I would not - that ye should be ignorant of this mystery - Mystery, μυστηριον, signifies any thing that is hidden or covered, or not fully made manifest. The Greek word seems to have been borrowed from the Hebrew מסתר mistar, from the root סתר sathar, to hide, conceal, etc.; though some derive it from μυεισθαι, to be initiated into sacred rites, from μυειν, to shut up. In the New Testament it signifies, generally, any thing or doctrine that has not, in former times, been fully known to men: or, something that has not been heard of, or which is so deep, profound, and difficult of comprehension, that it cannot be apprehended without special direction and instruction: here it signifies the doctrine of the future restoration of the Jews, not fully known in itself, and not at all known as to the time in which it will take place. In Romans 16:25; it means the Christian religion, not known till the advent of Christ. The apostle wished the Romans not to be ignorant of this mystery, viz. that such a thing was intended; and, in order to give them as much instruction as possible on this subject, he gives them some characteristic or sign of the times when it was to take place.
Lest ye should be wise in your own conceits - It seems from this, and from other expressions in this epistle, that the converted Gentiles had not behaved toward the Jews with that decorum and propriety which the relation they bore to them required. In this chapter the apostle strongly guards them against giving way to such a disposition.
Blindness in part is happened to Israel - Partial blindness, or blindness to a part of them; for they were not all unbelievers: several thousands of them had been converted to the Christian faith; though the body of the nation, and especially its rulers, civil and spiritual, continued opposed to Christ and his doctrine.
Until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in - And this blindness will continue till the Church of the Gentiles be fully completed - till the Gospel be preached through all the nations of the earth, and multitudes of heathens every where embrace the faith. The words πληρωμα των εθνων may be borrowed from the הגוים מלא melo haggoyim, a multitude of nations, which the Septuagint translate by πληθος εθνων . By the πληρωμα, or fullness, a great multitude may be intended, which should be so dilated on every hand as to fill various regions. In this sense the words were understood by Solomon ben Melec, מהם שימלאו הגוים ארצות . The nations of the Gentiles shall be filled with them: the apostle, therefore, seems to give this sense of the mystery - that the Jews will continue in a state of blindness till such time as a multitude of nations, or Gentiles, shall be converted to the Christian faith; and the Jews, hearing of this, shall be excited, by a spirit of emulation, to examine and acknowledge the validity of the proofs of Christianity, and embrace the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We should not restrict the meaning of these words too much, by imagining,
2. We must not suppose that the coming in here mentioned necessarily means, what most religious persons understand by conversion, a thorough change of the whole heart and the whole life: the acknowledgment of the Divine mission of our Lord, and a cordial embracing of the Christian religion, will sufficiently fulfill the apostle's words. If we wait for the conversion of the Jews till such a time as every Gentile and Mohammedan soul shall be, in this especial sense, converted to God, then - we shall wait for ever.
Ignorant of this mystery - The word “mystery” means properly what is “concealed, hidden, or unknown.” And it especially refers, in the New Testament, to the truths or doctrines which God had reserved to himself, or had not before communicated. It does not mean, as with us often, that there was anything unintelligible or inscrutible in the nature of the doctrine itself, for it was commonly perfectly plain when it was made known. Thus, the doctrine, that the division between the Jews and the Gentiles was to be broken down, is called a mystery, because it had been, to the times of the apostles, concealed, and was then revealed fully for the first time; Romans 16:25; Colossians 1:26-27; compare 1 Corinthians 15:51; Mark 4:11; Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 3:3. Thus, the doctrine which the apostle was stating was one that until then had been concealed, or had not been made known. It does not mean that there was anything unintelligible or incomprehensive in it, but until then it had not been made known.
Lest ye should be wise in your own conceits - Paul communicated the truth in regard to this, lest they should attempt to inquire into it; should speculate about the reason why God had rejected the Jews; and should he elated with the belief that they had, by their own skill and genius, ascertained the cause. Rather than leave them to vain speculations and self-gratulation, he chose to cut short all inquiry, by stating the truth about; their present and future state.
Blindness - Or hardness; see Romans 11:7.
In part - Not totally, or entirely. They are not absolutely or completely blinded. This is a qualifying expression; but it does not denote what part or portion, or for what time it is to continue. It means that the blindness in respect to the whole nation was only partial. Some were then enlightened, and had become Christians; and many more would he.
To Israel - To the Jews.
Until the fulness of the Gentiles - The word “fulness” in relation to the Jews is used in Romans 11:12. It means until the abundance or the great multitude of the Gentiles shall be converted. The word is not used elsewhere in respect to the Gentiles; and it is difficult to fix its meaning definitely. It doubtless refers to the future spread of the Gospel among the nations; to the time when it may be said that the great mass, the abundance of the nations, shall be converted to God. At present, they are, as they were in the times of the apostle, idolators, so that the mass of mankind are far from God. But the Scriptures have spoken of a time when the gospel shall spread and prevail among the nations of the earth; and to this the apostle refers. He does not say, however, that the Jews may not be converted until all the Gentiles become Christians; for he expressly supposes Romans 11:12-15 that the conversion of the Jews will have an important influence in extending the gospel among the Gentiles. Probably the meaning is, that this blindness is to continue until great numbers of the Gentiles shall be converted; until the gospel shall be extensively spread; and then the conversion of the Jews will be a part of the rapid spread of the gospel, and will be among the most efficient and important aids in completing the work. If this is the case, then Christians may labor still for their conversion. They may seek that in connection with the effort to convert the pagan; and they may toil with the expectation that the conversion of the Jews and Gentiles will not be separate, independent, and distinct events; but will be inter-mingled, and will be perhaps simultaneous. The word “fulness” may denote such a general turning to God, without affirming that each individual shall be thus converted to the Christian faith.
“Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as He is pure.” Any hope aside and separate from purity and righteousness is a snare of Satan, sophistry, and fatal delusion. Jesus came to our world, and graciously stands inviting us to come unto Him and learn of Him, believe in Him; and as we come, He grafts us into His life and into His character. Our drawing nigh to Christ is faith, and the grafting process is adoption; and by this mutual act we become sons of God and joint heirs with Christ, partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. TSB 135.1Read in context »
The prophet Isaiah, looking down through the centuries and witnessing the rejection of prophet after prophet and finally of the Son of God, was inspired to write concerning the acceptance of the Redeemer by those who had never before been numbered among the children of Israel. Referring to this prophecy, Paul declares: “Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought Me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after Me. But to Israel He saith, All day long I have stretched forth My hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.” AA 375.1
Even though Israel rejected His Son, God did not reject them. Listen to Paul as he continues the argument: “I say then, Hath God cast away His people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew. Wot ye not what the Scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed Thy prophets, and digged down Thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to Myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” AA 375.2
Israel had stumbled and fallen, but this did not make it impossible for them to rise again. In answer to the question, “Have they stumbled that they should fall?” the apostle replies: “God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness? For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: if by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” AA 375.3Read in context »