|Will All Israel Be Saved?|
Please understand that I am not doing this because I want to avoid talking about Israel (a complex subject to be sure!), but rather because as a worshiper I am drawn to Paul's outcry of praise in vs. 33-36, and I long to exalt Christ with such words!
From the very outset, I have admitted that I will by necessity have to skip over some sections of Romans and merely "point down the halls" like a tour guide leading us through a great mansion. Nevertheless, let me give some thoughts that I think are helpful in interpreting this difficult passage. I will try to keep them short.
1. In this section, like other places in chapters 9-11, Paul is addressing a growing crisis in his own day: namely, Why are the Gentiles seemingly being converted at a faster rate than ethnic Jews? Isn't Jesus the Jewish Messiah? Is the Gospel failing (9:6)? Everything in this difficult section must be interpreted in the context of this pressing question.
2. Paul's contention in these chapters is that the Word of God has NOT in fact failed (9:6). On the contrary, God's divine decrees are unfolding exactly as His plan in the mystery of election would have it (9:14-18; 11:1-6).
3. Given that God's plan of election is a mystery to the mind of man (9:20; 11:7, 25, 33-36) God's own wisdom in choosing a "remnant of grace," (11:5-6) must prevail, and we must trust His goodness. God will NOT lose any of the elect (8:28-30; 37-39), nor is He making any grave mistakes.
4. Paul gives an extended analogy of the Gentiles being grafted in to the entire "olive tree" that comprises the Elect (11:11-24). Although God began by calling His people primarily (although never exclusively) through the covenant nation of Israel, He is now pleased to "graft in" a major branch of Gentile believers (11:17) into His church. It is God's prerogative to do so, as He is a God of grace who bestows His mercy on anyone He pleases (9:10-12; 11:32).
5. Although Paul does say that "all Israel will be saved," we should NOT read this to suggest that all people of an ethnic Jewish (Abrahamic) heritage will be saved individually. This would not square with what Paul has said throughout this letter about salvation coming only through personal faith in Christ (10:10-12). No, we must be discerning here, as Scripture often uses the word "Israel" in various ways:
Sometimes "Israel" refers to Jacob the patriarch, sometimes to the nation of Israel, sometimes to the ethnic heritage of the Jew (11:1), and critically here in this controversial verse to the total of all the elect people (11:26), both Jew and Gentile. Otherwise, what would we make of his words, "AND IN THIS WAY all Israel will be saved" (11:26, emphasis added) coming directly after "until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in"?
We conclude that chapters 9-11 could be summarized something like this:
Although in this time in history it seems that more Gentiles than Jews are being saved through faith in Christ, this should not be viewed as the Gospel message failing. No! God has not violated His covenant and never will. God as a sovereign, merciful Savior is doing a gracious act by collecting sinners even from the Gentile nations. He is incorporating them into the body of His Elect, alongside those who are the linear and ancient heirs of the covenant. When all converted, believing Jews and Gentiles stand side-by-side in Christ--together we are the Elect, the "true" Israel, a remnant of humanity saved by grace.
Pastor Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida.