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Commentary On Romans by Jean Calvin

Romans 11:11-15

11. 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.

11. Dico igitur, Num impegerunt ut corruerent? Absit: sed eorum lapsu salus contigit gentibus in hoc, ut ipsi ad aemulationem provocarentur.

12. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?

12. Si vero eorum lapsus divitiae sunt mundi, et imminutio eorum divitiae gentium, quanto magis complementum ipsorum?

13. For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:

13. Vobis enim dico gentibus, quatenus certe ego gentium sum Apostolus, ministerium meum illustror,

14. If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.

14. Si quomodo ad aemulationem provocavero carnem meam, et aliquos ex ea salvos fecero:

15. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?

15. Si enim rejectio eorum, reconciliatio est mundi, quid assumptio nisi vita ex mortius?

11. Have they stumbled, etc. You will be greatly hindered in understanding this argument, except you take notice, that the Apostle speaks sometimes of the whole nation of the Jews, and sometimes of single individuals; for hence arises the diversity, that onewhile he speaks of the Jews as being banished from the kingdom of God, cut off from the tree and precipitated by God's judgment into destruction, and that at another he denies that they had fallen from grace, but that on the contrary they continued in the possession of the covenant, and had a place in the Church of God.

It is then in conformity with this difference that he now speaks; for since the Jews for the most part rejected Christ, so that perverseness had taken hold almost on the whole nation, and few among them seemed to be of a sane mind, he asks the question, whether the Jewish nation had so stumbled at Christ, that it was all over with them universally, and that no hope of repentance remained. Here he justly denies that the salvation of the Jews was to be despaired of, or that they were so rejected by God, that there was to be no future restoration, or that the covenant of grace, which he had once made with them, was entirely abolished, since there had ever remained in that nation the seed of blessing. That we are so to understand his meaning is evident from this, -- that having before connected a sure ruin with blindness, he now gives a hope of rising again; which two things are wholly different. They then, who perversely stumbled at Christ, fell and fell into destruction; yet the nation itself had not fallen, so that he who is a Jew must necessarily perish or be alienated from God.

But by their fall salvation has come to the Gentiles, etc. The Apostle asserts two things in this place, -- that the fall of the Jews had turned out for salvation to the Gentiles; but to this end -- that they might be kindled by a sort of jealousy, and be thus led to repentance. He no doubt had an eye to the testimony of Moses, which he had already quoted, where the Lord threatened Israel, -- that as he had been provoked by them to emulation through their false gods; so he also, according to the law of retaliation, would provoke them by a foolish nation.

The word here used denotes the feeling of emulation or jealousy with which we are excited, when we see another preferred before us. Since then it was the Lord's purpose that Israel should be provoked to emulation, they were not so fallen as to be precipitated into eternal ruin; but that God's blessing, despised by them, might come to the Gentiles, in order that they might at length be also stirred up to seek the Lord, from whom they had fallen away.

But there is no reason for readers to weary themselves much as to the application of this testimony: for Paul does not dwell on the strict meaning of the word, but alludes only to a common and well-known practice. For as emulation stimulates a wife, who for her fault has been rejected by her husband, so that she strives to be reconciled again; so it may be now, he says, that the Jews, seeing the Gentiles introduced into their place, will be touched with grief for their divorce, and seek reconciliation.

12. And if their fall, etc. As he had taught us that after the Jews were repudiated, the Gentiles were introduced in their place, that he might not make the salvation of the Jews to be disliked by the Gentiles, as though their salvation depended on the ruin of the Jews, he anticipates this false notion, and lays down a sentiment of an opposite kind, that nothing would conduce more to advance the salvation of the Gentiles, than that the grace of God should flourish and abound among the Jews. To prove this, he derives an argument from the less, -- |If their fall had raised the Gentiles, and their diminution had enriched them, how much more their fullness?| for the first was done contrary to nature, and the last will be done according to a natural order of things. And it is no objection to this reasoning, that the word of God had flowed to the Gentiles, after the Jews had rejected, and, as it were, cast it from them; for if they had received it, their faith would have brought forth much more fruit than their unbelief had occasioned; for the truth of God would have been thereby confirmed by being accomplished in them, and they also themselves would have led many by their teaching, whom they, on the contrary, by their perverseness, had turned aside.

Now he would have spoken more strictly correct, if, to the fall, he had opposed rising: of this I remind you, that no one may expect here an adorned language, and may not be offended with this simple mode of speaking; for these things were written to mold the heart and not the tongue.

13. For to you Gentiles I speak, etc. He confirms by a strong reason, that nothing shall be lost by the Gentiles, were the Jews to return again to favor with God; for he shows, that the salvation of both is so connected, that it can by the same means be promoted. For he thus addresses the Gentiles, -- |Though I am peculiarly destined to be your Apostle, and ought therefore with special care to seek your salvation, with which I am charged, and to omit as it were all other things, and to labor for that only, I shall yet be faithfully discharging my office, by gaining to Christ any of my own nation; and this will be for the glory of my ministry, and so for your good.| For whatever served to render Paul's ministry illustrious, was advantageous to the Gentiles, whose salvation was its object.

And here also he uses the verb parazelosai, to provoke to emulation, and for this purpose, that the Gentiles might seek the accomplishment of Moses' prophecy, such as he describes, when they understood that it would be for their benefit.

14. And save, etc. Observe here that the minister of the word is said in some way to save those whom he leads to the obedience of faith. So conducted indeed ought to be the ministry of our salvation, as that we may feel that the whole power and efficacy of it depends on God, and that we may give him his due praise: we ought at the same time to understand that preaching is an instrument for effecting the salvation of the faithful, and though it can do nothing without the Spirit of God, yet through his inward operation it produces the most powerful effects.

15. For if their rejections, etc. This passage, which many deem obscure, and some awfully pervert, ought, in my view, to be understood as another argument, derived from a comparison of the less with the greater, according to this import, |Since the rejection of the Jews has availed so much as to occasion the reconciling of the Gentiles, how much more effectual will be their resumption? Will it not be to raise them even from the dead?| For Paul ever insists on this, that the Gentiles have no cause for envy, as though the restoration of the Jews to favor were to render their condition worse. Since then God has wonderfully drawn forth life from death and light from darkness, how much more ought we to hope, he reasons, that the resurrection of a people, as it were, wholly dead, will bring life to the Gentiles. It is no objection what some allege, that reconciliation differs not from resurrection, as we do indeed understand resurrection in the present instance, that is, to be that by which we are translated from the kingdom of death to the kingdom of life, for though the thing is the same, yet there is more force in the expression, and this a sufficient answer.

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