Is Paul referring to particular people when he speaks of elect Jews who are nonetheless enemies of the gospel?

KJV Rom 11:25  For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.  Rom 11:26  And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:  Rom 11:27  For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.  Rom 11:28  As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes.  Rom 11:29  For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.  Rom 11:30  For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:  Rom 11:31  Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. Rom 11:32  For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.  Rom 11:33  O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!  Rom 11:34  For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?  Rom 11:35  Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?  Rom 11:36  For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

Who are "they"?

Part of the background of this question is the strong messages in the gospels that God does not respect persons:

KJV Mat 3:7  But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Mat 3:8  Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:  Mat 3:9  And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.  Mat 3:10  And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.  Mat 3:11  I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:  Mat 3:12  Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

Paul seems to suggest that parentage counts while John seems to discount it.

  • Count towards what exactly? Salvation no, receiving the truth sure. Jul 5, 2021 at 15:16

7 Answers 7


Paul does not say that they are "elect jews", rather, he says "With respect to election, they are dearly loved for the sake of the Fathers" (e.g. Patriarchs). Whether being "dearly loved" translates into them having the status of "elect" is an open question.

So Paul is ambiguous, as he says on the one hand "all Israel shall be saved", but on the other, he talks of Israel as a corporate body (a tree) from which individual members can be cut off. So this could be interpreted in a number of ways:

  • that the "true" Israel -- that is, believers -- will be saved, and the rest will not be counted as part of "Israel". This interpretation is supported by Romans 11.23, which requires a condition of belief ("And those also, if they do not persist in unbelief, will be grafted in, because God is able to graft them in again.")

  • That all Israel will be saved anyway (as per Romans 11.32 "For God confined them all in disobedience, in order that he could have mercy on them all.")

  • that all members of Israel at some point in the future will come to believe and thus they will be saved, as per Romans 11.25 ("For I do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of this mystery, so that you will not be wise in your own sight, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in")

And even more interpretations are possible. As Paul points concludes in Romans 11.33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how incomprehensible are his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given in advance to him, and it will be paid back to him?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory for eternity!

So given that we are in this ambiguous position where someone may or may not be elect, but is "dearly loved" for the sake election, what is meant by "With respect to the gospel, they are enemies for your sake". Well the clear meaning here is that because of their refusal, the opportunity was created for gentiles to be grafted in:

But by their trespass, salvation has come to the Gentiles, in order to provoke them to jealousy. Rom 11.11b

Thus the purpose of allowing gentiles to be grafted into the tree of Israel is to provoke Israel-after-the-flesh to jealousy, and thus their trespass creates riches for the rest of the world (Rom 11.12a).

This can also be viewed in the Parable of the Wedding feast (Matt 22.1-4), where the original guests refused the wedding invitation and so the wedding was opened up to everyone, both bad and good. The only requirement was having the right garment. Here in this parable also, it is the refusal of the original guests that opened up the opportunity for everyone to come to the wedding feast. In this way, though jews are enemies of the gospel, they are such enemies for the sake of the gentiles.


As for Romans 11, the explicitly mentions who 'they' are (v. 25, 30):

... blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in ... For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief.

In Matthew 3 (Cf. Jn 15), John the Baptis is banishing any notion of 'genetic exemption from living righteously' (v. 8-10):

Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham for our father ... the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

It's not contradictory because God's love of the children on account of their forefathers is not necessarily salvific. If anything, it make their rejection of the Saviour all the more tragic: "He came unto his own and his own recieved him not" (Jn 1:11).

  • Would you say then that the gifts and calling that are without repentance are for Israel as a whole and not for individuals?
    – Ruminator
    Apr 14, 2018 at 14:50
  • I think 'in part' refers to the large portion of (physical) Israel who rejected Christ, and obviously not the believing Israel (Rom 11:7). Since Paul teaches that those in Christ, the Seed of Abraham(Gal 3:16), are the Israel of God, not just physical descendants of Abraham (Cf. Rom 9:6-7; 11:17,20-21; Gal 3:29 etc). 'The gifts of God are without repetnance' I think refers to what Paul says before about them being loved for the sake of their forefathers: "for." i.e. the gifts are being given to the true Israel, their true descendants; Jews and Gentiles in Christ. Apr 14, 2018 at 15:05
  • So by "they" he means "we/us"? I don't at all buy that he has gentiles in mind at all.
    – Ruminator
    Apr 14, 2018 at 15:12
  • No, he means the portion of physical Israel who rejected the Christ. For obvious reasons, he doesn't include himself among such. Apr 14, 2018 at 15:14
  • Well I know this is controversial but it seems to me he is distinguishing between the branches that were cut off and will be regrafted from the ones who are elect, not cut off but not partakers of the gospel. IE: faithful Jews. It is easier to understand what I'm saying with a picture. Perhaps I'll draw one.
    – Ruminator
    Apr 14, 2018 at 15:20

In Romans 11:28 to whom does, Paul refer when he speaks of elect Jews who are enemies of the gospel?

The elect Jews are those that have chosen to respond favourably to the teachings of Jesus, the majority however of their countrymen proved to be the enemies of th gospel.

True, time and again they proved unfaithful and, in the first century C.E., t)he majority rejected the promised Messiah. Nevertheless, a remnant responded favorably. The fact that their fellow countrymen proved to be enemies of the “good news” did not prejudice God’s view of the believing remnant. Also, this did not change the fact that the forefathers had served Jehovah loyally. Hence, the apostle Paul could write: "( Rom 11:28-29 NET)" In regard to the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but in regard to election they are dearly loved for the sake of the fathers. 29 For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable."

Yes, the faithful Jewish remnant was beloved of God despite the unbelief of the majority

No, that is not what Paul was saying. As a nation, the natural descendants of Abraham rejected Jesus as the Messiah. And in the years following Jesus’ death, it became clear that there would be no wholesale conversion of Jews to Christianity. Still, Paul’s statement that ‘all Israel would be saved’ was true. In what way?

Jesus said to the Jewish religious leaders of his day: “The kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a nation producing its fruits.” (Matt. 21:43) Because the nation of Israel as a whole rejected Jesus, Jehovah would turn his attention to a new nation, a spiritual one. Paul called this nation “the Israel of God.”​—Gal. 6:16.

  • Your Answer is of no help in explaining "so all Israel will be saved, as it is written etc." (Rom 11:26 - emphasis added) Jul 8, 2021 at 9:13
  • Romans 11:26 Refers to the spiritual"Israel of God" All spiritual Israel, “the Israel of God.” (Ga 6:16; Ro 2:29) God’s purpose is to have 144,000 spiritual Israelites in a saved condition and ruling with His Son in heaven. That purpose will be fulfilled “in this manner,” namely, by figuratively grafting in branches from the “wild olive” to fulfill God’s purpose to have his “garden olive tree” full of productive branches. (Ro 11:17-25; Re 7:4; 14:1, 3) This involved admitting Gentile Christians to be part of spiritual Israel. Please note additional two paragraphs Jul 8, 2021 at 9:50
  • I don't agree. See my Answer. Jul 8, 2021 at 15:44

I think simply they are enemies at present (not following Jesus) for your sake (so that the gospel would go to 'you' as a gentile) but they are beloved (chosen before God before the foundation of the world Ephesians 1:3) and will be called back to him (partial hardening upon Israel).

So Jewish non believers who will believe in time.


Instead of breaking the book into divided portions, the letters in Romans were possibly written by Paul to a small community of recently persecuted Jews likely living somewhat in hiding out in the desert or in hiding at least. Also the structure of Hall's conversation towards this Community suggests that they had also heard about the Good News/ Gospel. Therefore, what can be misunderstood as double-talk coming from Paul is instead a more clever literary device or play on words. The Jewish nation is comprised of the people however the individual is a separate entity from the nation. Both are Jew but separate in this case, Following this train of thought, Paul's commentary targets the individuals themselves as well as the entire nation of which each of the individuals are also a part. God continues to use this divine inspiration spoken through Paul to ultimately be a final message to the elect during the time of Sorrows. It is to those Jews who have yet but will ultimately repent and accept Jesus as their lord and savior. The Messiah has already come once, and was rejected, not by all of the Jewish people but by the nation as a whole. So many times throughout the Old Testament God has provided his chosen people to have a nother chance followed by another chance, albeit with long suffering in between. The ultimate point is to drive home to each individual Jew as a person that this time when Jesus the Messiah returns there are no more chances left so individually the each had better get it right this time.

  • 1
    1. Please use separate paragraphs for each point of your argument (not just a 'wall of text'.) 2. Please add citations to supportive references, otherwise the whole of your answer is just opinion and not established and substantiated evidence. Welcome to BH.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 29, 2018 at 13:34

You are confusing the kind of election of the enemies of God (because of their unbelief), who are elected and chosen, with an irrevocable covenant. The context of Romans 9-11 is about Israel as a nation. The national covenant and promises with Israel as unconditional, unilateral with Abraham, and it is independent with the salvation covenant which is bilateral between God and the individuals on the conditions and precepts. In other words, the national promises of restoration of Israel, national election as a special people have nothing to do with the salvation covenant; many of them go to hell, despite being chosen member of the holy nation. See Genesis 15. When Paul mentions the promises in election, he is merely repeating the old promises that God has not rejected his people due to their unbelief, absolutely not. His love and promises to his nation has not changed (Rom 11:1).

[ESV Jer 31:35-37] Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the LORD of hosts is his name: ​“If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the LORD, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever.” Thus says the LORD: “If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the LORD.”


First off, the summary of the question ...

In Romans 11:28 to whom does Paul refer when he speaks of elect Jews who are enemies of the gospel?

... is a poor summary of the verse:

κατὰ μὲν τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ἐχθροὶ δι’ ὑμᾶς, κατὰ δὲ τὴν ἐκλογὴν ἀγαπητοὶ διὰ τοὺς πατέρας·


Regarding the Gospel, [they are] enemies because of you, but regarding the election [they are] beloved because of the[ir] fathers.

So the point of the verse is not that only some Jews (the ones that have chosen Jesus as their Messiah) are part of "a new nation, a the spiritual one", but that "a dullness in part has happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles may come in" (Rom 11:25).

Paul is clearly not speaking (not only, anyway) of the Israel of his day, but is pointing prophetically to the future, when "all Israel" (all those of Israel that God will choose) will "receive mercy" (Rom 11:31).

It is worthwhile, IMO, to quote here the footnote appended by NET Bible to Rom 11:31 ...

1tc Some important Alexandrian and Western mss (א B D*,c 1506 pc bo) read νῦν (nun, “now”) here. A few other mss (33 365 pc sa) have ὕστερον (husteron, “finally”). mss that lack the word are Ì46 A D2 F G Ψ 1739 1881 Ï latt. External evidence slightly favors omission with good representatives from the major texttypes, and because of the alliance of Alexandrian and Byzantine mss (with the Byzantine going against its normal tendency to embrace the longer reading). Internally, scribes could have added νῦν here to give balance to the preceding clause (οὗτοι νῦν ἠπείθησαν…αὐτοὶ νῦν ἐλεηθῶσιν [houtoi nun ēpeithēsan … autoi nun eleēthōsin; “they have now been disobedient … they may now receive mercy”]). However, it seems much more likely that they would have deleted it because of its seeming inappropriateness in this context. That some witnesses have ὕστερον presupposes the presence of νῦν in their ancestors. A decision is difficult, but νῦν is slightly preferred [sic!], since it is the more difficult reading and is adequately represented in the mss. [added]

... because it shows how divided the scribes where in interpreting Paul's words on the salvation of "all Israel" as a promise of God's mercy for "now" (νῦν) or to be applied "finally" (ὕστερον).

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