Salvation to the Jews
[This chapter is based on the Epistle to the Romans.]
After many unavoidable delays, Paul at last reached Corinth, the scene
of so much anxious labour in the past, and for a time the object of deep
solicitude. He found that many of the early believers still regarded him
with affection as the one who had first borne to them the light of the
gospel. As he greeted these disciples and saw the evidences of their
fidelity and zeal he rejoiced that his work in Corinth had not been in
The Corinthian believers, once so prone to lose sight of their high
calling in Christ, had developed strength of Christian character. Their
words and acts revealed the transforming power of the grace of God, and
they were now a strong force for good in that centre of heathenism and
superstition. In the society of his beloved companions and these faithful
converts the apostle's worn and troubled spirit found rest.
During his sojourn at Corinth, Paul found time to look forward to new
and wider fields of service. His contemplated journey to Rome especially
occupied his thoughts. To see the Christian faith firmly established at
the great centre of the known world was one of his dearest hopes and most
cherished plans. A church had already been established in Rome, and the
apostle desired to secure the co-operation of the believers there in the
work to be accomplished in Italy and in other countries. To prepare the
way for his labours among these brethren, many of whom were as yet
strangers to him, he sent them a letter announcing his purpose of visiting
Rome and his hope of planting the standard of the cross in Spain.
In his epistle to the Romans, Paul set forth the great principles of
the gospel. He stated his position on the questions which were agitating
the Jewish and the Gentile churches, and showed that the hopes and
promises which had once belonged especially to the Jews were now offered
to the Gentiles also.
With great clearness and power the apostle presented the doctrine of
justification by faith in Christ. He hoped that other churches also might
be helped by the instruction sent to the Christians at Rome; but how dimly
could he foresee the far-reaching influence of his words! Through all the
ages the great truth of justification by faith has stood as a mighty
beacon to guide repentant sinners into the way of life. It was this light
that scattered the darkness which enveloped Luther's mind and revealed to
him the power of the blood of Christ to cleanse from sin. The same light
has guided thousands of sin-burdened souls to the true Source of pardon
and peace. For the epistle to the church at Rome, every Christian has
reason to thank God.
In this letter Paul gave free expression to his burden in behalf of the
Jews. Ever since his conversion, he had longed to help his Jewish brethren
to gain a clear understanding of the gospel message. "My heart's
desire and prayer to God for Israel is," he declared, "that they
might be saved."
It was no ordinary desire that the apostle felt. Constantly he was
petitioning God to work in behalf of the Israelites who had failed to
recognise Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Messiah. "I say the truth
in Christ," he assured the believers at Rome, "my conscience
also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and
continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed
from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are
Israelites, to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the
covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the
promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh
Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever."
The Jews were God's chosen people, through whom He had purposed to
bless the entire race. From among them God had raised up many prophets.
These had foretold the advent of a Redeemer who was to be rejected and
slain by those who should have been the first to recognise Him as the
The prophet Isaiah, looking down through the centuries and witnessing
the rejection of prophet after prophet and finally of the Son of God, was
inspired to write concerning the acceptance of the Redeemer by those who
had never before been numbered among the children of Israel. Referring to
this prophecy, Paul declares: "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. But to Israel He saith, All day long I have stretched forth
My hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people."
Even though Israel rejected His Son, God did not reject them. Listen to
Paul as he continues the argument: "I say then, Hath God cast away
His people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of
Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away His people which
He foreknew. Wot ye not what the Scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh
intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed Thy
prophets, and digged down Thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek
my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to
Myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of
Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according
to the election of grace."
Israel had stumbled and fallen, but this did not make it impossible for
them to rise again. In answer to the question, "Have they stumbled
that they should fall?" the apostle replies: "God forbid: but
rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to
provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the
world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much
more their fullness? For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the
apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: if by any means I may
provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.
For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what
shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?"
It was God's purpose that His grace should be revealed among the
Gentiles as well as among the Israelites. This had been plainly outlined
in Old Testament prophecies. The apostle uses some of these prophecies in
his argument. "Hath not the potter power over the clay," he
inquires, "of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and
another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to show His wrath, and to
make His power known, endured with much long-suffering 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,
even us, whom He hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the
Gentiles? As He saith also in Osee, I will call them My people, which were
not My people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come
to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not My
people; there shall they be called the children of the living God."
See Hosea 1:10.
Notwithstanding Israel's failure as a nation, there remained among them
a goodly remnant of such as should be saved.
At the time of the Saviour's advent there were faithful men and women
who had received with gladness the message of John the Baptist, and had
thus been led to study anew the prophecies concerning the Messiah. When
the early Christian church was founded, it was composed of these faithful
Jews who recognised Jesus of Nazareth as the one for whose advent they had
been longing. It is to this remnant that Paul refers when he writes,
"If the first fruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root
be holy, so are the branches."
Paul likens the remnant in Israel to a noble olive tree, some of whose
branches have been broken off. He compares the Gentiles to branches from a
wild olive tree, grafted into the parent stock. "If some of the
branches be broken off," he writes to the Gentile believers,
"and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and
with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; boast not
against the branches. But if thou boast, thou barest not the root, but the
root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might
be grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou
standest by faith. Be not high-minded, but fear: for if God spared not the
natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not thee. Behold therefore
the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward
thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness: otherwise thou also
shalt be cut off."
Through unbelief and the rejection of Heaven's purpose for her, Israel
as a nation had lost her connection with God. But the branches that had
been separated from the parent stock God was able to reunite with the true
stock of Israel --the remnant who had remained true to the God of their
fathers. "They also," the apostle declares of these broken
branches, "if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in:
for God is able to graft them in again." "If thou," he
writes to the Gentiles, "wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild
by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how
much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into
their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be
ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits;
that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the
Gentiles be come in.
"And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall
come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from
Jacob: for this is My covenant unto them, when I shall take away their
sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as
touching the election, they are beloved for the father's sakes. For the
gifts and calling of God are without repentance. For as ye in times past
have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:
even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they
also may obtain mercy. For God had concluded them all in unbelief, that He
might have mercy upon all.
"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of
God! how unsearchable are His judgements, and His ways past finding out!
For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been His counsellor?
or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him
again? For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be
Thus Paul shows that God is abundantly able to transform the hearts of
Jew and Gentile alike, and to grant to every believer in Christ the
blessings promised to Israel. He repeats Isaiah's declaration concerning
God's people: "Though the number of children of Israel be as the sand
of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: for He will finish the work, and cut
it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon
the earth. And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left
us a seed, we had been as Sodoma and been made like unto Gomorrah."
At the time when Jerusalem was destroyed and the temple laid in ruins,
many thousands of the Jews were sold to serve as bondmen in heathen lands.
Like wrecks on a desert shore they were scattered among the nations. For
eighteen hundred years the Jews have wandered from land to land throughout
the world, and in no place have they been given the privilege of regaining
their ancient prestige as a nation. Maligned, hated, persecuted, from
century to century theirs has been a heritage of suffering.
Notwithstanding the awful doom pronounced upon the Jews as a nation at
the time of their rejection of Jesus of Nazareth, there have lived from
age to age many noble, God-fearing Jewish men and women who have suffered
in silence. God has comforted their hearts in affliction and has beheld
with pity their terrible situation. He has heard the agonising prayers of
those who have sought Him with all the heart for a right understanding of
His word. Some have learned to see in the lowly Nazarene whom their
forefathers rejected and crucified, the true Messiah of Israel. As their
minds have grasped the significance of the familiar prophecies so long
obscured by tradition and misinterpretation, their hearts have been filled
with gratitude to God for the unspeakable gift He bestows upon every human
being who chooses to accept Christ as a personal Saviour.
It is to this class that Isaiah referred in his prophecy, "A
remnant shall be saved." From Paul's day to the present time, God by
His Holy Spirit has been calling after the Jew as well as the Gentile.
"There is no respect of persons with God," declared Paul. The
apostle regarded himself as "debtor both to the Greeks, and to the
barbarians," as well as to the Jews; but he never lost sight of the
decided advantages possessed by the Jews over others, "chiefly,
because that unto them were committed the oracles of God." "The
gospel," he declared, "is the power of God unto salvation to
everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For
therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is
written, The just shall live by faith." It is of this gospel of
Christ, equally efficacious for Jew and Gentile, that Paul in his epistle
to the Romans declared he was not ashamed.
When this gospel shall be presented in its fullness to the Jews, many
will accept Christ as the Messiah. Among Christian ministers there are
only a few who feel called upon to labour for the Jewish people; but to
those who have been often passed by, as well as to all others, the message
of mercy and hope in Christ is to come.
In the closing proclamation of the gospel, when special work is to be
done for classes of people hitherto neglected, God expects His messengers
to take particular interest in the Jewish people whom they find in all
parts of the earth. As the Old Testament Scriptures are blended with the
New in an explanation of Jehovah's eternal purpose, this will be to many
of the Jews as the dawn of a new creation, the resurrection of the soul.
As they see the Christ of the gospel dispensation portrayed in the pages
of the Old Testament Scriptures, and perceive how clearly the New
Testament explains the Old, their slumbering faculties will be aroused,
and they will recognise Christ as the Saviour of the world. Many will by
faith receive Christ as their Redeemer. To them will be fulfilled the
words, "As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the
sons of God, even to them that believe on His name." John 1:12.
Among the Jews are some who, like Saul of Tarsus, are mighty in the
Scriptures, and these will proclaim with wonderful power the immutability
of the law of God. The God of Israel will bring this to pass in our day.
His arm is not shortened that it cannot save. As His servants labour in
faith for those who have long been neglected and despised, His salvation
will be revealed.
"Thus saith the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house
of Jacob, Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax
pale. But when he seeth his children, the work of Mine hands, in the midst
of him, they shall sanctify My name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob,
and shall fear the God of Israel. They also that erred in spirit shall
come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine."