PASSAGE: “For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29).
COMMENT: Paul is writing to the early church in Rome, where he hopes to be received as he continues his missionary travels. The church in Rome was not one of his congregations, having been established by others, and Paul is outlining his own “message”—his understanding of the ministry of Jesus Christ, since there were many different views prevalent at the time. This particular verse concludes a discussion of the always thorny question of relations between the Jewish faith of Jesus and the new church centered in his teachings. Paul recognizes that “a hardening has come upon part of Israel” (Rom. 11:25) in that they are reacting to the new spiritual energy with fear and resistance. But he is sure that “all Israel will be saved” (11:26) because the promises (the “gifts and the call”) they received through Abraham and Moses cannot be negated.
In fact, Paul feels their resistance may be a good thing in that it helps to strengthen the nascent Christian faith. “Just as you were once disobedient to God but now have received mercy ... so they have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may receive mercy” (11:30). What follows is the comment in verse 33 affirming that however confusing and complicated things may seem to us, there is a divine perspective that sees clearly, knows all and is constantly moving us to our greatest good. It’s equally important for us today, as we encounter resistance to our spiritual path, to recognize that from the perspective of the divine, even that resistance may be a part of our growth process.