I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed Your prophets, they have torn down Your alters, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.” But what is the divine response to him? “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to baal.” In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; just as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes to see not and ears to hear not, down to this very day.” And David says, “Let their table become a snare and a trap, and a stumbling block and a retribution to them.”
John Calvin comments: “Indeed one passage from Paul suffices to put a stop to all controversy. God, he says, declines to repudiate His people whom He foreknew (Rom 11:2). And shortly after he declares what this knowledge was, that there was a remnant saved according to the election of grace (v.5). He says again (v.7) that Israel did not by works obtain what it sought, but election did obtain it. What he called foreknowledge in the first passage, he afterwards defines as election--and that gratuitous.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, pp.71-72, emphasis mine)
John Calvin comments: “Paul, however, attempts to prove here that it is not those whose wickedness has earned it who are blinded, but those who were rejected by God before the foundation of the world. We may solve this difficulty briefly in the following way. It is the perversity of our nature when forsaken by God that is the source of the ungodliness which thus provokes His fury. In speaking, therefore, of eternal reprobation, Paul has intentionally referred to the consequences which proceed from it as fruit from the tree or the river from its source.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.244, emphasis mine)
John Calvin adds: “Indeed, the cause of eternal reprobation is so hidden from us, that we can do nothing else but wonder at the incomprehensible counsel of God, as we shall see at length from Paul’s conclusion.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.244, emphasis mine)
If “the rest were hardened” signified the eternal reprobation of the alleged non-elect, then how is it that they can still become saved?
- Recall that for the hardened Jews, Paul turned to the Gentiles so as to make these very same ones jealous so that they may be saved: “I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.” (Romans 11:11) “If somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them.” (Romans 11:14)
- If this had referred to an eternal reprobation, then how would they be able to be grafted back in: “And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.” (Romans 11:23)
- If this had referred to an eternal reprobation, then how is it that the hardening is said to be “partial” until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in? (Romans 11:25)
- If this had referred to an eternal reprobation, then how could they still be part of God’s election: “From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:28-29)
- If this had referred to an eternal reprobation, then how is God still able to show them mercy: “For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.” (Romans 11:20-32)
The Calvinist argument is that the hardened Jews can still be saved and grafted back in if they happen to be elect among the Jews. However, if any of the hardened of Romans chapter’s 9-11 may be saved, then they cannot represent the fixed “non-elect” reprobate of Calvinism.
John F. Parkinson comments: “Israel had not obtained the blessing it was seeking for, but the elect had obtained it. A number of Jews had been saved, and Paul emphasises that they were saved by grace and not by works. The elect in this context is therefore the believing Jew.” (The Faith of God’s Elect, p.21)