Romans 11: The Sovereignty and Wisdom of God in Salvation
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
God’s ways are far higher than our ways. But God’s plans are much higher, loftier than that. His plans are made in His perfect character—both wisely and graciously. It would go against His character to make a plan that was anything less than perfect.
Romans 11 is a proclamation of this. As Paul discusses Israel’s rejection of the Gospel and how the Gentiles fit into God’s redemptive plan, we are shown God’s glorious sovereignty and wisdom in the story of redemption.
The Story: Israel and the Gentiles
Paul begins this chapter with a question which forces us back to chapter 10. In chapter 10, he explains how the Gospel is received by grace alone and not works, yet the Jews sought to establish their own righteousness apart from God (Romans 10:3). From that, Paul begins chapter 11 by asking, “Has God then rejected his people?” Paul’s emphatic reply is, “By no means!” (v. 1).
Paul explains to his Gentile audience that God has not rejected His people, the Israelites, completely. God has set aside a remnant to remain faithful to Him, just as He did in the past (vs. 2-5). Just as it is among the Gentiles, God has, in His sovereignty and wisdom, predestined and elected a portion of the Jews to believe and follow Him, while the rest were hardened against Him.
But why? Paul moves us along in the story with a second question: “Did they stumble in order that they might fall?” Once again he counters, “By no means!”
This is where Paul begins to show us God’s wisdom in this plan. Though the Jews are a contrary and disobedient people, God has used this sin to glorify Himself by bringing salvation to the Gentiles. Because a great number of the Jews are deaf to God, the Gentiles are now welcomed into the family of God and receive salvation (v. 11).
Paul recognizes that the Gentiles may be tempted to arrogance, thinking of themselves as better than the Jews because God has cut the Jews off for their sake. But Paul calls them to a humble fear of God in recognition of God’s great mercy on them: “Do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches [Israel], neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God; severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness” (vs. 20-22). There is no room for pride in God’s sovereign plan of redemption.
Paul continues on to explain that although the Jews are partially hardened, God has not forgotten them in this grand plan of redemption. Rather, He is going to open the eyes of a large number of the Jews and deliver them from their darkness, revealing His gospel, and saving them from their sins (vs. 25-27).
Once again, Paul reminds them that there is no room for pride. The Gentiles were enemies of God at one point, too, yet God showed them mercy. In the same way, He will show great mercy to the Jews, all to His glory (vs. 28-31).
The Application: All Glory to God
Seeing God’s plan of redemption unfold, how can we not proclaim in unison with Paul:
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, Or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’” Romans 11:33-35
As we consider the whole of salvation—God’s predestination, election, salvation, and glorification of believers—what can we do but humbly proclaim Him? All glory goes to Him.
We are wretched sinners who deserve nothing. The Gentiles who were grafted in were sinful pagans who worshipped false gods. The Jews abandoned God, either to other gods or to seeking to earn their salvation. We Gentiles today are no different; we hated and rebelled against God just like they did.
And yet, what has God done? He has shown grace, He has opened blind eyes, and He has set aside a remnant for Himself. We deserve nothing, yet we have been given everything that pertains to eternal life.
And how did we receive it? Through works? Through our own striving and effort? No, we did not even desire God, and we were incapable of bringing anything worthwhile to salvation. Nothing we could offer could begin to bring us closer to salvation. So, God sent His only Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins. He did it all. His sacrifice completed salvation for us. And we only receive it when He opens our blind eyes.
Whether you are Jew or Gentile, God takes all the glory in your salvation. You contributed nothing, and you keep your salvation only because Christ keeps you. You are called to believe and obey, but the belief and obedience you have are from the power of God. Where is pride? There’s no room, not in God’s plan of redemption. All glory goes to Him.
“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Roamns 11:36