The Second Rebuttal to the Charge that God's Word Has Failed
The Second Rebuttal To The Charge That God’s Word Has Failed
89.5 verses to refute .5 verse. That is the vital stats of Romans 9-11. The widespread conversion of Gentiles into the church, and the stubborn rejection of the Jews brought many to question the fidelity of God to His O.T. promises. Were not the Jewish people “God’s chosen people? Did God drop the ball”?
The charge that God’s word has failed in Romans 9:6a is the pivot point in chapters 9-11. Thus, all the verses from 9:6b- to the end of chapter 11 form a lengthy rebuttal to this accusation of infidelity. The vindication of God is built on three foundational considerations:
1. “For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel”
(9:6b-29) The issue of election
2. “However they did not all heed the Good News (9:30-10:21)
The issue of Jewish unbelief
3. “God’s Master Plan for Jewish Salvation (11:1-36)
The second rebuttal examines Israel’s unbelief. This section, dominated by chapter 10, stresses human responsibility (vs. 11). For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." (Vs. 21) But of Israel he says, "All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people." Lining up chapter 9 with its stress on God’s sovereignty and election, and chapter 10 with its accent on responsibility, substantiates the fact that both truths are to be believed. Coming to peace with this seeming contradiction is not an easy matter though. Disagreements generating “more heat than light” usually are a race to see how many proof texts can be listed for each position; the person with the most verses is declared the winner. It is as if your verse cancels out my verse; and the person left with the last unchallenged verse has bested his opponent. An impenetrable mystery remains, though God’s decisions can be honored. “There is sufficient clearness to enlighten the elect, and sufficient obscurity to humble them. There is sufficient obscurity to blind the reprobate, and sufficient clearness to condemn them, and make them inexcusable” Augustine quoted by Blaise Pascal in Pensees, 8.578 (Old Testament Theology, Waltke, Bruce, Zondervan, 2007, page 173).
Dr. D.A. Carson reminds us that both truth- God’s sovereignty/human freedom are affirmed in the Scriptures; (1) God is absolutely sovereign, but it does not function in a way that curtails or minimizes, or mitigates human responsibility (Gen. 50:19-20). (2). Humans are morally responsible-they significantly choose, rebel, obey, believe, defy, and humans are culpable, but this never functions so as to make God absolutely contingent. (For this reason, foreknowledge about a future sinner’s predisposition to the Gospel cannot be the basis for election- for it makes God incidental to the miracle of salvation. Even the hard line advocates of “free will” realize that foreknowedge is the same as foreordination. So your open theists maintain human freedom by saying that God does not know the future- its open to Him. That is a theological move with an awful price. Romans 8:29 says He foreknew me, was committed to me with desire and love. Therefore, (3) because numbers one and two are Biblically established, Scripture follows through and supports the same act as under God’s control/freely done by an agent. When I come to the mystery of the middle, I must stand in awe, and recognize that “my actions (believing, rejecting) are causally determined “but free, because I act without constraint (Erickson, Milliard, Christian Theology, Baker Book House, 1987, page 213). This is illustrated in John 6:36-40 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day”.
Harry Ironside, the preacher on the street tells this humorous story, “Have you ever heard the story of the man who was wonderfully saved and arose in a class meeting to testify to his new found joy? His heart was filled with Christ, and his lips spoke of Him and of Him only, as his Redeemer and Lord. The class leader was a legalist, and said when the other had finished, “Our brother has told us what the Lord did for him, but has forgotten to tell us what he did in order to be saved. God does His part when we do ours. Brother, did you not do your part before God saved you?” The man was on this feet in a moment and exclaimed, “I surely did do my part. I ran away from God as fast as my sins could carry me. That was my part. And God chased me till He caught me. That was His part. Yes, you and I have all done our part, and a dreadfully sad part it was. We did all the sinning, and He must do all the saving.
God’s Word has not failed; for the problem is not God’s faithlessness, but Israel’s stubborn unbelief. The second rebuttal analyzes the history of Jewish unbelief (9:30-10:21). A quick look at the whole chapter will help us as we start this longer section.
10:5-13- Using a passage from Dt. 30:12f Paul reminds the listening Jew that the message of the truth is close to your heart and lips. Christ has already come to us in the incarnation, and has already come back from the grave in his victorious resurrection. Believe and Confess.
10:14-18- Israel could not hide behind the excuse of not having heard the Gospel. “Indeed they have, But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for Psalms 19 says, "Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world." The wonders of creation speak continuously of God’s power and majesty, and the apostle applies this to the light of truth radiating out toward the known world in missionary evangelization.
10:19-21- In the Gentile mission described in the book of the Acts the Jews were angry and jealous of God’s work among “people who were not a people”. They clearly understood that blessings were flowing away from them to pagan idolaters.
In spite of the nearness and proximity of the gospel, the Jewish response was one of unbelief- vs. 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" The fact of Jewish unbelief continues to this day. The “why” of their unbelief is analyzed in the section 9:30-10:4. The text (ASV of 1901) reads as follows “What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, who followed not after righteousness, attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith: 31 but Israel, following after a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. 32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by works. They stumbled at the stone of stumbling; 33 even as it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence: And he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame. 1 Brethren, my heart's desire and my supplication to God is for them, that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law unto righteousness to every one that believeth.
(The text –The Message) How can we sum this up? All those people who didn't seem interested in what God was doing actually embraced what God was doing as he straightened out their lives. And Israel, who seemed so interested in reading and talking about what God was doing, missed it. How could they miss it? Because instead of trusting God, they took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their "God projects" that they didn't notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road. And so they stumbled into him and went sprawling. Isaiah (again!) gives us the metaphor for pulling this together:
Careful! I've put a huge stone on the road to Mount Zion,
a stone you can't get around.
But the stone is me! If you're looking for me,
you'll find me on the way, not in the way.
1-3Believe me, friends, all I want for Israel is what's best for Israel: salvation, nothing less. I want it with all my heart and pray to God for it all the time. I readily admit that the Jews are impressively energetic regarding God—but they are doing everything exactly backward. They don't seem to realize that this comprehensive setting-things-right that is salvation is God's business, and a most flourishing business it is. Right across the street they set up their own salvation shops and noisily hawk their wares. After all these years of refusing to really deal with God on his terms, insisting instead on making their own deals, they have nothing to show for it. 4The earlier revelation was intended simply to get us ready for the Messiah, who then puts everything right for those who trust him to do it.
Three reasons are given for Israel’s unbelief, followed by a bombshell summation.
Vs.32a- Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. The law’s intent was to prove our sinfulness in an objective sense. Instead of seeing their need for salvation help, they became self sufficient in managing a legal observance. To Israel the law became a source of proud ownership. In an effort to ensure that they were compliant, they added many traditions to hedge in the law. They saw good works as securing a wage of acceptance from God, and in making it a “quid pro quo” relationship, the Jews denied the reality and need for grace (11:6). Trust is not needed when there is no need. “They were a guide to the blind, a corrector of the foolish, and a teacher of the infants” (2:19-20). But they themselves were guilty of a lifetime of violations.
Vs. 32b- Because they stumbled over the stumbling stone of Christ. Matthew 13:54-58 “and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, "Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?" 57And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household." 58And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. Not only His humble beginnings offended people, but His authority in teaching, and His claim to be God’s Son angered the religious establishment. The Scriptures anticipated this collision. Jesus is the stone spoken of by Isaiah the prophet that scandalized the Jewish mind. The verses from Isaiah 8 and 26 in verse 33 of chapter nine are set in the story of God’s offer to a Jewish king to be a source of great stability and certainty in politically troubled times or God would become a stone that would be a hurtful obstacle. In N.T. times the believer would experience Christ as a rocklike sanctuary of safety(your soul would not be in haste/anxious). To the unbeliever this prophecy makes Christ a source of entrapment and judgement.
Vs. 2-3- Because there religious zeal was misguided. They were full of fervor for law keeping, but they forgot/disregarded the gift of righteousness from God. The Ten Commands alone should have made their indictment clear, but they insisted on establishing their own right standing with God. This zeal without knowledge becomes a negative proto type of world religions. Buddha has his eight fold path, and Mohammed his Five Pillars. In the end the commentary is “that they did not submit to the righteousness of God. God’s offer of pardon was rejected. In John’s gospel the resistance can be felt (John 5:39f). “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from people. 42But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 45Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?"
They had set their hope on Moses, and yet Moses had wrote of Christ’s coming. It was this tragic irony that sets the stage for the bombshell summary of vs. 4. In the book of Romans and Galatians, the distance between works based merit, and the gift of imputed righteousness is measured in spiritual light years. There is no retreat to a “fairness doctrine” or a taking the best of both. If you are seeking to be justified by works, then, “you are severed from Christ, and are fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4). So the bombshell fuse is lit. “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. All the O. T. forecasts the person and work of Christ. He would be the suffering servant who would bear the sins of many. The law “was a schoolmaster” to instruct us in the need for Christ to be our Savior. When one bows the knee, in humble repentance and belief, the law has run its course; it has accomplished its objective. Christ is the Savior, not the Law.
Roger Simms, hitchhiking his way home, would never forget the date—May 7. His heavy suitcase made Roger tired. He was anxious to take off his army uniform once and for all. Flashing the hitchhiking sigh to the oncoming car, he lost hope when he saw it was a black, sleek, new Cadillac. To his surprise the car stopped. The passenger door opened. He ran toward the car, tossed his suitcase in the back, and thanked the handsome, well-dressed man as he slid into the front seat. “Going home for keeps?” “Sure am,” Roger responded. “Well, you’re in luck if you’re going to Chicago.” “Not quite that far. Do you live in Chicago?” “I have a business there. My name is Hanover.”
After talking about many things, Roger, a Christian, felt a compulsion to witness to this fiftyish, apparently successful businessman about Christ. But he kept putting it off, till he realized he was just thirty minutes from his home. It was now or never. So, Roger cleared his throat, “Mr. Hanover, I would like to talk to you about something very important.” He then proceeded to explain the way of salvation, ultimately asking Mr. Hanover if he would like to receive Christ as his Savior. To Roger’s astonishment the Cadillac pulled over to the side of the road. Roger thought he was going to be ejected from the car. But the businessman bowed his head and received Christ, then thanked Roger. “This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.”
Five years went by, Roger married, had a two-year-old boy, and a business of his own. Packing his suitcase for a business trip to Chicago, he found the small, white business card Hanover had given him five years before. In Chicago he looked up Hanover Enterprises. A receptionist told him it was impossible to see Mr. Hanover, but he could see Mrs. Hanover. A little confused as to what was going on, he was ushered into a lovely office and found himself facing a keen-eyed woman in her fifties. She extended her hand. “You knew my husband?” Roger told how her husband had given him a ride when hitchhiking home after the war. “Can you tell me when that was?” “It was May 7, five years ago, the day I was discharged from the army.” “Anything special about that day?” Roger hesitated. Should he mention giving his witness? Since he had come so far, he might as well take the plunge. “Mrs. Hanover, I explained the gospel. He pulled over to the side of the road and wept against the steering wheel. He gave his life to Christ that day.” Explosive sobs shook her body. Getting a grip on herself, she sobbed, “I had prayed for my husband’s salvation for years. I believed God would save him.” “And,” said Roger, “Where is your husband, Mrs. Hanover?” “He’s dead,” she wept, struggling with words. “He was in a car crash after he let you out of the car. He never got home. You see—I thought God had not kept His promise.” Sobbing uncontrollably, she added, “I stopped living for God five years ago because I thought He had not kept His word!”
A poor old Christian woman was accustomed to make marginal notes in her Bible,
and she placed against one text a “T” and a “P.” The minister asked her what that
meant, and she said, “It meant Tried and Proved, for I tried that promise on
such-and-such an occasion, and found it true.” “But, my dear sister,” said he, “I see
up and down these pages, whenever there is a choice verse a great ‘P’ put against it;
what does it mean? “That means precious, sir, for I have found it precious, and have
therefore set my seal to it.” 931.285