Romans Bible Study # 37
25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,
“THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION,
HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB.”
27 “THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM,
WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS.”
28 From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. 32 For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.
33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? 35 Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
A Complete Israel
25-29I want to lay all this out on the table as clearly as I can, friends. This is complicated. It would be easy to misinterpret what's going on and arrogantly assume that you're royalty and they're just rabble, out on their ears for good. But that's not it at all. This hardness on the part of insider Israel toward God is temporary. Its effect is to open things up to all the outsiders so that we end up with a full house. Before it's all over, there will be a complete Israel. As it is written,
A champion will stride down from the mountain of Zion;
he'll clean house in Jacob.
And this is my commitment to my people:
removal of their sins.
From your point of view as you hear and embrace the good news of the Message, it looks like the Jews are God's enemies. But looked at from the long-range perspective of God's overall purpose, they remain God's oldest friends. God's gifts and God's call are under full warranty—never canceled, never rescinded.
30-32There was a time not so long ago when you were on the outs with God. But then the Jews slammed the door on him and things opened up for you. Now they are on the outs. But with the door held wide open for you, they have a way back in. In one way or another, God makes sure that we all experience what it means to be outside so that he can personally open the door and welcome us back in.
33-36Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It's way over our heads. We'll never figure it out.
Is there anyone around who can explain God?
Anyone smart enough to tell him what to do?
Anyone who has done him such a huge favor
that God has to ask his advice?
Everything comes from him;
Everything happens through him;
Everything ends up in him.
Always glory! Always praise!
Yes. Yes. Yes. The Message
Verse 25 - One last blow to pride, “don’t be wise in your own estimation.” God is in charge of all of this, anything you have is mercy, period. As Jerry says, it is revelation that helps us know God, not information. So, what we know about God has been revealed to us by God.
Verse 26 - The previous verse was talking about gentiles and contrasting them with the nation of Israel, so this verse is talking about ethnic, national Israel and it is an amazing verse. The sovereign, electing, grace of God has His way with a “nation.” As they behold “Him who they have pierced,” (Zechariah 12:10) they experience national repentance and a turning to their Savior. Grace for a nation. Mercy for a nation. All prophesied numerous times in the Old Testament: Ezek. 37:25-28, Isaiah 4:2-4, Zech 13:8,9, Isaiah 54:13, Isaiah 59:21, Isaiah 60:21, Jer. 31:34, Jer. 32:39-40
Piper felt to make a long argument for the total salvation of the nation of Israel.
If you ask, How does Paul know this? How can he be sure that the original covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is not simply and totally fulfilled in Christ's gathering a remnant from Israel and the nations? Why does he think that the original covenant with the fathers implies that one day ethnic Israel as a whole will be part of the body of Christ?
Here is one possible answer. There are many places in the Old Testament prophets where the covenant with Abraham is reaffirmed and applied to the people as a whole for the future. A few examples:
The prophet Jeremiah is speaking to the people of Israel in exile in Babylon and promising them a future, and the future he promises goes far beyond what they experience in coming back as imperfect, sinful stragglers to Jerusalem. So for example, Jeremiah 24:5-7.
Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I have sent away from this place to the land of the Chaldeans. 6 I will set my eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up, and not tear them down; I will plant them, and not uproot them. 7 I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.
That has not yet happened, and I think that God meant that it would happen in stages. That's what the prophetic perspective is like: it often sees the future as one scene like we sometimes see succeeding mountain ranges as one mountain. Jeremiah 31 is full of hope for Israel in a future that goes beyond anything they have experienced yet.
Verses 2-3: "Thus says the LORD: 'The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, 3 the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you."
Verses 10-11, 20: "He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock. 11 For the LORD has ransomed Jacob and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him. . . . 20 Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he my darling child? For as often as I speak against him, I do remember him still.
Then come the familiar words of the New Covenant that we know includes more than Israel—it is bought by the blood of Jesus (Luke 22:20) for all his people-Jew and Gentile. But does it include less than all Israel? Here are the familiar words, addressed primarily to Israel as a whole:
Verses 31-33: "Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah . . . I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. . . . I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
But listen to what follows, addressing the same people:
Verses 35: "Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night . . . 36 'If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the LORD, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever.' 37 Thus says the LORD: "If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the LORD.'"
In other words, I won't cast off Israel for what they have done. The prophet Ezekiel links the original covenant with Abraham and the everlasting commitment to the later people after the exile. For example in Ezekiel 16:60, God says, "Yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth [the root was holy!], and I will establish for you an everlasting covenant [all the branches will one day be holy]. Or Ezekiel 37:26, "I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore."
I think the apostle Paul read these promises and many like them, and was guided by divine inspiration to teach us that God's purpose for the nation of Israel as a whole is not yet complete. There was implicit in their election as a people not only that there would always be a remnant of saved Jews, but that in some future generation the people as a whole would be saved. If the firstfruits was holy, the whole lump will be holy. If the root was holy, the branches will be holy.
Verse 27 - God makes and keeps the covenant. Hosea and Gomer are the picture of it. Hosea marries Gomer, and no matter how unfaithful Gomer is Hosea remains faithful, committed, with covenant love.
Verse 28 - “enemies of the gospel” Those who have looked at history and seen the atrocities purported by “Christendom” against Jews, can well see why they would be resistant to the gospel. We have a lot of ‘baggage’ to overcome when witnessing to a Jewish person. From the big picture, their hardening has allowed the opening for us to enter in. But for the ways that Christendom has added to that hardening, God will hold us accountable as He did when a nation was chosen to discipline Israel and that nation ‘went too far.’ So there is a valid repentance necessary on the part of Christians for what has been done to the Jew in history by people who said they were followers of Christ.
Verse 29 - God’s call goes out, God’s word goes out and it does not come back fruitless. It accomplishes what it was sent out to do. His word does not fall short. His covenant promises do not ‘die.’ That is the underlying point of this three chapter journey. God made promises to Israel and no matter how “roundabout” their fulfillment is, THEY WILL BE FULFILLED, because they are MY promises, backed up by MY words.
Verse 30,31 - Piper had the most wisdom on this.
Consider the four stages of God’s design in history.
1) The time of Gentile disobedience—the time when God let the nations go their own ways and sink further and further into sin, while God patiently wrote a lesson book for the nations in the history of Israel as he gave them law and writings and prophets.
2) The time of Jewish disobedience—the time when they rejected their Messiah, Jesus Christ, and God gave them up to hardness.
3) The time of mercy shown to millions of Gentiles through the spread of the gospel to all nations and calling out a redeemed people of God—a fullness of the Gentiles.
4) The time of mercy on Israel as God completes his redemptive plan and takes away the hardening and saves the nation of Israel with a mass conversion to Christ.
Verse 32 - A lot of the hard to understand scriptures, in these three chapters, become easier to understand when you bow before this one verse. God has for His highest purpose, the best purpose, His exaltation, His glory. So if the path to that is “shutting us all up in disobedience” then so be it. To God be the glory.
Verse 33-36 Off we go into one of the most beautiful, majestic, “songs,” in the Bible. And it comes as a result of three chapters of contemplating God, His ways in history and His ways with the nations and His ways with with the chosen people and His ways with us as individuals.
Take God’s “riches” first. God is rich in at least three senses.
1. God Owns All
First, God owns all that exists that is not God. Psalm 24:1 is the most familiar statement of this truth: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” But Deuteronomy 10:14 is far more sweeping: “Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it.” So not only does God own the earth and all that is in it, including you, but he also owns the reaches of space and the heavens beyond the heavens with all their angelic armies. In other words, nothing exists outside God that is not God’s. He owns it, and, as his possession, he may do with it as he pleases. Human wealth compared to God’s wealth is ridiculously tiny and laughable to boast in. Bill Gates is a pauper and has nothing compared to the poorest heir of God (Romans 8:17).
2. God Makes All
Second, God is rich in the sense that he made all that is and can make anything he pleases and as much as he pleases out of nothing. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1; Psalm 8:3; 104:24). In other words, his resources are infinite because the resources out of which he can make anything is nothingness, and there is an incalculable “amount” of nothingness. Or to say it more simply, if you can make what you please effortlessly out of nothing, then your riches are limitless, because your creativity is not limited by raw materials. You don’t need raw materials. God is infinitely rich, because he owns all that is, and because he can make more of anything that he pleases out of nothing.
3. God Is the Infinite Treasure of the Universe
Third, God is rich in the sense that he himself is the infinite Treasure of the universe. God does not have to create anything or to own anything in order to be rich. He is himself of infinite value. And since he exists as a Trinity of Persons in one Godhead, he has been able to enjoy the riches of his own glory from all eternity existing in the other Persons of the Godhead.
When Paul speaks in other places of “the riches of God’s grace” (Ephesians 1:7) and “the riches of his kindness” (Romans 2:4) and “the riches of his glory” (Romans 9:23), this is the main thing: God freely giving himself in grace and kindness to us for our enjoyment of his own all-satisfying glory forever.
Or the most personal and ultimate way to speak of God’s wealth is to call it “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (which Paul does in Ephesians 3:8)—not just riches that Christ gives, but the riches that Christ is. As Paul says in Colossians 1:27, “The riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Christ himself is the present guarantee and the future gift of the glory of God. When Christ died, he bought and he became our greatest Treasure. He himself is the gift and the greatness of the glory of God.
God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge are unfathomably deep; therefore:
1. all things are from him and through him; therefore
2. no one can give a gift to God so as to make him a debtor; and
3. no one can give any counsel to God about how he should do things; which is why
4. his ways and judgments are unsearchable and inscrutable to our finite minds; so that, finally,
5. we should give all glory to God, and be content with an utterly dependent Christ-exalting happiness in God.
(deep theological stuff)
“All things are from him and through him.”
But let’s not say more than we should here. There is another sense in which we must not say that all things are from God. For example, think of 1 John 2:15-16,
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.
Here John says that “the desires of the flesh” and “the desires of the eyes” and the “pride in possessions” is “not from God.” So in one sense “all things” are “from God.” But in another sense these evil things are not from God.
I take this to mean that sin does not come from God’s nature. That is, it’s not an extension or aspect of God’s nature or character. God is holy, and there is no unholiness in him. God is light, and in him is no darkness. The darkness and unholiness of sin do not arise as part of God’s nature or character. They don’t come from him in that sense. Sin can be from God and through God in the sense of ultimate and decisive cause, but not in the sense that sin comes from his nature or character. God wills that sin be, without himself sinning. It is not a sin when God, with infinite wisdom and holiness, ordains that sin exist. Sin is “from him” as the one who ordained it, but “not from him” as an expression of his nature.