"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32 . . . . .


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Monday, May 14, 2012

A Study in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans – “On the Road of Righteousness” Chapter Ten – Israel, the Church & Biblical Faith

~  By James Fire

Once again we shall delve into the Scriptures and learn what we may, by the grace of our LORD Jesus Christ, our Teacher (EPH 4: 20-21) concerning the nation of Israel and God’s plan for them, a glorious plan which shall be revealed (I believe) quite soon and for which the Gentile nations shall (in that Day) glorify “God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good will toward [all] men” (LUKE 2:14).

Israel Replaced?

As mentioned previously, the false doctrine of Replacement Theology has produced a rather skewed view of Scripture and often muddies its clarity with the distinctions between Israel and the church – these two entities have different origins, different missions and different destinies.

Even the beloved Matthew Henry (a commentator I am very fond of) sees the vision as given to John the Apostle of the woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and the stars as a crown (REV 12:1-3) as the church, rather than Israel – we must remember that at the time when Mr. Henry wrote these commentaries, Israel was still not in the land, and Jews were scattered over the face of the earth (just as the Old Testament prophecies declared they would be!).

Many, if not most commentators wondered how to interpret such passages, and decidedly relegated them to the church since it seemed impossible that Israel would ever be a nation again. Yet we know that this passage is speaking of Israel for two reasons:

1) The woman gives birth to the man child who was caught up into heaven and shall rule the nations with a rod of iron – a definitive attribute of the LORD Jesus Christ Himself (REV 19:15); Israel, via the daughter of David, Mary is the one that gave birth to Jesus; it was the LORD Jesus that gave birth to the church, not vice-versa!

2) We also know that this is Israel (not the church) because of the inference to such as found in the book of Genesis:
GENESIS 37:8-11
8 And his
[Joseph’s] brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words. 
9 And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me10 And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? 11 And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.
If indeed “spiritual Israel” was the church, we should then interpose the word ‘church’ over Israel in these passages found in Romans and they would make sense, correct? Well, let’s give this a try with the first verse found in the 10th chapter . . .

1 Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for [the church] is, that they might be saved.

O.K. well, that isn’t exactly a hand-in-glove fit is it? The church by it’s very ‘born again nature’ is quite saved; such a desire on Paul’s part then would be redundant and superfluous.
Paul the Apostle a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, a trained Pharisee understood that the nation was in a state of unbelief, having rejected their Messiah and the full counsel of Scripture that He instructs all of His church by, in understanding the spiritual truths of grace, and the righteousness afforded to any, that come in submission to God through our Beloved Mediator (1 TIM 2:5).

Israel, said Paul, had incredible zeal for God, but without knowledge, that is, the knowledge of God’s method of salvation through the Lamb of God. Israel the nation didn’t receive salvation by the blood of the Lamb and as a result persisted in their own brand of righteousness:

Different Brands Of Righteousness – Accept No Substitutes

ROMANS 10:2-3
2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. 
3 For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

This is the knowledge of righteousness in the Gospel which Paul preached among the Gentiles, and which was routinely received by them having obtained salvation via “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (EPH 3:8-11).

Such souls saved were then baptized into Christ, that is, became members of His body, the church (COL 1:18,24) and inherited the spiritual blessing of salvation by way of the new birth, which had already been promised to Israel in the Old Testament (EZEK 36:26 for example). Thus, Jews and Gentiles during this dispensation of ‘the church age’, became “one new man” (EPH 2:11-16, esp. vs. 15), neither Jew nor Gentile but saints of the church in Jesus Christ.

(Note: For those who might be interested, there is a complete study of the book of Ephesians (originally) in FROM the MIND of FIRE; here is a link to this study series in Ephesians.

Here is the quintessential issue regarding religion, whether one is speaking of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, etc. or even the New Age/New Spirituality or Emergent Church ‘religion’: each of these have “[gone] about to establish their own righteousness” that is a self-righteousness by which they (vainly) hope to be approved by 'God'.

I had this very same hope as a Roman Catholic before my conversion to Christ Jesus, but no matter how often I had partaken of the Sacraments, no matter how often I said my prayers or read the Bible, or did good deeds, the conviction of my right standing before God evaded me to the point of exasperation! I was without knowledge (for all of my zeal) of salvation by grace. Religion disappointed me utterly – it was nothing but an artificial (read that man-made) righteousness that was plastic, cheap and worthless!

Peter the apostle makes mention of the fact that through Jesus Christ and salvation by grace “we (Jews) shall be saved, even as they (Gentiles; see ACTS 15:7-11)”! Peter entirely dispenses with the religion of Judaism with all of its laws, rituals, ceremonies, sacrifices, etc. and plainly declares that they can get saved in just the same way as the pagan Gentiles were – by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone! I love it! Paul writes an entire epistle illustrating this very truth (Galatians)!
For an excellent study in the book of Galatians, see this treatment by the late pastor Chuck Smith.

GRACE: God’s Supreme, Exclusive Method

And here in Romans Paul makes a similar, bold and succinct declaration:

4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth

Please bear in mind that this is a professionally trained Pharisee saying this! Paul was well schooled by Gamaliel, a highly esteemed teacher of teachers of the Law in that day. He once said of Paul, “The one complaint I have is that I can’t seem to keep him [supplied] in books!”
Paul was an avid learner, and like all Pharisees he had the entire Torah (What we would consider the first five books of Moses) memorized by heart! and could readily quote verses throughout the Tanahk (Old Testament Scriptures). He knew the Law, the ordinances, the precepts, etc. and provided all of the required sacrifices for his sins (See PHIL 3:4-6).

The Pharisees original mission (they weren’t always ‘bad guys’) was to preserve the Scriptures and their observance in a strict, conservative manner so as to avoid the liberalization of the Jewish religion.

However, here we have this former Pharisee, now Apostle of the LORD Jesus Christ making such a statement! The end of the law for righteousness is simply believing in Christ! Astounding, and yet completely true!
27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 
31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
The Law Is Lame – Only Because We Are!
7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 
8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
Those "things that were gain to" Paul pertained to the Law. Yet he counted such things as refuse! Religion all too often feeds the pride of man, who would desire to glory in his religious accomplishments and by such power, elevate himself above others, and deceive himself into thinking that just as others might respect (even revere) him, God must also! However, any one that glories – let them glory in no one other than the LORD Jesus Christ! I very much appreciate what John MacArthur said about religion, that there really are only TWO religions in the whole wide world! Just TWO?!? Yes . . . only TWO!

Only Two Religions

ROMANS 10: 5
For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.

A very good plan . . . were it not for the truth of the matter, that no one can live by the Law, much less do what it requires. The flaw, not being in the Law which is perfect, but in the frailty of our own sin-laden and fleshly nature (ROM 8:2-4; HEB 7:18-19) would prevent humanity from ever achieving righteousness before God under its own power. Thus the purpose of the Law was never to establish righteousness, but to reveal our own unrighteousness, spiritual poverty and need for salvation (GAL 3:22-24; ROM 3:19–20; 7:7–8).

Here And Back Again

ROMANS 10: 6-7

But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)

There are those that question the notion of God assuming human form and coming down from heaven for certain purposes; such an idea is abstract and enigmatic to those outside of the faith. There was no compulsion necessary to bring Christ down to earth however – He came of His own volition and for His specific cause; by that Divine act He was incarnated in the womb of Mary, His earthly mother. 

The virgin birth and Deity of Christ are incessantly attacked by skeptics and (liberal) scholars alike, but the God Who deigned to be born of a woman, without a human father, into this world of sin has done so with the motive of pure and divine love for His fallen creation, most notably mankind himself, to save him “to the uttermost” (HEB 7:25).

Likewise many see the performance of a resurrection “to bring Christ again from the dead” as unnecessary to the Christian ‘religion’ (such as Marcus Borg, for example), and this also is virulently assaulted by nay-Sayers and God-deniers.

Yet these are crucial, necessary, and foundational doctrines of truth that must be adhered to with true and genuine faith without which no true and genuine Christian life and experience can be had.
Genuine faith is a divinely inspired gift (ROM 12:3), a biblically founded trust placed in the Word of God as trustworthy truth and surrenders to the God of the Scriptures wholeheartedly, without reservation or “looking back”. The idea of a ‘blind faith’ or Kierkegaard’s leap of faith is something not known to biblical Christianity.

The associative (internal and external) evidences (either consequent or subsequent) that vouch for the veracity of the Holy Bible verifies and confirms that which is accepted by faith is useful and necessary for the spiritual growth of the believer. In other words, we find that as we obey what the Scriptures command us by faith, we will discover the results of such obedience bring about the very things promised to us in the Word. "Believe on the LORD Jesus Christ and you shall be saved."
When the Gospel is obeyed, we will find confidence that we are God's children, endowed with eternal life and are saved (1 JOHN 5:13).

Seeing With The Eyes Of Faith

Certainly our faith is not based on things we can see with our natural eyes (alone) but with the sight of a perceptive, spiritually regenerated mind made capable by the LORD, that understands the trustworthiness of the Word and how history is its ally and not a foe, in regards to such things as the resurrection and the precedent life of Christ Who fulfilled literally hundreds of Messianic prophecies (See Herbert Lockyer’s fine work All The Messianic Prophecies of the Bible).

Faith comes by hearing (vs. 17; “understanding”) which itself arrives to us by the Word of God; it is this understanding that can see ‘with the eyes of faith’ that truth as revealed and exemplified in the Scriptures; thus there is no need for a ‘blind faith’ or a risky ‘leap of faith’ “with no guarantee of success” as Kierkegaard put it. True success will always be the result of genuine faith in God and His Word - it may not be manifest within the confines of this terribly short life, but most assuredly will, in the kingdom of God!

But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;

“The word of faith” is the doctrinal truth of God’s Word and specifically in this context, Gospel truth. The preaching of the Gospel is foolishness to those of this world or any religion in this world, and yet it is “the power of God unto salvation
“The foolishness of preaching” (ROM 1:16; 1 COR 1:18,21) is something that this world, particularly those groups that esteem intellectualism and philosophical prowess as superior, disdains and ridicules.

It’s as preposterous a notion as the story of the children of Israel who murmured in the wilderness and spoke against God and as a result were chastened by the LORD with “fiery (poisonous) serpents” but then even in judgment, God’s grace was manifested when He instructed Moses to construct a bronze (which is by type, a symbol of judgment) serpent and then placed on a pole: any who looked upon it (that was all that was required!) would be healed.

Foolish? Preposterous? To the human intellect yes, but by faith this was the power of God, and the grace of God revealed – just so with Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who was placed on a cross (See JOHN 3:13-14). Any who look ‘with the eyes of faith’ will be forgiven of sin, and ultimately delivered of their sinful nature (at the redemption of our bodies (See 1 COR 15).

Yet this is the method which God has chosen to bring the message of the Gospel to the lost; preaching by the anointing of the Holy Spirit and a faithful proclamation of the Word of Truth without compromise, is what the world needs to hear today. By this simple methodology souls may be . . .
13 . . . delivered from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
Thus the miraculous transformation of saint from sinner, heavenly citizen from enslaved captive is operative in the Gospel and the glory of preaching such, exalting the holy and precious Name of JESUS our REDEEMER, DELIVERER, SAVIOR and LORD!

Confession Is Good For The Soul

ROMANS 10:9-11

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 
11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

In a somewhat tongue-in-cheek comment, one could say that Paul was a Calvinist in chapter Nine of Romans, and in chapter Ten he becomes an Armenianist; that is to say, in Romans Nine the apostle emphasizes the sovereignty of God and His election of souls. In chapter Ten he underscores human responsibilities and the individual who must confess with the mouth and believe in the heartwhoever believes on Him shall not be disappointed but shall obtain righteousness and salvation.

Again, as has been mentioned several times already in this series, this is not a contradiction at all, but rather a conjunctive operation between God’s sovereignty, foreknowledge, predestination and the free moral agency of humanity, a gifting granted by God Who made man in His own image. How do these work together with fluency without contradiction? I don't really understand it all, but I believe God's Word teaches both (God's sovereignty and man's free will moral agency), so I believe both!

May I likewise remind the reader that by choosing to believe on Him, and confessing Him, this in no way attributes any ‘work’ to the recipient of salvation or any credit for such. Salvation is wholly by grace apart from works – with the exception of that work that the LORD Jesus Himself stated as necessary in order to do “the works of God” (see JOHN 6:28-30; REV 3:19-21). When Scripture says “whosoever” I believe it means “whosoever” and not rather ‘some, apart from others’.

On the subject of belief, it must be stressed that this is not an intellectual assent to doctrine and biblical truth alone. It might seem like peculiar phraseology in vs. 11 which states that “whoever believes ON Him shall not be disappointed” when one would assume it would say “believe IN Him”. Why this usage of the former and not the latter? Let us examine what this word “believeth” meaneth.

The Greek word for “believe” is used almost universally throughout the length and breadth of the New Testament, with some notable exceptions. 
It is the word pisteuo and it means “to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to a person or thing), i.e. credit; by implication to entrust (especially ones spiritual well-being to Christ): believe, commit unto, and be committed unto, to put in trust with. It means not just to believe but also to be persuaded of, and hence to place confidence in, to trust, and signifies in this sense of the word, reliance upon, not mere credence, hence it is translated “commit unto”, “commit to one’s trust”, “be committed unto”. So we can now see a bit more clearly as to why the scripture states “believe[s] ON” rather than merely “believe[s] IN”.

One can believe IN a chair as being sturdy, solid and dependable, but it’s not until one places one’s full weight, and sits ON that chair that such a belief is ratified and fully operative.
There are many that believe IN Jesus as a real person, a good teacher, even the Son of God in some abstract and religious sense, but it’s not until one believes (relies, depend upon, be committed to) ON Jesus for the salvation of one’s soul and life that genuine faith becomes fully operative (Such phraseology is even used in the above mentioned reference found in JOHN 6:29; ACTS 16:31
) in a commitment to the LORD.

The other word that bears careful examination in this text is “confess” – the Greek word employed here is homologia and it means: “to assent, i.e. to covenant, acknowledge, confess, profess, promise, give thanks, confession is made, acknowledge.”

Literally, “to speak the same thing, in accord, agree with, to declare, admit (JOHN 1:20), ACTS 24:14; HEB 11:13; to confess by way of admitting one’s guilt of that which one is accused of, the result of inward conviction: 1 JOHN 1:9; see also MATT 7:23; 10:32 (twice) and LUKE 12:8; JOHN 9:22; 12:42; ACTS 23:8; 1 TIM 6:12; TITUS 1:16 and 1 JOHN 2:23; 4:2,15; 2 JOHN 7.” Notes taken from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, Greek Lexicon.

God declares all humanity as sinful and worthy of judgment and condemnation with eternal separation from His Holy Presence (ROM 3:19), but also declares that by His Son, the LORD Jesus Christ, our propitiatory atonement (ROM 3:25; 1 JOHN 2:2; 4:10) and advocate (1 JOHN 2:1), we may by grace acquire the forgiveness of all sin, delivered from the judgment of God and the ensuing wrath and redeemed unto eternal life. 

As we come to God in one accord, agree with, admit and confess these same truths and depend, rely upon and “believe on” the LORD Jesus Christ and commit our souls and lives to Him we find ourselves engaged in repentance of sin and a sinful life and receiving salvation. This salvation is eternal and we will not be disappointed (“ashamed”) by the LORD Who is faithful and that promised by the new covenant (new testament; MATT 26:28; HEB 9:15).

Soteriology is the theological term that examines and explains the doctrine of salvation. From GOT QUESTIONS we have the following article that includes links to the various aspects of soteriology. These are straightforward and easy to understand documents to help the reader understand this necessary doctrine.

One Body, One Faith

ROMANS 10:12-13

12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Prior to the creation of the church, humanity could be divided into two categories: Jews and Gentiles;  there was no third category. Once the church was born (Pentecost is the typical birth date referred to, although I think technically JOHN 20:22 is a more accurate date), this third category was introduced – the ekklesia
The assembly called out of the world to salvation through the LORD Jesus Christ, who then became members of the “body of Christ”. The church was never, nor ever will be ‘spiritual Israel’ – that is a term for those children of Abraham who have “like faith” as Abraham and does not include Gentiles or the church.

Jews, like Gentiles who are born again in Christ are members of the church; in this current dispensation they're considered ‘spiritual Israel’ (ROM 11:7) and is represented by those believing Jews. Once the church is raptured (1 THESS 4:16-18), the LORD will once again turn to Israel and perform His “short work” in bringing “the remnant” to faith (ROM 11:25-29). At that time, the previous designation of "Jews and Gentiles" (only) will be reestablished as the church will no longer be here.

Rich Beyond Belief

There is that phrase in vs. 12 of the above text I want to take a moment to dwell on: “rich unto all” – the riches bestowed upon the church are by no means reduced to the mundane riches of this world as some teach (God is not opposed to granting such things, certainly) but rather those riches that are IN CHRIST, which are eternal riches that “fade not away” (1 PET 1:3-5):
7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. 8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 
9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: (see also ROM 11:32-34).
There are countless numbers of affluent people in the world who have more money and possessions than heart could wish, or could ever exhaust in their life time or the life times of their children and grandchildren; and yet they are truly empty, unsatisfied, restless, seeking some kind of fulfillment.

On the other hand, there are people in abject poverty in third world nations who don’t even possess two sticks to rub together, who have received Jesus Christ as their LORD and Savior – and these have God’s faithful love, His eternal joy, His abiding peace, His empowering patience; they are “temple[s] of the Holy Spirit” and know lasting fulfillment, rest and contentment (1 COR 6:19; PSALM 23:2; MATT 11:28; PHIL 4:7).

Likewise there are those who live in moderate financial blessing who have no interest whatsoever in living ‘the American dream’ of prosperity and economic gain, but who also live content with food and clothing and not much else in the way of material possessions (1 TIM 6:7-9) but rather are fulfilled in the richness of Christ Himself, not necessarily in riches that we may obtain from Him.

Briefly, verse 13 in our text aptly demonstrates the truth that salvation is open for all (“whosoever”) to receive; that is to say, any sinner has the opportunity to believe the Gospel and as a result call upon the Name of the LORD Who alone is salvation and brings to salvation whoever comes to Him – for He will turn no such person whom the Father grants to the Son, away (JOHN 6:37).

Sent Feet

ROMANS 10:14-15

How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

The best commentary on Scripture is Scripture and in Hebrews it states:

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high:

Then in John’s Gospel it states:

JOHN 3:16-18
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Jesus Christ is THE Apostle (1 PET 1:1) which is to say, God sent Him; one who is commissioned by God in the New Testament is considered an apostle. The LORD Jesus stated that just as the Father had sent Him, so too He sends His own (apostles) out into the world to proclaim the Gospel and make disciples (JOHN 20:20-22).
I believe that the office of the Apostle (as well as that of the Prophet) has been closed, having completed their foundational work in the church – and yet in one sense we all have an ‘apostolic calling’ in that the Father has sent His entire church out into the world to preach the Gospel and make disciples of all (MATT 28:18-20; MARK 16:15), and prophesying in the sense of proclaiming the Word of God as recorded in Scripture (and not in proclaiming ‘new revelations’!) to a lost and dying world that is blind to the things of God as we of the church all once were.

Therefore we must go, for we are indeed sent (the Great Commission as it’s been called) by our Father and we must preach so that the lost may hear and believe and call upon the Name of the LORD.

Fear of God, or Fear of Man

Recently at church the pastor showed some statistics on how many Christians share the Gospel and the numbers were deplorably low; the percentages of those who don’t share reveals the reasons why: about 80% of Christians don’t share the Gospel because of fear. Fear of how people will react to the Gospel (perhaps an anxiety over potential persecution?) as well as a fear of not knowing enough to answer questions and challenges regarding the Bible.
For answers, Christians can be ably trained in apologetics and such information can be provided for them so that they will be competent in meeting questions and challenges from non-believers.

Yet even if a Christian isn’t a proficient ‘Bible scholar’ any genuine Christian can share the simple message of the Gospel and honestly reply to hard questions with “I don’t know the answer to that (but I can find out for you).” Then, redirect the inquirer back to “the Gospel of peace and glad tidings of good things” and challenge them to receive or at least consider it.

As for fear of how people will react – there is no information or knowledge that can provide for such fear; only the imparting of truth and conviction by the Holy Spirit that no matter what may happen, our fear and love of God will outweigh any fear or apprehension of human beings – that no matter what the cost, we will obey the One Who has sent us out into the world. For this provision, may we seek God’s face and His empowerment by the Holy Spirit (as in ACTS 2 where the apostles themselves were emboldened to preach the Gospel fearlessly, and ever after Pentecost). It has been said before, "He who kneels before God can stand before anyone." Amen!

A Foolish Nation

ROMANS 10:16-18

16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. 18 But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.

The Gospel as recorded in ISAIAH 53 as referred to in our text, has always been plain and simple enough to be understood even by a child (and yet such intellectuals and so called ‘evangelical’ leaders state their doubts in saying “we haven’t got the gospel right, yet” a quote from Brian McLaren, Emergent Church leader). 

For most people it’s not so much an issue of understanding the Gospel (to a point) but in humbling oneself to believe it. As Isaiah himself recorded “Who has believed our report?” and then proceeds to reveal the Gospel from this Old Testament perspective that is every bit as eloquent and clear as any of the writings of Paul and John:

ISAIAH 53:4-6
4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Faith comes from receiving and understanding the Word of God, both of which require the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete Who “comes along side of to assist” (JOHN 15:26; 16:7-14) and yet even though many have heard, still they will not believe as a matter of choice. Such are the Jews for whom Christ is that “stumbling stone” (1 PET 2:7-8) and for Gentiles who perceive the Gospel as “foolishness” (1 COR 1:21-23). This obstinacy, particularly where the Jews are concerned is spoken of in the following passage of our text:

ROMANS 10:19-21
19 But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you. 20 But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me. 21 But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.

It’s interesting that the two prophets chosen to demonstrate this “stiff-necked” tendency of the people of Israel is Moses and Isaiah, when nearly every prophet of the LORD struggled in their pleading exhortations and admonitions, even rebukes towards Israel and their need for repentance.
Moses, who himself declared that the LORD God would “raise up another prophet like unto me” (See DEUT 18:14-16). Isaiah, the premiere prophet of paramount prophecies regarding the Messiah is also called upon by Paul as a witness against Israel’s unbelief:

16 They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger. 17 They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not. 18 Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee. 19 And when the LORD saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters. 20 And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith. 21 They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.

And the words of Isaiah:

ISAIAH 65:1-5
1 I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name. 2 I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts; 3 A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face; that sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick; 4 Which remain among the graves, and lodge in the monuments, which eat swine's flesh, and broth of abominable things is in their vessels; 5 Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day.
It is interesting to note that this “foolish nation” who “sought not” the LORD was found by Him and yet those that the LORD sought to bring to Himself, stretching out His arm “all day long” remained rebellious and prone to idolatry!

So we see today the continuing ministry of the Holy Spirit in drawing Gentiles from every nation into the kingdom of God via the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This, apart from any preaching of the Jews who were sent by YHWH to declare His Word among the nations and be an example of a God-fearing and obeying nation themselves and the subsequent blessing of God as a result, is a remarkable phenomena that does indeed provoke the religious Jew that disparages the New Testament and wonders curiously about these ‘Christians’ and this One that they claim is the Messiah.

In a very legitimate sense, the church serves a purpose intended by God to “provoke to jealousy”, a purpose that began when Peter entered the house of a Gentile, preached the Gospel and witnessed salvation in the midst, and such work that was later carried on by the apostle Paul (ROM 11:13).

Here ends this chapter; in chapter eleven the apostle concludes the issue of Israel and explains her future to us, then moves on to the pragmatic portions of his epistle with instruction for daily sanctification and living for Christ. Until then, may the LORD Bless you all!

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