I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come to the Gentiles…
Blindness and hardness have come upon Israel, so that they have rejected their Christ, and consequently God has rejected them. They have stumbled, and have missed the way of life. But have they stumbled that they might permanently fall? Can God not work to some other, some better end than this? Shall not even their evil be overruled for good? Such is the question propounded by the apostle here; and in the following verses, glancing with prophetic insight into the promise of the future, he sees and declares the answer. Israel may still be the elect people; its very reprobation works for the world's salvation; how much more shall its re-election!
I. Israel may still be the elect people. God chose them from the first, doubtless for some special fitness of spiritual temperament, to be his chief workers in the world. In Abraham he called them forth; in Isaac, in Jacob, he blessed them. The fathers of the race had worked for him, responding to his election: they were thus holy unto the Lord. But they were only the firstfruits; they were the root. The whole portion of the human race represented by them were to be similarly set apart for God's proposes; the branches springing from that root were to blossom and bear fruit likewise. And so, even in the future, this now unbelieving people might fulfil their primal mission, turning unto the Lord.
II. Israel's reprobation works for the world's salvation. So close is the connection in which Israel stands to the world's salvation, that even now, reprobate people as they are, salvation springs from them, and from the very facts which occasioned their own stumbling. The cross - oh, how has that symbol of shame become the object towards which all the nations turn! "To the Jews a stumbling-block:" nevertheless, Christ crucified draws all men unto him! Their very fall, then, is the riches of the world; their loss the riches of the Gentiles. Out of them, even in their ruin, must the world's deliverance come; for "salvation is of the Jews."
III. What sort of salvation, then, shall be for the world when all Israel shall be saved? This is the final outlook of the apostle's prophecy. And for this he does so glory in his apostleship. For the very salvation of the Gentiles now, without the Jews, must in time provoke the Jews to jealousy; they must one day look on with hungry, wistful eyes as they see the multitudes that have come from the east and west, and north and south, sitting down at the table of God. And when they turn unto their own Christ, and receive the new life of his gospel, oh, what an electric thrill shall pass through the whole world! It shall be, even to the converted Gentile nations, as life from the dead. "The light which converted Jews bring to the Church, and the power of life which they have sometimes awakened in it, are the pledge of that spiritual renovation which will be produced in Gentile Christendom by their entrance en masse. Think, ibr example, again, of the labours of such men as Neander (see Godet, in loc.). The future is full of glorious hope. But meanwhile how much loss is occasioned by their continued unbelief! Let us beware that the purposes of God through us are not in like manner frustrated; that, being designed to some high mission for the world's good, we do not make void the election of God. - T.F.L.
Parallel VersesKJV: I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.