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Gods plan with Israel

 

Rom_9-12

Dear Friends,

 

One could call Romans 9 to 11 the forgotten chapters of the New Testament. Almost every believer knows the last words of Romans 8 ‘Nor height, nor depth, nor any

 
 
 
 

other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord’. But who knows the words that follow directly afterwards: “...That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh”? It is Paul’s heart cry

 

about the destiny of his own people; without the Messiah they will never meet the calling God meant for them.

The apostle knows God has called him to unfold His Plan with Israel in a clear way. He often anticipates the various wrong notions that threatened to

 

arise. It is remarkable that Paul did not put these three chapters at the end, but rather placed them in the heart of his letter to the Romans. In that way he underlines the importance of a good Biblical sight on God’s plan with His people Israel.

He, who studies more profoundly that plan will receive a richer Bible, but above all, a richer Messiah in return. “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things”, he ends these chapters.

We hope this edition of our magazine about the chapters 9, 10 and 11 of the epistle to the Romans may be a blessing to you as a reader.

We also want to thank you very much for the many positive reactions we receive each time. It encourages and stimulates us to go on in the strength and mercy of our Lord. Praying for and trusting upon His guidance, for this edition also.

With a cordial Shalom

Also on behalf of the Board and the team of co-workers,

Anton Stier

 

 

Paul’s great sorrow

 

“I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:1-3).

It is certainly not without reason that the epistle to the Romans, although not according to the chronological order of the epistles, is arranged right after the book of Acts. The epistle is so to say the gateway to the understanding of the great fundamental truths of the Gospel, ‘which he had promised afore concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh’ (cf. Rom. 1:2,3). The principles of this Gospel were already made known to Abraham: justification based on faith (Gen. 15:6, Rom. 4:3). In chapters 9 to 11 Paul put these truths in the context of God's plan with Israel. Step by step he unfolds God’s marvellous counsel: “For all (Jews and non-Jews) have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:23, 24). It all leads to the exclamation of joy in Romans 8: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (verse 38 and 39).

But immediately after his statement that nothing and nobody can separate us from the love of God, Paul expresses his grief over his brethren, so great that he was willing to give up his own relationship with Christ for them: “For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:3).

Here Paul doesn’t show off pious sentiments, but gives us a glimpse into the true priestly heart, like that of Moses, who said because of his contemporaries: “Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written” (Exod. 32:32).

 

THE PRIVILEGES OF THE JEW

“Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.” (Romans 9: 4,5)

The apostle gives us a list of ten privileges to which Israel were entitled. (see Rom. 3:2 and Rom. 9:4, 5).

1. Unto them were committed the oracles of God

Notice the word ‘committed’. Jewish prophets, apostles and evangelists wrote the Words of God under inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21).

We read in Psalm 147:19, 20: “He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the LORD”.

But that is not all. During many centuries Jewish scholars accurately copied and handed over these Words to the next generations. Is not it amazing that, despite of the fact that they often disobeyed the Lord, they preserved the Holy Scriptures with great care? Philo of Alexandria, a contemporary of the apostles once said: “The Jews would rather prefer to die ten thousand times than to admit that a single word of their Scriptures would be changed”. That is why the Lord Jesus could say: “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled”.

 

2. They are Israelites

Especially in the book of Acts ‘Israel’ is a common form of address for the privileged descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who were the first allowed to hear the gospel (Acts 2:22, 36; 3:12, 4:8, 10, 5:31, 10:36, 13:16, 17, 23, 24).

 

3. The adoption as sons

A term which, except here, in the New Testament only occurs in the sense of sonship of the individual believer, acquired in Christ (Rom. 8:15, 23; Gal. 4:5, Eph. 1:5). However, Israel as a people received the right of sonship. The relationship between God and Israel was so real, that God brings His paternity of Israel against the paternity of Pharaoh. In Exodus 4:22, 23 we read: “And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn”.

 

4. The glory

This is not about a natural glory of Israel (compare Is. 1:6; 48:4), but about the glory of God. Like the woman is the glory of the man (1 Cor. 11:7), Israel was predestined to reflect the glory of her Husband among the nations (Is. 62:2).

 

5. The covenants

The word ‘covenant’ (Greek: diathèkè) speaks also about the other goal God intended with Israel, namely to separate them from all other nations as a holy people.

The word diathèkè comes from the word ‘diatithèmi’, which means ‘to set apart’, ‘arrange’ ‘ordain’. For example, it is clearly expressed in Ezekiel 20:37: “And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant”.

 

Notice that Paul speaks about ‘covenants’ (plural) God made with the fathers. We can find in the Bible the following covenants:

 

A. The covenant with Abraham

This was an unconditional covenant (Abraham slept during the making of the covenant, Gen. 15:12) and contained the fivefold promise of:

 

1. A large offspring (Gen. 15:5);

2. A considerable land (Gen. 15:7, 18);

3. The deliverance from Egypt (Gen. 15:14);

4. The victory over the enemy (Gen. 15:19-21);

5. The coming of the Seed (Gen. 12:7), the Lord Jesus Christ, Who, as the true Heir can claim these promises (Gal. 3:16) and made access to this promises available for all who believe (Gal. 3:14).

 

B. The covenants with Moses

b1. The Sinai covenant (Exod. 19-28). Conditions were put in it. The law however does not invalidate the prior covenant with Abraham (Gal. 3:17)!

b2. The Moab covenant (Deut. 29). This covenant is sanctioned with a curse.

b3. The Post-Diaspora covenant (Deut. 30:1-9). This covenant contains the promise of Israel’s repentance among the nations, resulting in their return from the worldwide dispersion to the Promised Land, as well as the judgement on their enemies.

 

C. The covenant with David

This covenant contained the assurance of an immortal posterity, kingship and kingdom of Israel, through the Son of David (2 Sam. 7:5-29; Luk. 1:26-33, etc.).

 

D. The new covenant

This covenant ensures that, based on the shed blood of Christ, their sins will be wiped out and the LORD will put His law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts (Jer. 31:31-34, Ezek. 20:34-37; Matt. 26:27, 28, Heb. 8:7-13).

 

All theses covenants come together in the Messiah of Israel:

A. The covenant with Abraham: Christ as the promised Seed (Gal. 3:16).

B. The covenant with Moses: Christ fulfilled God’s holy righteousness.

C. The covenant with David: Christ as the Son of David, will receive the everlasting kingship (Is. 9:5, 6; Luc. 1:31-33).

D. The New Covenant: of which the blood of Christ is the perfect seal (Matt. 26:27, 28).

 

6. The giving of the law

Creation reveals God’s eternal power and Godhead (Rom. 1:20), but the law reveals His holy nature and contains an education which was entrusted to Israel only (Ps. 19; 147:19; Rom. 3:2).

 

7. The service of God

The purpose of each instruction and revelation of God is to serve Him. First under the old covenant, as a shadow of things to come (Hebr. 10:1), later under the new covenant as “the true worshipers in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23).

 

8. The promises

The promises to Israel are described in numerous places in the Bible. Many of these promises have yet to be fulfilled, like the promise of the restoration of the house and reign of David.

 

9. The fathers

They are the ones to whom God has spoken in the prophets (Hebr. 1:1) and to whom He gave His promise of restoration.

 

10. Christ came of them

It is very important to be aware that the Lord Jesus came of the Jewish people but at the same time that He is God above all, to praise for ever!”

 

 

God’s Word cannot be of none effect

“Not as though the Word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel. Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children; but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” (Rom. 9:6-8)

 

After having discussed this passage from the privileged position of the natural descendents of Abraham, we now want to contemplate the way along which God will work out this privileged position. At first sight the conclusion seems justified that, because of Israel’s unbelief, God’s plan for them has been definitely blocked and His promises to Abraham cannot be fulfilled.

Paul, anticipating this premature conclusion, says it is “not as though the word of God hath taken none effect.” (Rom. 9:6) Even the most deeply rooted unbelief is not able to bring God’s Word into discredit. We must, hereby, make a difference between God’s Word as pertaining to ‘His eternal ordinances’ and God’s Word as pertaining to His ‘offer of grace’ for each individual, which can only become one’s portion by faith and conversion.

 

The covenant that God had made with Abraham was unconditional. Even the law, given to Israel 430 years later, cannot not disannul it. (Gal. 3:17) These promises are part of His unshakable ordinances.

On the other hand we read in Hebrew 4:2 that the Gospel did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.

In Mark 7:13 we even read that the Word of God was made of none effect through the addition of human traditions. On the one hand it is impossible that God’s Word, in the sense of His unshakable ordinances can be annulled, for the Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35), on the other hand it is possible that the Word through unbelief and/or the addition of human traditions can be made of none effect in the life of an individual person.

 

Through this distinction we can now have a better understanding of the following verse of Scripture: “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel”(Rom. 9:6).

God’s ordinances are definite; He shall keep His promises to Abraham and his descendants, however, only to that part of Abraham’s descendents, which fulfil two important conditions.

The first condition is to be part of the ‘purpose according to God’s election’ (vs. 11) – a principle you can see in the election of Jacob instead of Esau. His promise to Abraham was intended for Jacob and his descendants and not for Esau and his descendants.

The second condition is faith, a principle made clear in the two sons of Abraham, where Ishmael, due to the unbelief of Abraham, was born after the flesh (Gal. 4:22) and stood outside of the promise, whereas Isaac, on the other hand, was conceived through the faith of Abraham and Sarah (Heb. 11:11, 12; Rom. 4)

 

JACOB HAVE I LOVED, BUT ESAU HAVE I HATED

“For this is the word of promise. At this time will I come, and Sarah will have a son. And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” (Rom. 9:9-13)

 

The verse “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated”, has led to great confusion by many throughout the ages. Does it speak of a fatalistic god who at random, accepts the one and rejects the other, the one destined to eternal salvation – and the other to eternal destruction? No, for the emphasis in the verse: “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” is not placed on the hating of Esau, but on the loving of Jacob; not on the discrimination of Esau, but on the preference of Jacob. We find the same meaning of the word ‘hate’ in Luke 14:26 where the Lord says: “If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”

Obviously it does not concern here a call to hate parents, wife, children, brothers and sisters. That would be contrary to the fifth commandment and in opposition to His new command to love one another, “as I have loved you” (John 13:34). How much the Lord Jesus loved His parents but still let the things of His heavenly Father prevail, we find in the words He spoke at the age of 12:

 

“How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49)

 

The loving of Jacob and the hating of Esau has nothing to do with the rejection of a person, but with the predestination of the one above the other for a special purpose.

In the predestination are three important principles expressed:

 

1. Predestination rejects every possibility of one’s own glory through one’s performances, ‘for the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil,’ were already elected by God to fulfil His plan.

 

2. The election of Jacob over Esau does not concern in the first place an election of persons, but of nations, which would be descended from them, respectively Israel and Edom. (Gen. 36:1; Mal. 1:1-5).

 

3. God’s election has always to do with a special service. Election is never an end in itself, but leads to the realization of God’s plan of salvation.

 

The election of Israel is therefore inextricably bound up with the special service for which the Lord elected them. But note, ‘first the Jew’ in the meaning of having preference above other nations, has two sides to it, as seen in Romans 2:9-11:

“Tribulation and anguish, (shall come) upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;... for there is no respect of persons with God.”

 

In all the acts of God, with Jacob, with Esau, as well with Pharaoh, He Himself is the sovereign God, Who, instead of being subject to human judgment, rightly claims to make out of the same lump of clay an object for honourable use as well as an object for daily use. (Rom. 9:20-23).

 

Let us now consider the remarkable relationship to God in which Israel is potrayed as the clay in the hands of the Potter.

 

THE POTTER AND THE CLAY

“Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall that which is formed say to him that formed it: Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction; And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As he says also in Osee (Hosea), I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.” (Rom. 9:20-26).

 

In Isaiah 43 God calls Himself: the Creator of Jacob and the Maker of Israel: “But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear note: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine.”

 

Arguing with God is one of the most persistent characteristics of human nature, which wants to test God’s counsel critically according to the standards of its own ‘common sense’. It is remarkable how Paul always considers these human objections in his argument.

 

“Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who has resisted his will?” (Rom. 9:19). Behind this question there is a fatalistic image of God, as if God would act fully rejecting the human will. Paul’s example of the clay and the Potter, is not to show that we are put at God’s disposal as dead material, but that the clay is accountable to the Potter. That the clay cannot be seen as unresisting material is proven in God’s dealings with Pharaoh, for did not God endure Pharaoh with great longsuffering? At first because he had subjected Israel to merciless slavery, but after that by his reaction to Moses’ call to let the people go: “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go?” (Exod. 5:2a). When Pharaoh in addition hardens his heart three times (Exod. 7:13, 22; 8:19) and in spite of the plagues proves to be unrelenting (Exod. 7:14), the limit is reached. From then on God hardens the heart of Pharaoh (Exod.9:12; 10:29, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8, 17).

Pharaoh himself went down the road to judgment, now – shackled to God - he will have to follow this road to the uttermost. Pharaoh intended to question God’s omnipotence and majesty by saying: “Who is the LORD, that I should listen to Him?”. Now he himself is confronted with an example of Who the LORD really is. “Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.” (Rom. 9:17).

 

In contrast to the believers, who are ordained by God ‘to shew the exceeding riches of his grace’ (Eph. 2:7), the unbelieving and hardened man is used by God to show His overwhelming power. Both are presented by the Lord as a witness to His Divine Being, be it as an image of His love and grace, or be it as an image of His power and righteous judgment.

Note how God’s dealings with Pharaoh and his armies cause a tremendous shudder and shivering among all the nations of the earth. (Exod. 15:15, 16).

This manner of God’s dealing is undoubtedly one of the great principles we can find throughout all Scripture. Another clear example of this we find in 2 Thess. 2:10-12, where is spoken of people who will not be saved, because “….they received not the love of truth, that they might be saved. ”Not only have they consciously put aside the truth, but also rejected the love of the Truth. The rejection of that love results in God sending them a strong delusion, which results in their believing the lie, in order that all may be judged, who have not believed the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2Thess. 2:12).

 

Also with regard to Israel we find this course of action of God, whereby Israel’s unbelief and disobedience lead to the hardening of the heart, blindness and deafness. (see among others Acts 28:26 – 28).

 

In Isaiah 30:12, 13 we read:

“Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness and stay thereon: Therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant.”

 

In the end we also see here the destination of Israel’s enemies. Their hatred of God and His people will redound on their own heads in the end. After the nations have marched against Jerusalem of their own accord, they will on the Day of the Lord, be gathered unto battle by Himself. It will appear as if the road to Jerusalem lies open for the enemy armies, but in the end it

will be clear that they, like Pharaoh and his armies, have walked into the trap of God’s judgment (Zec. 14:1-3, 12, 13; 12:2, 3)

 

Furthermore it is important to watch carefully the expressions used by the apostle in Romans 9:

 

“What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction; and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.”

 

The ‘vessels of wrath’ were prepared by God, but the ‘vessels of mercy’ he has made ready unto glory. People are never predestined by God, but prepared unto vessels of wrath. The word ‘prepare’ (Greek: ‘katarditzo’) has the meaning of ‘ making complete’, ‘making ready’, or also ‘restore what is broken down’.

We find the same word for instance in Mark 1:19 in connection with the mending of the nets by James and John, or in Gal. 6:1 in connection with restoring someone who was taken in a fault. The picture will be perfectly clear when we go to the house of the potter in Jeremiah 18:3, 4 where we read:

“Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.”

 

The word ‘marred’ can also be translated by ‘impaired’. That is the situation, which had developed by the rebellious man, not because of the fault of the Potter, but as the result of his own sin and disobedience. The heavenly Potter does not then throw away the clay, but reshapes it, so that, after all, it becomes as a vessel of wrath, by which He may be glorified.

In contrast to the vessels of wrath, the vessels of mercy are ‘created’ unto glory, that is to say, prepared beforehand, until the moment comes that they may reflect their glory in the full light. We find this same word ‘make ready’ in Eph. 2:10 where it concerns the good works which God ‘before ordained’ for His children.

 

Those vessels of mercy “are we”, says Paul, “whom He hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles. (Rom. 9:24)

 

After the rejection of the Messiah by Israel as a people, there is not exclusively ‘Jewish clay’ in the house of the Potter, but also ‘Gentile clay’, prepared for His glory, or as the Ephesian letter teaches us: “be to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:12).

 

Following this we see how God’s Spirit gives a double fulfilment of the prophecy of Hosea (2:22)

 

“I will call them My people, which were not My people, and her beloved, which was not beloved” (Rom. 9:25)

 

Naturally Hosea speaks here in the first place about the future restoration of Israel, which will be acquired by the Lord as His eternal bride and so no longer will be Lo-Ammi (not My people), but Ammi (My people).

 

However, here the apostle, inspired by the Holy Spirit, adds a new dimension: they too, the Gentiles, who were without God in this world (Eph. 2:12) are given by faith access to salvation and are accepted by the Lord as “Ammi“ (My people). Thus the ‘not–beloved’ become ‘beloved’, yes are even accepted as sons of the living God (Rom. 9:25,26).

 

 

THE REMNANT SHALL BE SAVED

“And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha. What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed” (Rom. 9:29-33).

 

In the same way as Israel considered itself as the incarnation of the Messianic prophecies (think of Isaiah 53, in which, according to the Jewish interpretation, the ‘suffering Servant of the LORD’ should be applied to Israel), even so in Christianity the misconception has been established many times, that, after Israel’s fall, all the Messianic promises are transferred to the church. But even though Israel fell and even though the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things (Rom. 15:27), the Lord remains faithful to His promises of recovering.

It means His promises will be fulfilled in a faithful remnant of Israel. Remember the words of Romans 9:6: “…for they are not all Israel, which are of Israel”. In the same context the apostle quotes the prophet Isaiah: “Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth” (Rom. 9:27, 28).

 

Let us look at the wider context of the quoted Bible verses:

“And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God. For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return…” (Is. 10:20-22).

 

We can distinguish the following important principles:

a. It is just a remainder (Hebrew: ‘sjear’= remnant) of Israel and of the House of Jacob (indication for the natural offspring of Jacob) that will escape.

b. They will no more again stay upon him that smote them (the King of Assyria), which means that they will no longer expect the deliverance of Israel from diplomatic negotiations, nor from him (single); the future world leader, the ‘beast out of the sea’ (see i.e. 2 Thess. 2 and Rev. 13:1).

c. They shall stay in truth upon the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, instead of trusting in a covenant with death and with hell (Is. 28:15).

d. They will return to the mighty God (Hebrew: ‘El Gibor’).

 

The expression ‘a remnant shall return’ in Hebrew is: ‘Sjear-jasub’, an expression we find literally in the name of Isaiah’s son Sjear-Jasub. It is this name which had to strengthen Isaiah’s words to encourage King Ahaz in regarding to the superiority of the two hostile armies that were threatening him (see Is. 7:3).

Here we have a so-called ‘double-bottom-prophecy’ by which we mean a prophecy that has been fulfilled partially, but will be fulfilled completely in the future (usually addressed as ‘in that day’).

Likewise, through all depressions, the Lord will keep a faithful remnant of His people in the future. Therefore, Paul quotes Isaiah again:

“And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha” (Rom. 9:29).

 

Here, God’s way of doing is shown from a human point of view: “Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed”. But from God’s point of view, He Himself kept a remnant out of Israel. “I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal” (Rom. 11:4). The final goal of God’s plan is always the exaltation of His Name. That is why the Lord says in Ezekiel 36:22: “Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went”.

 

For this reason Israel will be spared from the fatal destiny of Sodom (after Lot and his family were evacuated by the angels!) and not been made like unto Gomorrah. God Himself watches over His people to prevent them from destruction. However the tragedy, which will precede the final upraising of the remnant, is indescribable. It should touch us deeply when we read that this faithful remnant will be only a very small part of Israel. Zechariah 13 says that ‘two parts’ will be cut off and die in the land, and ‘one third’ will be brought into the fire to be refined (Zech. 13:8, 9). In Isaiah 6:13 we even read: “But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof”.


GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS UNKNOWN TO ISRAEL

“Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed” (Rom. 10:1-11).

 

Now we have seen the tragedy in the previous chapter about the fact that just a remnant of Israel shall be saved, we would like to search for what reasons the majority will be rejected and the minority will be accepted.

The reason for the rejection is not exactly the result of the lack of zeal or indifference for the justice of the law. When Paul, with regard to this subject, compares Jew and Gentile, it shows that Israel, in contrary to the Gentiles, seeks for the righteousness, which is of the law and is characterized by an extraordinary zeal for God.

Yet, their zeal and efforts turn out to be insufficient to meet the required righteousness. Their zeal is lacking the knowledge of Gods righteousness, according to the

Apostle Paul in Romans 10;2, 3:

 

“For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God”.

 

Before we continue, we would like to look at the meaning of the term ‘righteousness’ in Judaism.

In general the term ‘tsedeka’ (righteousness) means practical justice, which can be shown, for example, in all kinds of charity, like caring for the poor. The name ‘tsaddik’ (righteous one; plural: ‘tsaddikim’) indicates a person who is right in general, free of serious sin, and meets his obligations towards God and walks in obedience of the commandments of the Torah.

As an exception, the term ‘tsaddik’ has the meaning of a person that possesses an extraordinary righteousness, of which one says, that there are at least thirty-six of such persons in the world. Concerning them it is said that they behold God’s presence every day (Sukkah 45b).

In the Rabbinical literature three groups of people are distinguished:

 

a. ‘Tsaddikim gemurim’, the total righteous ones. They (men as well as women) are being controlled by a right mind and are being destined to the suffering of this world, in order to purge them of the few sins that could prove them guilty. Fasting also would be a way to overcome the sinful inclinations of the righteous person.

 

b. ‘Resh’im gemurim’, the totally wicked ones. They are being controlled by a wrong mind.

 

c. ‘Beinonim’, the common ones. Both right and wrong are influencing them.

 

Maimonides (1135-1204), who is considered to be the greatest Jewish scholar of the Middle Ages, describes the ‘tsaddik’ as the one in which the balance between right and wrong bends to the right, by which a really good deed puts more weight in the scale and thus forms an important contra weight for some smaller sins (Encyclopedia Judaic).

It is clear that this concept of ‘righteousness’ is in contradiction to the Biblical concept of righteousness, where the Holy God takes Himself as standard. God’s righteousness therefore, cannot be earned by works or deeds, but can be received by faith and mercy.

 

“What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness, which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone” (Rom. 9:30-32).

 

The fact that the Gentiles, who did not follow after righteousness, yet have attained righteousness (in Greek it literally says; having taken desirous) is not a result of zealous following after, but of receiving by faith.

 

The differences can be described as follows:

 

a. Unfaithful part of Israel

b. Faithful part of the Gentiles

 

a1. Puts Moses and the principle of the law in the centre

b1. Puts Christ as the fulfilling of the law in the centre

 

a2. Follows after righteousness as it were by the works of the law

b2. Does not follow after righteousness

 

a3. Not attaining the righteousness of the law

b3. Attaining righteousness which is of faith

 

a4. Stumbled at the stumblingstone

b4. Believed on Him and were not ashamed

 

a5. Ignorant and not submitting to Gods righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness

b5. Own righteousness as a filthy rag disqualifies them

 

a6. Establish one’s own righteousness and live (earning)

b6. Receiving God’s righteousness by faith and live (mercy)

 

From this overview it shows that the Law was not given to strive for one’s own righteousness with which one could claim Gods promise (Gal. 3:17-28).

Paul calls this way of thinking a ‘zeal of God, but not according to knowledge’ (Rom. 10:2). The Law was intended to discourage human zeal for one’s own righteousness. Although the Law is holy, just and good and being so it is a revelation of Christ’s perfection, it’s consequence on the sinful man is far from favourable: the law brings us into captivity, shows us what sin is, works all manner of concupiscence, etc. (Rom. 7:7-12).

 

“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom. 10:4).

 

The word ‘end’ in Greek is the word ‘telos’, which means ‘fulfilling’ or ‘completion’. It does not mean end in the sense of ‘ending’ but in the sense of reaching the intended goal. The Lord Jesus has not only paid the wages of the sinner according to the requirement of the Law, but He also has fulfilled the Law to the end through His obedience and revealed the complete righteousness. Only in Christ the Law finds its true and full meaning. The Law does not come in human righteousness, but in the form of Godly righteousness. Only He is the Man, Who fits Moses’ description, quoted by Paul in Rom 10:5: ”That the man which doeth those things shall live by them”. It is this righteousness that is ascribed to the believer (Gen. 15:6, Rom. 4).

 

“But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Rom. 10:6-10).

 

This part of Scripture is a quotation (not literally) from Deuteronomy 30:11-14, where Moses in his farewell speech puts before the people the choice of life or death by asking them to surrender themselves to Gods command or not. Paul however, adds to this quotation and replaces the word ‘command’ by the word ‘Christ’. He, the Fulfiller of God’s commandments, came from heaven to earth not as the result of human effort. He came, voluntarily, as prophesied in Psalm 40:9: “I delight to do thy will, O my God, yea, thy law is within my heart”. Human efforts have not raised Him from the dead either. He had power to lay down His life and power to take it again (John 10:18).

 

Therefore Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 30:11: “For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off …”

For this command (Christ) does not demand, but completes. Like this, the Word of law becomes a ‘Word of faith’ that God’s Spirit puts in the heart and mouth of man in order ‘to confess with his mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe with his heart that God has raised Him from the death’ (Rom. 10:9).

Against this background Moses’ words do get a much richer content, when he says: “Therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy Life…” (Deut. 30:19, 20).

 

Christ Himself is the Life of the believer (comp. Phil. 1:21; Col. 3:4).

 

Again we read Romans 9:31 where Paul speaks about the righteousness that Israel follows after: “But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness”.

 

Both Greek words that are used for ‘following after’ and ‘righteousness’ occur in Matthew 5:10 in opposite order:

 

“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake”

 

True believers are being persecuted (followed after) for righteousness’ sake instead of following after righteousness themselves. Paul is a striking example. In his time of unfaithfulness he was a perfect follower after righteousness of the law and in his zeal of persecuting the congregation. Until the moment that he counted everything loss and dung for Christ and “be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Phil. 3:7, 9).

 

NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE JEW AND THE GREEK

 

“For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Rom. 10:12, 13)

 

First we would like to lay the accent on the words in vs. 12: “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek.” In our days namely there is quite some confusion by the thought that:

1. The Jew has to be saved through another way than the Gentile and/or that

2. The practical effect of the salvation with the Jew is different from the Gentile.

Contrary to the idea that the Jew should be saved through another way, we point to Acts 15:11 where the apostle Peter so clearly states: “But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they (Gentiles).”

In other words, however strange it may sound in our ears, the Jew has to follow the Gentile in the way he is saved.

 

The misunderstanding about the practical effect of salvation is somewhat more complicated. Confusion arises now and then about the question as to whetherthe keeping of the Mosaic law partly or as a whole for Jewish Christians is desirable or even necessary.

Particularly among Messianic Jews in America the Messianic theology has emphasized strongly the unique place that Christian-Jews should take in God's plan of salvation.

So there are Messianic synagogues, Messianic rabbis and international Messianic conferences, striving for definition of their own identity (from the Judaist tradition and Mosaic Law) apart from the Gentile-Christians.

 

Often specific events in the period of Acts are the basis. For instance in Acts 21:20 the fact is mentioned that thousands of Jews who came to faith, who were at the same time zealots of the law and also that Paul accepts the proposal to sanctify himself according the Mosaic law and to unite with four men who put themselves under 'the promise of Nazarite'.

With all respect and understanding for the difficult situation of many Jewish believers as result of the lack of understanding they experience from Gentile-Christians, we must let the testimony of the Scriptures prevail.

 

A good understanding of the book of Acts

For a good understanding of the book of Acts we have to realise that Luke (the writer of the book) is reporting a very exceptional period of the history of salvation. Events we find prescribed in this book, are not just like that the time in which we now live. Namely we have to consider that:

 

A. the preaching especially in the first 12 chapters is directed mainly to the Jewish nation and not to the Gentiles.

 

Some specific expressions are:

- Ye men of Israel, hear these words (Acts 2:22)

- Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly... (Acts 2:36)

- Save yourselves from this untoward generation (singular) (Acts 2:40)

- Christ who before hath been preached to you (the Jewish nation)... (Acts 3:20)

- Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus... (Acts 3:26)

- Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31)

- And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he (Christ)... (Acts 10:42)

 

The preaching of the Gospel to Israel ends temporarily in Acts 28:28, where the apostle says to his brethren after the flesh: “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles...”

 

So the preaching of the Gospel begins with the Jews in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria (Acts 1:8), is declined by Israel as a nation*, and finally in Rome (in those days the uttermost part of the earth, Acts 1:8), to be unfolded to Gentiles (Acts 28:30, 31).

 

B. The preaching in the first 12 chapters of Acts is restricted mainly to the proclamation that Jesus of Nazareth is risen from the dead and the Christ (Messiah) of God (Acts 2:22-36; 3:6, 15; 4:2, 10, 33; 5:31; 10:38-40; 18:5, 28).

 

This preaching was accompanied by signs and wonders to demonstrate that the Messianic kingdom, under the condition of Israel’s repentance, could begin immediately (Acts 3:19, 20). It was as it were 'in the air'. Gradually, when the rejection of the Messiah by Israel as a nation became more manifest, the apostle Paul revealed the mysteries concerning the Church being the Body of Christ, in which is 'neither Jew nor Gentile' (Gal. 1:11 – 2:1). It speaks for itself that this preaching could have its full effect much later under the believers from the Jews, which, familiar with the original ministry of Peter*, had remained zealots of the law. Paul’s new teaching concerning the place and position of the believer in the Body of Christ, had not reached them yet. Even Peter testifies of the doctrine of Paul that “in which are some things hard to be understood...” (2 Pet. 3:16).

 

The fact that in Jerusalem Paul accepts the proposal to place himself under the Mosaic law, is neither an impure compromise, to which Peter and Barnabas let themselves be tempted, nor a proof of the necessity to maintain the Mosaic law under the Christian-Jews. It was purely because of the conscience and to take the wind out of the sails of the false accusers, which asserted that Paul was teaching 'to forsake Moses' (Acts 21:21).

Anyway, the well-meant advice to unite himself with four men who were under the Nazarite-promise to please the Jews, had no favourable effect. The testimony of Paul in Hebrew was interrupted by the cry: “Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live” (Acts 22:22).

In contrast with the period of Acts, in which the New-Testament Scriptures were in development, we now have the complete revealed Word of God and so we are responsible for the full light that has been given to us in this.

 

Footnotes:

1) It is important to see the difference between the reaction concerning the Gospel by Israel as a nation and the individual Jews. Many thousands gratefully accepted the Gospel, but in the nation as a whole the message did not find a fertile breeding ground (Heb. 6:6-8).

2) Peter is called the apostle of the circumcision (Gal. 2:7, 8). The Lord Jesus Himself appointed him to feed His lambs (always a type of the Jewish nation) (John 21:17). But Peter as well had to overcome a lot, as is clear from his words to Cornelius: “Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean” (Acts 10:28).

 

Salvation in the Name of the Lord

“...for whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Rom. 10:13)

 

The expression 'whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved' is a quotation from Joel 2:32 where the prophet gives an account of the coming great and terrible Day of the Lord, which shall be preceded by terrifying signs:-s blood, fire and pillars of smoke. In that great tribulation a cry of fear shall resound among the Jewish nation, which is unparalleled in history: the Name of the LORD (JHWH), which has always been feared and avoided, shall be called upon.

From the further description of Joel’s prophecy in particular we have to conclude that it will be mainly Jews who shall call upon God’s holy Name for their redemption, as Joel continues with the words: “for on mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance”.

We may assume, that the deliverance shall be via the escape route that the LORD shall create for them by cleaving the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4, 5).

However when Paul quotes the words of this prophecy he does not place them in the context of 'the Day of the LORD' and does not even restrict them to his brethren after the flesh, but expounds them as an ancient principle that has now been made accessible to the Gentiles as well: they also, shortly after the day of Pentecost, belong to all who may call upon the Name of the LORD for their salvation.

 

The calling upon the Name of the LORD

Now concerning the calling upon the Name of the LORD we find here a great stumbling block for Jewish people. It is the Name of God, which we find in the Hebrew Bible written with the characters 'yod hay vav hay' (known as the 'Tetragrammaton'). Until the destruction of the first temple in 586 B.C., this Name was pronounced with its original vowels.1)

From the third century B.C. the use of the Name was avoided and replaced by the title Adonay, which means 'Lord'.2)

During the pronunciation of the Hebrew in the early middle ages the vowels of ‘Adonay’, namely 'e', 'o' and 'a' were put under and beside the consonants 'yod hee vav hee', by which they really meant to say “read Adonai”.

Because the title Adonai as replacement of the Name was found too holy to pronounce, it became later the custom to speak simply about 'the Name'.3)

It is striking that the famous 'Encyclopaedia Judaica' reveals that the avoiding of the Name of God was actually caused by a wrong understanding of the third commandment: “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain” (Exod. 20:7). The intention here is of course not to prohibit the use of the Name honourably, but a commandment not to use the Name in vain.

 

The reason why we emphasize the background of the Name of God is because the salvation of Israel is directly connected with this Name. Of course, neither the grammatical discussion about the original composition of this Name nor the immense significance of it are of the first importance. The Name includes the Self revelation of God Who revealed in His Name, His Being to His people and laid this wonderful Name upon His people (Num. 6:27). It is this Name, through which God made Himself, His Being, known to Moses as we can read in Exodus 3:14, 15:

“And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.”

 

So we see the explicit will of the LORD, not only in the revelation of His Name to His people, but also in His desire to be called upon with this Name by His own people. That Israel has put aside this desire of God is consequently through human considerations, as the LORD speaks through the mouth of Isaiah, saying: “their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men” (29:13).

In Genesis 21:33 we read that Abraham, after his meeting with Abimelek, called on the Name of the LORD, the everlasting God. The Name was thus already known to Abraham as being the everlasting unchanging God ('I AM THAT I AM').

That Name must once again be made known by Moses in Egypt to the people to be redeemed, for in that Name the LORD would redeem His people from Egypt. In later times, as we have already seen, the use of the Name fell into disuse until the coming of the Lord Jesus, Who said: “ I have manifested Thy Name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world...” (Joh. 17:6).4) That's why John also testifies of Him: “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared Him” (John 1:18).

What a wonderful moment it shall be when Israel presently shall call upon that Name for their salvation, as foretold by Jeremiah:

 

“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.

In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS (JHWH Tsidkenu)” (Jer. 23:5, 6).

 

Here Jeremia reveals in an unmistakable way His full identity: “He is the righteous Branch, Which has been raised unto David and shall reign as King”. He shall be the guarantor for their safety: “ In His days Judah shall be saved and Israel shall dwell safely”. Who else than Jesus Christ has the right to this wonderful Name? For in Him is God’s Name and therefore His Being revealed. That's why there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

 

“... for whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13).

 

Footnotes:

1. This appears from an important archaeological discovery, namely ‘the letters from Lakis’ (an old Canaanite Royal City, Joshua 12:11), which are dated from shortly before the destruction of the first temple

 

2. In the Septuagint translated with the Greek word 'Kurios'.

 

3. 'Ha Shem' in Hebrew or 'Shema' in Aramaic.

According to the Talmud the Tetragrammaton is only be uttered on the Great Day of Atonement by the High Priest in the Holy of Holiest and by the priests in the temple when they give the Aaronic blessing.

 

4. See also the meaningful expression: “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). (Literally: I, I am; Greek: Ego eimi)

 

God’s chain of salvation

“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things”. (Rom.10:14-15)

 

We already saw how the name of the LORD (YHWH) belongs to the second Person of the Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the righteous Branch, Who was raised unto David (His incarnation) and Whose Name will be called by the believing remnant “The Lord our Righteousness” (Jer. 23:5 and 6).

 

The justification by the Lord Jesus Christ is not just a New Testament teaching, but the testimony of the law and the prophets (Rom. 3:21). It is part of the Gospel He promised before by His prophets in the Holy Scriptures (Rom. 1:2). This Gospel is now represented to us as a kind of a lifebelt, consisting of five chains: to be sent, to preach, to hear, to believe and to call upon the Name of the Lord (Rom. 10:12-15).

 

1. To be sent

“And how shall they preach, except they be sent?”

Only those, who are sent by God, receive His authority in proclaiming His Word. Many preachers went out, but were never sent. They only spoke a message the people wanted to hear, but not what God wanted them to say (compare Jer. 1,7 with Jer. 14,14 and Gal. 1,6 and 7; 2; 2 Tim. 4:3; 2 Pet.2:1).

 

2. To preach

“How shall they hear without a preacher?”

Here the word ‘preacher’ means ‘one who proclaims the message as a herald. Notice the testimony of John the Baptist. He was only the voice of one crying in the wilderness (Mark. 1:3).

 

3. To hear

They, who hear the message, belong to ‘the field in which good seed falls’

(according to the parable of the sower).

 

a. “When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catched away”. (Matth. 13:19)

b. “When anyone heareth the word and recieveth it with joy, but hath no root in hemself, but dureth for a while, but is offended when tribulation and persecution ariseth”. (Matth. 13:20 and 21)

c. “He that heareth the word and the care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, then he becometh unfruitful”, (Matth. 13:22)

d. “He that heareth the word and understandeth it, then he beareth fruit”. (Matth. 13:23)

 

4. To believe

“How shall they believe in Him of Whom they have not heard?”

Faith is always the result of hearing the Word of God: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17).

One, who never heard nor read the Word of God, cannot be reproached of unbelief!

 

5. To call in Him

“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?”

Only those who truly believe can call on the Lord as their Saviour. About those, who only pay a lip service the Lord says: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matth. 7:22 and 23).

 

Into all the earth

“But I say, have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. But I say, Did not Israel know?” (Rom. 10:18 and 19a)

 

If indeed Israel had not heard the message of salvation, they would have been excused. But they heard. In support of this Paul quotes the words of Psalm 19:4: “Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world”.1)

 

That indeed the witness has gone out to the end of the world2) is proved from the brutal language in which Paul was accused by the lawyer Tertullus: “For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world..” (Acts 24:5).

 

So we see that God charged Himself for the spreading of the Gospel of His Son

among all the Jews around the world.

 

Notes:

1) Psalm 19 explains the preaching of the heavenly bodies, as being appointed by God to preach the Gospel.

 

2) Greek: ‘oikoumene’ = the civilized world

It concerns here the areas of the Roman Empire in which a part of the Jewish people were scattered in Paul’s time.

 

ISRAEL PROVOKED TO JEALOUSY

"But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.” (Rom. 10:19)

The idea that Christians must provoke Israel to jealousy is gaining more ground at the present time. Beside the good intentions of many people that through their good witness in word and deed they can bring about a desire in Jewish hearts to come to know their Messiah as Deliverer and Saviour, others have given a more restricted definition of this verse. They think that Christian witness should restrict itself to a positive Christian attitude without mentioning the gospel (the Good News) of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is called 'witnessing without words'.

That the Bible clearly teaches that faith cometh by hearing, and that hearing by the word of God comes (Rom. 10:17), seems to have escaped their notice.

However, in both cases 'the provocation to jealousy' is seen as a God given means to bring the Jews nearer to their salvation through Christ. But what does the Bible teach?

In the first place that the 'provocation to jealousy' through believers out of the Gentiles is not given here as an explicit task.

The statement in Romans 10:19 that Israel should be provoked to jealousy through believers out of the Gentiles is not seen by Paul as a joyous result of missionary work, but as a judgment of God, that was already proclaimed by Moses over the disbelieving part of Israel.

To understand this properly we need to go back to Deuteronomy 32 where Moses reminds the people that, despite the LORD remaining faithful to his people and supplying all their needs, they still rejected Him, the Rock of their salvation and 'provoked Him to jealousy with strange gods, (which are not gods), with abominations provoked they him to anger.' (Deut. 32:15-17, 21).

Thereupon the LORD reveals not only His anger, but above all His wounded heart, because He, Who alone has the right to rule over His people is put aside. The LORD counteracts with the same emotion: He moves them to jealousy by an alliance with 'those which are not a people (Hebr. lo-am) and provokes them to anger with a foolish nation. (Hebr. Goj naval) – Deut. 32:21. In other words: because Israel provoked the LORD to jealousy and anger with gods who are not gods, the LORD provokes Israel to jealousy and anger with a foolish/heathen folk who can't really be called a folk.

Paul makes clear in his epistle to the Corinthians that the believers out of the Gentiles don't really have a history worth mentioning. He defines them as: ''not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish, the weak and the base". "And yet it pleased the Lord to confound the wise and mighty through the foolish and weak" (see 1 Cor. 1:26-31). Also in Ephesians 2:11 the apostle refers to the Gentiles in a not very flattering way as being 'uncircumcised, without Christ, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world'. And also the Lord Jesus Himself illustrates the position of the Jews and Gentiles as respectively children and dogs (Math. 15:26). But these 'gojim' (heathen in the eyes of the Jews) are now being used to provoke His people to jealousy and anger. He makes them conscious of the actual development that has taken place: 'ammi' (My people) becomes: 'lo ammi' (not My people) and 'lo ammi' becomes 'ammi'. In The Acts of The Apostles we read how their anger concerns the gojim who have come into a personal relationship with the God of Israel (see Phase 2 here under).

 

Israel has thus heard the Gospel, because "their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world" (Rom. 10:18), but they did not know it (vs. 19). The word 'know' (Greek 'ginosko') has here the meaning of a 'personal knowing' and 'being partakers with’. We find a clear example of this word 'knowing' in Math. 7:23 where the Lord says: "I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity".

Here people are rejected whom the Lord does not know, with whom He has never had a personal relationship. In the same way the unbelieving part of Israel has heard the Gospel, but they haven't understood it, that is to say: there was no personal involvement. It is as the apostle says in the epistle to the Hebrews: "For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it" (Hebr. 4:2).

 

And thus through Paul the words of Isaiah were fulfilled:

"I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me" (Rom. 10.20).

But of Israel he says:

"All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people" (Rom. 10.21).

It is good to look again, in this context, at the three different phases of God's redemptive association with Israel in the book of Acts, as we have sketched these in general in chapter 10:

 

Phase 1:

The oration of Peter in Acts 2 is wholly directed at the Jewish folk on the Day of Pentecost, through which a strong witness was given of the fulfilling of the prophecies concerning the suffering, dying, resurrection and glorification of Jesus, the Messiah of Israel. About three thousand people were saved, but the conversion of Israel as a nation didn't take place.

In Acts 3 we again read of a great oration of Peter to Israel following a remarkable wonder, namely the healing of a lame man[1] at the temple gate, which happened in the presence of all (Acts 3:16). Once again the chance for Israel to recognize the Messiah, Who was from the beginning destined for them. Their conversion as a nation would have resulted in His immediate coming again. (see Acts 3:19-21)[2]. The number of believers grew to 5000 men, but the conversion of Israel as a nation didn't take place.

 

Phase 2:

Only as we progress in time and therefore come further in the book of Acts do the Gentiles partake in the salvation that was in the first place intended for Israel. The explanation of this is given by Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13:46: "It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles".

As from that moment the prophetical words of Moses are fulfilled and the Jews are made jealous and angry. The result can be seen, for example, in Acts 14:2 where the souls of the Gentiles were irritated and fierce. In Acts 15 the Gentile believers were forced to be circumcised and as far as salvation was concerned they were looked upon as proselytes: heathen who through circumcision, among other things, were accepted as Jewish converts. Later the apostles corrected this manner of thinking (Acts 15:6-11) and Timothy, whose father was a Greek, was circumcised so as not to give offence to the Jews (Acts 16:1-3). In Thessalonica the problems really escalated. When a great number of Greeks began to honour the God of Israel, the Jews became envious and fiercely tried by force to put a stop to this development (Acts 17:1-9).

 

Phase 3:

In the end this disappointing development finished with the important historical pronouncement of Paul:

"Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it" (Acts 28:28).

The Gospel from this time on was no longer preached to Israel as a folk, but is sent to the Gentiles. It is the Church, the Body of Christ consisting of Jews and Gentiles who now take a central place in God's plan of Salvation. Through the preaching of the Word both Jews and Gentiles have a place in the Body of Christ. Only after that shall the time come in which the Lord shall completely "rebuild the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down" (compare with Acts 15:14-16).

 

ISRAEL REJECTED?

 

“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 Elijah? 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 Baäl. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.”(Rom. 11:1-7)

It seems as if the Jewish apostle Paul by asking the question “God hath not cast away his people?” was able to see which course the Jewish theology would take. All through the centuries the question ‘Has God rejected his people?’ been asked as if it to state a fact: ‘God has rejected his people.’ Many people think that the countless promises in the Bible for Israel are now for the Church and that only the judgments apply to Israel.

Several facts:

Already in the second century bishops were not allowed to be of Jewish origin. In 200 A.D. Tertullianus, a church father from Africa, taught that Israel had no longer the character of God’s people and that all rights of the elected had been transferred to the ‘new Israel’, the Church.

Augustinus (400 A.D.) claimed that the Jews had no longer the right to be called Israel, or even to be called Jews.

When, under Constantine the Great, Christianity was proclaimed to be the religion of the Roman Empire, the freedom of the Jewish community was further restricted. The Church eventually felt itself obliged to execute God’s judgment over the so-called ‘Jewish folk’. That took place at the council of Nicea, where the decision was made to change Easter to another date than the Jewish Pascha. “It is unworthy that our celebration of this most holy feast should take place on the same date as that of the Jews, who polluted their hands by committing such a great sin and were therefore struck with blindness of the soul”, thus spoke the emperor. The seed of anti-Semitism was strewn and developed in a despicable way during the Crusades in the early Middle Ages.

Not rejected

Let us now look carefully at Paul’s arguments showing that God nevertheless did not reject His people.

a. Paul himself

Paul self is an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin

(Rom.11:1)

If God had really rejected His people, Paul would never have become a believer. It is impossible to deny his Jewish origin which runs like a red thread through all his epistles. His Jewish identity is not restricted to the consciousness of being a full-blooded Israelite, descendant of Abraham, (and therefore certainly not a proselyte). He knew that he was of the tribe of Benjamin (see also Phil. 3:5). The proof that God had not rejected his people is unto this day seen by the Jewish believers. They form the living evidence that blindness has affected only a part of Israel (Rom. 11:26) and that God has not rejected His people.

 

b. God has not rejected His people which He foreknew.

Paul did not write ‘God has not rejected Israel’, but “God has not rejected His people which He foreknew” (Rom. 11:2). His people is therefore that part of Israel that He foreknew because: “...they are not all Israel, which are of Israel” (Rom. 9:6; see also 1 Cor. 10:1-5).

 

In every period of Israel’s history there were always some people whom God knew and foreknew. The word ‘know’ which is used here has the meaning of ‘knowing through a personal relationship’. Even in the time of Elijah when he complains to God: ‘LORD, they have thrown down thy altars, slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away, the LORD answers, “yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baäl”. There is here no question of their own merit, but of the merit of Him, Who has gathered a remnant and sanctified them, (set them apart), in order to have a relationship with them.

It was an initiative of the LORD (see among other places Deut. 7:6, 7; 9:4-6; Ezek. 36:20-38).

 

Aimed at, but not obtained

In the end we read the sad words of Paul: “Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded” (Rom. 11:7).

Israel sought righteousness, but it was a self-righteousness, which did not submit to the righteousness of God (Rom. 10:3). Only the elected few (including Paul) attained it. Once again we must avoid having a fatalistic image of God. Although there is mention of God’s foreknowledge and election, man still remains responsible for thankfully accepting the offer of God’s salvation.

 

SEEING BLIND AND HEARING DEAF

“...(According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling block, and a recompense unto them: Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back always” (Rom. 11:8-10).

 

As we have noted in the last chapter only a part of Israel was stricken with blindness and there is absolutely no reason to believe that God had rejected His people as a whole. In every period of Israel’s history the Lord Himself chose a remnant. We must therefore realize that the words of Moses, which Paul recites (compare with Deut. 29:4), concern only those Israelites who, notwithstanding the witness of the apostles and the miracles which they had seen, had hardened their hearts and thereby seeing did not see and hearing did not hear.

In order to understand this citation we need to go back to Deuteronomy 29 where these words of Moses are recorded. In this chapter the unbelieving part of Israel had already made sufficiently plain that their hearts were hardened.

In fact, Moses could have posed them the same question: “Hath God cast away his people?” The covenant made at Horeb was broken several times by the people and had really lost its validity. The Israelites had lost their right to take possession of the Promised Land. They had likewise lost their right to the land on the ground of the covenant with Abraham, the validity of which depended on belonging to the seed of Abraham (singular), namely: Christ (see Gal 3:15-29). Besides the covenant at Horeb, The LORD now makes a covenant in the land of Moab. This covenant is confirmed with a curse. The nature of this covenant is namely related to the lawgiving with regard to the adulterous woman, (see Numbers 5:21). This chapter is about the jealous husband, who must bring his adulterous wife to the priest who proclaims an oath of cursing over her. In the same way, Israel had made a marriage contract with the Lord (Jer. 31:32) and had driven Him to jealousy. The Israelites were placed under a covenant that was sealed with a curse, (the same Hebrew word for ‘curse’ as is used in Num.5). Just as the adulterous woman in Numbers 5 had to drink the water, made bitter with the dust that is in the floor of the tabernacle, the adulterous nation had to drink water made bitter with the grinded remains of the golden calf. (Exod. 32:20).

In Deuteronomy 29:9 Moses admonishes the people: “keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do.

At the same time Moses states in verse 4: “Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.” When the people later, in spite of all the great miracles and signs give proof once again of their obstinacy and therefore the LORD cannot give them a heart to understand, eyes to see and ears to hear, so that the curse of the covenant made in Moab was irrevocable.

 

The fact that Paul quotes the words of Moses (eyes to see not and ears to hear not, etc.) and thus, after the crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and Pentecost, once again applies to the Jewish people, is it necessary to establish that history has repeated itself. Acts 28 informs us of when this has taken place, namely after the continual rejection of the preaching of the apostles, which was accompanied by great miracles and signs (see also Mark 16: 20; Hebr. 2:4).

Take now note of the parallel between the position of Israel in the wilderness under the preaching of Moses and the position of Israel under the preaching of the Lord Jesus and the apostles:

 

a. Just as their forefathers they have enjoyed the right to not only hear the Word of God, but also to see all the great acts of the Lord (Deut.11:1-7).

Both the preaching of the Lord Jesus, and of the twelve apostles and the apostle Paul[3] characterized the powers of the world to come (Hebr. 6:5).

It were the special blessings which they, on condition of their faith, would be given in the Messianic Kingdom.

b. Just as their forefathers they did not enter into His rest because of their unbelief (Hebr. 3:19 etc.)

“Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling block, and a recompense unto them” (Rom. 11: 9)

‘Their table’ is here a picture of a pollution of the sacrificial service, as it is depicted in Malachi 1:7: “Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible.” If we bring this quotation in connection with Psalm 69:23,24, then we shall see that a connection is depicted between the suffering of the Lord Jesus on the Cross, (to Whom through His enemies poison for food and vinegar to drink were given) and the table of His enemies, who didn’t eat His flesh and didn’t drink His blood and therefore no (permanent) life in itself (John 6:53).

Instead of accepting the blessings of Christ’s perfect offer, their eyes were blinded, so that they could not see and their backs were forever bowed down. It is a horrible image of the person who consciously ignores God’s offer of salvation and finally collapses under the burden of his religious exertion.

How different does the call of the Lord Jesus sound, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).

 

(NIV translation of Rom. 11:1-7)

“I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah – how he appealed to God against Israel: Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”. And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened.”

 

THE FIRSTFRUITS AND THE LUMP

THE ROOT AND THE BRANCHES

"For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; boast not against the branches." (Rom. 11:16-18).

 

The most common explanation of these verses is that Gentile believers (branches from the wild olive tree) are grafted in Israel. But neither ‘believers’ nor ‘Israel’ are mentioned in this passage. In Romans 11:13-24 the apostle addresses himself to Gentiles: "For I speak to you, Gentiles” (vs.13). Paul often addresses a 'wider public' than believers only. Notice Romans 2:1: "Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art..." Not until verse 25 of Romans 11, he addresses himself again to 'bretheren'. So when we read about ‘branches of a wild olive tree’ being engrafted, we should not immediately mix it up with ‘born-again believers’ who ‘whether Jews or Gentiles by one Spirit are all baptized into one body’ and not in an olive tree. (1 Cor. 12:13)

These wild olive tree branches refer to Gentiles, to whom ‘a door of faith had been opened’ (comp. Acts 14:27) and who therefore - contrary to earlier times – have been brought into a privileged position. However this didn’t automatically mean that they were saved. They stood by faith (vs. 20), but were warned to continue in God’s goodness, otherwise they would be cut off, like some Jewish branches were (vs. 22). Remember Paul’s example in 1 Corinthians 10:11-12: “All these things happened unto them (Israel) for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

(It is a well known custom in the Orient, that slow growing fruit trees are prickled by engrafting wild shoots. That also fits in with the explanation of verse 11 “Through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.”)

 

Holiness

“If the first fruit be holy, then the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy so are the branches”. (Rom. 11:16).

Let us first look at the meaning of the word holiness, as we read the lump is holy, because the first fruit is holy; the branches are holy, because the root is holy.

‘Holy’ in the Bible does not primarily classify a certain ethical standard of living, nor has it to do necessarily with eternal salvation. It simply means ‘being set apart for a certain goal’. For instance, Jerusalem is portrayed as ‘the holy city’, not by way of its high moral standards, but because, contrary to all other cities, it is predestined to be ‘the city of the great King’ (Ps. 48:2; Matt. 4:5; 5:35).

Another example is found in 1 Corinthians 7:14: “...the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.”

‘Holy’ here also does not pertain to eternal life. Paul emphasizes this by saying: “For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? Or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?” With other words, the unbelieving man, as well as the children are in a privileged position, in comparison with an unbelieving family.

 

The Firstfruit

‘The first fruit’ reminds us of Israel’s patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They were the ones set apart by God to be the bearers of the promises (Deut. 1:8; 9:5, 27; 2 Kings 13:23; Jer. 33:26). God revealed Himself to Moses from out of the burning bush as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. (Ex. 3:6).

In the threefold Name (the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob), Moses was sent to his people in Egypt to announce their deliverance out of bondage (Ex.3:15,16). (See also: 1 Kings 18:36; 1 Chron. 29:18; 2 Chron. 30:6; Mark 12:26; Acts 3:13; 7:32).

We believe the patriarchs are the firstfruit out of whom the Jewish race (depicted as the lump) originated.

 

The lump/dough

The lump depicts the offspring of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which is set apart by God’s promise given to their fathers. Notice also in this context the significant expression in Romans 9:5: ‘whose are the fathers’. The connection between the first fruit and the lump/dough are seen in Numbers 15:20 where the Israelites must offer up a cake of the first of their dough as a heave offering. Both, the first fruit as well as the dough were holy to the LORD.

 

The root

It is most logical to look for the meaning of the root in the same context as the first fruits pointing in our view to Abraham as being the father of all believers (Rom. 4:11).

 

The succulent root

Paul speaks about the root, (Abraham), as well as of the succulent root (Abraham as bearer of the promises). We read in Romans 4:13: “For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not given through the law to Abraham, or to his seed, but through the righteousness of faith”. The law was given exclusively to Israel (Ps. 147:19,20) and for Gentiles an impassable way to the inheritance. But through faith they could take part in the promises given to Abraham (as being heir of the world) and share the succulent root.

And so Abraham became the father of Jewish as well as Gentile believers (Rom. 4:12).

The essence

What is the essence of all this? Because the first fruit (the patriarchs) are holy, the lump is holy. Because the root (Abraham) is holy, the branches (his seed) are holy. It means that the Lord shall never cast away His chosen and holy people. This statement is in fact an answer to those Gentiles who thought that:

1. ‘God had cast away his people’ (vs.1);

2. ‘that they (Israel) had stumbled that they should fall’(vs.11);

3. that they, as wild branches, had the right to boast against the natural branches (vs.18);

4. that they could be high-minded towards them (vs. 20).

 

CUT OFF AND ENGRAFTED

“And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not high-minded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? (Rom. 11:17-24).

As we have remarked already, it is of great importance to read the Bible in its historical context. The book of Acts, for instance, shows us clearly a transitory period between the expected kingdom with the restoration of Israel and the new era in which the Body of Christ, consisting of individual believers out of all peoples, came into being. Bearing this in mind we understand that Paul in Romans11 does not explain the position of the Body of Christ, in which Jews and Gentiles are made into ‘one new man’ (Ephesians 2:15), but points to an interval in which Jews (the natural branches), were partially not spared and Gentiles (as wild branches) were engrafted into the good olive tree.

There are at least three indications given in this passage that the apostle does not necessarily speak to born again believers:

1. He addresses them as ‘Gentiles’ (vs.13).

2. They had access to the succulent root through faith – ‘standest by faith’, - but through unbelief they were liable to be cut off (Rom.11:20-22). There was therefore no assurance of eternal salvation, but much more a fear of possibly ‘not being spared’.

3. They had but a very restricted knowledge of God. They were warned to mark the goodness and severity of God.

 

Several examples of God’s goodness as well as his severity in that time are:

1. God’s judgement on Ananias and Saffira, by which ‘great fear came upon all them that heard these things’ (Acts 5:5) (example of His severity).

2. The many signs and wonders, making a deep impression on the people. (Acts 5:12-16) (example of His goodness).

3. The amazing rescues out of prisons (Acts 5:17-25; 12:1-19; 16:19-40) (example of His goodness).

4. The mysterious and horrible death of Herod (Acts 12:20-23) (example of His severity).

 

In this context we understand Paul’s warning: “Be not high-minded, but fear!” (Rom. 11:20). Meanwhile he looks forwards to the future restoration of Israel: “...how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?” (Rom. 11:24).

As natural branches they will be regrafted into their own good olive tree, for theirs is the ‘adoption as sons’, ‘the glory’, ‘the covenants’, ‘the giving of the law, and ‘the service of God’ (Rom. 9:4). These natural branches are the believing remnant of Israel who will be grafted in and share the glorious future of their King and Messiah. Then it is the time for the Gentiles to face God’s severity!


ISRAEL’S BLINDNESS AND THE FULNESS OF THE GENTILES

“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.”

Contrary to the previous verses, the apostle no longer addresses Gentiles, but brethren as he is now going to expound a mystery (Greek: ‘mustèrion’).

This mystery concerns the fact that blindness has only partially come over Israel and will remain until the fullness of the Gentiles. The obvious question is of course what the Bible means by ‘the fullness of the Gentiles’ in connection with ‘the partial blindness of Israel’? We believe that we must seek first of all the answer in Isaiah 6 where the Lord says: “Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.”

Then Isaiah asks: “Lord, how long?” And then the Lord answers: “Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, And the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land. But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof. (Isaiah 6:11-13). It means that a very painful time for Israel is still to come until ‘the holy seed’ (the believing remnant), will remain, whose eyes will see!

 

Meanwhile we can draw a connection between the expressions ‘the fullness of the Gentiles and the ‘fulfilling of the times of the Gentiles’. We find this last expression in the preaching of the Lord Jesus over the End of the Age when He says that “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24). Although since 1967 Jerusalem has been proclaimed to be the eternal and indivisible capital of Israel, we must ascertain that the treading down of the city has not yet ended. Jerusalem is still a melting pot of countless religions and sects, with the Dome of the Rock as the most obvious bulwark.[4][1] We believe that the fulfilling of the times of the Gentiles’ shall be reached after the forty and two months to Revelation 11:2 in which Jerusalem shall yet be trodden under foot; when ‘Jerusalem, spiritually shall be called Sodom and Egypt’ (Rev. 11:8) and ‘the son of perdition has set himself in the temple, shewing himself that he is God (2 Thess. 2:4). It shall be a time in which all earthly ways of refuge shall be closed for Israel. But it shall also be a time, which drives them into the arms of the One who has given His life for them. Isaiah prophesies: “The LORD shall go forth as a mighty man, he shall stir up jealousy like a man of war: he shall cry, yea, roar; he shall prevail against his enemies. I have long time holden my peace; I have been still, and refrained myself: now will I cry like a travailing woman; I will destroy and devour at once.” (Isaiah 42:13-16). His coming means the end of ‘the times of the Gentiles’, which began by the dominion of Babylon and shall end by the fall of Babylon as described in Revelation 17 and 18.

Footnote:

On this building is proclaimed that God has no Son. Compare with 1 John 2:18,22

SO ALL ISRAEL SHALL BE SAVED – Rom. IX-XI

"And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob."

As far as the future salvation of Israel is concerned, the apostle does not seem to add any new details, but recites the words of Isaiah 59:20. But if we read this quotation carefully we notice that there is a difference. Isaiah prophesies that the Deliverer shall come for Sion, while Paul teaches that the Deliverer shall come out of Sion. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he thus brings a change in the quotation.

The obvious conclusion is that the chronological order is that the Lord shall come first for Sion and then He shall come out of Sion to turn away ungodliness from Jacob.

In order to understand Isaiah 59 properly, we should read the whole chapter and place the following notes:

"Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear." (vs.1,2).

The reason that the Lord does not intervene in this horrible force of arms against His people, is not because His hand is shortened, but because of their iniquities. God's mighty hand brings no deliverance and His lovely face remains hidden from them, until the moment that the iniquities are confessed and the sins have been reconciled. (Ezek. 39:21-29).

After the sharp accusations against Israel, which go on until the end of verse 8, the first change takes place in verse 9. The believing remnant of Israel identifies themselves with the sins of the whole nation and confesses them.

"For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them..." (vs. 12).

The following verses remind us of the period in which 'the son of perdition', after a period of apparent peace, shall rise up against the holy people (Dan. 9:27; 2 Thess. 2)

"And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey..” (verses 14, 15a).

But then the Lord intervenes: "and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment, (i.e. no justice for believers). And he saw that there was no man and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him..." (vs. 15b, 16) 1

After repentance and the total isolation of the remnant of Israel, the Lord reveals Himself as Intercessor.

With vengeance and great grimness (vs. 17-19) He repays His enemies, but He comes as Deliverer for Zion and for they that turn from transgression in Jacob. (vs.20).

Notice again the expression 'for Zion'. In Zion, namely, a part of the believing remainder of Israel shall then be established. In Isaiah 64 we read: "...Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. Our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee, is burned up with fire: and all our pleasant things are laid waste" (vs. 10,11).2

But then the prayer of the holy nation is granted:

"Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down..." (Isaiah 64:1)

On that prayer the Lord will come down to help His people in the devastated Zion. Zechariah 14 shows us how the LORD will help His people. It is through the cleaving of the Mount of Olives that an escape route will be prepared for his tormented people. But the LORD does not come only for Zion, but for all they 'that turn from transgression in Jacob'. (Isaiah 59:20). In other words, the deliverance is not limited to Zion, but shall stretch out to all who ‘turn from transgression in Jacob’ (Jes. 59:20).

The name Jacob stands here for the unconverted Israel, but in Jacob3 shall worldwide many be converted and then be gathered together by the Lord and His angels 'from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other'. (Matt.24:31; Deut.30:1-5).

Then He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob (Rom. 11:26). This great event is described in Ezekiel 36:24-26, as well as in other passages

"For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh."

Then shall the new covenant be realized as written in Jeremiah 31:33,34: "For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins." (Rom.11:27).

This covenant, further explained in the epistle to the Hebrews (see chapter 8, 9 and 10) finds its legal ground in the perfect atoning blood of the Messiah (Matt. 26:28).

 

1 . It doesn’t say that His arm brought them help, but it brought Him help. This isn't seen in the perspective of humans but of God. It is God, Who helps Himself.

2 Evidently this prophecy had a pre-fulfilment in the year 587 B.C and 70 A.D. when the temple went up in flames. Yet this prophecy, as many others, is still awaiting the final fulfilment.

3 The expression 'they that turn from transgression in Jacob' is really identical to the expression which Peter used on the Day of Pentecost: "save yourselves ‘from this untoward generation’.

 

BELOVED FOR THE SAKES OF THE FATHERS AND GOD’S MERCY

“They are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all” (Rom. 11:28-32).

The powerful witness of the apostles concerning the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, accompanied by signs and wonders, had brought the promised kingdom of Israel’s Messiah nearer. ‘The powers of the world to come’ (Hebr. 6:5) could have resulted in the coming of the King and His Kingdom. But by reason of Israel’s unbelief, His coming was delayed and now we see a new state of affairs: instead of the heavens being rent to bring the Messiah amidst all the people on earth (Isaiah 64:1; Acts 3:19-21), the rent veil gave only to individual believers access to God’s presence in heaven.1

Just like the Samaritans of Sychar, the Gentiles had become true worshippers, i.e. worshippers ‘in spirit and in truth’ (John. 4:10,22,23).2 This remarkable turn of events, caused by the unbelief of Israel, brought the relationship between Jew and Gentile in a completely different perspective and forms for the apostle a reason to clarify the question.

They (Israel) may then be enemies of the Gospel, but the enmity is for the sake of the Gentiles; namely “through their fall is salvation come unto the Gentiles” (Acts 28:28; Rom. 11.11). So there is no reason whatsoever for Gentiles to be high-minded towards Israel (Rom. 11:20), because, although Israel was temporarily cast away, they remain by election beloved for the fathers’ sakes.

Although the Jew can never derive a right to salvation of this, he always keeps his unique position “for the sakes of the fathers”.

Contrary to the position of the Gentiles, Paul can bear witness of his brothers: “Who are Israelites – to whom pertaineth the adoption – whose are the fathers” (Rom.9:4,5).3

For the sake of the fathers, whom God elected and gave His promises and free gifts, there is a future for Israel. Man may– as it seems – delay the fulfilment of God’s promises because of his disobedience, he shall never be able to invalidate them .4

1. The letter to the Hebrews gives a profound explanation of the heavenly High Priest and His service in the Heavenly Sanctuary.

2. In this story we see the shadow of the future transfer of salvation to the Gentiles. The Saviour came, as we know, only for the lost sheep of the House of Israel (Matt. 10:6; 15:24).

3. Or as he writes to the Galatians: “We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles...” (Gal. 2:15)

4. Or as in Romans 3:3,4 is written: “For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid !”

The mutual dependency of Jews and Gentiles in regard to God’s mercy.

“For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.” (Rom 11:30-33)

God’s compassion with the Gentiles is essentially ‘thanks to’ the temporary rejection of Israel as a nation. Meanwhile the Lord indirectly wants to supply His people with mercy through the mercy He bestowed upon the Gentile believers.

How did the Gentiles find mercy? Not because of their righteousness, “for God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.”

Similar words are found in Galatians. 3:22: “...the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by the faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe”.

Only after the verdict of ‘totally unclean’ (‘concluded under sin’) mercy and compassion of God are revealed. The same principle we find in Leviticus 13, where the leper was pronounced clean, only after his whole body was covered with this dreaded disease (Lev. 13:13).

Notice the word ‘now’ in Romans 11:30, 31: “For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.”

This word now specifies a certain time. We find the same word in Romans 3:21 – “but now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested...”

It means a new period has begun. The ‘early’ preaching (on the Day of Pentecost) was addressed to “the whole house of Israel” and the message was: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (baptism as an Old Testament principle for the cleansing from sins).5 The ‘later’ preaching6 reads: “...we (Jews) believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they (the Gentiles)” (Acts 15:11). Not through repenting and cleansing from sins by way of an Old Testament ritual, nor through a repentance resulting in the coming of the Messiah and the times of refreshing (Acts. 3:19,20), but through faith in Him.

 

Footnotes:

1. The letter to the Hebrews gives a profound explanation of the heavenly High Priest and His service in the Heavenly Sanctuary.

2. In this story we already see the shadow of the future transfer of salvation to the Gentiles. The Saviour came, as we know, only for the lost sheep of the House of Israel (Matt. 10:6; 15:24).

3. Or as he writes to the Galatians: “We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles...” (Gal. 2:15)

4. Or as written in Romans 3:3,4: “For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? GOD FORBID!”

5. See also:

a. about baptism in the light of the kingdom: Matt.3:6; John 1:31; Matt.28:19 (the baptizing of the nations).

b. About the preaching: Acts 3:19-21; 5:31

6. The period which follows after Acts 13:46.


OF HIM AND THROUGH HIM AND TO HIM

 

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom.11:33-36).

Although Paul’s preaching in Romans 9 began with the revealing of his great heaviness and continual sorrow because of the lost condition of his people, the final chords of Romans 11 re-echo a lovely hymn of praise.

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Rom. 11:33).

The depth of the riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge has inaccessible dimensions for our human intellect. Notice how the apostle in these three chapters continually contradicts human logic:

- “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect” (9:6).

- “Is there unrighteousness with God?” (9:14).

- “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?” (9:19).

- “Hath God cast away his People?” (11:1).

- “Have they stumbled that they should fall? (11:11).

- “Lest ye should be wise in your own conceits...” (11:25).

 

Human arguments, however clever and plausible they may be, always fail when compared with the infinite wisdom and knowledge of God. The Lord says:

“...For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8,9).

Therefore Paul emphasizes once again that the riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge are inscrutable. His wisdom and knowledge testify not only of His inscrutable decrees and of His inscrutable ways, but also of His complete independence as the ‘I AM THAT I AM’ (Exod. 3:14), the perfect ‘In-Himself-existent’.

He is the only true God, Who only hath immortality, ‘dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see’ (1 Tim.6:16) and who works in all things after the counsel of His own will. (Eph. 1:11)

So the answer to the question: “Who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counsellor?” (Rom.11:34) is clear. No one has ever known His mind, unless through the revelation of God Himself, Who alone can open our minds to understand (Luke 10:21; 24:45; John 3:3; 1 Cor. 2:14; etc.).

Paul bases his concluding words on Isaiah 40 that speaks of:

1. The immutability of the LORD and His counsel:

“...for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it (...) the grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. (Is. 40:5,8).

2. No one supported Him in the fulfilment of His intentions. “Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing (...) To whom then will ye liken God? Or what likeness will ye compare unto him?” (Isaiah 40: 13-15; 18).

In other words, the future salvation and restoration of Israel shall not come through resolutions of the United Nations, nor through military intervention, nor through whatever kind of compromises may be suggested and demanded. Only when Israel becomes conscious of its insignificance and deep dependence on the LORD, salvation is near. Then the Lord shall say to them: “Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” “That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it.” (Isaiah 41:14, 20).

Then the final conclusion follows: “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever! Amen.”

These last words are really at the heart of Paul’s preaching on God’s plan with Israel, in which Christ occupies the central place! It is a magnificent conclusion of these three chapters which began with Paul’s willingness to be separated from Christ on behalf of his brothers, his kinsmen according to the flesh. At the completion of his teaching, the Lord Jesus Christ once again is at the glorious Centre. He is the Source (of Him), the Redeemer and Finisher (through Him) and the Fulfilment (to Him) of God’s plan with Israel!

To Him be the glory for ever! Amen.

 

[1] The lame man depicts here Israel which without conversion and redemption is not capable of following the Lord's way and attaining their final destination.

[2].Some translations omit the word 'that' and let the the text continue: "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when (hops) the times of refreshing shall come...".

Yet in 14 other places in Acts the word 'hopos' is always translated with 'that' or 'so that', giving thus the purpose, instead of 'when'. (See Acts 8:15; 8:24; 9:2, 12, 17, 24; 15:17; 20:16; 23:15, 20, 23; 24:26; 25:3, 26).

[3]That will say: in the first period of his service

[4][4]1 On the mosque is written in a provocative manner: “praise be to god who has no son and who has no partner in his kingship”