Romans 11:11-12, “11 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!”
Having explored why so many Jews have failed to receive Jesus as their Messiah, Paul in today’s passage shifts his focus slightly. His overriding concern since Romans 9:1 has been to explain why the Gentiles have enthusiastically believed in Christ while the Jews have not, and the reasons for this are grounded in the Lord’s sovereign election to salvation and Israel’s desire to pursue righteousness by works and not by faith (9:1-11:10). Beginning in 11:11, the Apostle now focuses on these questions: Is corporate Israel’s rejection of Christ permanent, and is there any hope for the nation that has missed its Savior?
Paul’s answer is emphatic—the failure of Israel as a corporate body (minus faithful Jews such as Paul) to follow Jesus will by no means last forever. God most certainly has not ordained the stumbling of the Jews such that, except for isolated individuals such as Paul, the nation will be lost forever. Instead, in the good and mysterious purposes of our Creator, the failure of the majority of Israel to believe in Christ is the means by which the Gentiles are brought into the kingdom of God, and a day is coming in which many Israelites will no longer reject Jesus but will put their faith in Him (11:11-12).
The Apostle again alludes to Deuteronomy 32, and the prophecy that God would make Israel jealous by taking for Himself a people who had not been separated unto Him out of the world as the Jews were. The Lord’s purpose in hardening the majority of Israel and taking for Himself a great number of Gentiles is not to cast the Jews aside and condemn them forever; rather, it is to make them jealous so that they will come back into the kingdom of heaven. After all, in Romans 11:32, Paul looks forward to the Israelites’ restoration. Essentially, Paul’s argument is that the Jews who have obstinately rejected their Messiah, Jesus Christ, will see the great blessings coming upon the Gentiles who have believed in the God of Israel through Jesus, become jealous of those blessings and want to share in them, and then believe in Christ (vv. 11-12).
God will not harden the majority of ethnic Israel forever. It is only a temporary measure until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in, and at that time the whole world, Jews and Gentiles, will enjoy blessings that are far greater than even the wonderful gifts that believers enjoy in Christ in the present. The future restoration of Israel—when God converts a large number of Jews to their Messiah—will bring incalculable blessing to the world.
John Calvin comments on today’s passage, “The nation had not fallen [so far], so that he who is a Jew must necessarily perish or be alienated from God.” Though the Israel according to the flesh has been resistant to believing in Christ, this will not last forever. Not all Jews will be saved—just as not all Gentiles will be saved—but the Lord will bring the Israel according to the flesh into His kingdom. And He may do so through us as we share the gospel with the Jewish people.