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Paul’s Prayer for Israel, who had Zeal, without Knowledge of, or Subjection to, God’s Righteousness: Fundamental Contrast between the Righteousness of Doing and That of Believing. Verses 1-10.
The Believing Method was According to Israel’s Own Scriptures,—unto which They did not Hearken: as God had Foretold. Verses 11-21.
1 Brethren, the dear wish of this heart of mine, and my prayer to God for them, [Israel] is for [their] salvation. 2 For I bear witness to them that they have a zeal for God, but not at all according to knowledge. 3 For being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the Law unto righteousness, to every one that believeth.
BRETHREN,—HERE PAUL addresses all saints concerning his yearning for national Israel’s salvation. The words my heart’s desire are literally, “the dear pleasure of my heart.” Israel’s salvation was to Paul a thing of delight to contemplate and hope for. Moreover, as always, Paul puts his wish for them into prayer to God: in which all spiritual longings should end!
Verse 2: He bears them this witness, and gladly, that they had a
zeal for God, but he most
strongly denies that there was any real knowledge of God and His ways in that zeal.
Mohammedans have zeal. When I passed through the Azhar Mosque, in Cairo, a Moslem
merchant was kneeling, forehead on the carpet, in prayer. Four hours later I saw
him still kneeling! And outside were over 10,000 students, diligently learning the
Koran! Zeal must not be Mistaken for knowledge in Divine things. See Josephus quoted
below.207207 1.“The Jew knows the Law better than his own name . . . The great
feasts were frequented by countless thousands, . . . Over and above the requirements
of the Law, ascetic religious exercises advocated by the teachers of the Law came
into vogue . . . Even the Hellenised and Alexandrian Jews under Caligula died on
the cross and by fire, and the Palestinian prisoners in the last war died by the
claws of African lions in the amphitheatre, rather than sin against the Law. What
Greek would do the like? . . . The Jews also exhibited an ardent zeal for the conversion
of the Gentiles to the Law of Moses. The proselytes filled Asia Minor and Syria,
and—to the indignation of Tacitus—Italy and Rome.”
Surely the Jews of Josephus’ day had a “zeal for God.” It is perhaps unkind in this place, (so tender with Paul), to cite the religious zeal of pagan or Mohammedan. But Paul himself classes the “beggarly elements” of Jew and pagan together! (Gal. 4:8-10), since the cross.
Verse 3: But it is certainly a terrible thing we see. Here is the Jew with God’s own Book, the Old Testament Scriptures, in his hand, and blind to that Scripture’s revelation of his guilty, lost state before God. The Jews were in a fearful condition in two ways:
First, they were wholly ignorant of the one great, vital fact sinners must know: that righteousness, life, and all things are a free gift of the grace of God; and that the Law was meant only to make them discover their sin and their own helpless need of the outright gift of righteousness from God. The expression ignorant of God’s righteousness, does not mean that the Jewish people were ignorant of holiness and righteousness as attributes of God,—in fact, they prided themselves on the knowledge of such a God as over against the hideous pagan gods. But the righteousness of which they were wholly ignorant was that while “God Himself was just,” He was also “the Justifier of the ungodly” of all who “believed on Jesus.” As we said in Chapter Nine, the Jews had seized upon their possession of the Law as in itself giving them a standing with God. Our Lord could have spoken to almost any Jew as He did to the woman at Sychar’s well: “If thou knewest the gift of God, and Who it is that saith to thee!” For of a gift of righteousness they had no conception.
The Law dispensation was necessarily unfruitful, “making nothing perfect,” because it neither imparted life, nor gave strength to fulfil its demands. As Paul writes to the Hebrews, there was a “disannulling” of it, and a “vanishing away” of the legal covenant (Heb. 7:18; 8:13).
When Christ came, although born under the Law in order to redeem Israel (Gal. 4:4, 5), yet He Himself, from the very beginning, took the place of the Law! In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 6, and 7) He declared: “It was said . . . but I say.” He came, indeed, not to destroy but to fulfil, and inasmuch as Israel was under the curse of the Law, He redeemed them that were under the Law ‘by becoming Himself a curse for them (Gal. 3:13).
Although Christ in His ministry, (“lest we cause to stumble,”—Matthew 17:27) paid due heed to Moses’ directions (as in the case of the leper—“Go show thyself to the priest”), yet He never, for example, enforced the Sabbath: indeed He freely wrought healings on that day, in the face of the murderous hatred of the legalists.
The Law was designed not to bring about self-righteousness or
self-hope, but contrariwise, self-despair. The law witnessed to a man his need of
a mediator—as at Sinai (Deut. 5:23-27). Christ Himself is the
righteousness of God. When He died, bearing the sin of the world, the Law’s demand
for human righteousness was over, ended, closed up, set aside. Christ has now been
“made of God unto us righteousness”: we want no other. But it is not easy to subject
ourselves unto God’s righteousness: for God justifies the ungodly. Justification
is a gift for very beggars, the only hope for the guilty, lost and undone208208 1.“This is what God calls ‘subjecting ourselves to God’s righteousness’:
finding a righteousness which is neither of nor in ourselves, but finding Christ
before God and the proud will, through grace, submitting to be saved by that which
is not of or in ourselves. It is Christ instead of self—instead of our place in
Roland Hill, at the close of a great meeting, saw a lady riding in an elegant carriage, who commanded her coachman to halt, and beckoned Mr. Hill to approach her.
“Sir,” she said, “my coachman came to your meetings and says you told him how to be saved; so that he is now very happy. Please tell me how a lady of the nobility is to be saved, for I also desire to be happy.” “Madame,” said the preacher, “Christ died for the whole world. God says there is no difference. All are to be saved through simple faith in Him.”
“Do you mean,” she said haughtily, “that I must be saved in the same way as my coachman?”
“Precisely. There is no other way.”
“Then,” she said, “I will have none of it!” and she made her coachman drive away. The Jews, ignorant of God’s gift of righteousness utterly refused thus to subject themselves. They said “We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man [Jesus], we know not whence He is!”
John the Baptist’s ministry is full of meaning here. It is both a precious and an awful thing—the results of John’s testimony. Luke tells us: “All the people, when they heard [John], and the publicans, justified God [when John preached repentance and confession of their sins], being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected for themselves the counsel of God, being not baptized of him” (Luke 7:29, 30). It is touching to the spiritual heart to find, for Instance, that all five of those converted in the first chapter of John were John’s disciples.
Second, to this day they seek to “establish their own righteousness.” But in this path that “seemeth right unto a man” is the way of death, yea, of direct rebellion against God.209209As Stifler so well says: “The Jews claimed that in following the Law they were submitting to God, for He gave the Law. No, says Paul; in so doing you are not submitting to the righteousness of God. ‘For Christ [whom God gave and you reject] is the end of the Law for [with a view of] righteousness to every one that believeth.’ The Jew’s system was one of doing; but God’s was one of believing, one of grace. Law and grace are mutually exclusive and antagonistic systems. Because the Jew held to Law he was not in subjection to God. The proof that he was not is the great principle of grace here recorded.”
They (the Jews) were desperately set on establishing, building up that which God had cast down, that is, human righteousness. They heard with deaf ears their own prophets’ voices: “There is none righteous, no not one.” “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” Therefore, the Jews were, and are today, worse off than the heathen. Their Law—“whensoever Moses is read, a veil lieth upon their heart” (II Cor. 3:15). According to Isaiah 25:7, there is “a covering that covereth all peoples, a veil that is spread over all nations” (to be removed in Millennial days, thank God!). But over the face of the Israelite there is now not only the common blindness of man to his own condition as a sinner, but, added to that, the false confidence the Jew has in his own righteousness because the Law was given by Jehovah to his nation.210210It is with unutterable sadness that we contemplate the even worse condition of the Laodicean Church of today! “Wretched, poor, miserable, blind, naked”—and knowing it not! Christ on the outside of the door! Yet outwardly rich, and increased with goods!
Verse 4: Christ is the end of the Law unto righteousness to every one that believeth. There has been much discussion of the meaning of the word “end” here. Let us see if Scripture does not clear up this matter for us. When Christ died, He bore for Israel the curse of the Law, for they, and they alone, were under the Law. Divine Law, being broken, does not ask for future good conduct on the part of the infractor; but for his death,—and that only. Now Christ having died, all the claims of the Law against that nation which had been placed under law were completely met and ended. So that even Jews could now believe, and say, “I am dead to the Law!”
To him that believeth, therefore, Jew or Gentile, Christ, dead, buried, and risen, is the end of law for righteousness,—in the sense of law’s disappearance from the scene! Law does not know, or take cognizance of believers! We read in Chapter Seven (verse 6) that those who had been under the Law were discharged from the Law, brought to nought, put out of business (katargeo), with respect to the Law! The Law has nothing to do with them, as regards righteousness.
The Scripture must be obeyed with the obedience of belief: “Ye are not under law [not under that principle] but under grace” (the contrary principle). “Ye are brought to nothing from Christ [literally, “put out of business from Christ”], ye who would be justified by the Law; ye are fallen away from grace” (Gal. 5:4). Paul writes in Heb. 7:18, 19: “There is a disannulling of a foregoing commandment, because of its weakness and unprofitableness (for the Law made nothing perfect), and a bringing in thereupon of a better hope, through which we draw nigh unto God.” Again, “Christ abolished in His flesh the enmity [between Jew and Gentile], even the Law of commandments contained in ordinances” (Eph. 2:15); again, speaking as a Hebrew believer, Paul says, “Christ blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us which was contrary to us: and He hath taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross” (Col 2:14).
If these Scriptures do not set forth a complete closing up of any believer’s account toward the Law, or to the whole legal principle, I know nothing of the meaning of words.
The words Christ is the end of the Law, cannot mean Christ is the “fulfilment of what the law required.” The Law required obedience to precepts—or death for disobedience. Now Christ died! If it be answered, that before He died He fulfilled the claims of the Law, kept it perfectly, and that this law-keeping of Christ was reckoned as over against the Israelite’s breaking of the Law, then I ask, Why should Christ die? If the claims of the Law were met in Christ’s earthly obedience, and if that earthly life of obedience is “reckoned to those who believe” the curse of the Law has been removed by “vicarious law-keeping.” Why should Christ die?
Now this idea of Christ’s keeping the Law for “us” (for they will include us among the Israelites! although the Law was not given us Gentiles), is a deadly heresy, no matter who teaches it. Paul tells us plainly how the curse of the Law was removed: “Christ redeemed us,” (meaning Jewish believers), “from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13). And how He became a curse, is seen in Deuteronomy 21:23: “He that is hanged is accursed of God.” It was on the cross, not by an “earthly life of obedience,” that Christ bore the Law’s curse!
There was no law given “which could make alive,” Paul says; “otherwise righteousness would have been by it.” Therefore those who speak of Christ as taking the place of fulfilling the Law for us,—as “the object at which the Law aimed” (Alford); or, “the fulfilment or accomplishment of the Law” (Calvin); give the Law an office that God did not give it. There is not in all Scripture a hint of the doctrine that Christ’s earthly life—His obedience as a man under the Law, is “put to the account” of any sinner whatsoever! That obedience, which was perfect, was in order that He might “present Himself through the eternal Spirit without spot unto God,” as a sin-offering. It also was in order to His sacrificial death, as “a curse,” for Israel.
The gospel does not begin for any sinner, Jew or Gentile, until the cross: “I delivered unto you first of all, that Christ died for our sins” (I Cor. 15:3).
And for those under the Law, that was the end (telos) of the law. The Law had not been given to Israel at the beginning as a nation. They came out of Egypt, delivered from Divine wrath by the shed blood of the passover; and from Egypt itself by the passage of the Red Sea; Jehovah being with them. Go now to Elim with its “twelve wells of water and three score and ten palm trees”: there the nation is encamped with their God. They have yet not been put under law at all. The Rock is smitten, giving them drink, and Manna, the bread of heaven, is given, all before Sinai!
Therefore we must believe God when He says in Romans 5:20: “The Law came in [not as an essential, but] as a circumstantial thing.” (The Greek word, pareisēlthe, “came in along-side,” can mean nothing else.)
In Paul’s explanation of God’s dealing with Israel in 9:31-33; 10:5-10; 11:5,6, the meaning of this word telos “end,” appears: that, when an Israelite believed on Christ he was as completely through with the Law for righteousness as if it had never been given. He had righteousness by another way!
The vast discussion among commentators concerning the expression “the end of the Law,” would never have been, had it been recognized: (1) that God gave the Law only to Israel—as He said; (2) that it was a temporary thing, a “ministration of death,” to reveal sin, and therefore the necessity of Christ’s death; (3) that Christ having come, the day of the Law was over—it was “annulled” see Heb. 7:18.
It is because Reformed theology has kept us Gentiles under the Law,—if not as a means of righteousness, then as “a rule of life,” that all the trouble has arisen. The Law is no more a rule of life than it is a means of righteousness. Walking in the Spirit has now taken the place of walking by ordinances. God has another principle under which He has put his saints: “Ye are not under law, but, under grace!”
5 For Moses writeth that the man that doeth the righteousness which is of the Law shall live thereby. 6 But the righteousness which’ of faith saith thus. Say not in thy heart. Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down:) or, 7 Who shall descend into the abyss? (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead.) 8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith, which we preach: 9 because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus to be [thy] Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: 10 for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
The apostle now takes us into a great contrast between the way of the Law and the way of faith. He first quotes Leviticus 18:5, where God said to Israel: “Ye shall therefore keep My statutes, and Mine ordinances; which if a man do, he shall live in [or by] them: I am Jehovah.” You ask, Why did God make such a statement if no one was to obtain life by the Law? The answer is two-fold. First, in the plain utterance of Galatians 3:21: “If there had been a law given which could make alive, verily righteousness would have been of the Law”: God never placed in the Law the power to give life! Second, the Law is called a ministration of death and condemnation: “But if the ministration of death, written, and engraven on stones, came with glory . . . if the ministration of condemnation hath glory” (II Cor. 3:7-9). It was never intended that people should’ gain hope by it, but rather that they should despair and be driven to cast themselves upon God’s mercy, as did David (Psalm 51:1-19). Thus the Law becomes a “youth-leader” leading unto Christ (Gal. 3:24). Now, we humbly beg you, permit these Scriptures to “shut you up,”—according to Gal. 3:22! God had a right to put Israel under the Law for 1500 years from Moses to Christ; and He did so, knowing they could obtain neither righteousness nor life by that Law, since both were through faith in Christ only: and, “the Law is not of faith” (Gal. 3:12).
Now follows a most remarkable use by Paul of a Scripture out of Moses’ own mouth which he spake to Israel concerning the Law, and which Paul here applies to Christ. It will be best to quote the passage from Deut. 30:11-14 in full:
“For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not too hard for thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say. Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, .and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.”
Moses, who had been with Israel forty years, and had been their mediator in bringing the Law down from Mount Sinai unto them, is about to die. He is leaving with them not only the ten commandments, but also all the statutes, ordinances, precepts and judgments connected with them. Now what will be the natural reaction in the hearts of Israel, when Moses goes up to the top of Pisgah and dies, and Jehovah buries him? It will be this: “Moses, who brought us this Law, is gone! Moses received this Law from Jehovah, who came down from heaven to the top of Sinai in great majesty and display of glory. Now Moses is dead; and all we have left is, these written words! Our circumstances are altogether different from those of our fathers, who saw the awful presence of Jehovah on Sinai and heard His voice. Who will go up to heaven for us now, and come down, and make us hear this Law, in the same way our fathers heard, that we may do it? Or, if there be someone away beyond the sea, some wonderful teacher (like Moses) whom we can send for, to come across the sea and bring it to us, and make us hear it, that we may do it—.”
Now Moses’ answer to all this is, “The word is nigh unto thee— in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.” That is, the written words of the Law the people knew: they could repeat them; they were told to teach them diligently unto their children, and, as David did, “hide them in their hearts “ that they might not sin. It was all simple, indeed. And, of course, there were those, like Joshua, who said, “As for me and my house, we will serve Jehovah”; or who, like Zecharias and Elisabeth in Luke 1:6, were “righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.”
But the great point Moses makes with Israel is that there was the Law, in simple, plain words. They needed no sign, no manifestation; that had all been done at Sinai. But the great difficulty in the human heart (with Israel just as with us), is simple subjection to God’s words. See how the Jews in our Lord’s day kept asking of Him, “Show us a sign from heaven.”211211It is so to this day, and sad to say, the tendency to demand “signs” is increasing rather than lessening. If a man come announcing “healing meetings” (although no such “meetings for healing” are known in Scripture), the place will be crowded. History is full of spiritual wreckage caused by “Lo, here,” and “Lo, there!”
Verse 6: Now Paul knows the human heart to be the same today as in the days of Moses, so he lifts out of Deuteronomy Moses’s words about the Law and applies them to faith in Christ: The righteousness which is of faith [instead of asking a sign] saith thus, Say not in thy heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down:). This would be the natural working of the heart of a Jew. The Messiah, Christ, was to be sent to him from God; in fact, the nation had kept looking for Him. But the perpetual rising of unbelief, apart from “a sign from heaven,” was there.
It is very striking, as has been observed by others, that the Spirit of God should select the verses quoted above from Deuteronomy. For this chapter plainly prophesies that the Jews will be scattered among the nations because of their despising of God’s Law. So that all hope from the Law will have perished, and they will be cast wholly upon the mercy of God:
“among all the nations, whither Jehovah thy God hath driven thee, and shalt return unto Jehovah thy God, and shalt obey his voice . . . with all thy heart, and with all thy soul; that then Jehovah thy God will turn thy captivity, . . . and will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, . . . and He will do thee good.”
Into this dead, hollow shell, then, of legal hope, Paul here in Romans Ten, takes verses 11 to 14 of Deuteronomy Thirty, and puts faith in Christ in place of the Law! Israel will at last, at the end of the age, be cast upon the mercy of God! And then they will understand these great chapters, Romans Nine, Ten and Eleven, were written concerning them!
Verse 7: So that the Jew said in his heart. Who can ascend to heaven to bring Him down unto me? Then further, Christ being proclaimed that He had been sent already, and had borne their iniquities according to prophecy,—that He had died,—there would come the question in the Jewish heart: Who shall go down into the abyss and bring Him up from the regions of the dead212212Our Lord plainly said he would be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:40). This was not Joseph’s tomb (which was on the surface of the earth), but the Hebrew Sheol (Greek, Hades), which is always in Scripture located below the earth’s surface—even “the lower parts of the earth” (Eph. 4:9). To another compartment of these “lower parts” the wicked also went; as see Ps. 63:9. That this was in the general region called Hades, the rich man of Luke 16:22, 23 proves. (Always read the Revised Version about the words Sheol—Hades: for it transliterates them. The King James simply obscures them by various renderings.) While Christ’s body lay in Joseph’s tomb “not seeing corruption,” His soul (or quickened spirit, I Peter 3:18)—as Peter and Paul, quoting Ps. 16:10, plainly show (Acts 2:31; 13:34, 37) was duly brought up again “from the depths of the earth” (Ps. 71:20). that I may see Him and thus believe on Him?
Verse 8: Now, answering all these inquiries, these sign-askings, came the simple word of faith preached by Paul. This expression, “the word of faith,” involves the whole story of the gospel: that Jesus was the Christ, that He had come, died for sin, been buried, been raised, and been seen by many witnesses after His resurrection (I Cor. 15:3-8).
Verses 9 and 10: Paul speaks, then, in these verses—as if addressing a Jewish hearer: If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord [literally, Jesus, Lord; or, Jesus to be (thy) Lord], and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. It is assumed the whole gospel has been preached to this hearer. And now is he persuaded that this Risen Jesus, was really the Messiah? And, though rejected by Israel, that He is Lord over all,—the Deity? And is his Lord? And is he willing so to confess Him as his own Lord before men?
With thy mouth—We remember that in our Lord’s ministry among the Jews, “Even of the rulers many believed on Him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the glory of men more than the glory of God” (John 12:42, 43).
Then does this Jewish hearer, in short, being persuaded of Jesus’ Lordship and confessing it, believe in his very heart that God raised Him from the dead? For Christianity, as we have said, “begins with the resurrection.” No matter how thoroughly persuaded a Jew might be that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies in His birth, life, ministry, and death; there remained this stupendous task of faith, to believe in the heart that God had raised Him from the power and domain of death, of that which was the wages of sin,—the “King of Terrors” (Job 18:14) of the whole world!
Those thus confessing Christ’s Lordship, and believing in the heart that God had raised Him, would be saved! The explanation of the apostle of what has happened in such a case is, that with the heart the man, believed unto righteousness; while with the mouth the faith of the heart is boldly followed in confession, resulting in salvation.
You may ask, would not a Jew (for these chapters particularly
concern Jews) who had “believed unto righteousness” have, thus, salvation?213213 1.Faith is directly connected with the word “righteousness” or
“justification,” about twenty times in the New Testament, but faith is directly
connected with the word “salvation” only four times; and these four instances (Rom.
1:16, I Pet. 1:5, 9, 10) themselves show that whereas righteousness expresses
the present standing of a believing one; salvation is a larger and more inclusive
word—in the sense of Rom. 13:11: “Awake out of sleep, for now
is our salvation nearer to us than when we believed.” (In this verse our bodily
redemption at Christ’s coming, is included). And, I Peter 1:5:
“Guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
This shows that although we do “receive the end of our faith, the salvation of our
souls” (I Pet. 1:9), the word salvation in general includes not
only the salvation of our souls, but also the consummation of our final deliverance
at Christ’s coming.
I do not find “salvation,” then, connected in Scripture with any but those who shall thus be found in Christ at His coming. The words of Paul in Corinthians (I Cor. 15:1-4) outlining His gospel, are, “Ye are saved, if ye hold fast the word which I preached unto you.” In the preceding verse, he declares that they had “received” the gospel which he had preached unto them. But this gospel was not to be let go. As our Lord says concerning the good ground hearers in Luke 8:15: “These are such as in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, hold it fast, and bring forth fruit with patience.” In I Thess. 5:21 the same word is translated “hold fast that which is good.” It is solemnly used also in Heb. 3:6, 14 and 10:23. This is no argument against Divine election, or the eternal security of the saints. But it is a truth that must be, and really is, faced by every godly soul.
Over and over, of course, in the Gospels, the word for saved (sodzo) is used. The word of our Lord is, “Thy faith hath saved thee,” (or, A.V. “made thee whole”—same Greek word). It is also used concerning salvation: Matthew 19:25, Acts 2:21, 16:30, 31. Paul also uses this word in Rom. 5:9, 10; 10:13, etc.
What we are urging is that we connect in our own thinking, and confession of our Lord,—the word “faith” with righteousness, as Scripture in the Epistles so constantly does. In times of darkness and weak faith such as this, the rescue from doom is uppermost in the believer’s mind; whereas God would have his standing in Christ uppermost! How constantly we hear in a testimony meeting, “I have been, or I was, saved ten years,” etc.; and how very seldom, if ever, the testimony is: I have been declared righteous by faith, and have peace with God. I am righteous before God, through my Savior’s death. I thank God I have been made the righteousness of God in Christ. The old Methodists used to testify to their justification,—“justified state,” they called it. But then old-fashioned Methodist preachers, preached of coming judgment, of eternal punishment, of the sinner’s terrible danger; and they boldly spoke of pardon as what the sinner needed. We believe God has given still more light upon Scripture since those days, but would God we had the moral earnestness and the wonderfully bright experiences of the old-fashioned Methodists!
Again we say, God generally connects faith with righteousness. Let us do likewise. It is better to let the Scripture language stand. God here connects the word salvation with the word confession, not with the word faith. Peter, in his second epistle, speaks of those who “had known the way of righteousness,” which is always faith,—and then afterward “turned back from the holy commandment delivered unto them” (II Peter 2:20, 21); while our Lord in Luke 8 says of the rocky-ground hearer that he “believed for a while, and in time of temptation fell away.” Therefore, while in both parts of Romans 10:10, Paul refers to the man of verse 9 as one who is to be “saved,” it is well to let the verse remain as it is. The Lord when on earth among the Jews asked that they confess Him publicly; the Spirit still asks this. Not only Jews but Gentiles must confess Him; although the form of presentation of the truth in Chapter Ten is as it would apply to a Jew, to whom had been offered a Messiah, concerning whose claims he had to decide, according to several Old Testament Scriptures. The Gentiles did not have the Scriptures, and the matter of the presentation of the gospel to them was much more simple. But “confession with the mouth” will follow “the faith of God’s elect,” Jew or Gentile.
Now, as ever when dealing with the Jews, Paul turns to their Scriptures, and quotes eight times from the Old Testament, before this Tenth Chapter is out—thirty times altogether in these three chapters (9,10, and 11)!
11 For the Scripture saith. Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be put to shame. 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon Him: 13 for, Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 and how shall they preach, except they be sent? even as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that bring glad tidings of good things!
Verses 11 and 12: The Scripture saith: the believer learns to love this word, “the Scripture” (our old word graphē!). The manner in which its Author, the Holy Spirit, makes the Scriptures of the Old Testament speak, in the New, is comfort without limit! And here is Isaiah 28:16 again, which was quoted (from the Septuagint) in the last verse of Chapter Nine. The Jews should have seen from that word whosoever believeth that simple faith in their Messiah was God’s way, and that the message meant “whosoever.”
They should have been warned also that inasmuch as believing was God’s way—the path in which those who walked would not be put to shame; those who chose the way of works, of self-righteousness, would surely be put to shame. This word “ashamed” or “put to shame” is in the Hebrew, to flee—from fear. Those who have exercised simple faith in Christ, and abide thus in Him, shall “have boldness: and not be ashamed before Him [Christ] at His coming”—“;boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, even so are we in this world” (I John 2:28; 4:17).
This “whosoever” message is further developed in verse 12, where we see the familiar words no distinction between Jew and Greek. We remember this as the exact expression used as to universal sinnerhood in Chapter 3:22; which is now used as to salvation. For, first, He is Lord of all, and second, He is rich unto all that call upon Him.
These great words must be laid to heart. They bring great comfort, directly to any Jews who desire the Savior, and also to the hearts of all of us, Jew and Gentile, because the universal availability of salvation is so gloriously opened out here, based as it is upon the universal lordship of Christ. As Peter said at Cornelius’ house to Gentiles, “The word which He sent unto the children of Israel, preaching good tidings of peace by Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all).” It is a great day when a human heart turns to this Savior who is Lord of all, for he immediately finds Him “rich unto all.”
Verse 13: And then the great word by the prophet Joel is brought forward: Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Joel 2:32). Now who could miss the meaning of this simplest of all messages? Now, (if we should preach on this verse!) First, salvation is promised. Second, it is a be-saved, not save-yourself, salvation. Third, it is the Lord who is to do it. Fourth, He does it for those who call upon His Name. Fifth, He does it for the whosoevers, for anybody. What a preacher, Joel! But note that Paul is writing to Jews, and is giving Old Testament texts. For Paul’s great gospel message is to hear and believe “the word of the cross, which is the power of God.” This message goes away beyond that of the Old Testament. Paul preached the good news of a work finished. It was for the “whosoevers”: and Joel’s use of that word should have convinced any Jew of God’s purpose of salvation to any one, to all. But Paul does not mean that his gospel was “Call on the Lord.” His gospel was, Christ died for our sins: He was buried, and was raised, for you: hear and believe.
These “whosoevers” should have taught the Jews that the way of
salvation was not by their Law or any special way for them, but for any and all.
Alas, the word “whosoever” was too wide for the narrow Jewish mind in Joel’s day
and Paul’s day and is so today.214214 And alas, also, there are those who insist that the Jew has
a special place right through this dispensation; that he must always be “first,”
that there is a difference, although God says plainly in Chapter Three that there
is no difference between Jew and Greek as to sinnership, guilt; and no difference
as to the lordship of Christ and the availability of salvation to the “whosoevers,”
Jew or Gentile. If Paul were among us today, he would abhor and decry the special,
esoteric methods of approach to the Jew in vogue in some pretentious quarters today.
Become all things to the Jew, to win him, certainly. Paul did. But tell him the
truth, that he is just a whosoever, and nobody else!
The terrible prophecy of Ezekiel 20:33-38 (read R. V. only, here) is about to be fulfilled concerning the scattered millions of Israel:
“As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, surely with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out, will I be king over you. And I will bring you out from the peoples, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out; and I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there will I enter into judgment with you face to face.”
What the poor, wretched Jewish exiles need this hour is a Paul to go right in amongst them with a “whosoever” message for sinners, not a “literary-approach” Paul, but the exact opposite, with perhaps “bodily presence weak and speech of no account,” but “provoking them to jealousy” by boasting in a Messiah whom their nation has lost,—a nation to whom God is not now offering a Messiah, but instead salvation, as common whosoevers, no-distinction people, ordinary guilty sinners, I protest that in Acts 28 God through Paul officially closed the door to the national offer of the gospel to the Jews, and that thereafter to treat the Jew as having a special place with God, is to deny Scripture.
Verses 14 and 15: But now Paul takes these two “whosoever” verses, and from them answers the Jew, who not only relied on his law-keeping instead of on simple faith to save him, but also denied that either Paul or any of the apostles had any right to proclaim salvation by a simple message,—a message that left out the Law and Judaism. If salvation were to come unto them that “call on the name of the Lord” argues Paul, calling is impossible to one who has not believed on the Lord; and believing is impossible to one who has not heard the message about the Lord; and hearing is impossible unless some one comes preaching the message; and preaching is impossible except the messenger be Divinely sent! And again Paul clinches it with the Scripture (Isa. 52:7): How beautiful are the feet of them that bring glad tidings of good things! Moses’ Law was not glad tidings, but a ministration of death and condemnation. “The Law worketh wrath.” But the gospel—“Glad tidings! Good things!” And God who knows, calls “beautiful” the feet that carry such news. Are our feet “beautiful”—in God’s eyes?
Paul now, with a saddened heart, goes back to the record of Israel’s refusing the glad tidings:
16 But they did not all hearken to the glad tidings. For Isaiah saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17 So faith is from a report, but the report through the word of Christ. 18 But I say, Did they not hear? Yea, verily,
Their sound went out into all the earth,
And their words unto the ends of the world.
19 But I say. Did Israel not know? First Moses saith,
I will provoke you to jealousy with that which is no nation,
With a nation void of understanding will I anger you.
20 And Isaiah is very bold, and saith,
I was found of them that sought Me not;
I became manifest unto them that asked not of Me.
21 But as to Israel he saith, All the day long did I spread out My hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.
Verses 16, 17: Astonishing thing,—refusing good news! Men will hearken to good news along all other lines,—business, pleasure, social preferment, ambition, physical health. Go to any stock exchange and see them watch the ticker tape; or behold the political candidates sitting up all night for election news favorable to them. But the apostle mourns along with Isa. 53:1: Lord, who hath believed our report? Probably men’s unbelief is the greatest final burden before God of every man who speaks for God, “Lord, they do not believe.” They said to Moses, “You take too much upon yourself!” (Num. 16:3); to Ezekiel, “Is he not a speaker of parables?” (Ezek. 20:49) ; to Amos, “The land is not able to bear all your words: Flee away to Judah and eat bread”—you are just looking for money! (Amos 7:10-13); to Jeremiah, “As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of Jehovah, we will not hearken unto thee” (Jer. 44:16-19). And hear that weeping prophet tell of his trouble:
“Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud; for Jehovah hath spoken. Give glory to Jehovah your God before He cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and while ye look for light, He turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness. But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret for your pride; and mine eyes shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because Jehovah’s flock is taken captive” (Jer. 13:15-17).
Our Lord said to those of the multitudes that gathered to hear Him,
“This people’s heart is waxed gross,
And their ears are dull of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed;
Lest haply they should perceive with their eyes,
And hear with their ears,
And understand with their heart,
And should turn again,
And I should heal them” (Matt. 13:15).
And He prophesied that His preachers would find “wayside hearers,” “rocky ground hearers,” “thorny ground hearers”; and then, in one out of four cases, a “good ground hearer.”
Verse 17: So faith is from a report; but the report through the word of Christ—The Greek term here for “word” is hrēma, not logos. It literally is, “saying,” “speech,” as in John 3:34; 14:10; Acts 11:14. Faith, indeed, however, does come from a report; and there must be a message and a messenger, sent of God; as we have seen. But Christ accompanies this preached word by His Almighty “voice,” as we know from John 5:25: “The hour cometh, that the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.” It is a “quickened” word, that creates living faith.
It is here that the missionary urge comes! Christ must, indeed, utter His creating word from Heaven to the dead soul, saying, Live! But in II Corinthians 5:18, 19, 20, we see that while “God was, indeed, in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself,” He has “committed to us [Greek, “placed in us”] the word of reconciliation.” So that God is entreating by us: we beseech (people) on behalf of Christ, “Be ye reconciled to God!”
Faith, indeed, comes of hearing. Do not imagine men will be saved in any other way. Earnest, prayerful Cornelius is commanded (and that by an angel) to send for “Simon whose surname is Peter, who shall speak to thee words by which thou shalt be saved” (Acts 11:14). “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching [lit., the preached thing—Christ crucified] to save them that believe” (I Cor. 1:21 marg.). Note also that “faith cometh.” If you hear, with a willing heart, the good news, that Christ died for you; that He was buried; that He was raised from the dead:—by truly “hearing,” faith will “come” to you. You do not have to do a thing but hear! So there is God’s part—He gave, by the Spirit, the written Word. And Christ’s part,—He speaks, quickening the Word. And your part: “He that hath ears, hear.”
Their sound went out into all the earth,
And their words unto the ends of the world.215215 The use of the plural “their”—“their sound,” “their words,”
here, is immediately evident in the familiar Psalm itself:
“The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament showeth his handiwork.
Day unto day uttereth speech,
And night unto night showeth knowledge.
There is no speech nor language;
Their voice is not heard.
Their line is gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world,”
Verse 19: Paul proceeds: Did Israel not know?—concerning this whosoever-plan, this believing-plan, this calling upon the Lord’s name and being saved? Yea, even about this constant warning by their own Scriptures that if they were unfaithful God would extend His mercy to the Gentiles? First, he calls Moses to witness (Deut. 32:21):
I will provoke you to jealousy with that which is no nation,
With a nation void of understanding will I anger you.
That which is no nation—compared with the marvelous place and privileges of the race of Israel, it could be said of every other people, “It is no nation, a nation void of understanding” (of the things of God). I will anger them—for Israel can be reached in no other way—either then or now! God seeks to provoke them to jealousy: beware how you palaver over them.
Verse 20: Now finally Paul calls Isaiah again to the witness stand; and Isaiah gives a double testimony: he is indeed very bold in his prophecy of Gentile salvation:
I was found of them that sought me not;
I became manifest unto them that asked not of me.
Then Isaiah becomes exceedingly mournful as to wretched Israel’s disobedient and gainsaying attitude (see verse 21).
How Jews could read this passage and remain unmoved, in their traditions, formalities, and unbelief, only faithful preachers can imagine,—who have had to deal with the titanic possibilities of evil and unbelief in the human heart.
As showing how far Christendom has lost the whole spirit of the gospel, we remind you that everywhere people have the idea they ought to “seek” salvation; they are everywhere told they ought to “go to church.”216216It is an excellent thing to go where God’s saints gather; and to “meetings for unsaved people. But attending meetings saves no one. There is a Savior! And good news about Him to be believed for yourself!
How many now reading these words believe that Romans 10:20 is God’s program for this Gentile day? You say, Should we not seek God? No! You should sit down and hear what is written in Romans: first, about your guilt, then about your helplessness, and then about the inability of the Law to do anything but condemn you; and then believe on Christ whom God hath sent; and then praise God for righteousness apart from works, apart from ordinances! hear how God laid sin, your sin, on a Substitute, His own Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, and that now, sin being put away, God has raised Him from the dead. Seek God? No! God is the Seeker, and He has sought and is now seeking those that asked not of Him, and has been found of those who sought Him not!—but simply heard the good news and believed! Praise His Holy Name!
Verse 21: But, alas, poor Israel! Jehovah, through Isaiah, speaks thus of them:
day long did I spread out my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people (Isa.
65:2). What yearning, what love, what pleading, what patience! And it
is The Creator, God Himself, here, spreading out His hands! Towards whom? Towards
a disobedient people; a people that, being rebuked, did deny and gainsay their prophets,
and even their own Messiah,—as they do unto this day!217217 “And he (Manasseh) set the graven image of the idol, which he
had made, in the house of God, of which God said to David and to Solomon his son.
‘In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel,
will I Put My name forever’: . . . And Manasseh seduced Judah and the inhabitants
of Jerusalem, so that they did evil more than did the nations whom Jehovah destroyed
before the children of Israel.”
“All the chiefs of the priests, and the people, trespassed very greatly after all the abominations of the nations; and they polluted the house of Jehovah which He had hallowed in Jerusalem. And Jehovah, the God of their fathers, sent to them by his messengers, rising up early and sending, because He had compassion on His people, and on His dwelling-place.” But alas, we read: “They mocked the messengers of God, and despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of Jehovah arose against His people, till there was no remedy” (II Chron. 33:7, 9; 36:14-16).
It should astonish and warn us—every unbelieving Jew we see! Astonish us, that the human heart should treat God so! And warn us: for, as we shall see in the next chapter, we Gentiles are now being “visited” by God,—this same God of Love: and He is stretching out His hands to usward! May we early yield to Him!
And here, lest we miss the lesson for us, in considering wretched Israel’s rejection of their Messiah, let us read a message to our own hearts:
THE GREAT UNKNOWN
WHY dost Thou pass unheeded,
Treading with piercèd feet
The halls of the kingly palace,
The busy street?
Oh marvellous in Thy beauty,
Crowned with the light of God,
Why fall they not down to worship
Where Thou hast trod?
Why are Thy hands extended
Beseeching whilst men pass by
With their empty words and their laughter,
Yet passing on to die?
Unseen, unknown, unregarded,
Calling and waiting yet—
They hear Thy knock and they tremble—
They hear, and they forget.
And Thou in the midst art standing
Of old and forever the same—
Thou hearest their songs and their jesting,
But not Thy name.
The thirty-three years forgotten
Of the weary way Thou hast trod—
Thou art but a name unwelcome,
O Savior God!
Yet amongst the highways and hedges,
Amongst the lame and the blind,
The poor and the maimed and the outcast,
Still dost Thou seek and find—
There by the wayside lying
The eyes of Thy love can see
The wounded, the naked, the dying,
Too helpless to come to Thee.
So Thou art watching and waiting
Till the wedding is furnished with guests—
And the last of the sorrowful singeth,
And the last of the weary rests.—
C. P. C. (in Hymns of Ter Steegen).
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