In chapter 11 Paul continues his explanation of Israel’s place in God’s plan of salvation. He explains that God didn’t reject his people, but saved out a remnant (such as Paul); just as in the time of Elijah, God saved 7,000 who remained faithful. Paul explains that this remnant has been saved purely by God’s grace. He states in verses 5 and 6:
So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
Verse 6 is totally a side note in Paul’s overall message in this passage, but I love the nugget we find here. In chapter 10 Paul explains that there is a righteousness that comes from works and a righteousness that comes from grace. The righteousness from works is basically unobtainable. So the only thing we can hope for is the righteousness that comes from grace. Here he further sets works and grace apart from one another. Grace and earning are opposed to each other and can’t be reached for simultaneously. Grace is something that is freely given and undeserved. Righteousness-by-works is something a person would deserve. Grace, by definition can’t be earned. To give someone something through grace is to acknowledge that they don’t deserve it. The ONLY thing a person can do to qualify for the gift of grace is to be undeserving of it. No one can ever deserve grace, if they could, it would no longer be grace.
I think grace, by definitions, stands in contrast to any idea of us paying off a debt and then God swooping in to pay off what remains because he saw that we were trying our best to pay it off. God already knows our best efforts aren’t going to do it, so grace pays the entire debt.
Paul goes on to explain how parts of Israel have been broken off from the vine, this allows Gentiles to be grafted in even though we are like wild olive shoots. Though parts of Israel may be cut off from the root, it’s not a permanent condition. If something foreign and untamed like Gentiles can be grafted in, so too can the natural branches be rejoined. This condition the Jews find themselves in is a temporary hardening of their hearts “until the full number of the Gentiles has come in”.
There’s something perplexing in verses 28 -31 pertaining to our freewill. Paul explains that Israel will always be loved by God because of his covenants with the patriarchs. Though they are disobedient God will show mercy to them just as he showed mercy on those of us who were disobedient Gentiles. Then in verse 31 he states
For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
I’m not sure what being “bound over to disobedience” means. But I love how “The Message” explains this passage: In one way or another, God makes sure that we all experience what it means to be outside so that he can personally open the door and welcome us back in. There’s bad news in there for everyone, but the good news is bigger than the bad, God wants to have mercy on everyone.
The chapter ends with a closing prayer that echoes the final chapters of Job. Who can know God’s mind? Who can give him advice? Who does God owe any favors to? No one. Everything ever given to us is from God, through God and ultimately for God. All glory goes to God. If you’re ever looking for a good novel on this topic I recommend “Till We Have Faces” by CS Lewis. Lewis claimed it was his own personal favorite.