The Mystery of Israel’s Salvation (Romans 11:25-36)

The Mystery of Israel’s Salvation (Romans 11:25-36)

Prepared and preached for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, September 5, 2021

Children may be dismissed to junior church.

Imagine yourself turning on the TV and tuning into a courtroom trial. In your living room, you can see only what the camera shows you. You don’t hear all the testimony. You don’t get to question the witnesses. You don’t get to see all the evidence. You don’t hear the instructions to the jury. You’re not privy to the conversations between the lawyers and the judge.

When the jury comes in with its verdict and the sentence is passed by the judge, how adequately can you assess whether justice has been done? We would not be able to know what justice required and whether justice was upheld if we are lacking information.

How then can we sit in judgment on God’s justice? We don’t have all the information necessary to judge whether God has been just.[1]

Today, we end the first 11 chapters of Romans. This means that we end the section on doctrine.

Do we allow room for mystery? I am talking about mystery spiritually.

My theme today is:

There is a mystery of how God hardens and softens hearts.

My application: We must allow room for mystery and worship the Lord.

  • The mystery of the partial hardening (verses 25-27).
    1. Let’s look at Romans 11:25-27: 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. 26And 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.”
    2. Paul begins to explain the mystery.
    3. He writes that he does not want them to be wise in their own sight. He writes that he does not want them to be unaware.
    4. Do we understand mystery? Do we think that we are wiser than we are? Do we think that we can figure everything out?
    5. D. L. Moody shared: I am glad there are things in the Bible I do not understand. If I could take that book up and read it as I would any other book, I might think I could write a book like that.[2]
    6. Over the last several chapters Paul has been sharing things that are beyond our comprehension. Seriously, we cannot figure out the things of God and we need to be put in our place.
    7. Can we explain how God orchestrates His plan with our freewill? This is an antinomy, that is an apparent contradiction, a paradox. But it is not at all a contradiction. God is so great to know how to work out both without compromising either.
    8. There are other things that we cannot figure out. We cannot figure out the Trinity.
    9. We must leave room for mystery in our life. In Matthew 13:11, Jesus talks about giving the disciples secrets of the Kingdom of God. Listen, there is mystery, and through the Holy Spirit, God lets us in on things, but we will not understand completely.
    10. Now, Paul is about to explain another mystery.
    11. Remember, since Romans chapter 9 Paul has been explaining why the Jewish people have rejected the Messiah.
    12. He has been explaining that God has been consistent with His word.
    13. Paul has shared through many Old Testament prophesies that God was going to include gentiles in His plan and there would only be a remnant of Israelites.
    14. Now, Paul explains why.
    15. This is critical.
    16. This is the conclusion.
    17. A partial hardening…
    18. Notice, this is not a complete hardening.
    19. A partial hardening has come upon Israel, that would be the Jewish people. Their hearts are hardened, but not forever.
    20. Their hearts are hardened until the fulness of the gentiles come in. Their hearts are hardened in order to graft in the gentiles and then the gentiles will make the Israelites want the Gospel more, remember verses 11-14 of this same chapter.
    21. One person shared: time of the gentiles: gentiles had world domination from the time of the Babylonian world domination that started in 605 BC and then Medo-Persia and then Greece and then to Rome and back to Rome at the end of days and until Jesus comes again. Fulness of gentiles is about finding many people among the gentiles to open their hearts to Jesus as Savior. One is political domination and then the other is God’s opening hearts and minds of gentiles to be saved. One is political domination and then the other is salvation. Only at the end of the tribulation will all Israel be saved, but this is just those alive then who make a conscious decision to commit to Jesus.[3]
    22. Now, remember there have been many times the Jewish people hardened their own hearts (called “stiff neck” in Exodus 32:9; 33:3, 5; 34:9; Deuteronomy 9:13; 10:16; 2 Kings 17:14; Acts 7:51). So, does God harden hearts? Yes. Do people harden their own hearts? Yes.
    23. Then, look at verse 26, all Israel will be saved.
    24. This does not mean every Jewish person will be saved without believing in Jesus. One person shared: The end of Romans 11:26 says that all Israel will be saved, the deliverer will come from Zion. The Jewish people alive at the second coming will become believers and enter into the Millennial Kingdom.[4]
    25. This is talking about many Jewish people being saved at the end of the tribulation period and entering into the Millennial Kingdom.
    26. Then Paul says, “as it is written” and that means he is going to quote the Old Testament.
    27. Paul then quotes Isaiah 59:20-21. The Deliverer will come from Zion. Zion means Jerusalem. He will banish ungodliness from Jacob.
    28. CSB: Here in v. 26, “all Israel” means there will be a conversion of the Hebrew nation. It does not mean that every single Jew living will be saved. Salvation is defined in vv. 26–27 as the new covenant that the Messiah will inaugurate.[5]
    29. All Israel, according to the use of the phrase in the LXX, never referred to every single Jew (cf. 1Ch 19:17 where it refers only to soldiers; 1Sm 25:1, where it refers only to those who buried Samuel), and more than likely Paul does not mean that in the future every Jew will be saved. All Israel should probably be understood to refer to the vast majority of the ethnic people of Israel, Jews from every tribe and from every locale all over the world.[6]
    30. Verse 27 continues the quote: God talks about the covenant with them (this is Isaiah 59:21), when God takes away their sins.
    31. This is prophesying Jesus, the Messiah. Jesus, the Messiah came from Jerusalem (Zion).
  • They were enemies of the Gospel, but loved because of their ancestors (verses 28-32).
    1. Let’s read verses 28-32: As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. 32For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.
    2. Now Paul writes that they [the Jewish people] are enemies of the Gospel.
    3. Why? They are enemies of the Gospel because they have rejected the Gospel and persecuted Christians. In Romans 5:10 Paul shares that we are “enemies” of God without Jesus’ blood atoning for our sins.
    4. Why does Paul say “for your sake”? The “your” is the gentiles, the non-Jewish people. This is because since the Jewish people have been rejecting the Gospel this opened the way for the gentiles. So, they, the Jewish people, have been enemies of the gospel, and this allowed more gentiles to come to know Jesus. In verse 11 of this same chapter Paul writes about this, salvation has come to the gentiles.
    5. Paul continues (still in verse 28), but as regards to election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. Now, Paul is talking about how God chose Israel throughout history. Remember Romans 9:5 Paul talked about how they have the patriarchs, etc. Romans 10:15 is similar.
    6. Verse 29: The gifts of the calling of God are irrevocable.
    7. This is an amazing verse. God’s gift and calling on Israel does not change.
    8. This election was God’s choice. This is about the covenant w Abraham. In Genesis 15 God alone passed through the sacrifices which shows He is the only one who can cancel them. The covenant remains.[7]
    9. Verse 30: Paul now says that they at one time were disobedient to God, but now they received mercy because of their disobedience. This just means that because of the Jewish people’s disobedience that opened the way for the gentiles to receive mercy; in this case, God’s mercy.
    10. In verse 31 Paul is saying that will flip. They, the Jewish people, are now disobedient, but will receive mercy because of the mercy shown to the gentiles. This is what Paul wrote about earlier in this chapter. The gentiles accepting Jesus will make the Jewish people jealous for the gospel.
    11. In verse 32 Paul is saying that all are disobedient. The “all” means Jews and gentiles. The Jewish people, the gentiles, everyone needs the Gospel. God wants to show mercy to all. The “all” means all people groups, not all individuals.
  • Doxology (verses 33-36).
    1. Let’s read verses 33-36: 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?” 36For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
    2. This is a powerful doxology and I cannot give it justice.
    3. Paul has shared things that are too amazing to understand. The Gospel is for everyone. Israel is rejecting the Savior, but that won’t last forever. There is a mystery in the way God works.
    4. Paul takes a breath, “oh…” The theme of verse 32 that God will give mercy to “all” leads to worship.
    5. H.B. Charles shares: The Truth of God is shallow enough that a little child can come and get a drink without the fear of drowning. But the truth of God is deep enough that the greatest of scholars can come in and never touch the bottom.[8]
    6. So, these next several verses are worship.
    7. There is depth in riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God. Actually, Paul just exclaims, “Oh, the depth of the riches…”
    8. The juxtaposition of “depth” and “riches” suggests a bottomless treasury of mercy.120[9]
    9. It is the longest of Paul’s doxologies. God’s judgments, his decisions about the world and about human matters, cannot be figured out by human beings.[10]
    10. How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways.
    11. This means that we cannot figure God out. God is deep. There is mystery. One person shares almost every heresy is us trying to scrute the inscrutable.[11]
    12. In verse 34 Paul expands on this with two questions with implied negative answers: Who has known the mind of the Lord? NO ONE. Who has been the Lord’s counselor? NO ONE.
    13. This is from Isaiah 40:13 with allusions to Job 15:8 and Job 36:22-23.
    14. That is even humorous. The Lord does not need counsel from us.
    15. In verse 35 Paul is quoting to Job 35:7 and 41:11. (V. 35 quotes Job 41:11 from some source other than the LXX. “With God, man never earns a recompense; he can only be loved and treated with mercy.”)[12] Who gives gifts to God? God does not need to pay us back for anything. God owns it all (Psalm 50:11).
    16. Paul wraps this worship up with verse 36: From Him, that means from God, through Him, that is God, and to Him, again, God, are all things.
    17. God is the source from which all things come, the means by which all things happen, and the goal toward which all things are moving. He is the originator, sustainer, and finisher of everything ultimately (cf. Col. 1:16). In view of all these things (vv. 33–36), He deserves all glory forever.[13]
    18. 1 Cor. 8:6 is a good cross reference; also John 1:1-14; Col. 1:15-20. Other cross references: Rom 16:27; Eph 3:21; Phil 4:20; 1 Tim 1:17; 2 Tim 4:18; 1 Pet 4:11; 5:11; 2 Pet 3:18; Jude 25; Rev 1:6; 5:13; 7:12[14]
    19. To God be the glory.
    20. Amen which means “truly, truly” or “let it be.”
    21. This is how Paul ends these 11 chapters of theology.
  • Summary and applications:
  • We must leave room for mystery in our life (verse 26).
  • We must not be prideful thinking that we can understand everything God does or does not do (verse 26).
  • We must repent of any intellectual pride (verse 25).
  • We must understand that God does have a sovereign plan and He does soften and harden hearts (verse 26).
  • We must understand that God will bring about salvation of many Jewish people in the future. This is most likely the end of the tribulation period, but it could have already begun (verses 26-27).
  • We must understand that the covenant with Israel is irrevocable (verse 29).
  • We must understand we all need God’s mercy (verse 32).
  • We must worship God (verses 33-36).
  • We must understand that God does not owe us anything (verse 35).
  • To God be the glory (verse 36).

In 1862, when Lincoln was 53 years old, his 11-year-old son Willie died. Lincoln’s wife “tried to deal with her grief by searching out New Age mediums.” Lincoln turned to Phineas Gurley, pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington.

Several long talks led to what Gurley described as “a conversion to Christ.” Lincoln confided that he was “driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I have nowhere else to go.”

Similarly, the horrors of the dead and wounded soldiers assaulted him daily. There were fifty hospitals for the wounded in Washington. The rotunda of the Capitol held two thousand cots for wounded soldiers.

Typically, fifty soldiers a day died in these temporary hospitals. All of this drove Lincoln deeper into the providence of God. “We cannot but believe, that He who made the world still governs it.”

His most famous statement about the providence of God in relation to the Civil War was his Second Inaugural Address, given a month before he was assassinated. It is remarkable for not making God a simple supporter for the Union or Confederate cause. God has his own purposes and does not excuse sin on either side.

Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war might speedily pass away. . . .Yet if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid with another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago so still it must be said, “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.”[15]

Can we follow President Lincoln’s example and trust the Lord?


[1] Source: John Walton, author and Moody Bible Institute professor, from sermon “Auditing God”

[2] Source: D.L. Moody, Christian History, no. 25.

[3] see Luke 21:24; Dr Rydelnic; Open Line; 02.27.2021

[4] Ibid. 05.08.2021

v. verse

vv. verses

[5] Paige Patterson, “Salvation in the Old Testament,” in CSB Study Bible: Notes, ed. Edwin A. Blum and Trevin Wax (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 1799.

LXX Septuagint

cf. compare or consult

[6] Michael G. Vanlaningham, “Romans,” in The Moody Bible Commentary, ed. Michael A. Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 1764.

[7] Dr Rydelnic (Professor of Jewish Studies and Bible), Open Line, Moody Radio.

[8] H.B. Charles; Renewing Your Mind; 07.30.2021

120 Dunn, Romans 9–16, p. 699.

[9] Ben Witherington III and Darlene Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004), 277.

[10] Ben Witherington III and Darlene Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004), 277.

[11] Dr Mohler

Spring convocation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary chapel 2021

LXX Septuagint

[12] Ben Witherington III and Darlene Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004), 277.

[13] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Ro 11:36.

[14] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).


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