(I’m tired. Tired equals less words. You’re welcome.)
(B) Next, discuss how you understand this passage to relate to the previous argument of Romans. How does this passage reveal the content of “the gospel”? (How does this passage expound upon the theme of the “righteousness of God”? Where else do we see mention of the “gifts and calling of God” [11:29] throughout the epistle? How might the claim that God “consigned all to disobedience, in order that he may have mercy on all” [11:32] relate to possible parallel notions in 7:13 and 8:3?)
I understand this 11:1-32 passage to relate to the previous argument of Romans simply by stating that Paul will have no part in a theology that implies God will not keep promises. If God won’t prove faithful to promises made throughout Israel’s history, so too no one (then or now) will have good reason to expect God will keep the ones made through Christ. The reliability, fidelity, and righteousness of God remains a fundament of Paul’s teaching. I don’t think he develops much of an argument in response to the question in 11:1 (“Has God rejected his people?”) because it’s pretty simple for him – God cannot have rejected the people “whom he foreknew” (11:2) quite simply, because “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (11:29). Again, God is righteous. Therefore, as a result, Paul can assuredly claim that “all Israel will be saved” (11:26) and will experience “full inclusion” (11:12) in God’s salvation.
The conclusion of Paul’s arguments set forth in Romans 9-11 is found in 11:32. The point is, however God works, and for whatever reasons God works, it happens so that God “may be merciful to all” (11:32). Immediately before this in 11:30-32, Paul expands quickly on the set of those who dwell in disobedience, because all people dwell in disobedience (Rom 1-3). Paul shows in 7:13 and 8:3 that the problem is not with the law, but with sin. The law is powerless and “weakened by the flesh.” So too are we [all] – the problem is not with the “I” but with sin living in us all. As a result, the salvation of all is absolutely predicated on God’s mercy.
Once again, Paul’s main emphasis is on God. It has to be. God is righteous; Israel is not. It isn’t because Israel has demonstrated (or will demonstrate) relentless fidelity that it continues to be God’s chosen people – it is because God has demonstrated such fidelity. He is faithful; He is merciful. Why is Paul conveying the message that God’s mercy should be trusted? Because, “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”