11 I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.
In Romans 11:11-24 Paul addressed the Gentile question in the context of dealing with Israel (chapters 9 to 11). Salvation of Gentiles manifests God’s grace. Paul’s hope was that Israel would see that grace in the Gentiles and turn to the Messiah.
Having put aside the idea of the remnant (believers), Paul now turned to the nation Israel as a whole. Although Israel as a nation rejected Jesus the Messiah, God was winning Gentiles to Himself. Gentile salvation rests on God’s gracious covenant with Israel. We will see this covenant relationship in the olive tree illustration.
Seventy-five percent of the Bible is about the nation Israel. That is the reason Paul addressed the question of Israel in chapters 9 to 11. Most of the Bible is about Jews.
11 I say then,
Previously Paul set forth judgment on Israel in the strongest terms. At this point he drew an inference about that judgment. God hardened most of Israel to the gospel because of their negative attitude toward His provision of salvation (vv. 7-10). The nation as a whole rejected salvation by grace (vv. 5-6). This caused Paul to ask a question about whether Israel had any future with God.
have they [the majority of Israelites] stumbled that [result] they should fall [in a final sense]?
The “they” here refers to national Israel, who rejected Jesus the Messiah. The Jews did not expect the Messiah to be born in a manger or to come from Nazareth. The question behind this phrase is “Did the nation Israel fall to the point that they were beyond recovery?” The issue is whether Israel’s fall was irrevocable or irreversible.
Israel as a nation was certainly to be restored one day. There was no irremediable or permanent failure of Israel. Although God “hardened” the majority of Israel, He did not intend that their rejection be permanent.
But [strong contrast] through their fall [trespass],
Israel’s fall was part of God’s plan of salvation. Their “fall” was a trespass on the principle of grace for salvation (vv. 5-6). Gentiles accepted the grace principle under the ministry of Paul. The new phase of salvation would include great numbers of Gentiles.
to provoke them to jealousy,
God’s purpose in Israel’s transgression was to bring Gentiles to Christ by the grace principle. As the majority in the nation of Israel watched the salvation of Gentiles, there was the possibility that they might consider their own salvation as well.
Paul’s hope here was that Israel would have a jealousy in the sense of wanting God’s plan of grace for themselves. Jealousy is proper if it is directed toward God’s plan and does not violate truth. What Israel needed to see was the wonder of Jesus the Messiah and His grace provision to the Gentiles.
Ro 10: 19 But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says: “I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.”
salvation has come to the Gentiles.
The emphasis here is on Gentiles coming to Christ during Paul’s ministry.
God works in unexpected ways.
The Jews thought that God would bless them and, as part of that blessing, He would bless the Gentiles also. Our passage instead shows God blessing the Jews because Gentiles came to Christ. God works in unexpected ways. Our God is not predicable in terms of His ways. He is predictable in His character.
Not all envy is wrong. Envy is evil when it desires what another possesses. Envy in the good sense is to desire what another has as a proper ideal. Desire for Jews to have salvation of the Gentiles is a good envy. Acceptance of the gospel is a worthy goal.