In our study of the book of Acts, we have just really begun with the dominant theme of the book of Acts, the apostolic preaching of the cross. As we have gone into chapter four, we have seen Peter as the dominant character as he's preaching Christ. And we have noticed that in the early chapters of Acts, in Peter's sermon, he is using indications that relate to the history of Israel. He speaks out of the context of Israel's knowledge, and of their history and their law and of their covenants.
And specifically in chapter 3 in his message to the Jews in the outer court of the temple, he makes the statement in verse 19 and kind of an invitation to his message, "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, in order that the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord." We’ve studied and determined that the times of refreshing and the times of restitution are kingdom terms. They are terms which relate to God's promised kingdom to Israel.
And we saw that what Peter was doing in a very gracious sense from the heart of God was kind of an other...another offer to Israel to respond to Messiah, and receive all of those things that had been promised to them. And we saw the parable in the gospels how that the man, the king whose son was to be married called for the guests to come, and they didn't come the first time, and then he sent his servants again and called for them the second time and they didn't come, and then we saw how that he went out into the highways and byways and just gathered anyone who would come. And we saw that that was a picture of the offer of the kingdom on two occasions to Israel, which after the second rejection, therefore was never offered again, and rather the message was to everybody to come to Christ. And so we've begun to see this thing.
And as we’ve finished up the gospel of John and gone into this in the book of Acts, we have been made very much aware of the animosity and the bitterness and the hatred of Israel toward Jesus Christ and everybody who represented him. And we have been... We have been as hard as we... We might say it this way, we've been as hard on Israel as the Word of God has been.
And I mentioned to you a couple weeks ago that there needs to be a balancing factor as we are looking at so much of the negative on Israel's side, and the fact that they rejected their Messiah and are indicted twice by Peter for executing their Messiah. And as we studied something of their pharisaical approach to God, which is a self-righteous thing which God despised, and we began to see all the negative picture of Israel, and we become very concerned as to what God's attitude is toward Israel in view of what they did to Messiah.
And it's interesting for me, as I study chapter 3 of the book of Acts, to find that Peter says to them, "You have killed the Prince of Life, you have destroyed your own Messiah, you desired a murderer to be released unto you, and you refuse the Just One," in effect you desired an unjust one. And after all of this is said, he comes right back at them and says, "But still, God's grace calls to you and offers you the times of refreshing for" he says in verse 25 "you are still the sons of the prophets, you are still the sons of the covenant which God made with Abraham".
And so then in a very real sense, though they had forfeited their kingdom in the sense of rejecting their Messiah, they still remained the children of the covenant, according to Acts 3:25. Now that brings up the very important question, what is Israel's place in God's plan? And lest we would miss out on that in the book of Acts, I'm going to divert and call your attention to the book of Romans. Because I do feel that we need of kind of side-track ourselves to get a clear picture of where Israel fits into God's plan. And so if you want to just open to Romans 2 and just hold there for a minute, I'll get with you on that after a couple more introductory thoughts.
But the question that poses itself to us as we approach this is: Is God through with Israel? Is He finished dealing with them on a national basis? Is it true that Israel's day is over, that the elect, inclusive church has now become the recipient of all of God’s promises and all of the blessings of covenant grace. If that is true then what happens to Israel? What do we say to them today? What information do we have from the text that gives them a gracious alternative to the removal of all of their blessings? We want to find that out.
Has God canceled all his promises with Israel? True, they rejected Christ, executed Him, then even after that when Peter graciously preached again in chapter 4, 1-3, they responded by arresting Peter and John, still negative. And interestingly enough, from chapter 4 of Acts on, nobody talks to Israel about the kingdom again. And as I said, the parable indicated they would have two times, and they had those two times. But are they thus removed altogether from God's plan? That's the question.
Now the apostle Paul, in the book of Romans in chapter 2 begins a treatise in which he discusses not only Israel's place with God but everybody's place with God. But Paul, because of the nature of the way he taught, and because of his Jewish context and particularly his message of justification by faith, is accused of being a traitor. He is accused many times of taking away from Israel all that was rightfully theirs. And this accusation comes not without some kind of understanding. Look at chapter 2 verse 17. Now Paul in chapter 1 indicts the Gentiles. And he says Gentiles are apart from God, that's just basic. But he also does the same thing to the Jews in chapter 2, and then he concludes all men in sin, in chapter 3.
But in chapter 2 he wants us to see that the Jews are also cut off from God. Well this of course was a traumatic expression in itself to the mind of a Jew, who felt himself close to God, and certainly God's chosen one, and for Paul to lower the boom on Israel is a very difficult thing for them to handle. And naturally, their conclusion would be that the message then of Christianity is the message of Israel forfeiting everything.
Listen to what Paul says that could well bring about this feeling. Verse 17, and here he attacks the two jury...Jewish securities. The Jews held their security on two bases. Number one they possessed the law, number two they were circumcised, or they were Jewish. On the law, the possession of the law and race, they were Jewish. They felt that because of those two things, they were secure in God; that no matter what God did to other nations, no matter what they did as individuals, God would preserve them because they possessed the law and they were circumcised the eighth day. They went through that little operation that made knowledgeable and obvious that they were Jews. So, those were their securities.
But Paul explodes them one at a time. Verse 17, "If thou art called a Jew, and resteth in the law, and makest thy boast of God, and knowest His will" - and here he's a little bit sarcastic - "and approveth the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law and art confident that thou art thyself a guide to the blind and a light to them...or of them who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, who hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law, thou therefore who teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?" In other words, if you've got all of God's law, and you're...you’re convinced that you can teach it and that this is the thing that God has given you in a very special way in terms of your knowledge and that which you possess, then why don't you live by it? And the point that Paul is making is this: It's not enough to have the law; you've got to live by it. So he explodes the first security that the Jews held, and that was the possession of the law. They weren't always so concerned with doing it, only with possessing it.
James brings up the same issue when he says, "Be not only hearers of the word, but doers deceiving your own selves." It's not enough to possess, it's only enough to obey. And so in 21 he says you're around preaching that a man shouldn't steal, are you stealing? Are you saying, in verse 22, a man shouldn't commit adultery, do you do it? You abhor idols, do you commit sacrilege? Thou that makest thy boast in the law through breaking the law dishonorest thou God and the result is the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.
Instead of being a testimony, they were a detriment because they misunderstood their relation to God. They were smugly secure in the possession of the law as opposed to obedience. So he explodes the security of the law.
Secondly, he explodes the security of Jewishness, in verse 25. "Circumcision verily profiteth if you keep the law." Doesn't do any good if you don't keep the law. Like I told you about the boxer who always crossed himself before a fight, and the little boy said to his dad, "Does it do any good?" And he said, "It does if he can fight". Circumcision verily profiteth if the...if you keep the law. Doesn't do any good at all to be a Jew and not obey. That is pointless. He even goes so far to say in verse 27 that a non-Jew, a Gentile who’s uncircumcised, if he obeys the law, is a lot better off than the Jew.
And the point is in verses 28 and 29: "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh, but he is a Jew who is one inwardly and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter, whose praise is not of men but of God." Now we went into the detail in our study of Romans 2. I'm not going to do it here. But let me just say that what he's saying is that Jewishness is a question of an inward attitude toward God, an attitude of obedience.
But you can understand that after Paul has presented this, in which he's destroyed the law of possession as a means of salvation, and he's restored Jewishness as...I should say he’s destroyed Jewishness as a means of salvation, that the natural question the Jew is going to ask is this: Well then what's the big deal about being a Jew? Why did God go to all that hassle? And that's exactly the question that Paul poses in chapter 3 verse 1: "What advantage then hath the Jew?" What profit is there in being a Jew or circumcised? Now that's the question.
Paul was often accused of destroying the uniqueness of Judaism, of wiping out that which God had designed in Judaism. And Paul replies in verse 2 by saying it has a lot of benefit, “much every way, chiefly unto them...chiefly because unto them were committed the oracles of God.” You have all the right information. And if you live according to the right information, you have the promise of God's blessing. That's a plus. That's a plus.
And the Jew needed an answer to this question. Paul had been going around preaching that everybody who believes in God and by faith comes to God is justified, and thus he was sort of leveling everybody. There was no more uniqueness for Judaism. There was no more uniqueness in being a Jew and possessing the law, because everybody who came to God by faith was in. But you see, this reflects a basic misunderstanding from the very start on the part of Israel. They... God never chose Israel to wrap Israel in His arms and stroke Israel. That is not what God had in mind. God never selected Israel to be His pet. God never selected Israel to be only the ones that He cared about. He selected Israel to be a channel to the world, you see. No more than God chooses me, saves me and then wants me to jump up in His lap and sit there all my life. He chose me to be involved in reaching other people with the message of the Gospel, and to be actively serving Him for His praise and His glory.
And so Israel was chosen not as an end in itself. Israel is not designed to be like a box canyon where God just runs all of His blessings in there and stores them up. Israel was designed to be a channel. Israel was not designed to be a repository where God dumped all of the wad of His great blessings, and just said, "You do what you want with them, they're all yours and nobody else's." That isn't the point, Israel was only a channel.
But Israel misconstrued that. Israel stopped being the channel, blocked it up, made it into a boxed canyon and said, "We have the law and we have the circumcision, and it’s us four, no more, shut the door," see? And that was the problem. They had rejected the plan that God had given for their existence.
And so it was a basic misunderstanding on their part because of their sinfulness and selfishness that even brought about this misunderstanding of justification by faith because you go clear black to Habakkuk, and Habakkuk said the just shall live by what? By faith, that's as old as God's revelation. You read Hebrews chapter 11 and you find that all of the Old Testament saints did what they did in pleasing God by faith.
And so it was their misconception to begin with that brought about the problem. So when Paul pops up and preaches justification by faith, that's nothing new at all. That's old stuff that they should have known. But they had become an end in themselves, therefore they thought that salvation came in nationalism, being Jewish, and in possessing the law, and Paul explodes that and so the only hope they have is to say, well then why are we in existence, what advantage? What advantage? Well the advantage is the same advantage that the principle of Scripture that says, "To whom much is given, much is required" brings out. And the point is this: If you're faithful in much, the Lord will reward you much.
Israel was given a great responsibility. Had they filled that responsibility they would have been greatly blessed. They had all that they needed. They had all the oracles of God. They had all of those things that God had promised in terms of blessing them if they had been faithful, and they forfeited them all. And they were so twisted up by the time Paul arrived on the scene, historically, that they couldn't even figure out what they were for if it wasn't just to sit there and...and be the dump station for God to unload His blessings.
But even with this in their minds and hearts, they were right in assuming that God wasn't through with them. They were right. Because, you know, if they read their Old Testament right, they...they would be in problems if...if...Paul would be in problems I should say, if they started saying God's through with Israel altogether. They would have a real hard time accepting that.
For example, the book of Daniel brings us out in many, but let me just give you a couple. Daniel 2:44 says the Lord of Heaven shall set up a kingdom, you know, which shall never be destroyed, it shall stand forever. Then in Daniel chapter 7 versus 13 and 14, it talks about the vision that he had there, and it was given unto the Son of Man dominion and glory and a kingdom and so forth and so on. It was an everlasting dominion, a kingdom which couldn't be destroyed. Verse 27 the kingdom and dominion and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High. So it was promised even then to God's people, to Israel, a kingdom. Now if Paul comes along and says, "I'm sorry, it's not going to be anymore, you blew it, God cancelled it," then there's a real problem. There's a problem not only with Israel's future, but there's a problem with the validity of God's promises. So if Peter preaches and Israel rejects, does that mean they're finished forever? Paul answers that just beginning in Romans 3 when he says no, there are benefits. Under you are committed the oracles of God, and then he goes on to say this. What if some didn't believe? What if he did blow it? What if the majority of Israel blew it? Does that cancel the promises of God? Shall their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? God forbid, no! That's the strongest negative there is in the Greek, m genoito, no way, it can't be. “Let God be true, and every man a liar.” If every man in the world is a liar, God will still be true.
God might be justified in what He says. God says it, He promises it; it'll be that way. And that's the beginning of his answer.
Now the full expansion of his answer is in Romans 9-11, turn to that. And this morning's message is a little bit different. It's not like the messages we normally give. It's kind of rambling through Romans. But I will just pick out a few things here as the Spirit of God directs us, so that you'll understand God's relationship to Israel.
In Romans 9, 10 and 11, Paul shows us that it is true that Israel is set aside. In chapter 9 and 10, Paul really comes down heavy on the fact that Israel is set aside. But in chapter 11 he brings up two points. He says their setting aside is - watch this - "partial and temporary," partial and temporary. They are set aside, chapter 9 and 10, but temporarily and partially, chapter 11 says. And the point of it is that they were set aside because of what they failed to do.
Let me just pick it up and see if I can illustrate it again from what I was speaking about a few moments ago. If we had a river, say, that was running to supply water for a certain city. And there was a great upheaval or an earthquake or something happened and a mountain fell into that river or a landslide or whatever, and it blocked up that river. Then the only wise thing to do would be to cut a channel, because the water needs to get to those people whose life depends on it. And so engineers would move in, they would cut a fresh channel through the river. That's essentially what God was doing in dealing with Israel, in His move from Israel to the church.
God had designed that Israel be His channel. God chose Israel in the first place to use them as a witness to the world. If you look at the Old Testament you will find that Israel had several responsibilities. They were to proclaim the existence of God to everybody, which they failed to do. They were to reveal Messiah, to be His priest nation, to preserve and transmit Scripture, to show the faithfulness of God, to witness to His unity – “The Lord our God is one Lord.” - to show the blessedness of serving God, and to reveal to the world God's grace in dealing with sin. Now those are the dominant Old Testament themes with Israel. That's what they were to do. But they didn't do that.
And a classic illustration is Jonah. You remember Jonah, took a short ride on a long fish. Jonah was told to do a simple thing. Jonah, you're a prophet, go to Nineveh, and tell Nineveh the truth of God. Well, one thing Jonah couldn't stand, it was Gentiles horning in on his God. Now if that isn't the absolute antithesis of what God designed to Israel, I don't know what is. So rather than go to Nineveh, and proclaim the message of truth to Gentiles, he went the opposite direction. And God had to go about creating a fish to divert Jonah. And it's no wonder that fish threw up Jonah. A prophet as rotten as Jonah would make anybody sick.
Anyway, you remember that Jonah was vomited up, and after that experience, he went to Nineveh. And he went there, and he preached and what happened? The whole place repented. And you would think that Jonah would have a great time. Jonah went out of the city and he said, "God, kill me, I can't hack Gentile belief." That was his whole point. He got out there moaning and groaning because these Gentiles were believing.
Now that shows you even by the time of Jonah how far afield Israel had come from its design to be a channel for God's revelation to the world. They were only to be witnesses; they were not the end, they were the channel or the means. And so when the channel got clogged up with sin and unbelief and unwillingness and selfishness, then God had to cut a fresh channel, and that He cut in the form of the church.
And in the church, as Ephesians 2 says, there are Jew and Gentile, and we’re no more two; we’re one, right? Whether bond or free, male or female, Jew or Gentile; whatever it is, we're one in Christ, in this new channel. And if you want to just get a clear statement about that, you can read with that in mind Acts 1:8, in which Jesus said, "Ye shall receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you and ye shall be witnesses unto me." He was saying there's coming a big change, no more is Israel to be My vehicle, you in the church born on the day of Pentecost, you will be My witnesses to the world. Jesus even said to his own disciples, "Go ye into all the world and” do what? “Preach the gospel to every creature." You see, He was cutting a new channel in the church. Israel was set aside.
Now Paul begins Romans 9 with a recognition of this. Look at it, and we'll just kind of skip through it just to give you a little bit of the setting. And I love this about Paul, because this is the right kind of an attitude. This is not a Jonah, this is a Paul, and he's got a different attitude towards communicating. He's a part of the new channel and he wants to evangelize the old channel. He says, "I say the truth in Christ, my conscience also bearing witness in the Holy Spirit that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart, for I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen, according to the flesh." That's a passionate man, isn't it? You think he loved souls? He said, I could wish myself accursed from Christ for their sins.
And I love the fact that he doesn't just talk to us about his love of souls, he says, God, You bear witness to this. “I say the truth in Christ. My conscience bears witness in the Holy Spirit.”
You know it’s one thing to say I love souls, that's a fine thing. And it’s one thing to say to somebody else, I love souls. But say it to God and see if it sounds believable. Or say it like Paul said. I love souls; the Spirit bears witness that it's true. And see if your life would match that claim.
And so Paul was broken up about Israel being set aside. He was broken up that the channel was blocked, and that God had to go another direction; it hurt. Look at verse 4. He adds this especially because the Israelites had the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, the promises, the fathers, and even had the Messiah according to the flesh. They had everything. God unloaded everything that He had on them, and had to set them aside. And then naturally, the question would come up, well how did it happen? Why were they set aside? And the first answer he gives is because God set them aside by His own sovereign will. And here we get into the area of God's absolute sovereignty.
And in verses 6-24 he just talks about the absolute sovereignty of God. He says God set them aside because that's the way God is, He can do what He wants. He is God. He will have mercy upon whom he will have mercy, verse 15, he will have compassion on whom he will have compassion. He says that even Esau and Jacob were chosen before they were born. “Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated.” And his point is this: Israel is set aside because God designed it to be so.
You see, God wants to reach the Gentiles. And God, seeing Israel blocking the channel, designed a new channel to reach the world. God designed it that way. But even pushing it back further, it was in the sovereign mind of God before the world ever began. You see in the...in the book of Romans, and really throughout Scripture, nothing ever escapes the sovereignty of God. He is doing everything that is done, not necessarily actively, but He permits it. You have that indicated later in Romans 9 where he says in verse 23...well verse 22, that God, and this is interesting, well let's go back to verse 21: "Hath not the potter power over the clay of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor?" In other words, there's an active verb. He makes certain vessels unto honor. But then in verse 22, “what if God willing to show his wrath and make his power known, endured with much long suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.” That's a passive. God makes men unto honor. God allows them to be made unto dishonor.
So God's sovereignty is only active in salvation. But it is permissive in terms of judgment. I don't want to get into this in detail. If you have problems about that you can get those tapes on that passage. But the point is: Nothing ever escapes the sovereignty of God. You say well I don't understand the difference between sovereignty and free will. It's very simple. The Bible says that God is absolutely sovereign, that God does everything by His own will, that He chooses people to be saved. Before the world began He wrote their names in His book, that He redeems them in His own good time by His own power, by His own will. Jesus said no man comes unto Me except what? Father draws. You say, but doesn't the Bible say, “Let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will let him come, take of the water of life freely”? Sure it says that. You say those are two opposites. Of course they are. Praise the Lord. They're two absolute opposites.
You have over here absolute sovereignty, and you have over here the choice of man. You say well how do you fit them together? You don't. And what bothers me is so many men try to bring the two together. And when you bring the two together, you've destroyed both of them. Let them exist. The problem is, God's not mine, for Jesus said in the same breath, “No man cometh unto me except the Father draw him, and then He turned right around and said “but him that cometh unto me” what? “I'll in no wise cast out.”
Let God be sovereign, and yet, let man respond to his own heart cry, and let God worry about resolving it. And if you take both and try to blend them, you've destroyed both.
But nothing escapes the sovereignty of God. Israel was set aside because God designed to set them aside. That's the divine side of it.
This is the human side. They were set aside humanly because they sinned. And God's sovereignty in letting individuals go to hell, and letting them be judged and in being active in their judgment, is never apart from their own willful unbelief. And that we find in verses 31, 32 and 33.
But Israel who followed after the law of righteousness had not attained to the law of righteousness. Why didn't they? They had the law in their hands. Why didn't they make it? Why didn't they live up? Why? Verse 32: "Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the (What’s the next word?) works." You see, instead of believing God, they thought they could be righteous by works. And they stumbled over the stumbling stone. Christ came along and started talking about faith and they fell all over themselves. They couldn't figure that out at all. They were all messed up by that time.
And so Israel is set aside, the channel is cut off, the channel is no longer being used, not only as a channel to reach the world, but Israel is no longer the recipient of God's blessing for two reasons: Number one, God designed it that way, and number two, they didn't believe. And they did not obey the standard of righteousness, which was faith, and rather substituted their own works.
And this is so sad. And what's so grieving about it is that for what they did, they were really zealous. I mean, they were really working on the works thing, you know. They were going at it whole hog. Probably shouldn't be used in reference to Israel, but nevertheless. They were after it. In chapter 10 verse 1, listen to what Paul says: "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved, for I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” They've got an ignorant zeal. They're going at it, but it's not right. I don't know if you ever studied much about the zeal of the orthodox in Judaism, but it's a fantastic thing. And though they are to be condemned for their self-righteousness, they are to be commended for their zeal. No one can ever default their zeal.
And don't forget, in Israel, you watch those orthodox Jewish people praying constantly, at every interval during the day, and if anybody drives through a certain part of town on the Sabbath, they get...their car gets stoned. And if anybody interrupts their session of prayer or does anything out of order, it's a very serious thing. They are zealous for their own adherence to the law.
Take the Sabbath for example, a couple of illustrations. It was stated exactly how far a man could walk on the Sabbath, and he could walk no further. He could lift nothing that weighed more than two dried figs. No food could be cooked. In the case of sickness he could take a measure to keep a man from dying, but not anything that would make him any better. Imagine flirting with that balance. And there are still some orthodox Jews who according to the old law which said that they're not allowed to poke a fire on the Sabbath, have in their homes electronic clocks to turn their lights on, on the Sabbath. Now we laugh at that, but it's not a laughing matter, it's very serious. It's something to admire, that kind of zeal. Would to God that we had such zeal for...for the grace life!
The fourth book of Maccabees... I don't know if you ever read any of the Apocrypha. It comes between the Old and the New Testament. Some of you who are Catholic folks or who are formerly Catholics have read that. And that of course is not inspired by God. It's historical information. Some of it is true, some of it is not. But there's some interesting accounts there that are historically true. One from the fourth book of Maccabees is regarding the incredible story of Eliezer the priest. He was brought before Antiochus Epiphanes. Now Antiochus Epiphanes was a strange character, to put it mildly. His name was Antiochus and he called himself Epiphanes, which means "the great one." He had an ego problem. The Jews called him Antiochus Epimones, which means “the mad man.”
Now he was intent on stamping out Jewish religion. And so he ordered Eliezer into his presence, and he ordered him to eat pork. And he refused to eat it. The Old Testament, you know, forbade that, for sanitary reasons and dietary reasons, of course. And he said, "No, not if you pluck out my eyes and burn me." So he was ordered to be beaten. His flesh was torn, says the historian, off by whips and he streamed down with blood and his flanks were laid open by wounds. He fell and the soldiers kicked him and he was killed. In dying, says the historian, he said, "I am dying by fiery torment for the law's sake." You say that's a lot of fuss over a little pork. And you're right. But that's some indication of the zeal of Israel. For the law they were zealous, but they were wrong. They were so wrong.
Incredible that a man would die rather than eat pork! But they were so blinded by the striving for self-righteousness and the keeping of the law that all their zeal was for naught. And verse 3, Paul says, "They were ignorant of God's righteousness." You see, they didn't know that it was God's righteousness imputed to them by faith, so they went about trying to establish what? Their own righteousness; and they never submitted to the righteousness of God.
And so verse 4, when Christ came along who was the end of righteousness for all men, they didn't know they needed Him. They didn't know there was only one way to be saved, and that's in verse 9: "If thou should confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” It's a matter of faith, not deeds. Verse 13 he says: "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." And then they argue in verse 14, well how are we going to call on Him if we've never heard? And then he goes on to say... The arguer says, yeah, no one ever preached and no one ever sent the preacher. And he says, oh come on, you've heard, you've heard plenty. You've heard it over and over again. But verse 21, God said, "All day long I've stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient, contrary people." Israel wouldn't believe. They wouldn't believe.
So the apostle Paul says they were cut of...cut off because of unbelief. And the one thing that could have brought them back into God's blessing was believing in Christ. And because they thought they had their own righteousness, they rejected the righteousness that He offered, which was the only true righteousness and therefore they maintained their place outside God's will. And so we ask the question again, is He finished with them? And Romans 9 and Romans 10 says yes. But Romans 11 says, only partially, and only temporarily.
Next week we'll talk about the temporary part, but let's look at the partial part briefly this morning. That's the introduction, here's the sermon.
A brief one, indeed it’ll be, just a few verses in Romans 11.
Paul says I'm going to give you three proofs, three proofs that God has only set Israel aside partially, partially. Proof number one: The writer, the writer, Paul himself. Look at verse 1: "I say then, if this is true that they're a disobedient, contrary people who have rejected God over and over again and gone about to establish their own righteousness and refused Christ's righteousness, if that's true, hath God cast away his people? Has He sent them away? Has He said, ‘That's all Israel, I'm finished with you.’? God forbid," he says, which in modern language would be no, no, no, no, no. It's m genoito in Greek, it's the strongest, emphatic negative there is. It means, "May it never be." No, He has not cast away His people. Samuel said this, mark it well. First Samuel, 12:22: "For the Lord will not forsake His people." Why? "For His great name’s sake, because it hath pleased the Lord to make you His people." If God ever forsook Israel, it would reflect upon His name. What does that mean? That means He would disparage His own character.
Is God through with Israel? I read you Psalm 89. Psalm 89, reflecting upon God's covenant with Israel, to give them a kingdom through David. Have they forfeited the kingdom? Listen to Psalm 89:31: "If they break My statutes and keep not My commandments, then will I visit their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes." He said, if they disobey Me and break My commandment, I'll let them have it. But listen to this: "Nevertheless, (get it, My loving-kindness chesed, grace), my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from them, nor allow My faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor will I alter the thing that is gone out of My lips. Once have I sworn by My holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure forever, his throne as the sun before Me. It shall be established forever like the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven." God says I will not violate My promise to David. And what His promise to David was, was simply an earthly kingdom, for David and his seed. Did God violate it? God forbid, He has not cast away His people.
Illustration number one, Paul says, "for I am (what?) an Israelite." I'm a classic example that all the Jews haven't been cast out. I'm here, God loves me, I'm redeemed, I'm blessed, I'm proof, and he says, I'm a real Jew, I'm not a proselyte. I am of Israel of the seed of Abraham of the tribe of Benjamin. You remember what he says in Philippines, isn’t it 3:5 and 6, yes, circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, tribe of Benjamin, Hebrew of the Hebrews, a Pharisee. He says, "I was so zealous I was killing the church, touching the righteousness in the law blameless.” I kept that law down to the nitty-gritty." Paul says, you see, I'm a Jew. God's not through with Israel, it's only partial, you see? It's only partial. I'm a Jew.
He defends that also in Acts 21:38 through the beginning of chapter 22. He was of the seed of Abraham, the tribe of Benjamin. It's interesting that the most famous person in the tribe of Benjamin was Saul the king. It's very likely that Paul, being in the tribe of Benjamin, was named Saul by his parents. A lot of boys were in the tribe of Benjamin. The Lord changed his name. And so Paul says is God finished with Israel? No, I'm a Jew and He's not finished with me.
Second illustration: Not only the writer, but the remnant, verses 2-6. Look at verse 2: "Got hath not cast away His people whom He foreknew," and there’s the direct statement. God didn't set His people aside, He foreknew them. Notice the term “His people, whom He foreknew.” “Foreknow” in the Bible, we've talked about it many times, I will quickly review. Foreknowledge in the Bible has to do with predetermined love relationship. Some people say that God chooses on the basis of His foreknowledge, and they define foreknowledge as God looking ahead and seeing what's going to happen. No it is not. Foreknowledge, scripturally, has to do with God's predetermination to love. It said in the Old Testament Cain knew his wife and she bare a child. That... That means that intimate love relationship. Joseph was shook up when Mary was pregnant because he had not known her. Jesus said in John 10, "I know My sheep." Paul said in Philippines 3, "that I may know Him." This word frequently implies the intimacy of a binding love relationship in its simplest and purest form. And thus it is used in terms of the foreknowledge of God and we've traced that through in Scripture in past messages. We won't do it here.
But God has not cast away His people whom He predetermined to have a love relationship with. He has not set aside Israel, and He shows how He always has a remnant. Verse 5: "At this present time there is a remnant." God always has a remnant. And someday they will be restored. And even now, some are saved Jewish people, the remnant today.
And he illustrates this by taking from Elijah. You remember Elijah was an interesting guy. Listen to this, the account of Elijah. From 1 Kings 19 he takes this: "Know ye not" verse 2 "what the Scripture saith of Elijah, how he maketh intercession to God against Israel saying...” Oh, Elijah hit the bottom a lot of times. And he was really shook this time. So here's his prayer in verse 3: "Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and dug down thine altars" and here comes this “poor me” thing "and I am left alone, they seek my life. It’s only me Lord. I'm the only faithful guy left." See? In fact when you read 1 Kings 19 he repeats the same prayer twice in a row, just kind of mumbling it over. He's really feeling sorry for himself. "Only one left, I'm the only faithful one."
You say well what are these altars? That they killed the prophets and dug down the altars? Well evidently after the degeneracy and apostasy of the ten tribes in the north, many of the altars were erected in secret places by really faithful Jews, and they were using them to worship God. But under Ahab, the apostates and the haters of true worship destroyed all those altars.
So they had just wiped out everything — the prophets, the altars, everything — and Elijah concluded he was the only one left. He was shook. You know, I don't know why he would get so shook like this. He had been in some confrontations that were really... You remember at Mount Carmel, Elijah got up there on Mount Carmel and he defied all those hundreds and hundreds of priests of Baal, and God even told him to take a sword and kill them all. Can you imagine that? One against hundreds. And he didn't have any problem, just took his sword and you know, they didn't just get in line and go like this. I mean, there had to be some kind of a battle or something, and he just went through the whole lot of them, cleaned them all out. They were all done, all beheaded. Took care of that, had no problem with over 500 men.
The next thing that we read about him is there's one woman after him by the name of Jezebel, and he panics. I suppose there is a message in that, somewhere.
But Elijah had his ups and had his downs. That's for sure. And here he is down. And so God answered Elijah in 1 Kings 19 and He said in verse 4, it's recorded here: "But what sayeth the answer of God unto him?" What did God say? He says, “I have reserved to myself 7,000 men.” Isn't that good? They haven't bowed their knee to Baal. You're not the only one Elijah, you got 7,000 others." That's not very many, but God always has a remnant. God always, always has a faithful remnant. He always maintains his faithful.
Go back to Romans 9:6 and you read, "Not as though the Word of God hath taken no effect, for they are not all Israel who are of Israel." There are only selected ones of faith who are the true Israel. God always in all Israel's history had a small remnant that was His elect. In Elijah's time there were only 7,000 who hadn't bowed to Baal.
In Isaiah's time there was a very small remnant for whom God spared the nation. In the captivity, the remnant is exemplified in Jews like Esther, Mordicai, Ezekiel, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego. At the end of the seventy-year captivity the remnant were those who were returned under Ezra and Nehemiah, Zerubbabel. In Malachi’s time there was a small group who sought God and their names were written in a book of remembrance, that they should be His in the day that He makes up His jewels. At the Lord's time there were even then the believing remnant; John the Baptist, Anna, Simeon, and Luke 2:38 says there were those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. During the church age there is a remnant even today, and that's verse 5: "Even so at the present time there's a remnant according to the election of grace."
Curiosity, how many of you are a part of that remnant? How many are believing Jews? Put your hands up, way up. Okay, believing Jews; maybe 10, 12, 15. Okay good, put your hands down. That's the remnant, folks. If you'd like to meet the Jewish remnant, that's them. Those are God's faithful chosen ones; He always has them in every age. And it's a wonderful thing going on today among the Jews. There's a great addition being made to the remnant, much to the chagrin of many of the rabbis, to the joy of those who know Christ.
And so God has His remnant, and there’s coming a day when all Israel will be saved. You say you really believe that? I believe it, because that's what the Bible says. Romans 11:26: "And so all Israel shall be saved." Now I don't have to be much of a Bible interpreter to understand that. That's what it says. And it even tells us that during the time of the tribulation, and that's in Revelation 7, that when God has his chosen missionaries, He takes 12,000 from every tribe of Israel. You say, I thought those were from a certain cult. No, no, it tells you where they're from, it says. Now again it says "of the tribe of Judah were 12,000." Now that's what it says. Now if God meant to say that there were of the tribe of Judah, and there were 12,000, He probably would have said, of the tribe of Judah and there were 12,000, because that does express it rather clearly.
And then He goes on to talk about Reuben, and get 12,000 of every tribe. And they go out and they preach and the whole nation is saved. You say, but that's in the future. Yes, I believe that's in the tribulation. That's in the period of tribulation. The church is taken out of the world with the rapture. I don't want to get into all this. We'll get into these questions if you have them tonight. But the church is taken out of the world at the rapture. Then we believe the tribulation goes on. Well if the church...the channel... The church is the channel right now, the new channel. If this channel is removed, guess what God's going to do? He's going to re-cut the church through Israel. He's going to cut that channel with those 144,000 witnesses and away they go, and the result is Israel's salvation. And Revelation 7 says also so many Gentiles will be saved, you won't be able to number them.
You say well how do you know the church is not going to be in the tribulation, be there during the time of tribulation? Well I think one reason is because God’s going to go back to His former channel. That's His plan. The other reason is that the church is in...on earth, in Revelation 2 and 3, the church is in heaven in Revelation 4 and 5, and the tribulation doesn't start until Revelation 6. And we've already been in heaven for two chapters.
The point being that God is going to re-cut the channel through Israel; we believe that. But He always has a remnant. Praise God for that. Oh how responsible we should be to carry the message of Jesus Christ to those of Israel, that they might hear the message of their...their Messiah and be redeemed, become completed in Him.
Well he talks at the end of verse 5, there is a...at the present time a remnant according to the election of grace. Salvation is only a matter of two things: Election and grace, really. God chooses whom He will because He wants to. And then he defines grace in verse 6, "If by grace then no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace." And the best manuscripts don't have that last part of the verse. We'll stop there.
There are two things that don't mix; grace and works. Ephesians 2:8 and 9: "For by grace are you saved through faith," and even that faith is not of yourselves, not of works, lest any man should what? Can't you imagine what it would be like if we all got saved by our works? Oh, sick. Wouldn't that be awful? What did you do? Well I, you know. Oh that would be terrible. I mean, no glory for God at all. We'd be all going around telling everybody how great we were, see.
Not of works. Faith is even not of yourselves. That comes from God, that's a gift. Then in Revelation...Romans 3:24, he makes the same point when he says, “being justified freely by His grace.” Then in Romans 5:2 he says, “This grace in which we stand.” Grace, grace; and grace doesn't mix with works. If you're trying to earn your way to God, forget it. It isn't your church membership, it isn't your religious feelings, it isn't that you own a Bible, it isn't that you've done nine goodies and only six baddies, therefore you're in. It isn't that at all. It has nothing to do with you, and what you do, and your works. It is an election of grace, and if it is grace then it can't mix with works, or grace is no more grace. And I hear this guy on the radio, Armstrong, always saying you have to keep the Ten Commandments to be saved. I heard him say it the other day in Portland. If it is works then it is no more grace. Now that doesn't mean you don't do things that please God, but they are the fruit of your salvation, not the cause of it. And so he says grace is what brings about the remnant.
And so he says there are two proofs that Israel's setting aside is partial. Number one, me, I'm the writer, Paul; and number two the remnant, and number three the revelation. And this is a little different twist; see if you can get it. Verse 7: "What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for, but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded." Sure the whole nation didn't get it, but the ones God has chosen did. And the rest were blinded or hardened or set aside. But you shouldn't be shocked at this. You should not be shocked that certain of Israel were blinded. Why? Because the Old Testament said it would happen. Verse 8: "God hath.” And here he quotes in verse 8, right, two texts really. He quotes out of Deuteronomy 29:3 and 4; and Isaiah 29:10 and he mixes the two in verse 8. It's written, he says, "God had given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, ears that they should not hear," unto this day. And then he quotes Psalms 69:22 and 23, and David even said, “Let their table be made a snare.’ In other words, they're sitting there banqueting on the blessings of God, and it's going to turn into being a trap for judgment, “a stumbling block and a recompense to them. Let their eyes be darkened that they may see not, and bow down their back always.”
So, he says, you shouldn't be so shocked that Israel's set aside, that's nothing new. The Old Testament prophesied that this would happen. Now this is an important statement, let's get what he means. If - now watch this - if over here in this part of the Old Testament we had all the promises - promise, promise, promise, pile them up, pile them up, see — and then X number of years later, God whomps down on top of them with all these judgments and says, "Oh, you blew it, you're going to be blind, you're going to be hard, you're going to be this,” we could assume, then, promises here, pardoned here, that forfeits promises. That was all right then. It all came kind of pure and nice, but then when they blew it, God zapped them with all of these other deals, and that cancels out the first set. And that's the argument Paul was making here. He said you can't say that. You know why? Because the promises and the blindness all came in the same prophecies together, see. It is not they had promises and then came the statements about blindness and setting aside. They came concurrently together. You can go clear back to Deuteronomy, chapter 29, and find warnings about Israel's coming blindness. And that's before some of the promises. That's even before the Davidic covenant.
So you see, God all the while that He was making promises was also telling them was coming blindness. Therefore we conclude that the blindness did not cancel the promises, because they were being made...they were being made concurrently. But that what would happen would be that Israel would be blind, but it would have to be only partial and only what? Temporary, temporary.
As I said, if God had made all of the blessings and all of the promises in one gob and then later on canceled them out with the blindness statements, that would have been one thing, but they're made together. So it must be only a partial blindness, and a temporary one. And David's statement is so tragic. They're eating and feasting on God's blessings and it's like a trap of judgment that's going to catch them in it. And then he says their eyes are darkened and they see not and they bow their back always. That's kind of a picture of a continually groping person in the...groping around, feeling in the dark. They're like those described by Plato. You remember Plato described men as bound in a dark cave, and even if they come to the light, they're only blinded by it. That's Israel.
So Paul says they have been set aside, chapter 9, yes they have, chapter 10, yes they have, chapter 11, but it’s only partial. How do you know, Paul? Because I'm...I’m a believing Jew, and because God always has a remnant. And because when God was talking about promise, He was weaving in at blindness; therefore we know it can't be total and forever, because it came together with the promises that were forever. It didn't cancel them. And so we conclude that it must be partial.
Next week we'll see that it's temporary, and we'll see that very interesting passage about grafting the Gentiles into the branch...or into the stock of Israel and all of that in Romans 11. Let me draw some conclusions and we'll be done.
Number one, I hope you grabbed the priority of Jewish evangelism. We need to be busy reaching people who are of Israel for Jesus Christ. God has His remnant. The election of grace is there to be brought to Christ.
Secondly, I trust not only that you have gotten a new kind of commitment to the evangelism to the...to the Jew, but that maybe in your own heart you've seen again God's unfailing graciousness. God continually keeps His promise to His... Aren't you glad God's a God who keeps His promises? I mean, if God didn't keep His promises to Israel, what guarantee would we have that He would keep His to us? You say, well, Israel forfeited theirs by sin. Guess what? If our promises depend on our sinlessness, we're not in very good shape. So this morning I want to commit myself to be responsible as God gives me opportunity to share Christ with those of Israel, and secondly, I want to understand in a more rich way the wonderful grace of God. Because the dealing of God with Israel is historic proof of how He will...how He will deal with me.
There may be times within my own spirit I'm set aside from the blessing of God because of sin in my life, but I will be restored. Because God always keeps His promises to His own. Let's pray.
Father, we thank you this morning for instructing us out of your Book by your Spirit. Lord these have been humbling words, as we again have stood in awe of your great grace and majesty. Father, they have been words that have been inadequate to express the truths that are herein. But oh Father, the Spirit is not inadequate, and so we would lean heavily upon the Spirit's understanding and His application.
We thank you for the promise that John said, that we really have no need to be taught in a total sense because we have an anointing from God, the Holy Spirit who teaches us, and so Spirit, take these things from the Word and teach them to our hearts. We give Jesus Christ the glory and praise for it is due to Him. In His name we pray, amen.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.