Salvation sent to the Gentiles (11:1-24)
All the above does not mean that God has totally rejected his people Israel. The fact that Paul has received salvation is proof that he has not (11:1). Just as in Elijah’s time there was a minority in Israel who did not turn away from God, so too in Paul’s time there is a minority whom God owns as his (2-5). These are God’s people not because of their good works, but because of God’s grace (6). They are few in number, but they have obtained the righteousness and salvation that Israel always wanted. As for the rebellious people as a whole, God has acted in judgment upon them by making them blind and deaf to the truth (7-10; cf. 9:17-18).
God’s judgment on the people of Israel does not mean that they are now without hope. Their rejection of Christ has resulted in the enrichment of the world, through the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles and the growth of God’s people into a vast international community. How much greater, then, will be the blessing when the Jews accept the gospel (11-12). Paul reminds his Gentile readers of one result he hopes for as he preaches to the Gentiles. His desires that his fruit among them might stir the Jews to jealousy and cause some to believe (13-14). He likens such Jewish believers to the first loaf of a batch or the root of a tree. They give hope of more to come (15-16).
The great family of God is compared to an olive tree. Until now this tree had been Jewish in its roots, trunk and branches. When the Jews rejected Christ, many of these Jewish branches were broken off, and branches from a wild olive tree (Gentiles) were grafted, or joined, into it instead (17). The Gentiles should not despise the Jews or feel proud of themselves because they have now come into the family of God.
They should remember that the Jews were the ones who prepared the way for the gospel that the Gentiles have now believed, Without this Jewish preparation, the Gentiles’ salvation would not be possible (18).
God broke off cultivated Jewish branches because of their unbelief, and in his kindness grafted in wild Gentile branches instead. But if the Gentiles become arrogant, God can break them off also (19-22). If God can do what is contrary to nature and graft wild branches into the tree, he will have no difficulty in grafting cultivated Jewish branches into the parent tree again. The only reason why God holds back is the Jews’ refusal to give up their unbelief (23-24).
Completion of God’s great plan (11:25-36)
The Gentiles should not feel self-satisfied, but rather understand the purposes of God that Paul has now revealed to them. God has used the hardening of Israel to give the Gentiles the opportunity to receive the gospel, but neither the hardening of Israel nor the opportunity for the Gentiles will last for ever. God is using the conversion of the Gentiles to bring about the salvation of Israel. When Paul uses the words ‘full number’ and ‘all’ in speaking of the salvation of the Gentiles and of Israel, he is not saying that every Gentile and every Israelite will be saved. He has clearly shown earlier that faith, not nationality, is the basis of salvation. What he reveals here is how God is bringing about the completion of his great plan to build for himself a universal and everlasting people (25-27).
In turning from Israel to the Gentiles, God has not forgotten the promises he made to Israel’s ancestors. He still has a special love for Israel, and that is why he wants the conversion of Gentiles to lead to the conversion of Jews (28-29). Gentiles and Jews have both in turn been disobedient; but just as the Jews were the means of God’s mercy going to the Gentiles, so the Gentiles are now the means of his mercy going to the Jews. Because all are proved sinners, God can have mercy on all (30-32).
God’s sovereign choice, far from being unjust, has been the means of his mercy being extended to people of all nations. This displays his unsearchable wisdom and causes his thankful people to give him praise and glory (33-36).