Romans 11 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Romans 11)

Verse 1

[1] I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

Hath God rejected his whole people — All Israel? In no wise. Now there is "a remnant" who believe, Romans 11:5; and hereafter "all Israel will be saved," Romans 11:26.

Verse 2

[2] God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying,

God hath not rejected that part of his people whom he foreknew - Speaking after the manner of men. For, in fact, knowing and foreknowing are the same thing with God, who knows or sees all things at once, from everlasting to everlasting.

Know ye not — That in a parallel case, amidst a general apostasy, when Elijah thought the whole nation was fallen into idolatry, God "knew" there was "a remnant" of true worshippers.

Verse 3

[3] Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.

1 Kings 19:10.

Verse 4

[4] But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.

To Baal — Nor to the golden calves.

Verse 5

[5] Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.

According to the election of grace — According to that gracious purpose of God, "He that believeth shall be saved."

Verse 6

[6] And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

And if by grace, then it is no more of works — Whether ceremonial or moral.

Else grace is no longer grace — The very nature of grace is lost.

And if it be of works, then it is no more grace: else work is no longer work — But the very nature of it is destroyed. There is something so absolutely inconsistent between the being justified by grace, and the being justified by works, that, if you suppose either, you of necessity exclude the other. For what is given to works is the payment of a debt; whereas grace implies an unmerited favour. So that the same benefit cannot, in the very nature of things, be derived from both.

Verse 7

[7] What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded

What then — What is the conclusion from the whole? It is this: that Israel in general hath not obtained justification; but those of them only who believe.

And the rest were blinded — By their own wilful prejudice.

Verse 8

[8] (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.

God hath at length withdrawn his Spirit, and so given them up to a spirit of slumber; which is fulfilled unto this day. Isaiah 29:10

Verse 9

[9] And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them:

And David saith — In that prophetic imprecation, which is applicable to them, as well as to Judas.

A recompence — Of their preceding wickedness. So sin is punished by sin; and thus the gospel, which should have fed and strengthened their souls, is become a means of destroying them. Psalms 69:22,23

Verse 11

[11] I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.

Have they stumbled so as to fall — Totally and finally? No But by their fall - Or slip: it is a very soft word in the original.

Salvation is come to the gentiles — See an instance of this, Acts 13:46.

To provoke them — The Jews themselves, to jealousy.

Verse 12

[12] 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 fulness?

The first part of this verse is treated of, Romans 11:13, etc.; the latter, How much more their fulness, (that is, their full conversion,) Romans 11:23, etc. So many prophecies refer to this grand event, that it is surprising any Christian can doubt of it. And these are greatly confirmed by the wonderful preservation of the Jews as a distinct people to this day. When it is accomplished, it will be so strong a demonstration, both of the Old and New Testament revelation, as will doubtless convince many thousand Deists, in countries nominally Christian; of whom there will, of course, be increasing multitudes among merely nominal Christians. And this will be a means of swiftly propagating the gospel among Mahometans and Pagans; who would probably have received it long ago, had they conversed only with real Christians.

Verse 13

[13] For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:

I magnify my office — Far from being ashamed of ministering to the gentiles, I glory therein; the rather, as it may be a means of provoking my brethren to jealousy.

Verse 14

[14] If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.

My flesh — My kinsmen.

Verse 15

[15] For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?

Life from the dead — Overflowing life to the world, which was dead.

Verse 16

[16] For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.

And this will surely come to pass.

For if the first fruits be holy, so is the lump — The consecration of them was esteemed the consecration of all and so the conversion of a few Jews is an earnest of the conversion of all the rest.

And if the root be holy — The patriarchs from whom they spring, surely God will at length make their descendants also holy.

Verse 17

[17] And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;

Thou — O gentile.

Being a wild olive tree — Had the graft been nobler than the stock, yet its dependance on it for life and nourishment would leave it no room to boast against it. How much less, when, contrary to what is practised among men, the wild olive tree is engrafted on the good!

Verse 18

[18] Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.

Boast not against the branches — Do not they do this who despise the Jews? or deny their future conversion?

Verse 20

[20] Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:

They were broken off for unbelief, and thou standest by faith — Both conditionally, not absolutely: if absolutely, there might have been room to boast.

By faith — The free gift of God, which therefore ought to humble thee.

Verse 21

[21] For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.

Be not highminded, but fear — We may observe, this fear is not opposed to trust, but to pride and security.

Verse 22

[22] Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

Else shalt thou — Also, who now "standest by faith," be both totally and finally cut off.

Verse 24

[24] For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?

Contrary to nature — For according to nature, we graft the fruitful branch into the wild stock; but here the wild branch is grafted into the fruitful stock.

Verse 25

[25] For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.

St. Paul calls any truth known but to a few, a mystery. Such had been the calling of the gentiles: such was now the conversion of the Jews.

Lest ye should be wise in your own conceits — Puffed up with your present advantages; dreaming that ye are the only church; or that the church of Rome cannot fail.

Hardness in part is happened to Israel, till — Israel therefore is neither totally nor finally rejected.

The fullness of the gentiles be come in — Till there be a vast harvest amongst the heathens.

Verse 26

[26] And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:

And so all Israel shall be saved — Being convinced by the coming of the gentiles. But there will be a still larger harvest among the gentiles, when all Israel is come in.

The deliverer shall come — Yea, the deliverer is come; but not the full fruit of his coming. Isaiah 59:20

Verse 28

[28] As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes.

They are now enemies — To the gospel, to God, and to themselves, which God permits.

For your sake: but as for the election — That part of them who believe, they are beloved.

Verse 29

[29] For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

For the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance — God does not repent of his gifts to the Jews, or his calling of the gentiles.

Verse 32

[32] For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

For God hath shut up all together in disobedience — Suffering each in their turn to revolt from him. First, God suffered the gentiles in the early age to revolt, and took the family of Abraham as a peculiar seed to himself. Afterwards he permitted them to fall through unbelief, and took in the believing gentiles. And he did even this to provoke the Jews to jealousy, and so bring them also in the end to faith. This was truly a mystery in the divine conduct, which the apostle adores with such holy astonishment.

Verse 33

[33] O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!

O the depth of the riches, and wisdom, and knowledge of God — In the ninth chapter, St. Paul had sailed but in a narrow sea: now he is in the ocean. The depth of the riches is described, Romans 11:35; the depth of wisdom, Romans 11:34; the depth of knowledge, in the latter part of this verse. Wisdom directs all things to the best end; knowledge sees that end.

How unsearchable are his judgments — With regard to unbelievers.

His ways — With regard to believers. His ways are more upon a level; His judgments "a great deep." But even his ways we cannot trace.

Verse 34

[34] For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?

Who hath known the mind of the Lord — Before or any farther than he has revealed it. Isaiah 40:13.

Verse 35

[35] Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?

Given to him — Either wisdom or power?

Verse 36

[36] For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

Of him — As the Creator.

Through him — As the Preserver.

To him — As the ultimate end, are all things. To him be the glory of his riches, wisdom, knowledge.

Amen — A concluding word, in which the affection of the apostle, when it is come to the height, shuts up all.