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7 What then? That which Israel is in search of [righteousness], that he [the nation] obtained not; but the election obtained it, and the rest were hardened: 8 according as it is written, God gave them a spirit of drowsiness, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear, unto this very day. 9 And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, And a stumblingbiock, and a recompense unto them, Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, And bow Thou down their back always.
Here, then, in this chapter, is the very height of Divine sovereignty: not only electing people, but even deciding the very time when they should come on the scene of this world's history. "Israel after the flesh" nationally was in search of righteousness,--that was their very business, in the preservation and application of the Law. But that was not the way of righteousness. We have seen that their own Scriptures set forth that "calling on the name of the Lord," and believing on the "Stone" (Christ) at whom others in legality "stumbled," was the true way. So the nation obtained not righteousness. But the election obtained it. And, as to the rest? God's answer is, they were hardened.
But remember Chapter Nine and do not "reply against" God,--and hear a "Thou--who art thou?" from Him; but note carefully, how and why they were thus "hardened."
Paul now says (quoting Isaiah 29:10): According as it is written, God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear, unto this very day.
The process of that awful thing, spiritual hardening, is thus depicted in Israel as nowhere else, for hearts harden most quickly when men are trusting in their place of special privilege, without fellowship with the God who gives it. (Thus, we fear, it is with thousands in Christendom, and even among those who have the Lord's table most frequently before them. What but a deadly snare to the soul is the table of the Lord, without real communion with the Lord of the table!)
So it is written of Israel's "table": Let their table be made a snare. This is quoted from David, in Psalms 69:22, and evidently refers to the "table" at which the Israelites were privileged to eat with Jehovah. This was indeed a high and special privilege which Israel had: they ate with God. In Exodus 24:11, we read: "They saw God and did eat and drink"; and from the Passover of Exodus 12 onward, they ate in their sacred feasts. We know the priests "ate before God": Leviticus 6:16; Leviticus 7:18; Leviticus 7:20. But not only was this true of the priests, but of the people in their peace offerings (Leviticus 7:18-19; Leviticus 23:6); and in their feasts, as in Leviticus 23:6 and Numbers 15:17-21; Numbers 18:26; Numbers 18:30-31; Deuteronomy 12:7; Deuteronomy 12:18; Deuteronomy 14:23; Deuteronomy 27:7.
For the "table" of the Israelite was connected by Jehovah with Himself. Certain things the Israelite might eat, others not; because he was one of a holy nation unto Jehovah. But the Israelite quickly began to trust not in Jehovah, but in his manner of eating, as did Peter: "Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common and unclean." Without true faith, therefore, their very table of privilege became a snare. [An ominous comment on this--this "table made a snare,"--is the story of the Last Supper: Judas was, it appears, sitting so near to Jesus, that "the sop," which should mark the betrayer, was handed to him without attracting the attention of the rest. (It has been my own belief that, while John was sitting on one side of our Lord, Judas was on the other side! It was the hideous presumption of callous sin.) "And after the sop, then entered Satan into him." And, "having received the sop, he went out . . . and it was night" (John 13:21-30). Judas typifies Israel. Indeed, he so became the spiritual representative of apostate Israel that rejected Christ, that we need only turn to that 69th Psalm, (Christ's great "reproach" Psalm) from which Paul is quoting here in Romans 11:9-10, to see this. The 21st verse of this Psalm says, "In My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink." Evidently it is Christ speaking. Then verse 22, and following: "Let their table become a snare,"--and through verse 28 (Psalms 69:21-28), that wicked generation, symbolized in Judas, is shown. And just as Satan entered into Judas at the table,--when he presumed most on his place as a chosen apostle, so it was Israel's very relationship to, knowledge of, and communion with, Jehovah, at their feasts and temples, that they presumed upon! Read Jeremiah 7:1-11.]
It is to be noted carefully that each time the solemn Sixth of Isaiah is quoted, the sovereignty of God in hardening whom He will is increasingly emphasized. We see in Matthew 13:15, that it is the people's heart that had "waxed gross": their ears were "dull of hearing" because of lack of interest; their eyes they had closed,--not desiring to turn and understand, lest they should perceive, and hear, understand, turn, and be healed of God! Then, in the fourth Gospel, at the end of our Lord's public testimony, (John 12:39): "They could not believe, for that Isaiah said,
"He hath blinded their eyes, and He hardened their heart;
Lest they should see with their eyes, and perceive with their heart;
And should turn,And I should heal them."
This is judicial action, following the people's attitude.
In the third occurrence of the words of Isaiah Six (in Acts 28), Paul officially shuts the door to national Israel: "Well spake the Holy Spirit through Isaiah the prophet unto your fathers," --quoting this Isaiah Six, and declaring: "Be it known therefore unto you, that this salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles: they also will hear." [Since this awful use of Isaiah 6, the gospel has no Jewish bounds or bonds whatever! And it is presumption and danger, now, to give the Jews any other place than that of common sinners! "No distinction between Jew and Greek," says God. Those that preach thus, have God's blessing. Those that would give any special place whatever to Jews, since that day, do so contrary to the gospel; and, we fear, for private advantage. Tell Jews the truth! Their Messiah was offered to their nation, and rejected. And God is not offering a Messiah to Israel now, but has Himself rejected them: all except a "remnant," who leave Jewish earthly hopes, break down into sinners only, and receive a sinner's Savior,--not a "Jewish" one! Then they become "partakers of a heavenly calling."]
As to Israel, nationally, it is written. Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see. And bow Thou down their back always. It will be so until that future day, described in Zechariah 12:10, when God "pours upon them the Spirit of grace and of supplication, and they look unto Him whom they have pierced."
We dare not believe in any of the modern reports of national Jewish "turning to the Lord." They will go into yet greater darkness (after the Rapture of the Church). There will be the former evil spirit of idolatry "taking with itself seven other spirits more wicked than itself," entering in and dwelling in this present evil generation of Israel! (Matthew 12:45). Do not be deceived. At our Lord's coming, and not until that beleagured nation sees "the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven" (Matthew 24:30),--which will be that "looking upon Him whom they pierced" of Zechariah 12, will they have faith. Thomas, in John 20, who "would not believe except he see in Christ's hands the print of the nails," is an exact type of the coming conversion of Israel. Until then, let us "provoke to jealousy" all of them we can, by boasting in Christ and His Salvation; and so we may save a few of them,--as sinners, the "Remnant according to the election of Grace."
11 I say then. Did they stumble that they might fall? God forbid: but by their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, to provoke them to jealousy. 12 Now if their fall is the riches of the world, and their loss the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?
13 But I speak to you that are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I glorify my ministry: 14 if by any means I may provoke to jealousy them that are my flesh, and may save some of them. 15 For if the casting away of them is the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? 16 And if the firstfruit is holy, so is the lump: and if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and thou, being a wild olive, wast grafted in among them, and didst become partaker with them of the root of the fatness of the olive tree: 18 glory not over the branches: but if thou gloriest, it is not thou that bearest the root, but the root thee. 19 Thou wilt say then, Branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. 20 Well: by their unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by thy faith. Be not high-minded, but fear: 21 for if God spared not the natural branches, neither will He spare thee. 22 Behold then the goodness and severity of God: toward them that fell, severity; but toward thee, God's goodness, if thou continue in His goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. 23 And they also, if they continue not in their unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if thou wast cut out of that which is by nature a wild olive tree, and wast grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree; how much more shall these, which are the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?
Did they stumble that they might fall? Some individuals, alas, do,--both of Jews and Gentiles. Some are offended and turn away forever. But not finally the Israelitish nation! Banish the thought! We shall soon in this chapter see God's future salvation for that nation. But here the apostle notes that their fall was made the occasion of salvation to the Gentiles; and this again is to provoke them to jealousy--that they may be saved. God's manifest blessing to Gentiles causes the careless, self-satisfied Jew to awake,--first to ridicule Gentile testimony; then,--seeing the reality of Divine visitation to the despised Gentile, to arouse to a deep jealousy: [How amazingly different Paul's method of "provoking the Jews to jealousy," from that pursued by many Jewish mission workers today! The Jew must have a "special" place as a Jew! In some quarters they are even organizing "Jewish assemblies" and in other quarters advocating "the literary method of approaching Israel"! All this, we cannot but feel, is abominable kow-towing to Jewish flesh, and hinders their salvation. Jews now are common sinners, who have for the present been set aside nationally, and must come to rely, as individual sinners, hopelessly guilty and helpless, upon the shed blood of Christ, and upon Him risen from the dead. It is an awful thing to make present day "Jewish" claims, when God says Jews are for the present, no different from Gentiles, before God: but are just--sinners!] "They have what we ought to have; but we have lost God's favor!"
Their fall is the riches of the world; their loss the riches of the Gentiles. Before they fell, if a Gentile wanted to know the true God, he must become a "proselyte." He must journey up to Jerusalem three times a year; and even then he could not worship directly. He must have Levitical priests and forms. Contrast with this the day of Pentecost. Every man heard in his own tongue in which he was born, the wonderful works of God! And by and by Paul goes freely forth, apart from the Law, and "religion," to all the Gentiles:
"Christ the Son of God hath sent me
Through the midnight lands:
Mine the mighty ordination
Of the pierced hands!"
See Ephesus, and Corinth, and then Rome, and the whole world, "rich," by Israel's fall! Wherever you are, you can call on the Lord, and walk by the blessed Holy Spirit, and witness of a free salvation to all and any who will listen! No "going up to Jerusalem" to keep feasts, and worship Jehovah afar off, but drawing nigh to God in Heaven through the blood of Christ, at any time, any place, under all circumstances! In everything, invited to "let your requests be made known unto God!" That is riches, indeed! If you do not now hold it so, you shortly will: for you will need the Lord, ere long! And He is so nigh!
Alas, how much Israel lost in refusing Christ's "day of visitation" to them. How He wept over that! (Luke 19:41-44). We cannot blame God for Israel's rejection of their Messiah, and their "fall." He foretold it, indeed: but Christ said, "Ye will not come to Me, that ye may have life!"
But rather, let us see in the blessing that has resulted to us, "the heart of mercy" of God! (Luke 1:78, margin.) He will show "kindness" somewhere. And, if the invited guests have had themselves "excused," let us who belong in "the highways and hedges" run quickly to the feast when we are bidden!
If their fall is the riches of the world, and their loss has been "riches to the world" and to the Gentiles, how much more their fulness?
In the days of David and Solomon, there were prodigal riches,--both of God's glorious presence (2 Chronicles 5:11-14) and of worldly wealth and honor (1 Kings 10, entire). But this presence, and this blessing, was for Israel. Now, as our Lord told the Samaritan woman, the hour has come, when "neither in this mountain nor at Jerusalem" do men go to worship the Father: but salvation has come out as "riches" to the whole world and to Gentiles, who had the place of "dogs" before (as compared with Israel).
Now if this blessing be so great for the world, with Israel "fallen," how much more, when the time of restoration, and of fulness for Israel, be come!
Verses 13, 14:
I speak to you that are Gentiles [The moment Paul says this, we know he is not addressing either Jewish believers or Gentile Christians as such--those "in Christ," for in Christ is neither Jew nor Greek. So he must be speaking to us Gentiles as having at present (not as the Church, but the Gentiles as over against the Jews) come into God's general favor--which the Jews had, but of which they are at present deprived. Gentiles, not Jews, at present are the field of God's operations on earth. They are favored, as Israel once was. And they have, therefore, like responsibilities. If Israel was "cut off" through unbelief, Gentiledom must beware lest not abiding in that "goodness" in which God has set the Gentiles (that is, in that direct Divine favor,--without law, or religion, in which Cod has put Gentiledom), it also shall be cut off! For God did not give Gentiledom a Law, with its "10,000 things," as He gave Israel. He gave Gentiledom the gospel only. He gave them Paul; and the message of GRACE. Now, if they go back to "religion," or if they forget or neglect God's great salvation, it is to desert God's "goodness"; and thus to be shortly "cut off." And they have done just that,--as we know too well! If Gentiledom has "continued" in God's uncaused grace and goodness, what meaneth then this bleating in our ears--of liturgies, masses, holy days, even prayers for the dead? What meaneth all this buzz of "administering sacraments," of "vestments," of "holy orders," of priestcraft? Why these vast cathedrals? This lavish outpouring for great "religious" establishments? The apostles had none of this! God commanded none of it. Nay, He forbade it! "The Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands"! The Jews stoned Stephen, who dared to say so! And see the Popes burning like witnesses! And "Modern" Denominations turning faithful preachers out of churches! No; Gentiledom has deserted the "goodness" of God, for a Judao-pagan system With "Christian" names. And Gentiledom will be cut off.] --There were many Jewish saints at Rome. But these three chapters of Romans (9, 10 and 11), are peculiarly fitted to our Gentile instruction. And particularly so is this word: In as much as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I glorify my ministry: if by any means I may provoke to jealousy them that are my flesh, and may save some of them. I boast, before the Jews, of how God works among the Gentiles, of His saving them, filling them with His Spirit, and with peace; using them in saving others, establishing them in heavenly joy. And why do I thus magnify my Gentile ministry? To provoke my fellow-Jews to jealousy--of an inward peace they have not, that they may desire it: and, perhaps, choose it!
The casting away of them . . . the reconciling of the world--As long as God held fellowship with Israel on the ground of the old legal covenant, Gentiles were out of His direct favor, unless they became Jewish proselytes. Upon Israel's rejection of their Messiah and not until then (for Christ came first to Israel,--as see Matthew 10:5) could God "reconcile" the world to Himself. See 2 Corinthians 5:19 : "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself."
The casting away of them--reconciling the world; receiving of them--life from the dead!--Paul speaks God's words; and God never exaggerates! Therefore, in understanding (so far as we may) these great words, we have only to compare our wretched Gentile state before the blessed reconciliation news, with our present Gentile blessing under the gospel,--as the fruit of the "casting away" of the Israelites; and then judge what blessing will come when God "receives" them! It will indeed be "life from the dead"! For this world has never seen what shall then be seen: "The earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9). Not even in Eden, before man's sin, was that seen! And all this waits the "receiving" of God's earthly people, elect Israel! God must have them back in their land, to become "a joy to the whole earth." When Jehovah finally speaks ever lasting comfort to His people Israel and to Jerusalem, it is written, "And the glory of Jehovah shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together" [It must ever be remembered that the calling of the Church, the Body of Christ, is a heavenly one; as Israel's is not. Though by God's grace partaken of an ineffably higher place--members of Christ Himself, yet we, more than any, should regard Israel's coming blessing; for we have, as they will have, mercy: the sweetest conferment of God on sinners!] (Isaiah 40:1-5).
And if the firstfruit is holy, so is the lump: and if the root is holy, so are the branches--The firstfruit here seems to me to be the believing Israel of the old days, as in Jeremiah 2:2-3 "Thou wentest after Me in the wilderness, . . . Israel was holiness unto Jehovah, the firstfruits of his increase"; and the lump to be the whole "Israel of God," of Galatians Six; that is, Israel, in God's sight as an always beloved nation; though now the saved "Remnant according to the election of grace" comes out of that nation into a risen, heavenly Christ, into a higher calling, where there is neither Jew nor Gentile. And, as has been said, the Gentile "is placed upon the root," not upon the trunk nor upon the branches. He became neither a Jew, nor of Israel. Blessing, however, had been promised through Abraham to "all the families of the earth."
Now it is important to see that the root is Abraham, the depositary of the promises. The tree of Divine blessing grows up by these promises to Abraham, and His Seed, which is Christ. The natural branches, that is, those who first partook of the tree's root and fatness, were Jews. You cannot say that the tree is the Jewish nation, but rather that it is those partaking of the Divine blessing from Abraham through Christ. The most of the Jews were thus, because of unbelief, broken off. Those Jews who believed, as we know (the election of grace), came to partake of the heavenly calling in the Church "the assembly of God." Again, when that assembly is taken away to heaven, and God grafts back the remnant of the Jewish people, into their former ("their own") olive tree, Divine blessing on earth will have the earthly character it had before Church days: Israel will be the land, Jerusalem the city, and the temple- worship the form (see Ezekiel 40-48).
Some of the branches were broken off, and thou, being a wild olive, wast grafted in. This simply means that we, as Gentiles, have been set in the place of blessing from Abraham. It does not mean that all Gentiles are in the Body of Christ,--for it is not of that Body as such that Paul is here speaking: but of Gentiles as having been put into that place of Divine blessing where Israel once stood. Nor do the words some of the branches mean that any whole tribe of Israel will be wholly lost; for all twelve tribes appear in Ezekiel, in the millennial kingdom. The word thou is generic, of Gentiles: but of course is addressed to individuals--those of the Gentiles who would hear. The warnings here are addressed not to brethren in Christ, but as being of the Gentiles."
It is not thou that bearest the root, but the root thee--How few of us Gentile believers understand and bear in mind that we are beneficiaries of those promises which God lodged in Abraham as a root of promise,--all the promises we inherit in Christ! This is illustrated by Galatians 3:7 : "They that are of faith, the same are sons of Abraham"; and even the gift of the Holy Spirit is "the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus" coming upon the Gentiles (Galatians 3:14).
There is a very great danger, as Paul shows in Romans 11:18, that we Gentiles glory over the Jewish branches, and forget it is not thou that bearest the root, but the root thee. Abraham was the root, the vessel of promise, and we (if we are in Christ) are his children.
Verse 19, alas to say, voices the general consciousness and the consequent conduct of Christendom through the so-called "Christian centuries": Branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in! The despising of the Jews, and the horrid persecuting of them by Christendom, is one of the three great scandals of history. ["The first scandal was the persecution of their own prophets by the Jews, God's own nation; the second was the hatred unto death against the witnesses and truth of the gospel by papal Rome (the professed church of God!) with its Inquisition tortures and stake; the third I have named above, the hatred of the Jews by professing Christians,--by those who professed faith in a Savior who is Himself "an Israelite after the flesh." I do not here mention pagan persecutions, either of Jews or of Christians, for such were to be expected. Dean Milman, in his History of the Jews, (and such a book could be read with great profit in these days of rising anti-Semitism), calls the persecution of the Jews during the middle ages "A most hideous chronicle of human cruelty (as far as my researches have gone,--fearfully true). Perhaps it is the most hideous," he goes on, "because the most continuous to be found among nations above the state of savages. Alas! that it should be among nations called Christian, though occasionally the Mohammedan persecutor vied with the Christian in barbarity . . . Kingdom after kingdom, and people after people, followed the dreadful example, [of hatred and persecution of the Israelites], and strove to peal the knell of the descendants of Israel; till at length, what we blush to call Christianity, with the Inquisition in its train, cleared the fair and smiling provinces of Spain of this industrious part of its population, and self-inflicted a curse of barrenness upon the benighted land." We may remark that the present fratricidal slaughter in Spain is simply a fulfillment of God's words to Abraham and his seed: "Him that curseth thee will I curse." In its persecutions both of Jews and of Christians, Spain sowed the wind: it is now reaping the whirlwind!]
Verses 20, 21:
The only wise attitude for Gentiles is now prescribed by our apostle--Well, by their unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by thy faith. Be not high-minded, but fear; [Some, who deny the eternal safety of the saints, apply the warning of verses 20, 21, as if it were a personal, instead of a generic one,--a warning to individual believers, instead of to Gentiledom as such. But this is not only bad theology, but a missing of Paul's whole point here. It is bad theology, for our Lord says of His sheep, that they "shall never perish" and when Paul warns believers of being "high-minded" (compare 1 Timothy 6:17 with Romans 11:20) it is not to threaten doom to them, but to counsel them how to walk. Then, it is bad interpretation: for the whole passage in Romans 11:19-24, deals not with the Church, (where there is no) distinction between Jew and Greek!) but with Jew-position and Gentile-position in God's affairs on earth. Israel, unbelieving, was cut off for awhile from his place of Divine favor and blessing. Gentiledom comes into favor instead of Israel, for a while; and "the Church came into the administration of the promises in the character of Gentiles, in contrast with Jews." It is to a characteristic Gentile, that Paul speaks in Romans 11:19 : "Thou wilt say, Branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in." He speaks generically, to this characteristic Gentile, when he warns, in verse 22: "Toward thee, God's goodness, if thou continue in His goodness; otherwise thou also shalt be [as was Israel before Gentiledom] cut off." Now we know, from God's prophetic Word, that Gentiledom will, indeed, be cut off, as was Israel, and Israel be restored to his former place, as the sphere and channel of God's blessing to earth. So that, when Paul says, "I speak to you that are Gentiles," he is talking, not to God's saints as such, much less to the Church which is the Body of Christ; but to Gentiledom, which has been given to be, in God's "goodness," the place of His blessing, while Israel is for the time set aside. Another proof of this is in the very admonition itself: "Be not highminded, but fear." If this (as some claim) is merely a warning to individual saints to avoid pride, why should it be addressed to Gentile saints only? Had Jewish believers no danger of pride? No; it is not of the Church at all, nor of His real saints, that God speaks here: but of Gentiledom.] --In other words, it was not the Gentiles' importance over that of the Jews, but the Jews' unbelief, that caused some--for the present all but a "remnant"--to be broken off: and the Gentile "stands" by his faith,--not by his superiority to the Jews! "High-mindedness" is the contrary of the "fear" here enjoined (the root of which is humility,--consciousness of unworthiness). And why fear? Verse 21 tells plainly: God spared not the natural branches [the Jews], neither will He spare thee [Gentiledom]; if Gentiledom walks in forgetfulness of its sinnerhood, and of God's "goodness,"--in self-importance, pride, and high-mindedness.
Behold then the goodness and severity of God: toward them that fell, severity; but toward thee, God's goodness, if thou continue in His goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off--This is a most solemn word, indeed! It calls the Gentile world to behold the goodness and [its opposite] severity of God! Toward them that fell, severity: in spite of what had been the privileges of having Jehovah's temple among them; and the former faithfulness of the nation, and afterwards of individuals, Israel fell into self-righteousness, pride, and rejection of their Messiah. Toward such, "severity." Christ beheld Jerusalem and wept over it, for judgment is God's "strange work." But, we beg you, get Josephus, or any history, and read what befell the Jews when Titus took Jerusalem; and see Matthew Twenty-three, and our Lord's anguished words: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killeth the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent unto her! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate!"
Now it is the common talk through Christendom that the Jews were God's "ancient" people; and that now the Gentiles are God's favored ones. People love to hear sermons on the "goodness" of God, but resent talk of Divine severity toward the Gentiles! But have the Gentiles proven themselves different from the Jews in their conduct toward God? Christendom is today sinning against greater light than ever Israel had!
God says to the Gentile: Toward thee, God's goodness, if thou continue in His goodness--Now what is "the goodness" referred to here?
We remember our Lord's saying to the twelve apostles, when He first sent them out to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel," "Go not into any way of the Gentiles, and enter not into any city of the Samaritans" (Matthew 10:5). He had come as "a minister of the circumcision" to His own. But when they had rejected and crucified Him, the Risen Lord said: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation" (Mark 16:15) ; "Ye shall be My witnesses, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Saniaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
So, the Holy Spirit having been given at Pentecost, Peter is shortly sent to the house of the Gentile, Cornelius: who believes the simple gospel of Christ, and, on "all them that heard the Word the Holy Spirit fell." Then Barnabas and Saul, Silas and Timothy, and the rest, go on to the Gentiles, turning the world "upside down" with the gospel of grace. No need for a "religion" now; they had Christ. No need for a temple,--they, the assembly, were "the temple of God"; for, as Stephen witnessed--and was stoned for it--"The Most High is not [now] dwelling in temples made by hands." No need for a ritual: they had the Holy Spirit, and worshipped by Him instead of forms! No need of a special priesthood,--all believers were alike priests, and drew near unto God by the shed blood, Christ Himself, over the house of God, leading their worship, as the Great High Priest in heaven. No need of seeking "merit,"--they were in Christ, already accepted in Him,--yea, made the very righteousness of God in Him!
Now this was God's goodness toward Gentile believers.
And, as for the Gentiles all: they were no longer called "dogs," as contrasted with the favored race of Israel (Matthew 15:26). There was a complete change in the relationship of Gentiles as such toward God. They were put into the place of privilege and opportunity of Divine blessing: an "acceptable time," a "day of salvation," in God's "goodness" was extended to them. If one had sought to instruct a Gentile in the Old Testament days, he must have said, "God is the God of Israel: become a proselyte; go up to Jerusalem; keep the feasts according to the Law." If one should go to a Gentile in the coming Millennium, the like instruction would be necessary, for all the nations must then go up to Jerusalem by their representatives "to worship the King, Jehovah of Hosts" (Zechariah 14:16-18).
But now? No! An ambassador for God says anywhere, to the worst heathen, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."
This is the Divine goodness.
Now, have the Gentiles continued in that goodness?
For if the Gentiles have not so continued, God's severity must be shown to them, as before to Israel: thou SHALT BE CUT OFF.
What then is the record? It is ghastly!
First, as to sending out the gospel: After nearly 2000 years, much of the human race knows nothing of Christ.
Then, as to salvation by grace preached to lost men, apart from law and from ordinances, we see, instead, "good character" preached up as the way of acceptance; the simple supper of the Lord called "these holy mysteries," and baptism, instead of a glad confession of a known Savior, relied on as a "means of regeneration."
Instead of simple gatherings (as at the first), of believers unto the Name of Christ their Lord, relying on the presence of the Holy Spirit solely, (as at the first), we see great Judao-pagan temples, and an elaborate "service." And would this were in Rome only!
Instead of the free, general common priesthood of believers, in the fellowship of prayer and faith (as in apostolic days) we see thousands upon thousands of professing Christians that have never prayed nor praised openly in the assembly of His saints; myriads who do not have even the assurance of salvation (though Christ, who bore sin for them, has been received up on high). Contrast with this Acts 2:42 : "They continued steadfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers."
We see open, general, horrible idolatry, in both the Greek and Roman cathedrals; and a growing tendency to put up "crosses" instead of preaching "the word of the cross," in so-called "Protestant" places!
We see great State Churches, a thing unknown and impossible in Scripture; and we see professing Christians divided into "denominations," each with its own "program,"--ignoring wholly Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 1:12-13; 1 Corinthians 3:2-4; and not at all walking in the consciousness of the One Body. Indeed, instead of the unity of the Spirit, they are ready to establish horrible outward earthly union, of all "professing Christians," "modernists," and Jews--in short, all "religionists." ["That God is withdrawing from "denominational" Christianity is very evident "Modernists" control some denominations completely and the hideous unbelief of "modernism" is infiltrating slowly every denomination. Honest souls familiar with the facts all know this and are perplexed what to do. But God will take care of His testimony,--indeed is doing so, by means of Bible conferences, Bible classes, and gatherings for prayer in private homes--more and more after the early Church pattern. As for Laodicean "property," the great churches, schools, libraries, and what not, the devil is falling heir to them fast,--which need not alarm the saints, for the early Church had none of these things, but Christ and the Holy Ghost and God's Word only!]
So that the Gentiles will be "cut off" from that place of Divine privilege which they now have (and which Israel nationally has lost), and Israel will be restored to the privileged place, as before. Of course this "cutting off" does not mean that individual Gentiles cannot be saved! But, as in the Old Testament, and in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Israel will be honored as the center and spring of Divine blessing on earth; the Gentiles becoming again subordinate to Israel,--as to spiritual things; and having again to "go up to Jerusalem" to worship Jehovah. The Church, the Body of Christ, will of course have been translated to heaven before this order of things comes in. The Church is "the fulness of the Gentiles," of Romans 11:25.
Thus, instead of continuing in God's goodness. Gentile "Christendom" has set up the "Christian religion"; and has settled down upon earth as if the Church belonged here; and as if Christ might not come at any moment! If you dream Christendom has continued in the humble gospel of grace, and the goodness of God in giving His Son to shed His blood for lost sinners, just examine the "religious" pronouncements in the press!
They also, if they continue not in their unbelief, shall be grafted in again--We know from a multitude of prophecies that Israel will not continue in unbelief! Thank God for this! They must, of course, see to believe. But Zechariah 12:10 declares that in a future day they shall "look on Him whom they pierced"; while the eighth and ninth verses of Zechariah's very next chapter say, that, while "two parts of the nation shall be cut off and die," the third part shall be left,--"refined as silver" and "tried as gold is tried. They shall call on My name, and I will hear them: I will say. It is My people; and they shall say, Jehovah is my God."
"O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord!"--and not the false dreams of
men that tell you "God is through with Israel forever."
They make God a liar when they say that! For read Jeremiah 31:23-40 : What does God mean otherwise than what He plainly says in that passage? [It is a blessed fact that God's real saints, the true Church, are coming more and more, daily into the light, and back to the simple faith of the beginning. This is most especially evident in the attitude of true believers in their expectancy of the coming of the Lord--a spirit that characterized the early Church for 300 years! Nevertheless, what we say is true, as reads Isaiah: "Darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the peoples."] Thank God, that while the Gentiles are going into darker unbelief every day, there will be a spared Remnant of Israel!
Thou, a wild olive, grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree--In the process of grafting we select a shoot of a fruit-bearing limb of a desirable tree, and opening the bark of an inferior tree of the same species, we insert the shoot, tying it in well. Then, behold, this inferior tree supplies sap to this good shoot, but the engrafted shoot goes on to bear its own good variety and class of fruit, and not that of the inferior tree. This is nature.
Now, the exact contrary has been wrought by God in taking us Gentiles (who, God says, are "by nature a wild olive tree"), and grafting us into the good olive tree to "partake of the root and of the fatness" of the tree of Divine blessing,--of the promises given to Abraham and to his Seed. Thus, behold instead of the natural process of the shoot's producing its own quality of fruit, we produce that "fruit unto God," which belongs to the good olive tree, and not to the wild olive Gentile tree!
Now if this contrary to nature process has been wrought by God, how much rather, how much more, shall the natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree? Of course, as Paul emphasizes in verse 13: "I am speaking to you that are Gentiles,"--that is, to you as Gentiles. Now in Christ, as Paul has plainly taught us elsewhere (Colossians 3:11), "there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman; but Christ is all and in all." Unless we clearly see that Paul in this chapter is not discussing Church truth, we shall become hopelessly mired. The apostle is not declaring here either the character, calling, destiny, or present privileges and walk of the Church, the assembly of God, the Body of Christ, the present house of God, the Bride for which the heavenly Bridegroom is coming,--none of these things.
The whole question in Romans Nine, Ten and Eleven is one of reconciling God's special calling and promises of Israel, the earthly people, with a gospel which sets aside that distinction, sets aside Israel's distinctive place for the present dispensation; and places the Gentiles in the place of direct Divine blessing, once enjoyed by Israel.
It is for this reason that Paul addresses us here as "Gentiles." [In discussing the heavenly calling of the church in Ephesians 2:11-15 Paul refers to us thus: "Remember that once ye, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision' by that which is called Circumcision,' in the flesh, made by hands; that ye were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus ye that once were far off are made nigh in the Blood of Christ. For He is our peace, who made both one, and brake down the middle wall . . . having abolished in His flesh the enmity, the Law of commandments . . . that He might create in Himself of the two ONE NEW MAN, so making peace." In the first part of Ephesians 2, we are seen "dead through our trespasses and sins," and are "made alive together with Christ, and raised up with Him and made to sit with Him in the heavenlies, in Christ Jesus"; but in the second part of the same chapter, our Gentile place as "far off," "aliens," is contrasted with the place of Israel, who were "nigh." But mark: God does not Himself recognize in Ephesians the distinction between circumcision and uncircumcision: He merely says that the Gentiles are called "Uncircumcision" by that which is called "Circumcision." For the circumcision had become in God's sight uncircumcision. "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly"; so that it is merely a distinction circumcised sinners made with regard to uncircumcised sinners. In the real fact, "There is no distinction (between Jew and Gentile), for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God."] Paul is claiming nothing for the Jewish believer as over against the Gentile believer,--in Romans Eleven. He even says to the Galatians: "I beseech you, brethren, become as I am, for I also am as ye are." But inasmuch as God had lodged His promises in Abraham and in his Seed ("which is Christ"), Paul in all faithfulness must not only tear up by the roots the Jewish hopes based on natural descent, and refer all to God's sovereign grace; but he must also tell us Gentiles the facts. Those eight wonderful points of advantage spoken of by Paul at the beginning of Chapter Nine as pertaining to Israel (and which still do pertain to them), he cannot allow us Gentiles to ignore, lest we come into a sense of personal importance (such as puffed up Israel), and say, Branches were broken off that we might be grafted in.
Now God did not, does not, make Israelites out of us Gentiles! He had a secret purpose kept from all the ages--of giving to His Son a Bride composed of Jewish and Gentile believers who should be received as mere guilty sinners, on purely grace grounds; and should have the highest calling of any creatures--to be members of Christ Himself,--a thing never promised to Israel.
While not speaking here of our heavenly calling in Christ, Paul yet must tell us plainly that Israel were the natural, earthly branches of the tree of promise, some of which, through their unbelief, were broken off. It is the matter of sharing Divine mercy, and not of the Christian calling, which is being discussed.
Let us ask ourselves, and frankly answer, these questions:
Did God once have a house on earth?
The answer must be. Yes.
Where? At Jerusalem, certainly. Our Lord at the beginning of His ministry called that temple "My Father's house"; and at the end of His ministry "My house"; and finally said to the blind leaders of Israel: "Your house is left unto you desolate."
Will God restore to Israel His earthly House?
He will, as we know, at Christ's coming back to earth. And we are told it will be upon Mount Zion in Jerusalem. See James' prophecy in Acts 15, quoted from Amos 9:11-12.
But meanwhile, between our Lord's absence in Heaven and His second coming, does God have a house?
We know that He does.
What is that house? Paul says that the Church (ekklesia (G1577)) is now God's House. "But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). The house of God is the Church of the Living God. Here God the Holy Spirit dwells both in individual believers, Jew and Gentile; and also, in a corporate way, in the Assembly of God's saints.
This House was formed first on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came down to dwell in those believers. And from thence: "From Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth"--"where two or three are gathered" in the name of Christ.
Will this Church or Assembly ever be connected with Israel?
In no wise! Christ has built His Assembly, the Church, and is building it. But He first broke down the middle wall of partition, "the Law of commandments, in ordinances"--the thing which differentiated Israel from Gentiles: and in which Israel gloried. From both Jewish and Gentile believers Christ is now creating ONE NEW MAN!
But whence do these blessings come?
From the promises made to Abraham! Abraham was the root, and from the promises to him comes the fatness.
But after the Church has been taken to Heaven, God will again bless Israel.
25 For I would not, brethren, have you ignorant of this mystery, lest ye be wise in your own conceits, that a hardening in part hath befallen Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be Come in;26 and so all Israel shall be saved: even as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer; He shall turn away ungodlinesses from Jacob: 27 And this is the covenant from Me unto them, When I shall take away their sins. 28 As touching the gospel, they are enemies for your sake: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sake. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are not repented of. 30 For as ye in time past were disobedient to God, but now have obtained mercy by their disobedience, 31 even so have these also now been disobedient, that by the mercy shown to you they also may now obtain mercy. 32 For God hath shut up all unto disobedience, that He might have mercy upon all.
For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, of this mystery--Note that in saying "brethren," Paul is speaking now to the saints as such: for even real saints, while not to be "cut off," may become "puffed up." Now we have elsewhere remarked that God had certain secrets, which He tells His saints,--and of which they do not well to be ignorant,--as, alas, so many of them are! Here then, is stated to us one of these Divine mysteries, or secrets: and it will protect us from Gentile pride, in these days of the dazzling greatness of the Gentile times depicted in Daniel (e.g., Daniel 2 and 3)--lest ye be wise in your own conceits (as behold the vauntings of a blind Hitler ["We find in Scripture (Ezekiel 38 and 39) a horrid confederation of evil headed by the "prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal," which Bible students commonly accept as Russia, Moscow and Tobolsk; with which is allied Persia, Cush, Put, Corner, and the house of Togarmah--"even many peoples with thee." They go to cut off re-established Israel, just before the Millennial days described in Ezekiel 40 to 48, Now we know from the Second Psalm and many other Scriptures, that the nations of earth will all finally rebel, and that intelligently, against Jehovah, and against His Anointed, saying, "Let us break Their bonds asunder, and cast away Their cords from us." We do not wonder, then, that these North-European nations are first to come out into open God-defying: Russia with its atheism, and then Hitler, with his arrogant anti-Scripture conceit concerning Aryans, willing to go back to the pagan deities of Northern Europe. The word of prophecy connects these northern nations--including Germany--in a great confederacy: however far apart they may seem to be at present.] and his Gentile "Aryans," and the boastings of a Mussolini of Roman-Gentile-greatness!) that a hardening in part hath befallen Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
1. There is a definite fulness of Gentiles--the very number of which God knoweth--to "come in," that is, to be saved: for this word "fulness" is not spoken as to privilege, but as to election.
2. In order for these Gentiles to come in, a "hardening," judicial and sovereign, hath befallen national Israel.
3. All talk, therefore, of Israel's national turning to the Lord, until this Gentile fulness be come in, is vain. The fearful days of Armageddon will have to come, ere Israel, nationally turns to God. Read Zec_12-14:4. Israel's hardening is in part,--for some, "the Remnant according to the election of grace," are now being saved. National hardening is in view here.
4. Israel's hardening is in part,--for some, "the Remnant according to the election of grace," are now being saved. National hardening is in view here.
And so--after this Divinely revealed order, we read,
And so all Israel shall be saved--This is the real, elect, spared nation of the future,--"those written unto life" (Daniel 12:1; Isaiah 4:3, margin). The mystery comprehends this fact (as we have said above, and as the apostle amplifies in verse 31) for the salvation of national Israel was impossible, except on purely grace lines. God had given them the Law: that was necessary to reveal sin. But they utterly failed. Now comes in the fulness of the Gentiles--by grace: and so, after that, and on the same grace line as were the Gentiles, all Israel shall be saved! Most of that earthly nation will perish under Divine judgments, and the Antichrist: but the Remnant will be "accounted as a generation." Our Lord told His disciples that this present unbelieving generation of Israel would not pass away till all the terrible judgments He foretold would be fulfilled. But that that generation--"Israel after the flesh" will pass away we know; and a believing generation take their place. See Psalms 22:30; Psalms 102:18. Jehovah at last "arises, and has pity on her,--for the set time has come!" So we read the Psalmist's words:
"This shall be written for the generation to come;
And a people which shall be created shall praise Jehovah."
This is the real Israel of God, of whom it is written, "All Israel shall be saved."
Verses 26, 27:
And now, as is usual with Paul, the Old Testament prophecies of Isaiah throng into his mind, by the Spirit:
There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer;
He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
And this is the covenant from Me,
When I shall take away their sins.
There are three aspects of Christ's second coming: (1) For the Rapture of the Church; (2) For the Judgment of the Nations; (3) For the Deliverance of Israel.
The second of these aspects, Christ's coming to judge the nations, has been recognized through the centuries, almost to the exclusion of the first and third aspects of our Lord's coming. Christ has been regarded as the Judge; and this of course He will be, as Revelation Nineteen shows Him,--"King of kings, and Lord of lords--in righteousness judging and making war," "treading the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God, the Almighty." But the creeds of Christendom have taught one "general judgment," and thus they have overlooked two most essential things: first, The special relationship of Christ's coming to His real Church; and second, The relationship of His coming to the nation of Israel, and to the elect spared Remnant of that nation--to the real Israel.
Concerning the first, the Rapture of the Church, we have only to read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 :
"--The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." And also: "--We all shall not sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinking of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (1 Corinthians 15:50 ff).
To whom does this phase of His coming refer? We read in Ephesians 5 that Christ will "present the Church unto Himself, a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing"; and that "we wait for a Savior from heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of His glory" (Philippians 3:20-21); and that Paul called those whom he had won to Christ as his "hope and crown of glorying before our Lord Jesus, at His coming" (1 Thessalonians 2:19). Now the calling of the Church and that of Israel are never confused in Scripture. Israel as a nation does not belong to heaven, but to the land which God has given them forever, by a solemn covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And this "Rapture," or catching of the Church up to Christ, is a hope belonging to the Church: not to Israel.
The third stage of our Lord's return is for the restoration of Israel to that Divine favor connected with the "New Covenant" and the national "taking away their sins." This presupposes the absence from earth of the Church: for God cannot have the two testimonies on earth at the same time! In the Church there is no distinction of Jew or Greek, neither has the Church outward religious ceremonial service (latreia (G2999)), which belongs to Israel (Romans 9:4). Furthermore, the Church has a commission to all nations, including Israel, to evangelize them. None of these things can belong to the Church when Israel shall have been restored. The Church will have been caught up to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17), and will have glorified bodies like Christ's; while Israel will be His nation upon the earth, in Palestine.
Then what about Israel's hope? All through the prophets, we find their hope is to be gathered back to their own land, and established there with their Messiah in their midst--Jehovah "dwelling with them in majesty"; their eyes "seeing the King in His beauty"; and complete and eternal deliverance there from all their enemies and from all their own iniquities. So verse 26 reads: There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer. Hear what James tells us in Acts 15 in giving the dispensational program of God (which no denominational "standards" nor "a millennial" sophistry can change!): "Brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath rehearsed how first God visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His name." (The present dispensation). "And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written:
"After these things I will return,
And I will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen;
And I will build again the ruins thereof,
And I will set it up:
That the residue of men may seek after the Lord,
And all the Gentiles upon whom My name is called,
Saith the Lord, Who maketh these things known from of old."
(From the First Church Council Records: Acts 15:13-18.)
Now even instructed Christians, who know about the Rapture of the Church, and the Judgment of the Lord upon the nations shortly after that Rapture, when He comes on down to earth, are apt to neglect or under-emphasize the fact that He comes to earth for the Deliverance of His people Israel. But the prophets are full of this subject. Perhaps no passage is more overwhelming than the last chapter of Habakkuk--the prophet's marvelous vision of our Lord's glorious return! [God came from Teman, And the Holy One from Mount Paran. His glory covered the heavens, And the earth was full of His praise. * * * * He stood, and measured the earth; He beheld, and drove asunder the nations; * * * * Was Jehovah displeased with the rivers? Was Thine anger against the rivers, Or Thy wrath against the sea, That Thou didst ride upon Thy horses, Upon Thy chariots of salvation? Thy bow was made quite bare; The oaths to the tribes were a sure word.
Thou didst march through the land of Israel in indignation; Thou didst thresh the nations in anger. Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people [Israel], For victory with Thine Anointed [Christ]. And then (Verse 13) there is the smiting of "the wicked man" (Antichrist), and the piercing of "the head of his warriors." This is exactly what we find, of course, in Revelation 19:19-21! And see the faith even in those terrible days preceding Christ's return. "I heard, and my body trembled, . . .Because I must wait quietly for the day of trouble [the Great Tribulation]. For the coming up of the people that invadeth us [all nations: see Zechariah 14:1-2; Joel 3:9-17]. For though the fig-tree shall not flourish, The vines . . . the olive, . . . the fields . . . the flock [be] cut off, Yet I will rejoice in Jehovah, I will joy in the God of my salvation"]
It is a picture of the Remnant of Israel, who put their trust in Jehovah amid the overwhelming awfulness of the "Great Tribulation"; the stupendous signs in sun, moon, and stars at the end of that Great Tribulation; and the unutterable glory and majesty of the Day of Wrath. Read 46th Psalm (R. V. is better). It is again the godly Remnant of Israel, in those days.
We have just listened to the coronation ceremonies of the King of England (1937), and have been deeply moved, and filled with thanksgiving that God has preserved to this day an Empire that publicly acknowledges the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. We pray for the continuance of that Empire as long as it be God's will, for the British flag wherever flown has protected the gospel of Christ.
Nevertheless, dark days are coming, when all nations, under the direct influence of demonic powers, will be "gathered together unto the war of the great day of God the Almighty," "into the place which is called in Hebrew Har-Magedon"-- gathered "to cut off Israel from being a nation" (Revelation 16:12-16; Psalms 83:4; Zechariah 14; Joel 3:9-15). But while we read:
"Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! for the day of Jehovah is near in the valley of decision! The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. And Jehovah will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake" (Joel 3:14-16)--
We also read these words of comfort from God to Israel:
"But Jehovah will be a refuge unto His people, and a stronghold to the children of Israel. So shall ye know that I am Jehovah your God, dwelling in Zion my holy mountain." [The words "out of Zion shall come forth a Deliverer" have puzzled many, and indeed there are real difficulties here. The quotation is from Isaiah 59:20, "a Redeemer will come to Zion." But let us look at certain facts: There are two mountains in Jerusalem, one Mount Moriah, where the former temple was built; and the other, the higher, Mount Zion. Here, when David became king, the Jebusites had a stronghold. David's first desire when made king over all the people was to take this stronghold of the enemy (2 Samuel 5:7; 1 Chronicles 11:5). It was thereafter called "the city of David, which is Zion" (1 Kings 8:1). Now in the quotation from James in Acts 15, we find that the Lord upon His return "will build again the tabernacle of David," meaning on Mount Zion, not Moriah (for typical things shall have passed away). And concerning Zion we read in Isaiah 4:3-4 : "And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem; when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof, by the Spirit of justice, and by the Spirit of burning." The expression of Romans 11:26-27 : "There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer; He shall turn away ungodlinesses from Jacob" becomes clearer, verse 26 showing Christ delivering Israel from their ungodlinesses, and verse 27 showing Christ establishing His earthly Temple and Throne on Mount Zion, and "uttering His Voice" from thence. See Amos 1:2.]
We make no excuse for spending time here, for the Holy Spirit devotes very many pages to this exact subject of Jehovah's Deliverance of His people Israel by the coming back to earth to them of their Messiah in great power and glory.
Let us then study these three phases or aspects of our Lord's return with balanced time and care: the Rapture of the Church; the Judgment of the Nations; and the Deliverance of Israel.
This is the covenant from Me when I shall take away their sins-- give the literal rendering. It will be no longer a conditional covenant, as at Sinai; but one of grace--"from ME!" See Jeremiah 31; [There is a beautiful view of God's mercy to His people in the time of the Tribulation, in Jeremiah 31:2 : "Thus saith Jehovah, The people that were left of the sword found favor in the wilderness; even Israel, when he went to find him. rest" (margin). In Revelation 12:14 we see the woman, Israel, fleeing into the wilderness and nourished for three years and a half in a marvelous way, as during the 40 years in the wilderness in Sinai after Egypt. Note that Jeremiah says, "The people that were left of the sword." This cannot refer to Israel as coming up from Egypt, but must look toward that "Remnant" left after the terrible cutting off of the most of fleshly Israel, as seen in Ezekiel 20:32-38, R.V.; Isaiah 10:22-23. This Remnant flees when Antichrist is revealed, and escapes death at his hands. Isaiah 16:3-4, the Moabites are commanded by God to protect these fleeing ones of Israel; "Make thy shade as the night in the midst, of the noonday; hide the outcasts; betray not the fugitive. Let Mine outcasts dwell with thee; as for Moab, be thou a convert to him from the face of the destroyer." The words immediately following, "For the extortioner is brought to nought, destruction ceaseth, the oppressors are consumed out of the land. And a throne shall be established in lovingkindness; and One shall sit thereon in truth, in the tent of David, judging, and seeking justice, and swift to do righteousness"-- these words (Isaiah 16:4-5) reveal the Deliverance that is about to come at that time.] Ezekiel 36 and 37; and Daniel 9:24,--in which we see six distinct blessings come to Israel at the end of the Divine "indignation" against His nation; Isaiah 32:1; Isaiah 32:8; Isaiah 32:16; Isaiah 32:20; all of Isaiah 35. This is the "New Covenant" of Jeremiah 31, quoted in Hebrews 8:8-12. It will not be "according to the covenant that God made with their fathers." Blessing will not depend then on man's obedience; but it will; be sovereign mercy, at last extended to a whole spared nation (Jeremiah 31:33-34; Romans 11:28-29).
We should remember two things,, always, when we see an Israelite: first, As touching the gospel, they are enemies for your sake; and second: As touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sake (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). Gentile believers are so prone to forget both these things, especially if they behold a poor wretched son of Israel, or a proud and self-vaunting one, or even a wealthy one! Anti-Semitism, or Jew-hatred, arises, first, from Gentile rebellion against the Divine national election of Israel; and second, from envy toward them because of their wealth and power. Let no Christian give way to anti-Semitism. Of course, we must "judge righteous judgment," form unbiased opinions, of their beliefs; for many of them, like Spinoza in rationalism, and Marx and Engels in Communism, have been peculiarly used of the devil. Nevertheless, we dare not yield to Gentile hatred of Israelites. For our Lord is, after the flesh, of Israel; and God has vast gracious blessing for them shortly!
For the gifts and the calling of God are not repented of (by Him). These words are a source of endless joy. We may trust a God who refuses to allow the utter failure of Israel--nay, the idolatrous wickedness and apostasy of Israel--to alter His determination of blessing. The "gifts" are such as were recited in Chapter 9:4, 5 (Romans 9:4-5); and the "calling" is, that Israel is a holy nation unto God Himself. And He will see that it is so, not only in the coming kingdom, the Millennium; but in the new creation: "For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make,.shall remain before Me, saith Jehovah, so shall your seed and your name Israel remain" (Isaiah 66:22).
For as ye in time past were disobedient to God, but now have obtained mercy by their [Israel's] disobedience, even so have these also now been disobedient, that by the mercy shown to you [Gentiles] they also may now obtain mercy. For God hath shut up all unto disobedience that He might have mercy upon all--God brings in the principle upon which He will bless Israel when He makes His New Covenant with them at Christ's second coming. It seems that we Gentiles are to be to Israel an example of Divine mercy, by which at last they will understandingly see the "heart of mercy" of their God! (Luke 1:78, margin).
Our Gentile history is summed up in the words "disobedient to God"; our present position in the words: "have obtained mercy by their [Israel's] disobedience"; and now Israel nationally have been more disobedient even than the Gentiles: disobedient to God's Law, to His warning prophets, to His own dear Son, their Messiah, whom they crucified; to the witness of the Spirit through Stephen and the apostles of the resurrection of the Messiah. But at last they will "obtain mercy," [To render verse 31 (as the Latin Vulgate, Luther, Darby, and others, insist on doing), "been disobedient to our [Gentile] mercy," not only is a straining of the text, but also wholly defeats understanding of the passage. The Gentile world in verse 30 is seen as disobedient to God, that is, living in sin and idolatry. But the disobedience of the Jews, (verse 31), was the rejection of their Messiah and particularly of the apostolic testimony of His resurrection. When the Jews believed, it was called "being obedient to the faith" (Acts 6:7); and, "God hath given the Holy Spirit to them that obey Him" in believing (Acts 5:32). Notice that the question of Gentile salvation had not at that time come up at all! In the synagogue at Ephesus some of the Jews were "hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way" (Acts 19:9). It was rejecting the way of salvation by faith apart from works, and faith in God's message concerning the Christ whom their nation had rejected and crucified--this constituted Jewish disobedience. Romans 11:32 must be connected with Galatians 3:22 : "The Scripture shut up all things under sin, that the promise of faith in Christ Jesus might be given to them that believe," with "God hath shut up all unto disobedience, that He might have mercy upon all." This does not make God the author of disobedience;--man, whether Gentile or Jew, is responsible for that. As for the Gentiles, God, since Babel, "suffered all the nations to walk in their own ways" (Acts 14:16). Then He met them in the way of sovereign mercy, which they were not seeking. As for the Jews, God brought them unto Himself, gave them His Law, sent His prophets and His Son, and they despised all, even the offer of national pardon. Thus, the Jews were "disobedient" to God's way with them. But, by the example of Gentile mercy, they also will obtain mercy.] a new principle for them!
Having proved utterly disobedient, having lost all claim on God, they will at last be met by God on the same great principle of mercy, and mercy alone. So that in the future age, the Millennium, and on forever, [But there is another deep truth also; Christ was made to become sin, and died unto sin, and unto all connection with man in sin. When our Lord was raised as the First-born from among the dead, it was in the "power of an endless life." He showed Himself alive, indeed, to His disciples, saying, "Handle me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye behold me having" (Luke 24:39), and He even ate with them. Nevertheless, His body was on resurrection ground, as heavenly as His spirit. And we shall have bodies like unto His glorious body, but it will be only when we shall be "changed," at our Lord's coming; when "this corruptible puts on incorruption, and this mortal puts on immortality." Even as regards God's counsels toward the spared Remnant of Israel during the Millennium, as well as toward all the earth,--while the eyes of the Remnant shall "see the King in His beauty," and His glory shall be seen over the millennial temple by all nations; yet, as it seems to me, not until after the Millennium, will even Israel share that new creation place that the Church now, and the saints of Revelation 20:4, enter on before and during the Millennium. See Isaiah 65:17-18; Isaiah 66:22. Of course, both the Remnant and those of the nations who bow in real worship during the Millennium, will share spiritual life in Christ, for then will be completely fulfilled Pentecost, which Isaiah describes as the time when "the Spirit is poured out on us from on high" (Isaiah 32:15); but it is not until "the new heaven and the new earth" wherein the seed and name of Israel shall remain (Isaiah 66:22), that even that nation will be fully on new creation ground, such as the Church, members of Christ, are now as to their spirits, and will be shortly, as to their bodies, at the Rapture. When today poor blinded Jewish rabbis and elders claim "Jesus of Nazareth" as belonging to them, as "one of their prophets," "perhaps the greatest one," it causes in the heart of the instructed Christian, only a lament. Christ was indeed, as to His flesh, born of them; but they rejected and crucified Him; and He is passed into a new creation, and is the last Adam, a Second Man, with whom the Jewish nation as such has as yet no connection, any more than have unbelieving Gentiles. "Except a man be born from above he CANNOT SEE the kingdom of God!"] this nation will carry in its heart the two great principles that give God all the glory: first, that they were beloved of Jehovah, who had set His love upon them, the only reason being in Himself. "Because Jehovah loveth you, and because He would keep the oath which He sware unto your fathers" (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). Second, the consciousness of their own complete failure: of a history of ingratitude, rebellion, wickedness, idolatry, refusal of instruction and correction, and finally, of despising and rejecting their own Messiah (2 Chronicles 36:14-16; Psalms 106). They will be brokenly conscious forever of being the objects of the absolute uncaused mercy of Jehovah their God! Thus they will be able to trust and rejoice in Jehovah, as the true Church-saint now trusts and rejoices and glories in God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who associated us with His own Son in the same sovereign mercy!
It must be carefully marked and deeply pondered, this great account of sovereign mercy,--mercy first to us, and by and by to Israel,--"the MERCIES of God," by means of which God will win our hearts, "beseeching us" by His apostle, to present our bodies a living sacrifice to Him (Romans 12:1). It is not only that God has dealt with us in grace,--unearned favor; but that He has shown mercy when all was hopeless! We may venture to say that it is only in those who learn to regard themselves as the objects of the Divine mercy, of uncaused Divine compassion, that the deepest foundations for godliness of life will be, or can be, laid.
Now the apostle bursts forth into most rapturous utterance concerning the ways of God--in view of His mercies;--as shown to us as traced in Chapters One to Eight; and yet to be shown to Israel, as told in Chapters Nine to Eleven:
33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past tracing out!34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been His counsellor?35 or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto Him again?36 For of Him, and through Him, and unto Him, are all things. To Him be the glory unto the ages! Amen.
When one turns from the contemplation of what we have been reading in Romans to man's poor books,--there is immediate revulsion and constant weariness! The poverty! the shallowness! of this world!--whether its philosophy, its science, its poetry, yea, or its religion, all is vanity! As Paul says, "The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God"; "The Lord knoweth the reasonings of the wise that they are vain" (1 Corinthians 3:19-20).
Paul is overwhelmed at the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God;--and here is where we all join Paul: in adoring contemplation of God's counsels,--the wisdom with which He brings them forth, and the knowledge of man and of his heart and his history, past, present, and future, that He displays in it all.
For who hath known the mind of the Lord? None, till He choose to unfold it! We are, as we see in verse 25, ignorant of God's secrets; and we have no means, except He please to tell us, of discovering His mind. Bless God that He has "made known unto us the secret ["the mystery"] of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Christ" (Ephesians 1:9). Men today come from Italy and boast loudly if they have had a talk with the "dictator" there; or from Germany, and say, The great "leader" of Germany let me in to his plans; or from Washington, and boast that they have had "inside information" concerning those that are prominent there. But what are these rulers all? Bits of dust! God declares that in His sight the nations are "accounted as the small dust of the balance," and that "the rulers of this age are coming to nothing" (Isaiah 40:15; 1 Corinthians 2:6).
Now may God give us grace to realize at least a little of our mighty privilege in having revealed to us the mind of the Lord, the God of hosts.
"Thus saith Jehovah,
Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Neither let the mighty man glory in his might,
Let not the rich man glory in his riches;
But let him that glorieth glory in this,
That he hath understanding, and knoweth Me,
That I am Jehovah who exerciseth loving kindness,
Justice, and righteousness, in the earth:
For in these things I delight,
Saith Jehovah" (Jeremiah 9:23-24).
Or who hath been His counsellor? As God said to Job: "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?" We know, if we are Christ's, that we are in Him, of whom Isaiah wrote, "His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6). Of Christ God speaks: He is "The Man that is my Fellow, saith Jehovah of hosts" (Zechariah 13:7). Christ has been made the Wisdom of God unto us: there is no other real wisdom! When the present creation has passed away,--with the very "laws" that are said to "govern" it; and God creates a new heaven and a new earth, all but God's saints will be eternally ignorant! For all the natural man knows is the present creation: whereas of the new creation God says, "Behold, I make all things new!" This will include the very mode and manner of existence: and what does "science" know about that? Of our Lord's resurrection body, for example! And with none of God's saints, or of His angels, or of the seraphim or the cherubim, took He counsel, when He created all things! Nor does He take counsel of any, in the New Creation!
Or who hath first given to Him and it shall be recompensed unto Him again? How beautifully this puts us in our place! "What hast thou that thou didst not receive? And if thou hast received it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?" (1 Corinthians 4:7). Men love to think of themselves as "creators" of this and of that. But man has created nothing. He is the user, for a few days, of this present creation of God. He may even "discover" some substance or force that God long since created. Man must needs boast of his "inventions," his "creations," his greatness, and especially his "progress." But alack, the undertaker comes along and hauls him away!
Yes, says Paul, if somebody has actually supplied something to God, God will quickly recompense him! He will be in no creature's debt!
For of Him (God)--as the one great Cause and Source; and through Him as the mighty Worker who without creature-assistance brings into effect, into realization, one by one. His counsels; and unto Him as the right and proper, and necessary object and end-- (for how could a creature be a final object?--it would ruin the creature--make a Satan of him; and it would be unrighteous for the creature to be made the end or object of the glory of the Creator!)--are all things--note, all things! In this the saints exult! Against this, the serpent and his seed constantly fight and war. If Satan cannot get himself worshipped, he will beget in man's wicked mind a philosophy of "evolution"--a theory that all things came about by blind uncaused "development." But men, professing themselves to be wise, always become "fools." [Hear Voltaire, the brilliant French infidel in the eighteenth century, speak of Sir Isaac Newton (one of the greatest minds and godliest men of history): "Look at the mighty mind of Newton. When he got into his dotage he began to study the book called the Bible; and it seems, in order to credit its fabulous nonsense, we must believe (says Newton) that the knowledge of mankind will be so increased that we shall be able to travel at fifty miles per hour. The poor dotard!" (Newton had been studying and writing upon Daniel 12:4 : "Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased," when he made this prediction.) At Daytona Beach, in Florida, a few miles from my home, a man recently traveled nearly six times fifty miles per hour! So it seems Voltaire was the fool, the "dotard," and not Newton! And the very room in which Voltaire asserted, "A hundred years after I am dead the Bible will be an unknown book"--is now a wareroom of the British and Foreign Bible Society!]
All things--The sun, the moon, the stars of light, the earth, the atmosphere, the trees, the animals, our bodies,--for those who study the human frame agree with David, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made!" Our minds,--with powers, as Locke says "capable of almost anything."
"Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts?
Or who hath given understanding to the mind?"
Our spirits also,--which can be spoken to directly by the Spirit of God Himself, putting us thus into intelligent conversation with the infinite Creator of all things: Yea, "of Him, through Him, unto Him are all things!"
And now the ascription of His proper honor forevermore: To Him be the glory unto the ages! What a prospect for a redeemed sinner! In the ages to come--ages of worship without end, in which glory will be ascribed to God,--and that with ever-increasing delight! And the word of eager, glad heart-consent ends it all: Amen.
We find, then, in Romans Eleven:
1. That God has not cast off Israel, a Remnant being always preserved--this Remnant now, "the election of grace."
2. That all but the election were hardened,--to let the fulness of the Gentiles come in: for the purpose of provoking Israel to "jealousy,"--that they might discover Jehovah's mercy.
3. That although broken off from the stalk of blessing, they will be grafted back into "their own olive tree."
4. That this will be at the coming to Zion in Jerusalem of the Lord Jesus Christ; and that then a New Covenant will be made with Israel. That the Gentile will be cut off from the present privilege-place, for not continuing in God's "goodness" (His grace to sinners); and the place of direct Divine blessing again be taken by Israel, who will return from their unbelief.
5. That this most solemn fact should warn Gentiles against individual self-confidence, and especially against the fearful delusion that Israel has been "cast away" forever, and that the Gentiles have taken their place! God has made no covenants with any nation but Israel; and that nation He will restore, the Gentiles becoming then dependent on blessing, through Israel, throughout the future.
6. That instead of being unfaithful to His promises to Israel, God has simply exercised His sovereignty (1) in cutting off Israel for the present; (2) in calling in the fulness of the Gentiles on the principle of mercy only; (3) in taking away from Israel, whom He exalted and to whom He gave His law, all claims upon Him either by national descent, personal righteousness, or any covenant commitments (for they rejected their promises and crucified their Messiah): thus shutting them up to the one great principle of mercy.
It cannot be too much emphasized that Chapters Nine, Ten, and Eleven do not teach that the Church as such has succeeded the Jews in the place of blessing; but do show that Gentiledom has received the place of privilege and opportunity, and consequently of responsibility, that Israel once had. Through not continuing in the Divine "goodness," Gentiledom will be cut off as directly blessed of God, and will be blessed through restored Israel only, in the future, after Christ's return, the Rapture of the Church, and the setting up of the Millennial Kingdom.
This blessing of Gentiles will be much wider and greater when Israel is restored. But the blessing will be of another order,--and not so high an order as that enjoyed by believers today, who are members of Christ's Body! Now, "there is no difference between Jew and Greek." But, when the Lord returns to Zion: "In those days ten men shall take hold, out of all the languages of the nations, they shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you!" (Zechariah 8:23).
To gather, as we now may do, in the name of the Lord Jesus and with the conscious presence of the Holy Spirit, and with direct communion with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Assembly of God, the Church, is indescribably a greater privilege than going as part of a national delegation up to Jerusalem to "worship the King, Jehovah of Hosts"; although at that time the glory will be openly manifest at Jerusalem. Then it will be walking by sight, which is ever a lower path than walking by faith. No Gentile--nor Israelite either, for that matter,--will say in the Millennium, "For me to live is Christ!" God has today "made us alive together with Christ, and raised us up with Him, and made us sit in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus." We are in Christ, and Christ is in us, "the hope of glory!"
Alas, alas, how little do we appreciate our place as Church saints!
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Newell, William. "Commentary on Romans 11". Newell's Commentary on Romans, Hebrews and Revelation. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany