Romans 10 and 11

Romans 10‑11  •  27 min. read  •  grade level: 6
In the 9th, 10th, and 11th chapters of this epistle, the Spirit of God, through the apostle, is reconciling the faithfulness of God, in respect of the promises to the Jews, with the general truth of the epistle, viz., that the grace of God was without respect of persons, all being sinners equally by nature; and so there being one, single, blessed righteousness suited for all. But, in doing this, there was a difficulty which had to be met. To Israel, as such, the promises were made. To Abraham, promises -unconditional promises—not merely conditional ones—had been given. How was God to reconcile the absolute promises to the Jews, with making nothing of the Jews, but treating them as sinners of the Gentiles? This difficulty is solved by seeing how the apostle, in the 9th chapter, forced up the Jews to acknowledge that if they took the promises on the ground of descent, they must let in Ishmael, who was as much the son of Abraham as Isaac was; and the Edomites also, who were the descendents of Jacob's eldest son, but were the abhorrence of the Jews; (ver. 6-13;) and secondly, if they took them on the ground of obedience, they had most clearly forfeited all at Sinai, when the golden calf was set up, and God had to retreat into His sovereignty, in order to be able to spare them. (Ver. 14-18.) So that if they do not accept these promises on the ground of sovereign grace they are lost. And if it is by grace, God will show Himself sovereign, by letting the Gentiles in. (Ver. 19—26.) Then he shows, thirdly, that they had stumbled at the stumbling stone. (Ver. 27-33.)
Now, in chapters x and xi, he goes on to show that God has not forgotten His promises; but that He will fulfill them in the latter days, by bringing Israel in, in the complete acknowledgment of entire dependence on Him, just as Gentiles, when they have no right by promise, or anything else.
Chapter 10 In the first verse, the apostle expresses his affection for Israel. Then he says all he can for them. "For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God." The thing he had been setting forth throughout the epistle was the righteousness of faith. As regards righteousness, they had not only failed in establishing their own, but had gone on persevering in making a righteousness of what they had failed in; and when God sent His righteousness in the person of His Son, Him they rejected; thus seeking to establish their own righteousness, while refusing God's.. In the 5th verse the apostle goes on to say, that the righteousness of the law had not accomplished what man desired; and then in the sixth verse, the righteousness of faith comes in, and it " speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, who shall ascend into heaven? (that is to bring Christ down from above:) or, who shall descend into the deep? (that is to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is the word of faith which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God bath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Here in resurrection, we get the great principle of righteousness by faith, which they had rejected. Israel, as a nation, had utterly failed, as regards their own righteousness; for they had broken the very highest and nearest link between themselves and God, when they had made the molten calf, and worshipped it. From that very moment nothing was left for them in the way of blessing, but this righteousness by faith, of which Moses had spoken to them, as we see in Dent. xxx.
In the 27th chapter of Deut. we see that Moses, in God's name, had been laying down the great principle of legal righteousness to the Jews, as the keepers of the law; and which if they continued not in, cursing must be the result. And mark here that the curses were pronounced on mount Ebal, the mount of cursing. The blessings were never pronounced, nor indeed could they be, for God Himself stood in the way; because those who were under the law had not kept it, and were necessarily under its curse. The real effect of being under law is curse. Where is the blessing? Nowhere to be found. Now this, that the curse is on Ebal, is our security; for Christ has borne it, having been made a curse for us; and we are beyond it. So it can never reach us, for " Christ is the end of the law, for righteousness, to every one that believeth. In the 28th chapter, we get the government of God in the midst of Israel, which put them dependent on present conduct. "If thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: and all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God." (Ver. 1, 2.) " But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God., to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee." Then in the 30th chapter he supposes all this to have had its result. They had been brought under the government of the law in the land, and all had failed. They had fallen under the law's curse. In the twenty-eighth verse of the 29th chapter, they are rooted out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, the effect of their failure; and in the 29th verse we get the summing up of the whole, " The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children, that we may do all the words of this law."
The things that were revealed were those that they were to act upon. They had been put into the land on the ground of obedience, to do "all the words of this law." This ended in utter rejection, in their being rooted out of their land. There is your rule to act on.
But behind all this, there was another thing-a secret thing in the heart of God-and that was grace. " And it shall come to pass when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee." (Deut. 30:11And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee, (Deuteronomy 30:1).) Here I get quite another thing. All the effect of God's government had had its accomplishment. The things which were revealed for them to act on are no longer owned, and another class of blessings are now brought out. All that had depended on their conduct, was lost; but behind it all there was this secret thing,-God's thoughts of grace. Therefore in the 30th chapter, we have the righteousness by faith brought out. For if, when out of their own land, they shall turn to the Lord their God, He will have compassion on them, and turn their captivity, and gather them from the nations whither He had scattered them. Thus every question of legal righteousness is utterly at an end. If there is any hope for a Jew, it is on another principle-even through the righteousness of faith. Now the moment you bring in the righteousness of faith, Christ is the end of it. " For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness, to every one that believeth." Legal righteousness is done with, and Israel has suffered its curse; and now Paul shows that they are here thrown on this new way of having to do with God-on the righteousness of Christ.
" The word is nigh thee." You have not to go to Jerusalem to get it, or over the sea, for " the word is nigh thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." (Chapter 10:9.) The moment you take the law in that spiritual sense, you get Christ. He confirms it by that other scripture, " Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed." And the moment God brings in the Jew on this ground, He brings in the Gentile also. " For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Chapter 10:12, 13.) Well, then, if it is "whosoever," there can be no longer any difference between Jew and Gentile.
Mark here the lovely, beautiful, connection with the beginning of this epistle. In the beginning of the epistle he had reduced man to one common level-even to utter equality in sin: " all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." Now he brings all up to the higher level of God's saving grace, which can take up and bless a
Gentile. And there being now no difference between Jew and Gentile, neither is there any difference in God; " For the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call on. the name of the Lord shall be saved." This "whosoever" again! Wonderful is the power of God in saying these words, letting out as they do the fullness of blessing in His heart to poor sinners!
But " How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" Now he takes another ground, in which, in exceeding grace, he seeks to provoke them to jealousy. That which shut up the Jews was not merely the rejection of Christ, but the rejection of the Gentiles as His body, refusing grace to the Gentiles. And in the parable of the king who took account of His servants, Matt. xviii, 23-35, do we not see just this-the Jew refusing mercy to the Gentile? " O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?" As Paul says in 1 Thess. 2:1616Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost. (1 Thessalonians 2:16), "Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved to fill up their sins alway." Christ came carrying all the promises, and they rejected Him. Not merely had they failed in the question of righteousness-that they had done before-now they reject the Messiah. Well, now, Christ on the cross prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." That prayer of Christ's was heard as regards God: and so Peter said: " I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers," but repent and He will come back again. But before he could finish that sermon the priests came upon him and stopped him: and thus they not only rejected Jesus Christ Himself, but the testimony of the Holy Ghost as to His second coming. And this is what Stephen charged them with: " Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye;" and then instead of Christ coming back to them on the earth, Stephen goes up to Christ in heaven.
If you take Christ on earth as man -though " God, blessed forever"-the moment He takes His place as man among men, the Holy Ghost comes and seals Him. The Holy Ghost comes and testifies of that which is on the earth. When He is speaking to Nathanael it is another thing: "Henceforth ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man." Here it is the Son of man, and angels His servants. In the former case, heaven opened, and the Holy Ghost came down to seal Jesus as the Son of God. In this case, heaven opened and the Son of man is seen here on the earth as the object of all the angels' service. But in the case of Stephen, heaven opened, and the Son of man is seen there. It is not heaven opening to put its seal and stamp on the Son of man here, but to show us the Son of man there. It is not now the heaven opened to look on what is here, but the heaven opened for the Church to look up at what is there. This is the Church's position now; full of the Holy Ghost to be gazing up into heaven, and having communion with Christ at God's right hand.
This testimony of the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of Stephen, the Jews stopped, casting Stephen out of the city and stoning him, thus bringing final rejection on themselves. Their rejection of grace to the Gentiles we see constantly manifested all through the Acts of the Apostles: see especially chap. 22:21, 22. There Paul is giving an account of his conversion; and when he came to this part of it, " Depart, for I will send thee far hence to the Gentiles," we read, " They gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth, it is not fit that he should live." Thus Paul was the minister of grace, but they would not hear of grace, " filling up their sin alway, for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost."
This same spirit was manifested in Saul of Tarsus; for where do we first find him? Holding the garments of the men who stoned Stephen, when heaven was opened, showing Christ to the Church and closing grace to the Jew. Then he was stopped on his way to Damascus, and the glory of the Lord was revealed to him. And what did he then see? The unity of the Church. Not merely the Son of man in glory; but in the glory he saw the Lord putting all the saints in union with Himself. Thus the great thing revealed to Paul was this, that the very saints whom he was persecuting were one with this Lord in glory. He was converted by knowing that the saints and the Lord were one. For the Lord owned the persecuted saints as Himself; therefore in persecuting them he was persecuting Him.
Full of this gospel, Paul sets about building the Church. He goes about telling this glorious truth, that believers are one spirit with Jesus; the Church one body in Him, their glorified Head in heaven. This blessed testimony of the union of the saints with the Lord in glory, against which there has ever been war, was thus brought out by Paul. Now, also, the testimony which Isaiah, seven centuries before, had pronounced, found Israel, in Acts, with hearts fat until there was no remedy.
In this 10th of Romans, Paul shows that the gospel did go out unto the ends of the earth, and that Israel ought to have received it. But he touches the subject very gently, saying, " They have not all obeyed the gospel." For their own prophet Isaiah said, " Lord, who bath believed our report?" " So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God." It is no use getting on legal ground here; legal righteousness is not believing a report. Isaiah says they have not believed what they did hear. " But have they not heard? Yes, verily; their sound went into all the earth." Thus creation itself was showing that God's eye was on the Gentiles. God did think of the Gentiles. " First, Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you." But you will not allow the Gentiles to be brought in. Well, that is the way your own prophets foretold it. But Esaias is very bold and saith, " I was found of them that sought me not." But to Israel he saith, " All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people." Thus he deals exceedingly gently with them, saying in effect, " I was made manifest to those that asked not after me," and he says it in the words of Isaiah; but he adds, here is your character-" a disobedient and gainsaying people."
Chapter 11 " I say then, Hath God cast away His people?" Am I really saying that they are all cast off and done with? " God forbid, for I also am an Israelite." How could I say so, when I am one of you P He brings back their hearts by throwing Himself in amongst them."
You will find in this chapter these three proofs that God has not cast away His people. First, that there was then a remnant according to the election of grace. Second, that if God was provoking them to jealousy, it was not to cast them off, but to bring them in. Third, the ultimate promise of God to bring them back as a people through Christ: " And so all Israel shall be saved."
We must remember that he is here speaking of "Israel" as a people, not as the elect remnant; for he uses that only to prove that God had not cast off His people. It is, moreover, clear-as we shall see-that it cannot mean the Church of God; for how can we speak of casting off that which is one with Christ in heaven.
God had from the beginning an elect remnant which He would not cut off. " God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias?" He takes the case of Elias. A remarkable case, for Elias comes with judgment to bring back Israel; but he says it is useless, and " he makes intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life." I do not say Elias was right, for he did not understand God's grace. " But what saith the answer of God unto him?" You do not know my grace; for " I have reserved to myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." Elijah had not faith to see these seven thousand. The inward life of Elijah's soul was not at that moment up to his outward testimony. He was full of himself-" I, even I;"-and therefore could not look at Israel as God viewed them. Now look at Elijah. The altar of the Lord had been built up; and just after he says, " Lord, they have digged down thine altars." The prophets of Baal had all been slain, and Just after he says, " They have slain thy prophets." The personal measure of his faith was not equal to his outward testimony.
And here I would add that in no case should our outward testimony outstrip the measure of our communion with God. The effect of public testimony is sure to bring us into great danger if the inward life is not equal to it. Sometimes the outward testimony is allowed to go on long after the inward life has ceased to act. So it was in the case of Elijah. His inward life was not keeping pace with his testimony at the moment that he called down fire from heaven-though it was by the power of God, as we know-and slew the prophets of Baal.. For just after all this manifested power of God, a woman threatens him, and he breaks down. Ah! he says, it is all useless; and away he flies for his life. Blessed man he was, but here weak.
Now God is above all Elijah's thoughts. For if Elijah has not spiritual discernment to discover God's elect, God has. If such a man as Elijah fails and pleads against Israel, God, in His grace, will plead for them. Therefore this is a proof of His not giving them up.
From the 7th to the 10th verses Paul notes these terrible sentences from their own prophets: " God hath given them the spirit of slumber," &c.; and " Let their table be made a trap," &c. Then in the 11th verse he asks, " Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles to provoke them to jealousy." So in the 14th verse " If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh." This cannot be the Church; for who would talk of provoking to emulation the flesh of the Church? The Church is not " in the flesh," but " in the Spirit." Still the flesh is in the believer, and through carelessness may be allowed. Verse 15: " For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead?" This, again, cannot apply to the Church; for how can you talk of the casting away and receiving again of those who are perfected forever in Christ Jesus. It is of Israel, after the flesh, he is speaking; and the reception of Israel hereafter will be the new birth of the world.
In what follows we must keep in mind the difference between God's dealings with a series of promises in the earth, and the election of the Church. He is looking at the way God works in accomplishing His promises down here, and not at the unity of the Church up yonder. Verse 17, " And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou being a wild olive tree," &c. This olive tree shows the Jewish nation, and cannot mean, in any sense, the Church of God: and the Spirit, in using the figure of a tree has proved that it is for the earth, and not for heaven. And then as to some of the branches being broken off, that could not be if it were a question of the Church and salvation. But it cannot mean the Church, for how could it be said of the Church, "which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ," that it could have its branches broken off? Verse 19, " Thou wilt say, then, the branches were broken off that I might be graffed in." This is not the Church of God; for we are not graffed in among the Jews, but "one new man," as we see in Eph.
Those who are graffed in are the Gentiles, put in the place of testimony.
There are three things connected with Abraham: first, election; second, the call of God; and third, the promise of God. Noah had governmental power in the earth given to him. Idolatry comes in, as we see from Josh. 24:22And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods. (Joshua 24:2) and then all the power that acted on their fears or awakened their gratitude, was attributed to Satan,- " They sacrificed unto devils, and not to God. Every idea of God was either. one of terror, or something to gratify their passions. On that God calls out one to be a witness for Him in the earth. Abraham was called out to be separate from this surrounding idolatry. " The Lord had said to Abraham, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house." And again, " Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood, of old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and they served other gods, and I took Abraham your father," &c. Well, then, as we see, when this state of things came in, God calls Abraham out in separation from it all, and gives him promises, and thus planted the olive tree in the earth. Well, because of unbelief some of the branches were broken off; but mark, he does not root out the tree; He only breaks some of the branches off. "And thou being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;" that is, the Gentiles were graffed in upon the stock of promise. The Gentiles in their time will be broken off, if they continue not in His goodness. And the Jews, the natural branches, " if they abide not in unbelief, shall be graffed in again " to their own stock of promise, for God is able to graff them in again. He would never speak of " graffing in again," as to personal salvation. Now all these, God's dealings with this root of promise, are quite a different thing from this new and blessed thing that believers are now members of the body of Christ in heaven. There is no breaking off there; no graffing in again there. The natural branches are the Jews. He is taking the dispensations of God, and looked at as a dispensation, Gentiles are put under the same responsibility as the Jews were. Now the Gentile system is the order of the promises. A Jew must now enter into the circumstances of Gentiles. And what he says to the Gentiles is, you will be treated exactly as the Jews were, if you fail. It is not a question of individual salvation; it is not a question of the union of the Church with Christ-that should be no question. What he says is this, that the testimony that is ordered of God on the earth will be set aside if there is failure. And in verse 24 he adds, " how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree." Now, it is perfect nonsense, as well as ignorance, to say that the Church, whose "life is hid with Christ in God," can be graffed into " their own olive tree." It is not a question of the soul at all, but of the ordering of things on the earth. When I get the dealings of God with a people on the earth, then it is " blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in and so all Israel shall be saved,"-that is, when the Church of God is completed and removed,-then all Israel -not individually, but as a whole-will be saved. Not brought into the Church, for that will have been removed, but saved as a nation on the earth. Now a Jew comes in as a Gentile, and takes his place " where there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free, neither male nor female, for all are one in Christ Jesus."
" For I would not that you should be ignorant, brethren, of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits, that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved, as it is written, there shall come out of Zion the Deliverer," &c. I do not doubt that the professing Church has become so. The apostle is writing thirty years after the death of Christ, and yet he is saying, " there shall come out of Zion the Deliverer," and he is marking the way of it. The very object of all this is to provoke them to jealousy. He shows the responsibility of Gentiles of continuing in the fatness of the olive tree; and then that the real secret of what God is doing is, that blindness in part has happened unto Israel, until God's Church is brought in. And then "all Israel shall be saved." " As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes; but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes." If this is a spiritual Israel, it is non sense. They are "beloved for the fathers' sakes." Who? Gentiles? Never; but Israel; for God is the " God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob." " Enemies for your sakes." Is the spiritual Israel that? Never. Nor can believing Jews be said to be so either. " But as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance." He does not say that the gifts and calling of God are sovereign. We had that in the ninth chapter. But now he is chewing God's faithfulness. God did call them to be his people, and he will never repent of it.
The very same principle which secures our salvation, is bound up with the fulfillment to Israel of the promises made to the fathers.
I would now say a word on the 30th and 31st verses. The 31st verse is more correctly read thus: " So these, also, have now not believed in your mercy, in order that they, also, may be objects of mercy." In times past you did not believe; and now they do not believe in your mercy: that is, they will not believe in your gospel. But what is the end of God in that? That they may come in without claim as lost Gentiles. When Jesus came, a Jew might have said, I have a right to this Christ; and therefore Christ said, Do not tell I am the Christ, for I must suffer and be rejected. Till Israel had rejected Christ, they had, through grace, a title to the promises. But now they have lost all title to everything, and thus they will come in under mercy. And that is what makes the apostle cry out, not at the greatness of the mercy, but at the wisdom of God, which brings in all under mercy, without claim even to promise. Of course God will fulfill the promises, but fulfill them by bringing them to acknowledge that they had no title to anything.
It is wonderful the way in which the apostle gets through all these things back to God Himself, and so sets the soul adoring His wondrous grace. Be it Jew or be it Gentile, I look at God. It is not what the saint is who has received the grace, but what the God is who has given it. I can look at God's acts; but I can get beyond the thing given, and look at the God who confers the grace-who elects the sinner. It is not elect Jew or elect Gentile that has any title now; but it is the sinner who comes in on the ground of sovereign grace alone. " For of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things; to whom be glory forever; Amen. '
What a comfort it is, that, while the heart ranges over all his dealings, it can get back to happy fellowship with Himself; and from the center it can see all round; and when it gets to God, it sees everything in its place. The Lord keep us only there. And when the heart is thus kept in every-day life, through " the truth as it is in Jesus," " putting off the old man and putting on the new," there is a divine capacity to understand God's ways.
In closing, it is of great importance to distinguish between the order of God's dealings on the earth in maintaining this stock of promise in the earth, first Jewish, then Gentile, and by and by to be Jewish again, (for the natural branches are to be again graffed into their own olive tree,) and the definite union of the Church with Christ in heaven-His bride and His body. I repeat, it is important to distinguish between God's government of the earth, the olive tree of promise, and our own union with the Head in heaven, with whom we get all things, for all things center in Him.