A Survey of Romans, Part 7

Hope for Israel, Romans 10 & 11

Last time we noted the present state of Israel: they are lost. That is not a profound observation because everybody, Jew or Gentile, is lost without Christ. But, it is a little different with Israel as a nation. As a nation they are in lost state, not as a result of living in sinful world as is the case for the rest of us, but they are lost because of the rebellion in their hearts. This national lost-ness is only temporary, as we learned. Even though in this present dispensation they are no longer in a covenant relationship with Christ, one day they, the nation of Israel, will be completely and gloriously restored, as Isaiah noted—

Who has ever heard of such a thing?
Who has ever seen such things?
Can a country be born in a day
or a nation be brought forth in a moment?
Yet no sooner is Zion in labor
than she gives birth to her children. (Isaiah 66:8)

Of course, individual Jews are on the same footing as Gentiles when it comes to salvation, but here, Paul deals with Israel as a nation.

1. Summary of chapter 10

Two ideas of righteousness

Chapter 10 of Romans deals with how God is dealing with Israel today, that is, in this present dispensation. Notice the poignancy of the first three verses—

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.

The Jews, though Abraham’s descendants, are now the “lost sheep,” and are sought after by the Good Shepherd just as the “other sheep” are—

I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10:16)

The difference between the lost Jew and the lost Gentile is that the Jew, because of their misplaced and mistaken zeal for God, think they are in good stead with God; they have no idea that they are lost. Their “zeal,” though, is not based on faith and the Word of God; it is based on an outward adherence to their rules and regulations. As Paul said, Christ is the end of righteousness; pitifully, to the Jew, the end of righteousness is empty legalism. They have made up their own rules and think they are righteous in obeying them.

The phrase “righteousness that comes from God” is loaded with meaning. Previously, we discovered that it referred to God’s righteousness, that is, the part of His nature that makes it possible for Him to be the great justifier of those who claim Jesus Christ as their Savior. But here Paul uses the term in a different way; here the “righteousness that comes from God” refers to imputation. God imputes righteousness to all who believe. The prophet Jeremiah wrote about this kind of righteousness like this—

In those days Judah will be saved
and Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which it will be called:
The LORD Our Righteousness.’ (Jeremiah 33:16)

The Hebrew for “the Lord our Righteousness” means the Lord is our righteousness, that is, He gives us His righteousness. But the Jews, Paul says, have not recognized God’s righteousness because they have been busy living in their own (imagined) righteousness. This puts them in a difficult position because thinking they are righteous they have no idea how righteous God really is and how needy they really are. It is only when a sinner learns that he is absolutely lost and absolutely without righteousness that he is in a position to receive God’s righteousness. This what Paul meant when he wrote—

Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. (10:4)

Christ is the object and the consummation of the law. The law demanded a righteousness that no man could ever furnish. Jesus Christ came and met and exceeded every demand of God’s holy law. Jesus died under its penalty. He rose from the dead. Jesus is Himself the righteousness all men need.

The two forms of righteousness contrasted

From verse 5 to the end of the chapter, Paul contrasts legal righteousness, that is, man’s idea of righteousness through his works—legalism—, and God’s righteousness by faith, that is, a righteousness from God. He begins by quoting Leviticus 18:5—

Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am the LORD.

This in essence, is the law. It is also impossible to do because no man is capable of perfect obedience. This is what James, our Lord’s brother, was getting at when he wrote this in his letter—

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. (James 2:10)

Breaking even a minor point of the law, in other words, is just as bad as breaking all the laws; a thief is just as much a law-breaker as a murderer is. And a man, violating one point of the law just one time forfeits the benefits of keeping the rest of the law the rest of the time.

On the other hand, the righteousness from God depends on the Word God has given. Paul quotes a passage from Deuteronomy 30, where he takes Moses words about the Law and applies them to Christ

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. (vv. 11—14)

Paul wraps up his argument by saying that “the word” spoken of by Moses has been proclaimed; it is the gospel!

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (10:9)

In other words, it’s not a blind obedience to ancient rules and regulations God wants. God wants to give man His righteousness in exchange for man’s obedience in his heart to God’s righteous commands, His Word.

In this realm of “obedience,” there is no difference in Jew and Gentile, as proven by a quote from Joel 2:32—

And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.

The word “whosoever” includes the whole world; it is not limited to Jews only. This was a theme Paul already introduced in chapter 3; there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles. But here, he expands this idea by writing—

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (10:12—13)

To “call on the name of the Lord” is to call out to Him in faith. His “name” refers to His essential nature. This must have been a hard thing for the Jew, conscious of their special relationship with God, to grasp. How could a Gentile conceive of God’s essential nature? After all, it was to the Jew that God revealed Himself. To these people Paul responds that while Israel was indeed privileged beyond belief, they had not responded to the preaching of the Gospel. This was, sadly, predicted as far back as the days of Isaiah, who wrote this—

Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? (Isaiah 53:1)

Many Jews who heard the Gospel simply refused to believe it. It had been preached to them, but in the arrogance of their hearts, they stubbornly closed their ears to it. How else can you describe a group of people who had been entrusted with the very Words of God other than “arrogant?” They possessed the Word but refused to believe it. Psalm 19 speaks about the revelation of God all around man; God speaking to man was nothing new at all. But to the Jew, what was new was the setting aside of their nation as God’s blessings passed them over only to be gratefully received by the Gentiles.

By quoting extensively from the Old Testament, Paul makes it abundantly clear that the present state of Israel—being set aside by God—was not something that suddenly happened. It wasn’t Paul who first spoke about it, it was their very own prophets and patriarchs; Isaiah, Moses, and the psalmist.

2. Summary of chapter 11

Proof of God’s continuing plan for Israel

Has God finally washed His hands of Israel? Have they finally disappointed Him for the last time? Is it over for Israel? Of course not, wrote Paul. In fact, he uses himself as an example that proves God has not finished with Israel. Though the nation may reject God, individuals within that nation may respond to the calling of the Holy Spirit. Paul uses the very familiar Old Testament story about Elijah in 1 Kings 19. The whole nation had rejected the word of the Lord and taken to killing the prophets of God and defiling His altar. But, in fact, God had reserved for Himself a remnant of faithful servants. Paul makes the application that a similar thing is happening to the Israel of his day (and ours, too): God rejects the nation, but His saving grace goes out to the individual.

Notice the phrase that marks the beginning of verse 2—

God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew.

This must have been a very comforting thing for Paul’s Jewish-Christian friends to read. Even before God chose the people who would become His own, God knew they would forsake Him. He chose them anyway; therefore He must have a plan for them beyond their current lost state.

The point that Israel needed to understand, and these Jewish-Christians needed to understand, was that God saves people through faith—

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. (11:5—6)

Jew or Gentile made no difference for salvation comes to all through faith, not works.

Ingrafted branches

With verse 7, Paul switches gears from his present to our future with a brief observation about the place of Gentiles within God’s plan for Israel. Paul states—

Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. (11:11).

Once again Paul quotes from the Old Testament to stress that what was happening with the Gentiles was something prophesied generations past. Because of Israel’s present state, a great many Christians, both today and in Paul’s day, assumed God was finished with Israel; that He had given up on them. To this notion Paul wrote, “Not at all!” In fact, God had used their present condition to make a place for the Gentiles. Did He do this because of His great love for Gentiles? According to Paul, this is the reason—

[S]alvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. (vs. 11b)

Far from having forgotten the Jews, God’s whole plan of redemption, even the temporary setting aside of Israel, deals with the salvation and restoration of the nation of Israel.

Have the Gentiles fared any better as recipients of God’s grace and mercy? Probably not, which is why Paul adds this in verses 20 and 21—

Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.

It seems as though those who receive the greatest blessings from God are the ones who can be counted on to take them for granted!

A promise of future restoration

In verses 25—32, Paul writes about a great mystery.

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. (vs. 25)

This is one of the greatest mysteries in the universe; something that has been in the mind of God from eternity past: Israel would be blinded in part only until the present work of God among the Gentiles is completed. The present work of God among the Gentiles will come to an end when Christ gathers the Church to Himself. Only then can verse 26 be fulfilled—

And so all Israel will be saved.

Of course we know this refers, not to every single individual Israelite, but to Israel as a nation. This “remnant” will be saved and catapulted to national status when the Lord returns in glory. This future event will be in fulfillment of the following prophecies—

“The Redeemer will come to Zion,
to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,”
declares the LORD.

“As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD. “My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever,” says the LORD. (Isaiah 59:20—21)

“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
after that time,” declares the LORD.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.

No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the LORD.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33—34)

So Paul concludes chapter 11 by saying that at the present time Israel is an enemy to the Gospel, but through their alienation from God grace has been given to the Gentiles. According to God’s eternal plan, Israel is still loved by God, still has a special place in His heart, and all the promises He made to the patriarchs and to Moses and David must be fulfilled. In no way has God thrown Israel over in favor of the Gentiles or anybody else. Psalm 89 is enlightening on this issue.

Just as the Gentiles, who in times past did not believe in God have now become objects of God’ grace, mercy, and love and have received salvation through Israel’s unbelief, so Israel, siumilarly, when the Gentiles prove themselves to be unbelievers and reject God in their apostasy and are judged accordingly, Israel will receive God’s full measure of mercy when they at last turn back in faith to Him.

Whether one is a Jew or a Gentile, all are saved on the exact same principle—

For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. (vs. 32)

(c)  2009 WitzEnd
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