Well we come to the Word of God tonight, Romans chapter 11. And I thank you for being here, for sharing in the blessedness of this great great text. And we're winding down our look at this section of Romans 9 through 11. Not happily but with a sense of completion, fulfillment and satisfaction.
And I want us to begin to look at the final section of the eleventh chapter, beginning with verse 25 tonight. Unfolding for us the salvation of Israel and the reason for that, the glory of God. And so we could give the message two titles, really: the salvation of Israel, the glory of God.
To begin with we perhaps would be well reminded of Isaiah 55:8 and 9. In that text Isaiah writes concerning God, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts." And what the prophet is saying is that God has an incomprehensible mind. And no man, however astute, however intellectual, however spiritual, can fully plumb the depths of the infinite mind of God. God indeed works in ways which are mysterious to man.
And I really believe that this is nowhere more graphically illustrated than it is in relationship to the history of Israel. The story of Israel demonstrates to me, and I trust to you as well, the incomprehensibly wonderful mind of God, the wonder of God's unique dealing with that people.
David saw the wonder of God's working with Israel in 2 Samuel 7:19. He responded to God giving a great promise to him and to the nation and said, "And is this the manner of man, O Lord God?" And what he meant by that is this is not the men do things, is it? God so infinitely surpassed any design that David ever knew men might have in the design He had promised for His people.
In Psalm 92 and verse 5 it says, "O Lord, how great are Thy works and Thy thoughts are very deep." Notice verse 33 in our text. "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God, how unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out." The infinite mind of God...no man can plumb its depths.
And as I said, nowhere is that most...more marvelously demonstrated than it is in relationship to His ministry to the people Israel. And we're going to see that unfolding in our text. We're going to see what leads up to that great statement of praise we just read in verse 33.
Now remember that Paul has been dealing with the place of Israel in the saving plan of God. He's been answering the questions that he anticipates will be asked by those who say, "Well, if the gospel is true and the Jews have rejected it, aren't they permanently set aside from God's plan?" And you will remember that in chapter 9 he said, "The rejection of Israel is true but not contrary to God's plan." God planned for it all along, that was the message of chapter 9.
Chapter 10 reminded us that Israel's rejection was due to their own unbelief. That they were set aside because they were disobedient. In other words, it is true that it was in the plan of God, chapter 9, but it is also true that it was their own fault, chapter 10.
And then we came to chapter 11. And we saw that through the blindness of Israel, through the hardness of the hearts of Israel, through their rejection of Jesus Christ, God is working out a marvelous plan which will lead to the salvation of Gentiles, ultimately to the salvation of the Jews and finally to the blessing of the world in the millennial Kingdom.
Now as we come to the last section, he tells us that Israel ultimately will be saved and God's plan will come to fruition. So the presentation reaches its climax right here in our text beginning in verse 25. Yes, Israel has been set aside for the time being because of unbelief, ignorant of the righteousness of God, rejecting the Messiah of God, misunderstanding the law of God, ignoring the grace of God, but their setting aside was only--do you remember?--partial, passing and purposeful. And we come tonight to that final point, purposeful. The setting aside of the nation Israel had a great purpose. God worked it to the ultimate blessing of the world, as we shall see. And even that had a purpose and the purpose is this, listen carefully, this is the key, the glory of God...the glory of God. It comes in the final verse, verse 36, "For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things to whom be glory forever, amen."
That's how he climaxes the entire passage on the salvation of Israel. But not only that, that's how he wraps up the first eleven chapters, all of which is a discussion of God's great plan of salvation. And that's where he's been going since chapter 1 verse 1. He's been taking us to the place where we would recognize that the purpose of God in salvation of Israel and the Gentiles is His own glory...His own glory...His own glory. And that is a thing that must be understood, and I trust we'll understand it better than ever as a result of our ministry in this final part of the chapter. We are reminded of an essential reality. And we've discussed it at many times through the life of our church, but it needs reemphasis. The goal of everything that happens in the universe is the glory of God. And the reason God set out to redeem man, both Jew and Gentile, and to bring the Kingdom that He promised was that He might be glorified. The ultimate purpose is not salvation, that is only a means to the ultimate purpose which is the glory of God. The ultimate purpose is not the bringing in of the nation Israel, that is a means to the glory of God. It is not Gentiles come together in the church, that is a means to the glory of God. The ultimate end of God's redemptive plan is not the glory of His eternal Kingdom, that is only a means to His glory...which is the mysterious awesome and wonderful and all surpassing reason for everything...for everything...for everything.
It says in Psalm 19, "The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handiwork." In Isaiah 43:20 the prophet says, "The beast of the field shall give Me honor or glory." In other words, all that is created in the universe is for the glory of God. Even the beasts of the field are for the glory of God. And when the angelic hosts stood outside the place of the birth of the Savior on a Bethlehem hillside and made their great announcement, they gave glory to God in the highest, because that's what angels are to do as well. And even men have been called to the same thing. For 1 Corinthians 10 says in verse 31, "Whatever you do whether you eat or drink, do it all to the glory of God."
The surpassing purpose in everything is God's glory. So you have in the first eleven chapters of Romans an outline of the doctrine of redemption and how it relates to the Jew and the Gentile. And the climax comes in that marvelous benediction from verse 33 to 36 which calls us to glorify God. The Old Westminster catechism had it right when it said, "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever."
Now what does it mean to glorify God? Just a note on this. There are two aspects of God's glory. First of all there's what I guess we could call His intrinsic glory. That glory which is His own by nature, that which belongs to Him. He is called in Acts 7 and verse 2, "The Lord of glory." And in Isaiah 6 it says, "The angelic choir said back and forth, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of host, the whole earth is full of His glory." He is called the God of glory. In Exodus 33 Moses said, "Show me Thy glory and He said I'll let My goodness and mercy and kindness, and so forth, pass before you." In other words, His glory is that intrinsic holy character. His glory could be equal to His attributes...to His nature. It is the very essence of who God is. He is glorious. A man's honor could be taken from him. I suppose a simple way to illustrate it would be to say that naked a king and a beggar are indistinguishable...because a king's glory can be taken from him. But God has a glory that cannot be stripped and so at all times He is the ever glorious God. It is His essential being. We can't add to it and we can't diminish it. But we must recognize it...we must recognize it.
And in the Bible when it says, "Give glory to God," it doesn't mean add to His attributes, it means recognize them. And that's the second element of His glory, that's His extrinsic glory, that is the honor which we give Him for His intrinsic worth. And so when we glorify God it isn't that we're adding to His character, it is that we are recognizing it...it is that we are affirming it, it is that we are praising it. And the Scripture is filled with passages and I think most commonly of 1 Chronicles chapter 16 where there is a command over and over and over, "Give glory unto the Lord...give glory unto the Lord...give glory unto the Lord." And that's one of a myriad of passages that call us to the same thing and in those cases we are to give honor to the one who intrinsically is worthy of our honor, of our praise. Man's chief duty indeed is to recognize the infinite holy majesty of God and to praise Him in everything. Instead, so much of the time we question Him, so much of the time we pull Him down to our level and second guess Him or make demands on Him. But we are called to glorify Him. In fact, not to glorify God is the single greatest crime in the universe. And hell is filled with beings who did basically one thing wrong, they failed to glorify God. Heaven will be filled eternally with beings who gave glory to God. That's the dividing point.
Do I need to remind you of Romans 1 where God says that His wrath is poured out from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men? And he says, "Because," in verse 21, "when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God." In other words, God's condemning judgment falls on those who fail to give Him glory.
Jeremiah saw that in a very very poignant passage in chapter 13 of his prophecy and beginning in verse 11 and following. He calls to the people to respond to God. And down in verse 16 he says, "Give glory to the Lord your God before He cause darkness and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountain and while you look for light He turn it into the shadow of death and make it gross darkness." In other words, give glory to God or else you will be judged.
In Daniel we read in chapter 4 about Nebuchadnezzar who failed to give God the glory and decided that he would take it for himself. And God turned him for seven years into a raving maniac whose nails grew like bird's claws and who lived out in the wild and was covered with the dew that covered the ground. And not until he came to his senses and recognized that the Lord of glory controls everything did God give him back his sanity.
In Acts chapter 12 Herod decided to declare his own glory. And the Bible says God smote him and he was eaten by worms and died because he gave not God the glory.
All throughout redemptive history God has called for men and women to give Him honor, to give Him praise, to give Him glory, to ascribe to Him the worth and the value and the honor which He intrinsically is due as an infinitely holy and majestic God. So the purpose of all things, the universe, angels, men, creatures, Scripture, life, death, heaven, hell, all of it is for the glory of God. Certainly we who are believers, a part of the church, remember that in Ephesians 3:21 it says, "Unto Him be glory in the church...unto Him be glory in the church." You see, everything that God has ever done is to bring Him glory, to bring Him honor. And this is especially true of His work with Israel.
Now listen, the reason God will ultimately redeem Israel is the same reason He redeems us and that is that we might be to the praise of His glory. And that's what He said in Isaiah chapter 43 and verse 21, He said, "This people have I formed for Myself...did you hear that?...not so much for their benefit as Mine, they will show forth My praise." That is His redemptive purpose. So we're not shocked then when we come to the climax of this tremendous treatise on salvation that ends at the close of chapter 11, to find Paul calling us to glory for God who is worthy. The whole amazing redemptive plan was to bring us to the point of giving God glory.
Now Paul has talked about so many things but he now is going to narrow down into his conclusion. And he wants us to glorify God. So in order to do that he focuses on the character of God and gives us four attributes of God at the conclusion of this section...four great character qualities...God's sovereignty, God's integrity, God's generosity and God's incomprehensibility. Four great marks of our glorious God. Instead of questioning God and His plan for Israel, instead of second guessing God as to the setting aside of the Jew, we are to glorify God for the manifestation of His glory in His redemptive plan.
Let's look, first of all, at God's sovereignty in verse 25. "For I would not, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own conceits, that blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in." Now remember Paul just ended a warning, didn't he? He's been talking about the fact that Israel was set aside and Gentiles were grafted in to the tree of blessing. But Gentiles, that is the church, better not be proud, you better not boast, you better not look down on Jews. It is a warning against Gentile pride and anti-Semitism. And the warning is given because the day is coming when Israel is going to be back in the place of blessing and the church is going to be cut off. So we had better not boast. We have not been grafted in because we are better than Jews, but because we have believed and they have not believed. That's the only difference. But the day is going to come when the church ceases to believe and the apostate church will be cut off and Jews will believe and Israel will be grafted back in. So verses 22 to 24 warned against pride and despising of the nation Israel and the Jews. And so we need to be reminded then that blindness in part is happened to Israel only until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.
In other words, God is not finished with that people. It's only until a certain event takes place. And we are not to be ignorant of that. It's an essential purpose in the mind of God.
Now you have to believe that at this juncture in Romans as Paul writes it, he has hit a real joyous point. Because in chapter 9, you remember, he was full of sorrow and heaviness of heart. In chapter 10 he was talking about the great zeal that he had for the salvation of Israel. And the message of all messages that he longed to proclaim was indeed that the day would come when Israel would be redeemed. That was the greatest message that he could write, the time when Israel's blindness would be turned to sight, when Israel's darkness would be turned to light, when Israel's impotence would be turned to might because they would believe in their Messiah.
And so, Paul with great joy has now arrived at the moment where he will present the single most hopeful truth that he carried in his heart. It has been a mystery. Notice it in verse 25, he calls it that. "I don't want you to be ignorant of this mystery," that is to say it has been hidden in the past. It has been hidden. We know that's what a mystery is...something hidden in the past and now revealed. Don't be ignorant of it. Certainly don't be foolishly wise in your own conceit. In other words, thinking too highly of yourselves, making an undue estimate of your knowledge and importance, not based on fact but based on your own self-conceit...based on being a quote/unquote "know-it-all." This mystery God will reveal, don't be a fool and be ignorant of it.
Now the definition of a mystery is given in chapter 16 verse 25. If you'll notice that for a moment. Right at the end of the epistle. "Now to him," and this is a benediction, "that is of power to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began but now is made manifest and by the Scriptures of the prophets," and you can stop at that point.
A mystery is something that's been hidden in the past and is now revealed in the Scripture. And what was hidden in the past was that Israel would be set aside, cut off from blessing, Gentiles grafted in, ultimately Gentiles cut off and Israel grafted back in to the place of blessing. That mystery we are not to be ignorant of. That mystery has now been revealed through the Apostle Paul. And what is the mystery specifically? It's given right in the verse, the two part mystery, that blindness in part is happened to Israel. The mystery is that the Jews would not believe. And the word "blindness", by the way, is really the word "hardened." It's the word hardened, resistant. Blindness in part, notice he puts that "in part" in there? Why? Because their blindness was partial. We've been saying it all along. That doesn't mean that the individuals were partly blind, it's not talking about the degree of blindness. What it means is that the nation was partly blind, that is there were some who were not blind, there was always a...what?...a believing remnant-- a believing remnant.
So, he says blindness in part is happened to Israel. And that was the point of the first ten verses of chapter 11, to show that their blindness was only partial and God had a remnant. Secondly, it was not only partial it was...what?...passing. And that's how the second feature is given, only until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. "Until" indicates time. "Fullness" indicates number of completion. And so, only until a certain time and a certain completion, therefore it's only temporary. So the mystery was that Israel was set aside partially and temporarily. The Jew in the Old Testament never saw that. He saw the nation Israel going along as the blessed people of God and some day the Messiah would come and establish His Kingdom. He didn't see their total rejection and their being cut off the place of blessing and a new country or a new nation or a new people, a new ethnosbeing grafted in, the church, and then becoming the source of witness in the world. And then they being cut off by apostasy and the Jew being grafted back in when the fullness of the Gentiles had come in. And that's the mystery that Paul is unfolding.
Now it's interesting to note to help us define what the fullness of the Gentiles means, some of the terms. As I said, "until" indicates time, "fullness" indicates a number of completion, and "be come in" or "enter in," listen very carefully to this, is the standard term for entering the Kingdom. It's basically the same term as entering in the Kingdom used by our Lord particularly in Matthew very frequently. It is the term used in regard to those who enter in through the narrow gate. It is those who come into the Kingdom of Matthew 5:20. It is used three times in Mark chapter 9. It is used in Luke 13:34, John 3:5, Acts 14:22. It's sort of the standard term for entering the Kingdom. So we conclude then that the Jews are partially set aside until the time when the number of Gentiles is complete that is intended to enter the Kingdom. Did you get that? It's really not that difficult. Jewish unbelief will last only until that time when the complete number of Gentiles who are entering the Kingdom have come to know the Lord...the number of completion, the time of completion.
In Romans 15:16 we find a helpful corollary Scripture. Paul says that, "I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles," reiterating his call, "ministering the gospel of God," notice this, "that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable being sanctified by the Holy Spirit." In other words, he saw himself, as it were, like a priest gathering the Gentiles to offer them up to God. And when that collection of Gentiles is complete, when the fullness of the Gentiles has entered into the Kingdom and the last one has been redeemed, God will gather together the Gentile church to Himself and set out then to graft Israel back in. This is indicated to us, I believe, scripturally as the moment of what great event? The Rapture of the church where the Gentile fullness has arrived and they are embraced, as it were, offered up to God as that full and final sacrifice, collected into His presence and then comes His work with the redemption of Israel.
So, the fullness of the Gentiles, that great event will signal the beginning of God redeeming Israel. And so that's the mystery that Israel would be set aside partially and temporarily until God turns to redeem His people.
It's interesting if you look back at verse 12 for a moment, it says, "If the fall of them," referring to the Jews, "is the riches of the world and the lessening or diminishing the riches of the Gentiles, how much more their fullness." And it's the same idea. Now watch this carefully. The fullness of the Gentiles, that is when the full number of Gentiles are redeemed, the fullness of the Gentiles will bring the salvation of Israel. Follow now, the fullness of Israel will bring the Kingdom. So you have the fullness of the Gentiles and they're raptured out, God redeems Israel and when the fullness of Israel is redeemed, the Kingdom comes. And so with great joy does Paul predict this tremendous event that will bring about what it says in verse 26, "And so all Israel shall be saved," after the fullness of the Gentiles have entered in.
Another text that I think would help us in a perspective is Acts chapter 15 verse 12 and following. "Then all the multitude kept silence and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them," they're reporting back to the Jerusalem Council about Gentiles converting to Christ. "And after they held their peace, James answered saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me, Simeon hath declared how God...that is Simon Peter...how God first did visit the nations to take out of them a people for His name." You see it there? God went into the Gentile world to collect a people, to take that people out. That is the fullness of the Gentiles. And to this agree the words of the prophets, and listen to verse 16, "After this...after what?...after He's taken a people out from among the Gentiles, after He's taken a people for His name, after this I will return and will build again the tabernacle of David which is fallen down and build again its ruins and I will set it up. Then He goes back to the tabernacle of David, which is Israel, and then He redeems Israel in order that the residue of men might seek after the Lord and all the nations upon whom My name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things."
So first there's the gathering out of the Gentiles, then there's the redeeming of the Jews and then there's the glory of the Kingdom. And that's as it's seen in the New Testament and by the prophets even of the Old Testament as well...as we find from that testimony of Peter given to us in the fifteenth chapter of Acts.
Now look at Romans 11:26 and the climax...and this must have just filled Paul's heart with tremendous joy. "And so all Israel shall be saved." You know he wanted to say that. You know he longed to see that. And please, there is no way to interpret that other than as the nation Israel and be fair with the text...no way. It cannot refer to a Jewish remnant, it is set in contrast to the doctrine of the remnant which has already been given. What he is saying is there has always been a remnant and there's always been a group of Jews redeemed but some day the nation will be redeemed. Any other viewpoint does terrible injustice to the text and it is not uncommon for amillennialists to say all you have in verse 26 is another remnant. It is not another remnant. It is set in contrast to that. And that's why it says "all" as opposed to verse 25 where blindness in part is happened. The time will come when all the nation, not just some elect Jews from a future remnant, but all as opposed to not all. And the nation itself will be grafted back in. That's the whole point of his analogy of the olive tree.
Now may I hasten, having said that, to say this, that when we say "all" we mean the nation Israel but that does not mean every single individual Jew alive at that time will be saved. There will be some rejectors. But the great mass of them will believe and the small group will be those who refuse to believe. And we know that because of the twentieth chapter of the prophecy of Ezekiel. And in verse 33 of that twentieth chapter, "As I live, says the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with fury poured out will I rule over you, I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries in which you are scattered with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with fury poured out. I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples and there will I enter into judgment with you face to face; as I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness in the land of Egypt, so will I enter into judgment with you, says the Lord God. I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant." He'll examine every individual, bring them into the covenant. "And I will purge out from among you the rebels and them that transgress against Me."
So in that day when God reaches out to redeem His regathered people, everyone will pass under the rod and the vast majority will believe and embrace the Messiah and be saved, but the rebels there will be and they will be purged out. So it is a thrilling thing to realize that the time of the salvation of the nation Israel in general is indeed coming to pass. It has to be so. It has to be so. It is the promise of Jeremiah in those great passages where he speaks of the new covenant, chapter 31 and verse 31, "Behold the day is come, says the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt which My covenant they broke, although I was an husband unto them, says the Lord." In other words, I'm going to make a covenant with them that isn't going to be like the last one which they broke, "But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel." It isn't going to be with the remnant, it's going to be with a nation, the new covenant...the new covenant. "I will put My law in their inward parts, I will write it in their hearts and will be their God and they shall be My people." See. And then He says, "They shall teach no more every man his neighbor and every man his brother saying, Know the Lord, for they shall all...you ought to circle that, right there in Jeremiah 31:34...they shall ALL know Me from the least of them unto the greatest of them." Why? "For I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more." That's the new covenant and it was made to Israel.
You cannot bypass the fact doctrinally that ultimately God will redeem the nation Israel, not just a Jewish remnant, not just the church who are the spiritual seed of Abraham and thus spiritual Israel, but the nation itself. So promises the Word of God.
In Jeremiah 32 verse 38 he repeats the same things and says, "They shall be My people and I will be their God and I will give them one heart and one way that they may fear Me forever for the good of them and their children after them, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from doing them good but I will put My fear in their hearts that they shall not depart from Me." You see, the difference between the new covenant and the old is the old was on outside the new is where? It's on the inside, it's salvation. He will redeem the nation. He will bring them to the place of blessing promised to them in the Old Testament Scriptures.
Now those are just samples of the Old Testament prophecies that cause us to believe that there must be in the future salvation to the nation Israel. Anything else does not do justice to the biblical text. It is a major Old Testament, New Testament theme.
Now the purpose of all of this is to put God's sovereignty on display. We said the first point is really to call us to see the sovereignty of God. Oh how we see it. Do you see it? God controls history, that is the evidence of His sovereignty. Sovereignty means to be in control, to be in charge. He controls history totally. Human history is moving unwaveringly and inexorably on a track that God has established. And it is moving to the salvation of the nation of Israel. We ought to be able to see that. They are already there in the land, gathered together as a nation, this ancient people while all of their neighbors have centuries ago passed from human history, they still remain...the pure stock of Abraham. And God has kept them because He's not through with them. He controls history in every detail at every juncture at every point, moving to work out His sovereign will with infinite power. And so, Paul helps us to see that Israel is going to be saved and in so seeing that to know that God is the sovereign controller of history. What a comforting thing that is and what cause it is to give Him glory.
God is no victim. God is not reacting to man's acts. God is not adjusting to what happens in the world. God is not replanting and tearing up the old drawings. God is controlling history. He is the sovereign God. And it is an understanding of God's sovereignty in regard to the salvation of Israel which He is working to perfect, that causes the Apostle to cry, "O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God." What an infinite mind to control history to this end.
Secondly, Paul wants us to see not only God's sovereignty but God's integrity...God's integrity. This is marvelous. Because in saving Israel, it's so important, God reveals Himself to be a God who keeps His promises...a God who keeps His promises. Hebrews 10:27 says, "He is faithful that promised." Second Peter 3, "God is not slack concerning His promise." God's promises have not been cancelled. Somebody might say, "Well those promises given in Jeremiah 31:32, Isaiah 62 and so forth, those promises given to the people have been cancelled." "I am the Lord, I change not." Paul called Him the God who cannot lie. And so to demonstrate the integrity of God, look back at verse 26, "So all Israel shall be saved as it is...what?...written." Does that say it? As it is written. If it is written, so shall it be. That's the way it was written and that's exactly the way it will be.
Paul loves to go back to the Old Testament for support. And here he refers to Isaiah 59 verses 20 and 21, "There shall come out of Zion the goel(?), it's translated deliverer. It literally means the strong kinsman who avenges his weaker friends. He reaches back to Isaiah's promise..."There shall come out of Zion the deliverer and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob." And Jacob is just another name for Israel, isn't it? For it was he whose name was changed to Israel.
So the promise of Isaiah 59:20 and 21 is that God is going to save Israel. He is going to turn away ungodliness or lawlessness. He's going to take away their sin. Isaiah 27:9 says it, "Therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged." The point is that Israel's salvation is an absolute necessity as a nation, they're designated as a nation, as Jacob or as Israel. It is an absolute necessity because God promised it. And how can we glorify a God who doesn't keep His word? No, God is a God of integrity. Verse 27 says it, "For this is My...what?...covenant with them, when I shall take away their sins."
God makes a promise, He keeps it. And this was His promise, unconditional. If you go back to Genesis 15 in that mysterious passage, I love it. I remember the first time I heard anyone refer to that chapter I was in my first year of seminary and I was sitting under the teaching of Dr. John Walvord, the president of Dallas Seminary and he taught on Genesis 15. And ever since that time it has been one of the passages in all the Scripture which to me is the most mysterious and curious and wonderful. For there God makes a covenant not like any other covenant, very very unique. He says to Abraham, "Now, Abraham, you get a lot of dead animals and you lay them on the ground...one over here and one over there, half of each on this side and half of each on this side." In other words, cut all the animals in half, don't cut the birds or all you'll have is a handful of feathers. So stick a dead bird on this side, a dead bird on this side and half of an animal here, and the other half here, and another half here, and another half here. And then He gave to Abraham a divine anesthetic and knocked him out and he went to sleep. He fell into a deep sleep and the Lord Himself like a smoking lamp and a burning furnace passed between those pieces.
If you know anything about the culture of the time of Abraham, covenants were cut by blood. And when you make a promise to someone you cut an animal in half and you walked together between the pieces of the animal...that is, you were cutting a covenant by blood and swearing to each other to keep your promise. When God set to make His covenant, He didn't let Abraham go between the pieces, He put him to sleep and went through alone because God was making a covenant not dependent on Abraham but a covenant dependent on His own unchangeable nature. And when God set out to redeem Israel, it was to fulfill the covenant which He made with Himself. And when God makes a covenant with God, nobody's going to break it. And the redemption of Israel is based upon an unconditional covenant that He would bless the people who came out of the loins of Abraham. And that Abrahamic covenant eventually passed into the new covenant which is equally unconditional and based upon the sovereign purpose and promise of eternal God Himself who is unwavering in His ability to keep His promise.
Listen to Numbers 23:19, "God is not a man that He should lie, neither the son of man that He should repent, hath He said and shall He not do it? Hath He spoken and shall He not make it good?" Numbers 23:19.
The next two verses reinforce this. Verse 28, "As concerning the gospel therefore...coming out of the idea that God has made a promise He won't break, He has integrity...as concerning the gospel, or with reference to the gospel, the Jews are enemies for your sakes." Now we've studied that, haven't we? The Jews are enemies. Presently they are the enemies of God. They are not His friends. They have been cast away, as it said in verse 15. They have been put aside because of their unbelief. And they are now enemies. It's true in relation to the gospel. But, look at verse 28, "In relation to election, they are...what?...beloved...they re beloved." Now what is this dichotomy saying? Well on the one hand based on their response to the gospel, they are enemies. But based upon God's promise when He called them, which promise, notice the end of verse 28, He gave to the fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, they are beloved. If you want a good title for Israel, they are Israel, God's beloved enemy. At one and the same time they are beloved and enemies. Concerning the gospel, they're enemies. As touching the choice of God, they are beloved for the fathers' sake. And he reemphasizes a very important thing. The father here is not God, the apostrophe comes after the "s", it's plural fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to whom God made and reiterated the covenant.
In other words, when He elected the people Israel and gave promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, He bound Himself to keep that promise. Elect is simply to choose. He chose them. Made the promise to their fathers and now will fulfill that. So in terms of election they are still His beloved, even though at the present they are enemies. Israel is in a very peculiar position. And don't you sense in your heart the same feeling? I don't know how you are but when I look at Israel, when I look at the Jewish people, I have that same sense of dichotomy, that they are the beloved enemy of God. Enemies concerning the gospel but beloved concerning the election of God, promised to the fathers to be fulfilled in the future. And so while for the moment there is a hopelessness as we see their enemy profile dominating, we look to the future when their beloved profile will totally dominate in the moment and time of their salvation.
And so, God keeps His Word, says verse 29, for the gifts, charisma, grace gifts, charis, grace, for the grace gifts and calling of God are without...what?...repentance or change. Boy, that's it. Can you earn grace? And you couldn't forfeit it either. If you did nothing to get it, you could do nothing to lose it. It's grace. The grace gifts of God and the calling of God, it's the same term as election, can never be changed. The word "without repentance" is one word, it's ametamelomai, metamelomaimeans to regret...ais an alpha that adds a negative. God will never regret, He'll never change His mind in regard to His promise. You see, He has integrity. Oh what a wonderful truth that is. We can give glory to a God who has absolute integrity. He is not like men.
Are you weary of the fact that men make promises they never keep? Then look at God in contrast. Men make covenants and break them all the time, vows and violate them constantly. God has integrity. Bless His name for that. And so we rejoice then, and we can say when we come to that great doxology, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God, how unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out." And then in verse 36, "To whom be glory forever, amen." For He is a God who is sovereign and He is a God of integrity.
Now there are two more, we'll save those for next Sunday evening. And then we will finish the eleventh chapter. Let's share together in prayer.
Father, sometimes we feel like little children in grade school. Our feeble minds so easily distracted. Some of us have struggled to give attention for 45 minutes, we have wandered in our thinking because we do not really sense and appreciate the fullness of what You've given us in Your Word, because we have never learned to train our senses to the full attention that You deserve when You speak. And so forgive us for our distractions. But, Lord, drive deep within our hearts the affirmation of this text that You are a sovereign God, that You control history, that You are a God of integrity, that when You say it You'll do it. And even though Your people have rejected You, they are still the beloved enemy, concerning the gospel an enemy, concerning the election beloved, because You make a promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and You cannot break it. O how we thank You for that because that secures us in the promise made to us in Christ. And we thank You, Father, that all that we live for can be simply reduced to one perspective that we need focus on and that is Your glory...Your glory...nothing less, nothing more. May we live always and each moment to Your glory, for that is why we're here.
And if there's anyone who has denied that, who have not the knowledge of Christ, who refuse to give You glory, may it be that before the darkness comes, before they stumble and fall irreprobably, irremedially and eternally that they come to embrace the Savior. And, O God, how our hearts rejoice that we belong to Thee and all is in the control of unwavering power and promise for Christ's sake. Amen.