The Purpose of Israel’s Stumbling – Romans 11:11-15

Here again Paul raises a question to be refuted: I say then. The question is: Did they stumble that they might fall? (v.11a). Was Israel’s stumbling which he spoke of back in 9:30-33 for the purpose of Israel’s falling? Was the purpose so that God could reject and cast off His people? (Paul is looking at the majority that did stumble.) The Greek word that Paul used for fall refers to “a complete and irrevocable fall.” So was the stumbling of Israel for the purpose that Israel would irrevocably fall and never rise again? Paul then gave the answer: God forbid! May it never be! In the light of God’s faithfulness, this is unthinkable. They have stumbled, but it was not for the purpose of falling irrevocably. God planned for Israel to stumble for the purpose of Gentile salvation; for the purpose of Gentile salvation, Israel stumbled. But Gentile salvation is subservient to Jewish salvation.

Having said this, in verses 11b-15 Paul points out that since Israel’s stumbling was for the purpose of Gentile salvation, which is the riches of the world or the riches of the Gentiles, this fact should lead to some key lessons. Paul then spelled out the purpose of Gentile salvation (vv.11b-14): to provoke Jews to jealousy (v.11b). This is a reference to Deuteronomy 32:21, already cited back in 10:19. Gentile salvation is, therefore, for the purpose of provoking the Jews to jealousy. Why is God saving Gentiles today? To provoke the Jews to jealousy. The Greek word Paul used means “to come alongside someone and to cause him to boil or seeth with jealousy.” The reason God saved the Gentiles was so that a believing Gentile would come alongside an unbelieving Jewish person and cause the Jewish person to become jealous because of what that Gentile believer had and become a believer in the Messiah also.

Verse 12 presents a contrast between partial and fullness. Concerning the partial, there is now a reduction of the nation to a remnant of believers today, but in the future, there will be a national salvation of the nation as a whole and this will be their “fullness.” The first lesson to learn about Israel’s stumbling is that Israel did not stumble for an irrevocable fall. The reason for Israel’s stumbling was that salvation could now go out to the Gentiles. Now that salvation has gone out to the Gentiles, the purpose of Gentile salvation is to provoke the Jews to jealousy to bring them to salvation (vv.13-14). The purpose of Israel’s stumbling was Gentile salvation, and the purpose for Gentile salvation is Jewish salvation. That is the methodology by which God has chosen to work.

There is a second lesson to be learned (v.15): all of this will result in blessings for Israel. Paul states that if the stumbling and casting away of Israel meant the reconciliation of the Gentile world, then the receiving of Israel would mean life from the dead. This is the statement of Israel’s place in God’s blessing. The unbelief of Israel was directed toward the restoration of faith; the fall of Israel was directed toward their reclamation. The fulness here refers to Israel’s complete restoration. If by the fall of Israel the Gentiles received the gospel, how much more will the Gentiles be blessed by Israel’s return. It is an argument from the lesser to the greater. If the Gentiles have received this much blessing by virtue of Israel’s stumbling, just think how much more blessing the Gentiles will have when Israel is saved. This will lead to the second coming and the establishment of the kingdom. This is why Paul labored so hard among the Gentiles (vv.13-14). In this way, even more Jews will be provoked to jealousy and believe, and this, in turn, will mean even more blessings for the Gentiles (v.15).

The point Paul makes is that it was God’s plan for Israel to reject the Messiahship of Jesus so that for awhile the gospel would go out to the Gentiles, during which time they were to provoke Jews to jealousy until eventually all Israel is saved. Paul builds upon Isaiah 49:1-13 where Isaiah taught the same thing: that the Messiah would come to Israel, Israel would reject Him, and the Messiah would then, for awhile, become the light to the Gentiles; but eventually Israel will return to Him and be restored. Paul does not say anything new here; he just points out the way Isaiah 49 is being fulfilled in this day.

 

Excerpt from Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology

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