Chapter # 11 Paragraph # 6 Study # 4
November 17, 2009
28 As concerning the gospel, [they are] enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, [they are] beloved for the fathers' sakes.
29 For the gifts and calling of God [are] without repentance.
30 For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:
31 Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.
32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.
1901 ASV Translation:
28 As touching the gospel, they are enemies for your sake: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sake.
29 For the gifts and the calling of God are not repented of.
30 For as ye in time past were disobedient to God, but now have obtained mercy by their disobedience,
31 even so have these also now been disobedient, that by the mercy shown to you they also may now obtain mercy.
32 For God hath shut up all unto disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.
- I. Israel's Current Identity Issues.
- A. The "concession" of the apostle.
- 1. There is a word in Paul's Greek that does not show up in the above translations. It is an often untranslated word (for whatever reasons the translators might wish to give). According to the "count" from The Word Bible software, it is used in 181 New Testament verses and the grammarians say that it "shows affirmation or concession" (Logos Library System), but it does often go untranslated.
- 2. For our better understanding, I am going to translate this concessive particle in the opening of 11:28 in this manner: "Now it is true that ...". The point is that Paul understood that his readers could be having some conflicted feelings because of what he was saying. He was writing to "Gentiles" (11:13) as a "Jew" and his obvious concern for those "kinsmen according to the flesh" was, doubtlessly, a basis in his readers' minds for "prejudice" against them for those "Jews". Paul has written emphatically about the possibilities that these "Gentiles" might become "boastful" (11:18), "highminded" (11:20) and "wise in their own conceits" (11:25). None of these characteristics are complimentary and, coming from a "Jew" about "Gentiles", it is more than likely that this "attitude" might be a basis for favoritism against "Gentiles". Thus, Paul seeks to set the record straight with this "concession". "Now it is true that they [these kinsmen of mine for whom my heart bleeds] are enemies against the Gospel...". By this "concession" the readers can put their fears of possible prejudice against them to rest. Paul is not "prejudiced against" the Gentiles (the vast majority of his ministry efforts were for their sake); he is simply heart sore over his kinsmen and their aggressive antagonism toward the Truth, nor is he saying that it is only "Gentiles" who might be "boastful", "highminded", or "conceited". The playing field is level: all mankind, regardless of national identity, is in Paul's heart and all mankind, regardless of genetic background, is susceptible to the negatives to which Paul points as possible "attitudes".
- 3. "Now it is true that they are enemies against the Gospel because of you...".
- a. I have taken some liberty with Paul's phrase "...as concerning the gospel...". The word translated "concerning" is a word that, when used with an accusative case noun, points toward that noun. However, there is a sense built into the word itself that the "pointing" may have some negative connotations (the word sometimes implies a "downward" direction in its pointing). In our text, the Jews' antagonism is not occasioned by the Gentiles being Gentiles; it is occasioned by the fact that the Gospel is promising the benefits of the root of the fatness of the olive tree to the Gentiles while the Jews languish in their "pruned" condition. Thus, the real target is "the Gospel".
- b. This statement seems like a kind of accusation: "...they are enemies...because of you...". But Paul has already explained this in 11:11 and 11:14. The wisdom of God recognizes the jealousy of the human heart against those who "have it better than I". In fact, not only is there recognition, there is an intent to use it for good. According to the verses mentioned, God intends to capitalize upon this "jealousy" factor in order to "provoke" the Jews into a repentance that will bring them into the goodness they envy in the Gentiles. In short, God saved the Gentiles so the Jews would get jealous and, perhaps, if they come to their senses, repent so that they might have what their heritage would have provided for them if they had not risen up in pride against their God. So, "Gentiles", resolve yourselves to the facts: God wants to use His goodness to you to extend it to others (specifically, "Jews"); and His goodness to you was never intended to simply end with you. God always has "others" in mind and you ("Gentiles") need to adopt His heart and do the same. There is no legitimate place in anyone's heart for boastfulness, highmindedness, or conceit.
- c. The real problem, however, is not "you". It is "the Gospel". The antagonism is directed against the truths of "the Gospel". The Jews' own pride pushed them into antagonism against a message that made them out to be "total failures". The Law in which the Jews boasted was actually a book full of regulations that they failed to apply to their own lives (2:17 and 2:23). The Gospel pulled no punches in making sure that the Jews had to face their failure to do what is holy and just and good as the Law demanded (7:12). This was like sandpaper against their proud spirits, but it was necessary. It is only by the humiliation of failure that repentance comes. But, really, "the Gospel" is good news, not "bad". That failure has to be faced is a fact; but the failure is followed by the promise of forgiveness and restoration and Life.
- B. The declaration of the apostle.
- 1. Paul immediately set out his contrast: enemies on the one hand, beloved on the other. It is interesting that Paul used the same grammatical forms in both cases (a preposition followed by an accusative form of the noun) but altered the "sense" by the noun. In the first phrase, the noun (the "Gospel") is presented as a serious point of contention that resulted in an inimical mindset. In the second phrase, the noun (the "election") is presented as the reason for the Gentiles to refrain from settling into a reactionary mindset of the same kind. Generally, an inimical mindset elicits a reaction in kind -- an inimical mindset --, but Paul does not want his Gentile readers to react in that manner so he gives them a reason to think of the Jews in a more gracious light. They are "beloved". The translators of the Authorized Version gave some indication of this by translating the first phrase "as concerning" and the same phrase in the second go-around "as touching". The point, however, is that the nouns in both cases establish the cause of the "identity" issue. The Gospel is the reason the Jews developed into "enemies", and the Election is the reason God has not dismissed them from His care; they are "beloved".
- 2. In the first phrase, the "Gentiles" take something of a "hit" in that they are the "cause" of the Jews' adversarial identity in a secondary sense. But, in the second phrase, the adversarial Jews are counted as "beloved" because of the fathers and have this "identity" in a primary sense. They are not "beloved" because they have some characteristics in themselves that make them "lovable"; they are "beloved" because God made some promises to their "fathers" that He intends to keep. Grace is dominating this entire scenario and Paul wishes for his readers to absorb some of that grace in their attitude toward these "enemies".
- 3. The "justification" for identifying the Jews as "beloved" is given: God does not change His mind about His "grace-gifts" and His "calling". He has a large scale task to accomplish: the communication of His Life to His creation. He has an intricately complex methodology: the manifest revelation of Himself in all of His glory. He has an unassailable position as the all-knowing, all-wise, Executor of Power for Life. Thus, He is not about to second-guess either His objective (Life) or His methodology (gifts and calling). This kind of immutability is unknown among men who bounce all over the place in their double-minded vacillations, but it does not alter the inalterable.