Paul's Passing Thoughts

Israel: The Capstone of Justification; Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on July 29, 2013

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We are now on the last leg of Paul’s vast study regarding justification. Paul wrote the book of Romans for the purpose of teaching the full-orbed gospel. It is a significant study for understanding the ends and outs of living a godly life and how it works. It is the what, why, and how of spiritual living. It does not concern poetic writings for meditation, it is not a narrative, it concerns knowledge and wisdom. It concerns doctrine. It concerns systematic theology. It arms the Christian with knowledge.

Paul started with the study of anthropology and its relationship to the gospel, now he ends in Romans10:10-11:36 with the capstone of justification: Israel’s role and relationship to justification. In a moment of sanity, John MacArthur once said that “if you get Israel right, you get the Bible right,” and that is absolutely right. It would be doubtful that he still holds to that position as he is now solidly in the Reformed camp, his usual confusion notwithstanding. The big three of the Reformation, Augustine, Luther, and Calvin despised the Jews.

The Abrahamic Covenant is “The Promise” that justifies both Jew and Gentile. Both Jew and Gentile look for the new heavens and new earth that is the final consummation of The Promise. ALL the nations will be blessed through the father of our faith, Abraham. God made it clear in that covenant that He would bless those who bless Abraham, and curse those who curse him. The Reformers cursed the Jews in no uncertain terms. If for no other reason, the Reformers should be rejected out of hand for that reason alone.

The long anti-Semitic tradition propagated by the Reformation must be necessarily exposed and adjusted by the book of Romans. The apostle Paul sternly warned against the very prejudice that we see against the Jews in the contemporary church. Paul explains the central role that Israel plays in justification while warning that wrong attitudes towards Israel can result in being cut off from justification itself. A bitter root concerning Israel is indicative of a serious spiritual problem.

The Romans, as well as most Gentiles integrated into the church, had an inferiority complex because the early church was a Jewish church. “Salvation is of the Jews” were the very words of Jesus Himself. Initially, He only came to the lost sheep of Israel. In much of the book of Romans Paul strives to reassure the Romans that they have inherited all of the blessings of the kingdom possessed by the Jews. But with that reassurance comes a stern warning: do not turn this into boasting against the Jews. Let’s begin to observe what Paul states in the verses following:

Romans 10:10 – For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Apparently, Paul is writing about a principle found throughout the Old Testament and not a particular chapter and verse which didn’t divide the Bible at that time. Several, very similar texts appear in the book of Isaiah. Paul wants to show the Roman Gentiles that their inclusion was planned from the beginning. The authority of Scripture in making this point, as well as all of Paul’s other points are obviously assumed. “All” who call on the Lord will be saved and the riches of the Lord will be bestowed upon them. I think “riches” refers to the will language we have discussed previously.

Let’s not stray too far from the point at hand: Paul wants to give the Roman Gentiles assurance that they are legitimate members of the kingdom by showing them via the authority of Scripture that this was God’s plan from the beginning. Paul then continues with the following:

Romans 10:14 – How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Paul states a principle before he moves on to make his point. This should inspire us in regard to the authority of God’s word. Nobody can believe on Christ without hearing the gospel, and faith comes by hearing the word of God. If we don’t preach the word, people will not get saved. If God has used you to save someone, it wasn’t through silence, a song, prayer only, or anything else other than the “word of Christ” That’s why the Potter’s House is not a “Christ-centered ministry,” it’s a Bible-centered ministry and that suits Christ just fine. We aren’t spiritual elitists who seek deep knowledge of Christ’s “personhood.” Rather, we are ones who observe all that He commands in His word. The Scriptures give the lost faith when they hear it, comforts God’s children, and equips us for every good work. It gives us all we need for life and godliness.

And Paul is about to share a very important truth in his letter to the Romans. Christ, the chief cornerstone, being rejected by national Israel and thus paving the way for Gentile inclusion is a constant theme throughout the Old Testament. What happened when Christ came the first time and the birth of the church should have been plainly foreseen in the Old Testament Scriptures. This is the point that Paul will now make:

Romans 10:18 – But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” 19 But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” 20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.” 21 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”

Honestly, it’s a little difficult to figure Paul’s usage of Psalm 19:4 to answer his first question. By the way, only in recent history was it discovered that our solar system orbits in space as stated by Psalm 19:6. Looking at the text in context may lend some understanding:

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. 4 Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, 5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. 6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; 8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. 11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

The point may be that in the same way that God’s glory is not hidden in all the earth because of creation, nether is the truth of His word. God makes sure the truth of His law reaches to the ends of the earth in every generation. I do not think that Paul is putting forth the idea that creation preaches the gospel in a way that can save people by general revelation alone. But more specific is Paul’s citation of Moses who taught Israel in no uncertain terms that God would save the Gentiles for the purpose of making Israel angry/jealous. Israel disobeyed God’s commands to not follow the ways of Egypt or Canaan. Yet, though Israel followed their ways they still possessed an attitude of entitlement as God’s chosen people. So God hardened their hearts against Christ, the stumbling block of Zion, and saved “those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”

Romans 9:32….They stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 just as it is written, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, And he who believes in Him will not be put to shame.”

Romans chapter eleven, verse one, and following, are not in need of any explanation. There is a reason the Gentiles should be confident that they are included because it is a result of Israel stumbling over Christ, and this was foreseen from the beginning, but….

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4 But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8 as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.” 9 And David says, “Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them; 10 let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs forever.”

This is interesting: Paul uses himself as proof that God hasn’t rejected Israel. This seems to be a pretty straightforward argument. Then he says God has not rejected His people that he “foreknew” or elected. Like in Romans nine, Paul refers once again to the remnant, and then we are reminded once again of election’s purpose:

“So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.”

Remember, as we study our Bibles we must keep this in mind as one of our building blocks of understanding: election is all about completely removing works from justification. And I believe this frees us to not worry about works in our Christian life. The key to a powerful Christian life is to not worry about obedience in sanctification having bearing on justification. We like to call this, “aggressive sanctification.” While having dinner with a Christian man in Columbus this week, the reality of the 10/90 rule was discussed. What’s that? That is the reality of 10% of the people in a given congregation doing 90% of the work. Not only is that a leadership issue, it’s a theology issue and is directly linked to the Protestant fusion of justification and sanctification.

Consider the line of thought starting in Romans 8:30 and ending with Romans 8:39—nothing can separate us from the love of God because our justification was settled before the foundation of the earth. Sanctification is not in that verse because that would involve us in some way with justification which would be disastrous. Election enables the mortal saint to love God without jeopardizing his/her salvation. Hence, NOTHING can separate us from the love of God. Know this: advocating election with the fusion of justification and sanctification is a theological oxymoron. It would seem evident that sanctification is absent from Romans 8:30 because it is not there.

Now, at this point, I am going to jump ahead a little bit to make a point:

Romans 11:28 – As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. 32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

I think we have another building block of understanding here. Paul makes a distinction between the gospel and election. Though the Jews are enemies of the gospel, they will be saved because of election. The calling of God is irrevocable. I also remind you of Paul’s reference to disobedience. We are not saved by obedience/works. Again, the words obedience and faith are used interchangeably. Obedience is merely the life of faith. Faith is invisible; obedience is merely the visible life of faith. In the passage we just read, it reads the same if you replace disobedience with unbelief and faith with obedience. They are the same because we are not saved by obedience or works, but yet, the words are used interchangeably. Again, this is because our faith is a living faith. Curiously, the Reformers taught that faith is a lifeless conduit to the Spirit realm. But the bigger point is: understanding that our faith is a living faith clears up a lot of confusion in regard to the relationship of faith/obedience in justification versus sanctification. That’s the point.

But in regard to your justification, God’s call is irrevocable. This leads to fearless, aggressive sanctification. Paul also makes the point that the Jews were allowed to be enemies of the gospel for the benefit of the Gentiles who like the Jews were once disobedient:

For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

So, both the Jews and the Gentiles were unbelieving so that he could have mercy on both. The Jews were chosen first, but when they rebelled, God reserved a remnant for Himself according to election and used the rebellion for the benefit of the Gentiles. This benefit is a set time called “the times of the Gentiles.” It has a specific beginning in time and a specific end. Apparently, election pertains primarily to the Jews and the gospel primarily to the Gentiles. The Jews were/are enemies of the gospel for the sake of the Gentiles, but beloved for the sake of election. Obviously, this merely scratches the surface of a vast wealth of knowledge thereof.

Now, next week, we are going to look at this deeper in regard to eschatology. We are going to look at how Bible prophecy is absolutely essential to understanding justification and how God fulfills The Promise. He chooses the Jews, appoints the time of the Gentiles as a response to their rebellion, and then fulfills The Promise to Abraham after the end of the times of the Gentiles. The Gentiles are an inclusion, not a replacement. Replacement Theology, also known as Supersessionism, is specifically what Paul is warning against in Romans 11:

25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; 27 “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”

Next week, we will look at this from the perspective of prophecy in part two. But in the following week, part 3, we will look at this from the standpoint of covenants. Note carefully: the rebellion of the Jews did not result in the New Covenant replacing the Old Covenant. The Covenants build on each other in order to consummate The Promise to Abraham to bless all nations through him. All the covenants belong to the commonwealth of Israel (Ephesians 2:11-16) and build on each other for the final consummation of The Promise. The rebellion does not replace any of the covenants with a new one; the rebellion is merely used by God to include the Gentiles in the Promise.

Inclusion, not replacement in regard to prophecy and covenants. Understanding the true relationship between election, the Jews, Gentiles, justification, sanctification, prophecy, and covenants has catastrophic ramifications for understanding God’s salvific plan for the ages.

Hence, our hefty endeavor will need much prayer and study moving forward into parts two and three.

Inclusion, not replacement regarding the church.

Progression of covenants, not replacement of the old with the new.

One Response

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  1. paulspassingthoughts said, on July 29, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    Reblogged this on Clearcreek Chapel Watch.

    Like


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