The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile. Our God is eternal, sovereign, righteous, and *merciful*. We note His kindness and severity, His perfect standard and His offer of forgiveness for all who have sinned against it. He is making His merciful name known among the nations.
We are nearing the end of this section of Paul’s letter to the Romans. We have not heard the last about Paul’s missionary efforts to Gentiles or Paul’s exhortations related to Jewish scruples. But here is the final paragraph of his explanation for how he could so confidently say that “it is not as though the word of God has failed” (Romans 9:6). The Lord’s covenant mercy to Israel has not failed.
There is a “mystery” as Paul reveals it, as Paul has been revealing it, in Romans 9-11. The mystery isn’t that God changed His mind, it’s that how God fulfills His mind doesn’t look exactly like we might have had in mind. The end is the same, the way He gets to the end is higher than our ways. It ought to keep us humble, and that’s how he starts this last paragraph before the doxology.
# The Mystery in Israel’s Complete Salvation (verses 25-27)
It is not a mystery that Israel would be saved, but how the process of their salvation would come about.
## The Reason for Revealing the Mystery (verse 25a)
Unlike the ESV’s switch of the phrases, Paul actually starts with his desire for them to understand, and that understanding will keep them from getting self-wise. He also starts with a “For” (KJV, NASB), as this paragraph explains the previous parts of chapter 11.
> Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: (Romans 11:25a ESV)
He didn’t want them to be “without knowledge,” to be “ignorant” (KJV) or “uniformed” (NASB) about the **mystery**. Mystery is a New Testament favorite, for Paul in particular (see again in Romans 16:25), referring to a thing that had previously been un-manifested. A mystery isn’t a new thing, but before it was “in God’s private counsel” (BADG), a secret of sorts. Paul has actually been unveiling the mystery for the last three chapters, but will spell it out in two sentences shortly.
He’s talking to the **brothers**, which would include all the believers, but especially the Gentiles whom he started addressing directly in verse 14. Understanding this mystery will help keep them from being arrogant and proud (see those admonitions also in verses 18, 20).
## The Nature of the Mystery (verses 25b-26a)
There are *three* parts/stages to the mystery.
> a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, (Romans 11:25b–26a ESV)
Stage one: **a partial hardening has come upon Israel**. This is a summary of much of Romans 9 about election and Romans 10 and 11 about hardening. **Partial hardening** doesn’t mean a percent of hard and soft in hearts, it’s not about only fragments of arteries being blocked, but fully hardened hearts among a percent of the people of Israel. God’s choice of Israel did not mean that every generation of Jews would be good, or even that the majority would receive their Messiah when He came. We know they didn’t. Only a remnant would believe, the rest were hardened.
Stage two: **until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in**. It’s not just that much of Israel would disobey, but that Gentiles would be grafted in to the salvation blessings, and here Paul clarifies that there is a **fulness**, a final part/full number of Gentiles elected to salvation. On the timeline, we are somewhere in this stage.
Stage three: **And in this way all Israel will be saved**. When the work of God among the Gentiles is done, then He will graft back in the Jews. This first part of verse 26 is a punch in the throat to Supersessionism.
It simply will not do as decent Bible reading to call this **Israel** the church, or all the elect Jews and Gentiles (as John Calvin, “I extend the word Israel to all the people of God”), or any other group than ethnic, national Israel. This Israel to be saved is the same Israel that knew partial hardening. As generations of Jews rejected, so a coming generation will be fully included, reconciled, grafted back in (Romans 11:12, 15, 24). It has been just a remnant, but now all will be restored.
> “The main thesis of verse 25 is that the hardening of Israel is to terminate and that Israel is to be restored. This is but another way of affirming what had been called Israel’s “fulness” in verse 12, the “receiving” in verse 15, and the grafting in again in verses 23, 24. To regard the climactic statement, “all Israel shall be saved”, as having reference to anything else than this precise datum would be *exegetical violence*.” (John Murray, _The Epistle to the Romans_)
If it is *all* the Christians, including Gentiles, then Gentiles being saved *IS* Israel being saved and that is not a mystery, that would be an undoing of the covenant promises. It makes the following OT covenant a lie.
## The Covenant behind the Mystery (verses 26b-27)
Here are just partial quotes from two Old Testament prophecies that Paul sees being fulfilled when Israel is saved.
> as it is written,
> “The Deliverer will come from Zion,
> he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
> “and this will be my covenant with them
> when I take away their sins.”
> (Romans 11:26b–27 ESV)
The first comes from Isaiah 59:20-21, the second comes from Isaiah 27:9. Israel had the “covenants” (Romans 9:4). It was through the patriarchs, the “forefathers” (see the next verse), and then through the prophets.
Isaiah revealed the promise of God to send a **Deliverer** who would come **from Zion**, that is, from Jerusalem, who would **banish ungodliness from Jacob**, also named by God as “Israel.” The **covenant** is: **when I take away their sins**. It’s a covenant to forgive them, and because it includes forgiveness, it is unconditional.
Though somehow John Calvin, “in this prophecy deliverance to the spiritual people of God is promised, among whom even Gentiles are included.” An even worse take:
> "the Christian Church in which the earthly distinction between Jew and Gentile disappears never to be re-instituted. To re-instate the old distinction between Jew and Gentile after the New Testament era has dawned would be to reverse the forward march of the Kingdom, and would be as illogical and useless as to go back to candle or lamp light after the sun has risen." (Loraine Boettner, _The Millennium_, 241)
That is “exegetical violence.” We’ve seen the New Covenant explicitly referred to in Jeremiah 31, and the similar promise of a “new heart” for sake of obedience in Ezekiel 36. And those covenants of mercy include earthly, geographical and agricultural promises to “the house of Israel” and “the house of Judah.” The Lord promised them forgiveness and fruitfulness. This is contra the Reformed Murray, who as an amillennialist at least accepts salvation for Israelites, but says none of the other physical/temporal parts of the covenants are to be expected.
> The elements of these quotations specify for us what is involved in the salvation of Israel. These are redemption, the turning away from ungodliness, the sealing of covenant grace, and the taking away of sins, the kernel blessings of the gospel, and they are an index to what the salvation of Israel means. There is no suggestion of any privilege or status but that which is common to Jew and Gentile in the faith of Christ. (Murray)
Apparently there’s more than one way to commit “exegetical violence.”
Also, other than 9:4 this is the only explicit mention of **covenant** in Romans. One would think, if we were to understand all the things through the covenant lens, that Paul certainly would have helped us learn to use that vocabulary.
# The Showcase in Israel’s Complete Salvation (verses 28-32)
The last word on God’s purpose for Israel in particular.
## A Showcase of God’s Election (verses 28-29)
> As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:28–29 ESV)
The Jewish religious leaders pressed the Romans to put their Deliverer to death. No one persecuted the Christians more in the first century than Jews, Paul himself a prime example. The Jews loved their privilege as possessors of the Law (not **gospel**) and tried to establish their own righteousness apart from faith as called for in the gospel. So **they are enemies for your sake**.
And yet there is a way in which all those with Jewish blood belong to the root that increases their accountability because they are **beloved for the sake of their forefathers**. They have something unique.
In God’s Word only one kind of person can be elect in two ways, and there are two ways to be elect in only one way, and then there are the non-elect (or the reprobate). Only Jews can be part of the elect nation and elect unto salvation.
**For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable**. This is true for our salvation *because* it is true of God’s Word. That counts for His covenants, and that means that *all* of what He said in those covenants must come to pass. There may be mystery in how it comes, but it must come about. God doesn’t repent from giving privileges, and neither should we for receiving them from Him.
## A Showcase of God’s Mercy (verses 30-32)
The forgiven tend to get stingy about forgiveness, and we shouldn’t.
> For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. (Romans 11:30–32 ESV)
What’s different is that whereas Israel’s disobedience led to our receiving of mercy, it is our receiving of mercy that will lead to their receiving of mercy. We share disobedience; we all know how to do that. But in God’s purposes He aims for the final and full showing of **mercy on all**. This isn’t universalism. It is still in the context, not just of that “fulness” of Gentiles, but of “all Israel.”
Supercessionism is a long name for a simple error. Supercessionism is another name for replacement theology, or fulfillment theology, for *covenant misleading* not covenant mercy. It’s a Bible reading error. If you read enough to believe that God will fulfill His covenant word to Israel, and that while the church receives many salvation blessings it does not fulfill the words of God to Jews (but rather will be used by God at the right time in the future to bring about Israel’s salvation), then you will end up a Dispensational Premillennialist.
And while we appreciate many brothers who don’t identify that way, we think they miss out on the hope that this understanding secures (per Romans 8), and on the praise it provokes in doxology (per the next paragraph). His mercies never come to an end, great is His faithfulness (see Lamentations 3:22-23). Praise the Lord!
I will miss being the minister proclaiming the benediction for the flock the next few Lord’s Days. But of course it is not my blessing, it is God’s blessing on His people through the minister. May the Lord bless You and keep you and make His face shine upon you.
> 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 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— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Romans 16:25–27, ESV)