Divine Counsels and Ways

Romans 9‑11  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 8
(Read Rom. 9-11.)
We listen either to doctrinal, moral, or dispensational teaching, as we read the Epistles. Doctrines instruct us; morals direct us; but dispensational teaching has this dignity with it, that it introduces us to the wisdom of God in the counsels which He has taken for the glory of His own great Name.
We have a wondrous piece of dispensational teaching in these chapters.
The Apostle stands in the sight of the present judged condition of Israel. But in occupying that position, we shall see him, not so much bringing out any new truths, but rather commenting on old truths, such as had already appeared and were to be found in the Jewish scriptures; putting them in their due relation to each other, and meditating upon them. This is characteristic of this fine scripture.
We find, therefore, a very large number of Old Testament truths considered, and Old Testament scriptures cited. We have, for instance, election, divine righteousness, faith and its consequences, human responsibleness and its failure, and the like—and then also, the remnant, the call of the Gentiles, Israel cast off for a season, and then restored, and the renovation of the world in the days of the kingdom. All these things are brought before us here and commented upon. But none of them are marked here as for the first time; they are found in the scriptures of the Jews, patriarchal, Mosaic, historic, and prophetical, and from those sources, are here drawn and commented on.
The Apostle opens this great matter by uttering his heart over the present sorrows of Israel. He declares his devoted love to them, (like Moses in such a case, Exod. 32) and their former holy dignity passes before the vision of his heart to deepen his sympathy. But then he at once lets us know, that all this present loss and degradation of Israel had only verified the word of God; because all were not "Israel" that were "of Israel;" as Israel's scriptures had abundantly taught. The children of Abraham and the children of Isaac, in the book of Genesis, witnessed this. There were those who were "the seed," but not " the children," or the " called " seed. Election had, then, been announced and acted on at the very beginning. But having shown this from the old scriptures, the Apostle then comments upon it, telling us many weighty truths in connection with it. He tells us, for instance, that it involves no unrighteousness in God, but only reveals the sovereignty of His mercy, and that, but for that, but for election or the sovereignty of grace, not one would be saved, but the whole scene would be a Sodom and Gomorrah, a vast witness of judgment, from one end of it to the other. And, still further, he tells us, that acting thus on the principle of sovereignty or grace, God is free to take up Gentiles as well as Jews, as had already been told by Him through His servant Hosea.
So, as to " hardening," a fact or truth already shown us in Old Testament times and scriptures, the Apostle comments on that, as well as on election. He teaches us that "hardening " is judicial. Pharaoh was so dealt with, when he had fitted himself for destruction as a vessel of wrath, but not till then. The hardening had not corrupted him; it was judgment on him when he had corrupted himself.*
These are Paul's inspired commentaries, in these chapters, on the Old Testament truths of election and hardening.
He speaks also of " righteousness." He shows us that Israel had not attained it, because they had sought it by the law, though their own scriptures had told them that it vas to be had or attained by faith. So that they are guilty in not having attained it. Their failure was disobedience and pride. They had sought to acquire it, in the stead of submitting themselves to it; to work it out for themselves, and not accept it as the gift of grace from God, according to their own scriptures.
Thus it is, and thus the Apostle gives us fine moral commentaries on these profound truths which prophets have already announced. The sequel is well weighed. Election must be, or none would be saved, and yet man is guilty. And this is the end of the controversy that so hotly engages man in human religious wisdom and strife. Man is responsible, and is brought in guilty because of unbelief, which is disobedience; and yet salvation depends altogether on the exercise of divine good pleasure, or sovereign, electing mercy. God has followed man as to the very ends of the earth with the cry of invitation and the assurances of welcome, and pleaded with His own around Him and near Him all the day long—but to no purpose. Man is guilty, but God must be sovereign. See chap. 10: 18-21.
What a light and consolation, when the blessed Spirit gives us a commentary as well as a text! When He thus delivers us from the reasonings of nature!
This puts us at the close of chapter 10. Then, in chapter xi., the Apostle takes up the subjects of the remnant, the present call of the Gentiles, together with the present rejection of Israel, and also the future restoration of Israel and of the whole world. These, in character, are a different order of truths from those just considered, but they are like those Old Testament subjects, and the Apostle, in treating of them, is in company with Old Testament scriptures, as he has already been.
A remnant is recognized, as of old, so now—as in the day of Elijah, so now in the day of Paul. And the Apostle comments on such a fact. He tells us that a remnant is the fruit of grace or election, the fruit of God reserving to Himself a people. And he tells us that God will surely be true to such a people, while He is, for the present, blinding and casting off His nation, because of their unbelief, according to the voice of the Prophets.
He then discusses the subject of Israel as a nation, and not as a remnant merely. He teaches us, that the present casting off of Israel, as a nation, is not final; that though many are now cast off, because of unbelief, they shall be restored, or "graffed in again," when brought to faith; and that that restoration shall be as new life, as resurrection-life to the world, as well as the accomplishment of covenant-mercies to themselves, and the setting of all, according to God's purpose and glory, on the ground of grace. For all must stand there, if they stand with God forever. There can be no other link with Him. And he also considers the question of the Gentile as well as that of Israel. He teaches us that the Gentile was now brought in, upon the present rejection of the Jew; but that he stood in faith; so that if he did not believe, if he did not continue in God's goodness, he would be cut off, as the Jew now was. And he shows us that this very story, the present call of the Gentiles, was to be found in the Jewish Old Testament scriptures. " I will provoke them to jealousy by them that are no people," was already written; and he hints, that being the Apostle of the Gentiles, he was the instrument by which God was fulfilling this word. Thus, be magnified his office; and, moreover, would, if he might, though the Apostle of the Gentiles, save some of his own nation. Yea, and though their Apostle, he would sound an alarm in the ears of the Gentiles, that they should beware of high-mindedness and conceits, because of their present standing in divine favor—letting them know, that though God had a purpose in their present call and graffing in, yet that they might assure themselves He was not bound to them. He had not committed Himself to them, and would do nothing less than irrecoverably cast them off, if they were disobedient as Israel had been.
What a perfect piece of writing! Under the Holy Ghost the Apostle unfolds, thus completely, the wisdom of God, the counseled wisdom of God in His dispensational ordering of the story of this world! How grand the moral of the whole! " The gifts and calling of God are without repentance. For as you, in times past, have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: even so have these now also not believed your mercy, that they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all."
And he closes, as well he may, this great exhibition of dispensational wisdom in which God is vindicated in the presence of evil, displayed in the exercise of goodness, and glorified in the counsels of His wisdom, by a note of admiration. It is not, however, ignorant, but intelligent admiration—nor is it admiration of the mercy and salvation of God—that we get at the close of chapter 8.—but of His wisdom and knowledge; admiration drawn out by, rendered to, and spent upon the sweets of scripture. For all the incidents in this wondrous story of God's dealing with the earth, are found, as the Apostle shows us, in the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms, in the patriarchal, Mosaic, historic, and prophetical scriptures, as I have already noticed. He does but arrange them in their places severally, and in their relation to each other. But this is a blessed service under the Spirit. We get the divine commentary here, as we get the divine text before. What a Teacher was here! Line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little, to suit our infant, and yet enlarging understandings. Ο the insolence of that infidelity that insults the depository of such moral glories!
It is a great writing, indeed, on the counseled wry and wisdom of God, and that, too, from the beginning to the end, from the call of Abraham to the glory of the kingdom. And mercy is maintained and dispensed throughout. As we sing, " Grace triumphant reigns." The very first event in the story of this ruined, revolted world is reproduced, or made to re-appear at the very end. Adam was saved through grace, sealed to him through the death and resurrection of the Woman's Seed; and so " the all" at the end, shall, in like manner, be debtor to the same grace. " For God hath concluded all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all."
The Apostle opens this great scripture, with breaking his loving heart over the present ruin of his loved brethren, "his kinsmen according to the flesh;" and he closes it by indulging his worshipping heart in admiration over the ways and words of God. How affecting, as well as great and beautiful!
" Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law!"