Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Opinions on Romans 11:26a

I previously noted at least three options for interpreting Romans 11:26a (“And so all Israel shall be saved.”):

(1) all Israel refers to all ethnic Israelites who will be saved even apart from explicit faith in Christ;

(2) all Israel refers to the church, composed of both Jews and Gentiles;

(3) all Israel refers to all the elect in ethnic Israel who will eventually come to saving faith in Christ.

Here is a summary of how various Reformed scholars and pastors have interpreted Paul’s meaning:

Perhaps the most prominent advocate of option (2) above is John Calvin (1509-1564), who offers the following take in his Romans commentary:

“Many understand this of the Jewish people, as though Paul had said, that religion would again be restored among them as before: but I extend the word Israel to all the people of God…. This interpretation seems to me the most suitable, because Paul intended here to set forth the completion of the kingdom of Christ, which is by no means confined to the Jews, but is to include the whole world. The same manner of speaking we find in Galatians vi.16. The Israel of God is what he calls the Church, gathered alike from Jews and Gentiles; and he sets the people, thus collected from their dispersion, in opposition to the carnal children of Abraham, who had departed from this faith.”

The Puritan Matthew Poole (1624-1679) advocates option (3) in his commentary on this verse:

“By Israel is not meant the whole church of God, consisting of Jews and Gentiles; so that word is used, Gal. vi.16, and elsewhere; for then, what he spake would have been no mystery at all: but by Israel here (as in the precedent verse) you must understand the nation and people of the Jews. And by all Israel is not meant every individual Israelite, but many, or (it may be) the greatest part of them. So all is to be taken in Scripture: see John 6.45; 1 Tim. 2.6, and elsewhere.”

John Gill (1697-1771), in his Exposition of the Bible, affirms option (3):

“Ver. 26. And so all Israel shall be saved,.... Meaning not the mystical spiritual Israel of God, consisting both of Jews and Gentiles, who shall appear to be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation, when all God's elect among the latter are gathered in, which is the sense many give into; but the people of the Jews, the generality of them, the body of that nation, called "the fulness" of them, Ro 11:12, and relates to the latter day, when a nation of them shall be born again at once; when, their number being as the sand of the sea, they shall come up out of the lands where they are dispersed, and appoint them one head, Christ, and great shall be the day of Jezreel; when they as a body, even the far greater part of them that shall be in being, shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their King; shall acknowledge Jesus to be the true Messiah, and shall look to him, believe on him, and be saved by him from wrath to come….”

John Murray (1898-1975), likewise, affirms option (3) in his commentary on Romans:

“If we keep in mind the theme of this chapter and the sustained emphasis on the restoration of Israel, there is no other alternative than to conclude that the proposition “All Israel shall be saved”, is to be interpreted in terms of the fullness, the receiving, the ingrafting of Israel as a people, the restoration of Israel to gospel favour and blessing and the correlative turning of Israel from unbelief to repentance.”


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