God and Israel
- God's Preservation of a Remnant in Israel (Rom_11:1-10)
- God's Purpose in the Rejection of Israel (Rom_11:11-15)
- God's Power with Regard to Israel (Rom_11:16-25)
- God's Promise of Restoration for Israel (Rom_11:26-36)
The long history of Israel's rejection of God and their trampling underfoot of His grace quite naturally leads to the thought that He may eventually decide that "enough is enough" and terminate His relationship with His people. Paul raises and answers the possibility.
God's Preservation of a Remnant in Israel
Paul declares there is not the slightest possibility of this termination taking place despite the fact that Israel has rejected the Savior. Paul is himself a powerful proof of this fact, for he is a thoroughgoing Jew, as much a member of the family of Abraham as anyone with the perfect pedigree of a son of Benjamin, yet there is no doubt about his knowing the Savior. So long as there is a man like Paul there is no such thing as a rejection of Israel. Furthermore, the principle "whom He foreknows He predestines" applies. Knowing everything in advance, God has the advantage of seeing the end from the beginning, and with this knowledge His determining of the final outcome is sure. Therefore, with God's having foreknown and predestined, there is no thought of casting off the foreknown and predestined.
At a time of national apostasy, Elijah, the prophet of God, became most discouraged and engaged in a pity party. He thought he was the only believer left, and, having seen what had happened to the other prophets, he didn't hold out much hope for his own survival. As the only one left, he had a feeling of high visibility and peculiar vulnerability! God, however, pointed out to His man that he was not alone; in fact, there were seven thousand others who had not betrayed the Lord. These people God claimed to have reserved for Himself. They were part of the unfailing remnant which runs like a thread through the bewildering tapestry of Israel's history—at times highly visible as the children of faith, at others practically lost from sight in the apostasy of the nation, but always surviving, because God, having chosen by His grace that Abraham would be the father of all that believe, is committed to seeing that His line is not broken.
The remnant, having been saved by grace through faith, are clearly discernible among those natural-born sons of Abraham who, unlike their father, choose to seek justification through their works rather than the way ordained by God. The more they have resisted the grace of God, the harder their hearts have become, until, like Pharaoh, their hearts have arrived at such a state that God has hardened them. In the same way that there has always been a faithful remnant, there have always been those whose hearts have been hard, as can clearly be seen in the Old Testament record of God's dealings with His people. In the days of Moses' struggle with the rebellious wilderness wanderers and in the days of Isaiah's powerful ministry, there were those who had "eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear for God has given to them a spirit of stupor." David wrote, "Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see, and bow down their back always" (Rom_11:7-10).
The situation in Paul's day differed only in detail from the days in which his great predecessors lived. Then, as now, there was a believing remnant characterized by eyes wide open to the truth and ears unstopped to hear the word, while many had dimmed eyes that could not see and ears that grasped nothing of the significance of Christ. But the existence of the remnant through the years was proof positive that God had not cast away His people.
God's Purpose in the Rejection of Israel
The nation of Israel at the time of Paul's ministry was a stumbling nation that had not completely fallen. Or, to use boxing parlance, they were "down but not out," and God had no intention of letting His people be "counted out." What, then, was His purpose in allowing Israel to openly reject His Messiah and live on in the resultant darkness and hardness? Paul's answer is as striking as it is unexpected. God is trying to make Israel jealous by turning to the Gentiles to offer them what Israel has refused. Paul knew this was true from his experience of evangelism in such places as Corinth. After he had ministered in the synagogue for some time, the people there opposed him and became abusive, so he "shook out his clothes" and told them, "Your blood be upon your own heads. I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles" (Act_18:6).
It seems that God has to deal with His children literally as children on occasions. Most parents can remember when they have offered something to a child only to have him refuse, but when the offer has been made to a sibling, the original child has become very upset and obviously deeply regretful that he passed up the first opportunity. Paul hopes, personally, that his highly visible and highly beneficial ministry to the Gentiles will be so striking to his kinsmen that they will be attracted to what is going on in the purposes of God and be saved along with the Gentile believers.
Warming to his theme of the Gentile opportunity which became possible through the Jewish rejection of the gospel, Paul thinks aloud about the "riches" that have reached the world through the fall of Israel and then begins to dream about the possibilities of blessing when the people of Israel finally come to acknowledge the Savior. If the fall of Israel means revival for the world, the "fullness" of Israel can mean nothing less than "life from the dead," or, as Bruce suggests, "a veritable resurrection." In his enthusiasm the apostle has introduced a thought of monumental significance without bothering to give us any warning. He is telling us that Israel, which was down but not out, will, in actual fact, rise again. Her failure will give way to fullness; her rejection will be replaced by reception. There will indeed be a day when Israel is seen to be, on a grand scale, the people of God, through faith.
God's Power with Regard to Israel
By drawing a sharp contrast between Jew and Gentile and by showing how he was trying to provoke the Jews to jealousy, Paul was running the risk of provoking both Jew and Gentile to more than jealousy. He seems to sense this because, having spoken to the Jews in terms which they could readily have found offensive and having addressed the Gentiles in such a fashion that they might well become arrogant, he promptly sets about redressing the balance. He speaks warmly of the privileged position of the Jewish people and reminds the Gentiles of their relatively inferior position, thereby in one fell swoop pricking the potential Gentile balloon and smoothing the potentially ruffled Jewish feathers. Then he gathers both Jew and Gentile together by the use of two deft illustrations.
For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. (Rom_11:16)
The first expression is no doubt a reference to the ancient practice of presenting to the Lord a loaf or cake baked from the first flour to come from the threshing floor. The idea behind the ceremony was that if the first cake was offered to the Lord, the whole batch would be special in the Lord's eyes and, accordingly, in the people's stomachs. The second illustration draws from the common Old Testament picture of Israel as the vine, and it points out that because root and branch are one, thus if the root is holy so also is the branch. There is some question as to Paul's exact meaning concerning the identification of the root and the first cake. Some believe he is referring to Abraham from whom the family of God has come; others incline to the belief that he meant the patriarchs. Either way it is clear as the illustration develops that he is speaking of Jewish roots and origins which alone have made Gentile blessing a possibility.
That the purposes of God in salvation were first revealed through His chosen people goes without saying, as also does the fact that His Son was, according to the flesh, a member of the Jewish people. Despite all her faults, Israel has never been less than God's chosen means of bringing blessing to the world, and everything else that He has chosen to do must be seen in that context. This truth Paul makes abundantly clear through developing the illustration of Israel as the Vine.
There is something awesome about Paul's description of God's dealings with His Vine. He shows the mighty power of God as He relentlessly works according to His own righteous principles and will continue to do. Paul speaks of God's power to establish Israel as the Vine purely on the basis of His own choice. But then he adds that He will use His power to break off some of the branches if they refuse to come to Him in humble faith. At the same time, God has no reluctance at all in taking wild branches and grafting them into the old stock, provided, of course, that the wild branches would do what the natural branches refuse to do—namely, come to Him in faith. But the wild branches must not overlook the fact that when natural branches refused to believe, God reserved the right to remove them, and He will not hesitate to do the same with wild branches. So there is no room for complacency, only humble trust. It is the continuance in belief that is the true evidence of genuine faith in the same way that the of the saints" reminds us that true saints do persevere.
God in all His majestic power is thus seen to be a God of "goodness and severity," and it is the behavior of the people that determines which aspect of His nature becomes most dear then. If they fall, severity in judgment is a reality. If they continue, only the goodness of God will be their portion. In the same way that those who do not continue in faith reveal the spurious nature of their faith and are thus broken off, so those who previously were hard to the gospel but subsequently believe will be grafted in. In other words, Gentiles should no more presume on the goodness of God than the people of Israel, because God has the power to graft in any who believe and to break off all who will not—Jew or Gentile—and He will use this power.
There are numerous evidences of God's power at work in this way. When I became a pastor in a middle class suburban church in the United States, there was an influx of young people from the counterculture. To the chagrin of the regular attenders who were respectable, upright citizens, many of the newcomers wore tattered blue jeans, long hair, sandals and various pieces of chunky jewelry around their necks. One girl raised the ire of the congregation by wearing jeans patched with the flag of the U.S.A. The old vine struggled with the wild branches for some time, and the wild branches found it hard to settle in to the ways of the old vine. But God's power was seen in our midst, and slowly the steady flow of life from the experienced believers flowed into the experience of the youngsters, while the "wild life" of the young people began to spark the enthusiasm of the more mature. Both profited and God was honored, for only He could have worked out such a tricky grafting operation.
God's Promise of Restoration for Israel
On a limited scale, the foregoing is a remarkable occurrence. How much more, therefore, is Paul justified in saying that, on a worldwide scale which incorporates Jew and Gentile, this action of God is a mystery. Particularly is this the case as we remember that, once the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, there will be a revival in Israel as they come to faith in Christ.
The fullness of the Gentiles (Rom_11:25) refers to the time when the full complement of non-Jews will have believed and found their way into the kingdom. This fact has significance for Israel in that as Israel's hardening gave opportunity for Gentile blessing so the conclusion of Gentile blessing will give rise to the new day of opportunity for Israel so great that "all Israel will be saved" (Rom_11:26). The exact timing of this predicted revival is of course not stipulated; neither is the exact meaning of "all Israel" universally agreed upon. But there is no doubt that something unusual should be expected in terms of Israel's future response to the Messiah whom they reject to a great extent at this time.
Israel's condition is therefore partial in that there are genuine believers, and it is temporary in that there will be a restoration of the fortunes of the people of Israel. In His divine wisdom, God chose to use the rejection of Christ by His people as a means of reaching the Gentiles so that through His abundant demonstration of grace to them Israel might be brought to a realization of the grace of God in Christ. The tragedy of Israel's unbelief is therefore used by God to bring about the victory of Gentile evangelization, which, in turn, will lead to Jewish restoration. God has not altered His principles, violated His laws, besmirched His character, altered His plans, forsaken His people, nor ignored the Gentiles. In fact, He has shown that even in the midst of human obduracy and rebellion, He can and will use all things to bring about His eternal purposes. No wonder Paul breaks out in praise:
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
"For who has known the mind of the LORD?
Or who has become His counselor?"
"Or who has first given to Him
And it shall be repaid to him?"
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Rom_11:33-36)
It is sometimes said that knowledge is the accumulation of information, and wisdom is knowing what to do with it. Paul is deeply impressed by God's unique grasp of both. God's information concerning human behavior in general and response to the gospel in particular is unique in that it incorporates foreknowledge, and His wisdom in handling the human problem as demonstrated by both Gentile degradation and Jewish obduracy is shown to great effect by the way He used Jewish hardness to bring about Gentile blessing and then used Gentile blessing to bring about Jewish revival. His knowledge and wisdom truly do qualify for the adjectives "unsearchable" and "past finding out."
It is particularly fitting that Paul's lengthy exposition of the Christian gospel which started with a description of human failure should finish with a shout of appreciation for divine capability. By doing this Paul demonstrates the truth of the centrality of the Lord in all things, which he then articulates in one of the greatest of all statements: "For of Him"—a reminder that He is the source of all things—"and through Him"—a reminder that He is the sustainer of all things—"and to Him"—a reminder that He is the significance of all things. It is He who has originated us, in order that He might perpetuate us so that when He is ready He might terminate us. As the One from whom we come, we know Him as Source; as the One who keeps us alive in every dimension, we recognize Him as the Force; and because it is to Him that we are inexorably moving, we gladly acknowledge Him as the Course of our lives. It is to Him that glory rightly belongs.
To glorify God is, as we know, the chief end of man, but the "all things" (Rom_11:36) of which Paul speaks and which should therefore glorify Him includes all aspects of the created Universe. When eventually we stand in glory, we will no doubt be given a tour of human history and be shown how in one event after another God was at work. His working in no way violated human freedom or exempted human beings from the consequences of their actions; nevertheless God was working to bring things to their predetermined conclusion. To understand this fully will be the greatest possible stimulus to praise and worship. There will be such acknowledgement of His wisdom and knowledge, His grace and mercy, His holiness and His justice that all of creation will be needed rightly to express the wonder and glory of His Being.
In the meantime, humans who understand in some measure the things of which Paul has written join him in articulating their sense of wonder and take every opportunity to express their appreciation to God for God. In addition, they take seriously the necessity not only to speak His praise but also to show forth His glory by the very lives they live. It is to this practical expression of appreciation for God's glory that the apostle now turns in the conclusion of his epistle.
The Importance of Evangelism
- The Exposure of Error (Rom_10:1-5)
- The Exposition of Truth (Rom_10:6-13)
- The Expression of Faith (Rom_10:14-21)
A young pastor colleague of mine, conscious of the many concerns related to my pastoral responsibilities, gave me a special present to hang in my study. It is a simple plaque which says, "When you're up to your waist in crocodiles, remember your objective was to drain the swamp." It is not uncommon for students of the Roman epistle to feel as if they are among the crocodiles by the time they get to chapters 9 through 11. But while we are led by the apostle to consider such profound subjects as the sovereignty of God and the free will of man with particular reference to the nation of Israel, we should not forget that the apostle's purpose in writing the Epistle to the Romans was to give a clear explanation of the gospel in order that it might be more effectively proclaimed. He had no desire for abstruse theological debate but a commitment to a clear enunciation of the Good News of redemption through Christ to all people. Ever the consummate theologian, the apostle was first and foremost the missionary evangelist and church-planter. Accordingly, this passage is not only a development of his theme concerning Israel but also a practical statement concerning the principles and practice of evangelism to which the church is called and in which she must be involved.
The Exposure of Error
In words reminiscent of the opening verses of Chapter 9 Paul speaks with great emotion concerning Israel.
The task of the evangelist is not only to point out to people the right way to go but also to explain that they are already heading the wrong way. Because most people have an intense distaste for being told they are wrong, great care should be taken in pointing out error. Paul exhibits three helpful characteristics in this regard. First, he is clearly deeply concerned about the people themselves. He does not see them as statistics but as individuals whose eternal salvation is in question. His "heart's desire… is that they might be saved." Second, there is no trace of superiority in his remarks about their error, but only a humble reliance upon God to whom he prays for them and from whom alone he looks for blessing. Third, he speaks from a deep understanding of the true position of the people to whom he ministers. For him there is no superficial stereotyping of their beliefs and no inadequate research of their condition. He can "bear them witness" or, literally, "speak on their behalf" because he knows what he is talking about.
Israel, Paul says, is in error despite the fact that they are enthusiastic. They are deeply sincere but sincerely wrong. Their zeal for God has the momentum of a freight train, but because it is "not according to knowledge," it is the momentum of a freight train that has come off the tracks. Contrary to popular thought, both then and now, it does matter what one believes and to what one commits oneself because fervency of belief and depth of commitment of oneself may lead to untold tragedy and unmitigated disaster. The error of Israel is also to be seen in that they are fundamentally "ignorant of God's righteousness." The ignorance of which Paul speaks is not an academic illiteracy but a basic failure to grasp the significance of data readily available to them in the Scriptures they prize so highly. Ironically, they are ignorant despite the fact that they are informed. The third error is seen in Israel's persistence in a self-righteous attempt to "establish their own righteousness" by keeping the demands of the law regardless of what the law-giver himself wrote: that life through the law comes to those who keep the law and those who do not keep it in its entirety are condemned by the law they thought would bring life. The error is that they are persisting despite the fact that they are perishing.
When Napoleon finally met his Waterloo, one of his soldiers, Chauvin, refused to believe that the little general was defeated and insisted on fighting on even though the battle was lost. This man's name has lived on into our contemporary era because we now call anyone who fights on when the situation is hopeless a chauvinist! Christ, Paul says, "is the end of the law for righteousness," meaning that He is the end (Greek, telos) in the sense of the fulfillment of the law, but also in that He terminated the era of the law and introduced the new era where men and women could be delivered from the hopeless task of fulfilling the law and could be invited to be saved through faith. The error of Israel was, in a special sense, that they were chauvinistic despite the fact they had been chosen. Those who endeavor to communicate the Christian gospel should take note of the errors of Israel because they are common to most people in one form or another.
The Exposition of Truth
Paul proceeds to illustrate both the impossibility of justification through keeping the law and the possibility of being blessed through that which God has made available. He ingeniously uses Moses' farewell speech of encouragement to the children of Israel to realize that through their relationship with the Lord they could find the spirit of His law in their hearts and mouths and live in a way pleasing to Him without feeling the necessity to go to extreme lengths to find in the heavens or the depths the needed strength.
The apostle's free application of Moses' words reminds us that we do not have to ascend into heaven to discover salvation. It has been made available in the Lord Jesus through whose Incarnation heaven came down to earth. In the same way we must not search the depths for our deliverance, because Christ, having descended into death, rose again from the dead and in His Resurrection made the fullness of salvation ours. This message of salvation through faith in the living Lord could not be closer to them, as it had been proclaimed in their hearing. All that was necessary for them to do was to believe in their hearts and confess with their mouths. But for the Jewish person deeply steeped in the idea that salvation came through the fulfilling of the law through their own efforts, this message seemed so simple as to be simplistic and so free as to be insulting.
Similar attitudes confront the proclaimer of the gospel in today's world. While the religious systems of self-effort vary in many degrees from those Paul wished to counter, the fundamental attitude of many people is that they must do something to merit or earn their salvation. This attitude is perfectly understandable in those societies where people have learned all their lives that "there is no such thing as a free lunch." The task of the modern-day evangelist is still the same, namely, to explain the impossibility of salvation through self-effort and the availability of salvation through faith in Christ.
There is a most important definition of faith at this point in the apostle's argument. Faith is, first of all, heart belief in the reality of Christ's Resurrection. It would, of course, be possible to believe firmly that Christ had died without in any way implying in that belief anything other than belief in the demise of a mere man. But Paul in his insistence in belief in a risen man points to the uniqueness both of the Person and the work of Christ. That thousands have died, even been crucified, is beyond dispute, but no one would suggest that their deaths were in any sense propitiatory for the sins of the world. But in the Resurrection of Christ there is evidence of the validity of His claims to deity and, accordingly, the unique efficacy of the death of the Deity to bring salvation. Furthermore, this clearly defined belief required a clearly stated confession. At some point in the heart-believer's experience, there had to be a simple but profound statement, which was probably the first and most adequate creed of the Christian church—"Jesus is Lord." Some have felt that this referred to baptism when those who had turned from their paganism to Christ would, on confession of their faith in Him as Lord and Savior, be immersed in water typifying their death, burial, and Resurrection in Him. Others see no necessity to limit this confession to a particular event but rather see it as an ongoing articulation of faith. Whatever the facts of the matter, there is no avoiding the necessity for believers to be articulators of their faith.
Paul proceeds to explain why. He differentiates between "righteousness" and "salvation," attributing the acquisition of the former to heart belief and the latter to mouth confession. Some commentators see in this an example of Paul's love of hebraic parallelism, but it would appear that this does not satisfactorily explain his meaning. There is a difference in the believer's experience between being "justified" or being "declared righteous" and the other aspects of salvation. In the previous chapters we have seen something of the full scope of salvation which is instituted by the reception of forgiveness and justification and goes on through the whole of life, through death and into ultimate glory. The ongoing process is sanctification, and, while faith is all that is necessary for justification, clear commitment which finds expression in articulation is necessary if the ongoing experience of growth in Christ is to be known.
The person who believes thoroughly enough to make confession of that faith in situations which may not be conducive to such testimony, is of necessity a convinced person. The basis of such conviction comes from the clear statement of Scripture in verse Rom_10:11 : "Whosoever believes on Him will not be put to shame." Faith being the basis of assurance, it becomes clear that everyone is capable of assurance because everyone is capable of exercising faith. When the fulfillment of law is seen as the basis of justification and forgiveness, only those initiated in the law can hope to be saved, but faith transcends all limitations and makes salvation a possibility for all people. This means that there is "no distinction between Jew and Greek"—a concept the Jews had not been prepared to accept even though the prophet Joel had proclaimed the fact that "whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved." The Jews had misunderstood the message of salvation not only in the fact that it became available through faith but also in the vastness of its scope. They had failed to realize that the message of grace, as opposed to law, was also a message of universal relevance, as opposed to one of limited national application.
In the debate over the Jewish situation as it related to their lack of acceptance of the gospel Paul preached, the apostle wishes to make it clear that the Old Testament had consistently reiterated the principle of faith and the intention of Jehovah to make His salvation available on a universal basis. These factors must, therefore, be included in any discussion of the credibility of the message and the integrity of God. For the contemporary evangelist, these factors are highly motivating because they continually remind him that whoever he meets in whatever circumstances there is a message of hope, summarized in the great words of Joel's prophecy, "Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
The Expression of Faith
The relationship between the hidden belief of the heart and the open confession with the mouth deduced by the apostle from Moses' farewell speech is further developed in the following verses:
Having established the universal relevance of the Christian gospel, Paul engages in some relentlessly logical rhetorical questioning. Starting with the fact that faith is necessary, he asks how anyone can possibly call on the Lord for His promised salvation without believing the promise. Then he asks how anyone can come to this belief without being told what is available to believe. He follows with a question as to how people can hear without someone telling them. This in turn leads to a question as to how people can tell others about the promised salvation of God without being sent as those who will tell. In the context of Paul's argument, his point is that if the gospel is available to the whole race, the whole race must know about it, and the telling of it to the whole race will require considerably more involvement in Gentile ministry than has been evidenced by the Jews of Paul's day. Godet summarizes as follows: "A universal apostolate is therefore the corollary of a free and universal salvation." The expression "apostolate" is used not in a limited sense but as a description of those who are "sent," the English word "apostle" being a direct derivative of the Greek word meaning "to send."
Once again Paul draws from the rich poetry of Isaiah to underline his point. He sees the one sent to preach in the same light as the prophet saw the herald who, returning from the field of battle, brought "glad tidings of good things." The picture seems to be that of the watchman on the gates seeing the returning soldier on the mountaintops silhouetted in the rising sun as he makes haste to return home to share the news of great victories won on far-off fields of battle.
To his own people, the Jews, who are upset at his ministry and scandalized by his message of God's grace to the Gentiles, Paul is saying, "Come join me in the exciting acceptance of salvation through Christ and the ensuing sharing of the message of glad tidings and good things with those who have never heard." The same emphasis is necessary to those who sit comfortably in Christian pews, untouched by the condition of more than half the world's population which has no knowledge of God's Son. The apostlewords ring true and clear. How will these people call on the Lord if they don't believe, and isn't their believing dependent on hearing? And surely hearing is related to telling, and the telling is exclusively in the hands of those who sense that Christ has commissioned His people to take the message to the uttermost parts of the earth.
There is a sense in which the unreached populations of our world are a scandal to the name of Christ and His church. In the two millennia which have passed since the Master commissioned His servants, superb efforts have been extended and major victories have been won which have resulted in Christianity becoming a truly universal religion. Yet at the same time it must be clearly understood that so much has not been attempted and so many need to be reached.
The key to the relative failure of the church appears to be in the "sending" of those who can reach the unreached. There is no possibility that the principles of speaking, hearing, believing, calling, and saving do not work because the Lord, Himself, has promised that they will function in blessing. The only possible flaw in the system must lie in the sending, and it would appear that perhaps the church has failed to understand in some measure the link between "confession with the mouth" and being sent as a herald so that people can hear, believe, call, and be saved. If Christian preachers and evangelists could stress the necessity for articulate expressions of faith from those who believe, those within earshot of the articulators would, themselves, become hearers. They, in turn, would then be required, before God, to believe or disbelieve, if they should believe to the point of justification, they should be encouraged to confession of Christ, which would not only lead to a deeper experience of salvation but also to the possibility of others hearing and starting the process off again. This constant motion of salvation, experienced and expressed, would produce an environment in which spontaneously and effectively all those who believe would sense the privilege and joy of being sent to tell. Once new believers taste the thrill of sharing the glad tidings, they develop a hunger for ministry and a burden for those who have not heard, believed, called, or been saved, and, as time goes by, they find themselves directed by the Spirit of God into broader avenues of service and increasing opportunities of witness.
Isaiah's beautiful poems relating to the suffering Servant, which the New Testament applies on numerous occasions to Messiah, predict the unbelief of some who hear, for Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?" (Rom_10:16). Paul pounces on Isaiah's word "believed" to show once again the message to his own people was one of the necessity for faith, which he explains "comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God" (Rom_10:17). According to Isaiah, the unbelief of Israel came as no surprise, although some might not be prepared to accept that they were guilty of unbelief but wondered if Israel had not heard properly. Paul raises and answers the possibility: "But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: 'Their sound has gone out to all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world'" (Rom_10:18).
Then perhaps they did not understand, suggests the apostle for the sake of argument. But this he also rejects with quotations from Moses and Isaiah, showing once again that the Lord of the Universe, whose heart is open to all people, will not be limited by the failure of His own people to believe as they ought and to act as they should. On the contrary, He is committed to seeing that even though His people may be a "disobedient and contrary people," this in itself will not hinder His purposes of making salvation available to all people in all ages through the preaching of the gospel.
Paul's words, addressed primarily to the peculiar problems raised by Jewish failure to respond to the message of a suffering and exalted Christ, are also pointedly relevant to the church in all ages which must constantly re-evaluate the ways and means by which the message of Christ might be made known through whatever means are available. The church cannot, in the light of Christ's sacrifice and the Father's purposes, afford to miscalculate the importance of evangelism. She must not repeat the fatal error of the ancient people of God.
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