30 For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, 31 even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy. 32 For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.
Paul drew out two epochs in verses 30 to 32, one of Israel and the other of Gentiles. There is an interrelation between these two epochs in that each affects the other.
We find two dominant themes in verses 30 to 32:
For as you [Gentiles] were once disobedient to God,
There was a time when Gentiles were without Christ, rooted in unbelief. That was before the Age of Grace opened up the opportunity to them.
yet have now [current dispensation] obtained mercy
Gentiles now have come to Christ and by that God showed them mercy. “Mercy” carries the idea of compassion for those in need. Our greatest need is to have our sins forgiven.
through their [Israel] disobedience [unbelief],
Israel as a nation was corporately in rebellion against Jesus the Messiah. “Disobedience” is equivalent to disbelief. Israel’s rejection of the Messiah gave occasion for Gentiles to become believers. The Greek word carries the idea of not allowing oneself to be persuaded. A “disobedient” person is obstinate before God.
even so these [Israel] also have now [current dispensation] been disobedient [unbelieving],
Paul now compared the situation between Jews and Gentiles. During the New Testament period Jews were in a state of rebellion against God by their rejection of Jesus the Messiah (9:30-10:21). Israel could not merit mercy because she was in this state of rebellious unbelief.
The word “now” indicates that God was dealing primarily with Gentiles at the time of writing, which continues to the present day. This verse does not deal with personal but corporate salvation (Jews and Gentiles).
that [purpose] through the mercy shown you [Gentiles] they [Israel] also may obtain mercy.
Israel’s disobedience resulted in Gentile salvation. However, Israel will receive mercy in the future again (vv. 26-27). Mercy extended to Gentiles, however, does not exclude Jews.
God used the disobedience of Israel to save Gentiles and now He will use His mercy to save Israel. God put Israel in prison for a time during the times of the Gentiles, but He will save the nation when Jesus comes back.
Paul concluded what he said in verses 30 and 31.
God has committed them all [both Jew and Gentile] to disobedience [unbelief],
The word “committed” means enclosed, confined, shut in on all sides. God does not compromise with unbelief. He puts it into a category until people come to believe. God subordinates sin for His purpose.
Note that verses 30 to 32 do not deal with individual salvation but with groups; that is, Jews and Gentiles who will be saved.
that [purpose] He might have mercy on all [both Jews and Gentiles].
God’s purpose is that He might have “mercy on all”; that is, both Jew and Gentile. There would be a great pouring out of God’s mercy in the future. There is no distinction between Gentile and Jew because God found them both in unbelief. All people are on equal footing before God. Whether speaking of Jew or Gentile, God bases His salvation on mercy, not merit.
Unbelief is God’s occasion for mercy.
The idea of “mercy on all” is not universal salvation. The meaning is that all people without distinction receive God’s mercy, His saving grace. No group deserves salvation; all need God’s mercy. Grace is not conquered by sin, but rather sin is conquered by grace.
We see mercy best in light of our sin. The better we understand our sin, the greater will be our appreciation of mercy. There is no way for God to save our souls other than by mercy. There is no way to live the Christian life other than by God’s mercy. That is why we need a mercy seat. God can extend His mercy because He was satisfied with the death of Christ to adequately pay for our sins.