the Authorized

Version). How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past

finding (rather, tracing) out!”  (Psalm 36:6; Job 9:10; 11:7).  34  For

who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his

counsellor?”  (<234013>Isaiah 40:13, quoted accurately from the LXX.).

35  Or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto

Him again?” (Job 41:11, where the Hebrew has (Revised Version), “Who hath

first given unto me, that I should repay him?” The LXX. (Job 41:2)

gives an entirely different sense of the passage; and it would thus appear,

as may be seen also in other cases, that Paul, though usually quoting

more or less freely from the LXX., was familiar also with the Hebrew text,

and exercised judgment in his citations.


36  For of Him; and through Him, and unto Him, are all things:” -

The view advanced by some, that we have here an intimation of the

doctrine of the Holy Trinity, cannot fairly be maintained. But it is strikingly

significant of the apostle’s view of the essential Deity of Christ, that in

I Corinthians 8:6 similar language is applied to him. It is said of the Father,

ejx ou= ta< pa>nta – ex hou ta pantaof whom are all things; out of whom

are all things - and of the Lord Jesus Christ, dij ou= ta< pa>nta di hou ta

 panta by whom are all things - and in Colossians 1:16-17 of “the Son of the

Father’s love,” (meaning Christ) - ejn aujtw|~ ejkti>sqh ta< pa>ntaen auto

ektisthae tap anta – by Him were all things created -  and ta< pa>nta dij

aujtou~ kai< eijv aujto<n e]ktistai ta panta di autou kai eis auton

ektistaiall things were created by Him and for Him - and also ta< pa>nta

ejn aujtw~| sune>sthken ta panta en auto sunestaekenby Him all things

consist;  has cohesion -  “to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”



The Unsearchable Things of God (vs. 33-36)


These words may be taken as a fitting conclusion to the doctrinal or

argumentative part of the Epistle. As we see how the apostle shows first of

all, in the condition of both the heathen and the Jewish world, that all have

sinned, and that all needed a Divine Saviour; and how he then unfolds the

great doctrine of justification by faith and its results; as we see also the

great privileges for time and eternity which are bestowed upon the Children

of God; may we not also exclaim, “Oh the depth of the riches both of the

wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and

His ways past finding out!”


  • HIS UNSEARCHABLE WISDOM. “Oh the depth of the riches of the

wisdom of God!” says the apostle (v. 33); and again he asks, “Who hath

been His counsellor?” (v. 34). Beyond all human wisdom is the wisdom

of God — a wisdom self-sufficient; derived from no other source; a

wisdom of which, indeed, all human wisdom is but the faint reflection,

the outcome and the overflow. Take the very wisest of men — men like

Socrates, Plato, Seneca, or Bacon: how foolish were some of their

thoughts, their proposals, or their actions! Take the very wisest man whom

you know, and he will be glad sometimes to take counsel of some one else.

Indeed, in this the wise man shows his wisdom. It is fools who despise

reproof, and who will not take advice (Proverbs 14:9).  But God needs

 no advice. He makes no mistakes. This thought of the unsearchable wisdom

of God teaches us a lesson of faith and trust. God’s dealings are often

mysterious to us, but there is an infinite wisdom behind them all. He doeth

all things well (Mark 7:37).  It teaches us also a lesson of obedience. God’s

way is always wisest, safest, best, happiest. It might be said to us as Moses

said to the children of Israel, “Behold, I have taught you statutes and

judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me. Keep therefore

and do them, for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the

sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely

this great nation is a wise and understanding people.”  (Deuteronomy




progress in scientific knowledge in this nineteenth (now 21st – CY –

2011) century, and yet how very limited, after all, is human knowledge!

How many things in chemistry, in geology, in astronomy, are still

unrevealed! (God told man in the garden to populate the earth and

“subdue it” i.e. “find out it’s secrets” - [Genesis 1:28] – CY – 2011)

Even of a single science no man can say that he knows all about it,

 though he may have given a lifetime to the study of it. And then

few men are masters of more than one branch of knowledge. Life is

too short to do more than touch the surface of things. But THE


of the riches of the knowledge of God!… Who hath known the mind

of the Lord?” (vs. 33-34). Nothing is hidden from Him.  All  things

are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have

to do!”  (Hebrews 4:13) -  Every part and path of the universe is known

to Him. He calleth all the stars by their names (Isaiah 40:26).  Every

nation is known to Him — its national history, its national sins. Every

family is known to Him. The joys and sorrows of every home, He knows

them all. The secret thoughts, the secret motives, the secret plans of

every life, He knows them all. This thought carries with it great comfort.

“Your heavenly Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before

ye ask Him”  (Matthew 6:8).  He knows all our difficulties and all

our wants. And as we look forward to the future, to the judgment-seat, is

there not a comfort in feeling that God’s judgment upon us will be a

perfectly fair one, because it will be based upon a complete and accurate

and perfect knowledge of our lives? Our motives may be misunderstood

by men; but God knows all about them. “Then shall the righteous shine

forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father”  (Matthew 13:43). 

It carries with it also solemn warning. If God knows all about me,

how careful I should be to live as in His sight! How careful I should be

to live as in the presence of the judgment-seat! “For there is nothing

covered, that shall not be revealed; nor hid, that shall not be known.”

(Luke 12:2).


  • HIS UNSEARCHABLE MERCY. “For God hath concluded them all

in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.”  (v. 32 – one of my

favorite verses in the Bible – CY – 2011)  Oh the depth of the riches

both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” Here God’s unsearchable

wisdom and knowledge are represented as cooperating in His plan of

universal mercy. Here again what depths there are that we cannot fathom!

How very unmerciful men are at the best! How harsh the judgments even

of professing Christians! and how limited and narrow are sometimes their

views as to the possibility of the salvation of others! But the mercy of God

is wider than all our creeds, and broader than the judgments of individual

Christians. What a depth, what a breadth of mercy is revealed in those

words of Christ, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only

begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish,

but have everlasting life”!  Whosoever! In that word there is hope for

the guiltiest of sinners who will repent of his sin, and believe on the

Lord Jesus Christ. So, while we speak of the unsearchable things of God,

we do not take the agnostic position. We do not say that God is unknown

and unknowable. We do not know the depth of His wisdom and knowledge

and mercy; but we do know that He possesses and manifests all these

sublime qualities in His dealings with men. There are mysteries in God’s

providences, but there is one great truth which will bring peace to every

soul that acts upon it; which will bring every soul that acts upon it into

the eternal presence and fellowship of God: “Believe on the Lord Jesus

Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).  There are thoughts that

are unsearchable about God, and yet they are thoughts that we can feel

within our spirits as the very power of God unto salvation, even as we

can feel the warm sunshine on our faces though we cannot walk along

the bright pathway by which it comes. Jesus Christ is God’s

unspeakable Gift;” yet many can say of Him,” I know whom I have

believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have

committed unto Him against that day” (II Timothy 1:12).  The love of

Christ passeth knowledge (Ephesians 3:19) and yet many have

experienced its power in their hearts. The peace of God is a peace

that passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:7); yet many have

known how, in a time of disquietude or trial, that peace, like a sentinel,

has kept our hearts and minds in quiet confidence and calm security.

“Now we know in part; but then shall we know even as also we are

known.”  (I Corinthians 13:12)



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