A Voice in the
Brothers, truly my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is for its salvation." (vs1)
First of all, before we get into the meat of this chapter, we should make an observation from this simple statement. When Paul speaks of "Israel" he is not speaking of the "Church". A definition of the Church is the Body of Christ (1Cor12:27), those who are Disciples. (Acts11:26) The Church consists of both Jews -and- Gentiles. (Eph2:12-16) Those that participate in the "faith of Christ". (Phil3:9) Those that are "saved". (Acts16:31) If a person does not fit into this definition, whether Jew or Gentile, they are not saved. They are not part of the Church.
When Paul expresses his desire and prayer regarding Israel, that they be saved; BY DEFINITION, they are not the Church. If they were, they would be "saved" and he would not have made such a statement. And conversely, the Church is not Israel. He is referring to the Israel that is not Israel. (9:6) The genetic descendants who make up Israel, nationally. Those who are yet in "unbelief". (Heb3:19) This is a good thing to keep in mind when confronted by some who apply prophesies and promises meant for Israel, to the Church. They take passages like Gal3:29 "if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise", thinking this makes the Church -into- Israel and thus recipients of Israel's benefits; not understanding that Israel that -is- Israel, is so through "promise". (Rom9:8) They become Abraham's "seed" in Faith. (4:3) And in this sense, being more than -merely- Abraham's seed, but Christ's seed (1Jn3:9) through the new birth. God had promised Abraham, "in your Seed [capital "S"] shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." (Gen22:18, Gal3:16) This Seed was Christ. So, when Paul speaks of "Abraham's seed" in Gal3:29, he is actually speaking of being "in Christ". (2Cor5:17) Being "Israel" of Israel. (Rom9:6) Being a [C]hristian christian.
Israel, just like much of the 'church', has been zealous for God. They work hard to measure up to some standard. The Law. But Paul expresses the same thing we have noted in our Matthew studies, that the law they kept was often of their own contrivances and efforts. When they would ask Jesus about the Law, He would speak of His "fulfilling" the Law (Mt5:17). And yet, when confronted by the Law's specifics, many of them would find themselves as coming up short of its requirements. And on the other hand, they would condemn Jesus for not observing -their- 'idea' of the Sabbath laws. (Jn9:16)
Paul now defines their problem. They didn't take God's Law to heart; but instead set "about to establish their own righteousness". (vs3) If they had truly kept the Law, they would have "lived". (vs5,Lev18:5) But their rebellious hearts did not understand, nor submit to the "Spirit" of God's Law. (Acts7:51, Rom2:29, 2Cor3:6)
And ultimately they rejected Jesus Christ, the "end of the Law for righteousness for everyone who believes." (vs4) Remember Abraham's "Seed". And then, the whole Law was set up to look -ahead- to Christ; beginning with Passover. Christ came as the "[Passover] lamb without blemish and without spot.." (1Pt1:19b) Now, if the Law looked ahead -to- Christ, and Christ has now come; what further need is there for the Law? There isn't. That's why He is the "end of the Law.." We'll come back to this momentarily...
Just another thought about the Law which they misunderstood. They tried to set about to "observe" the Law; but they did not understand the "keeping" of it. Perhaps I'm nit-picking with words, here, but... They were like many legalists today; busy, busy, busy trying to "do" the Law, or "not do" its prohibitions. Missing entirely the "fellowship" aspect of the relationship God desired with them. They were the "pupil of His eye" (Deu32:10,Zec2:8) as He dwelt among them in the pillar of fire and smoke. And then, when the temple was dedicated, His "glory" filled the temple (2Chr7:1) indicating His "presence" among them. When the Law was given, Moses exhorted that the Law was not something meant to be insidious and vicious, or difficult. But it was something to be kept in one's heart. "This commandment..is not hidden from you..but the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may do it." (Deu30:11-14) Remember how Paul begins Romans when he speaks of the "conscience". (2:15) This conscience is -already- in the heart. The Law merely enumerates into words, what a person already innately knows. So, this is just another explanation of the fact that Israel's problem was a -heart- problem. The 'Law' was merely an excuse and symptom.
So, naturally, if they rejected the Law already in their hearts, they also rejected the "End" of the Law, Jesus Christ.
But now we're talking about the personal 'mechanisms' of being saved. Paul's heart-yearning is that Israel be saved. What he says regarding Israel's salvation is the same 'process' as for anybody; Jew and Gentile, alike. (vs12)
What is this "Word of Faith"? (vs8b) "..with the mouth you confess the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead.." What? "..you shall be saved.." (vs9)
Now, he defines what he has just said. "With the heart one believes unto righteousness." (vs10a) Remember that salvation is "by grace through faith...not of works" (Eph2:8-9) Abraham's 'righteousness' came about when he "believed God". (4:3)
"And with the mouth one confesses unto salvation." (vs10b) Can a person -merely- "believe" and be righteous? Certainly. God knows the heart. But we are also "body and soul" beings. How do -we- know we are saved? Paul often speaks of the "mind". (Rom12:2,Eph4:23) How does our mind know we are saved if that faith doesn't make it "out" to that which the rest of the person understands? The -mouth- confesses. Proclaims. The mouth is a door to the heart. As Jesus said, "the things which come out of the mouth come from the heart.." (Mt15:18) Best way to tell the heart of a man is to be around when he smashes his thumb real hard with a hammer. What comes out of his mouth? Abraham "believed" God, but he proved and proclaimed it when he put his -only- son on the altar. (Jas2:21)
Anyone, Jew or Greek [Gentile] equally, who calls on Him, who does so "believing on Him shall not be put to shame." (vs11) He will not have to 'hang his head' when he stands before God, awaiting judgment; because there is "no condemnation". (8:1)
Now, we come to the favorite passage that used to be used in missions conferences. (Is it still?) If salvation comes about from "calling on the name of the Lord" (vs13, Joel2:32) they obviously have to 'believe' in Him. To believe in Him they need to "hear" of Him to know Who He is. Obviously, somebody needs to "tell" them. And then, naturally, the ones telling need to "go" to where the unsaved are, in order for them to hear.
There's the ol' favorite song with words, "Bring them in, bring them in..." And most churches use the song to stir people up to bring the unsaved in -to- the church meetings. Is that what this passage says? The ones who reach them are "sent" to "preach the gospel of peace.." (vs15) How many churches expect the unsaved to "come in" to the "church" to -then- "get them saved"?
First of all, until the lost are saved, they don't even -belong- in the assembly! In the O.T. God's direction was quite specific about keeping the profane out of God's presence. And they had the gatekeepers "so that the unclean in any way could not go in." (2Chr23:19) Preachers need to be "sent" to the lost, to bring (take) the gospel -to- them.
Not everyone who hears will be saved. "But they have not all obeyed the gospel." (vs16) Even when Jesus came "to His own [Israel]...His own received Him not." (Jn1:11) He -was- "sent" to Israel who was not Israel, and "though He had done so many miracles before them, yet they did not believe on Him" (Jn12:37) fulfilling the prophecy, "Lord, who has believed our report?" (Jn12:38,Isa53:1) And even today Israel rejects Him, even to the refusal to read that prophecy. Isaiah 53 is a "banned" chapter to orthodox Jews. Not only -did- they reject Him then, they still reject the prophecy that foretold their rejection of Him. 'Don't confuse me with facts, I've got my mind made up!'
What is the -basis- for Faith? Experience? Feelings? Emotions? Invitations? "Faith is of hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." (vs17) Do you see why the apostasy LAYS ASIDE God's Word? Why they "tear down the walls" of Doctrine? When they have their "spirit-filled" meetings, just "praising the Lord", preachers are often heard to say, "We won't have Scripture tonight; we've had the spirit." But you see, if it is not the Word of God, it is NOT Salvation! A person cannot be saved without God's Word. When the Ethiopian asked if he could be baptized, what was he doing? He had been reading the Scriptures. (Acts8) And Philip was sent, joined him and "preached the gospel of Jesus" to him.
The Holy Spirit, who propelled the writers of the Scriptures in the first place (2Pt1:21), is the 'conduit' for God's Word, pointing people to God's Word, Jesus Christ. (Jn16:13-15) If the meeting is all about being "spirit-filled" and being blessed "in the spirit", the attention is being focused on whatever "spirit" is being conjured up with their shamanism. If these "spirit-filled" meetings don't include God's Word or doctrine, then, the spirit in that meeting was NOT God's Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit is not to be the focus, Jesus Christ is. We are not exhorted to be "looking to the spirit" but rather, being "filled with the Spirit" (Eph5:18) and "looking unto Jesus..." (Heb12:2)
By the same token, a "christian concert" (whether rock, classical or gospel), if God's Word is not present, does NOT produce converts to Christ. People may become emotionally worked up, and in tears, because of the power of the music. But if the music was not overflowing with God's Word, those people coming forward are -NOT- "being saved"! Period! No ifs, ands, or buts! The 3000 that came to Christ in Acts2 did not attend a concert. They heard PREACHING of God's Word. (This is one reason I'm no longer a "musician"!)
If you forget everything else from this lesson, remember this one verse! Etch it in your mind and heart! Mark it in your Bible and memorize it! "Faith [Salvation] is of hearing, and hearing by the... what? WORD-of-GOD." (vs17)
But Israel rejected. And God attempted to draw them. "All day long I have stretched forth My hands to a disobeying and gainsaying people." (vs21) He sent His 'preachers' (vs15,18) so they would hear, "rising early and sending them". (Jer25:4) God then turned His attention on the Gentiles, those whose only knowledge of God was as the "unknown God" (Acts17:23), and "became known to [them]" (vs20) as Paul was the "apostle to the Gentiles". (11:13, 2Tm1:11) Even when Jesus preached to them, He compared them and said that if His message and miracles had been presented to Sodom or Tyre and Sidon, that -they- (the heathen) would have listened and repented. (Mt11) Trying every which way to 'get through' to Israel. If they won't hear straight-forward preaching, let's try to stir up their "jealousy" (vs19) by showing them how others are hearing and receiving, or would have.
But they "disobeyed" (vs21) and in "anger" (vs19) cried out, "His blood be on us and on our children" (Mt27:25) and subsequently went into dispersion like "stubble" in the "winds of the wilderness" (Jer13:24) after Paul had made a final proclamation against them, "Therefore be it known to you that the salvation of God is sent to the nations [Gentiles], and they will hear." (Acts28:28)