Romans – Is God Through With Israel
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2007|
|In verse 25 we see the mystery of how God is working with Israel, even right now. It is a mystery.|
Is God Through With Israel? – Part 3
In verse 25 we see the mystery of how God is working with Israel, even right now. It is a mystery. Now, we are Gentiles. We are trying to figure all this out. Many of us are saying that Israel is gone. The church is the spiritual Israel.
It is almost as if they were saying the same thing back in Paul’s day, but Paul wants you (Gentiles) to understand something. He says, “I want you to understand how God is working with Israel today. It is a mystery to you and it is going to have to be revealed to your heart.”
So in verse 25 he says, “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in.” I don’t know how much clearer these verses could be. Let’s just take it apart and walk through it. The mystery he wants these Gentiles to know is that this partial hardening has happened to Israel. He says, “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery.” Who is the “you” that he is talking about?
Look back in verse 13 of our context: “But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles.” He wants to make sure the Gentile world understands it. He said, “I do not want you, believing Gentile brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery.” Now the word “uninformed” is the word agnoeo. Ag means without and noeo means understanding. It’s in the present tense. He says, “I don’t want you believing Gentiles to be walking around uninformed of this mystery of how God is dealing with Israel because you are going to come to the wrong conclusion. You are going to be arrogant about what you have. You can’t live that way. I want you to know how God is working with Israel even in the present time.”
The word for “mystery” is musterion, which is the word that means you could never understand it on your own unless God reveals it to you. When you try to figure out Israel, when you try to figure out why it is that God puts up with obstinate and disobedient Israel, when you try to put all that together, you can’t understand that. I can’t understand that. It is a mystery. But God alone can reveal it to the heart. “I do not want you Gentiles to go around without understanding of this mystery that God has kept from revealing to you. I want you to know what He is doing with Israel.”
Then he goes on to say, “lest you be wise in your own estimation.” Now “wise in your own estimation” actually should be translated “that you have an attitude towards others that stems from your own wisdom and not from God.” How many times in life when we haven’t heard from God do we come up with our own answers? Paul says, “I don’t want you Gentiles to come up with your own answers. I don’t want you to try to figure this out. I am trying to show you that God might reveal to your heart how He Himself is dealing with the nation of Israel.”
He goes on to say that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in. Now the word for “hardening” there is not the word that we have seen before in Romans. It is porosis. It means to petrify, to harden. The idea in this context is to render insensitive. If something is hard, it is insensitive, it is crusted over, it is that which cannot
be yielded to anything. It is insensitive. So the idea here is that Israel has become insensitive to the good news of righteousness by faith, to the good news that Christ is their Messiah. It is like a blinding.
Paul says “a partial hardening.” Now this is important. The word “partial” is the little word merous, which means part of something. It’s like you had a whole of something and you cut it up like a piece of pie. Let’s just think about that. A big apple pie, it is just freshly baked. You take it out of the oven and you have a lot of people to feed. You cut those pieces of pie, each little piece would be merous, a part of that pie. When you take a word like that, portion of or part of that, what he is saying is, it is a partial hardening.
How long is this hardening going to last? It hasn’t been there forever and it is not going to last forever. But for a part or a portion of time, Israel has been desensitized to the good news of Jesus Christ. This partial hardening has happened to Israel. Now this word “has happened” means that it came into being at a certain point in time. Now, it is perfect tense and active voice. Perfect tense means it came at a certain time back here and it is bearing a present result up here. Now when was that point in time? When did the hardening start? It started when they rejected Christ as their Messiah. It started when they rejected the message of the good news of righteousness by faith. It is not so much that God hardened them. The key I get out of this from studying chapters 9, 10 and 11, is they hardened themselves. Since they would not believe, they ended up not being able to believe. They would not, so they could not. So it is a partial hardening. Not forever, but there is a desensitized feeling among the Jews toward the gospel, toward righteousness by faith.
How long is it going to last? He tells you: “until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in.” The word “until” is a little word that signifies an end will come at a certain point in time, so it is not going to be forever. When is that point in time? When the fulness of the Gentiles comes in. The word “fulness” is pleroma. The idea here is when the full compliment (the full number of Gentiles that only God knows about because He foreknew everyone in salvation) has come in during this time, then God is going to say, “Okay, now.” Then He is going to begin to lift the veil there so that Israel might once again understand. They are desensitized to it now in order that the Gentiles might come in. But there is going to be a point when the fulness of the Gentiles come in that it will no longer be the case with Israel.
You see, not all the Gentiles are going to come in. But right now the door is open for Gentiles and God alone knows the number. God alone knows when the fulness of the Gentiles has come in. Paul is saying that this is a mystery to the Gentiles. I mean, can you imagine? You may go out and preach and see thousands of Gentiles come to know Christ, but you don’t see but one or two or three Jews ever come to know Christ. Wouldn’t you think after a while, “Well, this is a Gentile faith, this is a Gentile message; I mean, it is just for us”? Paul was trying to say, “No, it is not just for you. It started with Israel but they have rejected it. Now it is for you and while it is for you, they have a partial hardening. But now listen, when the fulness of the Gentiles comes in, God is going to turn His focus back to the nation that He has promised to bring in to His kingdom.” His point seems to be to the Gentiles, “Don’t mistake this insensitivity to the gospel, this hardening of Israel to be something that is permanent. It is just something that is temporary. It will be removed when God is ready and when the full compliment of Gentiles are brought in.”
Then Paul brings into focus how again God is working with Israel. Verse 26 says, “and thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove all ungodliness from Jacob.’” Now we tried to clarify that a while ago. All Israel means all of Israel that is left at that time. Let me go back and read Zechariah 13:8-9 for you because this is a prophesy out of the Old Testament. It is not every Jew, it is not every physical descendant of Abraham, but of all the Jews that are left in the land, one-third of them will be saved. Zechariah 13:8 says, “And it will come about in all the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘That two parts in it will be cut off and perish; but the third will be left in it. And I will bring the third part through the fire, refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”
So there is going to come a day when all of Israel that is left at that time will come back and God will bring them to salvation. Now that is a promise He made to Abraham and He is not about to back off that promise. Don’t be deceived by the fact that all the Gentiles are coming in right now. Just because Israel has a partial hardening as a nation, it is only for a short period of time. When the fulness of the Gentiles come in, God is going to put His focus back on that nation.
Well, Paul continues in verse 26 and quotes from Isaiah 59:20-21. He says, “just as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness form Jacob. And this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.’” You have to remember something, God is a covenant keeping God. What God starts, what God promises, He is faithful to. He made a covenant with them. It seems to be referring to the promise of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31. We have read that before and I won’t go back and do it again, but He promises a day of His coming when He will give them a new heart. He will put His spirit within them. Now that is salvation. And that is going to take place to Israel sometime in the future. There will be a future fulfillment. There will be a grafting in. There will be a time when the fulness of the Gentiles has come in, and God turns His focus back on Israel. There is a day coming.
In verses 28 and 29 he says, “From the standpoint of the gospel [and he is talking about the present time], they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”
Now let’s back up on that because this is important. Right now what is going on with Israel? He says, “from the standpoint of the gospel.” The word “gospel” is good news. What is the good news? The good news is you can’t save yourself, but Jesus came to do what you could not do. The good news is righteousness by faith in Christ. The good news is salvation through Christ alone. Now that is the good news. So he says, “From the standpoint of that good news, they are enemies for your sake.” Now they are not your enemies, but they are enemies of the gospel. They are enemies, in a way, of God.
I can see the Gentile world standing up and saying, “Now wait a minute. If they are enemies of God and we are all accepting all this by faith, then why does God even put up with them?” Careful, careful. Back in Romans 5:10 it talks about us. It says, “For while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” So we were all enemies of God. So what makes Israel any different than what we were? We were enemies of God.
Paul says, “Right now, as far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake.” What do you mean? That the Gentiles might continue to come in. In evangelism around the world the Gentile doors are open. But one day they will be the ones to be reconciled. Right now it is our turn. Their turn is coming.
He says, “but from the standpoint of God’s choice, they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.” It is God’s choice whether Gentiles or Jews are saved. God foreknew who He was going to save from both groups. He says “for the sake of their fathers.” Who were their fathers?
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For the sake of the promises that He gave to them, these are beloved in God’s eyes, God continues to look dearly upon them, even though right now it doesn’t appear that way. God has not forgotten Israel. He has just opened the doors for the Gentiles right now. He is going to go back and honor His promise that He made to their forefathers.
Well, in verse 29 we read, “for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” Now I want to spend a moment or two here because I have heard these verses used to justify a million things. But when you put them in the context, it is very clear. First of all, the word “gifts” is charisma. charis is the word for grace, which you and I will never deserve in a million years. Ma means the result of that grace. In other words, it’s the act itself, whatever God has done. Whatever God has done for the Gentiles, whatever God has done for Israel, whatever God has promised to Israel, that is charisma. None of us deserve it. Israel doesn’t deserve it. It is all God doing this.
There are the gifts of God and then there is the calling of God. The word “calling” is the same word we have been studying since back in chapter 8. It is the invitation that God gives to each man, whether Jew or Gentile, about the good news, righteousness by faith. The gifts and the calling of God. Once God issues that, remember, God predestined, He called, He justified, He glorified. So what God does, He does not retract. He knows exactly what Gentiles are coming in. He knows exactly what Jews are coming in. And He knows exactly who will be left of one-third of Israel that one day that whole nation will come in. What He has promised, what He has decreed cannot in any way be retracted. But it means more than that. The King James says, “The gifts and the callings of God are without repentance.” The NASB says “irrevocable.” “Without repentance” would be closer to it. The word that is used there is “without repentance.” But it should be, I think, translated “without any regret.” In other words, when God chose to call Wayne Barber, God also knew that Wayne Barber was going to be a thick, hard head one day.
But does God regret that? No, God does not regret what He has decided to do with His gifts and His calling. Does Wayne regret it? Absolutely not. The gifts and the calling of God are not regrettable to anyone, especially to God. When you think about how you and I test God and try God and you think about how lousy we are as believers half the time. God does not have any regrets. God knows what He is doing in your life. God knows what He is doing in my life. And one day He is going to conform us into the image of Christ Jesus. It may be through chastening and discipline and scourging, but He is going to get us to that place. He does not have any regrets, even though we are very much sinful.
But listen, just as He doesn’t have any regrets in choosing us as Gentiles, He doesn’t have any regrets in choosing Israel. Just because Israel right now is shaking their fist in His face, God does not have any regrets. The gifts and the callings of God are without repentance. God doesn’t change His mind. God doesn’t have any regrets. God is not going to back off of it. This is the thing that we don’t understand about God because we are not God. But God sees through all of that. God sees it as finished. We don’t see it as finished yet. And God knows that one day Israel is going to come back to Him. Why? Because He made a promise and God keeps His promises, you see. So all that He has done for us and for Israel He does not regret. I guarantee you Israel won’t regret it and neither do we. We don’t regret what God has done. The gifts which we don’t deserve, the calling which was His beautiful invitation to the good news of what He offers to all men. The mystery of how God works and is working with Israel has got to be revealed to Gentiles.
When we were over in Israel I saw some of that stuff and I am thinking, “God, aren’t you grieved about all this?” But there are no regrets on God’s part. God knew that when He chose them and therefore, God is going to bring them exactly to where He said He was going to bring them. He absolutely keeps on His course. He never waivers, never slumbers, never sleeps. He is always busy. He has no regrets whatsoever for that which He does that man does not deserve. God made the choice and God will carry it out.
In verse 30 of chapter 11 he says, “For just as you [Gentiles] once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their [Israel’s] disobedience.” We don’t deserve any of that but because they disobeyed, we are being shown mercy. Then he says it is going to be their turn. Verse 31 reads, “so these also now have been disobedient [they are in the same boat you were in] in order that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy.”
Verse 32 says, “For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all.” The word “shut up” has the idea of closing in everyone. God has enclosed all mankind, both Jews and Gentiles, as sinners so that He might show mercy to all. He has overruled our disobedience by coming to die for us so that He might show mercy to all. That is why in Romans 3:23 it says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
I think the bottom line of this thing that keeps hitting me is, “Wayne, you are a Gentile. Don’t you ever get an arrogant bone in your body. You don’t deserve anything but hell itself.” When you point your finger at Israel, remember, they deserve the same thing you have. God showed mercy to you and God is going to show mercy to them. God found you and God will find them. He honors His promises. That is the bottom line of what we have been learning in chapters 9, 10 and 11. Salvation is God’s business. It is not our business. We can never pat ourselves on the back. We have no right to live arrogantly, as if we deserve something. The key is that God loves us and He deserves all praise and all glory and all obedience and all surrender. That is what ought to drive me daily to living surrendered to Him. I don’t deserve it. Israel doesn’t deserve it.
So Paul is saying, “Gentiles, I had better reveal this to you because you wouldn’t understand it if I didn’t. Just like you were disobedient, they are disobedient. But God is going to do to them what He did for you Gentiles. He is going to do the very same thing.” So the mystery of how God will one day work with Israel is covered so preciously by Paul by showing you that both of us don’t deserve it. But God is going to honor His promises to them.
Finally, there is the wonder of it all. The greatest doxology of any chapter of any book in the Bible is verses 33-36. Paul says in verse 33, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”
The Apostle Paul puts everything in perspective. You know, man has always been a thinker. The world’s libraries attest to that. His restless intellect probes the heights and depths of what he can learn. Man takes all that he can come up with, all the degrees from school and tries to understand the wisdom and knowledge of God. Paul says that His wisdom and knowledge is absolutely unsearchable. There is no possible way. It is beyond anything man could ever come up with.
The question is, “God, is the church Israel? Has God kicked Israel out?” We don’t understand salvation from God’s point of view. God promises and God is faithful to His promises. We don’t deserve it. Yes, they don’t deserve it. But He saved me and He can certainly save Israel. That is what we have forgotten.
I want to take you back to what I said several weeks ago about Spurgeon. That lady walked up to him and said, “Mr. Spurgeon, I don’t see how God could hate Esau.” Spurgeon said, “That has never bothered me. What has bothered me is how God could love Jacob.” To kick Israel out when God has made the promises in the Old Testament is to almost put yourself in a position of wisdom as if to say, “If I were God I don’t think I would do it.” Paul is saying, “The wisdom and knowledge of God, and how He works with Israel, is so far beyond human reasoning and ability to think it through that it is unsearchable.”
Paul continues. He says not only that the wisdom and knowledge of God are that way. He says there in verse 33 of chapter 11, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” The depth means that it doesn’t have a bottom. It is like a well that does not have a bottom. “How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” Now the word for “judgments” there is the word krima. The ma at the end of the word refers to the judgments themselves. It would mean the actual decrees or the actual mandates of God, that which God decides to do, that which God chooses to do. Those kinds of things are absolutely unsearchable to the mind of man. Only God the Holy Spirit could ever reveal it to us. We can’t figure out God. It is almost like saying, “God won’t fit in our little box. We can’t figure Him out.” God is a merciful God. We can never deny who He is. He acts out of all of His attributes at one time. He loves Israel just like He loves us.
If you will go back and look at how Israel lived and how the Gentile world lived, you will wonder why He ever fooled with the Gentiles. They were pagans who had no roots at all in respecting God. But He loved all mankind. That is unsearchable to the human mind. We can’t understand the decrees and choices of God.
Then Paul goes on and says, “unfathomable His ways!” The word “unfathomable” is almost like unsearchable but it is different. It means you can’t trace His steps. You can’t second-guess Him because you can’t trace His steps. His ways are unsearchable. The word “ways” has to do with the manner in which God does what He does. Nobody can figure that out. Thank God He is not like us. Thank God He is a God of love and you can’t trace His steps. You just can’t figure Him out because God is going to work like God is going to work. Man and God are on two different levels of understanding.
The word for “ways” means a road that is heavily traveled. And so in the area, figuratively here, it means that He doesn’t have heavily traveled ways in every situation. You have to back off until He reveals it to you, you see. Remember back in the Old Testament they knew His works but only Moses knew His ways.
Paul goes on and quotes from the Old Testament to back up what he just said in Romans 11:34: “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?” Verse 35 continues, “Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again?” In other words, who has ever given anything to God? God is giving it all to man. Who has ever given God any advise? God is the counselor.
It is as if he were writing this to Wayne. He would say, “Wayne, would you sit down and just shut up. You don’t understand. Quit trying to figure it out. God promises. God is faithful to His promises. You are a human being. You can’t understand an infinite God who is a God of love.” That is what he is saying. You can’t trace all of His steps because He is not going to act like you would act. You can’t figure Him out. You can’t give Him advice and you certainly have never given anything to Him that deserves what He has given to you. So, therefore, just bask in the fact that it is by grace and you don’t deserve it and live awed by that for the rest of your life.
Verse 36 ends it. He says, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” I wrote some things down that chapters 9, 10 and 11 have said to me.
“Wayne, this is not your salvation. It is God’s. Treat it that way.” “Wayne, you did not pursue God. God pursued you.”
Have you ever thought about your salvation experience? You thought you found something. God had been on your case for how long?
“Wayne, you don’t deserve this. You deserve hell, so stop griping and grumbling when you don’t get your way. You don’t deserve anything.”
Boy, that is a message that ought to be preached in the 20th century to the church. Don’t we think we deserve it? We do. We really do think we deserve it. I do and I am wrong.
“Wayne, you can do nothing to stop what God has started in your life because He decided to do it before you were ever born.”
Has that grabbed you yet? Philippians 1:6 says, “He that began a good work in you will perform it until the day of Christ.” So Wayne, you can’t do anything to stop it. Well, I can sin and I can be rebellious. Do you think that is going to stop the hand of God in your life, the purpose that God put before the foundation of this world? God chastens and disciplines those whom He loves. The word “scourge” means beats the hide clean off. Do you think God won’t get your attention? This is why it always bugs me when I see a Christian running around sinning and having a ball and saying he is getting away with it. You don’t know Jesus. If you knew Jesus, buddy, you would be the most miserable individual who ever lived on the face of this earth, because God won’t let you get away with it. God finishes what He starts, not only with us, but with Israel, as we have seen.
“Wayne, even your prayer life originates with Him.”
Do you ever think prayer starts with you? For all things are what? Of Him and through Him and to Him. What? I thought I started prayer. Well, I get up every morning at 6:00 and I start my prayer. I know I start that prayer. Real praying, friend, is when God starts drawing you into prayer through that crisis, through whatever it is that is driving you to the edge of yourself. Then God takes that and draws you to Himself and begins to pull you into what He is up to. Prayer is His inviting you into that realm of experiencing what He is up to and doing already. All things are of Him and through Him and to Him. So in other words, when you are walking down the street one day or driving a car or whatever and God puts something on your heart and you can’t hardly even see straight because God is leading you to pray, that is prayer, folks. Prayer starts with Him and comes all the way back to where He gets the glory for what we do.
“Wayne, this is not your work, but God’s work in you.”
That hit me in chapters 9, 10 and 11. Has it hit you? Sometimes, things happen around here. Folks come and go. I kind of start measuring it again. Do you know what measuring it means? You are back up under the law. You have just gotten out from under grace. You can’t measure it under grace.
I remember one time we were down in Mississippi, and we had a 100-hour prayer meeting for a revival. 100 hours! We set it up on the clock and had people praying every hour for 100 straight hours. I picked up the evangelist and was driving him to the church and he said, “What have you all done to get ready for the revival?” I said, “We had 100 hours of prayer.” He just looked as if I had stung him and said, “Good night. That puts a lot of pressure on me!” I said,
“Where did you get that? That puts a whole lot of pressure on God because God is going to do what He is going to do. It is not up to you and it is not up to me.”
A lot of people fast trying to get God to do something. A lot of people go on hunger strikes. God is going to do what He is going to do. Have you figured that out yet? I told him, “God may want to split the church while you are here this week.” He said, “What? Do you have problems?” I said, “No, we don’t have any problems. But who knows what God is going to do. These are His people. This is His work.”
I want to tell you something, folks, this is His church. He is going to do with it as He sees fit. It is His work, it is not our work. We don’t do the work of the church. God does His work through us.
“Wayne, never get out of bed in the morning or go to bed at night without being totally awed by the fact that a holy and righteous God loves you and did for you what you could not deserve in a million years.”
“Wayne, don’t ever be found ungrateful or presumptuous.” “Wayne, learn to rest in the providence of God.”
I haven’t learned to do that yet real well, have you? It is God’s work. God is going to do it. God planned it before the foundation of this world. This is His business of salvation. We are going into chapter 12 and you are going to find out that the church is not an organization like many of you think it is. Some of you come from other churches and you bring your own agenda. Well, you might as well park it out in the parking lot because we are not an organization, we are an organism. God designed that. God also designed the fact that every believer has a spiritual gift to where he contributes in the body of Christ.
I am not picking on you. It sounds like I have an agenda. But that is what the church is. That is what chapter 12 is resting on, folks. You have to understand chapters 9, 10 and 11. God is faithful to do what God is going to do. You don’t change Him. Israel is a good case in point. Don’t try to figure Israel out. You can’t figure it out. It is a mystery. God is going to be faithful and He will do it His own way. God’s business is what we are all about, not man’s business. I don’t know why in the world we can’t see that.
The psalmist says it in Psalm 2:1, “Why are the nations in an uproar and the people devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His anointed. Let us tear their feathers apart and cast away their cords from us. He who sits in the heavens laughs. The Lord scoffs at them.” In other words, all these vain plans to do all they are going to do down here, God just sits back and laughs, as if man could ever for one second stop Him from doing what He has resolved to do. That’s not only the Gentile world, but it is also in the world of Israel.
The wonder of it all. I tell you, I don’t know when I have been as frustrated in three chapters in my life but I don’t know when I have been as blessed in three chapters in my life. Chapters 9, 10 and 11 put everything in perspective. It focuses you so much on God you don’t ever look at man again after you go through those chapters. I tell you, the next time, if you get offended and you want to gripe and grumble about whatever it is in your life or wherever, you just get down on your face and say, “Oh, God, forgive me. What in the world am I doing? What right do I have to say anything back to you because You designed this and it is awesome to me. It is incredible.” That is why it says in verses 1-2 of chapter 12, “I urge you therefore, brethren [I am begging you], by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, [Why?] that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
That starts by understanding that He is the one who had you on His mind long before you ever had Him on yours. He found you, stopped you, changed you and now He is busy conforming you into His image, as we saw in 8:28. That is the picture.