We tend to use the terms “chosen” and “elect” synonymously, but is that necessarily the case? It’s true that God chose Israel:
Ezekiel 20:5 “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: On the day I chose Israel I swore to the descendants of the house of Jacob and made myself known to them in the land of Egypt. I swore to them, ‘I am the LORD your God.’”
But that doesn’t mean that all were elect, or that all were saved:
Romans 11:7 “What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was diligently seeking, but the elect obtained it. The rest were hardened,“
God has always had a portion of the people who were legitimately his, as is seen from what God said to Elijah:
1 Kings 19:18 “I still have left in Israel 7,000 followers who have not bowed their knees to Baal or kissed the images of him.”
However, the rest were hardened against Him, and during Paul’s time that has a divine purpose. By their overall rejection of God and His Messiah, the gospel came to the Gentiles and enabled the world to be reconciled to God (11:15). God is provoking the Jewish people to jealousy (11:11)! Is Paul speaking in generalities, or is he talking about his own ministry specifically? It seems that he may be talking about the current day and his own ministry: “if somehow I could provoke my people to jealousy and save some of them” (11:15). Even as an apostle to the Gentiles (11:13), he loves his own people (10:1) and wants them to know Jesus. What an amazing thing for a member of God’s chosen people to become one of the elect (11:12, 15, 16)!
He concludes with a warning to the Gentiles who believe. Don’t take anything for granted. Israel is like an olive tree. Some branches were cut off, and wild branches were grafted in. God is the one who does it. Branches can’t graft themselves in! There is no boasting involved! We are to “stand by faith” (11:20), recognizing God kindness towards us and understanding his harshness towards unbelief (11:22). After all, we are unnaturally grafted in. How much easier is it for someone to whom “belong the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple worship, and the promises” (9:4) to be grafted in!
What should we learn from this? It’s all about grace. It’s not about us. We need to be humble in our relationship with God.