Romans 11: Part Two

DJ AMDG responded at some length to my post on Romans 11 in the combox. His comments are in red, my responses are in blue.

I disagree that the root is Christ/God. Paul is talking about the nation of Israel in terms of salvation history. It is a nation rooted in the patriarchs and the covenants.

You’re possibly right about this, actually. At the least, it looks like there are three major camps [.doc] : that it means Israel/the Church, that it means the Patriarchs, or that it means Christ, “the Israelite par excellence” (and of course, there’s no reason it can’t be more than one of those three). For purposes of this conversation, though, let’s sidestep that debate. Because even if it’s Israel/the Church or the Patriarch, to be rooted in them means to have a saving faith derived from them. We know this because of how Paul presents it. The non-believing, nominal Jews are “broken off” from the root. So this has to do with salvific realities, since they’re still externally Jews / citizens of Israel. Let me know if we disagree on that part, because I’m not sure if we do or not. But it can’t just be nominal, visible membership in the institution, or what would Paul mean by them being broken off? They’re still nominal, visible members of Israel/Judaism.

If, by “nation of Israel in terms of salvation history,” you mean the visible state of Israel (either then or now), we disagree, and I don’t see how the text can support your argument. But if you mean spiritual Israel, the Church, then we probably agree.

For a devout RC, I love your broadly encompassing Christology, but I think you go a bit far claiming that Paul writes the Jews once worshiped Jesus and now they don’t. No. They worshiped YHWH, LORD God – of which Jesus is as much as the Father is.

Thank you – I appreciate that compliment. When I say that the righteous Jews of the OT worshipped Jesus as YHWH, I don’t mean that to the exclusion of the other two members of the Godhead. And I agree that YHWH is most accurately understood at the Holy Trinity. There’s lots of Old Testament clues, like God referring to Himself as “us” in Gen. 1:26, Gen. 3:22, and Gen. 11:7, even though the Shema Yisrael (Deuteronomy 6:4) declares that “The LORD our God is one Lord.” So YHWH is One God, multiple Persons, which sounds like the Trinity to me.

But that means that any Jews who worshipped the Trinity worshipped Christ. Certainly, they were at least largely ignorant of this fact, although there are signs that some of the patriarchs may have gotten glimpses of the reality. My favorite example is Genesis 32:22-32, where “a Man” (Gen. 32:24; “some Man,” in the NAB) wrestles with Jacob. This mysterious Visitor then blesses him, changing his name to Israel, and saying (in Gen. 32:28), “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” At this point, Jacob realizes that this mysterious stranger both God and Man, and names the place Peniel, which means “face of God,” since he saw the face of God and lived.

From this, I read that Jacob met and believed in the Christ, and from this faith in Christ, Israel was formed. Certainly, the faithful Jews of the OT were largely ignorant of the Trinity, but they worshipped Him in ignorance. As Christians, we can’t just act like Jesus shows up out of nowhere in the New Testament, as if He hasn’t already been pointed to throughout (like Daniel 7:13-14, for example). I think it’s an all-too-frequent mistake to act as if the One God was One Person before the New Testament, and Three Persons in the New.

To say they were once saved but because of unbelief the Jews became unsaved doesn’t best describe anything. Salvation for the nation of Israel rarely had anything to do with individual sin redemption. There are only a couple of places in all of the OT where we can be led to believe that. Most of them are in Psalms and possibly all relate to either David or another leader/king/prophet (a singular manifestation and representative of the whole nation) asking for forgiveness of “my sins.” For the nation in most all the OT, salvation meant redemption from captives, return/restoration of the nation/land, deliverance from captives or oppressive/idolatrous leaders.

I think that Paul would whole-heartedly disagree. You’re right that salvation as envisioned by many Jews, particularly by the time of Christ, was of the kind you describe, but that’s his whole point. The misimagined it. Look at what Jesus says in Luke 24:25-27: whether it’s obvious or not, the Old Testament is Christological. So says Christ. Now, certainly, there are lots of temporal and corporate elements of the Old Covenant, but that doesn’t diminish the reality of individual sin redemption by the blood of Christ. Perhaps the most obvious point would be that there are people who lived and died before the Incarnation who were still individually saved by Christ. The point of the Old Testament is to point towards Christ, prepare a way for Him, and draw people towards Him, including the righteous dead of the OT.

So the righteous dead of the OT worshipped Christ, even if they didn’t know Him as distinct from the Godhead YHWH. A number of the Jews at the time of Christ rejected Him in the Flesh. And that brings me to: John 12:44-45, where Jesus says, “Whoever believes in Me believes not only in Me but also in the One who sent Me, and whoever sees Me sees the One who sent Me.” And Luke 10:16, “He who listens to you listens to Me; he who rejects you rejects Me; but he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.” So turning your back on one part of the Trinity is turning your back on the entire Trinity.

– If the root is the covenant/patriarchs and the branches are the people groups
of the Nation/nations (nations, tribes, clans, houses, families), then I believe
it completely reasonable to state that it is not individual salvation for Heaven
from individual sin that Paul is talking about, but instead the group
blessing/curse which you disagree with. Remember the covenants. By his grace
alone, God chose the people first and first delivered them/saved them. [Noah
from a sin filled world, Abraham form Chaldea, Moses from Egypt, David from
unrighteous leadership]. Then, after granting deliverance, God made His covenant
with them. The covenant had both blessings and curses. The people do not lose
being chosen for deliverance, they only either receive further blessing or
receive later curses.

The blessings and curses of the Old Covenant which you mentioned earlier were “redemption from captives, return/restoration of the nation/land, deliverance from captives or oppressive/idolatrous leaders.” How do you fit this into a New Covenant framework? That is, what are the blessings and curses of the New Covenant other than individual salvation?

And the people were chosen for deliverance, in an event you and I call the Incarnation – that doesn’t mean that each member will accept Deliverance, or be saved (as I’ll get to below). Jesus Christ is sent for the “lost sheep of Israel,” specifically, during His earthly life. He says as much in Matthew 15:24, and instructs His Disciples (during His earthly life) to do the same: Matthew 10:5-6. He promised that He would bring a Deliverer to His people Israel, and He did. If some turned their back on Him, their faithlessness doesn’t invalidate His faithfulness. He’s still fulfilled His promise, and the Door to salvation is open to them if they’ll but turn back. There are two comings of Christ: the first was to bring salvation, and the second will be to bring judgment.


– Further, as you’ve pointed out before I think, this wasn’t the time of the Enlightenment. The notion of individual anything was quite foreign. It existed to be sure, and it was important, but to make the leap to individual salvation or loss thereof when considering all the other references in Romans I think is presumptive at best. The whole book is full of “they,” “we,” plural “you,” plural Jew, plural Gentile. Again, I think you take things too far yourself to make a point against OSAS much as you accuse Calvin the opposite. (For the record, I’m not sure I agree with him either.)

I understand that Paul is referring to the Gentiles as a whole. But the New Testament is about individual salvation. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think salvation is a wholly-individual event. I don’t believe in “Me and Jesus” Christianity (obviously), and there’s a reason He works through the Church. But you can’t get to Heaven by mere group membership, so at the point he discusses things like salvation, there’s an individual element there, at the very least, since ultimately, individual souls go to Heaven or Hell, not groups of people. As for the rest, which other parts of Romans?

This is all critically important in terms of the church at Rome…writing as he is to the church…and not to an individual. It is also important to all churches today. Whether the invisible church, local churches, the RCC, or however you want to define it in my opinion. Paul is writing to the church, and in Rome’s case, a church very much based in a culture that is highly nationalistic. Speaking of Jews and Gentiles as groups makes far more sense in the context I read it. Further, you can’t stop at v.21.

25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in;
26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “The Deliverer
will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.”
27 “This is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”
28 From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers;
29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
30 For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been hown mercy because of their disobedience,
31 so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy hown to you they also may now be shown mercy.

Using your reasoning, that passage I point to makes zero sense. Especially v.28-29.In my opinion, here, he is not talking about individuals at all, and he is most certainly not refuting OSAS. If anything, his writing actually further supports it here – minimally in terms of salvation as understood by people groups.

I know that this passage is the favorite of those who claim that all ethnic Jews will be saved, but I don’t think that works at all, because Paul uses the term Israel here, and throughout, uses it interchangably with “Church.” For example, he writes, “a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved.” He can mean three things: (1) the nation-state of Israel; (2) the ethnic or cultural group, the Jews; or (3) the Church. Which of those three did the “fullness of the Gentiles” enter? They weren’t/aren’t circumcised and they generally don’t live in Israel. So mentally replace “Israel” with “Church” or even “elect,” read it that way, and I think it’ll make sense. Of course, Paul means something broader, because like you said, he’s talking about salvation history; and in salvation history, the visible Church, Israel, had distinct ethnic, cultural, and national markers. But look at what Paul says about those ethno-cultural national markers in Phil 3:2-7 when he slams circumcision.

Besides this, we know that Paul can’t literally be saying “all self-ascribed Jewish people will be saved.” He says in Romans 11:13-14, “I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them.” If all of them are going to be saved, no matter what, why’s he worried that he might not be able to save some of them?

Finally, understanding “all Israel will be saved” to mean “all the Jews alive at a certain period of time” is too narrow. If you’re going to hold that “all Israel (meaning Jewish people) will be saved,” it must be all Israel forever. The promise makes no sense if it’s just “when there are ten Jewish people left on Earth, they’ll all be saved.” So this can either mean that everyone who is fully a member of the Church is saved throughout history (which we believe) or that all Jews everywhere, ever are saved, even the rich man in the story of Lazarus and Dives, even Judas Iscariot, etc.

Look at 30-31 and consider what you wrote about recently regarding the Jewish people during the years of the early church. The covenant with Abraham as a clear purpose and God says as much in Genesis – That God will be known among His people and that through/by/from His people, God will be made known among all people. Paul is pointing to that covenant in 30-31 but reversing the roles. The Covenant is made New in Jesus who is both representative of The People just like Abraham or David was, and representative of God (since he is God). It’s a perfect Covenant because of that and those within it are perfectly sealed within it. Jesus represents all parts of the Covenant now – God, Man, and the blood sacrifice. God can no more reject a member sealed within this Covenant (that member being represented by Jesus) than he can Jesus himself!

A Jew who was circumcised entered into the Old Covenant, but he could leave it when he got older. Similarly, a Christian who is baptized enters into the New Covenant (it’s the new baptism, as Paul tells us elsewhere), and can still leave it. If we remain members of the Covenant, we’re good, and God the Father will look at us and see Christ. But we can cut ourselves off from the Covenant through both apostasy and mortal sin (see, e.g., 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Galatians 5:19-21, 2 Peter 2:1, Revelation 21:8).

And in 30-31, Paul is pointing out the new covenant people/nation (like the nation of Israel) will be a blessing upon all others (especially the ethnic Jews) and those others (as nations) will soon come to know the Lord, too!

Absolutely. Which is awesome. And there’s no doubt that the Church was a means by which formerly doubting people had a change of heart about Christ. But it’s not a 100% saved for the Jews or the Gentiles. We know this because Hell exists.

The curses of the covenant are not a loss of salvation or a loss of being a chosen people. Yet, they are most certainly something to be feared! God made a
promise to the people/nation of Israel which at the time of Romans writing must be equated with ethnic Israelis because there is no other context. Verse 26 makes the point for that promise to be fulfilled in some future. Zion cannot be understood to be anything other than the fully redeemed and heavenly/new Earth manifestation of Jerusalem – The City of God. So, if the Deliverer will come from there to “save” the remnant of Israel…He hasn’t done it yet.

1. Zion can be understood contrary to that, and is used to refer to Israel literally in places like 2 Samuel 5:7, 1 Kings 8:1 and Psalm 137:1. The remnant of Israel is that part of Israel which stayed faithful. The Deliverer has already come to save the remnant of Israel. There are two parts which are in the future tense: “all Israel will be saved,” that is, that the Church will enter Heaven (in short, the Church was saved, is saved, and will be saved); and “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.” This is in the future tense because it’s an Old Testament prophesy of Christ.
2. You say that “God made apromise to the people/nation of Israel which at the time of Romans writing must be equated with ethnic Israelis because there is no other context.” But Paul, in Romans, is emphatic that that’s the wrong context to view this. Again, see the bit about how the Church is Israel from the Fish Eaters link. He makes this point over and over again. Even in the Old Testament, those who lived by faith were counted as Jews, even though they weren’t born Jewish.
3. There’s no room for a Third Coming, or a First and a Half Coming. Anything that leads you to think that there is puts your view outside of the Christian consensus pre-Darby, which is to say for the 19 centuries of the Faith.
4. Which covenant are you talking about? In Romans 11:27, Paul quotes Isaiah 59:21, which is prophesing the New Covenant. And the penalty there is eternal damnation.

DJ AMDG, awesome conversation. I love your passion and faith, even when I disagree with some of your conclusions. Hope I kept up.

3 Comments

  1. Great stuff. I wish I could keep going, but now only have time for this. You said, “How do you fit this into a New Covenant framework? That is, what are the blessings and curses of the New Covenant other than individual salvation?”

    Simply put, I don’t currently have reason to believe the blessings and curses are any different than before. They may manifest themselves differently, or be dolled out differently. If I had to explain why things seem different in the OT vs. the NT, I would couch it in terms of war. Prior to Christ’s death and resurrection, the war was still going on. After, victory was had by God, the war was declared over, but per Ephesians and all the rest, we know battles still rage. Although strategy remains the same because God remains the same, tactics change. God executes his tactics (blessings/curses) one way as the war continues, and a different way after victory is found. The grand scheme, the grand narrative, the strategy never changes. God blesses who he will bless, he curses who he will curse, he chooses who he will choose, and he saves who he will save. He just uses different tactics now.

    I should point out, I’m not a full advocate for OSAS. However, I still think you’re stretching with your original thesis that Romans 11 can be used to refute OSAS. That is what I was disagreeing with. Especially, given the context of Romans 11, the recipients, and the other covenantal references within the letter as a whole.

    I certainly disagree that it’s refutation almost requires no commentary…obviously.

    DJ|AMDG

    I accept correction on a couple of things in your rebuttal, so thanks.

    DJ|AMDG

  2. Sorry. Just came to me. In trying to understand Romans 11 Zion, I don’t think you can go Kings or Samuel or Psalms since that Zion/Jerusalem had been destroyed. It’s gone. Some would even argue that the Jerusalem of the time of Romans isn’t even a complete Jerusalem since the second temple was practically an apostasy built by and for Herod and not at all representative of God’s presence. That being said, you have to go to Zion as defined in prophetic texts like Isaiah, as you did later in your points, and THAT Zion most certainly has not manifested itself on Earth, yet, either yet in terms of the letter to the Romans or yet in terms of today’s reading of it.

    DJ|AMDG

  3. Joe,

    Cogratulations for this excellent site. It has indeed extensive apologetic resources. On past weeks, I´ve been following your texts and must say Shameless Popery has raised between my favorite catholic sites.

    I write also for a catholic site in portuguese (http://jornadasespirituais.blogspot.com/ – In english, “Spiritual Journeys“). It is dedicated to biblical exegesis, specially of the psalms, but I always put some apologetics on it.

    Keep working. Sucess on the laptop recover quest. Pray to Saint Anthony of Padua to find it again: “Cedunt mare, vincula, membra resque, perditas Petunt et accipiunt Iuvenes et cani.”

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