Romans Chapter 11

Updated 12/26/2014

Note: Chapters Nine through Eleven are taken from the series, “The Relationship Between Israel and the Church” and mirrored here.

Romans 11:1 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.

Last objection: Has God, then, abandoned His people Israel? Absolutely not! Paul himself is an Israelite and God has not cast Him away!

Romans 11:2-3 God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the Scripture saith of 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.

No, God has not forsaken His people. He chose them before the foundation of the world, not because they were great; not for anything they have done. He chose them because He is sovereign. It only matters that He chose them. God promised Abraham that His covenant would be everlasting to Abraham and to his seed after him (Genesis 17:7).

Paul uses a conversation between Elijah and God to illustrate this point. He asks, “Don’t you know what the Scriptures say?” First, Elijah prayed that God’s chosen, covenant people had reject God, killed his prophets, broken down His altar and generally rejected Him. “Now,” Elijah complained, “they are after me. Woe is me; I am the last person on earth who has not rejected You, Lord!”

Romans 11:4 But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.

“Not so,” God said, “There are at least 7000 believers that have not turned away from Me and worshipped Baal. They are Mine and I have set them aside to Myself.” This believing remnant was really God’s people. At my little country church, there is a core group of believers that make everything work. They are always there when a need arises. They are there for all the prayer meetings, business meetings, clean-ups, etc. They are the ones that are really sold out to God. Others in the church are saved, but the core group are the really dedicated Christians. They wish to please God and grow ever nearer to Him. The remnant were just this kind of folks-truly dedicated and sold out to God.

Romans 11:5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.

In Paul’s time there was a remnant of Christians that were truly sold-out to God. Even today this is true. Amid all the turmoil in America and the world-markets failing, terrorism, rampant sexual perversion, abortion, and the degradation of morals in every venue-there is a remnant according to the election of grace. In the USA our sins have reached heaven, just like the sins of Sodom. God did not destroy Sodom because of a very small remnant, that of Lot and his family. God preserved Israel in Paul’s day because to the remnant and today he preserves us here in America and many other nations around the world for the very same reason, that of a believing remnant. But remember what happened. God led Lot and his family out of Sodom and destroyed the city. There is coming a time when God will protect His remnant while destroying the sinning nations.

It is unfortunate, but many people that attend church regularly are not saved. Recall this story: Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. (John 6:53-66).

In the passage above, Jesus was obviously not speaking of literally practicing cannibalism upon His body. He was speaking in a spiritual manner. He began this discourse by stating, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is My flesh” John 6:51. He came from heaven to earth to shed His blood and allow His body to be mutilated and to die on the cross as atonement for our sins. If we have faith in that shed blood and battered body as our substitute, and believe that God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved. We share in His suffering (Romans 8:17).

When we partake the elements of Holy Communion, we are symbolizing the eating of His flesh and drinking of His blood. We are not actually consuming His actual flesh and blood. Of course if you believe in the doctrine of transubstantiation, you believe we do actually consume his flesh and blood. I do not subscribe to that teaching, which, by the way, was the main point of contention in the Inquisition. I believe this is a symbolic action.

Yet, many of His disciples turned away from Him when they heard Him teaching this. To them it was such a hard teaching that they could not accept it. They were like the seed scattered into stony places. When things got hard those folks turned away from the faith. They were never grounded in the faith and never had any roots in the faith. They were not really saved. Unfortunately, may church attenders today will turn away when things get difficult or when persecution or tribulation arises. Then only the true remnant of grace will remain.

Let me make one point clear. Some early church fathers believed that the bread and wine actually became the body and blood of Christ. This was accomplished thus: since we are the body of Christ anything we put into pour bodies becomes the body of Christ simply because we are what we consume. As members of the body of Christ, the elements become a part of our body, and subsequently, a part of the Body of Christ (compare 1 Corinthians 6:16). That is an interesting take, but it is not the same thing as believing that the bread and wine actually becomes the flesh and blood of Christ when we consume them.

Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

The remnant is saved only by faith in Christ. They truly know that they cannot work their way to Christ, but that their salvation belongs only to Him and to no other. They know that they must depend solely on Him and Him alone for everything. Not one action they take, not one good work they do can save them. Jesus is the Lord of their lives and they depend upon Him for all their needs.

If there is any work involved in salvation then it is not of grace. A sinner’s prayer, for example, is an action, a work. It is not effective in salvation; if it were, the salvation would no longer be of grace. Walking the aisle at an invitation does not save anyone. It is a work, and if a work is involved in salvation, then salvation id no longer by grace. Baptism alone is an action; it is a work. If baptism can save us, then salvation is no longer of grace, but of works.

Let me explain that baptism is a result of saving faith. Salvation and Baptism go together, but the work of baptism can save no one. If you do not believe in Christ but get baptized, then you are not saved because the work of baptism can save no one. If you say you have faith and then do not get baptized, your faith is suspect, for now you are not following your Lord’s command to be baptized. They go together, but baptism apart from salvation will not cause you to be saved.

You cannot be saved because your father, grandfather, uncle, or any relative is a pastor. You cannot be saved by attending church; you cannot be saved by reading your Bible, though reading it can lead to salvation. You are not saved by the rosary; you are not saved by confirmation; you cannot be saved by any works. We should read our bibles, attend church, and do good works. They are required of us. But they do not lead to salvation. They are a result of salvation.

Romans 11:7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.

Here is the crux of the thing. Israel has been seeking salvation through obedience to the law, yet they have not found it to this very day. At least not all have found it. The believing remnant has found salvation through their belief in the Messiah. Those who have not believed in Christ are blinded. Hence only the Holy Spirit can open their eyes. Additionally, all Gentiles who have not received Christ as Savior are also spiritually blind and the Holy Spirit must open their eyes to the truth as well.

Romans 11:8 (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.

Deuteronomy 29:4 says, “Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.” Isaiah 29:10 says, “For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.” This verse is a compilation of the two. This is not inaccurate. It was written his way for brevity and for effect. The brevity is obvious. The effect is that Paul more easily made his point with the compilation. The blindness was present even unto Paul’s day, and yes, even unto today. As we said before, if anyone will seek God he will find Him. Many Israelites have found the Messiah and are believers. Their eyes were opened.

This is not an eternal condition. There is coming a time when, as Paul says in verse 26, that Israel as a whole will be saved. The blindness of the Israelites will remain until “the fullness of the Gentiles.” For something, such as a drinking glass, to be full, it must be filled to the top with liquid. To be completely full it must be to the absolute brim, with no air space left between the liquid and the top rim of the glass. For the fullness of the glass to occur, it must be filled to capacity.

In out context, we are discussing the salvation of Gentiles and the Spiritual blindness of Israel. In this context, the salvation of the Gentiles, the fullness of their salvation does not occur until all of the Gentiles that will be saved are saved. This is not an arbitrary number, yet it is a number known to God, Who is omniscient.

Though I do not believe that He chose some to be saved and some to be damned, I do understand that He knows who will or will not be saved. He knows the future and the hearts of all. Though all are offered salvation, not all will receive it (narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it-Matthew 7:14). When those Gentiles that God knows will receive salvation have done so, then the fullness of the Gentiles will occur. I cannot say at what date or era that will occur, but God knows when. When that happens, the blindness will be lifted from Israel and they, as a whole (but not necessarily every individual), will be saved by their Redeemer.

Some teach that the Israel spoken of in this context is the church of Christ. When the church is complete, that is, when all the Gentiles that will be saved are saved, then that is all Israel being saved. Others teach that God has two separate and distinct plans, one for Israel, and one for the church and that Israel’s salvation is yet in the future and is on a different course than that of the church. The second option, the one that Dispensationalists believe, cannot be supported by Scripture. We will discuss this more when we study verse 26.

Romans 11:9-10 And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompense unto them: (10) Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back always.

Psalms 69:22-23 (LXX, Brenton Translation), “Let their table before them be for a snare, and for a recompense, and for a stumbling-block. (23) Let their eyes be darkened that they should not see; and bow down their back continually.

Their bounty would prevent them from seeing the coming destruction. They would be, like we in America are, fat, dumb, and happy with the status quo. “We have all we need and more. Therefore why should we need God?” they ask. Their prosperity, like ours, prevented them from seeing the disastrous condition they were in with God. Like a snare quickly springs upon the bird it catches, so would destruction come upon them (and us if we don’t turn from our wicked ways and seek God’s face) suddenly. As a trap springs upon a wild animal, so the end of their prosperity would come quickly.

Since they were blinded by their prosperity, they would stumble over it-it would become a block to stumble over and fall. They would receive their just compensation for their sins when they thought their prosperity was the blessing from God. Their prosperity darkened their eyes and kept them from seeing the coming destruction and kept them in bondage to sin.

Though Paul addresses these things to his own people, they apply to all peoples that reject Christ as Savior. At this very moment the West is attempting to outlaw the worship of Christ. They are trying to pass laws (yes even the American Congress is in on this act) to relegate Christianity to the back alleys (to use the argument the abortionist crowd uses) and remove it from the mainstream. They are having some success.

Romans 11:11 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.

The first word translated “fall” is a word meaning condemnation. The second and third usage is a word meaning a lapse or deviation from the true course. The first is a permanent fall from which no recovery is possible. The second and third are simply lapses in good judgment. They could be called sins. To restate it a bit, “Have they stumbled so much that they will come under condemnation?” Or, “Have they fallen to a point that is beyond recovery?” “Absolutely not!” is the Apostle’s exclamation. Another restatement, “…but rather through their deviation from the truth has come salvation to the Gentiles through Christ.” The Apostle points out that the Gentiles’ salvation and sharing in the promises of God would certainly cause Israelites to become jealous and ultimately find Christ as their Savior.

Romans 11:12 Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness?

Again, their lapse or deviation from the truth has caused great riches to come upon the world. The riches of Christ and His Gospel, that is. Their loss was and is gain to the Gentiles. If their diminution caused great riches to come upon the world in the form of the Gospel, how much greater riches will result from their salvation? The implication is it will be an enormous benefit to the world.

Romans 11:13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:

The information Paul is going to give in the next few verses is specifically for the Gentiles. Since Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15), he would use this office to exhort them. Paul is stressing this information he gives to the Gentiles. It is important information and we must not miss out on its meaning.

I am a Gentile as are those in my local church family. If you are a Gentile, then this information is specifically for you and me. If you are not a Gentile, then, by definition you are an Israeli, or an Israelite, or a Jew. There is plenty of information you may be interested in these verses as well. They certainly are not covert words. But they are directed at Gentiles. If you are a Jew, then these verses will show how much those of us in the Gentile church should love and respect you.

Romans 11:14 If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.

I wish to use any means to provoke the Jews to emulate the Gentiles and believe in Christ as Savior. Now this certainly is an affront to Jews who believe they are saved because they are God’s chosen. They are His chosen, but God requires all who will be saved to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those that do not are not saved according to Yehovah God. Paul would do anything, anything, to have his brethren of the flesh, the Israelite race, come to faith in the Son of God, המשׁיח ישוע, Yeshua HaMashiach, Yah’s Anointed Savior.

Romans 11:15 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?

What we have here is a seeming dichotomy. Yet these things are not mutually exclusive. The exclusion of the Israelites from salvation through Christ (because of their rejection of Him) has meant the inclusion of the rest of the world (to those that believe on Him). When their Messiah receives them, theirs will be eternal life. They rejected Christ and were cast away (in 70 AD). The world then benefited from their rejection and received salvation through Christ. Eventually, they will receive Jesus as their Messiah and that will result in their salvation. When this happens it will be like the dead coming back to life. Israel, once rejected of God and thus being like the dead to Him, will then be once again alive to Him. They were lost but will be found.

Romans 11:16 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.

Let us understand about firstfruits. In all harvests, God was given a portion of the best part of said harvest. Though it was a small portion compared to the entire harvest, its consecration to God made the entire harvest holy and blessed of God. Thus the offering of the firstfruits to God had the effect of saving the whole harvest. Jesus was effectively our firstfruit and His offering of Himself was sufficient to save the whole world.

The word rendered “lump” in the KJV is a batch of dough. Numbers 15:20 states, “You shall lift up a cake of the first of your dough as a heave offering.” The Israelites were required to take a small portion of their dough and make a cake for an offering to God. Whey they did this, the remainder of their dough was holy. If the firstfruit, which is that portion of the dough set apart to God is holy (and holy means “set apart”), then the remaining amount of dough is holy. If the root of a tree is set apart, then all its branches are as well.

Obviously, Paul is figuratively referring to Israel, to whom “belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple service, and the promises; the forefathers are theirs, and from them, by physical descent, came the Messiah,” (Romans 9:4b-5a, HCSB). Since God gave all of these things to them, they are the firstfruits. Because a small group of people, the Israelites, were set apart unto God as holy, then the entire world might be holy through them if they will trust in Jesus, Who came from the Israelites, as their Savior. Israel is thus referred to as the small portion of dough dedicated to God and as the root of a tree dedicated to God. Remember this illustration.

Romans 11:17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;

The domestic olive tree, which is implied in the passage, is Israel; the root is Abraham; the wild olive is the Gentiles; the branches broken off are individual unbelieving Israelites; the branches grafted in are individual believing Gentiles; the fatness of the tree refers to the things Israel brought to us: the adoption as children of God, the glory of God, the covenants, the scriptures, the temple service, the promises, the forefathers, and the Messiah. We, as believers in Christ are adopted into the family of Abraham (Romans 4:16, Galatians 3:7, 4:5, Ephesians 1:5). We partake of the promises made to Abraham and we receive all the good things that Israel brought to us. We are partakers of the fatness provided for the children of Abraham, of whom we are a part by adoption. In other words, the church has become a part of Israel. The church has not replaced Israel. The church partakes of the root and fatness of Israel as brethren of the Israelites.

Romans 11:18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.

The CEV puts this well: “But don’t think you are better than the branches that were cut away. Just remember that you are not supporting the roots of that tree. Its roots are supporting you.” The literal rendering, from the Diaglott Interlinear is thus: “not do thou boast of the branches; if but thou doest boast, not thou the root sustainest but the root thee.” In other words, we (remember that Paul is addressing the Gentile Christians) are supported by the root, which is the house of Abraham and not the other way around. That is, the house of Abraham that is of the promise-through Isaac and Jacob, et al. To the Israelites came the promises and we Gentiles are included in those promises. Hence it is the promises and covenants made with Abraham that sustain us Gentiles.

Historically, the church has not always followed these scriptures. For example, during medieval times, anti-Semitism was rank in much of Christendom. The Jews were condemned as “Christ haters”, and “Christ-killers.” Thus condemned, they had given up their place as God’s chosen race, and the church had replaced them. In fact, Martin Luther advocated driving all Jews out of his country “like mad dogs, so that we do not become partakers of their abominable blasphemy…” (The Jews and Their Lies, Martin Luther, 1543).

I submit the error of this doctrine. The very Scriptures we are studying here belie the doctrine of anti-Semitism practiced by Martin Luther and others during his period of history. Certainly the unbelieving Jews are blinded as this scripture indicates, yet their blindness will be healed upon their belief in Jesus Christ as Savior. Their foundation, which is the promises God made to Abraham, is strong and upon it rests the Gentile church. They are like anyone else that is unsaved, no better and no worse. The unsaved are spiritually blind, whether Jew or Gentile. They need the Lord Jesus to save them.

Romans 11:19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.

Some might claim that God deliberately rejected the Jews so that the Gentile might be saved. Perhaps this would indicate that they would never be re-grafted. Those making that claim are incorrect. Paul foresaw this objection and answered it in the next verse.

Romans 11:20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:

Paul says, “OK, but . . .” It is not true that the Jews were broken off to make way for the Gentiles. The Jews were broken off because of unbelief. They did not believe that Jesus, son of Joseph of Nazareth was the Messiah. Conversely, because of the steadfastness of our faith, we are engrafted and allowed to receive nurture from the root. We need not allow that to make us smug. It was not for anything we did that we are engrafted. It was the work at Calvary that allows us to be the adopted children of Abraham. We are not better than the unbelieving Jews (or any unbeliever) because of ourselves. Jesus did the work and we need not boast. Not one thing that we did has made us whole. Only what Christ did at Calvary makes us whole. We should remain in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

Romans 11:21-22 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. (22) Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

The Phillips translation catches the essence of these verses: “But if some of the branches of the tree have been broken off, while you, like shoots of wild-olive, have been grafted in, and don’t share like a natural branch the rich nourishment of the root, don’t let yourself feel superior to those former branches. (If you feel inclined that way, remind yourself that you do not support the root, the root supports you.) You may make the natural retort, “But the branches were broken off to make room for my grafting!” It wasn’t quite like that. They lost their position because they failed to believe; you only maintain yours because you do believe. The situation does not call for conceit but for a certain wholesome fear. If God removed the natural branches for a good reason, take care that you don’t give him the same reason for removing you. You must try to appreciate both the kindness and the strict justice of God. Those who fell experienced his justice, while you are experiencing his kindness, and will continue to do so as long as you do not abuse that kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off from the tree.

In other words, always rest upon your faith in Christ to uphold you as a wild engrafted shoot. It is that faith that sustains your sustenance from the root. You (and I as Gentiles) must not think that we have done anything to sustain ourselves. That is what the unbelieving Israelites did; they depended on their upholding of the law for their sustenance. That is why some of the natural braches were broken off. Let us keep the faith, and let us not boast that we are somehow responsible for our position in Christ. Let us never feel superior to the natural branches that were broken off because of unbelief. That is God’s department. He will deal with them. We need not give God any reason to treat us as He did the unbelieving Israelites. If we trust in Him for our salvation always, then we will please Him and not give Him any reason for removing us.

Does this mean we can lose our salvation? I do not believe so. has an excellent answer to this question from the book of Hebrews. I reproduce it her with their permission:

    Question: “Does

Hebrews 6:4-6

    mean we can lose our salvation?”Answer:

Hebrews 6:4-6

    states, “

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

    ” This is one of the Bible’s most difficult passages to interpret, but one thing is clear—it does not teach that we can lose our salvation. There are two valid ways of looking at these verses:

One interpretation holds that this passage is written not about Christians but about unbelievers who are convinced of the basic truths of the gospel but who have not placed their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. They are intellectually persuaded but spiritually uncommitted.

According to this interpretation, the phrase “once enlightened” (verse 4) refers to some level of instruction in biblical truth. However, understanding the words of scripture is not the same as being regenerated by the Holy Spirit. For example, John 1:9 describes Jesus, the “true Light,” giving light “to every man”; but this cannot mean the light of salvation, because not every man is saved. Through God’s sovereign power, every man has enough light to be held responsible. This light either leads to the complete acceptance of Jesus Christ or produces condemnation in those who reject such light. The people described in Hebrews 6:4-6 are of the latter group-unbelievers who have been exposed to God’s redemptive truth and perhaps have made a profession of faith, but have not exercised genuine saving faith.

This interpretation also sees the phrase “tasted the heavenly gift” (Hebrews 6:9) as referring to a momentary experience, akin to Jesus’ “tasting” death (Hebrews 2:9). This brief experience with the heavenly gift is not seen as equivalent to salvation; rather, it is likened to the second and third soils in Jesus’ parable (Matthew 13:3-23), which describes people who receive the truth of the gospel but are not truly saved.

Finally, this interpretation sees the “falling away” (Hebrews 6:6) as a reference to those who have tasted the truth but, not having come all the way to faith, fall away from even the revelation they have been given. The tasting of truth is not enough to keep them from falling away from it. They must come all the way to Christ in complete repentance and faith; otherwise, they in effect re-crucify Christ and treat Him contemptuously. Those who sin against Christ in such a way have no hope of restoration or forgiveness because they reject Him with full knowledge and conscious experience. They have concluded that Jesus should have been crucified, and they stand with His enemies. It is impossible to renew such to repentance.

The other interpretation holds that this passage is written about Christians, and that the phrases “partakers of the Holy Ghost,” “enlightened,” and “tasted of the heavenly gift” are all descriptions of true believers.

According to this interpretation, the key word in the passage is if (verse 6). The writer of Hebrews is setting up a hypothetical statement: “IF a Christian were to fall away . . .” The point being made is that it would be impossible (IF a Christian falls away) to renew salvation. That’s because Christ died once for sin (Hebrews 9:28), and if His sacrifice is insufficient, then there’s no hope at all.

The passage, therefore, presents an argument based on a false premise (that a true Christian can fall away) and follows it to its senseless conclusion (that Jesus would have to be sacrificed again and again). The absurdity of the conclusion points up the impossibility of the original assumption. This reasoning is called reductio ad absurdum, in which a premise is disproved by showing that it logically leads to an absurdity.

Both of these interpretations support the security of the believer in Christ. The first interpretation presents unbelievers rejecting Christ and thereby losing their chance of salvation; the second interpretation presents the very idea of believers losing salvation as impossible. Many scriptures make it abundantly clear that salvation is eternal (John 10:27-29; Romans 8:35, 38-39; Philippians 1:6; 1 Peter 1:4-5), and Hebrews 6:4-6 confirms that doctrine.(© Copyright 2002-2009 Got Questions Ministries – All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.)

I wholeheartedly concur with this answer. I espouse the second interpretation that the statement is hypothetical. However, I would not discourage anyone that holds to the first interpretation that this does not refer to born again believers. Here is what I have written on the subject (from The Bible Church,

Hebrews 6:4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,

Some teach that this verse is talking about backsliders or those who, though making a profession of faith, are not saved at all. But neither of these ideas is correct. It most certainly and assuredly refers to the saved. Enlightened means “to be made fully aware of.” By itself, enlightened could mean those who have been fully taught the basics of Christianity yet do not believe. But taken together with tasting the holy gift and receiving the Holy Spirit, then it is absolutely certain that the saved are in view here. Tasting the heavenly gift refers to the gift of salvation (For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:) (Ephesians 2:8. See also Romans 6:23) It may also refer to the gift of the Holy Spirit (And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;) (John 14:16. See also Acts 8:20). To taste of the gift of salvation by itself may refer to someone who has seen a bit of what salvation is all about without being really saved. Grouped together, to have tasted of salvation and to have partaken of the Spirit and to have become enlightened equal true salvation. To partake of something is to receive it. Only the saved receive the Holy Spirit. No this does not refer to those who “are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.” (Mark 4:16-17). It refers to the truly saved. Let us save the “for it is impossible” for later.

Hebrews 6:5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,

The good word of God is, of course, the Scriptures, which are not discernible by the unsaved. In order to taste the goodness of the Word, one must be able to understand it. The unsaved cannot. The powers of the world to come most certainly refer to those miracles wrought by Christ and the Apostles. Having seen them does not necessarily bring salvation. But in conjunction with all of these evidences Paul has listed, there can be no doubt that he refers to one who is truly saved.

Hebrews 6:6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.“If they should fall away” does not mean that they did or will, it begins a supposition. The suggestion is that if it were possible for one who is saved to fall away, then there would be no return for that one for it would re-crucify Christ, which would be a shame. Verse 9 lets us know that Paul is not saying this could happen, but is simply painting an scenario that tells us what would be the outcome of losing one’s salvation: he could never regain it.

Let me quickly say that the Greek is more properly rendered “and having fallen away” according to several commentators.

The whole essence of this passage beginning with Hebrews 5:11, “Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing,” is the lack of spiritual maturity among some in the church. Paul has taken great care to decry the repetition of preaching the basics to the saved. Once a person is saved, then he or she must go on and mature spiritually. The new convert must graduate from the fundamentals of salvation (milk) and go on to the advanced doctrines of Christ (solid food). If not it is as though they had lost their salvation and had to be resaved over and over again. Extreme Arminianism teaches that one may lose his salvation and be in need of being resaved. But Paul is not saying that. He is saying that since it is impossible for one fallen away from the faith to be resaved, then why are those fundamentals preached over and over again to the saved? He is not talking about any who had actually fallen away. He is simply using a supposition to make his point.

Re-crucifying Christ would be contemptuous. John Gill said,

He was once crucified, and it is both impossible and unnecessary that he should be, properly speaking, “crucified afresh”, or “again”; it is impossible, because he is risen from the dead, and will never die more; it is unnecessary, because he has finished and completed what he suffered the death of the cross for; but men may be said to crucify him again, when, by denying him to be the Son of God, they justify the crucifixion of him on that account;

Romans 11:21-22 simply means to live a life set apart to God and “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

Romans 11:23-24 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. (24) For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?

The Israelites rejected Christ as their Messiah and were thus as branches broken off from the domestic olive tree that is a metaphor for Israel. They rejected Christ and therefore they have been removed from the promises of God. But such exclusion is permanent by no means. God is omnipotent, that is, all powerful. He is Sovereign. He has the power and the will to graft the natural branches back onto the root. He will do so when they come to belief in Christ. Every year, multitudes come to faith in Christ as their Savior. Included in these multitudes are many Jews. As these Gentiles and Jews trust Christ as their Lord and Savior, they are grafted in to the tree, the Gentiles as wild olive shoots into a cultivated olive tree; the Jews as natural braches, are grafted back into their own olive tree. Both believing Jews and believing Gentiles are grafted into the same olive tree. However, the Jews are re-grafted into the tree from which they were broken off due to unbelief. It is far simpler to graft cultivated shoots into a cultivated tree than to graft wild shoots into a cultivated tree.

Romans 11:25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.

The mystery here is the plan that God has for Israel. At the current time, unbelieving Israelites are blind to the Gospel, at least in part, that is. Some are no longer blind and have found their Messiah in Jesus the Son of God. But Israel, for the most part, is blind to the Gospel. Just because you and I are not blind to the Gospel is not reason to become smug. Israel is only temporarily blinded.

The question is, what in the meaning of “the fullness of the Gentiles?” May I refer you to our previous discussion?

    The blindness of the Israelites will remain until “the fullness of the Gentiles.” For something, such as a drinking glass, to be full, it must be filled to the top with liquid. To be completely full it must be to the absolute brim, with no air space left between the liquid and the top rim of the glass. For the fullness of the glass to occur, it must be filled to capacity.

In out context, we are discussing the salvation of Gentiles and the Spiritual blindness of Israel. In this context, the salvation of the Gentiles, the fullness of their salvation does not occur until all of the Gentiles that will be saved are saved. This is not an arbitrary number, yet it is a number known to God, Who is omniscient.

When the fullness of the Gentiles occurs, Israel will be given its sight. Then they will recognize their Messiah.

Romans 11:26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:

Let us review some prophecy texts to help our understanding.

Referring to the soldier piercing Jesus’ side at His crucifixion, John said, in 19:37, “And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.

He quoted Zechariah 12:10, “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.

Jeremiah 50:4 In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go, and seek the LORD their God.

Ezekiel 39:29 Neither will I hide my face any more from them: for I have poured out my spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.

Isaiah 59:20-21 And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD. (21) As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and forever.

In the future, Israel will see their Messiah and believe. Then the house of Israel will be saved. This is the time when the Messiah returns to receive his people. It is the Second Advent that we all look forward to. At that advent all of God’s people, that is, believers in Christ, both Jew and Gentile, will be together as God’s children. Then all of Israel, that is, all of God’s people, will be saved at that point. There will undoubtedly be Jews and Gentiles at that time that will not believe. So, “all Israel will be saved” cannot be applied to each and every individual, for each individual must believe in Christ independently in order to be saved. Therefore it does not apply to every individual, yet it does apply to all of God’s people as a whole.

Romans 11:27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.

Here is the exact wording of that covenant: Jeremiah 31:31-34 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: (32) Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they broke, although I was a husband unto them, saith the LORD: (33) But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. (34) And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

This covenant is available to both Jews and Gentiles. Everyone that trusts in Christ as their Savior will fall under the new covenant (Romans 10:12; Hebrews 9:5; Hebrews 10:17; see Hebrews 8:8-9:28).

Romans 11:28-29 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. (29) For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.The unbelieving Israelites are currently enemies of the Gospel. That works for our benefit. They rejected the Gospel and put Christ to death. Because of His death and resurrection, the free gift of salvation was given to us, and, of course, to those Israelites that believe. We are indebted to the Jews.

But even though they are still enemies of the Gospel, God still loves them and still has a plan for them because of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, David, etc. God made promises to the fathers of the Israelites that He plans to keep in spite of their rejection of Messiah. God’s promises are not breakable. God’s promises were of gifts to the Israelites and He called them to be His people and to be their God. His gifts and his calling are still in effect to this very day.

Romans 11:30-32 For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: (31) Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. (32) For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

The Phillips translation has captured the essence of these verses as well: “Just as in the past you were disobedient to God but have found that mercy which might have been theirs but for their disobedience, so they, who at the present moment are disobedient, will eventually share the mercy which has been extended to you. God has all men penned together in the prison of disobedience, that he may have mercy upon them all.

The word, conclude, in this context, means to enclose or confine. All people are sinners in need of salvation and God will have mercy on all through the shed blood of Christ. We are or were all unbelievers. Many Jews still are because of their rejection of Christ and Savior. Many Gentiles have received the grace of God and are released from their prison. Here is how Adam Clarke sums it up:

This refers to the guilty state of both Jews and Gentiles. They had all broken God’s law – the Jews, the written law; the Gentiles, the law written in their hearts. They are represented here as having been accused if their transgressions; tried at God’s bar; found guilty on being tried; condemned to the death they had merited; remanded to prison, till the sovereign will, relative to their execution, should be announced; shut or locked up, under the jailer, unbelief; and there both continued in the same state, awaiting the execution of their sentence: but God, in his own compassion, moved by no merit in either party, caused a general pardon by the Gospel to be proclaimed to all. The Jews have refused to receive this pardon on the terms which God has proposed it, and therefore continue locked up under unbelief. The Gentiles have welcomed the offers of grace, and are delivered out of their prison. But, as the offers of mercy continue to be made to all indiscriminately, the time will come when the Jews, seeing the vast accession of the Gentile world to the kingdom of the Messiah, and the glorious privileges which they in consequence enjoy, shall also lay hold on the hope set before them, and thus become with the Gentiles one flock under one shepherd and bishop of all their souls. But the Scripture hath concluded συνεκλεισεν, locked up all under sin, that the promise, by faith of Christ Jesus, might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept, εφρουρουμεθα, we were guarded as in a strong hold, under the law; shut up, συγκεκλεισμενοι, locked up together unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed [see Gal 3:23]. It is a fine and well chosen metaphor in both places, and forcibly expresses the guilty, helpless, wretched state of both Jews and Gentiles.

Thus Jew and Gentile believers will all be of one group-the group of the saved by faith in Christ. There will be no separate plan of salvation for Jews and Gentiles. We will all be saved by the one plan of salvation, which is belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.

Rom 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!

The literal Greek reads, “O (the) depth of (the) riches and of (the) wisdom and (the) knowledge of God” (Green’s Interlinear). The Greek reads, “ω [O] βαθος [depth] πλουτου [riches] και [and] σοφιας [wisdom] και [and] γνωσεως [knowledge] θεου [God].” Note the word, και, which is transliterated to kai in English. It is a conjunction which is usually rendered ‘and’ in English. It has several possible meanings when viewed in context, some of which are and, also, both, but, even, for, if, indeed, likewise, moreover, or, so, that, then, therefore, when, yea, yet (Strong’s definition). The KJV translators, following the Geneva translation, decided that και should be rendered ‘both’ between the words ‘riches’ and ‘wisdom.’ However, many translators and commentators maintain that the word should be rendered ‘and’ instead of ‘both.’

The reasoning is thus. When the word ‘both’ is used, the sentence is confined to two subjects, which are (1) the riches of God’s wisdom, and (2) the riches of God’s knowledge. If ‘and’ is used instead of ‘both’ there are three subjects. They are (1) God’s riches, (2) God’s wisdom, and (3) God’s knowledge. Frankly either thought is Biblical. God is rich in both wisdom and in knowledge because He is all-knowing or omniscient, and God has infinite riches, wisdom, and knowledge. The depth of those things, whether understood as just the riches of His wisdom and knowledge, or as His riches, and wisdom, and knowledge, is unsearchable. Being unsearchable, it is impossible for we humans to completely understand any of God’s judgments or decisions, or His ways of doing things. We may also apply this to our understanding of God’s dealings with Israel and the church.

Rom 11:34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?

Since His riches, wisdom, and knowledge are unsearchable, we can never comprehend God’s thoughts; therefore, it would be impossible for us to counsel or advise Him. This is similar to Isa 40:13-14, “Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him? (14) With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?

Rom 11:35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?

This is almost a direct quote of Job 41:11, “Who hath prevented me, that I should repay him? whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine.” A more modern translation of the question in this verse is “Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? (CSV)” The answer is no one, for everything under the whole heaven belongs to God. Actually everything in the universe belongs to God; here in Job, He is specifically talking about what is on the earth, which was the only realm man had known when the verse was written. Of course today we have good knowledge of all nine planets and their moons, of the surface of the Moon and Mars, and even of the surface of comets because of our space exploration. Still, it all belongs to God for He created it. This verse basically says that no one has ever given anything to God because He owns everything, so God owes us nothing.

Rom 11:36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

I cannot add anything to these words that will enhance them.

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