Best capturing the evangelical heart of Paul is (C), although (D) is evident from Romans 1:5 and (E) is evident from Romans 15:22-33. Paul makes continual appeals to the unconverted Jew, such as at Romans 2:17-29, Romans 3:1-2, Romans 3:28-31, Romans 4:1, Romans 4:13, and then of course at Romans 9:1-3, in which Paul warns the unconverted Jew of God’s hardening, previously forewarned at Jeremiah 18:1-13. In chapter 11, Paul specifically turns to the Gentile Christians to warn them against pride, in having been grafted into Christ: “But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. ... do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.’ Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.” (Romans 11:13, 18-21) One of the indications that Paul had written Romans from an evangelical spirit, is the love expressed at Romans 9:1-4: “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites.” This objective is crystallized at Romans 11:14: “...if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them.”
One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians explains: “Paul explicitly states that his purpose as an apostle is to ‘bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles (or nations?) for the sake of his name.’ (See James Miller, The Obedience of Faith, The Eschatological People of God, and the Purpose of Romans.) That is Paul’s apostolic mission, but every letter is occasional, meaning it has a purpose anchored within the context of the historical and social situation within which it is written. That the purpose of the letter is tied in some way to Paul’s apostolic mission is evident, but there is much room for discussion here. We also probably need to say that his purpose is multifaceted. If asked to choose from the above list, I would suggest that (C), (D) and (E) are probably closest to how I read the book. However, I might interpret these three items differently than others. But let me suggest one other purpose that I think is often missed. Paul is writing to affirm God’s faithfulness to Israel, even in the light of Jewish unbelief. The language of covenantal faithfulness is scattered throughout the letter, yet we are so focused on how justification (right-wising) works for us, we seldom see it. Paul is vindicating his God - the Jewish God - to an audience that is composed of Gentiles (and others, in my view) who may be suffering from ‘Gentile hubris’ in the light of the rejection of the Messiah by the Jews. This letter historically falls after the Claudius exile and contextually suggests a return of Christian Jews to Rome. The unity of church, and the ministry of the gospel to unbelieving Jews, may be at stake here.” (SEA, emphasis mine)
In chapter 1, Paul identifies with the Jew by pointing out the inferiority of the Gentiles, who in their state of depravity, have been given over to lust. (Romans 1:24) Paul points out that they nevertheless have a conscience (Romans 1:19), and the witness of creation (Romans 1:20), which in a sense, is a Law, similar to the Law that the Jews have. Romans 2:14-16 states: “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.” The Law is a key theme for Paul in identifying with the Jew. Next, Paul deals with specific examples of historic Jews, such as Abraham, David and Moses. We know that Paul is dealing with the Jews because he says at Romans 2:17, “...you bear the name Jew,” and at Romans 4:1, “Abraham...our forefather according to the flesh.” In Romans chapter 9, Paul deals with the matter of the Jewish rejection of God’s Messiah, Jesus Christ, and the answer is because Scripture forewarns of God’s hardening of His people, for their persistent rejection of Him. Paul essentially starts out Romans 9 by saying, If it was up to me, every Jew would be saved, but the reality is that that’s not the case, and God has made good on His threat to harden His people, though according to chapter 11, it’s a partial hardening until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. (Romans 11:25) So the book of Romans has a strong Jewish theme in reaching the Jews for Christ.
Once Paul has established the weight and gravity of the Law, he then shows how it also condemns the Jew as well: “And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?” (Romans 2:2-3) Here Paul makes it clear, that the same condemnation upon the Gentile, also falls upon the Jew as well, as the Jew who finds solace under the Law, then must recognize that the Law judges himself too. Therefore, he can either fall back upon the fact of being a son of Abraham (which Paul deals with in Romans chapter 9), or seek solace elsewhere, namely in Christ, which is the climax of Paul’s argument, which he often repeats.
However, there’s a catch. Citing the Law to a Jew is not an easy way to convict a Jew of their sin. Why? Because the Law is what gives the Jew confidence before God, rather than fear, in being good in God’s sight:
Now introduce the fact that there is no impartiality with God.
This addresses whether simply being a son of Abraham is a safe haven for being a violator of the Law. “For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law [Gentiles], and all who have sinned under the Law [Jews] will be judged by the Law; for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.” (Romans 2:12-13) “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one.’” (Romans 3:9-10) “By the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” In other words, rather than the Law acquitting the Jews of their sin, the Law condemns the Jew, by bringing him the knowledge of his shortcoming before God. Although the Law has failed no one, everyone has failed the Law, and thus everyone stands condemned before God.
The Jew turns to Abraham, Moses and David for defense, so Paul quotes them:
For those who boast of the Law, they must “keep the whole Law.” Again, it’s not the hearers of the Law who receive righteousness from the Law, but the doers of the Law that are justified by the Law, and there are no doers of the Law, since no one has kept it perfectly, as all mankind has fallen short.
The point is that it’s not the Law that makes a man righteous before God. So for a Jew to find comfort in the Law, he has found comfort in an area, not shared by Moses, Abraham or David.
This echoes Paul’s original statement, which points to the source of Abraham’s righteousness, who preceded the Law: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16-17) Quoted from Habakkuk 2:4, the righteousness of the Jew comes from faith, not the Law.
The Jew under the Law has no access to God, and needs a human High Priest, whereas the one who comes to God by Christ, has a perfect High Priest, and in Him, does have access to God.
The Law is still in effect, whereas for the believer, it is not: “For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.” (Romans 4:14-15) “You are not under law but under grace.” (Romans 6:14) This demonstrates that the Law is not to your salvation, but to your condemnation, because it reveals where mankind falls short. Paul even calls it the “law of sin and of death,” from which we are “set free” by the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:2)
Everyone has failed the Law, and thus everyone stands condemned before God, Jew and Gentile alike: “For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.” (Romans 11:32)
In addressing this argument, Paul explains what a true son of Abraham does and is:
Galatians 3:7-9: “Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.”
Romans 4:16: “For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.”
Paul’s objective at this stage of Romans 9 was to develop the backdrop for the illustration of the Olive Tree at Romans 11, in terms of the natural and wild branches, in which the natural branches were being cut off, for a time, so that the wild branches could be grafted in. What Paul was doing in Romans 9 was expressing his sincere passion for his fellow Jews (which was also God’s passion), while highlighting the fact that God was now, as a result of Jewish unbelief, turning to the Gentiles in order to graft them in. Jesus warned the Jews with illustrations that this was going to happen. (Matthew 21:33-45)
The Jews erroneously believed that God’s choice of the Jews was unconditional, and yet recall that John the Baptist had stated: “Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.” (Luke 3:8) Both Ishmael and Esau were descendents of Abraham, and yet the inheritance did not pass through either, so trust simply in that is trust misplaced.
Romans 9:30-33: “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and He who believes in Him will not be disappointed.’”
Daniel Whedon explains: “The early Christian fathers, like Paul, encountered the same doctrine of unconditional election of all Jews.” (Commentary on the New Testament, Vol.III: Acts-Romans, p.350)
Whedon adds: “With this proud expectation of salvation by blood and circumcision--by birth and works--Paul’s Christianity, salvation by faith in Christ, came into deadly issue.” (Commentary on the New Testament, Vol.III: Acts-Romans, p.350, emphasis mine)
Whedon writes: “After expressing profound grief at unbelieving Israel’s downfall (1-5), Paul maintains that from the patriarchs downward it was the spiritual Israel by faith that was accepted, and the false Israel by unfaith that was rejected (6-13) that this accords with Old Testament history (14-18), with the true principles of free-agency and probation (19-24), with ancient prediction (25-29), all presupposing that the law of acceptance by faith and rejection by unfaith underlies the whole history (30-33).” (Commentary on the New Testament, Vol.III: Acts-Romans, pp.350-351, emphasis mine)
Romans 9:18-20: “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?’ On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it?”
Walls and Dongell writes: “...the chief objectors to Paul likely are Jews!” (Why I am Not a Calvinist, p.90, emphasis mine)
That’s exactly right, and exactly what Calvinists get wrong, because they aren’t paying attention to the flow of the dialogue.
Romans 11:25: “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery--so that you will not be wise in your own estimation--that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”
The reason why the Jew cannot play the part of the Job-like fault-finder is because God will win His case in court. “Though everyone else in the world is a liar, God is true. As the Scriptures say, ‘He will be proved right in what he says, and he will win his case in court.’” (Romans 3:4, NLT)
The fact is that God warned Israel of the impending hardening, and Israel threw it back in God’s face, and God appealed to the heathens, if they had ever heard anything of the like: “Therefore thus says the LORD, ‘Ask now among the nations, Who ever heard the like of this? The virgin of Israel has done a most appalling thing.’” (Jeremiah 18:13) Paul quotes Isaiah 65:2 at Romans 10:21: “But as for Israel He says, ‘All the day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.’” God will win His case; hardened Jewish fault-finders will lose, since God the Potter expressly stated that the hardening of Israel was conditional: “At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it. Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it. So now then, speak to the men of Judah and against the inhabitants of Jerusalem saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Behold, I am fashioning calamity against you and devising a plan against you. Oh turn back, each of you from his evil way, and reform your ways and your deeds.”’” (Jeremiah 18:7-11) How is a Jew going to find fault with God the Potter under these circumstances? Paul states: “What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?” (Romans 9:22) God is going to win His case in court, if the hardened Jew seeks to find fault in God.
Romans 9:30-33: “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.’”
Again, the context of Paul’s message is focused on the matter of Jew & Gentile, Law and Faith.
Romans 11:11-12: “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. Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be!”
If the failure of the Jews are riches for the Gentiles, then how much more will the redemption of the Jews be for the Gentiles? Again, this is the summing up of Paul’s message concerning Jews and Gentiles.
Romans 11:22-23: “Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.”
This is why the first 11 chapters of the book of Romans should be understood within a Jew & Gentile context, Law vs. Faith. God has the sovereign right to save whomever He wants, however He wants, and the whomever He wants includes the Gentiles, and the however He wants is by faith, in contrast to the works of the Law. That’s the election of God. That’s also why Romans 9:16 should be understood from the perspective of works of the Law vs. faith, as willing and running do not pertain to faith, but to the works of the Law, and finally, the hardening was both forewarned and conditional.
Arminian, Michael Brown, states: “Let’s think of the structure of Romans. Paul, after his introductory comments, and laying out the centrality of the gospel, beginning in Romans 1:18, begins to talk about the wrath of God and the sinfulness of human beings, and he does that in the 2nd and 3rd chapter, and so he shows both Gentile and Jew under sin, fallen short, and at the end of the 3rd chapter, and through chapters 4 and 5, he lays out justification by faith, and how we come into right relationship with God. In then 6, 7 and 8, he lays out our victory over sin, the ongoing struggle with sin, life in the Spirit, and then 9, 10 and 11, God’s eternal purposes for Israel, and then from 12 to the end, there’s practical application. So we understand that the whole predestination and election discussion is not a central discussion in Paul, here at all. The question is what happened to Israel.” (Dr. Michael Brown with Leighton Flowers on Soteriology101, 26:35-27:25)