By Charles H. Welch

This great word underlies the whole purpose of grace, and mainly belongs to doctrine, but it is used in Romans 9 to 11 in the exposition of Dispensational Truth, as it pertains to that part of the purpose of God that relates to Israel, and we therefore give an analysis of these three great chapters together with a few comments on those passages which speak of election, but necessarily leave the great question of Election itself untouched. The matter will come up again when we deal with the peculiar constitution of the Church of the one Body when examining the distinctive teaching of Ephesians, and again when dealing with the word Predestination. Romans 9 to 11 is bounded at either end with the tremendous thought that ‘God is over all’ (Rom. 9:4,5 and 11:33-35).

We must first of all obtain a view of these chapters as a whole.

Romans 9 to 11

A 9:1-5. Sorrow.
                Doxology. ‘Over all (panton), God blessed unto the ages’ (9:5).

B 9:6-29. The Remnant saved. Mercy on some.
                  Corrective as to ‘all Israel’ (9:6).

C 9:30 to 11:10. The stumbling stone. The Lord of all that believe.
                             Christ the end of the law. No difference.

B 11:11-32. All Israel saved. Mercy on them all.
                      Corrective as to the Remnant (11:1-5).

A 11:33-35. Song.
                      Doxology ‘Of Him, through Him, and to Him are all things
                      (ta panta). To Him be glory unto the ages’ (11:36).

The Nation and the Remnant

The fact that the bulk of the nation was in a state of unbelief at the time that Paul wrote, did not in any way throw doubt upon the accuracy of prophecy, and the promises. Rather the reverse, for there are a number of references in the Old Testament to Israel’s apostasy, and the preservation of a remnant. Isaiah, in a day of departure, speaks of this remnant in 1:9; 10:21,22, etc., and is quoted in Romans 9:27 :

‘Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved’.

On the day of Pentecost, Peter omitted the close of Joel 2:32 because the appeal was to the nation. Subsequent events, however, proved that what Joel had prophesied was fulfilled. The omitted words ‘and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call’ were applicable then, and will again be true in the future day of Israel’s restoration. When, therefore, we read in Romans 11:26, ‘and so all Israel shall be saved’ we must read the words ‘all Israel’ in the light of Romans 9:6-9. The ‘all Israel’ that shall be saved is not co-extensive with the total number of Abraham’s descendants, but indicates a definite company - ‘children of promise’, a ‘reckoned seed’.

Dispensational not Doctrinal

Had the apostle, when writing Romans 9, intended to discuss the doctrines of free will, and eternal election and reprobation, he would have been obliged to have introduced many different arguments. His purpose in this chapter is much simpler. He is pointing out that the whole history of the people of Israel is the outworking of an elective purpose, and that if this elective purpose is satisfied for the moment by the salvation of a remnant, then there can be no truth in the suggestion that the Word of God has failed. When seen in their true context, the words ‘hate’ and ‘love’ in verse 13 create no insuperable difficulty, but if the apostle’s object in Romans 9 is misunderstood, then we must expect confusion, and the inevitable evils that flow from a false representation of the sovereignty of God. Just as the advocates of eternal punishment can only find a basis for their dreadful creed by ignoring the qualifying statements of Scripture, and applying what is peculiar and limited to what is universal, so in Romans 9, we can only build up the Calvinistic doctrine of eternal reprobation, with the allied error which regards sin as part of the Divine decree, if we fail to see that Paul is here dealing with the dispensational question of Israel’s rejection and failure. We give the structure of the passage just considered.

The remnant, and the Word of God (Romans 9:6-13)



a All out of Israel, these are not all Israel.

b The seed of Abraham, these are not all children.

c In Isaac the seed shall be called.

a The children of the flesh, these are not the children of God.

b The children of promise.

c Counted for a seed.



a At this time.

b Will I return.

c Sarah shall have a son.



a Rebekah ... Isaac. Common parentage.

b Purpose according to election.

c Greater, lesser, loved, hated.

The rejection of the Jewish people in the apostle’s own time was no more contrary to the promises of God than the rejection of the ten tribes who were carried away into captivity by the Assyrians; for though the number carried away were like the sand in multitude, a remnant returned. Instead of reproaching God with the smallness of the remnant, the apostle says that we should rather be glad to think that a remnant had been spared at all, for as Isaiah has already said, the people had become like Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Lord, apart from His sovereign will, might have left them also to perish.

Before concluding, let us review this intensely difficult passage in broad outline.

Romans 9:6-29

First Proposition

God’s promise has not been broken by the failure and rejection of the bulk of Israel (6-13).

  1. The children of ABRAHAM (7-9).
    Everything depends upon what we understand by ‘Israel’. We have Abraham’s children, Ishmael and Isaac, but in Isaac the seed was called.
  2. The children of ISAAC (10-13).
    The purpose of God according to election was signally manifested in the choice of Jacob, and the rejection of Esau.

Second Proposition

God is therefore just when He shows mercy on some, and allows others to go the natural road to perdition. This is later proved from the argument from ‘the same lump’ (14-18).

  1. As to MERCY. - This prerogative is claimed by God Himself in Exodus 33.
  2. As to HARDENING. - This is written large in His dealings with Pharaoh.

Third Proposition

God, therefore, has always acted in accordance with His sovereignty, and in harmony with Old Testament Scripture (19-29).

  1. Man, as a creature, has no right or power to reply to God.
  2. God has dealt with ‘vessels of wrath’ and ‘vessels of mercy’ according to His sovereign will.

Fourth Proposition

In the inclusion of Gentiles and the saving of a remnant of Israel, God is acting in harmony with Old Testament Scripture.

  1. Quotation from Hosea. - He calls a people ‘My people’ who once were ‘not My people’.
  2. Quotation from Isaiah. - He saved but a remnant at the captivity of Israel years before.

Structure of Romans 9:14-29

The Sovereignty of God Established.


                 PHARAOH AND HARDENING.

Divine election established from the law.



Divine election, an essential prerogative of the
Creator, illustrated from common usage.


                 ISAIAH - REMNANT.

The purpose of Divine election further
illustrated from the Prophets.

The two apparently opposite aspects of truth represented by sovereignty and responsibility meet together in Romans 11:1,2, summed up in the word ‘foreknew’. (See articles on PREDESTINATION, and PURPOSE).

Were the Bible nothing but Romans 9:14-29 we might all be Calvinists. Were it nothing but Romans 10, we might all be Arminians. As it is, we cannot be either to the exclusion of the other, for each system contains an element of truth, in spite of the admixture of error.

Discovering the Structure

Romans 9:30 to 10:21 deals with the question of Israel and righteousness, and it has been suggested that the subject is handled in a threefold way: Israel’s failure in spite of the prophets (9:30-33); Israel’s failure in spite of the law (10:1-11); and Israel’s failure in spite of the gospel (10:14-21). Upon examination, however, it would seem that this subdivision of the subject-matter is not justified. It will be observed that the apostle uses twice over one particular quotation from the prophet Isaiah: ‘Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed’ (Rom. 9:33; 10:11). This fact must certainly be given a place in any structural outline. Further, we notice that the Greek word skandalon ‘offence’ (Rom. 9:33) and ‘stumbling block’ (Rom. 11:9,10), is used in two passages with evident and intentional parallelism. This, too, must find a place in the structure, and extends the section beyond the limits of Romans 10. Again, we observe that the subject-matter of Romans 9:30-32, the fact that the Gentiles attained what they did not follow after - is echoed in Romans 11:6,7. These items are decisive, and demand recognition. We accordingly give them their place in the structure, which is as follows:

Romans 9:30 to 11:10

‘The Election hath obtained It’

A 9:30-32. a What shall we say then?

    b Gentiles followed not; yet attained.
        Israel followed; yet attained not.

c Faith versus Works.

B 9:33. Skandalon. The rock of offence.

C 9:33. Kataischuno. Whoso believeth, not ashamed.

D 10:1-10.  d Paul’s prayer for Israel.

     e Israel ignorant and not submissive.

f The word of faith which we preach.

C 10:11. Kataischuno. Whoso believeth, not ashamed.

D 10:12 to 11:3.  f The word of faith that was preached.

d Elijah’s intercession against Israel.

     e Israel gainsaying and murderous.

A 11:4-7. a What saith the oracle of God.

c Grace versus Works.

    b Israel seek, but obtain not.
        Election obtain.

B 11:9,10. Skandalon. The stumbling stone.

In the earlier verses of Romans 11 the apostle has shown that the failure of the bulk of the nation of Israel in no way invalidates God’s purpose of His faithfulness. We have seen that the prophets foretold ‘a remnant according to the election of grace’, and we also learn that the defection of Israel has been overruled to bring about the reconciliation of the Gentile world. Looking on to the close of the chapter, we find that ‘all Israel’ shall be saved, because ‘the gifts and calling of God are without repentance’. The words ‘all Israel’, ‘Jacob’ and ‘Zion’ together with the prophecy alluded to, preclude our making any deduction from these verses but one - namely, the national restoration and blessing of Israel according to the terms of the New Covenant.

Quite a number of questions suggest themselves as we read this section, but it is evident that the apostle, when he wrote about the olive tree, had no intention of introducing a theological argument at this point. He had one and only one purpose before him - to show, by the figure of the olive tree, how the Lord had used Gentile believers, in order, if it were possible, to ‘provoke’ the nation of Israel ‘to emulation’. This, and this only, is the reason for introducing the figure, and the recognition of this will save us from almost endless argument as to the ultimate destiny of the branches that remained.

Before attempting any exposition of these verses, it will be wise to see what particular parts of the passage are emphasized by the structure, which we set out opposite:

Romans 11:11-32


B c 11. PROVOKE. ‘If’.

d 12. FULNESS of Israel.

    c 13-15. PROVOKE. ‘If’.


    c 17-24. PROVOKE. ‘If’.

d 25. FULNESS of Gentiles.


B e 26. All Israel shall be saved.

       f 26. Deliverer: turn away ungodliness.

g 27. The covenant.

    h 28. Enemies. Gospel. For your sakes.

    h 28. Beloved. Election. For the fathers’ sakes.

g 29. The gifts and calling.

        f 32. Concluded in unbelief.

     e 32. Mercy upon them all.

It is evident that the apostle is speaking here of the dispensational aspect of truth, for no Gentile could be justified by being placed in the position forfeited by one of the natural branches of Israel’s olive tree. No believer, who is justified by faith, can ever be separated from the love of God, or can ever be condemned (Rom. 8), so that the threat of excision in Romans 11:22 must refer to the dispensational position which then obtained.

The introduction of the figure of the olive tree, especially the strange use of the grafting of a wild olive, is considered separately under the title OLIVE TREE. We pass on here to the conclusion of the question of the bearing of election on the dispensational place of Israel. At the first advent, the bulk of the nation rejected the Saviour, and but a remnant according to election was saved, but at the consummation ‘All Israel shall be saved’ (Rom. 11:26). This is in fulfilment of the terms of the New Covenant, and fully recognizes the sinful character of this elect people, while magnifying the sovereignty of electing grace.

‘As concerning the gospel, they are ENEMIES for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are BELOVED for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance’ (Rom. 11:28,29).

Thus this dispensational chapter opens with sorrow and ends with song. At the beginning is set out in detail the privilege of Israel ‘according to the flesh’ but at the end the salvation of Israel by sovereign grace. The elect remnant, like the Pentecostal harvest were a kind of firstfruits, a pledge of the great ingathering when Israel shall look upon Him Whom they pierced, and become at long last a kingdom of priests in the earth. For a fuller dealing of the place of Israel in the purpose of the ages, see ISRAEL.

An Alphabetical Analysis

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