Darby on Romans 9-11 – What about the Jews?

God’s covenant to take away Israel’s sins is sure. It will be accomplished when Christ comes. The final restoration of Israel will be on the ground of the promises made to the fathers, not through the law, but with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Israel had rejected Christ: therefore they became objects of mercy, just like the Gentiles. As the Gentiles had been unbelieving, mercy had been the only ground of their entering. Now the unbelieving Jews had were also objects of God’s sovereign mercy.

Grace had dealt with sinners, and wisdom had reconciled God’s faithfulness to His promises, with the heirs of those promises, through their coming under mercy. This calls out the adoring praise of the apostle in contemplating the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God

Rome

Romans 9

 

Romans 9-11 reconciles the doctrine that there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, with the faithfulness of God and the promises made to Israel. The Jew might acknowledge that he had broken the law and had forfeited his right of being God’s favoured people. But there were promises made to Israel before the law: these could not be set aside. Paul shows that although God had not cast aside His people, the Jew would have to come into blessing as a guilty sinner, entitled to nothing, just like a Gentile.

There was still blessing for the Jew – Paul was one. Even Christ Himself, according to the flesh, came from Judah. But not Israel were of Israel. Paul felt Israel’s state and had wished (past tense – see Rom 9:3 – Darby), like Moses to be cursed for his brethren. But now the apostle brings in the sovereignty of God.

This sovereignty (v. 24) God would use in favour of the Gentiles as well as the Jews.  ‘That he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles’ (v. 23-24). This was sovereign, but it was sovereign mercy. For there to be sovereignty in mercy, there most have been evil – evil that could be pardoned. God showed this after Israel had made the golden calf: God had threatened to consume Israel and make a nation of Moses.   Moses’s interceded and appealed to God’s sovereignty. God was sovereign; He could use mercy, and He did. He said to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion’ (v. 13, Ex 33:19).   Righteousness was not attained by man’s willing or running, but by God’s showing mercy when man was unrighteous.   Both Israel and Pharaoh were wicked. Righteousness would have condemned both, but God had mercy on one, and hardened the other. This is sovereignty. How can man reply to God?

 

We see the holy wisdom of God: as with the potter, who can make vessels to honour and dishonour out of the same lump. ‘God … endured the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction, and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy which he had afore prepared unto glory’ (v.22-23).   Paul forces the Jew to admit to God’s sovereignty, otherwise Ishmaelites and Edomites would have had to have been amongst God’s people, especially as, in making the calf, all Israel (except Moses and Joshua) had deserved to be cut off. Hence God sovereignty calls both Gentiles, who had no title, and Jews, who had forfeited their title. Though the Gentiles were not looking for righteousness, they found the righteousness of faith; but Israel, without faith, followed after the law of righteousness. They stumbled at the stumbling-stone, which Isaiah had declared would be laid in Zion. Individually those of Israel who believed should not be ashamed; but as a body, they had stumbled at the stumbling-stone.

 

 

Romans 10

 

Paul desired the salvation of Israel. He testified to their zeal towards God, a zeal not according to knowledge. They had sought to establish their own righteousness under the law, but had not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God. That was Christ, and Christ was the end of the law (He takes its place). As we have seen in ch. 7, the Jews could not have two husbands at the same time; they could not have the law (their own doing) and Christ (God’s righteousness). Christ has met the legal claims of God – condemnation and death – and He is our righteousness, as we believe through grace.

 

The righteousness which is by faith speaks differently from the law. ‘If thou confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved’ (v.9): the real question is the salvation of the sinner, not the keeping of the law. ‘Whosoever [Jew or Gentile] shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved’ (v.13). Christ is the hope of the nations as well as the Jews.

 

This brings out the relative position of Jew and Gentile. God’s proclamation of grace to Israel was clear in the Old Testament, for which he quotes ‘How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings’ (Isa 52:7). But not all obeyed the testimony. ‘Who hath believed our report?’ (Isa 53:1).   The report (God’s word) had gone out to the whole world, and was received in faith. So the Gentiles were also objects of God’s testimony and Israel was aware of this.

  • Their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world (Ps 19:4).
  • I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you. (Deut 32:21)
  • I was found of them that sought me not. (Isa 65:1)

When Israel was first established as a nation before God, Moses foretold they would foolishly and unwisely depart from Him as a people. The Gentiles would provoke them to anger. Grace had not been wanting, but there was no response. God had called in vain; the divorce had come. ‘Thus saith the LORD, Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away?’ (Isa 50:1).

 

Romans 11

 

Was the rejection of Israel final? Surely not! Paul gives three proofs that the rejection was not final:

  1. A remnant would be owned now
  2. The Jews would be provoked to jealousy, because of the reception of the Gentiles
  3. The Redeemer would yet come to Zion and turn away ungodliness from Jacob, and so all Israel (not just the Jews) would be saved.

 

Some of Israel, such as Paul, were of the elect; the rest were blinded, having rejected Christ and stumbled at the stumbling-stone. Their fall for the salvation of the Gentiles. This is the second proof of their not being finally cast off. This lead the apostle to bring out the relative positions of Jew and Gentile as to promise in this world.

 

When, after the flood, men had cast off God to make themselves a name, God scattered men in judgment and formed them into nations. They gave themselves up to idolatry, but God called Abraham, and made him the root of a separate family with God’s promises according to the flesh, culminating by grace in Christ. Until then there had been no head of a race or a family. Adam was the father of sinners; Abraham was the father of the faithful. He was the root; the tree was Israel. Some of the branches had been broken off, and the Gentiles grafted in in their place. The root remained, and the Gentiles were grafted in among them, for they were not natural branches, but had their standing by faith.

 

The Gentiles were not to be high-minded, but fear. If God had not spared the natural branches, He would not spare the Gentiles, who were only grafted in. But the tree of promise remains, and the Jewish branches will be grafted in again into the olive. The Jewish system closed to let in the Gentiles. The Gentile system will close, to let the Jews back. God does not fail, of course, but accomplishes His own work of grace.

 

We do not have in Romans the mystery of Jew and Gentile brought into one new man – one body in Christ. This is not the church: there is no breaking off of the church. The Jews will not be grafted into the church, for it will already have been taken up into heavenly glory. Israel will be saved as a nation, which of course cannot be the case in the church, for there is neither Jew nor Greek in the church. The Gentile professing system (popery and infidelity) will be cut off – a solemn word and warning to Christendom.

 

God’s covenant to take away Israel’s sins is sure. It will be accomplished when Christ comes. The final restoration of Israel will be on the ground of the promises made to the fathers, not through the law, but with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Israel had rejected Christ: therefore they became objects of mercy, just like the Gentiles. As the Gentiles had been unbelieving, mercy had been the only ground of their entering. Now the unbelieving Jews had were also objects of God’s sovereign mercy.

 

Grace had dealt with sinners, and wisdom had reconciled God’s faithfulness to His promises, with the heirs of those promises, through their coming under mercy. This calls out the adoring praise of the apostle in contemplating the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God.  Paul now turns to the practical consequences which should flow from the mercies of God.

 

A simplified summary of part of the introduction to John Nelson Darby’s  Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans

A Brief Outline of the Books of the Bible – Romans

Outline of Bible coverRomans unfolds the gospel of God as the testimony of the righteousness of God. It testifies of God’s wrath from heaven, and begins with the depravity of the Gentiles, the hypocrisy of moralisers, and the guilt of the Jews. It concludes that all are under sin, and that our guilt is met by the blood of Christ through faith. This proves at the same time the righteousness of God in bearing with the sins of the past saints, and lays the present foundation of divine righteousness for the future.

From chapter 4 the apostle connects faith with the resurrection, Christ having been delivered for our offences. In chapter 5 he applies this to justification and peace in the assurance of God’s love, and traces all up to Adam on one side, and to Christ as head on the other, the law only coming in by the bye. In chapter 6 he applies it to a godly life, and in chapter 7 to the law. He unfolds in chapter 8 the full life and liberty the Christian obtains through the presence of the Holy Spirit.   God secures all by what He is for us, all this being made good to us through Christ. And nothing shall be able to separate us from it. There are three parts in chapter 8:

  1. The Spirit as life, going on to the resurrection of the body (v. 1-11);
  2. The Holy Spirit as a separate Person, dwelling in us for joy, and sympathy with us in infirmities (v. 12-27);
  3. God for us – life, God in us, and God for us (v. 28 to the end.

Note that except just for bringing in Christ’s intercession, you never get His ascension in Romans. Hence we do not have the unity of the body, which is only alluded in ch. 12 as to in its practical effects, but we have the relationship of the individual with God on the ground of grace reigning through righteousness – God’s righteousness being very definitely brought out in contrast with man’s, man having the law for his rule, convicting him of transgression, lust, and his powerlessness to do good, despite willing otherwise.

From chapters 9 to 11, Paul reconciles special promises to the Jews with the no-difference doctrine of divine righteousness. In chapter 9, while professing his own love to the Jews, he recognises all their privileges and the absolute sovereignty of God. This was proved in their own history by the exclusion of Ishmael and Esau, despite their being sons of Abraham and Isaac. It was only the sovereign mercy of God which had spared them at Sinai: likewise it was this sovereign mercy in God’s call of Gentiles as well as Jews, confirmed by quotations from Hosea. He then shows that the rejection of the Jews was foretold by prophets – that it is founded on a pretension to human righteousness. In chapter 10, he contrasts the righteousness of the law with that of faith, showing the title of the Gentiles to the latter.   The call involved preaching to them, Jews having rebelled, convicted, by their own scriptures.

In chapter 11, Paul raises the question, Has Israel as a people, finally and definitely, been rejected? No. He gives three proofs

  1. In his own person.
  2. The declaration that the Gentiles will be called would provoke them (Israel) to jealousy, and therefore that they would not be finally rejected.
  3. The positive declaration of scripture that the Redeemer would come to Zion, and turn away ungodliness from Jacob.

In connection with this, he puts the Gentiles, introduced on the principle of faith, upon their own responsibility, showing them that if they did not continue in God’s goodness, they would also be cut off from the tree of promise on the earth, as so many of the Jews then were. God could graft the Jews in again, this being the testimony to the wisdom of God. God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. (V.32)

In the subsequent part we get exhortations. Only that in chapter 15 Paul resumes the doctrine. Jesus Christ was “a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers, and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.” (v. 8-9)

 

Originally by JND.   Lightly edited by Sosthenes, July 2014

– Se A Brief Outline of the Books of the Bible  for the original