Romans 11 study notes

Chapter 11 is the last chapter of apostle Paul’s systematic presentation of God’s salvation from a big picture point of view. Starting in the next chapter (Chapter 12), Paul will move to practical personal applications of the faith.

If the previous chapters have shown us the goodness of God by convincing us of the sinful nature of man and the fundamental truth of salvation by faith, Chapter 11 further shows us the purposefulness of God.

God is the God of purpose, and His purpose is eternal. On the other hand, God demonstrates and carries out His purpose in a finite human history for the sake of man.

It is important to distinguish the purpose of God and the ways of God to carry out His purpose. The purpose is eternal, unchangeable and always in a final sense, while the ways of God’s dealing with man and human history usually appears finite and often non-final, at least to the human eyes.

God has a plan for His eternal purpose. The plan has its timing. Understanding God’s timing is a necessary beginning to understand things as broad as human history and as specific as events in one’s personal life. But to understand God’s timing, it is necessary to first recognize that not only is God’s timing according to his wisdom, but also that it is a result of God’s mercy that God works in time.

A man who knows a little bit of the past and a little bit about the future is considered a wise man with superior qualifications. But the fact that God knows the entire timing of human history is much more than a sign of His wisdom, but in fact first of all a result of God’s humbling Himself.

First, concerning God’s wisdom, what he started with the Israel did not end up in an unfruitful failure as it might seem to the human eyes, but in fact a necessary step to shut everyone up in their disbelief and place everyone on the same ground for salvation, which is by grace and through faith.

The failure of Jews brought in Gentiles into the picture, but at the same time God’s turning to Gentiles does not suggest that God has rejected Jews, His own people. In fact, if even Gentiles who had never had faith in God could be brought into faith, so could Jews be saved on the same ground.  The Jews failed on the ground of the law, but all (both Gentiles and Jews) may not fail on the ground of grace.

At the same time, the fact that God now has chosen Gentiles for salvation works as awakening call to Jews by provoking jealousy of Jews so that they too can come to salvation on the basis of God’s grace. So in the end, God’s plan is proven to be completely wise in completing a circle in a few steps in history.

Second, concerning God’s mercy, we should appreciate the fact that God did not need, for His eternal purpose, a finite human history measured by time. God is eternal. In eternity, God’s victory over Satan is a certainty that leaves no room for any questioning. But God chose to win that victory through a finite human history for our sake. By doing so, God limits Himself in human history. It is only through this purposeful self-imposed limitation of God may we come into the picture and stand benefited from God’s eternal purpose.

Don’t misjudge and abuse God’s grace and mercy. It is fearful that some people, looking at the events of their lives, other people’s lives, the society at large, and even the human history, proudly point out certain observations that seem to show a contradiction to God (in fact their notion of God). Many do the same with even stronger force after they have read and observed the actions of God recorded in the Bible, and concluded that the God according to the Bible is not only inconsistent, but also not as great as they think God would be. The Same people then present their judgment against God as a justification for their rejecting God.

(Do not think it’s strange that one could be an atheist and hold an abstract notion of God of his own at the same time. In fact, among the people I’ve known who choose not to believe in God, most do so because the God according to the Bible does not fit their notion of God, not because they’re convinced that God could not exist.)

But by doing so, one has precisely used God’s grace and mercy as a reason to reject God. This is the same reason why Jews put Jesus on the Cross to crucify Him. They used precisely Christ’s grace and mercy (in taking up the appearance of a man) as the reason to reject Christ.

Dear friends, escape this most dreadful trap set up by Satan. It is injustice in its highest and pure form, and such injustice leads to, and in fact deserves, eternal punishment and destruction which is designed for Satan himself, the master of the lie that is behind this injustice.

Therefore, trust not you own understanding but hear the gospel with a humble heart. Only then will one find how small he is and how great God is. Only then will one see God’s glory into which he is saved.

Oh, God’s wisdom and counsel, grace and mercy! At the end of Chapter 11, apostle Paul bursts into the glorious doxology:

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor? Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him? For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.”

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