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Commentary On Romans by Jean Calvin

Romans 11:28-32

28. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes.

28. Secundum Evangelium quidem inimici propter vos; secundum electionem vero dilecti propter Patres:

29. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

29. Sine poenitentia enim sunt dona et vocatio Del.

30. For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:

30. Quemadmodum enim vos quoque increduli fuistis Deo, nunc autem misericordiam estis consequuti istorum incredulitate:

31. Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.

31. Sic et ii nunc increduli facti sunt, eo quod adepti estis misericordiam, ut ipsi quoque misericordiam consequantur.

32. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

32. Concludit enim Deus omnes sub incredulitate, ut omnium misereatur.

28. With regard indeed to the gospel, etc. He shows that the worst thing in the Jews ought not to subject them to the contempt of the Gentiles. Their chief crime was unbelief: but Paul teaches us, that they were thus blinded for a time by God's providence, that a way to the gospel might be made for the Gentiles; and that still they were not for ever excluded from the favor of God. He then admits, that they were for the present alienated from God on account of the gospel, that thus the salvation, which at first was deposited with them, might come to the Gentiles; and yet that God was not unmindful of the covenant which he had made with their fathers, and by which he testified that according to his eternal purpose he loved that nation: and this he confirms by this remarkable declaration, -- that the grace of the divine calling cannot be made void; for this is the import of the words, --

29. The gifts and calling of God are without repentance. He has mentioned gifts and calling; which are to be understood, according to a figure in grammar, as meaning the gift of calling: and this is not to be taken for any sort of calling but of that, by which God had adopted the posterity of Abraham into covenant; since this is especially the subject here, as he has previously, by the word, election, designated the secret purpose of God, by which he had formerly made a distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles. For we must bear this in mind, -- that he speaks not now of the election of individuals, but of the common adoption of the whole nation, which might seem for a time, according to the outward appearance, to have failed, but had not been cut up by the roots. As the Jews had fallen from their privilege and the salvation promised them, that some hope might remain to the remnant, Paul maintains that the purpose of God stands firm and immovable, by which he had once deigned to choose them for himself as a peculiar nation. Since then it cannot possibly be, that the Lord will depart from that covenant which he made with Abraham,

|I will be the God of thy seed,| (Genesis 17:7,)

it is evident that he has not wholly turned away his kindness from the Jewish nation.

He does not oppose the gospel to election, as though they were contrary the one to the other, for whom God has chosen he calls; but inasmuch as the gospel had been proclaimed to the Gentiles beyond the expectation of the world, he justly compares this favor with the ancient election of the Jews, which had been manifested so many ages before: and so election derives its name from antiquity; for God had in past ages of the world chosen one people for himself.

On account of the Fathers, he says not, because they gave any cause for love, but because God's favor had descended from them to their posterity, according to the tenor of the covenant, |Thy God and the God of thy seed.| How the Gentiles had obtained mercy through the unbelief of the Jews, has been before stated, namely, that God, being angry with the Jews for their unbelief, turned his kindness to them. What immediately follows, that they became unbelievers through the mercy manifested to the Gentiles, seems rather strange; and yet there is in it nothing unreasonable; for Paul assigns not the cause of blindness, but only declares, that what God transferred to the Gentiles had been taken away from the Jews. But lest what they had lost through unbelief, should be thought by the Gentiles to have been gained by them through the merit of faith, mention is made only of mercy. What is substantially said then is, -- that as God purposed to show mercy to the Gentiles, the Jews were on this account deprived of the light of faith.

32. For God has shut up, etc. A remarkable conclusion, by which he shows that there is no reason why they who have a hope of salvation should despair of others; for whatever they may now be, they have been like all the rest. If they have emerged from unbelief through God's mercy alone, they ought to leave place for it as to others also. For he makes the Jews equal in guilt with the Gentiles, that both might understand that the avenue to salvation is no less open to others than to them. For it is the mercy of God alone which saves; and this offers itself to both. This sentence then corresponds with the testimony of Hosea, which he had before quoted, |I will call those my people who were not my people.| But he does not mean, that God so blinds all men that their unbelief is to be imputed to him; but that he hath so arranged by his providence, that all should be guilty of unbelief, in order that he might have them subject to his judgment, and for this end, -- that all merits being buried, salvation might proceed from his goodness alone.

Paul then intends here to teach two things -- that there is nothing in any man why he should be preferred to others, apart from the mere favor of God; and that God in the dispensation of his grace, is under no restraint that he should not grant it to whom he pleases. There is an emphasis in the word mercy; for it intimates that God is bound to none, and that he therefore saves all freely, for they are all equally lost. But extremely gross is their folly who hence conclude that all shall be saved; for Paul simply means that both Jews and Gentiles do not otherwise obtain salvation than through the mercy of God, and thus he leaves to none any reason for complaint. It is indeed true that this mercy is without any difference offered to all, but every one must seek it by faith.

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