Blindness in Part

In our study of ROMANS 10:1-21, we spent most of our time in the last bulletin defining Paul's terms. It is especially important to know how Paul uses the terms "Jew", "Gentile" and "the world".

The word "Jew" is short for Judean or Judahite. The word "Gentile" simply means a Nation, whether that nation is Judah, Israel, Syria or some other nation. Only the context can tell you to which nation the passage is referring.

It is important to understand that in ROMANS 9-11 Paul is very time-conscious. He generally speaks of "Israel" when referring to the past, when they rejected Yahweh-God (that is, Jesus Christ, prior to His earthly incarnation). This rejection was in two parts. First, the northern House of Israel rejected Him and were cast out in 745-721 B.C. Finally, the nation of Judah rejected Him and were cast off as well (in 70 A.D., about 12 years after Paul wrote the letter to the Romans).

Hence, "Israel" as a whole had rejected Christ and thus violated the Mosaic Covenant. For this reason, the Mosaic Covenant - the Old Covenant - was annulled. That had been a marriage covenant between Christ and Israel, but that marriage now fully ended in divorce, first with the northern House of Israel and later with Judah.

All of these Israelites were then dispersed throughout the "nations" and formed many nations throughout Europe and eventually in other parts of the world. One might say that they became "gentilized" in the sense that after their divorce, they were legally no longer in a marriage relationship with Christ. Thus, they were legally no better off than any of the other nations of the world. The only advantage they had was that God had committed Himself to remarry Israel (HOSEA 2:20). So He would see to it that those dispersed people were given the Word of God to prepare their hearts for a New Covenant of marriage.

Since Israel was now the treasure hidden in the field ("the world"), God had to purchase the field in order to obtain the treasure buried in it. And so, God saw fit to come in the form of a man - Jesus Christ - and give all that He had to purchase that field. He so loved the world that He died for it. 1 JOHN 2:2 says,

"And He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."

As we said earlier, Paul was time-conscious. In the past, Israel rejected God. But since the Cross, looking forward to a New Covenant, the scope of salvation is now clearly seen to eventually include the entire world. And "the world" is defined as all nations, including those cast-off Israelites and Judahites.

This will become clearer as we proceed in our study, especially in looking at ROMANS 9:30-33:

30 "What shall we say then? That the Gentiles [all nations, including cast-off Israel and Judah] which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.

31 But Israel [in the past, when they still carried that birthright name, not having yet lost it] which followed after the law of righteousness [under the Old Covenant] hath not attained to the law of righteousness.

32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;

33 As it is written, Behold I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence; and whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed."

It is customary to think Paul is referring entirely to the Judah nation that had rejected Jesus. However, Paul quotes ISAIAH 28:16 in support of His statement. That entire chapter was specifically addressed to "Ephraim" (ISAIAH 28:1), the leading tribe of the northern House of Israel. It is apparent that Paul really does mean Israel when He uses that term in ROMANS 9:31. The rejection of Jesus Christ was not something that only the Judah nation did. It was done by the House of Israel back in Isaiah's day.

Jesus did not have to be physically present on earth for the Israelites to reject Him. He was known as Yahweh to them, for He was the God of the Old Testament. He identified Himself in ISAIAH 49:26 saying, "all flesh shall know that I the Lord [Yahweh] am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob".

Hence, when the House of Israel rejected Yahweh, they rejected Jesus Christ. That is why they were cast off. It was for the same reason that Judah was later cast off. So the two Israelite nations both rejected Jesus Christ, and this is why God divorced them, cast them out of His house, and took away their marital name from them - the name of Israel.

From that point on, they were, at best, ex-Israelites among the nations of the world in need of redemption along with everyone else.

Paul tells us the plan of salvation very clearly. It was to be according to the New Covenant. It was no longer by the Old Covenant, which had been conditional upon men's vow of obedience (EXODUS 19:5-8). Men's vows were so easily broken, and if God's salvation blessings were conditional upon men's vows, or "decisions for Christ", then they would lose their salvation every time they broke their vow by committing a sin. I remember in my youth having to "get saved" at the end of every day for many years. At that time I had no comprehension that I was trying to be saved by means of the Old Covenant, seeking righteousness by the works of the law.

So Paul tells us that the New Covenant (based on the unconditional covenant with Abraham in GENESIS 15:8-21) was purely by faith. JEREMIAH 31:31-34 makes it clear that this was to be a New Covenant that was not based upon the will of man, but of God.

There were to be no "if clauses" or conditions that men would have to fulfil. There were to be no vows that men must live up to in order to obtain their salvation. There were no good works or righteous standards that men had to reach before God would save them.

Of course, we should all make a conscious decision (or vow) to follow Jesus Christ. However, we should understand that this is not what saves us - unless, of course, we are able to keep our vow and never sin again. But I know of no one capable of such righteousness. The New Covenant is based upon the will of God, not the will of man, even as JOHN 1:12 and 13 tells us:

12 "But as many as received Him to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name;

13 Which were born [lit. "begotten, conceived"] not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God [i.e. God's will]."

God initiates salvation by speaking the Word to man. This is the "seed of the Word" which is able to conceive within our souls, if we hear the Word. Since faith comes by hearing the Word (ROMANS 10:17), faith is man's natural response to the Word spoken by God. It is that faith which characterizes our salvation, Paul says. Obedience to the Word (law) is the next step, of course, since one will always act upon that which one truly believes.

Our fleshly weaknesses often hinder us from true or complete obedience, especially at first. But as we grow in grace and spiritual strength, our works begin to match our faith in God. Yet our present infirmities and weaknesses of the flesh are not able to make us lose our salvation, because salvation was not obtained by the will of man, regardless of what some churches may teach.

The Remnant Saved First

In our first bulletin we left off with an introduction to the remnant concept. God died for the whole world, but only a remnant has faith in God at the present time. Paul tells us also in 1 CORINTHIANS 15:22 and 23 that all who died in Adam are to be made alive in Christ - but every man in his own squadron.

God is presently working with the remnant of grace. Once He has brought this small company into the fulness of the promise, then they will be fully empowered by the Spirit of God to manifest the divine presence and character of Christ to the rest of the world. Their testimony and work will then bring the rest of the Church and the world into the blessings of the kingdom of God. This will take a very long time, no doubt, but the ultimate goal and the hope of all creation is that all things will be put in subjection to Jesus Christ (1 CORINTHIANS 15:27; HEBREWS 2:8).

There has been a remnant in every age. Isaiah's son was named "Shehar-jashub," which means the remnant shall return. The remnant company will be the first to manifest the glory of God. They are the barley company, which ripens first. Yet even before they are ripe for the harvest, they bear testimony to the truth of the Word of God in every age, for they are the ones who have ears to hear the specific message God has for each era.

And so Paul tells us in ROMANS 9:27-29:

27 "Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved;

28 For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness; because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.

29 And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodom, and been made like unto Gomorrha."

Verses 27 and 28 are quoting from ISAIAH 10:22-23. This is the passage we mentioned at the end of our last bulletin concerning Isaiah's son, Shehar-jashub. It is plain from this passage that Israel was to be as numerous as the sand of the sea, but of them, only a remnant would "return" and "be saved" in this present time.

God's work with the small remnant of grace does not negate the greater work with Israel or the world. God will do that more extensive work in its own time. Meanwhile, the present work is a short one, relatively speaking. In my view, the present work is a short work week of 6 days (that is, 6000 years, followed by the Sabbath rest in the next 1000 years).

The importance of the remnant company's presence in the world is seen in ROMANS 9:29, quoted earlier. If it were not for the remnant, the world would be like Sodom and Gomorrha and by law would have to be destroyed, rather than saved. However, the remnant's presence in the world ensures that the divine plan of salvation will be fulfilled.

Remember how Abraham interceded for Sodom and Gomorrha in the days of Lot. God ultimately told him that He would spare the cities for the sake of just 10 righteous men, if they could be found there. But perhaps just a short word about that story might be of interest to you, especially if you know the meaning of numbers in the Bible. God said He would not destroy Sodom if He could find:

50 spirit-filled ones (Pentecost/Jubilee), or
45 preserved ones, or
40 tested ones, or
30 dedicated, mature ones, or
20 redeemed ones, or even if He could find just
10 law-abiders.

Before continuing our study in Romans 10, let us recap what we have learned. Paul says that "Israel" (i.e. the Israelites in the Old Testament times) rejected Christ, because they thought they could be saved by their own righteous works as specified in the divine law. Under the conditional Old Covenant, the people did not fulfil their vow of obedience to God and hence were judged and cast off among the nations.

In the divine plan of salvation, only a remnant would return to God during this present era, while the rest would be blinded and have to await a later age after the remnant is fully come into the inheritance. And so to this day we see Israel blindly seeking to establish its own righteousness under the Old Covenant.

It is blatantly so in Orthodox Jewish circles, where they openly declare themselves to be under the Mosaic covenant. It is more subtle among the nations of Israel, where the Church teaches that one is saved by the will of man when he goes down to the altar and swears to be obedient to God in some form. While the Church always claims that the people are being brought under the New Covenant, in practice it is a continuation of the Old Covenant type of salvation.

Hence, Paul says in ROMANS 10:

1 "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved.

2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.

3 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.

4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth ["has faith"]."

Paul clearly saw that the worship in the temple of Jerusalem was an Old Covenant attempt to establish their own righteousness apart from faith. This was, of course, the prime example in Paul's day. However, keep in mind that he was talking about Israel. His scope was far broader than the Judeans and Galileans of his day. He included the house of Israel who were at that time already migrating into Europe either through Asia Minor (modern Turkey) or the northern route through the Caucasus mountains. Whatever religions they followed during their captivity, they were all seeking to become righteous through their own works, by the will of man.

They were ignorant of God's righteousness that comes by faith. They did not understand that the Old Covenant had been nullified by divorce, and that they must now come to God by a new and living way, where their righteousness would be by faith alone. As Paul says in verses 4 and 5:

4 "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that has faith.

5 For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, that the man which DOETH those things shall live by them."

This does not mean that God's righteous standard has changed. No, sin is still the transgression of the law (1 JOHN 3:4). Paul says plainly in ROMANS 3:20, "by the law is the knowledge of sin". Hence, it is not that God's definition of sin has changed. It is rather that one cannot become righteous in the biblical sense by making a sincere attempt to be obedient to God by the will of the flesh (i.e. the will of man). One can vow every day to be perfect and buffet the body each moment of the day with mortifying self-disciplines, but when all is said and done, we will always find that we have fallen short of the glory of God.

It simply cannot be attained in this manner. If we must be saved by our performance and our ability to keep our vow of obedience to God, then we are all undone. We can fare no better than Israel of old.

So when Paul says that "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness", he is not saying that the law has come to an end. He is saying that when we come to Christ under the New Covenant, we are saved by faith, not by the works of the law. God speaks, we hear, faith comes, and the Spirit of God begets Christ in you, the hope of glory.

The most important thing to know here is that it is God (i.e. Jesus Christ) who initiates the salvation - not man. We simply respond to His work. Our will is a response to His will. Our faith is the response to His Word as He speaks to us. There is a shift from the Old Covenant religion of salvation through the will of man to the New Covenant salvation through the will of God in Christ.

As we have said, this is illustrated primarily by the Abrahamic covenant, where God put Abraham to sleep and made a one-sided, unconditional promise to him. Abraham made no vows in return that might have made the covenant conditional upon the will of man or upon the strength of the flesh to fulfil such vows of obedience. It was simply a covenant where Abraham HEARD the Word of God to him, and he believed that God was able to do all that He had said He would do in Abraham and in his seed.

So what does this all mean to you and me in our relationship with God? It means that our vow of obedience and our intention to do what is right is good, but cannot save us unless we are righteous enough to actually do as we have promised. Years ago, I tried going this route, only to find that it was not in me to do.

Over the years I have heard the Word as God spoke to my heart. The Word has become clearer and more specific as time has progressed. As I have believed that Word and have responded to it by obedience, I have grown in my walk with Him. My response has often been limited, even as a child who is told to clean his room or to build a bird house. And yet God has trained me as a child, not looking at my ability to perform, but rather valuing my faith that was manifested in my response to the Word.

I have seen by experience and in reading the Scripture that faith is the only thing that God really values, for faith is a relationship with Him. A child that does not respond to his father's word has no relationship with him. When our Father speaks or gives a command, the work to be done is secondary in importance to the faith in the child that hears and responds to His voice.

This does not mean that the work itself has no value. What I am saying is that without faith, the work itself has no value to the Father. A man may build a beautiful mansion, but if his father had told him to build a barn for the horses, he will not be pleased with the mansion. If the son argues with his father that a mansion is really a much better project than the barn, the father may just burn down the mansion to get his son's attention. The son must learn to trust his father, to have faith that he knows what he is doing. Then, as he is obedient, he will begin to understand his father's reasons. He will begin to put on his father's mind. He will come to know not only WHAT the father desires, but also WHY. Then he will move from being a servant to being a son whom the father can talk to face to face as a friend (EXODUS 33:11 and JOHN 15:15).

by Stephen E Jones

Source: "Foundation for Intercession," Issue 104, September 1997, God's Kingdom Ministries