Sunday, August 18, 2013
Vol. II — Chapter 10 — Romans 11:25-27
Vol. II — Chapter 10 — Romans 11:25-27
THE SALVATION OF ALL SPIRITUAL ISRAEL
Romans 11: 25-27 (25) For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. (26) And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. (27) For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. Paul shows us clearly in Romans, chapter 4, that the promises to Abraham are Gospel promises and that the distinction between Jew and Gentile that once existed is totally obliterated (Read Rom. 4:9-18). Remember Abram received his new name, Abraham, “the father of many nations,” to plainly show in advance that his seed was the mystic nation to be gathered out of all peoples (1 Pet. 2:9-10). Paul teaches that the promise of God takes precedence over the earthly nation of Israel and the Law. The nation of Israel was constituted as a temporary expedient under the Law, “until the seed should come to whom the promise was made” (Gal. 3:16-19). The principle enunciated in Romans 4 is thoroughly carried out by the apostle in Galatians where there can be no dispute that the seed of Abraham is Christ and His Church, without distinction of Jew and Gentile.
Verse 25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. Paul’s message is to “brethren,” not nations, and it is brethren whom he is addressing. Those commentators who write of “the end of Gentile Christianity,” as though the Gentile nations were enjoying the benefits of the Israelitish olive tree, are estranged from all reality, for no Gentile nation was ever in that position. The only nation ever grafted into Christ is that described by Peter: “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy NATION, a peculiar people” (I Peter 2:9). This is the nation of God’s elect, chosen from every land, region, people and tongue. This nation will never be “broken off,” though individuals professing to be of it but by their fruits prove they are false professors will be cut off.
“Ye should be ignorant” — spiritual ignorance is dispelled only by Divine revelation. “Of this mystery.” Our opponents try to tell us that this mystery is the national salvation of Israel, and that it awaits the Gentile era of salvation, designated by the phrase “the fulness of the gentiles.” But then they show their inconsistency in claiming the salvation of Israel as a mystery as they are prepared to quote all the numerous Old Testament prophetic texts as proving their supposed theory.
The word “mystery” occurs nearly 30 times in the New Testament. It is a favorite word of the apostle and he uses it 13 times in his epistles. It is derived from the word of our Lord Christ in Matthew chapter 13 where the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven are proclaimed in parable and they were understood only by the spiritual children of the Kingdom. The meaning of them was withheld from the natural Jews whose hearts were hardened, eyes blinded, and ears stopped by the judicial judgment of God (Matt. 13:13-15). The nation of the Jews was given over to unbelief (as we see in our day), the Kingdom of God being taken from them and given “to a nation bringing forth the fruit thereof” (Matt. 21:43). This is the mystery of which the writings of Paul are so replete.
Paul writes in 16:25-26 of our epistle: “Now to him 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 made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.” Regardless of what our opponents try to tell us is the mystery, Paul, as the spokesman of the Holy Ghost, tells us that the mystery is the Gospel “made know to all nations for the obedience of faith.” Paul refers to this mystery 6 times in the Ephesian epistle and in 5:32 it refers to the Gospel mystery of the union in Christ of Jew and Gentile in one body, without distinction of nationality, as the last, final and full disclosure of the eternal purpose of God (see Eph. 3:3, 4, 9). The mystery of Eph. 1:9 and of those verses in Eph. 3, together with the mystery of. Col. 4:3, and the mystery of Rom. 16:25, are all one mystery, namely, the Gospel union of Jew and Gentile in one mystical body united to Christ in eternal and covenant marriage bonds, inseparable from Him and from one another. So our mystery is the mystery of Christ’s true and spiritual Israel, one whole and entire worldwide nation, the true seed of Abraham, the children of the promise.
“In order to bring about the salvation of the Gentiles as the legitimate inheritors of the promises made to Abraham, so that they could be lawfully regarded as the very seed of Abraham, grafted into the very stock of the covenant nation, it was necessary that the Jews as a nation should be disinherited and cast out, hence to be received again only as they came in the category of repentant sinners, individually grafted into a new order in which all racial distinction is obliterated. In other words, the mystery is not the regathering of Israel, but their rejection as a nation to make way for a new nation, a new Israel, composed indifferently as to ancestral origins. Upon the understanding of this mystery depends the peace and stability of Gentile believers. That they needed to be instructed in the mystery, the case of the Galatians only too strongly demonstrates. The Church of Galatia was well nigh destroyed by the error that Gentiles had to be grafted into earthly Israel, instead of the reverse, that Jews require to be drafted into New Covenant stock on the same terms as Gentiles.” (Charles D. Alexander).
“Lest ye should be wise in your own conceits.” Paul tells the believers, especially the Gentile believers, that it was entirely by free grace alone they were saved, and that no believer, Jew nor Gentile had whereof to boast. No true saint can imagine that because they believe in Christ they alone are wise and knowledgeable persons, and be elated in their minds with their own knowledge and understanding, and look with contempt upon poor, blind, ignorant unbelievers as beyond the possibility of ever coming to Christ (Prov. 26:12).
“That blindness in part has happened to Israel.” The Israel here spoken means the Jewish nation — not the mystical, spiritual Israel consisting of elect Jews and Gentiles, all true believers. A major part of Israel is, according to the plan and purpose of God, to remain in a state of spiritual blindness and rebellion as to God’s way of justifying sinners. “That blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.” The Holy Ghost tells us two things here: (1) That Israel’s blindness always was in part only—that is, the whole nation was not blind but a part thereof. Paul was an example of the part which was not blind. It is total folly for commentators to say the “in part” means a period of time. No, the first verse proves otherwise for, “The election hath obtained it and the rest were blinded.” It is persons that were blinded and this chapter of Romans shows (2) the lasting nature of that condition of “blindness”' which had befallen the greater part of the nation. Paul tells us that this blindness in part was an enduring condition, “Until the fulness of the Gentiles should be brought in.” That is until the Second Coming of Christ our Lord and the end of the world, the Gentiles must expect to be joined from time to time by believing Jews, as is the case today (2 Cor. 3:14-16). The word “until” no more means that the time is coming when Israel will be no more blind, than the same word in Psalm 110:1 means that Christ will cease to reign after his foes are made His footstool.
If we take vs. 25 the way our opponents would have it, we run into a big contradiction. They have been busy telling us in their writings that when Israel is restored, the Gentiles will reap such a benefit as will dwarf out of recognition all that they ever enjoyed during the period of their dominance. Our opponents cannot have it both ways. Israel (according to them) will not be restored till Gentile “fullness” has been achieved. Yet they maintain that Gentile salvation so far from being “FULL” at the restoration of Jewry will only enter upon a fuller, more glorious phase than ever before. Look, reader, at this gross inconsistency. This is what they are saying: Blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in—and then, with the salvation of Israel a greater fullness than ever shall be awarded to the Gentiles. This text in no way means that.
“The fullness of the gentiles” will coincide with the end of the world and the Day of Judgment, and Israel’s “blindness in part” endures till then without respite. Our friends do not seem to be aware that the word “until” often bears in Holy Scripture a durative sense, and not that of temporal limitation. Hence Christ reigns till all His foes are made His footstool, and then goes right on reigning. Romans 11:25 teaches ultimacy and contains no suggestion of any alteration in Israel’s national status. The present boundaries of God’s Divine Decree are unalterable. The blindness in part must endure till the end of time, which time is coincident with the fullness of Gentile salvation.
It is perfectly clear that “the fulness of the gentiles” is the complete number of Christ’s elect among the nations of the world (Rev. 7:9). The sentence anticipates the realization of an objective, the salvation of Gentiles to the full extent of the purpose of God in Christ, expressed in the words of Luke 24:47, “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” God, through the Gospel, has throughout the generations visited the nations to “take out” (Acts 15:14, Amos 9:12) a people for His name and the fulness is realized at Christ’s return. As the fulness of the Gentiles means the completion of God’s redemption among the Gentiles, Israel’s fulness means exactly the same for them. Since Christ has broken down the middle wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:14), and God is no respecter of persons, there can be no such thing as national conversion. For Jews and Gentiles alike, salvation is, and always will be, an individual matter, and if the fullness of the Gentiles means the full number of elect Gentiles brought into the Kingdom of God, the fulness of Israel means the full number of elect Jews, or a remnant of Jews, brought into it. As God’s purpose does not contemplate the salvation of Gentiles universally but selectively and this selection will constitute their “fulness,” so also it is not declared to be God’s purpose to save the entire nation of the Jews but from them also the “fulness;” namely, the remnant according to “the election of grace” (Rom. 11:5, 11,12). In neither case does “fulness” mean the entirety of Jews or Gentiles as such, but the total sum of the Divinely chosen among them.
The qualifying word “fulness” makes it beyond question that whatever the subject of Scripture might be it gives the sense of completeness and totality; the meaning given being to finish, to accomplish, to satisfy; that which fills out to the uttermost. In the fine words of John Wilmot this is clearly shown: “Fulness of Deity dwells in the incarnate Son: totality of Godhead is His: and the Church is filled full (complete) in Him Who is her Head (Col. 1:19; 2:9-10). Grace in its fulness is resident in Christ: out from this fulness we receive; there is no reservoir (John 1:14, 16). Fulness of blessing is in the Gospel. There is no supplementary source (Rom. 15:29). Time’s fulness, introduced with Christ’s first advent, concludes with His second advent: then Eternity (Gal. 4:4; Eph. 1:10). The Church is ‘the fulness of Him Who filleth all in all.’ His ‘body’ is not lacking or maimed. It is as ‘a perfect man.’ At His coming it will be presented a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and without blemish. The Church is composed of the redeemed of all nations, denationalized and united as being ‘all one in Christ Jesus’ (Eph. 1:23; 4:13; Gal. 3:28; Eph. 5:27). The fullness of Jews and Gentiles expresses the totality of the redeemed simultaneously brought in through the Gospel in this ‘day of salvation.’ There can be nothing lacking in, or added to, this fulness (Rom. 11:12; 11:25; 2 Cor. 6:2; cf. Isa. 49:1-12).”
Verse 26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. Paul has already shown from his argument in Romans 9 that he was accustomed to use the word “Israel” in a twofold sense. As touching the flesh, Israel denotes the 12 tribes or fleshly Israel. As touching the Gospel, Israel denotes the true Church. Verse 6 of the 9th chapter is a classic example of Paul’s use of “Israel” twice in this one verse, with a contrary meaning — “They are not all Israel which are of Israel,” and he continues in verse 8, “That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” Therefore, when the Millennialists allege that the “Israel” of Rom. 11:25 (most are blinded) must be the “”Israel” of verse 26 (all are saved) because it would otherwise be too violent a transition is out of touch with our apostle and acting completely contrary to the Scriptures.
The Holy Ghost has told us that salvation is wholly of grace, and while national Israel hath not attained it, “the election hath obtained it and the rest were blinded” (Rom. 11:7). We see here again two “Israel,” the election and the rest.” The elect are those “on whom He will have mercy,” the rest those “whom He hardeneth” (Rom. 9:18), and this hardened state is irremediable (Rom. 11:8-10, Isa. 29:10; Psa 69:22-28). There are two Israels and the qualifications must determine which Israel is meant. “Israel” is here in our 26th verse used for the remnant, the elect, the called, the saved, incorporated in the Church — composed not of saved Jews or Gentiles, as when some speak wrongly of the Jewish Church and the Gentile Church, but of saved Jews together with saved Gentiles, one body, and that these are the “Israel of God,” and as Paul has written “even US, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles” (Rom. 9:24). In a similar distinguishing passage (Rom. 2:28-29), the Holy Ghost tells us that the merely outward Jew, the natural, the racial, is not a Jew as God determine the true spiritual Israel; nor is circumcision “outward in the flesh” since it is intended of God to signify spiritual truth. The apostle himself “a Hebrew of the Hebrews” and “a Jew,” counted all his gains but loss for the excellency of Christ, and he claimed “we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3). The qualification is altogether spiritual; there is no racial distinction. Christ Jesus is ALL. “They are not all Israel who are of Israel,” is Paul’s first and governing principle in this treatise of God’s purposes for Israel directed especially to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13). He never departs from it. His final assurance therefore, “All Israel shall be saved,” does not relate to the race or “the rest,” but to God’s election and remnant.
If, therefore, “they are not all Israel which are of Israel” (Rom. 9:6), then the “all Israel” (of our verse here at 11:26) cannot include those who are the “not Israel” of this determining premise. The apostle clearly, in the course of his reasoning in these three chapters (9, 10, & 11), is stating that the “not all Israel” are the non-elect, “the rest” under judicial blindness (11:7), the blinded, hardened “part” (11:25). It is equally as clear that the “all Israel” of verse 26 are the non-blinded, “the election of grace” (R0m. 11:5). “All Israel” are the equivalent of “their fulness,” the elect out of the nation. The elect out of all nations are the “fulness of the Gentiles.” The “all Israel” of Romans 11:26 cannot be the nation in its entirety, for Zech. 13:8-9 tells us “two parts shall be cut off and die,” and “the third part” only purified “through the fire.” These only are God’s people, the remnant. So the Scriptures themselves have interpreted themselves and have shown us that the Israel here referred to is the New Covenant Israel, that community not of race but of faith, the heir to the promises made to the fathers, composed of Jew and Gentile, in which the lines of nationhood are forever obliterated, nor can be redrawn without altering the constitution of the Church herself and abolishing the true Kingdom of Christ.
“As it is written.” Paul is not foretelling something that is to occur at the second coming of Christ, but he is quoting something that Isaiah wrote in 59:20-21 concerning His first advent when the Lord came as the long promised “Redeemer.” It is a fundamental error of our opponents that they make this verse dependent upon the previous verse. It is not a dependent verse at all, but a summary (summing up), a grand condensation and verdict upon this discussion which began with chapter 9, verse 1. We cannot allow our opponents, in order to uphold their false theory, to present Paul as being inconsistent with himself. This verse must be interpreted according to consistent Pauline doctrine of the heavenly nature of the true Israel, the Church of the Redeemed and of the Firstborn whose names are written in Heaven. The phrase “all Israel” means, not the entire Jewish race saved in the supposed Millennium of our opponent’s theory, but the entire body of all the redeemed, Jew and Gentile, of this present age.
In the Pauline doctrine the N.T. Church is the last and final phase of all God’s dealings in history. There is nothing after the Church. Eph. 3:10-11, “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known BY THE CHURCH the manifold wisdom of God: according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” In this Pauline doctrine (given him by the Holy Ghost), Zion or Mount Zion is the Church and not earthly Israel. Heb. 12:22, “Ye are come to mount Zion, and unto the city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels: to the general assembly and church of the firstborn which are written in heaven ...” Gal. 4:26, “Jerusalem WHICH IS ABOVE is free, which is the mother of us all” (i.e. Jew and Gentile). Compare this with what our Lord says in John 4:21 about earthly Jerusalem. Some of our opponents concede that Zion in Romans 11:26 cannot mean the earthly Jerusalem and must be taken in the figurative or spiritual sense. Then, in order to suit their theory, they say that the second part of the sentence is literal (“shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob”). One good thing my professors taught me in college is the practice of the Hebrew authors in duplicating expressions for the purpose of emphasis. Yet our opponents persist in setting one phase of this quote of Isaiah against another when clearly the one is the amplification of the other.
The “Zion” referred to in the prophecy means the New Testament Zion, the mystic New Jerusalem, the Church of our Saviour Jesus Christ our Lord, the whole company of the redeemed. Jerusalem in Palestine was abolished forever as to its spiritual significance by the words of Christ, “Neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem shall men worship the Father” (John 4:21). Therefore, the theory of the Dispensationalist and Premillennialists has no relevance to the question of a restoration of the Jewish people as a nation to the favor of God.
If they persist in saying that Zion does not mean Zion, then consistency demands that they say Jacob does not mean Jacob. To do so would destroy their theory, their books and writings, for this, dear reader, is the verse of verses to them. Upon this verse they rely totally for their N.T. proof of a “Restoration of Israel.” They betray themselves with their own confusion and inconsistency. As another has said, “We fear that our friends exhibit not only a fatal exegetical inconsistency, but a complete ignorance of Hebrew poetical style.” If “Zion” is given to us in a spiritual sense then Israel and Jacob are to be understood in the spiritual sense likewise, and the covenant referred to is the new and everlasting covenant of Divine mercy made in Christ and sealed with His blood at Calvary on behalf of the election of grace, the true Israel of God. And Paul’s clear and unchallenged doctrine throughout all his epistles eliminates all distinction between Jew and Gentile which has been abolished for ever (see Eph. 2:15 & 3:6 as examples).
But our task is a thorough exposition of this verse showing: (1) Verse 26 is not dependent upon the preceding verses but it is a summary of the entire argument of the preceding 3 chapters (9, 10 & 11); (2) The words, “And so all Israel shall be saved,” are to be interpreted by what follows, “As it is written ...”
We have already laid down number (1) as a self-evident fact, but we add the following: If Paul were speaking of all earthly Israel being saved, how could he have begun his argument in chapter 9 with that so mysterious, moving, shocking, and agonizing cry, “I could wish myself accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” This agony would be meaningless if the Apostle already knew that “all national Israel (his kinsmen after the flesh) were going to be saved anyway.” If Paul knew that there was to be such a great and noble destiny for natural Israel as our opponents allege, then the Pauline agony over Israel was but an uninspired extravagance, altogether unworthy of a man with a mind as well ordered as that of Paul. We totally reject such a thought. His agony over the rejection of the earthly Israel was real and prophetic. It was of the same order as that of Jeremiah when he cursed the day of his birth, that he was called into being to be the bearer of such ill-tidings as he was forced to convey concerning the destruction of his people (Jer. 20:14-18). The intense grief of both men over the fate of earthly Israel is the strongest possible proof that Israel has been rejected totally as a people, and has ceased forever to be the channel of Divine Grace.
Paul’s grief is total and its cause irremediable. Our opponents make of it a farce as they say it is the starting point of a discussion which is designed to prove that the nation has not been cast away but is destined to a more glorious future than ever in the past. No, Paul knew that the earthly nation had been rejected and that the Spiritual Israel (all the elect) must be saved.
We now proceed to show that the words “all Israel shall be saved” are to be understood by what follows: and what follows is a quotation from Isaiah 59:20-21. But before we do we must consider that the Old Testament prophecies must be understood only in terms of New Testament usage; that of our Lord Christ and His apostles. The New Testament teaches the abolition of all national interest in the Kingdom of Christ. Paul’s dictum in Gal. 3:28-29 states that a basic fact of our Lord Christ’s Kingdom is that in it no question of race or nationhood can possibly enter. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise. So who are spiritual Jews? Who are spiritual Israelites? Who are Abraham’s true descendants? Paul, the spokesman of the Holy Ghost answers, “All — and only those — who are Christ’s, be they Jew or Gentile.
Now we must consider the quotation of Isaiah 59:20-21. We ask readers to open their Bibles at that Scripture as we proceed. Remember that as a rule our opponents end their expositions of Romans 11 at verse 26 ignoring verse 27 which contains a further portion of the Isaiah prophecy. Isaiah 59 graphically describes the awful failure of Israel to fulfill the function allotted to it. Paul makes a quotation from this chapter in Romans 3 that shows that Israel is a sharer in the universal guilt of the human race, despite its unique privileges (compare Isa. 59:7-8 and Rom. 3:15-17).
The “all Israel” of Rom. 11:26 are “the vessels of mercy which He had afore prepared to glory” (Rom. 9:23). They were predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29), and were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). They are the “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” (1 Pet. 1:2), and every one of them could only be saved by free grace through faith in the Redeemer and Deliverer Who came to this earth 2,000 plus years ago to redeem His elect people with His own precious blood. Clearly, then, “all Israel” who are saved are those who are vitally united to Christ by faith, and who “walk in the steps of that faith of their father Abraham.
The prophet Isaiah (in this chapter, verses 16-19) describes how it is the marvel of heaven that the sinful nation exhibited no sign of repentance. There was no intercessor, and none to take up the righteous cause of God. So the Lord arms Himself for the task, but the goal He sets Himself is utterly beyond the destiny of a small nation like Israel. The Lord girds Himself for a far mightier task, that of establishing a worldwide domain. While taking a fearful vengeance on the evildoers of Israel and indeed of all His foes, He decrees that from the rising to the setting sun He will establish in Christ a Gospel dominion which shall never end and which, by reason of its very nature, cannot fail. “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him” (Isa. 59:19). Quite properly this eminent sentence is used to cover all eventualities in the history of the Lord’s people. Its primary intention however should be obvious—it describes the coming in of the Gospel salvation at a time when satanic power had reached its zenith. Then it was that Christ appeared and made a complete atonement for His people, dying upon the Cross and rising again as Conqueror over the tomb. His ascension to the right hand of power to begin His eternal reign was the signal for the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The figure of the flood and the overcoming power of the Spirit are borrowed in the case of the mystic woman of Revelation 12, who after the birth of Christ (Rev. 12:5) flees into the wilderness where she is prophetically sustained. The serpent (Satan) casts out of his mouth water as a flood to destroy the woman, but is foiled by the intervention of the Lord’s providence. The flood is the means employed by Satan to destroy the Church, whether by false doctrine or open persecution.
The “woman” here is the Church of the Old and New Testaments. This is fixed by the first verse where she is considered as being clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet, and a crown of 12 stars on her head. The moon is the reflected light of the Old Testament and the sun is the great Gospel day in its continuity. The 12 stars are the symbol of the church in her dual form under the two Testaments—the 12 patriarchs and the 12 apostles of the Lamb. The man Child is Christ who comes midway in the history of the Church at the dividing point of the two Testaments, the Church of all ages being both the means of His entry into the world, and the Kingdom of Grace which was the consequence of His coming.
Here is another proof that the Church is the same in O.T. and N.T. times and that it is now constituted of Jews and Gentiles as the sole and legitimate heirs to the promises made to Abraham. Rev. 12 thus becomes a Divine Commentary upon Isaiah 59 and a further preparation for the understanding of who Israel is in Isa. 59:20 and Rom. 11:26. To that point we have now come.
“And the Redeemer shall come to Zion and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD” (Isa. 59:20). Paul says in 11:26, “There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” This is a free translation into the Greek of the Hebrew text. The Redeemer Who comes to Zion is the One also who proceeds from Zion, and those who turn from transgression in Jacob are those who, by sovereign grace, are turned from their ungodliness by the power of Christ our Lord. There is a specific limitation in Isaiah, of the Redeemer’s work: “to them that turn from transgression in Jacob.” Paul sees these repentant ones as the whole of Jacob, the election of grace. Some Premil. writers that take Zion in a symbolic sense and Jacob in a literal sense meet a serious embarrassment here, for they do not believe that Jacob means the whole of Jews in the days of the alleged Restoration. Some admit that not all Israel (after the flesh) shall be saved but only a token number so as to make it appear that the nation as a whole has turned from its unbelief. They appear to be satisfied if the number of the converted in Jacob shall amount to ten percent of the whole.
Allowing for the fact that they derive this conclusion from a succession of commentators covering the whole of the Reformed period, we believe it shows embarrassment for all these commentators who begin with the preconceived idea of a Jewish restoration which they try to fit in with Romans 11:26. Other and more extreme futurists and dispensationalists declare that “all” means “all”—a conclusion that we share with them in this case, only we declare that the text does not refer to Jews alone at the end of time, but to God’s elect in all time! The futurists have their own peculiar difficulties which they have never honestly faced. They do not really believe that “all” means ALL, or they would have to include Judas Iscariot and Caiaphas, Jeroboam, Ahab and the Baal worshippers, and every other Israelite who ever lived, in a universal Israelite salvation regardless of their evil nature. If “all Israel” means what it says in a Jewish sense, then no Israelite of any age can be excluded.
The only consistent interpretation of Romans 11:26 is that which we have had the privilege to advance, namely that the Holy Spirit is speaking of the election of grace here and also in Isaiah, that ALL means ALL, and that the prophetic word embraces the entire field of redemption according to that glorious word in Isa. 35:10—“The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads.” That Isaiah’s word is a Gospel word and has nothing to do with the Restoration of the Jew as such, is further borne out by his following verse (59:21): “As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord: My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.” Paul quotes from this verse also in Rom. 11:27, “For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.”
Jerusalem, Zion, Jacob, Israel — these terms must always be distinguished as to their prophetic significance, and they must be interpreted as to their spiritual meaning given by our Lord Himself and His apostles in New Testament Scripture. The old Jerusalem is succeeded by the new Jerusalem (Heb. 12:22-24), and all of her citizens are pardoned, redeemed, justified. In this world of tribulation their peace flows down like a river in spite of trials, persecutions, afflictions, and crosses. The true Israel was always an elect minority within the unbelieving nation — the apostatized nation. True spiritual Israel is now expanded into a new nation of Jew and Gentile (1 Pet. 2:9-10). In this true Christian “nation” — the true Church — are the promises to Abraham fulfilled, as Paul tells us in his epistles — filled in Gentiles a well as Jews, Christ having made out of twain, one new man, so making peace, reconciling both unto God in one body by the Cross. Here Gentiles have the same equal rights in Abraham as the elect Jews. Wherefore they are no more “strangers and foreigners” but fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God. Here is the “new nation,” the new and Heavenly temple, not made of stone and lime but with the souls of all the redeemed, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone (see Eph. 2:11-22).
The Zion and Jacob of Isa. 59:20 are the same as our Jerusalem, and the “all Israel” which is saved according to Paul in Romans 11 is likewise that true spiritual Israel — the Church of the Living God.
Verse 27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. It is obvious that Isa. 59:21 relates to the same subject as Romans 11:27. The people mentioned in verse 21 as “thy seed” are the Zion and the Jacob of verse 20. Hence Paul also makes the same essential connection in Romans 11, that the “All Israel” who shall be saved are the covenant people whose sins are taken away, these and no one else. Who are these covenant people, “thy seed, and thy seed’s seed,” from whom the Word of Covenant life shall not depart for ever? These cannot be descriptive of the earthly Israel; else there is no equivalent promise anywhere in the Old Testament upon which the Church of our Lord can rely. In short this verse is THE OPENING OF THE COVENANT OF GRACE.
The words in this text are not addressed either to Jew or Gentile. They are addressed to CHRIST, the Mediator of the New Covenant Who acts always on behalf of those whom the Father hath given Him (John 17:2). The Covenant is made primarily with Christ Who fulfills its terms and seals it with His Own Blood (Matt.26:28; Heb. 13:20). God’s elect are brought into the covenant by His grace acting through the Spirit of Regeneration (Heb. 8:8-12). This is expressed in the text, “My Spirit that is upon thee (that is, upon Christ, the Mediator) and my words which I have put into thy mouth (that is, the word of grace and salvation) shall not depart out of thy mouth (Christ shall never cease to be the Mediator of His people) nor out of the mouth of thy seed (that is, His elect shall hear and be effectually called from sin and death to life eternal and shall persevere in grace unto the end), nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed (the succession of the generations of the saved to the end of time) from henceforth and for ever.”
Isaiah 53:10 tells us that the elect are Christ’s “seed” whom He shall “see” (that is, they shall be infallibly saved and preserved by grace). So should Christ see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied (Isa. 53:11 and John 17:24). That this covenant is not applicable to earthly Israel is clear from the context which makes it a worldwide economy of the election of grace. It is clear that Zion is the Church and Jacob is that whole election of grace. And by his usage of Isa. 59 as the conclusion of his discussion in Romans chapters 9-11, Paul clearly shows what he means by the word “AND SO ALL ISRAEL SHALL BE SAVED.” In short he teaches that salvation is limited to the election of grace and that the election of grace is the worldwide and age long Kingdom of the Mediator Christ; therefore Israel is not, and by no stretch of the imagination can be made to mean, the nation of Jewry, present or to come. This is the Church of Christ in which all distinction of Jew and Gentile is for ever obliterated and forgotten. Those who do not accept this conclusion undermine the entire conception of the Everlasting Covenant of Grace which is the only instrument in view in these collateral writings of Isaiah and the apostle Paul.
Let our opponents beware that in defending natural Israel they are fighting against God’s election and His sovereign purpose that His promises are yea and amen IN CHRIST. There is not the slightest hint in this chapter (11) of any return of Israel to an earthly Palestine. The only promises contained therein are of spiritual salvation, forgiveness of sin, regeneration by the Spirit. Let us, dear reader, stop and worship here because of God’s sovereign, elective grace in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Worthy Doctrinal and Spiritual Notes and Quotes on Romans 11:25 – 27
Verse 25. Oh, what a dry thing is religion without the life and spirit of the precept! Who would have thought that such an ignorant man as I was when the Lord called me — who if asked could not have said what the law, doctrine or gospel meant — to think that the Lord should have called such an ignorant thing and made him know the mysteries of His grace! I now feel that "the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death." Praise the Lord, O my soul! — Simeon Burns (1876).
These are the two worst enemies I have — self, with its fair shows and secret insinuations, and unbelief struggling hard against me. Thomas Halyburton (1674-1712).
As by a "fool" in this book is generally understood a wicked profane man, so by a wise man is meant a good and righteous man, and may be so understood here; and many there are who are good and righteous only their own conceit and esteem, not truly so; they place their righteousness in outward things, in the observance of external duties; and though there may be some little imperfection in them, yet they think, as they mean well, God will accept the will for the deed: and some have imagined they have arrived to perfection; and such are generally conceited, proud, and haughty, and despise others; all which flows from ignorance; for, though they fancy themselves to be wise, they are very ignorant of themselves; of the plague of their own hearts; of the law of God, and the spirituality of it, and the extensiveness of its demands; of the strict justice and righteousness of God, which will not admit of an imperfect righteousness in the room of a perfect one; and also of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, the nature and necessity of that to justify: and this being their case, they are in very dangerous circumstances; they are building on a sand; they are liable to fall into a ditch; they cannot be justified nor saved by their own works; they oppose themselves to God's way of justifying and saving sinners; and he sets himself against them, he resisteth the proud. — John Gill (1697-1771).
Religion is not a thing which it is possible to put off and put on like a Sunday dress . . . If you think you are doing so, believe me that as yet it is not a religion, but a web of delusions. — Edward Reynolds (1599-1676).
He is two fools that is wise in his own eyes. — John Trapp (1601-1669).
What marvelous ignorance, folly and vanity are often displayed even in God’s people. Nothing but the constant lessons of the Spirit of God will teach them that all spiritual difference among men in by God’s grace. — Robert Haldane (1772-1844)
Let us watch and pray most fervently against that awful curse — blindness. Let the Lord send poverty, war, pestilence, famine, earthquakes, anything that brings merely natural evils upon us, but let Him never in judicial wrath draw the veil of blindness over our heart. No curses are so killing as spiritual curses. No judgments are so terrible as spiritual judgments. Nor is the judicial insensibility of men a whit the less dreadful, but even the more to be deprecated, because it is so deep as to be unremoved by any consideration drawn from Heaven or earth. — William S. Plumer (1802-1880).
Verse 26. If Abraham’s faith be not in your hearts, it will be no advantage that Abraham’s blood runs in your veins. — John Flavel (1628-1691).
The “all Israel” of Rom. 11:26 is the whole body of god’s redeemed people. It is composed of “the election” (which, as we have seen, has “obtained” what the natural Israel as a whole had “not obtained”) with the addition thereto of believers from among the Gentiles. For the main purpose of this passage (Rom. 9-11) and that also of chapter 4, and likewise of Galatians (chapters 3 and 4) is to make know that the real “Israel,” the true “children of Abraham,” who inherit the promises of God, are not the natural seed of Abraham but his spiritual seed. — Philip Mauro (1859-1952).
Coming now to Romans 9-11, it is plain teaching of that passage (1) that God’s true “Israel,” the nation concerning which it is said, “And so all Israel shall be saved,” is the whole body of the redeemed of the Lord: and (2) that, that body is composed of the believing “remnant” of the natural Israel (the “remnant according to the election of grace,” Ch. 11:5) with the addition thereto of believing Gentiles. These two elements, so diverse and antagonistic by nature, are incorporated into a spiritual unity, “the unity of the Spirit” (Eph. 2:12-18; 4:3). And this is according to that “mystery” of God’s eternal purpose, which was not clearly revealed in ages past, but now is made fully known (Eph. 3:4-6). That “mystery” is what is graphically illustrated by the olive tree of Romans 11. And as regards the salvation of the natural Israel in a future era, so far from teaching that doctrine, the passage we are studying was written for the purpose of refuting it. — Philip Mauro (1859-1952).
Our great Deliverer is in all respects what we could wish Him to be. He is our kinsman, and His power to destroy ungodliness is supreme. He has never failed to put away transgression in any case He has undertaken. Nothing is too hard for Him. He has put to flight every power ever raised against Him. His resources are infinite. He shall not fail nor be discouraged. If He could not save from sin, from its power as well as from its guilt, He would not meet our wants at all. — William S. Plumer (1802-1880).
So, what is the comfort you need? The comfort is to visualize the King of Glory for yourself! So King Hezekiah in the days of Isaiah becomes a mighty clear type or picture of this greater King, our Lord Jesus Christ. Hezekiah was hidden away in sackcloth, as the land had been invaded by their enemies, but the promise is that he will return in his royal splendor, appearing publicly as one of great beauty, and the prospect of again seeing the rightful sovereign in his own place would result in much joy to the people. So it is with our relationship to Christ; when He is absent the heart mourns; but when He again mounts the throne and the light of His countenance is upon us, how our hearts can rejoice in love to the Saviour! — Wylie W. Fulton (b. 1939).
The very fact that this Deliverer comes “out of Zion” and not out of Heaven indicates that the apostle is thinking of the first and not of the second coming. It is as the result of His first coming that “all Israel” is saved. Paul is speaking throughout these chapters of that which is now (in his own day) going on and will continue to take place throughout this dispensation until “all Israel” shall have been gathered in. . . . “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace” (Rom. 11:5). Study also 11:31: “even so have these also now been disobedient, that by the mercy shown to you, they also may now obtain mercy.” — William Hendriksen (1900-1982).
Verse 27. The Covenant of Grace cannot fail because it is made by and with God Alone. — M. R. DeHaan (1891-1965).
If Christ had not been cursed, I had not been blessed; if He had not been wounded, I had not been healed. — David A. Doudney (1811-1893).
All God does for us in the way of salvation, He does by a plan, a constitution, a covenant. This covenant is ordered in all things and sure. There are no flaws in it, no errors or mistakes in it. It is all right, all certain. Infinite wisdom has guarded everything respecting it. — William S. Plumer (1802-1880).
Between the old life and me stands the blood-red Cross, and I can never be the same man again. — T. T. Shields (1873-1955).
What a great mercy to be among the living in Zion! You cannot prize it too highly. — William Tiptaft (1803-1864).
With what view this was done, it is easy to collect from these words of our Lord; “I came down from Heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but raise it up at the last day” (John 6:38-39). That is to say, it is the pleasure and fixed determination of my Father, that none of those should perish, whom He has made My care and charge. Christ, with the utmost freedom promised to redeem and preserve them safe; wherefore when He shall have collected all these persons together, he will present them to the Father, with saying, Behold, I and the children whom thou hast given me. As Christ consented to fulfill the whole will of the Father, concerning our redemption, the Father promised several things to him, some of which respect Himself, personally considered; such as, (1). That He would suitably furnish and qualify Him for the work of mediation, to the discharge of which an extraordinary unction of the Holy Ghost, in His graces and gifts were necessary, as well on account of the greatness and difficulty of the undertaking, as for that He was to be an Head of life and influence to all the elect; for of His fulness they were to receive, and grace for grace (John 1:16). Such an uncommon measure of the Spirit He received from the Father, is evident from these words, thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness; therefore God, thy God hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows (Psalm 45:7), the same is affirmed by the Evangelist; for God giveth not the spirit by measure unto him (John 3:34). (2). Assistance and support in it, of such a nature is this promise; He shall not fail nor be discouraged till he have set judgment in the Earth, and the isles shall wait for his law (Isaiah 42); which federal engagement on the Father’s part, animated and encouraged Him in the most difficult branch of His Work, at the time of His dolorous sufferings; when, He gave his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair, and hid not his face from shame and spitting (Isaiah 1:6); for then He said, The Lord God will help me, therefore shall I not be confounded, therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed (Isaiah 1:7). — John Brine.
Salvation would be a sadly incomplete affair if it did not deal with the whole part of our ruined estate. We want to be purified as well as pardoned. Justification without sanctification would not be salvation at all. It would call the leper clean, and leave him to die of his disease. It would forgive the rebellion and allow the rebel to remain an enemy to his King. It would remove the consequences but overlook the cause, and this would leave an endless and hopeless task before us. It would stop the stream for a time, but leave an open fountain of defilement which would sooner or later break forth with increased power. Remember that the Lord Jesus came to take away sin in three ways: He came to remove the penalty of sin, the power of sin, and at last the presence of sin. — C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892).