Romans 11, Part 6
Dec 24, 2010
In Romans 11:30-32, Paul insists that the blindness that God imposed upon the vast majority of Israelites was for a good purpose. Specifically, it was to benefit the rest of the world.
(30) For just as you [ethnos] once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their [the Israelites] disobedience, (31) so these [Israelites] also now have been disobedient, in order that because of the mercy shown to you, they also may now be shown mercy. (32) For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all.
The disobedience of the ethnos, dating back to Adam, ultimately brought about the call to Abraham as an individual and later Israel as a nation. It was on account of the world's disobedience (particularly manifested through the rebellion of Nimrod and his city, Babylon) that God chose to work with one man to bring about the necessary change.
Then later, when Israel fell into the same rebellion and lawless behavior that characterized the rest of the ethnos, God scattered them into the "field" (world) in order to bring forth a much greater harvest of souls. But Paul tells us that it was God's intent and plan to disperse the Israelites into the world. For this reason, God blinded Israel. It was to bring about the failure of the Old Covenant, so that it could be set aside in favor of the New Covenant.
The blindness upon Israel worked in favor of the ethnos, even as in earlier times the disobedience of the ethnos had brought about the call of Abraham to benefit Israel. Paul makes it clear that "God has shut up ALL in disobedience," so we understand that the ethnos were blinded from the beginning as much as the Israelites were blinded later.
Few understand this, nor can they bring themselves to believe that God would do such a thing. God's use of His sovereign power in such a manner is only righteous if God intended to have mercy upon all of them in the end. If the plan were to destroy or to torture those whom God had blinded, then God could hardly be just and good. The divine plan is hardly believable apart from an understanding of the truth of the reconciliation of all men set forth in Romans 5.
Knowing this, we can reject the Arminian plan of Scripture which gives man full sovereignty over his own state of blindness in the hopeless attempt to justify God by removing or reducing His sovereignty. We can reject also the Calvinist plan of divine torture for eternity, which retains God's sovereignty but fails to recognize God's justice and goodness.
There is a clear third option, which Paul reveals. It is that God is both sovereign and just, that He is a God who intends to save all mankind in the end, and that His use of power to blind both theethnos of the world as well as the Israelites is merely a means to this perfect ending.
(33) Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! (34) For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? (35) Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again?
Paul here refers to various Scriptures without quoting any of them directly. Perhaps the key Scripture is from Job 41:11,
(11) Who has given to Me that I should repay Him? Whatever is under the whole heaven in Mine.
The story of Job, as everyone knows, is the story of how God gave permission to Satan to afflict him (Job 1:12). The entire book is about the purpose of evil and how God allowed Job to be afflicted for a good purpose as revealed in the end of the story. It is a story of God's sovereignty and how He appears to use that power to inflict evil upon men, but in the end we discover that God's intent was for good.
This is the same principle by which God has blinded all mankind. It is to bring mercy upon all in the end. God will not allow His temporary injustices to stand forever. He will always bring restoration, if not in this life, then certainly in the next. In the end, all things will work together for good (Rom. 8:28).
(36) For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
All things, whether they be physical or not, come from ("out of") Him. This has to do with the origin of the building material by which God created the heavens and the earth. Theologians have used three Latin terms to describe differing views:
creatio ex nihilo, "creation out of nothing"
creatio ex materia, "creation out of some pre-existent, eternal matter"
creation ex deo, "creation out of the being of God"
In the first century, Paul says that all things came out of God, which is the third view (above). The second-century Church fathers began to teach that God created all things out of nothing, based on 2 Maccabees 7:28, written over a century before Christ:
"I beseech thee, my son, look upon the heaven and the earth, and all that is therein, and consider that God made them of things that were not; and so was mankind made likewise."
The ex materia view was the Greek classical view that matter was eternal and chaotic before being formed and organized. They also believed that the devil ("demiurge") was the creator, because they believed that matter was inherently evil, and only spirit was good. So the normal Greek view in Paul's day was the second (above). This view today is perpetuated by the Mormons, who took issue with the ex nihilo view prevalent in the church since the second century.
Paul's view was that all things came out of God Himself. His statement in Heb. 11:3 "that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible" is quite different from 2 Maccabees, for Paul only says that matter is made out of things invisible, or too small to be seen with the naked eye (i.e., atoms, electrons, neutrons, protons). He does NOT say that God created these things out of nothing (ex nihilo), as does the writer of 2 Maccabees.
Paul tells us that because all things came out of God, all things must inevitably return to Him. This is his way of expressing the divine plan. The smallest pieces of matter are not atoms or protons or even quarks. They are called by physicists "God Particles," and (like light) can act as either a particle or a wave. They are the point of transition from spirit to matter.
All things go THROUGH Him as well. This is what we call history. It is the outworking of the divine plan, and it includes the imposition of blindness upon humanity.
Finally, all things go back TO Him in the restoration of all things. If any "God Particle" is left unrestored, if any part of God is cut off from Him forever, then God will forever remain incomplete and imperfect. All must truly go back TO Him in order for all things to work together for good, and for the divine plan to be complete.
Only in such an event could Paul conclude with his doxology, "To Him be the glory forever. Amen."
This is the final part of a series titled "Romans 11." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones