Israel’s Apostasy was for Your Salvation


Paul continues to unfold the mysteries of the issue of Israel’s apostasy, explaining why this falling away has occurred. He first poses a question: “So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? As Paul so often does, he then answers with certainty, saying, “By no means!” then showing us his reasoning for saying so: “Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.” It is clear through Paul’s words that it was the hand of God that planned the apostasy of His chosen nation – His chosen people – so that the Gentiles could come to know the gospel and find salvation in Christ. The apostasy of Israel is what caused the mission of God to go from a small group of people to spread among all of mankind, going forth among all the nations, making Himself known in a greater way than ever before. This enabled all to know the wonderful news which Israel rejected – that Jesus Christ saves! It should never be that anyone would think that God would blind His own nation for no purpose, because the truth is that God’s plan is far greater than anyone could imagine; nothing is done without a purpose.  This is what Paul is saying: God gave the Romans the gospel, but in order to do so, He had to harden His people and make them jealous by offering the salvation that they wanted to partake in – namely, Jesus Christ their King – to the Gentiles. Paul is displaying trust in his words; trust that Israel’s apostasy is for a reason, and that the reason is the mission of God being brought forth to the Gentiles.  The ESV Study Bible explains this in a simple manner, stating:

“Israel’s hardening is not the final word. God planned salvation history so that Israel’s trespass would open salvation for the Gentiles, and the Jews in turn would be provoked to jealousy when they see Gentiles being saved and enjoying a relationship with God.”[1]

Charles Hodge says,

“As the result and design of the rejection of the Jews was the salvation of the Gentiles, so the conversion of the latter was designed to bring about the restoration of the former. The Gentiles are saved in order to provoke the Jews to jealousy.”

Furthermore, Thomas Schreiner explains,

“The lapse of Israel is part of God’s all-encompassing purpose, for by means of their trespass salvation has been given to the Gentiles… God planned that the Jews would reject the gospel in large numbers and in response to their rejection the message was proclaimed to the Gentiles.”[2]

It is important to note here that Paul begins this section in parallel style with verses 1-10 of Romans 11; that is, he first asks a question, answers it, and then gives his reasoning. Paul makes it clear that the apostasy of Israel was not total, and therefore, it was not final. The mission which was sent to the Gentiles gave the promises and blessing of Christ, as was God’s purpose; however, there is even more to this. Paul makes it clear in his reasoning at the end of verse 11: “Salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.” God’s mission is being laid out in Paul’s theology as follows:

  • God’s mission to his covenant Nation (Genesis 12, 15, 17, 20 & 22)
  • God’s mission revealed in Jesus Christ (The Gospels)
  • God’s mission in hardening Israel because of their Apostasy (Romans 9-11 & 11:1-10)
  • God’s mission sent forth to the Gentiles (Romans 11:12-24)
  • God’s mission uses the Gentiles to make Israel Jealous (Romans 11:12-14)
  • God’s mission sent to Israel (Romans 11:25-32)

Charles Hodge says it best like this:

“The stumbling of the Jews was not attended with the result of their utter and final ruin, but was the occasion of facilitating the progress of the Gospel among the Gentiles. It was, therefore, not designed to lead to the former but to the later result. From this very design it is probable that they shall be finally restored, because the natural effect of the conversion of the Gentiles is to provoke the emulation of the Jews. That the rejection of the gospel on the part of the Jews was the means of its wider and more rapid spread among the Gentiles seems to be clearly intimated in several passages of the New Testament.”[3]

This is the reason that Luke can say – as he does in Acts – that the message of salvation was first preached to Israel in order that they might reject it, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy:[4]

“But I said, ‘I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the LORD, and my recompense with my God.’ And now the LORD says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him— for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD, and my God has become my strength—he says: ‘It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’” (Isaiah 49:4-6)

Luke speaks of this in the following verses:

Acts 13:46 – “And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, ‘It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.’”

Acts 28:28 – “Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”

Some may have a hard time grasping that an all-loving God would claim Israel as His chosen nation and then harden them; it may seem hard to understand how this could be for good. But Paul, understanding that this would be so, says in verse 12, “Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!” The bad news of Israel’s apostasy was used by God to send forth His mission – the good news of His Son – to the Gentiles of the world. That is an all-loving God – a God who would use bad and good to carry out His mission to His people that are of Abraham (Israel) and, as Paul says, “Isaac” (Gentiles). Out of the apparent evil, the goodness of God’s mission is always done. The “Doctor” Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached it this way:

“As a result of Jewish unbelief two apparently impossible things follow, namely that the Gentiles should hear and believe the Gospel and, through that, the Jews might be made desirous of receiving it…. There is a very great purpose here. God knows what He is doing. He has a plan.” [5]

The plan is God’s mission being transferred from inside of one nation to being sent out to all the nations among the earth.  Salvation to the Gentiles has now been placed in the mission of God, and is still today where the history of redemption is at. The stumbling of Israel was the salvation to the Gentiles, for it was the apostasy of Israel that brought the mission of God – the sending the gospel to the Gentiles.


[1] The ESV Study Bible. Crossway: Wheaton, 2008), p. 2176.

[2] Schreiner, ECNT: Romans, p. 594.

[3] Hodge, Romans. p.361.

[4] It is also important to mention here the latter portion of Isaiah’s prophecy 49:8-26 is that of the later future of Israel that Paul speaks of in Romans 11:25-32.

[5] Lloyd-Jones, Romans: Chapter 11. p.72.

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