Lesson # 5

            In this section of the book of Romans we see the metamorphosis of the old into the new.  On display will be God’s divine appropriation.  In essence we are going to see God put things in their place, which is His sovereign right.  Which at this point only makes sense, considering what we’ve talked about in the last three sections:  Who is Guilty, Justification, and Sanctification.  Many fail to see that the only logical next step is appropriation, it is Paul’s Spirit led motivation at this point.  You could say that chapter nine is a syllogism of the topics covered in these next three chapters.  Chapters nine, ten, and eleven revolve around Israel, specifically God’s plan for Israel.  Largely chapter nine deals with Israel past and its election.  Then chapter ten focuses on Israel present and their rejection of the Savior.  Chapter eleven closes the first portion of Romans with Israel future and their acceptation of the Messiah.  It is in that last chapter that God’s divine appropriation comes to the forefront.

Appropriation                                  8:28-11:36

A.  To them who are the called                    8:28-39

1a.)      God’s plan  v. 28

            Aside from the promise of salvation Romans contains the biggest, most comprehensive promise found in all of God’s Word.  As you begin to digest the twenty-eighth verse of the eighth chapter of the book of Romans you realize that certain things are a given.  For instance, this verse is obviously directed to the saved, because after all we are the ones “that love God”.  It is liberal sentiments that try to apply this promise to the world at large.  And sense it is wrongly applied it is of course never kept, which just makes it easier for the God haters to point their fingers at the Almighty when something goes wrong.  Something else that is a given is the fact that without God “all things” don’t tend to “work together for good”, just look at the world around you for evidence of that.  So, God is the reason “all things work together for good” and it only happens “to them that love God”.  Now, how do you know if you “love God”?  John 14:15  The Savior said you love Me if you “keep my commandments.”  Something else that is a given in this verse is the “when”.  In eternity the outcome has already been revealed and it is “good” but when this verse speaks of “all things” it very much relates to our own life and times as well.  You’ve heard the saying, “every cloud has a silver lining”; while we can’t always see those silver linings, I wager from God’s vantage point He can.  In fact I bet if we’d walk closer with God a lot of those silver linings would be more apparent.  Maybe that is one of the things we’ll do in eternity one day, comb through our lives finding all those instances we labeled as problems when in reality they were God’s providence.

            Those are just some of the things that are to be understood about this verse but when you look deeper there is so much more.  It says “we know”; it is important to remember that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” so, this is not simply Paul speaking, it is the Holy Sprit, who has been the topic of conversation sense the beginning of the chapter.  The word “know” serves as a point of transition.  It in part refers back to the list of things that Paul riddled off, that the Holy Spirit does for us, at the end of the previous section and it is because of what we have just been told that we should have no problem believing what he is about to say.  We are to “know”, rest assured, that our salvation is eternally secure, which is what the remaining verses of this chapter speak of.  On top of that we are to “know” “that all things work together for good to them that love God”.  He insists that “all things” are exactly that, no matter the situation, no matter the circumstance, “all things” will “work together for good”.  We get the word synergy from the Greek for “work together”.  Synergy is the idea that when all the parts work together they produce a product that is greater than even the sum of the parts.  The fuller picture is that it is not saying that God never lets anything bad happen, rather He can take even the worst of events and use them to bring about a blessing.  The ultimate example of that is the crucifixion.  II Corinthians 5:21  Our sin defiled holiness Himself, it doesn’t get anymore wretched than that.  There are no words to describe how God viewed Christ at that moment, all it could say is that God turned His back on Him.  But even from those depths God worked “good”.  As contrary as it may sound, that is what our salvation came from.  Led by the Holy Spirit Paul is saying God can “work together” “all things” “for good”.

            It is amazing that God can even use my sin to bring about “good”.  Look at David’s sin with Bathsheba, it brought death twice over but from that one sin filled night came a marriage that eventually produced an heir.  His name was Solomon and God used him to bless Israel and pen sacred Scripture.  You see God working the sin against Joseph for good.  In an act of sibling rivalry taken too far Joseph’s brothers sell him off into slavery, he gets bought in Egypt and becomes manager of a great estate.  But then he gets framed and sent to prison however, while he is there he makes some important contacts, he now has friends in high places.  The Pharaoh hears of his talents and pardons him and because of the experience he has gained through good times and bad Pharaoh appoints him to the second highest office of the land.  Some time after, the famine hits back home pretty hard and it reunites him with his family.  Joseph tells them “ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good” and those old wounds get mended.  Do you see that the bad had to happen to have the good?  That is how in control God is, He has the plan worked out to the very last detail.  Satan is going to do his thing, we are going to be spotty at best but it is all worked into the plan.

            As Paul has been alluding to in the previous section and dealing with specifically in this eighth chapter the Holy Spirit plays a significant part in that plan.  Notice the second half of Genesis 4:7.  We referenced the first half of this verse back in chapter seven, it recounts how Satan was able the use Cain’s own thoughts and feelings against him.  Ever a mimicker of God Satan does the same thing to us, in an effort to get us to act how he wants us to.  His greatest devices are fleshly lust and “desire” but the Holy Spirit righteously operates on the heart to bring us into God’s will.  One is a snare and a trap the other is a transformation “from on high”.  You ever try walking more than one dog?  The moment you open the door they shoot out in different directions.  One wants to go that way another wants to go this.  They tangle their leaches, soon you’re tangled up too.  Think of the role that the Holy Spirit has in God’s plan as the epitome of this struggle.  If you’re saved the Holy Spirit has you on a leash but as we have already talked about this body serves as home for two conflicting natures, not to mention the satanic influence that is in all of our lives.  So, on this leash the Holy Spirit, as a dog walker of sorts, has three very independently minded creatures:  our old nature, our new nature, and Satan, all of which are pulling in different directions.  It is the Holy Spirit that makes sanctification possible and corrals the other two dogs, as it were, allowing the new nature to enter into God’s will.

            What the last part of the verse in Genesis tells us is that without the Holy Spirit this is a struggle we would not want.  Praise God, it is not about me overcoming the flesh to get to Him because if it was, I along with the entire Human race would never make it.  God was telling Cain, if you open the door to sin, you get all the things that come with it and that is far more than we can handle.  That is what the “his desire” is referring to; sin is being personified here.  God tells him “thou shalt rule over him.”  He means on the one hand, you can always say no to sin; we won’t of course because it is an uphill battle all the way and because it is easier to give-in than to push-on, but that possibility exists.  And on the other hand, the word “rule” implies when it is all said and done the accountability falls squarely of us.  It applies so much more than to only Adam and Eve’s sin, every time we sin that same destructive power is present, there is fallout beyond belief to deal with.

            Without the ministry of the Holy Spirit there is no way anything we could ever do would “work together for good”.  You see this in the people of Israel.  Israel consistently sinned, against the men of God and finally against God Himself.  But even that millennia old sin will work for “good”.  Their sin took them down a specific road and all the things that have happened to them sense have been because of that sin but it is the consequences from that sin that will serve to drive them back, a faithful “remnant” will accept Christ one day.  They are part of a larger group that verse twenty-eight designates as “the called”.  Whenever people quote this verse they tend to leave the “the” out, it seems out of place.  However, God’s Word is speaking on a scale that we are simply too finite to grasp on this plane of existence.  He is speaking of the things that go “according to his purpose”, as the next two verses go on to illustrate.

2a.)      God’s people  v. 28

            Two things that tax human understanding a little less are:  who are “the called” and what is God’s “purpose”?  Let’s start with the easier of the two, “the called”.  They are also referred to as “the elect” or the “chosen” as in Matthew 22:14.  Taken simply at face value and not in context these names have given rise to a heresy called Calvinism.  Calvinism is the false belief that God has already foreordained certain people for salvation while prejudicially damning others.  At the heart of Calvinism is the belief that sense God has already decided who He is going to save then soul winning is not necessary.  But using that same verse one could argue, why bother calling the “many”?  A Calvinistic reply might be something like John 6:65.  They would argue that when Christ said “that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father”, that it very clearly places a limit on who can receive Christ.  However, verses such as these point to God’s sovereignty not His rejection of a lost soul.  At the onset of John it is made clear who “the called” are, John 1:12-13.  They are the ones who not only hear the call but respond to it by receiving Him.  There are two calls, the outward call given to “every creature”, a call to action, a call to belief in a risen Savior but then there is the inward call, the Spirit led response to the first that we will either accept, by a confession of faith or reject by a failure to respond.  The verse in Matthew could well be read, “many are called outwardly but few answer the call inwardly”.  It is the individual’s choice.  One might say that strips God of His sovereignty but they are looking at it from the wrong perspective, that God would even honor Man’s decision is itself an act of His sovereignty.

3a.)      God’s purpose  v. 29-30

            Understanding God’s purpose is relatively easy, it centers around Christ, the part that soars above our heads is the plan.  How do “all things work together for good” or how is it that God has accounted for every possibility?  How is it that no matter what route I take God’s will is done?  How can God’s purpose and God’s plan be so perfectly intertwined?  I don’t know but the more I think about it, the more secure I feel.  In fact all three verses, 28, 29, and 30, assure me of one thing, my security.  One need not fear, you are secured in Christ.  Hebrews 6:1-6  There are those out there that use these verses to say that you can loose your salvation; well, I submit if you can lose your salvation then God:  with all of His plans, purposes, and promises, is likened to Man, who has plenty of good intensions but is inconsistent in the execution there of.  If one can lose their salvation then God’s Word, which is His bond, is broken.  If one can lose their salvation it would turn, He who “cannot lie”, into a liar.  If one can lose their salvation then it would mean a whole host of verses, not just in Romans but the entire Bible are untrue.  If one can lose their salvation then salvation by definition is not salvation.  As great men of God have said throughout the ages and some even put to death because of it, working yourself out of salvation is as big an impossibility as working yourself into it.

            Those denominations that site this segment of Scripture as proof that one can lose their salvation have mistakenly taken these verses out of context.  One way to absorb what is being said here is to take it as a hypothetical, which many feel is the intend interpretation.  Guided by the Holy Spirit the author is almost playing a game of “what if…”, what if you could lose your salvation?  His response to that hypothetical is, Christ would have to be crucified “afresh”.  Another way to arrive at the author’s intended meaning is to apply what we know to what is said.  Those that misinterpret these verses will take what the first part of verse four says and combine it with verse six, skipping every thing in-between.  In their reasoning they render it “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened… If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance…”.  Now, if that is the way it read they might be on to something but you can’t just skip that middle portion, it tells the rest on the story.  It says we “were once enlightened” and that is very much true, we are once saved.  You either get the truth “a first” time or you don’t and if you got it that “first” time around there is nothing else to get.  The phrase “were made” illustrates this.  The idea behind it is that once something has been made into something else it can’t change back.  The wood a table is made out of will never be a tree again.  It may exhibit characteristics of the wood it is made out of but it will never be what it was.  A saint might exhibit tendencies of the flesh, because after all that is what we are made of but in God’s eyes we will never be that “old man” again.  Then it says not only are we “made” but we are made “partakers of the Holy Ghost”.  That word “partakers” bears a sense of guaranteed equality, not potential loss of privilege.  The point is it lines up with what Romans has to say about eternal security.

            Verses like John 3-16-17 and II Peter 3:9 make God’s purpose very clear.  It is the different phases of His plan to accomplish His purpose that exceeds our understanding.  For that reason Paul doesn’t spend near the time on explaining God’s plan as he did God’s purpose in chapters three, four, and five.  Paul lays God’s plan out in just two verses, twenty-nine and thirty.  Donald Grey Barnhouse compares eternity and God’s plan and purpose to a chain that from one side hangs down, out of eternity, touching the plane of our existence.  The other side of the chain ascends back into eternity, taking us with it.  God’s plan and His purpose are represented by five links, see graphic.  Each link has a corresponding term used in the verses.

Link 1 – “foreknow”

            It does not mean that God looked ahead to see who would and
wouldn’t believe, that is a human concept based on time.  More accurately
it means to recognize, like how we you notice somebody you’ve seen before.
You might not know them but you can spot them in the crowd.  The Bible tells
us that before we get saved we do not know God, He did not know us
either but He did recognize us.  He recognized you and me as live, free
thinking, beings.


Link 2 – “predestinate”

            Think of this as the planning phase, this is where the boundaries
were defined.  This is “before the foundation of the world”, this is where
salvation was established as through Christ alone.  When the Bible says
God “did predestinate” someone it is always talking about the saved.
Furthermore, God predestined everyone to be saved, He has never
predestined anyone for hell.  The afore mentioned verses in John and II
Peter make that abundantly clear.


Link 3 – “called”

            This is the execution phase, II Corinthians 6:2.  This is where God’s
plan and purpose intersect our life and time, where we hear the outer call
and the inner call is either answered or rejected.  This link represents the
whole of Man’s duration on the earth.


Link 4 – “justified”

            This is where our standing before God is elevated above what
Adam and Eve were and even above where angels are now.  This is where
we are made right with God, even while we live in these sinful bodies.  God’s
Word says it’s “written in heaven”.


Link 5 – “glorified”

            The last link in the chain will certainly be the greatest.  Honor
has been reserved for us.  The word insinuates to be clothed with the
very best.  Any explanation of our glorified bodies would fail in comparison
next to the real thing, our wildest dreams couldn’t fair much better.  Link
four is our position but one day link five with be our condition.

            Verses twenty-nine and thirty are to be taken as “prophetic past tense”.  It is God speaking as if something has already come to pass; because of sin imposed frailty we exist in time but God resides in eternity, where time has no bearing, where He “calleth those things which be not as through they were.”  So, while we can’t call something real until it happens, from God’s vantage point it is a forgone conclusion.  That is why God could tell OT saints they were forgiven, though Christ was yet to come.  We view salvation from Calvary’s Cross but verses twenty-nine and thirty give us insight on how God views salvation.

4a.)      Eternally secure  v. 31-39

            The next question is a question everyone will answer, be it in time or out of it.  “What shall we then say to these things?”  Given everything Paul has told us up until now there can be no doubt.  “If God be for us, who can be against us?”  This marks the first in a series of five things that tell us why we have eternal security.  Number one, God is for “us”.  You have to know that one of the motivations behind this particular segment of Scripture is the human concept of security.  All other religions teach salvation is based on works; a very human concept is you work for what you get.  At some point, probably around the time of Nimrod, men took what they knew about life and tried to make spiritual application with it.  The result was religion based on a works salvation.  In the human mind it is easier to believe you’re going to Heaven if you think you’ve done something for it.  Grace goes against that grain, whenever we sin it is in our nature to think we have to make it up, get back what we lost.  Led by the Spirit Paul is penning these verses for just that reason.  Fleshly fear leads us to doubt our eternal security.  You ever have those days were you don’t feel saved?  Well, in the remainder of this chapter Paul reassures the believer that salvation cannot be lost.  It cannot be lost because God is for us, He gave us His Son, His Spirit and works all things together for that purpose.

            The second reason we can trust in our eternal security is, Christ died for “us”.  As Paul was led to pen this, his thoughts might well have drifted to Abraham and Isaac.  An event between father and son that closely compares and also vastly contrasts to that of God the Father and His holy Son.  Just as God “spared not his own Son”, Abraham was willing to do the same with Isaac.  Even though at this time Isaac would have still been a boy we get the sense that he too was willing to fulfill his role as sacrifice.  But that is where the comparison ends and the contrast begins.  Isaac was spared but God “spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all”.  Paul expounds on that last part when he says, “how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”  In other words, if God valued us enough to give His Son for us, then it would be hard to imagine that He would withhold anything “good” from us, especially since it calls us “brethren”, members of the family of God.  The “these things” from the previous verse helps us to understand that this is not the blank check that some make it out to be.  The phrase is referring to primarily the Holy Spirit, how we possess Him, how He secures us, how He leads us, all the different things He brings to our lives.  The fullness of that won’t be comprehended until we reach glory.

            Another phrase of importance is “freely give”, I John 1:9.  Here the same word is used in the Greek but it focuses more on forgiveness.  Again bolstering the truth that salvation cannot be lost or revoked, because a large part of that “all things” centers around God forgiving us of sin.  God forgiving us or more completely redeeming us fits into His plan and His purpose of giving Christ preeminence.  Verse twenty-nine tells us that is what God predestined for every human being.  It tells us that Jesus came to this earth “that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”  The phrase “firstborn” speaks of preeminence.  In Jewish culture the “firstborn” male child enjoyed a higher status then his siblings.  He was to be the heir, he was considered the first.  The language used is all about uplifting Christ.  Even our glorification exalts Christ because we are “to be conformed to the image of his Son”.  This conformation is two part:  bodily and spiritually.  Spiritually that conformation is half complete, it is “written in heaven” that we are justified, one day it will literally be so.  That leads to bodily conformation, the Bible says “we shall be like him”.  A physical description of that eludes us but don’t think that once that happens you will stop being you, I Corinthians 13:9-12.  One day we will live free from sin’s power, in Heaven we will retain our individuality.

            Earlier Paul asked the question “If God be for us, who can be against us?”  Although rhetorical the next three verses address this question.  Notice verse thirty-three, this too, as far as the Christian is concerned, is a rhetorical question but it also serves as a third reason for why we have eternal security.  “Who” can accuse us?  Revelation twelve calls Satan our “accuser”, it goes so far to say that he stands before “God night and day” accusing us.  The sad part of it is that most of those accusations Satan brings against us are true, he does not have to lie on us to make us look bad, sometimes we do a pretty good job of that ourselves.  Zechariah 3:1-7  Since verse twenty-eight we have been talking about things that go well beyond human involvement.  What is happening here is Satan has filed a case in Heaven’s holy court against Joshua the high priest.  Joshua is indicative of you and me and just like we are he was completely oblivious to what was happening in “heavenly places”.  Satan’s hard evidence on Joshua was that he “was clothed with filthy garments”.  Or in other words he was referring to the sinfulness of the flesh, in the righteous court of God that is enough to convict.  Without question it is safe to assume that he has filed suit against everyone of us on those same grounds.  But the only one that can “lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect” just so happens to be the same one “that justifieth.”  Who is that?  “It is God”.  Then you have verses four through seven which are the OT telling of the Gospel.

            Yet again rhetorical, the question in the next verse gives us a fourth reason to feel eternally secure.  “Who” can condemn us?  The implied meaning is:  even if a charge were made against us, who would condemn?  Seeing it is Jesus, who alone has the authority to condemn, would be our judge and our council.  “It is Christ that died… for us”.  Meaning, He paid the penalty we rightfully deserve.  “It is Christ… that is risen again”.  That shows He has victory not only over sin but death as well.  This is a reiteration of Romans 4:25.  If anyone could take these things away from us, if they could condemn us it would mean they would be greater than God, John 10:28-29.  It says that Jesus is “at the right hand of God”, let’s compare this to other Scripture, Hebrews 10:11-13.  It says here that Jesus “sat down on the right hand of God”.  When you read in the OT of the Tabernacle and then of the Temple you’ll notice it goes into a lot of detail of what the structures were supposed to look like.  Those details aren’t meaningless, they are meant to reflect the specificity of the heavenly Temple, even the work of Christ.  They have estimated that the materials used to construct the OT Temple would amount to millions and millions of dollars today.  Our Bibles even go into detail on the furniture that was in the Temple however, you never read of any chairs in the Temple.  There were no places for the priests to set down.  The reason for that was their job was never done, all year long sacrifices were constantly being offered to atone for some individual sin.  But the reason we read that our High Priest sits down in the heavenly Temple is because Jesus finished the work at Calvary.

            But the “Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward” because after He finished the work on Calvary He began making “intercession for us”, Hebrews 7:25.  We have a duel intercession going on for us, which increases the scope of how much goes on that we never know of.  Did you skip praying for yourself today?  Jesus didn’t, that should encourage faithfulness.  Not only does Christ “liveth to make intercession” for us but every time we seek God’s face the Holy Spirit beseeches of the council of God on our behalf.

            Also rhetorical is Paul’s fifth reason for resting on the doctrine of eternal security.  “Who” can separate us?  On the heels of the previous questions Paul poses another.  The simple answer is it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter who accuses us or who condemns us, Satan or Man; Jesus is greater.  He is greater than “tribulation”.  Paul is speaking of the pressures of life that are common to all, sometimes they overwhelm us but He is greater.  Sometimes we experience “distress”, we get hemmed in, put in situations where the “spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak”, Jesus calls it “temptation”.  If you make a stand for Christ these days “persecution” will come your way.  This is foreign to us but the day has come and is coming again that believers will be touched by “famine”.  Akin to it is “nakedness”, being so poor you can’t afford the basics, you are left vulnerable unprotected.  Even today many in the world suffer “peril”, they are exposed to danger on a daily basis because of what they believe.  The “sword” here is a reference to the violence that missionaries have known for the last two thousand years.  These things are more then just random events, they will become common place under the regime of antichrist.

            This list goes back to the “all things” that verse twenty-eight was talking about.  When we experience some of the things on this list we tend to think God has let us down but we have it backwards.  When we start letting Satan manipulate our thoughts we’ve let God down.  You go through some of this and you think, how can this be for “good”.  The Apostle Paul knew from first hand experience that God does work all things together for good.  Against all odds God used Paul to spread the message, Paul recounts the number of times he was ship wrecked, beaten, imprisoned and everything else.  You would think that would stymie his ministry but Paul was prolific in the numbers of people he reached for Christ.  Rather then let these things get us down our constant prayer should be Lord how do I prosper through, how do I accomplish your will.  You my not get the answer right away but you walk with God and when you look back, as Paul did, you’ll see all things did work together.

            When we moved to Houston, despite all the “distress” I was in at that particular time, God was at work.  God led us to a church with a particular ministry that had the ear of a people that He had especially crafted me to be able to connect with.  I never saw it but as the victim of a drunk driver, who better to talk to addicts.  The focus of the ministry was the homeless but a good percentage of them were also addicted to something.  God allowed me to serve as a living testament as to what addiction can lead to.  Sin/Addiction are just about one in the same, both will steal your life.  Who better to reach out to addicts then someone whose life was stolen by someone else’s addiction?  I reflect both:  what they could possibly do to someone else or very well do to themselves.  Like Paul that is one of those things I had to learn, I learned that my life is greater than just circumstance, as verse thirty-six says.  And so is yours, that is why you have got to keep your eyes open for wherever God can use you, take advantage of those opportunities because God can “work” “all things” “together for good”.

            We are told that we don’t suffer arbitrarily rather, “As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long”.  Paul is quoting Psalm 44:22.  What he is talking about are the effects of a satanic world on a child of God.  John 15:18-19  Jesus says the world views us with “hate”, “because ye are not of the world”.  As His bride we have taken on His name, our loyalties have changed.  And because of that this world has selected to silence us, exterminate us.  Church history proves that true.  We see it blatantly in our day; public displays of Christian faith are taboo.  The odd part is, Man has always had a love affair with the taboo.  Can anyone see the bigotry?  Speaking of bigotry, that last part reminds me of what they did to Sarah Palin, the Vice Presidential pick for the Republican ticket.  It says “we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter”.  In other words the world views believers as second class.  The moment she was tapped as the possible next VP all focus changed, she was “accounted as” the bad guy, the one not fit to hold office.  And why?  Because of all four she is the church going believer.  You think for a minute had she been a democratic, Oprah couch jumping, marry whoever you want to marry, expand the government, let Hollywood make your decisions for you, baby killer she would have garnered as much criticism?  Not a chance.  Her beliefs have made her one of the most hated people in the whole country.  The beating she takes in the media everyday accounts for that.

            Go back to verse thirty-five and look at that word “tribulation” again.  Sadly, we lose a little in the translation from Greek to English.  The word “tribulation” tells a story Paul’s readers would have picked up on.  The word comes from how they would beat out the wheat in their day to “separate” it from the chaff.  They would use a wooden instrument to beat the wheat in order to accomplish this.  The hidden message is, on those days it feels as if you’re being beaten remember, nothing can “separate us from the love of Christ”.  It is just easier to go through adversity when you know there is someone out there that loves you.

            As you read through chapter eight it becomes apparent why the translators broke chapter eight off at this point.  The chapter begins with “no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus”, goes on to “all things work together for good to them that love God” and ends “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us”; making for one of the sweetest chapters in all of God’s Word.  Following from the previous verse you might be asking yourself how can “sheep” be “conquerors”?  The answer lies in the phrase “more than”.  We are “more than conquerors”; Paul seeking to comfort all future readers says that’s one thing he has been “persuaded” of.  And if anyone had the life experience to back it up, he did.  We have victory over “death” but who won that victory?  Christ alone, we are mere recipients.  The wife of Donald Grey Barnhouse died while their children were still young.  It is said he wondered at how to best explain her passing to their children.  On the drive home from her funeral they passed a large truck and as it went by it cast a shadow over them.  After a minute he asked the children which would they rather be run over by, a truck or its shadow?  For them the decision was easy, the shadow because it wouldn’t hurt.  He told them that their mother had only passed through “the shadow of death”, that for her too there would be no pain.  Christ’s victory over death means that we only have to “walk through the valley of the shadow of death”:  emphasis on the “walk through” and the “shadow” of death.

            We can have victory in life and over life but only when we submit to letting Jesus live through us.  A lot of times we let life get in the way of that, today people are so spiritually destitute we think victorious living is when things are going our way, when we get what we want.  A victorious life in Christ is independent of that.  We are a privileged bunch, we live outside of the norm.  Some of the things Paul describes Americans have never known but that doesn’t define victory.  On the other hand some of us don’t have it so good but that has no bearing on whether or not you have victory either.  You have victory when you obey God’s command, you have victory when “thus saith the LORD” is you heartfelt response, circumstance is not a part of that equation.  Paul understood that lesson real well but he was the better for it.

            The remainder of the things on this list aren’t quite as personal as our own life and death but in Paul’s day they were major concerns; they deal with the metaphysical.  In ancient days everything was viewed in spiritual terms, there were demons or spirits around every corner, they were housed in every bush and tree.  You’ve heard the expression “knock on wood”.  It comes from a practice in northern Europe, back in the days of the Vikings they believed spirits lived in trees.  In the West Christianity has shown this to be nothing more than superstition but in the East this kind of spiritism is still prevalent.  From Japan all the way to Africa they evoke the spirits of idols, animals and even plants.  Mass hysteria often ensues; hundreds are killed in places like India every year for example.  India has several holy sites and pilgrimages are made to many of them annually, to worship before some idol or to pay homage to nature in some way.  Some-times millions gather in one place, whenever violence erupts stampedes occur.  The fatalities tend to be the old and the very young.  Paul is persuading his readers that things such as these need not happen.  When you’re “in Christ Jesus” one need not fear “angels”, they are simply the messengers of God according to Greek context.  Opposed to them are “principalities” and “powers”, they are the fallen angels or demons.  It has been suggested that in the next verse the “height” and “depth” are references to astrology and how a horoscope isn’t worth the paper it is written on.  Paul’s intent is to cover the whole realm of possibilities:  “things present”, “things to come”, “nor any other creature”.  Again it doesn’t matter, nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

B.  They are not all Israel which are of Israel                 9:1-33

1b.)      A disclosed Israel  v. 1-7

            Throughout the years there have been many that have mistakenly taken a wrong turn once they get to chapter nine.  In the span of these next three chapters Israel is the recurring theme.  At first glance it seems out of place in comparison to surrounding chapters.  For that reason many view chapters nine, ten and eleven as a side note directed solely at the Jews.  They say that chapter twelve picks up where chapter eight leaves off.  However, Romans was divinely inspired to be a doctrinal book.  To breakup that continuity does disservice to what is possibly the most valuable of all Biblical Canon.  The Apostle is not changing direction here, rather he is addressing the questions of Jewish believers in the light of foundational truths just spoken of.  The Church of God started out as a Jewish led congregation but during the course of Paul’s letter has now transformed into a cooperative global congregation.  To the Jew, who erroneously read into the Scriptures that they were a cut above, Paul’s words must have felt like a slight, even a Jewish believer would have winced at that.  So, these next three chapters are Paul addressing those concerns; at length, explaining how God is going to appropriate “all things”.

            Paul is hammering these things out in advance in anticipation of a future trip to Rome so, it is no doubt he has heard these things before.  He is thinking, should he get the chance to go there, he wants to make the best use of his time.  Among the questions he tries to snuff out is; if the Gospel is to go to the Gentiles, has God forsaken Israel?  Jews felt that the Gospel implied that they had lost their place with God.  In these chapters Paul lays those fears to rest by telling them that God is going to keep His promises to the nation of Israel.  Another question that caused divide amongst Jews was; if salvation is to emanate from the Jew’s why do they reject it?  Paul addresses that issue in the next chapter.  For now, in this second leg of the section, we are going to deal with three things.  First, who is Paul taking about in verse six, who is real Israel?  Second, how are the people and things mentioned in the middle portion of this chapter different and what makes them alike.  Thirdly, how does it all come together?  Remember, chapter nine is a reduction of all three chapters.  Often times God’s Word reveals in one chapter then enlarges on it in the next.

            Paul puts a lot of effort into making what he is about to say sound sincere.  He doesn’t just expect them to thoughtlessly believe him so, he provides two accessory witnesses to persuade them of how he genuinely feels.  The Lord had specifically called Paul to reach the Gentiles but something caused Paul’s heart “great heaviness and continual sorrow”.  Paul says, if “I could”, if it would make any difference, I would “wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh”.  In layman’s terms he is saying, I would be willing to go to hell if it would somehow lead my own countrymen to accept Christ.  This is not just some over emotional, lip servicing rant for which he could never be held accountable.  His “conscience” is laid bear before the witness of the “Holy Spirit”.  He says “I lie not”, this is “the truth in Christ”.  The reason Paul names his two holy witnesses is because a person’s conscience is no better than the flesh it is soldered to.  Titus 1:15 & I Timothy 4:2  Those verses tell us that your spiritual health directly affects your conscience, what that means is the level of sin in your life determines how you perceive things.  The more sin you have in your life, the longer you are around it, the less it bothers you; you lose that spiritual sensitivity.  It goes so far to say that our conscience can be “seared” or scared by what we do.  Reading in between the lines by the way Paul phrases it he is saying that, as far as his conscience goes, he has lived a life as clean as he could and that is what the Holy Spirit will attest to.

            Paul’s grief is caused by a secession of things.  His peoples’ continued rebellion, God’s all too clear dissatisfaction with Israel, the Jews’ loss of favored status for a period of time, a missed Messiah but maybe what unsettled him most was judgment’s shadow looming on the horizon.  Luke 21:20-24  You know Paul had to have known about the prophecy the Lord Himself delivered against Israel.  With tensions rising, this great and terrible event couldn’t be far off and Paul sensed it.  And he stands there as if to say, Lord if “I could”, I would “wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren”.  Other than Christ’s literal act of sacrifice only one other has displayed love of such degree, Moses.  Exodus 32:7-11  Notice how the exchange here between God and Moses could almost have been humorous if it wasn’t for the seriousness of their trespass.  Once sedition had taken hold God told Moses, “thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves”.  Then Moses prayerful besought the LORD as if to say “wait a minute”; “LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?”  Both were embarrassed by what was going on in the camp.  Look at what Moses does for his people, v. 31 & 32.  The dash in that second verse is a pause as Moses tries to think of some way to make up for the people’s debauchery.  At a complete loss he says, if you can’t forgive them, if judgment must come then place it on me, “blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou has written.”  Something tremendous has happened.  Moses left a leader and came back a Pastor.

            In the next series of verses Paul elaborates on why he would go to such links for his people.  The following is a list of guarantees that God, as the guarantor, had selected especially for Israel but over time Israel began elevating these guarantees to the point that they overshadowed the guarantor.  That is when Israel fractured, as we will see in verses ahead, into two entities Israel by selection and Israel by election.  Paul looked at his own people and he saw an Israel that was by selection only.  Or in other words, what made them collectively Israel was fleshly descent; in verse eight Paul calls them “the children of the flesh”.  He also goes on to say that “these are not the children of God”.  Once again, being physically born into this world does not automatically make you a child of God, being Jewish doesn’t change that.  That said, there is a certain something about the Jews that is arguable supernatural.  For a people of such small number they have disproportionately excelled in virtually all fields of industry.  Relatively speaking, the fact that a large percentage of the world’s geniuses have been Jewish speaks for itself.  Surely God has selected to bless this people.  But privilege only gets you so far.  The end to which Paul is speaking is, they are more than just children of selection, they are children of election.

            Paul starts with the things their favor has already secured them past and future and ends with the one thing that favor will not afford.  “Who are Israelites”, Paul asks.  For one, they are “to whom pertaineth the adoption”.  No other nation on earth has had the honor of God calling them “my son” as Israel has.  He views Israelites with such affection that He says, “the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.”  To them also pertains “the glory” or the physical presence of God.  Paul doesn’t mean the kind of presence of God we know today, we can feel His spiritual presence but they had His literal presence in the wilderness, in the Tabernacle and for a time in the Temple.  Only by His grace will the NT Church be able to partake of that.  To them also pertains “the covenants”.  It began with the Abrahamic, which was renewed with Isaac and latter Jacob.  With the Mosaic, He gave the Law for posterity’s sake.  In the Davidic, was given the lineage/roadmap of the Savior.  And then we have the New Covenant which isn’t exclusively to the Israelites but prophets like Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah wrote about it nonetheless.  As already mentioned “the law” was entrusted to the Jew.  As was “the service of God”.  By this Paul means the Tabernacle and Temple rituals and ceremonies, as well as assigned Levitical duties.  I’m sure “the promises” to the Jewish mind were broad in category but the land probably was the first thing to come to mind, judging by what comes next on the list.  “Whose are the fathers” can they be anybody’s but Israel’s?  Sure Muslims and Arabs try and horn in on this one but it took a false theology and a bastard son to do it.  And finally comes the one guarantee that to the Jews is a “twoedged sword”.  That is “as concerning the flesh Christ came”.  The Messiah they had long awaited had finally come.  Not only that but God had brought Him out of the very people He had selected.  All these were guarantees that God had selected them, that He was faithful.  So, what went wrong?

            Paul address that in the very next verse when he says, it is not “as though the word of God hath taken none effect.”  That phrase “taken none effect” in the Greek has nautical roots; it presents the picture of a ship that has gone off course.  What went wrong wasn’t that God had failed or changed course, rather Israel had.  Over the years Israel had grown farther and farther away from Him, so much so that all God could call those that remained was “a remnant”.  God made certain unconditional promises to this remnant, promises that will be made good and even though Israel as a nation has veered off course, it is still a course that will bring them back to God, as the 144,000 in Revelation prove.  Once again, it is all worked into His plan.  As you look more closely at verse six and understand the thought that connects it to verses four and five you realize that one thing Paul is definitely saying is that all those promises are meaningless if you stand before God without Christ.  That is what determines, in Paul’s words, “Who are Israelites” and who are merely “children of the flesh”, because “they are not all Israel, which are of Israel”.

            The Apostle delves even further into this in the next several verses.  He cites two OT examples that are irrefutable to show them that being a racial descendant of Abraham only made them “children of the flesh”; see, they had the racial pedigree to be Israel by selection but not the “promise” that would make them Israel by election.  Jesus describes the difference in John 8:32-47.  Jesus was plainly telling them that being a Jew didn’t save them.  Furthermore, God was not determining Israel based only on fleshly descent, patriarchal history shows us that much.  Paul, led by the Spirit, uses the same language Jesus did to prove this point.  “Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, all they all children”; now, Jesus had no problem with the Jews of His day claiming an ancestral link to Abraham.  Jesus says, “I know that ye are Abraham’s seed”, Paul says, “they are the seed of Abraham” but then he says, just because they are does not mean “they are all children” of Abraham’s.  Which is precisely what Jesus had said, “I know that ye are Abraham’s seed” but “If ye were Abraham’s children…”.  When they say about someone that “she is her mother’s daughter” or “he is his father’s son” it means that parent and child are a lot alike.  Paul was simply echoing what the Lord had said, they may be Abraham’s seed but they are not his children.  It’s not about human selection but is about God’s eternal election.

2b.)      A fractured Israel  v. 8-24

            He narrows it yet further by what he says next, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called”, an OT quote.  Those who were truly “of the stock of Israel” could trace their lines all the way back to Abraham but if they were going to be dogmatic about the natural selection of it all, then simply finding a family connection to Abraham wasn’t enough.  By the end of Abraham’s life he had plenty of children but they weren’t all “the children of the promise”.  God’s Word is very specific on this matter, “Sarah shall have a son.”  She only had one, Isaac.  Paul was saying, technically, if you wanted to look at it that way then only Israelites who could trace their lineage to Abraham through Isaac were real descendants.  That would certainly disqualify a fair number of Jews from claiming the privileges of verses four and five.  However, Paul’s point is that trying to lay claim to the promises of God by fleshly selection is foolishness.  It would be like Ishmael trying to take Isaac’s place.  He was not one of “the children of the promise”, that comes only by God’s sovereign election and He chose Isaac.

            The same is to be said about Jacob and Esau.  Isaac, to whom the promise pertained, conceived with Rebecca twin boys and just like with their father before, only one of these brothers would be counted among “the children of the promise”.  It didn’t matter that “the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil”, God’s decisions are not based on works or even character for that matter and we should be glad they’re not.  Paul says that the reason for this is “that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of him that calleth”.  Going back to the question, does birth make you an Israelite?  No, it didn’t Ishmael or Esau.  Their descendants became the Arabs of today, which gives us a little insight on why God elects some but not others.  Their descendants have been in constant conflict with Israel.  They are a people that have become hostile to the things of God.  Perhaps that is why it says, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”  Esau was the “elder” and Jacob the “younger” and while the Bible never says God hated Esau, it is plain to see why He might Esau’s descendants.  They have unanimously turned their backs on God for Islam, they’ve become full of hate and vengeance, their warmongering never ceases.  That is part of the reason why God elected who He did, Man’s selection would have chosen Ishmael and Esau and that perhaps might have led to the Gospel truth being lost to Man.  Ishmael and Esau were children of selection and promises were made to them but Isaac and Jacob were children of election, “children of the promise” that “are counted for the seed.

            Now, all of this is in response to the question posed in verse four and sense his audience here at the church in Rome was not exclusively Jewish Paul expected certain questions to arise.  Rhetorically Paul lends voice to these questions when he says, “What shall we say then?  Is there unrighteousness with God?”  This in light of Paul’s demonstration of God’s earthly selection of the Jewish people and how even within such racially specific confines not all were equally counted.  To the democratic mind this screams of unjustness.  Again, we see Paul’s usual answer to such a spiritually ignorant question, “God forbid.”  Or in other words, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  And then, just like with the previous question, he cites two Scriptural references to explain.  Exodus 33:19  The question Paul is addressing centers on the fairness of God.  Was it fair that the Jews had a privileged relationship with God while the Gentiles didn’t?  Is it fair that the promises in verses four and five pertain to them?  Is it fair that God elects some and rejects others?  Questions like these would be perfectly valid if God were human but He is not, He is sovereign.  His rule is beyond reproach, fallibility or critique.  When God says, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy”, He primarily means salvation, the word “mercy” is slanted more toward this end in both NT and OT uses.  Both are verbs and reveal God’s sorrow and heart felt desire to relieve suffering.  In Exodus the LORD says, I “will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.”  The word “gracious” is more aptly used here because the people were committing whoredom and it was only by God’s grace He did not righteously destroy all the people.  It would have been a righteous act of His sovereignty.

            The events that led up to this we alluded to a little earlier; the people caught in open sin were “without excuse” and God was ready to administer righteous judgment.  However, Moses steps in as the man of God to make intercession on their behalf.  This was a spiritual high point for Moses, especially when considering what had recently transpired:  his brother had just led a rebellion, the result of which led to thousands of deaths, he himself had just stared down being “cast out into outer darkness” and now God wants him to lead the people home.  After all of that you know in his mind he must have felt uncertain as well as incapable so, he asks God to “shew me now thy way”.  You read it in its entirety and you’ll see he is asking for more than God to just show him the way.  He wants to know Him and I don’t think it a stretch to say he wants oneness with the Father.

            In verse fifteen Paul continues quoting Exodus saying, “I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”  Again, that is God’s sovereign right.  The word “compassion” is a slight variant of the original.  His intention here is to tie into the next truth.  The word “compassion” reflects God’s willingness to act according to His mercy.  Without God’s willingness salvation wouldn’t be possible.  To believers of Paul’s day it was just fundamental truth that salvation “is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”  His next OT example supports this.  Quoting out of Exodus 9 he says, “the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, 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.”  God was willing to let Pharaoh come out ahead but much like in our own land today “there arose up a new king… which knew not Joseph.”  By that the Word means this “new king” had a skewed version of history.  Having God’s people in the land had blessed Egypt, as is the case in every nation where believers make up a segment of the population, but this “new king” refused to acknowledge that evidence.  He not only didn’t know Joseph, he repudiated Joseph’s God.  Throughout the whole Exodus story Pharaoh thought everything he did was of his own free choosing but what he didn’t know was that he was serving a much greater “purpose” and his every action was calculated into that “purpose”.  You read the account and one could go so far as to say that it didn’t matter what he did or did not do, as far as God’s “purpose” was concerned it was all the “same”.  There are times it says God “hardeneth” Pharaoh’s heart and then there are times it says Pharaoh hardened his own heart but the end result was always the “same”, God’s will would be done.  And everything God said He was going to do He did:  He “raised” Pharaoh “up”, used Pharaoh to display His “power” and by it “declared” His name “throughout all the earth”.  The lesson here is God is willing to extend His mercy to the vilest and when you are the object “on whom he will have mercy” take it.  Otherwise “whom he will he hardeneth.”  It is one thing to fall on hard times but as Pharaoh teaches us it is quite another when God is the bringer of those hard times.

            The topic of God’s sovereignty always poses problems for human sensibilities as Paul first addressed in verse fourteen so, the next question is one Paul has clearly anticipated.  As if taking the words out of their mouths Paul says, “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault?  For who hath resisted his will?”  This is of course an allusion back to verses seventeen and eighteen, where he uses Pharaoh to show that God orders the steps of every man.  You may purposely run in the opposite direction of God but in ways that only God knows it will still serve His holy “purpose”.  The lost are unable to grasp that truth.  God created Man to love and fellowship with, when Adam sinned one might think that God’s “purpose” would be unfulfilled but not at all.  It just meant that God’s love would now be put on full display through a crucified and risen Savior.  And the only way of escaping that love is for it to be “resisted”.  The question here can be reiterated several different ways but only because it is not understood to begin with.  In response to the things Paul has brought to light the lost might ask in similar manner:  If God is sovereign, how can human beings be held responsible?, If salvation is by the will of God, then why does God save some and fault others?, If no one can resist God, how can He find fault?, And for that matter what right does He even have?  The simple answer to all those questions is found in the next two verses, the more depict in the following three.

            In the day in which we live Man has sunk to such spiritual depths that we no longer recognize God’s absolute sovereign authority as Scripture describes it.  Even though we are at, what might be, an all time spiritual low in the history of Man, we have deceived ourselves into thinking we are at a spiritual pinnacle.  To this Paul says, “Nay but, O man”; or in other words , are you joking, “who art thou that repliest against God?”  Who do you think you are; “Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?”  The word “repliest” bears some interest, in the context Paul uses it “repliest” refers to God holding us accountable.  Yes, God powers over us as “the potter” has “power over the clay” but what goes on down here is more than just some predestined soap-opera.  Our actions carry real impact, for which we will be held accountable.  Paul says we may not fully understand this but our questioning God is as absurd as if the clay were to question the potter.  Our problem today is, we don’t like to acknowledge sin, people deny it is even real.  That is why it is so hard to win people to the Lord these days.  The lost claim they are justified and if there is a god who will judge, then he is unjust.  We’ve gotten to the point we think we are at least equal to God, if not above.

            And that right there is why, even though God uses from “the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour” there will be those that are rejected, lost.  Not because God has not chosen them to be saved but because they have rebelled against the light and truth God provided, John 3:19-21.  What does He mean by “light”?  Paul actually spoke of it at the beginning of his letter, Romans 1:18-21, 28, 32.  The word “dishonour” also has ties to the first chapter, Romans 1:26.  Here “vile” comes from the same word for “dishonour”.  Bridging the two chapters it says, for those who “repliest” to God in defiance or reject the Lord Jesus, they are left with the alternative, “dishonour” or “vile affections”.  In the next verse he says they are “fitted to destruction”.  What does he mean by “fitted”?  There are different ways of putting it but have you ever heard the proverb that says, we are the makers of our own prisons?  The reason God never sends anyone to hell is because “destruction” requires a degree of personal involvement.  Come the “great white throne” judgment, when that final verdict is handed down from God’s holy bench, it will mean that God has made His decision unapologetically based on the actions and intents of the unregenerate soul that stands before Him.  The idea behind the word “fitted” is to exert or to put effort into something.  Another way of explaining it is when you get “fitted” for something, it is tailor made for who you are up until that point.  Those “vessels of wrath” as Paul refers to them are those who have earned that wrath.  Another word for “fitted” is appropriate or putting things in their place.  These “vessels of wrath” were invited to be “vessels of mercy” but it is an offer they chose to resend.  Therefore, fitting them for destruction or hell is all God can do.

            The Apostle poses some interesting thoughts in verse twenty-two.  “What if God”, a Spirit led Paul says, “willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction”?  Harmonizing with chapter one the first thing Paul says is that God is determined to demonstrate His wrath on sin.  Why is that the first topic Paul touches on in this letter?  To answer that question you must first understand where God’s wrath comes from.  Wrath is synonymous with anger, what is it that makes God angry?  The clue lies in the word “wrath” itself.  In the Greek the word for “wrath” comes from the word for “covet”.  Figuratively the idea behind the Greek word for “covet” is the reaching out after something out of love, just like John 3:16 says God did to the world.  But Man by and large rejects that love and that is where it turns to wrath.  God is angry because the highest price was paid for what so many will reject.  Now, the question in this verse is, “what if God… endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction”?  Well, He has and still is and His “longsuffering” is the key.  Longsuffering is the quality of a person who is able to avenge themselves yet refrains from doing so.  God has demonstrated this throughout the ages.  It began in the Garden.  God could have exercised His right for vengeance before the taste of the fruit even reached their tongues but He didn’t.  He held off in order “to shew” mercy and compassion.  He didn’t blind them with the brilliance of His glory, rather than frightening them even more He gently calls out to them; giving them time to prepare for the judgment that was to come.  He has done this throughout Human existence.  How many nations have stood for centuries despite their wickedness?  God has “endured with much longsuffering”.

            We learned that two reasons God let sin into the world was to “make known” His wrath and power over it but in verse twenty-three Paul tells us just as importantly God’s desire is to “make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy”.  For those of us that have not rejected the gift of God’s love Paul says, God “afore prepared” us “unto glory”.  The difference between the vessels Paul writes about is who did the work.  If you are “fitted” it means you did and every crack and flaw is on display but if you were “prepared” it means you are flawless because God has fashioned you.  The reason Israel was fractured was because most of the people “fitted” themselves.  Also because God had called “not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles”.  Israel will never be unified until it accepts those two vital truths.

3b.)      A unified Israel  v. 25-33

            Paul’s point goes all the way back to verse five where referring to God and Christ he says, “who is over all”.  While he uses the length of the chapter to spell it out, his connotation is that “they are not all Israel, which are of Israel” which itself is a connotation of the greater work of God.  That greater work might have started out with the Jew first but it was going to extend to all of Man.  Paul quotes several OT verses to prove it.  And even the names of the prophets he quotes foreshadow God’s greater plan.  “As he saith also in O’see”, and by “he” Paul means God, “I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.”  “O’see” is the Greek rendering of Hosea, whose name means salvation.  Here Paul is loosely quoting from Hosea chapter two.  To get the full impact of what this means you have to go back to Hosea 1:2-9.  God gave Hosea a ministry that gives new meaning to the word “ministry”.  For him, God had decided to make his whole marriage into a mural of Israel’s unfaithfulness.  In this marriage Hosea would represent God and his wife “Gomer” would be the living picture of Israel.  Can you imagine the ups and downs this marriage had?  Real men of God some times have to address certain issues from the pulpit with their congregations that are uncomfortable.  But when God led Hosea to preach about Israel’s “whoredoms”, it must have been almost painful for him.  You know God equips everyone of us for a unique ministry and surely this is evidence of that.  Having firsthand experience of unfaithfulness, I’m sure, energized Hosea’s preaching in a very personal way.  The meaning of his wife’s name tells the story; “Gomer”, it means complete.  Things had now come full circle for Israel.  For a time they benefited from the blessings of God despite their unfaithfulness to Him.  But now it had caught up to them.  The pattern is repeated over and over again in Israel’s history, just like I’m sure it did in Hosea’s marriage.  The unfaithfulness occurs but out of love it is overlooked, it happens again and again and gets disregarded but the day finally comes when that grace meets its limits and judgment is pronounced.

            For Israel that judgment is God reaching out to the Gentiles in the same way He previously had only done with them.  That which Paul is alluding to is Hosea 2:23.  As a whole this is a major declaration from God.  The way of salvation had always been open to the Gentile but seeing the Jews kept it a “members only club” and forsook the call to bless the world with what God had entrusted them with, few Gentiles ever came to know God.  This coupled with Israel’s consistent lack of faithfulness leads God to sentence Israel.  But what Paul is quoting actually has to do with the faithful “remnant” of Jews that come back to Him after this sentence has been served.  God says, “I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.”  Paul is saying, during the time that Israel is serving her sentence God will have worked His will on the rest of the world and the verse he quotes from hints at this.  Our queue comes from the word “sow”.  It goes back to the “children of whoredoms” Hosea was to have with Gomer.  Here in Hosea chapter one it tells us they had three children; the first, a boy, God commands to name “Jezreel”.  His name means God sows.  Remember, God is using Hosea’s family as a canvas to paint Israel’s portrait on.  The message behind Hosea’s first child’s name is that Israel will be scattered.  It started with the Assyrians, then the Babylonians but even today they are a scattered people.  The Bible says, “she conceived again, and bare daughter.  And God said unto him, Call her name Lo-ruhamah”.  It means unpitied or no pity.  By the name of this second child God was telling Israel the time was coming that they would have no mercy from Him, the history of our day especially verifies that.  “Now when she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived, and bare a son.  Then said God, Call his name Lo-ammi”.  This part of their sentence was harshest, very plainly it meant “not my people”.  Israel had kept forsaking God for centuries so, finally God says, if you won’t be my people, “I will not be your God.

            Thus we have Israel’s sentence, for a divinely determine period of time:  they would be scattered as seeds sown in the wind, they would be unpitied in Heaven and on earth and finally they would be disowned.  Paul refers to this period of time as “the fullness of the Gentiles” in chapter eleven.  Israel is still serving its sentence so, we are still in “the times of the Gentiles” as Jesus calls it in Luke but that time is quickly drawing to a close.  And at the conclusion of this time Israel will be restored because a “remnant” of Jews will accept Jesus as the promised Messiah.  They will go from scattered to planted, pity or mercy will be restored, they will be brought back into the family, a new family.  What is nearly a verbatim quote of the tenth verse in Hosea chapter one Paul writes, “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.”  Paul changes “sons” to “children” to emphasize that the Gentile will be in that number.

            Enlarging on this is his reference to Isaiah whose name means Jehovah’s salvation.  Something I think Hosea had a good understanding of.  Scripture tells us his father’s name was “Beeri”, his name means “my well”.  Don’t you know that under the circumstances, Hosea had to keep coming back to the well, it helps when your Father is the well.  What Paul quotes out of Isaiah proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that God’s well runs deep.  The sad reality is, “Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea” only “a remnant shall be saved”, that is why he says Isaiah “also crieth”.  This comes from Isaiah 10:22.  God speaks of a “consumption” there; specifically it has to do with Assyria but if you carry that same idea over to verse twenty-eight here in Romans some say that “short work” has to do with the tribulation period and the regenerated Jews that come out of it.  In the next verse this time quoting Isaiah 1:9 he refers to God as the “Lord of Sabaoth”.  A lost world has problems with the sovereignty of an all holy and all righteous God and that name expresses exactly that.  Paul didn’t apologize for the God he served.  There is no need.  He says, “Except” the Lord “had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.”  We are completely undeserving of the mercies God shows us and the fact that God, out of all our wretchedness, is going to save even a “remnant” of Jews and Gentiles attests to His worthiness.  Paul calls Him by the name he does because He is Lord “over all” and His decisions are righteous and just; and the “well” of His mercies and blessings truly runs deep.

            Before Paul moves on to the topic of Israel present he poses a question aimed at provoking some serious thought from potential Jewish readers.  Having shown now a number of times that Gentiles are included in God’s plan of salvation and how God saving even a remnant of the people that so blatantly rebelled against Him is beyond gracious he exclaims, “What shall we say then?”  Or, can it be, “That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained 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”?  How can this be?  Of course the Apostle’s question is only rhetorical, because his phrasing provides the answer.  Notice he uses the word “followed”, the meaning behind it is to seek or pursue.  He uses the word to stress the object of their pursuit and where in each case it led.  As it pertained to the Gentile, the Jews couldn’t ever see God showing them mercy because they lacked the birthright and as they saw it righteousness wasn’t something Gentiles would ever be concerned with anyway.  To make such an assumption pushes the limits of arrogance but it is how mainstream Jews felt.  Jews, on the other hand, were very much concerned with righteousness but their pursuit of it took them in a wrong direction.

            Critics of the King James argue that the phrasing can be misleading, here particularly with the word “attained”.  For one, it is not scriptural to say one has “attained” salvation or Heaven.  Another argument is that in the original Greek two different words are used in verses thirty and thirty-one and “attained” doesn’t adequately emphasize the intended meaning.  To answer this you must look back to the time the word was being used.  The word “attained” predates the King James by some three hundred years or at least the root does.  Back in the fourteenth century when this word was first used it meant to be able to touch; down the line it is where we get the word “tangible” from.  Tangible means something is real.  When you put together what Paul is saying with the purest meaning of the word, “attained” captures exactly what Paul was saying.  Accurately reinterpreting the Bible in the language of our day would prove to be enormously tedious because we converse in a language that becomes more and more corrupted by modern day slang and double meanings all the time.  What Paul was getting at and what the translators rightly picked up on was that the salvation given to the Gentiles was real, remember the purest meaning of the word “attained” back then meant touchable, able to possess.  It was not like the salvation the Jews tried to pursued, a salvation they could never arrive at.  In the Greek a different word is used for “attained” the second time but in English “attained” is still the best fit.  The original Greek word used here means to arrive, to anticipate.  The Jews had anticipated that they were going to be saved by birthright, or by works, or by law but what they never anticipated was, what if those things don’t save?  It is like walking; if you fail to anticipate the hole you are about to step into, you will fall.  Put another way, “attain” means to touch; well, if the thing you reach for is not there, your hand can never arrive at it.  So, the Jews were striving for a mirage of salvation.

            But how could it be that the Gentiles, who weren’t even looking for righteousness, found it and the Jews, who were, missed it?  Paul says it happened because “they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.”  What makes his initial question rhetorical is how he characterizes the pursuit of righteousness.  He says the Gentiles “followed…the righteousness which is by faith” where as “Israel…followed after the law of righteousness”.  Our pursuits have taken us in two different directions.  A salvation by faith and a salvation by works couldn’t be more opposite.  One is dependant on a holy and righteous God, the other is dependant on fatally flawed Man.  We are “stumbled” by that “stumblingstone” every time we are confronted with it.  You go to a job interview and inevitably you’ll be asked the question, “what are some of your weaknesses?”  And our gut reaction will be the same every time, “I can’t think of any”.  Christ is that “stumblingstone”.  I Peter goes so far to say that the Jews “were appointed” to stumble when it came to Christ.  That ties back to the sentence God gave to Israel in Hosea.  His last child’s name was “Lo-ammi”, meaning for a time Israel’s rejection of God will be mutual.  Paul would seem to agree and what he goes on to say can be traced back to Isaiah 8:14 and 28:16.  Here is a clear indication of Israel’s foreordained refusal to accept Christ and the Gentiles embrace, because if He is going to “be for a sanctuary” someone has got to believe.

C.  That they might be saved                 10:1-21

1c.)      Saved from ignorance  v. 1-4

            If the Jew was offended at chapter nine, chapter ten would only pour gas on the fire.  For that reason, as he did in chapter nine, again we see Paul choose his words carefully and softly.  And although he may use a gentle tone he does not water down the truths he is about to set forth.  “Brethren”, he lovingly pens to cushion what has preceded and what is to follow.  His intent here is sandwiched between a discourse on why all Jews aren’t saved and why in this present time God views Jew and Gentle equally.  One having never had “that blessed hope” and the other having it in promised advance but casting it aside.  Both are equally lost and Paul’s main thrust in this chapter is to show Israel’s standing and state before God.  The last leg of chapter nine touched on this; as it stands now Israel is lost or unredeemed and in a state of rebellion.  At present Israel is rejected by “the most High” for their rejection of “the Lamb of God”, His Son.  As Paul goes on to tell us in verse three this rejection occurred because “they” were “ignorant of God’s righteousness”.  How could a people who have had God literally reveal His self to them be ignorant of His righteousness?  Put another way, how could they have not known who Jesus was?  Paul gives us some clues in these verses.

            Part of the meaning behind that word “ignorant” is a failure to think.  In their day, as in ours, teachers and preachers have always been allowed a latitude in their leadership.  But what happens when the teachers of a nation who “have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge” go “about to establish their own righteousness”?  We definitely see it in our day with the proliferation of cults and hate groups, not to mention liberal judges trying to leave their mark by legislating from the bench.  How will that affect a nation?  Israel serves as the perfect precedent.  The latitude given to ministers is based on the belief that they have a spiritual discernment that is God given and unique to their call.  History shows this belief has and can be abused; one need only look at the Popes of the Middle Ages or the Imams of today.  In ancient Israel’s case it was the Rabbi/Scribe who would overextend their reach.  Many times they were one and the same.  See, OT Scripture was written largely in Hebrew but by NT times the language of the day for most Jews was Aramaic and in most cases it was a Rabbi who translated Scripture so, they doubled as Scribes.  Sense most Jews couldn’t read Hebrew it placed an awful lot of power in their hands.  Some historians say this group caused the Jews in Jerusalem to riot against Rome which led them to bring the hammer down on the city destroying it like Christ prophesied would happen.  The Talmud, a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, customs and history, tells the story of how the day before The Day of Atonement the high priest, on his way home, was followed by a crowd of the faithful when two Scribes pass by.  Despite the fact that he could potentially have lost his life the next day, in part for them, they abandon him to give homage to them.  That is how revered they were.

            Sense they pulled double duty as Rabbi or teacher and Scribe many would write personal commentaries on the Bible; seeing that most were unable to read Hebrew, the language of the OT, this was the only Bible most of the people ever got.  Like with today’s ever increasing number of Bible versions and the plethora of “Christian books” out there you can imagine these personal commentaries ranged from the extreme left to the far right.  And that is the source of Israel’s ignorance.  Matthew 22:29  How could a people who have concerned themselves with spiritual and religious truths more than any other be ignorant of the righteousness of God? Jesus says they “err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.”  As followers we have a natural tendency to follow and let those in charge lead, no big revelation there but God never intended us to blindly follow.  We are to know Scripture because it is the only way to know the “power of God”.  And when we lay down the Word of God and neglect to pick it back up we rob ourselves of the “power of God” in our lives.  Notice what Hosea 4:6 has to say about it.  God says His “people are destroyed for lack of knowledge”, each generation is worst than the last because with every new generation it becomes apparent more and more have “rejected knowledge”.  This verse has application to Israel specifically but in general certainly has implications for a people that “hast forgotten the law of thy God”.  Isaiah spells out it for us, Isaiah 5:13.  This clearly traces out a lesson we’ve learned in Romans; when you “have no knowledge” you have no power and when you have no power you find yourself in only one place, “captivity”.  Isaiah sums it up in the first chapter, Isaiah 1:2-3.  God says, “my people doth not consider.”  What does that mean?  It means they failed to think, just like Paul was talking about back in Romans when he used the word “ignorant”.  The danger in failing to take responsibility and think for yourself is, it gets left up to society or some small out of touch elitist group to make your decisions for you.  The reason the line on judgment day will be so long is because so many will haven chosen to remain “ignorant”, so many will never have bothered to “consider”, so many will have left the decision up to someone or something else and never have thought for themselves.

            By spiritual definition people who are lost don’t know it and since they haven’t perceived that fact they reject the salvation message.  In their minds they already have salvation, your witness is just a meddlesome solicitation.  That was Israel exactly.  They thought they had salvation but they didn’t.  Paul’s “heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved”, saved form ignorance but also from shame.  In the last verse of chapter nine Paul loosely quoting out of Isaiah says, “whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”  The word “ashamed” traces back to “disfigured”.  By their rejection of the Son of God Israel had become horribly disfigured in the eyes of God.  Out of all of the peoples on earth they should have known who the Savior was, He was why they were a special people to begin with.  In the previous chapter Paul hints at that in verse five where he writes, “of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came”.  The path God chose for the incarnate Christ was to come through the Jewish people.  They rejected the “one thing” that made them special.  The Jews were so disfigured that they should have been ashamed but they didn’t even know it.  Paul was praying that their eyes would be opened from this ignorance so, they could see that shame and repent.

            So, why couldn’t Israel see the shame that was so plainly self-inflicted and apparent?  They were blinded by their own “zeal of God”.  For a time Paul too contributed to this false religious enterprise.  Galatians 1:13-14  Notice how, even though Paul is proud of his Jewish heritage, he distances himself from what they believe by saying “the Jews’ religion”.  By this point in their history they had allowed foundational truths to erode away so much so that all they were now left with was a religion of servitude.  Inadvertently, Paul says, he “profited in the Jew’s religion”.  Paul may have unintentionally stumbled upon this worldly truth but there are untold numbers that have exploited it and used religion to cash in.  These verses are Paul’s Spirit led critique of the nation of Israel and he found that they were more “zealous of the traditions” than the “knowledge” of God.  For his present state and the ability to see how Israel had clearly disfigured itself in front of God, he had only the Lord to thank, I Timothy 1:12-13.  Here Paul says God “hath enabled me” or in other words strengthened him to do something His Jewish pride would not let him do, admit that “the Jews’ religion” more than anything was “zealous” of “traditions”.  And it was this misguided “zeal” that had elevated Paul in the nation.  That is an awful big lie to come clean of; one, who knows how many Jews wouldn’t because of personal pride or fear of reprisals by their own countrymen.  Paul himself was guilty of it.  He says, “but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.”  The problem with the Jews in this day was, while they had “a zeal of God”, “they received not the love of the truth”.  “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth”, Paul says on another occasion.

            Having “a zeal for God’ is a great thing so long as it is rightly directed”.  Again Paul’s own history bears record of this, Acts 26:4-5, 22:3.  First look at twenty-six where Paul says he followed “after the most straitest sect”.  By that he means hardline, his particular denomination interpreted Scripture to the letter.  This is enlarged upon in twenty-two, where concerning how he was “brought up” he writes that he was “taught according to the perfect manner of the law”.  The group Paul was a part of were the Church of Christ or Jehovah’s Witness of the Pharisees, they thought they were the only ones who had it right and everybody else was just wrong.  Speaking to much the same group in this instance he says, I too was “zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.”  Paul used to be a zealot, almost like the Muslims of today but just like them his “zeal” was misguided.  For him and most Jews of that day it was the law they inappropriately used.  The thing about the law was, it was only a sign post pointing the way, it wasn’t “the end”.  It was that inappropriate use of the law that led to a crucified Christ.  Acts 3:13-15, 17 & 19 records Peter’s thoughts on the matter.  Peter tells a mixed crowd, I know “through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers…Repent ye therefore, and be converted”.

            Paul goes on to say that Israel had “not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”  In the context it is used “submitted” means that Israel not only failed to recognize how God was dealing with them but they failed to recognize the very person of God.  That is why they went “about to establish their own righteousness”.  They went “about” (seeking something) to “establish” (to stand on) but they sought the wrong thing and from that point on no matter what they stood on would be too.  It is like when people who are not right with God try to do something, because they’re not right with God in the first place they start off on the wrong foot and it just snowballs from there.  Because they were ignorant of God, they unable to submit to God.  And when Christ who “is the end of the law” came “for righteousness” to deliver it “to everyone that believeth” the Jews were completely oblivious to it.  The people were unprepared and the religious leaders were unwilling.

2c.)      Saved from an unattainable righteousness  v. 5-13

            Israel’s ignorance of the righteousness of God had led them into striving for an unattainable righteousness.  In the fifth verse Paul is quoting Leviticus 18:5 but Moses is a lot more succinct in his meaning in Deuteronomy 27:26.  After an abbreviated run-through of the law Moses tops it off declaring, “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them.”  Paul even quotes that in Galatians 3:10-12.  In bygone days Jews no doubt got what God had laid on Moses’ heart the first time but the Israel of old fell prey to the same thing that is happening to the Church right now, contemporized worship.  Today when you hear of “contemporary Christian music” or “contemporary worship services” it falsely implies that it is the same; however, that is not what the word “contemporary” means.  When something is contemporary with something else it means it is of the same time period but not necessarily the same standard.  What’s happening is churches are cashing in “the standard” for its easy listening “contemporary” and they are being short changed in the process.  Contemporary music minimizes and in some cases fails to mention at all things like the guilt of the sinner, the blood or the deity of Christ.  And contemporary bibles fair even worse, in their quest to cash in and turn the Bible into an easy reader they’ve tossed cohesion and functionality aside.  Newer versions have been reworded to the point that it is almost impossible to see the connections between Old and New Testament.  Paul says when you carefully and thoughtfully examine Scripture “it is evident” “that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God”.  How Israel could have lost sight of that truth is just as puzzling as some of the stances churches are taking these days.  Because of our affinity for ignorance Paul finds it necessary to be redundant in these verses.

            He says here, “The man that doeth them shall live in them”.  In order words the Jews, by choosing a works-righteousness, were tying themselves to the law, they had to “live by them”.  Any variance and the result would be eternal damnation.  Now, in this segment of verses the contrast is not between law and faith because the “law is not of faith”, they are not the same, rather the contrast is between the righteousness that stems from the two.  Keeping continuity, Paul quotes Moses again, this time from Deuteronomy 30:12-14.  Quoting this the way he does serves a number of purposes.  For one, it clarifies an OT misconception, that the law was a ticket to Heaven.  For another, quoting this parallels the work of Christ, an out with the old and in with the new of sorts.  Christ came to take the place of the law in a literal sense.  As it pertains to Moses this was a farewell address and as such he leaves them with words of wisdom.  Back then they still knew salvation was “of faith”, grace was something Moses could definitely appreciate; God had shown it to him, despite his forgotten heritage, or brutal savagery or even his initial reluctance to serve.  Moses knew if you turned the law into a method of salvation you would be held liable for all the law requires, instead he looked at it for what it was, a way of appealing to the grace of God.  He also knew that when you live by the law you are left to your own resources.  Moses understood real well that you don’t want to be judged on your effort in keeping it because the law asks the impossible, James 2:10.  That is how “Moses describeth the righteousness of the law”.

            “But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise” Paul says and then he looks at it in the light of Calvary, see how he and Moses line up.  Let’s begin with Moses.  He says trying to live up to the righteousness of the law would like trying to physically make your way to Heaven and then bring back some measure of righteous wisdom that we could hear that would some how transform us because it’s so profound.  Or trying to live up to the righteousness of the law would be like trying to cross the vastest sea in search of something that would change the very nature of a person once they’ve found it.  “Who shall go”, Moses says; who among us is good enough?  Paul works the answer into the quote.  He starts by saying, “Say not in thine heart” or “fear not”!  Who is capable enough to “ascend into heaven” or “descend into the deep”?  Who can “bring Christ down from above” and “bring up Christ again from the dead”?  The God of all that is, that’s who.  The law asks the impossible but with Christ “all things are possible”.

            It is interesting that the question that is asked, no matter if you lived in Moses time, or Paul’s time, or even our own has the same answer.  “But what saith it?”  “The word is nigh thee”.  The “word” is Christ and even though He was yet to come from Moses standpoint, in eternity God “calleth those things which be not as though they were”.  By faith Christ was just as near to Moses as He is to us.  There are some that take this a direction I feel it’s not intended to go by suggesting that Moses was saying more than he really was.  Their hang up is in the way Moses puts it, “in thy mouth, and in thy heart”.  Why did he put it like that, is their question.  To answer that let us look at it from Moses’ point of view so, that we don’t put more labor into it than it requires.  Moses says mouth then heart but Paul has consistently taught that salvation occurs first in the heart.  Are they saying two different things?  No, they are merely looking at God’s plan of salvation from two different vantage points.  The same argument is made about the supposed difference between Paul and James as well.  Moses was simply relaying “truth” as they had it at the time, remember they didn’t have the benefit of the written Word like we do today.  Back then it was passed the only way it could have been, orally.  Moses wasn’t saying if you heartlessly mouth the words it somehow means you’re saved; he was saying the precious words of God, which could only be shared orally at the time, will have special meaning in the hearts of the saved.  The oral presentation of the Word, back then, is just like us cracking open our Bibles today.  Moses very much agrees with Paul that salvation takes place in the heart, Deuteronomy 30:6.  That is a circumcision that is only God wrought.

            Something else about their perspective views of God’s plan of salvation and that also contributes to Moses putting it the way he did is that the OT saints were looking at salvation almost from the outside in you might say, while Paul and the rest of the NT saints look at salvation from the inside out.  Both groups are saved by faith through grace so, the end result is the same; the only difference is where Christ’s time on this earth falls in relationship to them.  Back then they understood the law wouldn’t save; God’s provision would, as Abraham so very clearly learned.  The law instead was meant to be a spiritual health meter.  If you followed it in “spirit and in truth” your state with God was as acceptable as it could be in the flesh and of course, if you didn’t follow it the opposite was true.  The motivation behind the words of Moses was that your mouth and your heart should be in harmony.  Led by the Spirit he said what he said because he already knew what Jesus had to dumb down for us, that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”  Likewise that is what James was saying in his epistle; your works don’t save you but if they are genuinely Spirit motivated they prove you are saved.

            Now that Paul can see by the light of Calvary he understands that the Word being “nigh thee” translates to both OT and NT saints.  Moses had no idea when the Redeemer would come, all he could do was accept by faith that one day it would happen.  Salvation was that close, just like it is for us today.  That is why he said it is “nigh thee”, he was telling God’s people, you already have all you need.  They had the law, it was the diagnosis and the prescription all in one.  It tells of the very character of the One that was to come, what was “nigh” to them, “even in thy mouth, and in thy heart”, was all that was needed.  It was the “word of faith” that would bring them to belief.  Paul was saying “we preach” the same message Moses did.  What is that message?  The sinner’s prayer.  Number one, “if thou shalt confess with thy mouth”, because “with the mouth confession is made”.  Admit you are guilty of sin by commission and omission.  Number two, acknowledge “the Lord Jesus”.  Because “God hath raised him from the dead” “unto righteousness” and “unto salvation” for us.  Third and finally, “believe in thine heart”.  “For with the heart man believeth”.  If this is you then “thou shalt be saved.

            The problem with the Jews was, none of this described them.  They certainly weren’t going to confess Jesus as Lord and because they wouldn’t, calling “upon the name of the Lord” wouldn’t be possible.  And that is what all of this boils down to; “What think ye of Christ?”  Matthew 22:34-45  Here the Jewish hypocrisy attempts to tangle the Lord up in a debate about the law but He uses their own question to suggest that maybe their hearts aren’t right to begin with.  “Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him”.  A “lawyer” was someone that specialized in the Mosaic Law specifically.  They asked this question expecting Him to answer in a particular way but Jesus turns the tables on them.  He sums up the entire law in two commandments:  “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and will all thy soul, and with all thy mind”, “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thy self.”  “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”  He goes on to use King David as an example of how, not only did they not fully grasp the law, they didn’t understand their own faith.

            Most failed to see the shame that brought on them.  Paul says that is a shame that need not be, “the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”  He is quoting from Isaiah 28:16 as noted earlier.  The actual source differs slightly in that it says “make haste” rather than “be ashamed” but the idea is the same.  Here one would “make haste” or flee out fear.  Isaiah was prophesying that when God laid that “stone” “in Zion”, “a tired stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation:  he that believeth shall not” fear.  Even now in the history of Israel judgment was upon them, the Northern Kingdom was about to be over run by Assyria.  Their own actions had brought this shame upon them and the fear that was to follow.  Their grievance was a failure to answer the call.  Israel was meant to be a nation of witnesses from which God could bless the world but they sat on that knowledge and became ignorant.  If you read the first fifteen verses of this chapter they corroborate what Paul has said about Israel’s ignorance of the “righteousness of God”.  Isaiah was exposing the shame proclaiming, one day He will come to take away the shame, end the fear.  Israel was guilty of turning a deaf ear to that first part but they liked the second part.  Because of this when Christ came the first time to remove the shame they “esteemed him not”.  Sadly, when He comes the second time to end the fear Israel endures even now, they’ll not share in it.

            Paul has quoted this twice and one of the reasons for that is without shame there can be no repentance.  Today we are sending the entirely wrong message to future generations.  Secular humanism teaches our young people to never be ashamed of who they are, which is perfectly fine within biblical parameters.  But what if who you are leads you to have homosexual tendencies, is that still Okay?  Is it acceptable to let a drunk just be a drunk?  What about someone who is just plain lazy, should you just let them be who they are?  When children begin displaying rank disobedience, should you really just chalk it up to them “trying to find their own identities”?  See where this is going?  A society with no shame is a society with no soul.  God does not want you to be ashamed of who you are, he wants you to come out of your ignorance and confront your shame so He can remove it.  That’s how repentance works.

            Previously in the letter Paul showed how “all have sinned” and now he shows how “all” can be saved.  He says there is “no difference between the Jew and the Greek”.  There is “no difference” between our sin and their sin, because there is “no difference” in the “condemnation” it brings.  Over time the Jews had diluted themselves into thinking their sin was somehow less offensive to God but that was a theology of their own making.  Ephesians 2:11-14  Here Paul refers to the Jews as “the Circumcision” almost sarcastically because it was another way saying they were saved but he goes on to say that circumcision is “in the flesh” only and the salvation they were trusting in was “made by hands”.  In not so many words Paul was saying, they call you Gentiles uncircumcised but the reality is they are just as lost.  At a certain point Jews began to falsely believe, as some preachers have, that God had left the door to salvation closed to Gentiles in OT times but that is not true.  Survey the OT and you’ll find plenty of Gentiles that came to the saving knowledge of Christ and the fact that the Temple had a court dedicated specifically to Gentiles speaks for itself.  I think that is what Paul is getting at when he writes “ye who sometimes were far off”.  As a whole we were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel” but “sometimes” they did have Gentile converts.  So, “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” and “all” need to repent.  And we do that to “the same Lord” because He is “Lord over all”.  Bottom-line, “there is no difference” in our mutual salvation.

            When Paul says, He is “Lord over all”, he means He is “Lord over all”, over “the Jew and the Greek”.  The Jews had gone so far in their fanaticism that some actually believed, despite God’s Word saying other wise, that God never created Gentiles and even if He did they were beyond salvation.  But Jeremiah 32:27 dispels both of those claims.  Jehovah God says, “I am the LORD, the God of all flesh”.  That hardly gives the Jew enough leeway to claim exclusivity.  And the last half of this verse is the OT equivalent of a Matthew 19:26 or a Mark 10:27.  So, even if us Gentiles were somehow farther from God our salvation wouldn’t be “any thing too hard” for God.  The point is, the “same” Lord is Lord over all.  That word “same” means common to all, the idea is like how the air we breathe is common to everyone.  The “same Lord” of the Jews is Lord of all peoples.  And He “is rich unto all that call upon him.”  The Jews did have a near monopoly on this one though.  The number of Gentiles that came to believe in the one true God was sparse, especially when compared to the number of faithful Jews down throughout the years.  You would think that the Gentile nations surrounding Israel would have taken note when God via the Israelites smote army after army on their way to the Promised Land.  The OT is filled with pages of unwinnable battles that Israel won because of the Lord they called upon.  See, while He is “Lord over all”, He is only “rich unto all that call upon him.”  As Paul goes on to say, that richness is given in equal measure.

            The thirteenth verse is a quote of Joel 2:32.  Joel’s whole ministry was geared toward one purpose, getting the people to “call on the name of the LORD”.  His message was, repent and you’ll experience the riches of the blessings of God even through your judgment.  Paul puts it like you see many times in the OT, “call upon the name of the Lord”.  His intent here is to stress that calling “upon” the name of the Lord is not a casual thing.  In Genesis you see Abraham do it three particular times and every time he did it with a blood sacrifice, emphasizing the special nature of the call.  On mount Carmel Elijah called “upon” the name of the Lord when he stared down four hundred and fifty of Baal’s prophets, proving what God says in Psalm 50:15 to be true.  It is a call that can be sudden like that of a drowning man or it can be a prolonged leaning “upon” God.  For contextual purposes here in Romans the word “saved” is used, it shares the meaning of delivered and relates to salvation in more of a discernable way.  It is a word that is used in one form or anther in the OT Hebrew 160 times and in the NT well over a hundred, Paul alone uses it forty-five times.

3c.)      Saved from unbelief  v. 14-21

            Paul has shown that salvation through Christ has been provided for all men but for that to have any impact it must be proclaimed to all men first.  And such is the focal point of these next two verses.  To start off with we can say that these verses are very missions minded, they pull on the heart strings of every missionary who genuinely loves the “call”, you can find them on countless prayer cards.  Which is without doubt part of God’s intended meaning here but that first question of verse fourteen pertains directly “to the Jew first”.  Follow Paul’s logic here:  He is “Lord over all” but only those “that call upon him” can “be saved” but the Jews were not going to “call on him in whom they have not believed” and that was Jesus.  So, that is its initial meaning but it secondarily also lends itself to missions.  They can only “call on him” if they have “believed”.  They can only “believe in him” if they have “heard” of Him.  They will not “hear” about Him “without a preacher”.  And finally no “preacher” can truly “preach” unless he has been “sent” by God.  Paul’s logic is rock solid because it makes just as much sense if you were to turn it around.  If God had not “sent” preachers to “preach” no one could “hear”.  If no one could “hear” no one could “believe”.  If no one “believed” no one could “call on him”.  If no one could “call upon the name of the Lord” no one could “be saved”.  It is every bit as intricate as it is deliberate and the Jews got in the way of that.  Paul says “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  The problem was they were only “hearing” what they wanted to hear and because of it they missed out on God’s provision.  We are going down that same path Israel trod all those years ago.  People don’t read their Bible for what it says anymore, they read it for what they want it to say.  That’s why we have all these conflicting versions being peddled.  It is also why we have all these different denominations confusing people.  We have over a thousand different denominations today, ten years ago it was half that.  It says He is “the same Lord over all”.  Like Israel plenty of people believe in the one true God but not too many these days believe what He says.

            Today, like in Paul’s day, fundamental Christianity is reproached.  “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things” should be the heart-song of this lost world.  But the people in this world grow more hard hearted by the day.  It is only when disaster strikes that we are looked upon as the good guy.  Some versions change the wording here to say, how “timely” are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things.  A truth for sure, since it is because of Man’s own sinful folly that someone has to “be sent” of God for the bailout.  Paul’s words can be traced back to two sources Isaiah 52:7 and Nahum 1:15.  The context of both differ; in Nahum’s case, what made “the feet of him that bringeth good tidings” “beautiful” was the good news that God was going to deal with Israel’s oppressor, Assyria.  In Isaiah’s case, what made “the feet of him that bringeth good tidings” “beautiful” was who the messenger was, Jesus.  His appearing should have been beautiful to them, especially when compared to the alternative, which was further subjection to the law.  That meant consistently falling short of the precepts they were mandated to live by, never quite being good enough, always letting God down, a fundamental understanding of the law reveals that much.  The law didn’t dispense “peace” or bring “glad tidings of good things”, it dealt death.  Christ’s appearing was a “beautiful” thing to those who still understood.

            But they have not all obeyed the gospel.  For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?”  Years ago, Isaiah testifies, Israel forsook the truth and “because they would not believe, judgment came upon them and they could not believe”.  John 12:37-41  John quotes Isaiah too.  It is a sad thing when you get in the way of your own answered prayer.  Notice how Paul puts it, “they have not all obeyed the gospel”.  He is speaking in reference to Isaiah’s message, he is calling it “the gospel”.  That is because it was, then he goes on and quotes Isaiah 53:1.  The description found in Isaiah 53 can only be describing one person, Jesus.  Even the Jew will tell you that.  That was what Rabbis through out the ages have taught but after they rejected the Messiah they began teaching that Isaiah was actually referring to the sufferings of Israel.  And because they changed the message, what they were “hearing” failed to bring “faith”.  That is why Isaiah very prophetically asks, “Who hath believed our report?”  Isaiah is describing how the “arm of the Lord” reached out of Heaven, “revealed” the gift of salvation and all they had to do was “receive” it:  hear and receive the “word of God”.

            Jeremiah tells us long before this they had stopped their ears, Jeremiah 6:10.  God sends Jeremiah with a message while they were in the midst of judgment but because they were still so hard hearted Jeremiah asks, “To who shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear?”  They serve as an example that you can get to the point you’re so hard hearted that you “cannot hearken”.  No wonder Jesus said, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”  “But I say”, Paul asks rhetorically, “have they not heard?”  Have they not heard the Word of God, even the “word of Christ” as some translate the end of verse seventeen.  “Yes verily”, Paul answers and he goes on to quote Psalm 19:4.  The differences here are minor and contextual; Paul says, “their sound went into all the earth”.  The “their sound” is referring to God’s Word, God’s Word has “gone out through all the earth”.  Which becomes more true with the passage of time, especially with the advent of radio and Internet.  But the more basic meaning is with creation itself, God’s words through creation speak “unto the ends of the world”.  The heavens are a testament to all, not just Jew is the implied meaning.  In verse seven David says. “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul”.  Back then they still understood the law didn’t save, it was capable of “converting the soul” because it is the “testimony of the LORD”, “making wise the simple”, “enlightening the eyes” but it didn’t save.  David calls it being “clean”, you were only clean when you had a “fear of the LORD”.  In verse eleven David says, concerning the law, that “by them is thy servant warned”, not saved but “warned”.  In the next verse David cries to God, not the law, “cleanse thou me from secret faults.”  The only way to be “innocent from the great transgression” was through God’s amazing grace and that is what David is appealing to.  Jesus appearing should have been a beautiful thing to them because He was the answer to their cries.

            “But I say”, again Paul rhetorically says, “Did not Israel know?”  They should have, it was written in the book, if they would have bothered to read it for what it said.  But they read it for what they wanted it to say and because they did they were ignorant of what their own Scripture said.  However, the day is coming that they will see it again “in spirit and in truth”.  And this is the reason God says to Israel “I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.”  This is a quote of Deuteronomy 32:21.  This verse here in Deuteronomy gives us insight into God’s plan of salvation.  Paul is telling us that as far back as Moses, some fifteen hundred years before, they knew the Gentile was part of that plan.  But not only that, God used Moses to prophesy of Israel’s rebellion and ultimate rejection of Christ.  The fact that when one came proclaiming the name of the Lord and had the works to back it up, along with the Gentiles whole hearted embrace of Him should have led the Jew to only one conclusion, Jesus Christ is Lord.  Of course now in hindsight the truth of the verses Paul brings to light reigns forth and one day soon Israel will hear and see it.

            Deuteronomy also displays a truth as to how God deals with our sin.  Often times He uses the very object or method of our sin to chastise us, while also leading us back to Him.  Such is the case with Israel.  Before the Babylonian exile it could definitely be said that one of Israel’s fondest sins was idolatry.  Here they are fresh out of Egypt and already God is saying, “They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God”.  They would worship idols and recycled gods of old but to Him those are no gods so, He would “move them to jealousy with those which are not a people”.  This was also a swipe at Jewish pride, something that years later would lead them to reject Christ.  The Jewish sentiment was that Gentiles were “not a people” they were just a bunch of heathen, some even commonly referred to them as dogs.  The idea that God would reach out to them was repulsive.  But as has been plainly seen that was God’s plan all along.  We see Romans 8:28 hold true again, “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  The part that says “the called” certainly refers to the Jewish people in some measure, their course is going to go “according to his purpose”, regardless of their sin.  And even though that sin led them to reject Christ it will be that same sin that leads them back.  The word “provoke” means to cause or bring to a point.  God’s reaching out to the Gentiles is going to “provoke” or cause the Jews to come to a point that their pride will “move” them to a jealous “anger”.  Why would God want to make His people angry?  He does it because when everybody gets mad it brings them together.  When God opens those proud Jewish eyes a proud “jealousy” will take over.  They will see the blessings of God upon a nearly all Gentile Church, blessings they have willingly let pass by.  That Jewish pride will lead them to be jealous of my Jesus, bringing them to repentance.

            Paul is validating the Gentile call; first he cites Moses, a man that sits atop anyone’s greatest men of God list.  When reexamined by the light of Calvary his prophetic words couldn’t be any clearer.  In spite of God given privileges, His enduring longsufferings when they would forsake Him, repeated warnings and invitations Israel persistently rebelled.  If they wouldn’t serve Him, He would seek out a people that would.  Now, in this time that He temporarily will “let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined” a complete turn around will take place.  Gentiles, who used to pay no heed to Jewish faith begin to, while Jews fail to give their faith even a second thought.  As Moses alludes to, this will ultimately work for their good.  One could easily say Moses’ words were taken out of context or so much time has passed between then and now that any number of events could fit what he was explaining.  So, Paul quotes someone almost a thousand years more recent, Isaiah 65:1-2.  See, Moses was compelling but Isaiah “is very bold” because his words are an indictment of Israel.  Also it is a perfect description of God’s plan of salvation, the Gentile call and the work of Christ.  Paul sums it up, “I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.”  For descriptive purposes Paul rephrases a little.  “Behold me, behold me”, Isaiah writes of God, where Paul pens, “I was made manifest”.  That phrase “made manifest” reads almost like stage directions.  The only reason God was “made” by the Gentiles was because He chose it to be so, He chose to step upon the stage to make Himself known.  He “manifest” Himself, He stepped into the light so we could see.

            Again, taking the same liberties for the second verse in Isaiah 65, Paul summarizes.  “All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.”  This last verse tells us of God’s truly amazing grace towards His people.  Israel has consistently been “disobedient”.  Isaiah calls them “rebellious”, a people “which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts”.  They march to the beat of their own drum.  Paul calls them “disobedient”, meaning they wouldn’t be persuaded no matter what message God’s man was sent to them with.  In fact, contrary to God’s opinion, they had their own ideas about how things ought to go; Paul calls it “gainsaying”.  That’s when you have a habit of contradicting and speaking against someone just for the sake of it.  Jesus told them of the cumulative cost in a parable, Matthew 21:33-43.  Note the trouble God went to in part for Israel:  He “planted a vineyard”, He “hedged it round about”, He “digged a winepress in it, and built a tower”, in short He did all the work.  All they had to do was produce “the fruits of it.”  It’s a metaphor for the call that God placed upon them, evangelize the world.  When they started letting that responsibility slide God sent prophets to guide them but rarely was their message received.  So, “he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.”  But they conspired to kill Him.  Because of that Jesus says, “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.”  Christ is referring to the same group of people Moses, Isaiah and Paul are, the Gentiles.  That is why the Church, which started out one hundred percent Jewish, down through the years has become almost one hundred percent Gentile.  But as the next chapter goes on to tell us, the Jews are about to find their faith.

D.  According to the election                 11:1-36

1d.)      The elected remnant  v. 1-6

            It is in the fourth leg of this section called Appropriation that we finally see God begin to do just that, put things in their place.  By this point in history Israel had been tributary to one nation or another for several centuries.  With this in mind, along with Paul’s undeniable defense of the Gentile call he asks, “Hath God cast away his people?”  Those that subscribe to “covenant theology” would say yes.  It teaches that God has ended His work with Israel and that the Church has taken Israel’s place.  Covenant theology, ironic name since it implies that God doesn’t always keep His promises.  Has God “cast away” that which He so earnestly fought for from one millennia to the next?  Paul answers with an emphatic “God forbid.”  The idea that God has abandoned Israel couldn’t be further from the truth is Paul’s insinuation here.  Yes, Israel has been constantly disobedient but God is still stretching forth His hands.  Acts tells us that even after they had rejected their Messiah God was still at work amongst His people.  You see it at Pentecost where “there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”  A little while latter “about five thousand” “of them which heard the word believed”.  By the end of the events in Acts it is possible that there were as many 20,000 Jewish Christians in Jerusalem.  Today there are numerous Jewish Christian organizations.  God has not put Israel out to pasture.  For one thing, all of the promises that God made to Israel have not been fulfilled yet; which is why Paul brings up his family tree.

            I “am an Israelite”, Paul says, “of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.”  This is important to Paul because both the tribes of Benjamin and Judah had a special distinction from the other ten.  When Israel split after the death of King Solomon it was Judah and Benjamin that remained faithful to God.  You see it foreshadowed in Moses’ blessing to Benjamin in Deuteronomy 33:12.  The other ten tribes were guilty of some terrible things:  creating a false priesthood, building false houses of worship, eventual full on idolatry.  But the tribe of Benjamin was one of the ones to stay the course and because they would go on to do it, before Moses died he blessed them with a special promise from God.  They would “dwell in safety by him” and the LORD promised to “cover him all the day long”.  A promise that was kept seeing Benjamin stood long after the other ten had fallen.  The tribe of Benjamin defied the odds.  Benjamin was the little guy, smallest of all twelve tribes.  When the other ten went their own way you would have thought, being the runt, Benjamin would have followed the crowd.  But just like Moses predicted when he said, the LORD “shall dwell between his shoulders” the people of Benjamin had a heart for God.  God may not have given you the talent or gift that others have but when you have God’s presence with you, you don’t need it.  Some of the greatest champions in Heaven won’t be big preachers, just those who, against the odds, stood by their posts and didn’t go with the crowd.

            God “hath not” and never would cast away His people “which he foreknew.”  Several verses must have flooded the mind of the Apostle when it came to this subject, beginning with Genesis 12:2-3.  It is with Abraham that we are given the first glimpse of God’s people.  God makes seven earth changing promises to him.  First, “I will make thee a great nation”.  A promise that was very much true while Israel walked with God during the reigns David and Solomon.  But as the character of the men that would take the throne in later years degraded, Israel lost that status.  Israel will be a “great nation” again one day, when it becomes the capital from which Christ reigns the world.  “I will bless thee”, God says second.  The fact Abraham prospered in a foreign land attests to that.  Abraham started with what little he could carry out of a pagan land but by the end of his life he was a wealthy man, materially and spiritually.  God’s third promise to Abraham was, I will “make thy name great”.  Thousands of years later the whole Middle East remembers and reverences his name.  The fourth promise God made was that Abraham was going to “be a blessing” to those around him.  Generations later people were still using the wells he dug.  Fifth God says, “I will bless them that bless thee”.  That was true through out the OT and today is just as true.  I have no doubt that we in America are blessed so, partly because of our defense of Israel.  The other half of that is God’s sixth promise, I will “curse him that curseth thee”.  The pages of the OT are filled with evidence of that.  But God’s seventh is the greatest promise, “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”  Out of this chosen people a Saviour would be born and if all the families of the earth would call upon His name they would be blessed.

            Another Scripture that might have come to mind could have been God’s words to Samuel in I Samuel 12:22.  “For the LORD will not forsake his people”, a Spirit filled Samuel proclaims.  Then he gives us two reasons why.  One, Israel’s posterity goes “for his great name’s sake”.  What kind of testimony would God have if He did “cast away his people”?  How would it make Him look?  And two, “it hath pleased the LORD to make you”, Israel, “his people”.  Psalm 94:14 elaborates.  The Lord will not “cast off his people, neither will he forsake” them because they are His “inheritance”.  It is because of verses like these and numerous others that Paul is confident “God hath not cast away his people”.  The Bible says He “foreknew” them, that is shorthand for what Paul addressed in verses twenty-eight, twenty-nine and thirty of chapter eight.  At the beginning of this section Paul speaks of the purpose and plan of God, “foreknew” is a reference to that earlier discussion.  God rejecting that which He sanctified, set apart to inherit in “due season” wouldn’t make any sense.  In Isaiah God says to Israel, “For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.”  Remember those three children of Hosea’s?  The meaning of each child’s name conveyed a part of the sentence Israel was to serve until “the times of the Gentiles” be concluded.  Hosea’s first child’s name was Jezreel, it means to sow or scatter.  Sense the time that God handed that sentence down Israel has been scatter across the whole world.  But Hosea and other prophets agree, this is only for a “small moment” in time; prophets like Jeremiah in Jeremiah 31:28.  He touches on the same things Hosea does when it comes to God’s judgment on Israel and just like Hosea he too says, one day God is going to begin “to build, and to plant” Israel again.

            Under the circumstances Paul couldn’t have listed them all so, he goes with the one that would carry the most impact, Elijah.  To those who say God is finished with Israel Paul says, “Wot ye not what the scripture saith…”  Notice it says Elijah “maketh intercession to God against Israel”.  I Kings 19:9-14  Paul’s point here is, even though Man will break his word, God never will.  Paul is right on with his rundown of Elijah’s gripe, Israel had been absolutely contrary to God and the men of God.  And even though Elijah is regarded as one of Israel’s mightiest prophets we see him grow frustrated with the people.  So much so, he’d rather die than continue to try and get through to a people that won’t listen.  It has been suggested, that when he stepped out of the cave and witnessed those great events, that they were really representations of Elijah’s feelings toward the people of Israel.  First came “a great and strong wind” that “rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks”.  Perhaps Elijah desired in his heart to rage against Israel like the fiercest storm “but the LORD was not in the wind”.  Second, “after the wind an earthquake”.  If he couldn’t just let them have it with his words then he would like to get his hands on them, violently shake them up until they felt just as hurt as he did “but the LORD was not in the earthquake”.  Third, “after the earthquake a fire”.  Maybe he would just do nothing, sit back and let them get the fire that was coming to them, enjoy the show “but the LORD was not in the fire”.  Like Elijah, we have all been there but God is in none of those things.  Elijah heard God in a “still small voice”, it is a lesson on grace.  God could have given Elijah the power to call down fire out of Heaven, He had done it before.  Moses had that kind of power at his disposal, he had a personal army at his command.  But what made him “meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” is he had that power under control.  Moses was meek, Elijah wouldn’t have been.

            Elijah made his request “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 Baal.”  The next verse gives us the application to his illustration.  “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant”, there always has been and until the rapture there always will be.  Jeremiah says it is as sure as the stars in the sky, Jeremiah 31:35-37.  Short of the stars forgetting how to shine or gravity losing its pull, Israel’s future is secure.  The end of verse five calls it “a remnant according to the election of grace.”  Verse thirty-seven is all about grace, God is saying it would take an impossible set of circumstances for Him to “cast off all the seed of Israel for all they have done”.  God made an unconditional promise which is bound by “the election of grace”.  In other words, Israel despite “all they have done” will never ware out the grace of God.  Praise God that through Christ I too am elected.

            Many find this next verse to be a little confusing or feel it seems a little out of place, so much so that other translations will chop off the last half.  However, it is meant to be a lesson on the fundamentals of the faith.  A “remnant” is saved “according to the election of grace”.  “And if by grace, then is it no more works”.  Israel misunderstood its “election”.  Their “election” had always been a matter of “grace”, not “works”.  Salvation can come no other way “otherwise grace is no more grace.”  “But if it be of works, then is it no more grace:  otherwise work is no more work.”  The two negate each other, Paul puts them side by side for all to see.  In other words here is what he is saying, when salvation comes by way of grace, works lose their meaning; the same would be true if works saved, then grace would lose its meaning.  You can’t believe in one without negating the other.

2d.)      The rejected blind  v. 7-10

            “What then?”, Paul surmises, “Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for”.  What did Israel seek for?  The previous chapter tells us, they sought righteousness.  But the more important question is, how did Israel seek for it?  The end of chapter nine answers that one, “they sought it”, righteousness, “not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.”  Israel mistakenly felt that what made them God’s people were the works they did.  Paul’s point is that “election” is based on more than just someone doing Jewish things.  They sat on the knowledge of God so, they didn’t see too many converts but on those rare occasions when they let just enough slip out about the “most high God” to convict one of us “Gentiles”, you know how they gauged whether or not that person truly believed?  You’d think it’d be on things like how well they were understanding Scripture or how evident the spiritual growth in that person’s life was; no, instead they gauged salvation by how Jewish they acted, how close you followed their customs, their traditions.  That is where they tried to seek out righteousness and it is why they failed.  There is no righteousness in ceremony or ritual.  They tried to spiritualize things like washing your hands.  Today churches try and do the same thing with skits, programs, music, soft preaching/positive thinking and the list goes on.  Is it any wonder Israel failed to obtain.  Paul says, “but the election hath obtained it”.  By that he means those few that still believed righteousness came only “by grace”, they had something real to hold on to.  In fact the purest meaning of the word “obtained” comes from the King James era and means to take hold of.  Paul says, “the rest” were so busy chasing a lie they “were blinded”.

            “According as it is written”, Paul says in verse eight.  Now, the contents of this verse can be traced back to two sources, Isaiah 29:10 and Deuteronomy 29:4.  Again these are not so much direct quotes as they are Paul recalling Scriptural precedent, as he did in his reference to Elijah.  However, both touch on the same topic that Paul introduces in the previous verse; how only a “remnant” would accept the Gospel “and the rest were blinded”.  As Paul explains in this next verse it was a blindness that the people of Israel were solely responsible for.  Many will read verses like this one and come to the wrong conclusion; that God will blind people to the truth, thereby unduly sentencing them to an eternal hell.  That is not what this verse says.  When you translate from one language to another how do you translate something that is just understood, without making it unnecessarily wordy or redundant?  Such is the case with the word “given”.  It says, “God hath given them”, as used in the original Greek it carries the idea that God gave them over to a desire they were already feeding, which caused the blindness, not that He blinded them just for the sake that He is God.  He gave them exactly what they wanted, a “spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear”.

            At a certain point it wasn’t like they wanted to see or hear the truth anyway.  One might say it was an unjust act on God’s behalf; an utterly human point of view.  Glory looks down and says it’s God’s mercy and grace; better “they know not what they do”, then have the knowledge and do it anyway.  There are going to be times when God is just going to have to look out for our “welfare” because it becomes clear we’re not going to.  It didn’t make their blatant ignorance and disobedience any less wrong but God was able to take even that and “work” it for some kind of “good”.  Isaiah 29:9-14  Israel, for so long, had turned a blind eye to the truth, demonized those that would stand on its behalf so, God’s Spirit departs and is replaced by “the spirit of deep sleep” or “the spirit of slumber”.  As Paul uses it, “slumber”, means numbness, an inability to feel.  Put it together and what Paul is saying is, when the Spirit departs from a people they become numb spiritually.  This is unmistakable in Israel.  The country finds itself divided into two factions.  One group seems to have forgotten where they came from; their rich history might as well be a dream that came out of a “deep sleep” as far as they are concerned.  The very land they live on testifies of their God, the politics and violence of the day does as well but they are numb to all of it.  The other group, orthodox Jews, while religious suffer from the same inability to feel.  They actually read God’s Word and still miss the light of Christ.  Sleeping people are only receptive to irritation or pain.  The word “slumber” depending upon its usage in the Greek metaphorically takes on the meaning of, to pain the mind.  Perhaps that is what Paul was referring to earlier when he spoke of Israel seeking but failing to obtain.  They reject even the thought that Jesus was Christ so, they pain themselves; blindly searching for God in vain through their works, always falling “short of the glory of God”.  The Jews are still like that “unto this day”, Paul tacks on.  Here we are two thousand years later and it is the same story.  The last half of verse eight comes from Deuteronomy 29, which is near the end of Israel’s forty year sentence in the wilderness.  By quoting this Paul is saying Israel might as well still be running around in the wilderness because they never learned the lesson.

            Paul goes on to paraphrase David’s words out of Psalm 69:22-23 in the next two verses.  The interesting thing about Paul’s selection out of Psalms is that these words of David are directed at his enemies.  So, what is it Paul is trying to say?  We know that the thoughts expressed in these verses tell us how Israel viewed their godless enemies.  They felt that those outside of their faith were blind, unable and unwilling in most cases to see the truth that the God of Israel is the one true God.  They felt their enemies were so lost that even those things they took solace in were depraved.  Paul’s point in quoting David is that what Israel once thought of its enemies is now true of them; they are blind and forsaken.  Verse nine reads like sermon notes; “Let their table be made a snare”.  A “table” refers to a person’s place of safety, those things that comfort us, bring us joy and peace.  For Israel it was the table the people would eat at with the priests when they would bring their peace offerings.  For them it would have been like eating with God; even more, they felt that every feast day God was at the table with them, so to speak.  Whenever we gather for services we tend to treat it as if we are inviting God but really it is the other way around.  We don’t invite God, He invites us.  Every Tabernacle and Temple service, every feast was an invitation by God to His people, to come join Him.  After Israel fell into a works salvation that majesty was lost and it became mere pageant, just another work to be put on the list.  What was meant to be a blessing became a “snare” or noose Israel would use to hang itself with.  We have done that with Sundays.  The Lord’s Day was once meant to bless but now it is used as a utility day, a get over your hangover day.  The time of judgment is coming for all those that have profaned its sacredness, just like it did in Israel.

            Their blessing became “a trap, and a stumblingblock” that let “their eyes be darkened, that they may not see”.  Here “trap” carries the idea of setting up for destruction.  God setup an institution in the feasts and ritual services to confirm their salvation, not to establish it.  These observances were meant to remove any doubt they might have concerning their eternal security.  But they turned “that which should have been for their welfare” into a burden by crediting it for their salvation and not God.  The reason it now becomes a burden is because in their minds this act is where salvation comes from.  By their own definition, now they would always have to keep this practice, if they wanted to be saved.  Unwittingly they had forced themselves to “bow down their back alway”.  They were not only held hostage by this false belief, they were enslaved by it.  Malachi 2:1-3  The “trap” was set, all they needed was a “stumblingblock” or the trigger that springs the trap, sadly but in perfect correlation with God’s plan and purpose Jesus was that trigger.  Concerning their man made theologies God says, one day “one shall take you away with it”; it happened and that was their “recompence”.

3d.)      The providential fall  v. 11-15

            Once the people started being “taught by the precept of men” rather than by the full council of God a “fall” was unavoidable.  But it wasn’t a complete “fall”, it was more of a stumble; which is what Paul means when he says, “Have they stumbled that they should fall?  God forbid”.  The difference being you can recover from a stumble but not a fall, because a fall will completely stop any forward progress.  Whereas a stumble only slows progress.  Israel hasn’t “stumbled that they should fall”, “but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles”.  The English translation lacks some of the clarity of the original Greek here, for instance two different words for “fall” are used in verse eleven.  The first “fall” denotes a permanent unchangeable condition.  The second “fall” denotes a condition that is temporary and recoverable.  Why is that small distinction so important?  It is important because even though Israel has “stumbled” God says, “I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder”.

            What exactly is this “marvelous work”?  Well, a more concise explanation of it is found in Isaiah 49:1-6.  These verses lay out God’s plan and purpose for millennia to come.  Coupled with Paul’s references to other OT prophets we can deduce that God’s intentions are twofold:  one part pertains to Israel, the other to the Gentiles and in concert both accomplish “the reconciling of the world”.  First, comes “the diminishing” of the Jews, marked by the great exile.  In the English language “diminish” comes from two Old French words:  diminue and minish.  Both have roughly the same meaning, to make small but that first word-part tells a story.  Diminue farther back comes from Latin and means to break into small pieces.  Now, what happened to the Jewish community at large during the last couple of centuries of OT history?  It was broken into smaller and smaller pieces, the Jews were scattered across the world; just like God’s Word said they would be.  Sounds to me like the translators of the King James knew what they where doing, maintaining the accuracy and cohesion of the Word of God.  Most other versions rephrase verse twelve, the thinking is that by rephrasing it to sound more modern people will understand it better but it has the opposite effect.  Today’s modern translations simply don’t educate the way the King James does.  Yet another example of how our language has been corrupted by time and is not suitable for a legitimate retranslation.

            Second, comes “the riches of the Gentiles”.  What we have seen in the last two thousand years is God working “through their fall”, remember the “fall” used in that phrase is referring back to the stumble of the Jewish people, it is something they will recover from; both verse twelve and fifteen indicate that.  But for now we are seeing “the casting away of them” or the “diminishing” of the Jewish people as Paul calls it in the twelfth verse.  When something is diminished it is made less important.  Earlier we talked about how they placed so much value on being Jewish, so much so, they got to the point that they began to believe their heritage guaranteed them salvation.  By God reaching out to the Gentiles He effectively diminished this false belief.  Verse fifteen says “the casting away” of the Jewish people wrought “the reconciling of the world”.  When something is reconciled it is exchanged.  That is how Christ “reconciled” us on the cross; that is how we settle our differences, we exchange disagreement for agreement.  During this period that God has set Israel aside an exchange has been made from a near Jewish exclusive faith to an all inclusive faith.  Israel’s temporary loss turned into our permanent gain.  Notice the sixth verse of Isaiah 49 again.  You know, one reason the Jews have a hard time believing the Church is the will of God is because while God outlined His plan in the Word, He didn’t give a time line per say.  He just says in verse eight of that same chapter, “In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee”.  It is in the past tense even though it is yet to happen, the reason for that is God exists outside of time in eternity.  The decision has already been made regardless of where our linear time stands.  Plus, you can’t forget what God said He was going to do back in Isaiah 29:14, that “the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid”.  In numerous places God’s Word says He is going to reach out to the Gentiles they just never knew when.  God’s initial desire was that Israel be that “light to the Gentiles” but Israel failed to witness in righteousness so, He used their unrighteousness as a witness; where He could not use their faithfulness, He used their failure.  Again we see God divinely appropriating, putting things in their place, we see that “all things” do “work together for good”.

            God’s final act of business is “the receiving of them”.  The Jews have a two thousand year plus track record of disobedience and all out rejection so, how is it they are going to be in a place that “the receiving of them” by God is even possible?  God is going “to provoke them to jealousy”.  Jealousy is almost always a negative thing but God will work it for “good”.  The Jewish people look at the Church with a certain “wonder”, because they can see the hand of God on it, on the people.  They say, here are these Christians with their love and generosity, their willingness to die and the faith it takes for all of it; they must have something.  It causes them to grow jealous.  They are like a child with a broken toy, they don’t play with it anymore but as soon as another child comes along and picks it up, jealousy provokes them to take it back.  God will be “receiving” them because soon they will realize they have missed out; missed out on their “fullness”.  While Christian countries have flourished, experienced “the riches of the world”, Israel has had to fight for every thing.  What starts out as an “emulation” turns to “life from the dead”.  That is how Israel will come to Christ one day.

            Paul poses two questions aimed at God’s promises to the Jews and how those promises implicate the rest of the world.  He steps aside in verse thirteen to say, “I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles”.  By the way Paul frames his argument it is obvious he has a couple objectives in mind.  For one, he is definitely making it clear that the Jews still have a position.  And he is appealing to that when he says, “I magnify mine office.  If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.”  We’ve seen Paul use that word “provoke” before, it means to cause or bring to a point.  I think one reason Paul fought so hard for the Gentiles is because it would “provoke” the Jews into asking, “why is this proud Jewish man doing this?”  Paul intentionally magnified his call to spark the interest of Jews.  It would cause “some of them” to wonder who exactly this Jesus was, bringing some of his own “flesh” to salvation.  His words also serve as a warning to the Gentiles to not turn their faith into a “members only” club like the Jews had done.  They still had a position before God but for the time being they had lost fellowship with Him.  It serves as a reminder that even when we insist on doing things the hard way, God’s will is still done.  God wanted the world evangelized, He called Israel to do it but they rejected that call so, God used their rejection to embrace the Gentiles, they eventually get jealous and come to Christ.  It translates to all things working together.

            Lastly, the promises that God made to the Gentiles are contingent on Israel.  Ezekiel 47:21-23  It is my belief that this concerns the Millennial Kingdom, “strangers” here can only refer to Gentiles.  What an incredible time to be reunited with loved ones, in perfected bodies, on a restored earth.  In this time we’ll get an “inheritance” but only if the Jew gets one.  This is their time, eons in the making and by grace “through Christ” God lets us, Gentiles, come along for the ride.  Praise Him!  Maybe Paul had this in mind when he rhetorically asks:  “if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness?” or “if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?

4d.)      The engrafted branches  v. 16-24

            Paul continues his address to the Gentiles by giving two illustrations that prove God is not through with Israel.  His first illustration in the first half of verse sixteen comes from Numbers 15:17-21, its application is one that is not only familiar to the Jew but to us as well.  Notice it says, “when ye eat of the bread of the land, ye shall offer up an heave offering unto the LORD.”  A “heave offering” is like the “firstfruit”.  When we tithe we give the “firstfruit” to God.  In Paul’s example the first part of the dough was to be set aside for God as a symbol that the entire “lump” belonged to Him.  Drawn out the idea is when God accepts the part, He sanctifies the whole.  That is why when you and I tithe that first ten percent, our “firstfruits”, the other ninety gets supernaturally blessed.  Look closely; it says, “if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy”.  It is a blessing by association.  If the “lump” is Israel, the “fristfruit” would have to be the patriarchs:  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to whom God made the promises.  Israel is “holy” or set aside because of those covenant promises and not because of their own merit, as the next illustration diagrams.

            Paul takes some time to develop this next thought.  Reiterating his point he says, “if the root be holy, so are the branches”, an allegory that runs throughout Scripture.  What Paul would have had specifically in mind would have probably come out of Jeremiah 11:16-17.  Wrongly, this tree with its two different kinds of branches is likened to the Church; an error, which leads to misinterpretation of these verses.  For starters, “as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ”.  Meaning, there is “neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female:  for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Thus the reason why the Church is not the topic of conversation here is:  one, the tree is composed of two different groups of people and two, Paul is only speaking to one of those, the Gentiles.  The “olive tree” Paul is depicting better represents the relationship of Jews and Gentiles in the program of God.  While there is such a thing as a blessing by association it does have its limits.  Verse seventeen says despite this blessing on “the root”, Abraham, “some of the branches be broken off”; those “branches” referring to his descendants.  What happened to Israel is sadly what is happening to the Untied States, Israel lost the things that made them who they were.  Among the things that got “broken off” were their land, their city and even their Temple.  By comparison the Israel of today looks nothing like the Israel of David or Solomon’s day.  These things “were broken off” “because of unbelief” and disobedience.  The disobedience of one generation corrupted the heart of the next.  They didn’t have a heart for God, they were contrary to “the root”; for that reason they were broken off of the “green olive tree” Scripture calls Israel.  Likewise America is changing, we have known prosperity like no other, a blessing by association seeing most of America is not saved.  America’s Christian roots have blessed us, like the root of a tree, supported us but the day is coming and may even be here that we are “cut off” from that blessing.  It happened to Israel and it all started with their beliefs.  Here in America we are experiencing a change of values, the God fearing people that gave this great nation its name are vilified.  The things they valued have been cast off.  Here let it be said, when values change so do liberties, rights and freedoms.  There came a time when Israel was Israel by name only; if certain groups have their way that is going to be true of us.

            Now, that is what happen to Israel but he turns his attention back to us Gentiles when he says, “and thou”.  Paul portrays us as “being a wild olive tree”.  Olive trees were a source industry in the Middle East and still are.  The olive called to mind the heights of Grecian pagan culture, by referring to Gentiles as “wild” and casting Israel as the superior fruit bearer Paul was emphasizing the importance of “the root”.  He says us Gentiles “wert graffed in among them”.  And that “with them” we “partakest of the root” and it is because of that “root” we can experience the “fatness of the olive tree”.  Israel has a certain blessing coming because of their association to Abraham the “root”, us Gentiles do too but it “standest by faith” in Christ.  Of course it goes without saying the “remnant” of Israel that Paul spoke of earlier will be born again believers.  That makes us truly of the same family tree, Ezekiel said one day Israel would look at us Gentiles “as born in the country among the children of Israel”.  Israel may have had to endure the “severity of God” but Paul warns; “Boast not against the branches” because we will be temped to say that the “branches” “were broken off, that I might be graffed in.”  A couple verses later he calls that being “highminded”.  “Be not highminded” he says, “but fear”.  In other words we shouldn’t be brazen and proud, rather we should know our place.  Paul says to the newly embraced Gentiles, “thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.”  Know your place, we are recipients of a promise made to them first and it is only by grace that we are included.

            The next two verses can be problematic if not approached properly.  For many theses chapters are an enigma, Paul’s continuity appears to break at the end of chapter eight and verses twenty-one and twenty-two only serve to exacerbate that.  Back in chapter eight, a Spirit filled, Paul wrote that there is “no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” and that nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus” but these two verses seem to indicate otherwise.  Many interpret verse twenty-one and take it to say, “if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee” or in other words you can lose your salvation.  And when viewed improperly some take that next verse to say that God is going to “cut off” the Church.  Does Paul’s reference to the branches being broken off equate to losing salvation or even God cutting off His Church?  No, because again the topic of conversation is not the Church, it is the Gentiles.  The admonition of “the apostle of the Gentiles” is we could find ourselves in the same boat as the Jews one day.  In fact we are well on our way.  While the Church is not necessarily designated of God as a strictly Gentile institution, it is largely comprised of Gentiles.  And Bible prophecy says the Church will be “cut off” because of apostasy in the “latter times”:  I Timothy 4, II Timothy 3 & II Thessalonians 2.  Of course it will be a Church by name only, it will no longer be God’s Church because no one in it will believe in the one true God anymore; they will have traded Him in for their own envisioning of Him.  Paul’s words here in Romans serve as a warning not to let that happen.  In essence he is saying, God “cut off” Israel because of unbelief and disobedience, don’t get “highminded” because “some of the branches be broken off” so that “thou” could be “graffed in among them”, because you too Gentiles can be “cut off”.  That is the meaning behind those two verses.

            Now, what does “cut off” mean?  It has to do with their religious privileges.  As God’s chosen people they had certain privileges no one else did like:  the Word of God, the ritual service, the Temple but especially, in Jewish eyes, the Abrahamic Covenant.  The phrase “cut off” relates in many cases to a person’s place in that covenant.  In the OT when people were found guilty of certain crimes they were “cut off” from their place in the covenant.  Among other things they experienced a loss of religious privilege.  They were “cut off” from all temple worship.  Today with our liberal mentality we would say that the “severity” of that judgment is too harsh but Paul calls it; “Well; because of unbelief they were broken off”.  Put another way “Well” means rightly so, when you reap what you sow there is no room to place the blame anywhere else.  Unfortunately today people are so dysfunctional they no longer get that basic truth.  While the Jews have to deal with the “severity of God” for the time being, we are granted “his goodness”.  And all we have to do is “continue in his goodness”.  That word “continue” is another one of those words that tells a story.  It too can be traced from the Latin to the King James era, as used back then it means to hold together.  If you’ll get in God’s holy Word, apply it to your life, it will hold you together.  Paul says, “otherwise thou also shalt be cut off”.  Israel demonstrates the alternative to being held together, being “cut off” or losing that very precious fellowship with God.  That is what happens when you “abide… in unbelief”.  The word “abide” comes from the King James era as well, at its roots it means to put up with.  The question then becomes why would we willingly choose to “abide” in sin, put up with its consistent failure to truly satisfy and not opt to “continue” or be held together by God’s amazing grace?

            Israel made this choice and countless Christians routinely do the same.  To be any different would be, as Paul says, “contrary to nature”.  See, after the fall Man became “wild by nature”. And here is where the analogy Paul is using comes together.  Earlier we said that olive production was a big source of industry in biblical times.  The reason for that is olive trees can live up to hundreds of years but as they age they become less productive.  The root and even the tree remain full of vitality but the branches slowly begin to produce less and less fruit.  Paul draws his example from agricultural techniques designed to take advantage of the long life of the olive tree, by a process called grafting.  Grafting is a lot of work but it yields the best fruit.  Typically wild olive trees tend to sparsely produce berries but the trees that have received the grafts will bear far more.  As this analogy relates to us Gentiles Paul calls it “contrary to nature” for a couple of reasons.  For one, we are not Jewish, we are not a natural part of the “olive tree” called Israel whose roots go all the way back to Abraham.  We “wert graffed in among them”, “by faith”, “through Christ”.  For another, Paul’s description is only for the sake of our understanding.  As he frames it us Gentiles “wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed… into a good olive tree”.  How we know that Paul’s rendering is merely for the sake of our understanding is grafting is done in the opposite way.  Remember wild olive trees weren’t good fruit producers so, what you would do to take advantage of an olive tree’s long life span is take a cultivated branch and graft that onto a wild tree.  That way the good branch shares the life of the wild tree without producing its inferior fruit.

            Either way what Paul is describing is a testament to God’s grace, grace makes it possible.  That is for the Gentile but what about for Israel?  It is by grace that only some of the branches have been broken off and not the whole tree cut down.  In the light of that it is unfathomable that Israel is “still in unbelief”.  But they will stay in unbelief until Tribulation, Jeremiah 30:7.  Note that it says Israel “shall be saved out of it”.  Be careful to not misconstrue what Jeremiah means here.  He is not saying Israel will get out this but rather their going through it will finally serve to open their eyes.  Zechariah 12:8-11  Here we learn how “God is able to graff them in again.”  Israel will be “graffed in” again when the day comes that “they abide not still in unbelief”.  What “day” is he talking about?  It is not so much a “day” as the whole Tribulation time period.  Without doubt after the Rapture many will find the Lord.  The combined witness of the 144,000 Jewish witnesses and the two Heaven sent witnesses will win unforeseen numbers to Christ.  But the event that will have the most impact is when they “look upon” Him “whom they have pierced”.  How could you “abide” in unbelief when the King of Glory stands before you?

5d.)      The mystery concluded  v. 25-32

            In verse twenty-five Paul resumes his Church-wide address by saying, “I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery”.  The “mystery” he speaks of is what he has just spent the better part of a chapter on.  The reason he has spent the majority of the chapter on it and even this whole section for that matter is because his intent was for us to gain understanding.  Christianity is not meant to be secretive or shrouded in “mystery” like some cult.  The first part of that “mystery” is “that blindness in part is happened to Israel”.  What we have learned about that “blindness” is that it is only for a time and that it is only “in part”.  Paul tells us that in the grand scheme of things Israel has only “stumbled” not fallen.  Their eyes will be opened, they will have fellowship with God once again.  And not all Israel is blind, he said only “some of the branches” were broken off not all.  Isaiah would seem to agree, Isaiah 59:21.  We take our cue from the word “henceforth”.  It means from now on.  Isaiah is saying that there has always been a “remnant” of believing Jews and there always will be leading up to the Tribulation.  The second part of the “mystery” involves us Gentiles, this “blindness” that greater Israel is currently experiencing will last “until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”  Now, while this corresponds more or less to the same time frame as “the times of the Gentiles” Jesus speaks of in Luke, they are not synonymous.  In Luke it is referring to Gentile dominance over Israel, whereas here it relates to the spiritual privileges that Gentile believers now enjoy and even to whom the majority of converts will be.  Israel will remain blind until the very last Gentile comes to faith in Christ; at that point the Rapture of the true Church will occur and then Jew and Gentile alike will realize how big a mistake being “wise in your own conceits” and intentionally “ignorant of this mystery” really was.

            You might have noticed that this portion of Isaiah is where verses twenty-six, twenty-seven and twenty-eight back in Romans come from.  When Paul says, “as it is written” this is what he is alluding to.  It actually begins in verse twenty.  In the English translation the word “Deliverer” is used in place of the word “Redeemer”.  Again, as is the case for the last chapter or more, Paul is not necessarily quoting OT Scripture so much as citing it.  Both words are an accurate description of Christ but the meanings do vary a bit.  “Redeemer” is associated with the idea of a kinsmen, while “Deliverer” speaks of a rescuer.  But the imagery of a kinsmen-redeemer is there; Paul says that this “Deliverer” “shall come out of Sion”.  When they recognize Jesus for who He is, that’s the catalyst that “shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob”.  And it is their “ungodliness” that is the reason they have had to endure twenty-five hundred years of Gentile dominance.  The word “ungodliness” here means to be irreverent toward God.  Paul keys in on this a little later by using the word “unbelief”.  When you live in unbelief it means you will not be persuaded.  Israel will not be persuaded of the Lordship of Jesus, they just won’t hear it.  It is a condition of their national heart that is as much self-inflicted as it is God ordained.  Like we said earlier grafting is a long and exhaustive process and so too is Israel’s road to redemption.  Ezekiel 20:33-38  Pay special attention to where God says to Israel, “I will purge out from among you”.  When you “purge” something you rid it of whatever is impure, at its Latin roots it means to drive.  The act of purging can be a violent but very necessary process, if I can recycle one of Paul’s previous analogies.  Ask your grandmother or, if you are fortunate to still have her, your great grandmother; ask anyone old enough to know how to properly make homemade bread and they’ll tell you getting that dough ready to go into the oven is no short order.  Once you combined the flour and water you have to knead the dough until it reaches just the right consistency.  Otherwise it will collapse under its own weight.  Once you’ve got it right you have to let it sit and rise for a while.  Years ago they called this proving.  After working the dough and then letting it prove itself you might remember them striking the dough, something called knocking back or punching down; many times they would repeat the process.  The aim of all of this was to give the dough strength by working the air pockets out, make it a uniform mixture throughout and distribute the nutrients evenly.  Now, that seems like a lot of work but you know the best bread is homemade bread because you can taste the care that was put into it, a violent process but it yields the best results.  For all these years God has been working Israel into what they will be.  From before Abraham’s time God was kneading His people.  At the Babylonian Exile God began to let them prove.  The Tribulation is the final blow that brings them “into the bond of the covenant”.  We said “pruge” at its earliest roots meant to drive, reread these verses here in Ezekiel and see if you don’t get the sense that God has been driving Israel all along.

            Like Israel we too are lumps of dough and without God, our “Strength”, we collapse every time.  I like the thought Paul tacks on at the end of verse twenty-six, the Lord “shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob”.  It resonates of “mercy” though Paul is yet to mention it in our current segment of verses.  Mercy is doing for someone something they are unable to do for themselves.  Man is unable to turn away from his ungodliness so, God in His mercy and grace did it for us, through His Son.  Israel in particular is dependant upon this divine mercy if “all Israel shall be saved” because as “concerning the gospel, they are enemies” to it.  Jacob, someone who received that which he did not deserve, so like, Israel will one day be redeemed with a redemption they are not worthy of.  The reason for this, Paul explains is, “as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.”  In other words this future redemption of the Jewish people has almost nothing to do with the current generation.  It will happen because of the promise made to the patriarchs:  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Israel’s millennia old rebellion isn’t a factor; because “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.”  Meaning, God does not change His mind; He has never regretted a single decision.  There is a call on Israel that shall not be revoked.  One they will eventually hear but at great cost.

            God’s unmerited loyalty to Israel might seem unfair to some but Scripture makes it clear that it is not like Israel has just been given a free pass.  Zechariah tells the story in Zechariah 13:8-9.  The question has been asked, how is it “all Israel shall be saved”?  Well, it tells us right here.  Estimates for how many will die during the Tribulation run all the way to nearly half of the world’s population, that includes two thirds of the Jewish people, according to Zechariah.  The effect will be like that of the forty years Israel spent wondering in the wilderness.  God used those forty years to “purge” Israel of unbelief.  During the forty years, which again was self imposed, the older “stiffnecked” generations died out, allowing the younger to take their place.  Having been held up for forty years they were more receptive to God.  This “third part” that God is going to bring “through the fire” is going to be ready to receive their Savior when He appears.

            “For this is my covenant unto them”, in saying this Paul makes a return to his central theme, appropriation.  Another word for that word “covenant” in verse twenty-seven is arrangement and its meaning lines up perfectly with what Paul is getting at here in this section.  When you arrange something you put things where they belong, you put them in their place.  We have just seen that God has Israel right where Israel belongs.  And the ultimate end is for Him to “take away their sins.”  Now, how is this going to happen?  After all, God’s Word makes it very clear that Israel did not keep its half of the arrangement.  Exodus 19:5-6  As we can plainly read, this arrangement or “covenant” came with conditions, conditions they incessantly broke.  The only way for them to have truly been “above all people” was for them to have kept every single condition.  What where those conditions?  The Jews knew them as the Law.  And Paul has already covered how impossible living up to it was.  It was an arrangement they could not keep, even if they tired.  But that’s okay because God never meant for them to anyway.  The law was merely a signpost, pointing to a better way, a new arrangement.  Jeremiah 31:31-33  After those days”, “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel”, God says.  What does He mean by “those days”?  Well, certainly it pertains the last twenty-five hundred years but the context of this segment of Jeremiah is about “the time of Jacob’s trouble”, the Tribulation.  This “new covenant” takes effect after “those days”, it marks the beginning of the millennial reign of Christ.  In a little bit we are going to see Paul use the word “concluded”, it is a reference to God’s course of action.  Without any contextual inference “concluded” means to imprison or confine.  Once again like in the wilderness, God “concluded” that Israel was to be confined to roam for forty years; even though the Promised Land was often within eyesight.  They were confined like that for a divinely disclosed period of time.  Just like that Israel has been “concluded” or confined today.  They are confined to that old covenant, the one that was never meant to be permanent; oh, they can hear the Gospel, see its effect on the world but corporately the nation of Israel is held back by a hard heart and a sovereign God.  This “new covenant” commences when, as a body, Israel accepts Christ.  They won’t technically be the Church because we will have already been “caught up” to Heaven by then in the Rapture but besides that is this is who the promise was made to in the first place.

            In verse twenty-eight, moved by the Spirit, Paul writes that while Israel is “beloved for the fathers’ sakes”, “they are enemies for your sakes”.  It is repetitive, I know, but again we see how “all things work together for good”.  Speaking to us Gentiles he says, “as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief”.  This goes back to their failure to answer the great commission God first gave to them.  The Gentile world was lost in paganism and Israel stood as the only light but they became egotistical with that light.  They shined it only amongst themselves and shortly after that not at all.  And when the Light actually came they “knew him not”.  The Word describes them as being hostile toward Him or “enemies” of Him and His Gospel.  And it is “through their unbelief”, Paul says we “have now obtained mercy”.  Gentiles now have something to take hold of in Christ, which is neither imagined nor demonic in nature.  This is a parallel of sorts to the coming Jewish conversion.  Like virtually all Gentiles before the Church age, Paul says of Israel “so have these also now not believed”.  But it will be “through your mercy” that “they also may obtain mercy.”  That is to say: where as we benefited through their unbelief, they will be benefited through our belief.  Finally, there in verse thirty-two Paul says, “God hath concluded them all in unbelief”.  The Jews felt they were “above all people” but God puts us all in the same boat.  All are fallen so “that he might have mercy upon all” without predilection.  That is the dispensational truth of the day.

6d.)      The God that made it all possible  v. 33-36

            Have you noticed how nearly all of Paul’s OT references at this point concern the end times?  He has been building to a climax:  chapter nine deals with Israel past, chapter ten deals with Israel present and chapter eleven Israel future.  As you contemplate on the final four verses of this section keep in mind the great “mystery” God has unfolded for us in this section; how only God could take the fall of Israel and turn it into salvation for all.  And its on that note Paul ends what may be the most exhaustive exegesis in Scripture with a psalm of praise.  It is a hymn in praise of the Creator; a verbal celebration of the “good pleasure” of the Almighty.  And that indeed is what the Apostle is articulating, God’s “good pleasure”.  It is synonymous with His will.  God’s desire or will is more than just for His “pleasure”, it is for the “good” of “all”.  Verse thirty-two attests to that fact and serves as the exclamation point to the whole story.  There is a very Jewish aesthetic to Paul’s words, which is no doubt meant to be soothing to Jewish readers, especially after the way he has just laid out the naked truth of the Jewish people.  If you read through Job you would notice the earmarks of these verses; perhaps this is where Paul drew his inspiration from.  He begins his hymn with two shouts of exclamation.  First, we are incapable of grasping “the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God”.  It is almost like Paul makes a full circle in this section, because the “the wisdom and knowledge of God” point back to God’s plan and purpose, which is where he began this section in chapter 8:28-30.  Actually, when you are talking about the “good pleasure” of God it has everything to do with His purpose.  While we can’t fully appreciate God’s plan, we can know His purpose and intensions and they are “good”.  His “good pleasure” is directed by “wisdom and knowledge”.

            Second, Paul exclaims, “how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out”.  Psalm 77:19  “Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters”, what does he mean by that?  Well, in poetic language it is saying God’s handiwork is recognized but the intricacy of His “ways” are not altogether understood.  The psalmist’s illusion makes me think of The Lone Ranger television series, which first aired in the fifties but was still around thirty years later when I was growing up.  The Lone Ranger’s sidekick was an American Indian named Tonto and he was an expert tracker.  Seemed like he could track anything anywhere, the only thing that could throw him off was water.  Whenever the outlaws would cross a river he would lose their trail, that is because the moving water would wash away the details.  Back in Romans Paul uses just that analogy when he says, God’s ways are “past finding out”.  In its Greek usage the metaphor would have just been an understood.  It gets lost in translation but they would have thought of it in terms of an animal whose tracks all but disappear.

            The next portion of Paul’s hymn is composed of three rhetorical questions.  Paul asks; “who hath known the mind of the Lord?”  God answered that question in Isaiah when said; “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.”  Again the book of Psalms elaborates in Psalm 139:6.  Today we like to think that we are God but the psalmist said; “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.”  The sheer magnitude of all of creation supersedes our tiny understanding of how things work.  Notice, the translators’ choice of words here, “attain” and not “obtain”.  The word “attain” is of lesser degree; where obtain means to hold, “attain” means merely to touch as they would have used it some four hundred years ago.  Our frail minds will never scratch the surface of the things on “the mind of the Lord”.  And that is why the psalmist writes, “thy footsteps are not known.”  There is also a touch of intimacy in verse thirty-four or should I say a lack of it.  Who hath “known” the mind of the Lord?  We are far too sullied to ever hope of being able to do that.  Yet we still try and be “his counselor”.  In that second question he is asking, in not so many words, who is even qualified?  In the final rhetorical question Paul asks, “who hath first given to him”?  Who has God ever had to borrow from that “it shall be recompensed unto him again?”  The Jews got to the point that they almost felt God owed them, they had it turned around.

            “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things”.  Some will attempt to say that Paul is being pantheistic.  Pantheism is the belief that god is everything and everything is god.  We are seeing a reemergence of this belief in the New Age Movement of today.  It is a belief suited for liberalism.  However, Paul is not being pantheistic; he is simply stating fact.  God is the Creator because “all things” are “of him”.  God is totally sovereign because “all things” come “through him”.  And “all things” are “to him” because “for thy pleasure they are and were created”, you could even say appropriated.  Then Paul closes with what should unanimously be agreed upon among Christians, to God “be glory for ever. A-men.”  I don’t know if you have ever thought about where that word “A-men” comes from but it is an interesting story.  The word was transliterated directly from the Hebrew.  You can trace it through the course of Human history.  Over two thousand years ago it was used it the Greek language via the Hebrew.  It was used in the Roman age when they spoke Latin.  It was carried over into English and much the rest of the world.  “It has been called the best known word in human speech.”  Thus it is an expression understood around the world.  “A-men.”