Romans 11:28-32 Commentary

To go directly to that verse

Summary of
Romans 9-11
Romans 9 Romans 10 Romans 11
God's Sovereignty
Israel's Election by God
Man's responsibility
Israel's Rejection of God
God's Ways Higher
God Not Rejecting Israel

Romans 11:28 From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God's choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers;

Greek: kata men to euaggelion ecthroi di' humas kata de ten eklogen agapetoi dia tous pateras;

Amplified: From the point of view of the Gospel (good news), they [the Jews, at present] are enemies [of God], which is for your advantage and benefit. But from the point of view of God's choice (of election, of divine selection), they are still the beloved (dear to Him) for the sake of their forefathers.

ESV: As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.

ICB: The Jews refuse to accept the Good News, so they are God's enemies. This has happened to help you non-Jews. But the Jews are still God's chosen people, and God loves them very much. He loves them because of the promises he made to their ancestors.

NIV: As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs,

NKJV: Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.

NLT: Many of the Jews are now enemies of the Good News. But this has been to your benefit, for God has given his gifts to you Gentiles. Yet the Jews are still his chosen people because of his promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Phillips: As far as the Gospel goes, they are at present God's enemies - which is to your advantage. But as far as God's purpose in choosing is concerned, they are still beloved for their fathers' sakes.

Wuest: On the one hand, with reference to the gospel they are enemies for your sakes; on the other hand, with reference to the selected-out ones they are beloved ones for the fathers’ sake;

Young's Literal: As regards, indeed, the good tidings, they are enemies on your account; and as regards the choice -- beloved on account of the fathers;

Romans 1:18-3:20 Romans 3:21-5:21 Romans 6:1-8:39 Romans 9:1-11:36 Romans 12:1-16:27

Related resources

Online Book by Dr John Walvoord - Israel in Prophecy

Online Articles by Arnold Fruchtenbaum related to Israel

Are you confused about God's plan for Israel? Then I highly recommend Tony Garland's 12 Hour Course on Romans 9-11 in which he addresses in depth the question of What Will Happen to Israel? (click) or see the individual lectures below)

Note that when you click the preceding links, each link will in turn give you several choices including an Mp3 message and brief transcript notes. The Mp3's are long (avg 70+ min) but are in depth and thoroughly Scriptural with many quotations from the Old Testament, which is often much less well understood than the NT by many in the church today. Garland takes a literal approach to Scripture, and his love for the Jews and passion to see them saved comes through very clearly in these 12 hours of teaching! Take your home Bible Study group through this series if you dare. Take notes on the tapes as the transcripts are a very abbreviated version of the audio messages. This course is highly recommended for all who love Israel! I think you will agree that Tony Garland, despite coming to faith after age 30 as an engineer, clearly has been given a special anointing by God to promulgate the truth concerning Israel and God's glorious future plan for the Jews. Garland has also produced more than 20 hours of superb audio teaching in his verse by verse commentary on the Revelation (in depth transcripts also available) which will unravel (in a way you did not think was possible considering the plethora of divergent interpretations) God's final message of the triumph and return of the our Lord Jesus Christ as the King of kings and Lord of lords! Maranatha! (See Maranatha - In Depth Word Study)!

FROM THE STANDPOINT OF THE GOSPEL THEY ARE ENEMIES FOR YOUR SAKE: kata men to euaggelion ecthroi di humas:

  • Ro 11:11,30; Matthew 21:43; Acts 13:45,46; 14:2; 18:6; 1Thessalonians 2:15,16

Gospel (2098)(euaggelion from = good + aggéllo = proclaim, tell) is literally good news or glad tidings. For a concise definition of the Gospel read 1Cor 15:1-8) (See notes 1Corinthians 15:1; 15:2; 15:3; 15:4; 15:5; 15:6 ; 15:7 ;15:8)

"for your sake" takes us back to the (Ro 11:11-12) where Israel's stumbling was for the Gentile's sake in that it made salvation available to the Gentiles.

BUT FROM THE STANDPOINT OF GOD'S CHOICE THEY ARE BELOVED FOR THE SAKE OF THE FATHERS: kata de ten eklogen agapetoi dia tous pateras dia tous pateras:

  • Ro 11:7; Isaiah 41:8,9
  • Genesis 26:4; 28:14; Leviticus 26:40-42; Deuteronomy 4:31; 7:7,8; 8:18; 9:5; 10:15; Psalms 105:8-11; Jeremiah 31:3; Micah 7:20; Luke 1:54,68-75

But - Always pause and ponder this term of contrast.

The Jews are beloved. We must not forget this truth! God is sovereign in their salvation and it is not because of any merit passed on from the patriarchs, but because God chose Israel and that choice was and is and forever will be irrevocable.

Choice (1589)(ekloge from eklegomai [eklego - word study] in turn from ek = out + lego = select, choose, eklegomai meaning to choose or select for oneself, but not necessarily implying rejection of what is not chosen. See study of related word eklektos = elect) means literally a choosing out, a picking out, a selection or an election (2Pe 1:10, 1Th 1:4 - referring to God's selection of believers). In the passive sense ekloge refers to God's selection for a purpose or task. In other words it represents a special choice as when God referred to Paul as "my chosen instrument" (Acts 9:15). In Ro 11:28 ekloge speaks of God's choice of Israel, who were selected by Him to carry out His specific plan of redemption for mankind.

Beloved (27)(agapetos from agapao = to love, agape = unconditional love borne by Spirit - Gal 5:22-note) means beloved, dear, very much loved. Agapetos describes the love of another, this love being called out of the "giver's" heart by preciousness of the recipient of the love (the "beloved'). Agapetos is used only of Christians as united with God or with each other in love. Agapetos is used only of Christians as united (by covenant, the New Covenant) with God and/or with each other in love. Agapetos describes "one who is in a very special relationship with another" (BDAG) and in secular Greek is used mostly of a child, especially an only child to whom all the love of his parents is given (cf use by the Father describing His only Son and Abraham describing his "only son" in Ge 22:2). BDAG adds that agapetos " pertains to one who is dearly loved, dear, beloved, prized, valued (papyri, LXX; pseudepigraphia) indicating a close relationship, especially that between parent and child."

For the sake of the fathers is an allusion to the patriarchs and to God's unconditional, immutable covenant with Abraham, which was re-affirmed to Isaac and then to Jacob (Israel). God is faithful to keep His covenant promises. (See related topics: Covenant: Abrahamic versus Mosaic; Covenant: New Covenant in the Old Testament ; Covenant: Why the New is Better; Covenant: Abrahamic vs Old vs New )

Stand in Awe
Steven Cole 

William Beebe was an explorer and a friend of President Theodore Roosevelt. Often when he visited the President, the two men would go outdoors at night to see who could first locate the Andromeda galaxy. Then as they gazed at the tiny smudge of distant starlight, one of them would recite, “That is the spiral galaxy of Andromeda. It is as large as our Milky Way. It is one of a hundred million galaxies. It is 750,000 light-years away. It consists of one hundred billion suns, each larger than our sun.” After that thought had sunk in, Roosevelt would flash his toothy grin and say, “Now I think we’re small enough! Let’s go to bed.” (Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations, by Paul Lee Tan [Assurance Publishers], # 2213.)

We now know that Andromeda is 2.6 million light years away and consists of one trillion stars, about twice the number of our galaxy. And while the numbers are only estimates and they keep getting larger, astronomers think that there are at least 100-200 billion galaxies, not 100 million. A German supercomputer simulation recently put that number at 500 billion ( Mr. Beebe and President Roosevelt would feel even smaller!

As the apostle Paul sums up Romans 11 in our text, he wants us to feel appropriately small in the presence of the Sovereign God who moves all of history according to His unfathomable ways for His own glory. Pastor John Piper (, “God’s Design for History: The Glory of His Mercy,” italics his) sums up, “Romans 11:30-32 is the summary of the main point of this chapter, namely, that God has designed and guided history—both its disobedience and its obedience—so that in the end it will most fully display the reliability of his promises and the magnificence of his mercy—to prevent human pride and produce white-hot worship.”

Douglas Moo (The Epistle to the Romans [Eerdmans], pp. 729-730) points out that Ro 11:28-32 “recapitulate and wrap up the argument of Ro 9-11 as a whole. Paul’s assertion of Israel’s dual status in v. 28 succinctly summarizes the dilemma that drives the whole argument of these chapters: the Israel now at enmity with God because of the gospel is nevertheless the Israel to whom God has made irrevocable promises of blessing.” Paul’s point is:

We should stand in awe of God because He designs and controls all of history to display His faithfulness to His promises and the glory of His mercy to sinners.

Paul has been gazing through the telescope to get a glimpse of just how big God is, and he invites us to take a look for ourselves.

1. God designs and controls all of history.

Some might react to this statement by thinking that it denies our “free will.” They would object, “Are we just robots that God has programmed to do what He has determined they should do?” But the biblical view is much more profound than this. While God controls all of history and moves it according to His sovereign purpose, He does so through humans who are free to make choices for which they are held responsible. For example, before human history began God ordained the cross. The cross was necessary because of human sin and it could only be implemented through sinful behavior. And yet at the same time, God is not responsible for sin and He holds sinners accountable for their sin.

In my Bible reading this week, I came to a verse that is a favorite of many, Jeremiah 29:11: ‘“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’” It’s a wonderful promise for God’s people, especially those who are suffering. In the verse just before, God tells Jeremiah that after 70 years of captivity in Babylon, He will restore Israel to their land. In the following verses (Jer 29:12-13) He says, “Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

Did you notice the interplay between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility in those verses? God has a plan for His people and He will carry out that plan right on schedule. He is not restricted from carrying out His plan by what sinful people do. God‘s plan required that Cyrus the pagan king had to decide to let the Jews return to their land. The Jews had to decide to give up living in Babylon, where they had been born and reared, and to make the difficult, dangerous, and uncertain journey back to Israel. To do that, they had to rely on God’s promise that their future in Israel would be for their and their children’s good. Furthermore, God declares that the Jews of that future generation will call upon Him, pray to Him, and seek Him with all their hearts.

So God had a plan and it was certain that He would accomplish His plan. The plan included the “free” decision of a sinful king and the “free” decision of the Jews to return to the land and seek the Lord. But when they freely chose these things, they were carrying out God’s foreordained plan. And it was not that God merely foresaw these events. Rather, He designs and controls how things turn out to accomplish His purposes. But at the same time, He accomplishes His purpose through people who make real choices for which they are responsible.

John Piper outlines four broad stages of history (Ro 11:30-32):

(1) The time of Gentile disobedience, when God permitted the nations to go their own way. God described some of this history in advance to Abraham in a mind-boggling statement (Gen. 15:13): “God said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.’” Then God explains why Israel will spend four centuries in slavery in Egypt (Gen. 15:16), “Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.” That’s amazing! Israel would spend four long centuries in slavery because the iniquity of the Amorite (the Canaanites) was not yet complete! When their sin was full to the brim, God freed Israel from slavery to Egypt and commanded them to execute His judgment on the wicked Canaanites.

Paul referred to this time of Gentile disobedience in a passing phrase in a sermon at Lystra (Acts 14:16), “In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways ….” I thought about that verse on Monday as we hiked to a remote spot below the North Rim of the Grand Canyon called “Shaman’s Gallery.” It is an extensive panel of rock art that some native shaman who did not know the living and true God put there perhaps 1,000 years ago. Why didn’t he know God? Because in His unsearchable judgments and unfathomable ways, God permitted the Gentiles to go their own ways.

(2) The time of Jewish disobedience, when they rejected their Messiah and He gave them up to hardness. As we saw last time, Israel brazenly rejected and crucified their Savior as they cried out (Matt. 27:25), “His blood shall be on us and on our children!” Although God had ordained the cross, He permitted the Jews to make that frightening choice and pronounce that curse on them and their children. That hardness has lasted for almost 2,000 years.

When Paul says (Ro 11:28), “From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake,” he means that because God hardened the Jews, the gospel has now gone out to the Gentiles (see Ro 11:11, 12, 15). “Enemies” probably means, “They are God’s enemies” because of their sin and unbelief in rejecting their Messiah. But the staggering thing about God’s judgment on the Jews is that if you had been born as a Jew in the past 2,000 years, unless you were a part of the remnant according to God’s gracious choice (Ro 11:5), you would have lived and died hardened toward the good news about the Savior!

(3) The time of mercy shown to the Gentiles through the spread of the gospel to all nations—the fullness of the Gentiles. We are the recipients of God’s mercy in this period as the gospel goes out to the nations. And yet, as I just mentioned in the case of the Native Americans who lived 1,000 years ago, they lived and died without hearing the gospel. Approximately 6,900 people groups are still in such spiritual darkness, waiting to hear the gospel (see my message “Good News for All,” 1/29/12).

(4) The time of mercy on Israel as God completes his re­demptive plan and takes away the hardening and saves the nation of Israel with a mass conversion to Christ. As I explained last week, this will probably happen either just prior to or at the time of the second coming of Jesus Christ. In Ro 11:31, the second “now” is difficult, causing some manuscripts to omit it. But it is probably original. But how can the Jews now be shown mercy when it is still future? Probably Paul meant that now that the Gentiles have been shown mercy, the Jews were in position for this final phase of God’s program. It could take place “now,” at any time.

I need to emphasize that God’s shutting up all in disobedience does not mean that He is responsible for sin. It has the idea of God giving the Gentiles over to the consequences of their sin (as in Rom. 1:24, 26, & 28) and consigning the Jews to judicial hardening because of their sin (Ro 11:7-10). Just as He shut up these two groups to their sins, so He will show mercy to the two groups. But this does not mean that He will save everyone in those groups. Moo explains (ibid., pp. 736-737), “He is saying that God has imprisoned in disobedience first Gentiles and now Jews so that he might bestow mercy on each of these groups of humanity.”

The Westminster Confession of Faith (Chapter III, 1.) puts the biblical balance like this: “God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.” The point is that without violating the free agency of sinners, God designs and controls all history for His sovereign purpose of glorifying His name. And so we should stand in awe of the Sovereign God of history.

2. God designs and controls all of history to display His faithfulness to His promises.

Romans 11:28-29: “From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” H. C. G. Moule (The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans [Cambridge: University Press, 1903], p. 201, italics his) paraphrases,

With a view to the spread of the Gospel, which is the message of salvation for every believer, Jew or Gentile, (Ro 1:16) it pleased God in His sovereign plan to reject the great majority of the Jews—in order to open His kingdom wide to you. But with a view to the believing element, the elect Jews of every age, including the great multitude to be called to grace hereafter, the Jews are still dear to Him; for His Covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is sovereign and unchangeable.

Douglas Moo (ibid., p. 729) says, “It is because God has chosen Israel to be his ‘beloved’ that he will bring salvation to the people in the last day.” He points out that “election” (in Ro 11:28) refers not to salvation for every single Jew, but rather to God’s choosing Israel as a nation in line with His covenant with the patriarchs. This status as God’s chosen nation results in salvation only for those whom God individually chooses and calls in this age (the “remnant” of Ro 11:5) and in the future (“all Israel” of Ro 11:26).

When Paul says that Israel is “beloved for the sake of the fathers,” he does not mean that the godliness of the patriarchs somehow stored up merit for their descendants. Nor did God choose the patriarchs because of something worthy in them. The Bible records that they all had many sins. Rather, Paul means that God will fulfill His promises to the patriarchs.

God’s “gifts” (Ro 11:29) refers to the blessings enumerated in Ro 9:4-5. His “calling” refers to God’s calling Abram and promising to bless him and his descendants. In other words, it refers to God’s choosing Israel as His special people. According to The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (F. Laubach, [Zondervan, 1975], ed. by Colin Brown, 1:357), “irrevocable” means, “In spite of the disobedience and hardening of men’s hearts God will accomplish his purpose of salvation also in his people Israel.” In other words, God will not go back on His covenant promises. He has designed history to display His faithfulness to His promises.

The practical benefit of this is that we can trust God’s promises, including His promise to work even the most difficult trials together for our ultimate good (Rom. 8:28). But keep in mind that you may die without seeing the fulfillment of God’s promises. Abraham died owning only a burial cave that he had bought with his own money, without realizing God’s promise to give him the land of Canaan. But God’s timing is not our timing. With God, a thousand years is as a day (2 Pet. 3:8), and so it’s only been four days since Abraham’s time! But when the final account of human history stands finished, we will see that God designed and controlled it all to display the complete faithfulness of His promises. We can count on His Word as true! (Stand in Awe)

Romans 11:29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Greek: ametameleta gar ta charismata kai e klesis tou theou.

Amplified: For God's gifts and His call are irrevocable. [He never withdraws them when once they are given, and He does not change His mind about those to whom He gives His grace or to whom He sends His call.]

ESV: For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

ICB: God never changes his mind about the people he calls and the things he gives them.

NIV: for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.

NKJV: For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

NLT: For God's gifts and his call can never be withdrawn.

Phillips: For once they are made, God does not withdraw his gifts of his calling.

Wuest: for the gifts in grace and the calling of God are with respect to a change of mind irrevocable.

Young's Literal: for unrepented of are the gifts and the calling of God;

FOR THE GIFTS AND THE CALLING OF GOD ARE IRREVOCABLE: ametameleta gar ta charismata kai e klesis tou theou:

  • Hosea 13:14

Mal 3:6 (note) “For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.

Nu 23:19 “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?


For - Always pause and ponder this important term of explanation.

In this verse for which explains why they are still beloved of God. The answer is of course that God does not take back His gifts. Once He has made an unconditional promise, He never goes back on it. He gave Israel the special privileges as we studied in Romans 9:4, 5. He called Israel to be His earthly people, separate from the rest of the nations. Nothing can change His purposes.

Gifts (5486) (charisma from charis = grace + the ending --ma which indicates the result of something, in this case the result of grace) means “gift of grace” or “free gift”.

Calling (2821) (klesis) (Click in depth study) means a call and was used for an invitation to a banquet. In the NT the word is used metaphorically of the call or invitation to come into the kingdom of God with all its privileges. In the present context "klesis" refers to the divine call by which elect Jews are introduced into the privileges of the gospel. God’s invitation (klesis) to man to accept the benefits of His salvation is what this calling is all about.

Louw Nida defines klesis as an "urgent invitation to someone to accept responsibilities for a particular task, implying a new relationship to the one who does the calling; the station in life or social role which one has."

Vine defines klesis as "a calling, is always used in NT of that calling the origin, nature and destiny of which are heavenly (the idea of invitation being implied); it is used especially of God's invitation to man to accept the benefits of salvation."

Irrevocable (278) (ametameletos from a = without + metamélomai = change one's mind; regret) means not feeling regret as result of what one has done. The idea is not feeling regret as result of what one has done not regretful, not feeling sorry about. It means that God will not change His mind about what He has promised Israel through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

God's gifts and callings are ametameletos or "incapable of being changed, not to be taken back, inflexible" and in 2Cor 7:10 ametameletos speaks "of the beneficial results of repentance with nothing to feel sorry about, leaving no feeling of regret." (Friberg)

BDAG says in the passive sense ametameletos means "not to be regretted, without regret" and the active sense it means "feeling no remorse, having no regret."

This word is first in the Greek placing emphasis on this truth. Literally "irrevocable (are) the gifts and calling of God."

Irrevocable in English = Not possible to revoke; Unalterable. Webster's 1828 adds "Not to be recalled or revoked; that cannot be reversed, repealed or annulled; as an irrevocable decree, sentence, edict or doom; irrevocable fate; an irrevocable promise."

The KJV says "not to be repented of" which is very inadequate. It would have been better translated "without regret". What the apostle is saying here is that when God has given gifts to men and has extended His salvation to them, He never regrets the extension of His grace or changes His mind as having made a mistake because of the behavior of the ones that He saved and gifted. Salvation should never be considered as merely man's decision to follow Christ, but also God's acceptance of the genuineness of that decision and the birth and existence of faith.

The only other NT use is by Paul (no uses in the Septuagint)…

2Cor 7:10 For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

Comment: Here ametameletos is used as a verbal adjective connected with repentance. Metanoia is true repentance, changing of one's mind and asking God to change his heart that he may sin no more. Metaméleia, the noun derived from metaméllomai (3338), means to regret the results of one's decision and action. A thief may regret having stolen because he was caught and punished. However, if the thief is convicted in his heart that stealing is wrong and sinful, he will repent of his sin, not because he was caught, but because of his conviction that sin is contrary to God's will and his own good. Thus he is contrite and asks God to take away the guilt of his sin and to make him a righteous person, one who hates stealing and all other sin. What Paul is therefore speaking about here is unregrettable repentance. No one would regret his repentance because of the consequence of that repentance which is salvation. It is not to be regretted because it has led unto salvation (Nu 23:19; 1Sa 15:29).

When God calls it is an effectual call and when He gives you a gift it can never be taken back or annulled. The Sovereign God guarantees these things to the elect.

John MacArthur - God’s sovereign election of Israel, like that of individual believers, is unconditional and unchangeable, because it is rooted in His immutable nature and expressed in the unilateral, eternal Abrahamic Covenant (MacArthur Study Bible Nashville: Word Pub)

Moses testifies that…

"God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? (Numbers 23:19) (See related topic: Truth)

In Malachi God testifies…

"For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed" (Malachi 3:6) (See related topic: Immutable)

In Isaiah God says…

Shall I bring to the point of birth, and not give delivery?" says the LORD. "Or shall I who gives delivery shut the womb?" says your God (Isaiah 66:9)

by Samuel J. Stone

Unchanging God, hear from eternal Heav’n:
We plead Thy gifts of grace, forever given,
Thy call, without repentance, calling still,
The sure election of Thy sovereign will.

Out of our faith in Thee, Who canst not lie,
Out of our heart’s desire, goes up our cry,
From hope’s sweet vision of the thing to be,
From love to those who still are loved by Thee.

Bring Thy beloved back, Thine Israel,
Thine own elect who from Thy favor fell,
But not from Thine election! O forgive,
Speak but the word, and lo! the dead shall live.

Father of mercies! these the long astray,
These in soul blindness now the far away,
These are not aliens, but Thy sons of yore,
Oh, by Thy Fatherhood, restore, restore!

Triune Jehovah, Thine the grace and power,
Thine all the work, its past, its future hour,
O Thou, Who failest not, Thy gifts fulfill,
And crown the calling of Thy changeless will.

Romans 11:30 For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience,

Greek: hosper gar humeis pote epeithesate (2PAAI) to theo nun de eleethete (2PAPI) te touton apeitheia

Amplified: Just as you were once disobedient and rebellious toward God but now have obtained [His] mercy, through their disobedience,

ESV: Just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience,

ICB: At one time you refused to obey God. But now you have received mercy, because those people refused to obey.

NIV: Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience,

NKJV: For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience,

NLT: Once, you Gentiles were rebels against God, but when the Jews refused his mercy, God was merciful to you instead.

Phillips: Just as in the past you were disobedient to God but have found that mercy which might have been theirs but for their disobedience,

Wuest: For, even as you formerly disbelieved God, yet now have been made recipients of mercy through the occasion of the unbelief of these,

Young's Literal: for as ye also once did not believe in God, and now did find kindness by the unbelief of these:

FOR JUST AS YOU (Gentiles) ONCE WERE DISOBEDIENT TO GOD: hosper gar humeis pote epeithesate (2PAAI) to theo:

  • 1Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 2:1,2,12,13,19-21; Colossians 3:7; Titus 3:3-7) (Ro 11:31; 1Corinthians 7:25; 2 Corinthians 4:1; 1Timothy 1:18; 1Peter 2:10

Barclay - Paul is coming to the end of his argument. He has faced a bewildering, and, for a Jew, a heartbreaking situation. Somehow he has had to find an explanation of the fact that God's people rejected his Son when he came into the world. Paul never shut his eyes to that tragic fact, but he found a way in which the whole tragic situation could be fitted into the plan of God. It is true that the Jews rejected Christ; but. as Paul saw it, that rejection happened in order that Christ might be offered to the Gentiles. To maintain the sovereignty of God's purpose, Paul even went the length of saying that it was he himself who hardened the hearts of the Jews in order to open a way to the Gentiles; but, even then, however contradictory it might sound, he still insisted on the personal responsibility of the Jews for their failure to accept God's offer. Paul held fast at one and the same time to divine sovereignty and human responsibility. But now comes the note of hope. His argument is a little complicated… (Romans 11 - William Barclay's Daily Study Bible)

For - Always pause and ponder this important term of explanation.

Disobedient (544)(apeitheo from a = without + peítho = persuade) literally describes one who refuses to be persuaded and who disbelieves willfully and perversely. Apeitheo in the present context means that these individuals possessed an attitude of unbelief because they deliberately choose to disobey, to consciously resist and rebel against authority and finally manifest an obstinate rejection of the will (truth) of God. Do we not all do this at the moment we commit willful sin?

Once - Denney sees this as a reference to "in the past, Ro 1:18-32." (Romans 11 - The Expositor's Greek Testament)

Newell - Our Gentile history is summed up in the words "disobedient to God"; our present position in the words: "now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience"; and now Israel nationally have been more disobedient even than the Gentiles (Ed: as alluded to in Ro 11:31 "so these also now have been disobedient"): disobedient to God's Law, to His warning prophets, to His own dear Son, their Messiah, whom they crucified; to the witness of the Spirit through Stephen and the apostles of the resurrection of the Messiah. But at last they will "be shown mercy (Ro 11:31)," a new principle for them! Having proved utterly disobedient, having lost all claim on God, they will at last be met by God on the same great principle of mercy, and mercy alone (Ed: Ro 11:31 = "because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy"). So that in the future age, the Millennium, and on forever, this nation will carry in its heart the two great principles that give God all the glory: First, that they were beloved of Jehovah, who had set His love upon them, the only reason being in Himself. "Because Jehovah loveth you, and because He would keep the oath which He sware unto your fathers" (Deut 7:7,8). Second, the consciousness of their own complete failure: of a history of ingratitude, rebellion, wickedness, idolatry, refusal of instruction and correction, and finally, of despising and rejecting their own Messiah (2Chr 36:14-16; Ps 106:1ff). They will be brokenly conscious forever of being the objects of the absolute uncaused mercy of Jehovah their God! Thus they will be able to trust and rejoice in Jehovah, as the true Church-saint now trusts and rejoices and glories in God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who associated us with His own Son in the same sovereign mercy! It must be carefully marked and deeply pondered, this great account of sovereign mercy, - mercy first to us (Gentiles), and by and by to Israel, -"the MERCIES of God, " by means of which God will win our hearts, "beseeching us" by His apostle, to present our bodies a living sacrifice to Him (Ro 12:1). It is not only that God has dealt with us in grace, -unearned favor; but that He has shown mercy when all was hopeless! We may venture to say that it is only in those who learn to regard themselves as the objects of the Divine mercy, of uncaused Divine compassion, that the deepest foundations for godliness of life will be, or can be, laid (Ed: Read the story of the woman "a sinner" in Luke 7:40-50 which seems to support Newell's premise. Note association of love and obedience in Jn 14:15). (Romans 11 - Newell's Commentary)

BUT NOW HAVE BEEN SHOWN MERCY BECAUSE OF THEIR (the Jew's) DISOBEDIENCE: nun de eleethete (2PAPI) te touton apeitheia:

But now - This is the great Divine Reversal!

But now - 77x in Scripture (not all a divine reversal but a number are, especially those in the NT!) -

Gen 30:30; Ex 32:32; Num 11:6; 14:17; Josh 9:12; Jdg 6:13; 20:9; 1 Sam 2:30; 12:10; 13:14; 26:11; 2 Sam 12:23; 13:20; 19:9; 24:10; 1 Kgs 5:4; 2 Kgs 1:14; 3:15; 13:19; 1 Chr 21:8; Ezra 9:8; Neh 6:9; Job 4:5; 12:7; 16:7; 30:1; 42:5; Ps 119:67; Isa 1:21; 16:14; 43:1; 44:1; 64:8; Jer 2:18; 37:20; 40:4; Hag 2:4, 15; Zech 8:11; Mal 1:9;


Luke 16:25; 19:42; 22:36; John 15:22, 24; 16:5; 17:13; Rom 3:21; 6:22; 7:6; 11:30; 15:23, 25; 16:26; 1 Cor 7:14; 12:18, 20; 13:13; 14:6; 15:20; 2 Cor 8:11, 22; Gal 3:25; 4:9; Eph 2:13; 5:8; Phil 2:12; Col 3:8; 1 Thess 3:6; 2 Tim 1:10; Philemon 1:11; Heb 2:8; 8:6; 9:26; 12:26; 1 Pet 2:10, 25


Have been shown mercy (1653)(eleeo from eleos) Passive voice (divine passive) = mercy derives from a source outside of them (i.e., God). See next verse.

Disobedience (543) (apeitheia from a = without + peítho = persuade) - see Ro 11:32 below.

Denney - The past unbelief of the Gentiles (just as you were once disobedient to God) and the mercy they presently enjoy (but now have been shown mercy), the present unbelief ("their disobedience" - cp Ro 11:11, 15, 31) of the Jews and the mercy they are destined to enjoy in the future (they also may now be shown mercy - Ro 11:31)—these things not only correspond to each other, but they are interwoven with each other; they are parts of a system which God controls, and in which every element conditions and is conditioned by all the rest: there is a Divine necessity pervading and controlling all the freedom of men—a Divine purpose mastering all the random activity of human wills; a purpose which is read out by the Apostle in Romans 11:32 : God shut them all up into disobedience that He might have mercy upon them all. (Romans 11 - The Expositor's Greek Testament)

MacDonald - The Gentiles were once an untamed, disobedient people, but when Israel spurned the Messiah and the gospel of salvation, God turned to the Gentiles in mercy. (MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. . Believer's Bible Commentary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson)

Steven Cole - God designs and controls all of history to display the glory of His mercy to sinners. Romans 11:30-32: “For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.”

By repetition Paul sets forth two themes: “Disobedient” (or, “disobedience”) occurs four times. “Mercy” also occurs four times. John Murray (The Epistle to the Romans [Eerdmans], 2:102, italics his) observes, “It is only in the context of disobedience that mercy has relevance and meaning.” Unless you realize the enormity of your own disobedience and sin, you will not appreciate the greatness of the gift of God’s mercy.

In this sweeping summary of history there is a similarity and a difference (Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans [Apollos/Eerd­mans], p. 425). Both the Jews and the Gentiles are alike in that both groups were disobedient to God. But the difference is that in God’s design for history, through the Jews’ disobedience, the Gentiles came to experience God’s mercy, but it will be through the Gentiles’ experience of God’s mercy that the Jews will finally come to know His mercy, too.

Morris (ibid., pp. 424-425) also points out that it is significant that Paul does not say, “You were disobedient, but you have become obedient,” but rather, “You have been shown mercy.” He adds, “It is no human achievement of which he speaks, but a divine gift.” God’s mercy is similar to His grace, in that both represent His unmerited favor toward those who deserve His judgment. But the nuance of difference is that grace emphasizes God’s favor in forgiving our sins because we are guilty, whereas mercy emphasizes His compassion on us because we are miserable (R. C. Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament [Eerdmans], p. 170). (Stand in Awe)

Romans 11:31 so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy.

Greek: houtos kai houtoi nun epeithesan (3PAAI) to humetero eleei hina kai autoi [nun] eleethosin; (3PAPS)

Amplified: So they also now are being disobedient [when you are receiving mercy], that they in turn may one day, through the mercy you are enjoying, also receive mercy [that they may share the mercy which has been shown to you--through you as messengers of the Gospel to them].

ESV: so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now[4] receive mercy.

ICB: And now the Jews refuse to obey, because God showed mercy to you. But this happened so that they also can receive mercy from God.

NIV: so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God's mercy to you.

NKJV: even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy.

NLT: And now, in the same way, the Jews are the rebels, and God's mercy has come to you. But someday they, too, will share in God's mercy.

Phillips: so they, who at the present moment are disobedient, will eventually share the mercy which has been extended to you.

Wuest: thus also these now have disbelieved in order that through the occasion of the mercy which is yours, they themselves also might now become the recipients of mercy,

Young's Literal: so also these now did not believe, that in your kindness they also may find kindness;

SO THESE (Jews) ALSO NOW HAVE BEEN DISOBEDIENT: houtos kai houtoi nun epeithesan (3PAAI):

  • Ro 10:16; 11:15,25


In every generation, Jehovah has a believing remnant of Jews in the nation of Israel, even though many (most) of the nation is unfaithful, rebellious and/or stiff-necked. God has not forgotten His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God has not replaced the nation of Israel with the Church. The specific promises given to Israel are still valid and will be fulfilled, every jot and tittle! 

Related Resources:

International Children's Bible - "And now the Jews refuse to obey, because God showed mercy to you. But this happened so that they also can receive mercy from God."

Wuest: thus also these (Jews) now have disbelieved in order that through the occasion of the mercy which is yours (Gentiles), they (Jews) themselves also might now become the recipients of mercy,

So these - The Jews.

Disobedient (544) (apeitheo from a = without + peitho = persuade) means literally not to allow one’s self to be persuaded. It describes one who refuses to be persuaded and instead willfully and perversely disbelieves. It conveys an attitude of unbelief and involves deliberate disobedience or conscious resistance to authority. Men, Jews or Gentiles, do not avoid Christ because of insufficient facts but because of proud and unrepentant hearts. Wuest adds this word "speaks of a stubborn, stiff-necked attitude."

Moule - The “mercy of the Gentiles” is the mercy of God in Christ to them, not any mercy of theirs to the Jews.—The statement of this verse is the almost exact converse of that of Romans 11:30. Jewish unbelief was, in a certain sense, the instrumental cause of Gentile salvation; so, in a certain sense, Gentile salvation was the final cause of Jewish unbelief. In the Divine Plan the call of the Gentiles was to hinge upon the unbelief of the Jews when they should reject Messiah; and thus the grand act of Jewish unbelief was, in a guarded sense, “caused” by the promise of the call of the Gentiles. (Romans 11 Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)

Hodge - Even so have these (the Jews) now not believed (or, 'now been disobedient'), that through your mercy (the mercy shown to you Gentiles) they also may obtain mercy. Here is an entirely new idea. The apostle has hitherto dwelt upon the unbelief of the Jews as making way for the faith of the Gentiles-the exclusion of the one occasioning the reception of the other; a truth which could yield to generous, believing Gentiles but mingled satisfaction. Now, opening a more cheering prospect, he speaks of the mercy shown to the Gentiles as a means of Israel's recovery, which seems to mean that it will be by the instrumentality of believing Gentiles that Israel as a nation is at length to "look on Him whom they have pierced, and mourn for Him," (Zech 12:10) and so to "obtain mercy." (See 2Corinthians 3:15-16.) (Romans 11 - Bible Commentary)

IN ORDER THAT BECAUSE OF THE MERCY SHOWN TO YOU THEY ALSO MAY NOW BE SHOWN MERCY: to humetero eleei hina kai autoi (nun) eleethosin (3PAPS):


In order that - This identifies this passage as a purpose statement. See terms of purpose

Israel’s disobedience will be followed by mercy, when they (the Jews) are provoked to jealousy through the mercy shown to the Gentiles. William Newell on the other hand does not interpret this passage (in order that because… ) as referring to future Jewish jealousy, commenting that "God brings in the principle upon which He will bless Israel when He makes His New Covenant with them at Christ's Second Coming. It seems that we Gentiles are to be to Israel an example of Divine mercy, by which at last they will understandingly see the "heart of mercy" of their God! (Luke 1:78)."

Mercy shown to you - The Gentiles

They also may now be shown mercy - The Jews.

Mercy (1656)(eleos) is the outward manifestation of pity and assumes need on the part of those who are recipients of the mercy and sufficient resources to meet the need on the part of those who show it. The idea of mercy is to show kindness or concern for someone in serious need or to give help to the wretched, to relieve the miserable. Here the essential thought is that mercy gives attention to those in misery.

Vincent writes that eleos "emphasizes the misery with which grace deals; hence, peculiarly the sense of human wretchedness coupled with the impulse to relieve it, which issues in gracious ministry. Bengel remarks, “Grace takes away the fault, mercy the misery."

Shown mercy (1653)(eleeo from eleos [word study]) means “to feel sympathy with the misery of another, especially such sympathy which manifests itself in action, less frequently in word.” Describes the general sense of one who has compassion or person on someone in need. It indicates being moved to pity and compassion by tragedy and includes the fear that this could happen to me. To see someone in dire need (including one who may not deserve the misfortune), to have compassion on them, and to give help to remove the need.

Romans 11:32 For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.

Greek: sunekleisen (3SAAI) gar o theos tous pantas eis apeitheian hina tous pantas eleese. (3SAAS)

Amplified: For God has consigned (penned up) all men to disobedience, only that He may have mercy on them all [alike].

ESV: For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

ICB: All people have refused to obey God. God has given them all over to their stubborn ways, so that God can show mercy to all.

NIV: For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

NKJV: For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.

NLT: For God has imprisoned all people in their own disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone.

Phillips: God has all men penned together in the prison of disobedience, that he may have mercy upon them all.

Wuest: for God included all within the state of unbelief in order that He might have mercy upon all.

Young's Literal: for God did shut up together the whole to unbelief, that to the whole He might do kindness.

FOR GOD HAS SHUT UP ALL IN DISOBEDIENCE: sunekleisen (3SAAI) gar o theos tous pantas eis apeitheian:

  • Ro 3:9,22

For - is a term of explanation. Consider the "5P's" - Pause to Ponder the Passage then Practice it in the Power of the Spirit

Shut up (4788) (sugkleio from sun = with + kleio = shut, close) means to shut together with, to shut in on all sides, or to close up together. Sugkleio was used to describe enclosing of fish in a net in (as in Lk 5:6). All mankind is like those entrapped fish for all are caught in God's net which demands perfect righteousness. This truth is similar to Paul's statement in Galatians regarding the effect of the Scripture (Law) (Gal 3:22-23, see study of Galatians 3).

But the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe (Galatians 3:22)

The picture also reminds one of (Romans 3:9-10-note) where "all" (both Jews & Gentiles) are backed into a corner and shown their totally inadequacy for holiness and righteousness before a holy God, Paul recording "What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE."

All (pas) signifies no exceptions (cf Ro 5:12-note).

Disobedience (543) (apeitheia from a = without + peítho = persuade) describes an unwillingness to be persuaded. It is a willful unbelief (so not ignorance but obstinacy!). It is interesting that apeitheo is a stronger term than syn. apistía (570), disbelief, unbelief, faithlessness or distrust.

THAT HE MIGHT SHOW MERCY TO ALL: hina tous pantas eleese (3SAAS):

That - In order that. God's purpose is expressed. He is a merciful God, a "mercy filled" God! And for that every redeemed Jew and Gentile says "Thank You God!"

Mercy to all - Paul is not saying all will be saved. Paul is not teaching the heresy of "universalism." One interpretation is that Paul is teaching that God's infinite mercies are available to all who would seek them from Him (but see Steven Cole's interpretation below). Yes, most of mankind will reject God's mercy in the process of fitting or preparing themselves for destruction (Ro 9:22, cp Ro 9:17-18) and they are without excuse.

John MacArthur - Man’s sin, manifested in his willful disobedience, provides a means for God to demonstrate the magnitude and graciousness of His mercy. Were there no disobedience, there would be no need for and there could be no expression of God’s mercy. To reveal Himself as merciful, He permitted sin. He has shut up all—the whole world, Jew and Gentile—in disobedience and unbelief in order that He might show mercy to all who repent of their sin and turn to Him for gracious salvation. By His nature, God is a Savior, as seen in Paul’s uses of the phrase “God and Savior” in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. He could not display that feature of His person without allowing for sin and hell. In His sovereign omnipotence, God has allowed man intellectually, morally, and spiritually to fall into a state of sin to the extent that, on his own, he is unable to be convinced of God’s truth, specifically the truth that he is lost and condemned and that he is powerless in himself to change his condition. God allowed man to fall into sin in order that his only hope would be divine mercy. It must be noted that this saving mercy is shown to all. The perfect, satisfactory work of Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection has met the demands of the justice and holiness of God, and thereby has removed every barrier to forgiveness for all, and any person who seeks forgiveness and salvation will receive it. As John Brown observed, God’s revelation of mercy in the gospels refers to men as sinners, not as elect sinners. (Romans. Chicago: Moody Press)

MacDonald explains that "When we first read this verse, we might get the idea that God arbitrarily condemned both Jews and Gentiles to unbelief, and that there was nothing they could do about it. But that is not the thought. The unbelief was their own doing. What the verse is saying is this: having found both Jews and Gentiles disobedient, God is pictured as imprisoning them both in that condition, so that there would be no way out for them except on His terms. This disobedience provided scope for God to have mercy on all, both Jews and Gentiles. There is no suggestion here of universal salvation. God has shown mercy to the Gentiles and will yet show mercy to the Jews also, but this does not insure the salvation of everyone. Here it is mercy shown along national lines. George Williams says: God having tested both the Hebrew and the Gentile nations, and both having broken down under the test, He shut them up in unbelief so that, being manifestly without merit, and having by demonstration forfeited all claims and all rights to divine favor, He might, in the unsearchable riches of His grace, have mercy upon them all. (Believer's Bible Commentary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson)

Do you recall Paul's declaration in Romans 9:6 "But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel (note)."

God had been trying to reach the Jews but for the most part they rejected His Son, the Messiah. Does that mean that God has failed? In this present section of Romans 11, the answer is a categorical "No, God has not failed." Quite to the contrary, He has used Israel's rejection of the Messiah as a means to reach the Gentile world, which He had intended to reach all along. After having shown mercy to the Gentiles, God now uses the very same mercies He has shown to the Gentiles to make the Jews jealous and aware of their rebellion against His Son that they, too, might receive mercy. What keeps anyone from receiving mercy from God? It is a self-righteous, self-confident attitude. "I don't need help. I can handle it myself. I am able to handle all the problems of life on my own. I don't need God." Any individual or nation with that attitude has cut himself off from receiving the mercy of God. So God "has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all."

Steven Cole - To repeat so that you are clear, Paul is not saying (in Ro 11:32) that God will save everyone. Rather, in the context Paul is looking at the broad sweep of history and God’s dealings with the Gentiles and the Jews as groups. He is saying that just as both groups were at various times cut off from God’s mercy because of their disobedience, so both groups will experience His mercy as history unfolds. This does not imply that every individual in each group will be saved, which would contradict what Paul says elsewhere, that some will come under eternal condemnation (2Thes 1:9; 2:12). So “mercy to all” means that just as God is now pouring out His mercy on the Gentiles as a group, so in the future He will pour out His mercy on the Jews as a group. He has designed and He controls all of history to display the glory of His mercy to sinners. (Stand in Awe)

Ray Stedman gives us "an outstanding illustration of this in the fact that… two prominent national figures have remained etched in the public mind as an aftermath of Watergate: Richard Nixon and Charles Colson". Stedman writes that "Charles Colson came to the place where he saw his own rebellion and disobedience to God. He finally came to a place where he was driven to his knees, where he saw that without recognizing it or knowing it, he had been involved in evil things. He began to recognize the extent of it and the control it had in his life. At last he was driven to the place where he openly committed himself to the mercy of God. God changed him. In his book Born Again he tells how God changed him, healed him, delivered him from prison, and sent him out again to have a new life. He is traveling across the country now, telling his story, involved deeply in a great and helpful ministry to prisoners. He is alive (Ed note: Obviously this was written prior to his death on April 22, 1994) and enjoying life to the full. Richard Nixon, on the other hand, has isolated himself in a self-imposed exile in which he refuses to admit he has ever done anything wrong. Tormented with the past, he has become a national pariah, and his life is limited and narrow, crabbed, because he does not yet know of the mercy of God that is available to one who admits disobedience. That is the way God works in history. He is constantly moving in many ways in our individual lives to bring us to an awareness of our self-righteousness and dependence on ourselves. Paul says the Jewish nation has not availed themselves of the righteousness of God. Because they are so determined to establish their own righteousness, they cannot accept the righteousness that comes by faith. That is their problem. (Our Great and Glorious God - Romans 11:25 - 12-1)