On the basis of the principle of election as
discussed, Israel as a nation is rejected. The apostle now proceeded to
deal with that fact in order to show its real reason. In doing so, he
first of all declared the fact of their failure in terms of his own
sympathy and compassion; and then proceeded to show that their way of
return must be through Christ; thus finally coming to the definite
declaration of the reason of their rejection.
Again the apostle revealed his affection for his own
people after the flesh, in the declaration of his desire and
supplication for their salvation. In loyalty to truth he had ruthlessly
exposed the sin of Israel, and declared their necessary rejection,
because of their refusal to believe. Being about to emphasize this
teaching, he first recognized that they had a zeal, but declared that it
was in conflict with the plan of God. In all that he said about them, it
is evident that he was speaking out of his own personal experience.
Looking back to the days before he was apprehended on the way to
Damascus, he remembered how he was filled with zeal, which he now knew
to be zeal without knowledge. Interpreting the action of his people by
his own experience, he declared them to be ignorant of God's
Righteousness, which declaration was equivalent to saying that their
standard of righteousness was low and imperfect.
When it is remembered that the apostle ever had in
mind the Lord Himself when he spoke of the Righteousness of God, it is
easy to understand his description of these people as "being ignorant of
God's Righteousness." Their idea of that Righteousness was due to their
misunderstanding of the written law; their ignorance of the true meaning
of that law resulted from the fact that they had not known Christ; hence
they were going about, endeavouring to establish a righteousness of
their own, refusing to submit to the Righteousness of God, which is
Christ. Paul knew perfectly well in his own experience, that nothing so
soon compels a man to cease seeking to establish his own righteousness
as a vision of the Righteousness of God. Here again it is impossible to
escape the conviction that what he said of them was the result of his
own experience, when on the way to Damascus, he was going about,
establishing his own righteousness; but a vision of the Righteousness of
God at once brought him to the position of submission thereto.
In the apostle
b. THE WAY OF RETURN
The apostle immediately proceeded to discuss the way
of Righteousness according to the plan of God, in contrast to the
attempt that Israel was making to establish its own righteousness.
The whole plan of God is stated in comprehensive
terms in the words, "Christ is the end of the law unto Righteousness to
every one that believeth." This is not a declaration that the
requirements of the law are done away, but rather that they are all
fulfilled in and through Christ in the experience of those who believe.
While for the justification of the sinner Christ the Righteousness of
God is imputed upon the basis of faith, for his sanctification Christ
the Righteousness of God is imparted.
2. Righteousness by Faith
That Righteousness is by faith, he then proceeded to
argue, calling first the witness of Moses; then showing that the
principle enunciated by Moses was fulfilled in the apostolic preaching
of Christ; finally making a universal application of that principle.
It is interesting to notice how Paul read into Old
Testament quotations larger meanings than they seem at first to warrant.
Whether either Moses or Isaiah understood the full value of what they
wrote is extremely doubtful. They had both at least discovered a
principle, namely, that of faith in a deliverer working safety. Paul
making use of their words, showed that these things are fulfilled in
Christ. He need not be sought for in the height or the depth, for now He
has indeed come. The word is nigh men, in the mouth and in the heart;
and the condition of salvation is that of belief with the heart, and
confession with the mouth.
It is intensely interesting and of great importance
to notice that at the close of this section, which has been so full of
the subject of election, the apostle again quoting from the Old
Testament Scriptures, once from Isaiah and once from Joel, shows by the
use of the great word "Whosoever" that salvation is at the disposal of
all who believe.
3. The Method
Then almost abruptly, and yet in closest connection,
in a series of questions, he revealed the importance of the work of
preaching the Gospel. There can be no calling on One not believed in.
There can be no belief in One not heard of. There can be no hearing
without a preacher. There can be no preaching without a commission.
Once again falling into Old Testament quotation, and
again by his use of it enlarging its meaning, he described the preachers
of the Gospel through whose message men will believe unto salvation, in
"How beautiful are the feet of them that
bring glad tidings of good things."
c. THE REASON OF REJECTION
Having thus declared the fact of Israel's failure,
and having hastened to show the way of salvation provided for them, and
for all men, the apostle declared the reason of their rejection.
From among the number of those who heard the glad
tidings published by the missionary messengers, only some were elected.
They were such as not only heard but hearkened, and he adduced in
defence of that view, the complaint of Isaiah, "Who hath believed our
report?'' The truth which is brought out here with great clearness is
that God elects those who believe to salvation, rather than that those
believe whom God elects. This is a distinction with a difference. It
does not propose to clear away all the mystery that surrounds the
subject. It does, however, place the emphasis at the right point, as it
reveals the fact that responsibility rests upon those who hear. It must
not be forgotten that such, and such only, are being dealt with in this
section. The subject of those who do not hear is not under
consideration. The responsibility herein indicated, they do not share.
None can believe in Him of Whom they have not heard. To have heard is to
have entered the region of responsibility.
The question then is, Had Israel such responsibility?
and the inquiry is answered by the apostle in three ways.
He showed first that they had the testimony of Nature
in common with all men, quoting from the psalm of Revelation, and from
that part of it which deals with the revelation through Nature.
He next affirmed that they had the testimony of
Moses, and the quotation he made in this connection is interesting, for
passing over all the fact of the law which was given by Moses, he quoted
from the book of Deuteronomy, and therein from the great song of Moses,
in the course of which he prophetically dealt with the failure of
Israel, declaring that on account thereof God would provoke them to
jealousy by making use of people outside the covenant, for the
accomplishment of His purpose. Thus in the most emphatic way he declared
that through Moses they had heard.
Finally he reminded them that they had the testimony
of the prophetic ministry. Referring to Isaiah, he quoted two sayings of
his, the first of which exactly harmonized with his quotation from
Moses, in that it declared how that Jehovah would be sought of a people
that had not known Him, and become manifest to a people not called by
His name; all of which emphasized the fact of Israel's knowledge.
The second quotation is, in some sense, not a second,
for in Isaiah it immediately follows the other; but it emphasizes the
long-suffering compassion of God toward His disobedient people, thus
even more vividly setting forth the fact that they had heard.
Thus the reason of their rejection was that they did
not hearken, even though they had heard the Word of God in Nature,
through law, and by the mouth of the prophets.
This last quotation from Isaiah is of supreme value
as it reveals exactly the Divine attitude, that namely of hands spread
out continuously toward a rebellious people. The will of God is the
salvation of all such, and He has elected to salvation those who
believe. If rebellion be persisted in, then salvation is impossible, and
those rebelling are not elected. To declare that God has arbitrarily
chosen some to salvation, so that they must be saved; and that then He
spreads out His hands in the attitude of mercy toward such as cannot be
saved, is surely little short of blasphemy.