Romans 11 and Apostasy

When considering the Book of Romans, it is evident that it is filled with theology as it focuses on topics including Election, Perseverance, Justification, Predestination, and Calling. But when coming to Romans 11 in particular, theology becomes even more specific. This chapter looks at the following: Why Israel is broken off; Is there a difference between the Gentiles and Israel or are they the same?; What is the “root” in verse 16?; Why exactly did God harden the nation of Israel?; Why does Paul quote Elijah and David?; Is the church today making the Jews jealous or acting much like the same?; Is there another chance for the nation of Israel?; How does Israel’s disobedience lead to the Gentiles’ mercy? These are just some of the major questions brought out in the text. Even the “Doctor” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones – saw this hardship while dealing with this text, and as he starts his commentary on Romans 11 he says, “In many ways I would say that it is much more difficult than either chapter 9 and 10.[1] However, what happens in these central chapters (Romans 9-11) sheds much light on the purpose behind Israel’s apostasy as a nation, and the mission of God going forth to the Gentiles. In all of the theology that that is packed into these very important chapters of Romans one question should come to thought, “Did God make it that His own nation (Israel) would apostatize from Him?” And if that answer is yes, then “Why would God harden His own nation, so that they would do this?”

When dealing with Romans 11 it is good to keep these questions in the back of your mind, especially while looking at the subject of Israel’s hardening bringing forth the gospel to the Gentiles.  Dr. George Eldon Ladd brings the point of this chapter together when he states in his New Testament Theology:

“The rejection of Christ by Israel and its subsequent fall was not a mere accident of history but a factor in God’s redemptive purpose – an event in Heilsgeschichte. Even in the rejection of Israel, God had a purpose: that by Israel’s fall, salvation might come to the Gentiles (Rom.11:11). Then Paul makes a key statement: “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?” (11:12).[2]

How does a Calvinist explain something like this? How can one minute person say that God does not wish for apostasy (His people to leave Him), and yet the next minute say that God Himself made His people apostatized from Him? Romans 11 helps to shed light on this theological issue.

[1] D. M. Lloyd-Jones, Romans: Chapter 11. (Banner of Truth Trust: Carlisle, 1998), p. 1.  Cf. Pages 1-6 for D. M. Lloyd-Jones’s general introduction on the nation of Israel before dealing critically with Romans 11.

[2] George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament. (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1993), p. 607.


3 Comments on “Romans 11 and Apostasy”

  1. ethomasyoung says:

    Michael, I am starting to read these essays on, The Apostasy of Israel and I am finding this fascinating. Of course I have not read them all, actually I am not too far in, but thus far this is great reading. This is not false -flattery either. I am enjoying your exegesis, so far. If I disagree on something I will ask you, but I am always civil in my comments.

  2. Shot me an email with your question and I’ll be nicer than I would on my blog comments.

  3. ethomasyoung says:

    No problem, bro.! I can do that.

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