Forum Class for November 30th, 2003
World Peace will not be achieved until the nation of Israel comes into a fully restored relationship with God! Israel is the key to world peace. But there can be no peace without Yeshua, the Prince of Peace.
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD'S house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, And rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore." (Isaiah 2:2-4)
For unto us [Israel] a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:6,7)
There's Hope Ahead
Selected Notes from Ray Stedman: The eleventh chapter of Romans deals very strongly with Israel -- its hope, its promises, and its relationship to the church. I think everyone here knows that Hanukkah and Christmas are celebrated at the same time of the year. They have something in common, in that Hanukkah is a celebration of the cleansing of the temple for the ultimate coming of the Messiah, whom the Jews expected would come to the nation of Israel, while Christmas celebrates the actual coming of that Messiah to a sinful, weary, and waiting world. I think these two ceremonies, very diverse in nature, nevertheless symbolize the close relationships that the nation of Israel has with the church of the living God.
We must never forget those relationships, and I think this chapter, perhaps more than any other passage of Scripture, will help us in understanding that. Unfortunately, the church and Israel are often like two relatives who can't get along with each other. Through the centuries, disagreement and outright persecution and unhappy situations have prevailed. But Chapter11 of Romans gives us some very helpful insights into how to live with our Jewish friends and neighbors. Twice in this passage the Apostle Paul asks the question "Did God reject his people?" That is, is God through with Israel because of their rejection of the person of Jesus and the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ? Because they turned a deaf ear to that, has God wiped them out? Has he said they no longer have any place in his scheme of things?
Twice Paul raises that question here, and twice he answers it: "By no means!" That is, God is not through with the Jews. Anyone who teaches that the church has now inherited all the promises of Israel had better take a second look at the Scriptures, especially the eleventh chapter of Romans. It is amazing how many people take all the blessings and glories that were promised to Israel in the Old Testament and apply them to the church, but take all the cursings and all the punishments and apply those to Israel. That does not treat the Scriptures fairly. So let's take a look at Paul's answer to the question "Does God reject his people?"
I ask then, Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. (Rom. 11:1-2a NIV)
Those among the Jews whom God foreknew, he did not reject. Paul is the great example of that. Here we have clear evidence that God has never set aside the Jews, in respect to individual salvation. Through all the Christian centuries Jews have been coming to Christ, coming back to God, coming into the fulfillment of the promises of Abraham by faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul is an excellent example of this. Notice how he refers to himself as one of those foreknown, i.e., one of the elect, one whom God had set aside to be his. In the letter to the Galatians, the apostle reminds us that this was done from his mother's womb, so that all through those years of resistance and pharisaical anger at the claims of Jesus, when Paul was persecuting the church and "breathing out threatenings and slaughter" (Acts 9:1 KJV), Paul was, nevertheless, one of the elect. Though he was struggling, he was one whom God inexorably was drawing to himself -- and Paul never forgot that. In every one of his letters he marvels at the grace of God that took him, a blasphemer and persecutor of the church, and drew him to himself, changed his heart, and made him into a new creature in Christ. He is but one example of the many millions of Jews through the centuries who have believed in Christ. But even that does not exhaust the position of Israel in God's program. Not only do some Jews become Christian, but there are many who remain Jews who, nevertheless, are born again, saved individuals. Paul cites an example from the prophet Elijah:
Don't you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah -- how he appealed to God against Israel: "Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me." And what was God's answer to him? "I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal." So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. (Rom. 11:2b-6 NIV)
There was a time in the life of the prophet Elijah when he thought he was the only one left. It was after that tremendous encounter with the priests of Baal, recorded in First Kings 18, when fire came down from heaven and wiped out all the sacrifices. Queen Jezebel mounted a persecution against all the prophets of God, including Elijah, and brought Elijah to the place where he felt that he was the only one left. Have you ever felt like that? "O Lord, they have all left you. I'm the only one left. I'm the only one who's faithful," (cf. 1 Kings 19:10-14). Have you ever felt that way? That was how Elijah felt. But God said, "Elijah, your computer is broken. You only see one left; I see seven thousand who have not yet bowed the knee to Baal. I have kept them from it. I have reserved to myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal," (cf. 1 Kings 19:18). Elijah, like many of us, made a lot of mistakes:
First, he forgot about man's limited knowledge about any subject. We don't see very clearly; we don't understand all the issues. I do not think there is anything that we know everything about. Therefore our knowledge as to what is happening is always to be taken with a grain of salt. It is never as bad as it looks, no matter how bad it may get in these coming years -- and it may get bad. But it will never be as bad as it looks, because our knowledge does not encompass all the ones who remain faithful. Second, Elijah forgot about God's unlimited power. The situation is never as bad as it looks because God is never as weak as he seems. Sometimes we think that God must have lost the battle, that the powers of darkness are so strong and violent and so in command that God has given up. But when we think that way, we have forgotten what the Scriptures tell us again and again -- that it is the very opposition of the enemy that God is using to bring about his purposes. Never forget that. God cannot lose because he uses the very opposition against him to win. Elijah had no reason to despair. Third, Elijah forgot about life's unmixable principles. If salvation is by grace, then it can't be by works. And if it is by works, then it can't be grace. Grace, you see, is God at work. Works is man at work. The processes of salvation are much less complex than they appear. We think we have to earn our way to heaven. I find this revealed in the thinking of many Christians.
A man said to me the other day, "Why should this happen to me? What have I done that I should have to go through this kind of a trial?" I realized that I had said the same thing not long before. That kind of thinking reveals that I really thought that I had put God in my debt, that I had somehow earned something, and deserved something better from him. Now, that is works, and Paul reminds us here that you cannot mix works and grace. If God is going to call you and save you and deliver you, then it is not going to depend on your works. As James points out, your works will be there if your faith is real, because it is faith that produces works. But the works aren't the saving factor. That is what Elijah forgot. So there were thousands in Paul's day, and there are thousands of Jews today, who perhaps have never really heard about Jesus. I think there are many Jews today who are earnest, devout, humble souls, trusting in the Old Testament record, who have never really heard anything about Jesus that would make them feel that he really is their Messiah. And yet they have believed what is revealed in the Old Testament about the Messiah. There are probably hundreds of thousands of Jews today who are still faithful believers in the only bit of Christ that they know -- that which is revealed in the Old Testament. At any rate, Paul has made it clear that God is not rejecting individuals out of Israel. And yet the majority are turning away (Verse 7):
What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, as it is written: "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day." And David says, "May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them. May their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever." (Rom. 11:7-10 NIV)
Now, those are horrible words, but they represent the reaction that God has determined should accompany unbelief. When you hear truth, it is always very important that you do something about it. If you know something is true, then you had better act on it. If you don't, you lose your capacity to recognize truth. Gradually the dry rot that is described here, that is so visibly evident among many in Israel today, will set in. Paul calls it a blindness. Their eyes are blinded, so that even when the truth is there they cannot see it. Their ears are deaf. Even when loving appeals and warnings are set before them, they don't hear them. Their table, their food, becomes a snare and a trap, leading into slavery.
The food of Israel referred to here is the Law, the Scriptures. Jews highly value the Law. Now, they don't know a lot about it. Many Jews today are hardly acquainted with anything in the Old Testament. The rabbis have given themselves to the study of it, and yet all that intensive study only seems to make them sink deeper and deeper into the trap of legalistic slavery. They are bound by rituals and spend their days constantly working out interpretative detailsOn that basis, the Jews say, they can win their way to acceptance before God without dealing with the sin problem and without ever taking into consideration the full teaching of the Scriptures. Paul says, therefore, that many have been rejected because of that. Now he takes up the second question (Verse 11):
Again I ask, "Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery?" Not at all! (Rom 11:11a NIV)
This question deals with the national promises of Israel. Individually, in any age, Jews can come to Christ, and have. But what about the national promises God gave to Israel? Has the nation lost those? By no means! Paul gives us five arguments to prove that Israel must someday become a godly nation once again, and become the leading nation of earth: The first argument is that the salvation of the Gentiles was intended to reach Israel (Verse 11):
Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. (Rom 11:11b NIV)
If you have read the book of Acts, you know that everywhere Paul went he began his ministry with the Jews. It was only when the Jews would refuse to hear that he would turn to the Gentiles. So, in all these cities, the Gentiles were blessed and enriched by his ministry only because the Jews had refused it. Gentiles were allowed to believe and to become different people in order to make the Jews jealous.
Do you know what that tells me? That tells me that we Christians ought to be so alive, so vital in our Christianity, so excited and full of joy and love toward one another that every Jew we contact will say to himself, "How come they have it and we don't? How come they have a light on their faces and joy and love in their hearts?" We have to hang our heads in shame and admit that through the centuries there has been very little in the church to attract the jealousy of Israel. It has been the other way around. But Paul says this was God's intention, that the Gentiles should become so alive as to awaken the Jews. Paul's second argument is that Israel must ultimately return to God because worldwide blessing will come only when that happens (Verses 12-15):
But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring! I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be, but life from the dead? (Rom 11:12-15 NIV)
When I was at the Congress for World Evangelization at Lausanne, Switzerland, a couple of years ago, I was moved to see that every nation on earth was represented at that congress. The gospel had in some way penetrated every nation on the face of the earth. To some degree, at least, the riches of the gospel had come to every single nation. Now, those riches really speak not of material prosperity, but of freedom, the human spirit made free. It is a fact today -- you can take your globe and check it -- that everywhere the gospel is freely proclaimed, you have a free people. But where it is resisted or rejected or ignored, you have people drifting into violence, anarchy, exploitation, and tyranny. This is because human freedom comes by means of the gospel. We in the Gentile world ought to give thanks to God for the riches that have come our way because of the blindness of Israel.
But Paul's argument is this: If that kind of riches has come because of the Jews' rejection, what will it be like in the day when Israel comes again into its proper position? According to the prophets, that is the time when the earth shall blossom like the rose, when there shall be no more war, "nothing to hurt or destroy in all God's holy mountain" (cf, Isaiah 11:9), when the earth shall move into a golden era. Israel is the key. That is why every Christian should keep his eye on that remarkable people and see what is happening to them. Paul's third argument is found in Verse 16:
If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches. (Rom 11:16 NIV)
Now, it would take a good Jew to really understand this. Paul is referring to the offerings and sacrifices in the tabernacle. For the offering of the firstfruits, a pile of dough was made up, and someone would take a handful of it and present it to God. Paul's argument is that if that first handful was acceptable and holy before God, the rest of the dough would be too. Now, the firstfruit here is Abraham, the father of the Israel nation. Abraham was accepted before God; therefore his descendants will be too. They are not cut off from God or from his relationship with them; they are claimed by God. Paul's fourth argument has to do with the olive tree (Verses 17-21):
If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in." Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. (Rom. 11:17-21 NIV)
Once again Abraham is symbolized by the olive tree. The New Testament tells us that when a Gentile becomes a Christian, he, in a sense, becomes a son of Abraham. He becomes an Israelite. But when a Jew becomes a Christian, he doesn't have to become a Gentile. You see, the natural fruit of the olive tree is the Jews. It is we who are grafted in.
C.S. Lewis put it this way: "In a sense, the converted Jew is the only normal human being in the world." What do you think of that? He goes on, "Everyone else is, from one point of view, a special case dealt with under emergency conditions." That's how we got in. God sort of opened the back door and let us in as an emergency case. But the ones who really belong are the Jews. It is healthy for Gentile Christians to remember that. The Jews are not hanging around waiting for us to be nice to them. It is they who have been nice to us. We ought to remember that and respond with gratitude and humility to what God has done in placing us in this olive tree. Now, Paul's last argument is found in Verses 22-24:
Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? (Rom. 11:22-24 NIV)
The olive tree is the position of the faith of Abraham, the position of receiving blessing from the God of the earth through sheer grace, without any merit on our own part. According to Paul here, we who were like a wild olive tree, with hard, shriveled up, bitter fruit, were taken and grafted into this rich olive tree. But what happens is contrary to what happens in nature.
If you take a nectarine branch and graft it into a peach tree, what does the branch grow from then on -- peaches or nectarines? It still grows nectarines. The fruit is determined by the branch, not by the tree. The peach tree will grow nectarines on a nectarine branch, and plums on a plum branch, and so on. That is what happens according to nature. Following Paul's analogy here, if we, a wild olive branch, were grafted into a rich cultivated olive tree, the fruit that would continue to grow would be the wild olives, bitter and shriveled, that which we already were producing. But God does a miracle with us. He changes us so that the fruit that comes forth is the fruit of the Spirit, and we begin to produce the rich, wonderful, fat fruit of the good olive tree in our lives. Again, Paul argues, if God can do that with bitter fruit such as we Gentile believers are, how much more will he produce richness with the true branches?
Then Paul speaks of the kindness and the severity of God. I want to close on that note, because it recognizes what determines how God appears to you. If you come to God needy and repentant and acknowledging that you need help, you will always find him to be a loving, gracious, open-armed, open-hearted Sovereign, ready to help you, ready to forgive you, ready to give you all that you need. But if you come to God complaining, excusing yourself, justifying what you've been doing and trying to make it look good in his sight, you will always find that God is as hard as iron, and as merciless as fire, as stern as a judge. God will always turn that face toward those who come in self-pride and justification in their own strength.
This is the secret of the mystery of Israel and its blindness today. As long as the Jews come to God in that manner, they will always find a hard, iron-willed, stern God. But when they come in repentance, and, as Zechariah the prophet describes, when Jesus appears and they look at him whom they had pierced and they ask him "Where did you get these wounds in your hands?" he will say, "These are those which I received in the house of my friends," (cf, Zech 13:6). Then they will mourn for him as one mourns for any only child, and the mourning of Israel that day will be like the mourning for King Joash in the battle of Jezreel. The whole nation will mourn. Then God will take that nation, and they will replenish the earth. This is what Paul looks forward to
Our Great and Glorious God
As you know, there is no nation today quite like Israel. It attracts worldwide attention when anything happens to it -- attention that is way out of proportion to its size and its power. Let something occur in Jerusalem, or anywhere in Israel, and it is blazoned across headlines around the world. The eyes of the world are on this strange nation of the Jews. And Jews, as a people, constitute a strange, unusual power bloc in any country in which they are found today. Someone has suggested that it might be well for the United States to guarantee the permanent possession of Jerusalem to the Jews if they will agree to give New York and Miami back to us. Surely there is no nation quite like the nation of the Jews. In Chapter 11 the apostle is dealing with this remarkable people, and twice he asks the question, "Has God forgotten his people?" Will God forget this people because of their rejection of Messiah? Has he turned his back on them? Twice he answers the question, "No, never. God has not forgotten his people."
In the first part of this chapter Paul gives us five reasons why it is evident that God has not forgotten his people the Jews. The first one (and one of the reasons why God has turned to the Gentiles and is saving men and women from among the Gentiles) is that he desires to arouse Israel to jealousy. God is reaching Gentiles because, ultimately, he wants to reach Jews. Second, Paul says the promises of worldwide blessing that fill so many prophetic passages of the Old Testament hinge upon the restoration of Israel to God. Worldwide blessing can never come until Israel is back in right relationship with its God. Third, he says that if the first Jews (the patriarchs, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob) could be made holy by God, then God is able to make Jews holy after thousands of years have passed. Therefore there is hope for Israel.
In Paul's fourth argument he uses the figure of an olive tree. The natural branches of the tree are broken off and unnatural branches are grafted on. He points out that even the Gentiles, when they do become believers, become spiritual Israelites. When a Jew becomes a Christian, he doesn't change his spiritual heritage at all; he fulfills it. Jews who become Christians today are "completed Jews," but Gentiles who become Christians become spiritual Jews. Therefore, Paul argues, not only is that true, but, fifth, if God could do that to the unnatural branches, if he could take a twisted, deformed Gentile and make him into a son of the living God, how much more can he do this with the natural branches, the Jews. This brings us to Verse 25 of Chapter 11, where Paul actually prophesies the restoration that is coming to Israel. Up to now he has been arguing this from reason, but now he prophesies what this restoration will be like (Verses 25-29):
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins." As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable. (Rom. 11:25-29 NIV)
Perhaps the striking thing about this passage is that Paul calls the Jews' present resistance to the gospel a mystery. Now he doesn't mean that it is obscure and difficult to understand. The word "mystery" does not mean that in Scripture. What it means is that it is something supernatural. It is not caused by natural causes. It cannot be observed by the normal observation of human beings. I do not know if you have had any occasion to try to witness to a Jew. If you have, perhaps you have run up against what seemed to be a rock wall of indifference and objection and resistance to what you were trying to say. If so, you may well have been experiencing what Paul is talking about here, a strange hardening toward the gospel on the part of the Jews.
When Paul calls this a mystery he means that it is a supernatural phenomenon that has to be revealed to us. You can't explain it by the normal reasons for resistance to the gospel. It is not because the Jews are inferior in intelligence -- they are among the most intelligent of people. Scores of the greatest intellectual leaders of our time have been Jewish in background. So it is not because they are dumb; they are not dumb. And it is not because they don't want God; they are among the most religious of all people. In fact, they have been called the most religious people of all time. They want God. Ordinarily you would think they would be open to hearing the good news of how God, in grace, is ready to reach men and change them and indwell them and enrich their lives. And yet those who go among the Jews often find this strange resistance, this anger that is awakened because of the preaching of the gospel. Paul will say more about that later.
First he points out that it has been prophesied that an awakening will come. There will be an awakening. But Paul says three things about this hardness that we must take careful note of: First, it is a hardening "in part." That is, not all Jews are afflicted this way. We are not told here how big a part of Israel is going to be hardened -- whether 10% or 90%. All we are told is that there are going to be some Jews who simply will not hear, who will not receive the gospel. Whether you are talking to one who is hardened or one who is not is very difficult to determine. It may mean, as it does oftentimes, that the person needs to be witnessed to and loved and reached over a period of time. No one can say that any given person belongs to that hardening. But we can say that there will be, as has been evident in history, a strange, remarkable resistance to the gospel. I have been to Israel five times, and I am always amazed at how resistant the Jews there seem to be to the claims of the Lord Jesus. Not only does Paul say that this hardening is in part, but it is also limited in time. It is not going to go on forever. A hardening of the heart has happened "until the full number of the Gentiles come in." So this is not something that they are bound to experience forever. It isn't something that can be explained by natural causes, and it is not going to last foreverPaul then says the prophets have told us this is going to happen: "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob." That is a promise in the Old Testament prophets. Furthermore, quoting from Jeremiah, he says, "And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins," (cf. Jer. 31:33-34). The deliverer is coming and forgiveness is going to be granted to Israel. That is clearly stated in the gospel.
And so the apostle closes with two important things we ought to remember about the Jews. I don't know if you have Jewish friends and neighbors or not. I have had, and have enjoyed contact with them. But whoever is in touch with Jews today ought to remember these two things from Verses 28-29: "As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable." God's gifts and his call cannot be taken back.
Now, the Jews may treat you as an enemy. That is due to this strange and supernatural hardening in part that has happened to Israel. This has been the experience of many who have gone as missionaries to the Jews. They have been treated as though they were attacking the Jews instead of trying to minister to them and help them. They have aroused the enmity and anger of the Jews.
Our friends the Jews for Jesus have told us how they have gone into Jewish communities to share and talk about their experience as Jews who have found the glory and the grace of God in Jesus Christ. They have been met with violence and attack upon their persons and enmity against them. I read last week that two thousand Jewish orthodox rabbis held a conference in New York City to determine what to do about the ravages that were being made in the Jewish community by the "Jews for Jesus" movement. The rabbis estimated there must be five thousand Jews for Jesus in New York City. The Jews for Jesus people say there are only thirty members there -- including secretaries. This is the fearsome front that any missionary movement among the Jews seems to create. It causes consternation among Jewish ranks and very grave resentment.
So remember, you may be treated as an enemy. But remember also that the Jews are loved by an unchanging God. God loves every Jew, without exception. No matter how stubborn or resistant they may be, he has set his love upon them. And the nations of the world had better not forget it. God still has chosen the Jews. Now the apostle moves on to see God's principle of salvation for all men in this (Verses 30-32):
Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too, as a result of God's mercy to you, have become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy. For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. (Rom 11:30-32 NIV)
That is an amazing statement! In this you see something of how the mind of God works and some of the strange wheels within wheels (cf, Ezek 1:16, 10:6-10) with which he moves in current history to bring about his purposes. Paul says that God used the Jews' disobedience, their rejection of their own Messiah, in order to give opportunity to rebellious Gentiles to receive mercy and grace from his hand. In this very letter Paul recounted for us how the gospel went out to the Gentiles only because it had been rejected by the Jews. Paul said that in all the cities he came to, he started first in the synagogues. And he would have stayed there, had the Jews accepted the message. But when they rejected the message, he turned to the Gentiles. And it was only by the Jews' disobedience that the gospel went out to the Gentiles.
That, by the way, answers the question with which this whole section begins. In Chapter 9 Paul raises the question, "Has God failed?" Since he obviously has been trying to reach the Jews and has sent his own Son as their Messiah and they rejected him, does that mean that God has failed? The answer is now clear: No, God has not failed. He used that as a means to reach the Gentile world, which he had intended to reach all along. That was his way of bringing it about.
Then, Paul adds, after having shown mercy to the Gentiles, God now uses the very mercies he has shown to the Gentiles to make the Jews mad and rebellious in order that they, too, can receive mercy. What Paul is saying here is that, unless you realize how rebellious your heart is, there is no chance for you to receive mercy. And so God works in human history to make us aware of our basic, inherent rebellion against him. Paul concludes that everyone is a rebel, and God desires that everyone admit it, so they can receive mercy.
What is the thing that keeps any individual or nation from receiving mercy from God? It is always a self-righteous, self-confident attitude. "I don't need help. I can handle it myself. I am able to handle all the problems of life on my own. I don't need God." Any individual or nation with that attitude has cut himself off from receiving the mercy of God, for without mercy there is no way we can ever fulfill our humanity. So God, as Paul puts it here, has "bound all men over to [the knowledge of their] disobedience so that he may have mercy upon them all." That is the way God works in history. He is constantly moving in many ways in our individual lives to bring us to an awareness of our self-righteousness and dependence on ourselves. Paul says the Jewish nation has not availed themselves of the righteousness of God. Because they are so determined to establish their own righteousness, they cannot accept the righteousness that comes by faith. That is their problem. Now all this awakens in the apostle's heart an outburst of praise and adoration for the wisdom and the greatness of God. He closes this section with these words (Verses 33-36):
Oh, the depth of the riches, the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his adviser?" "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Rom 11:33-36 NIV)
This reminder of the strange ways God works awakens within the apostle a tremendous outburst for God's inscrutable wisdom and his ways with men. As you look at these verses, you can see certain things that have amazed the apostle: There are the deep riches, as Paul calls them, the deep riches of God's wisdom and of his ways. They are beyond human exploration. There is no way we can finally fathom God.
I received this week in the mail a pamphlet written by a group that is trying to analyze and understand intellectually all the doctrines of the Scriptures. They struggle, obviously, to put God in a box where they can get hold of him and analyze him. But if they succeed in that, they have only reduced God to the size of a man. God is greater than man. He is beyond us. We must always remember that. Our minds cannot grasp the greatness of God! We can understand what he tells us about himself, but even beyond that, there is much more that we cannot know. There are depths of riches. That is why we are always being surprised by God if we trust him. He is always enriching us in ways that we don't anticipate. Then Paul speaks of God's "unsearchable judgments." We are going through one of these unsearchable judgments right now. People cannot understand this strange drought that has gripped the whole country. Meteorologists are baffled. They say, "Why does this high pressure system sit off the coast up here, and not down by Baja, where it belongs?" They are hard pressed to find somebody to blame for it and they have no control over it. They keep telling us of storms that are coming that never show up. Why? Because God's ways are unsearchable, and his ways, who can trace out? He is beyond accountability. No man can call God to account and say, "You have no right to do that!" We do it all the time, but we have no right to do it. For God is beyond us; he knows so much more than we do.
If you have any trouble with this, just read the book of Job and see the amazing list of questions that God asked and that Job could not answer. God says, "Look, this is just A-B-C stuff. If you can't answer these, then you have no right to quiz me on what I am doing! If you don't understand this simply kindergarten level of knowledge, how am I ever going to explain to you the vast, involved, and complex things that I am doing?" Paul then is impressed by the untraceable ways of God, the paths of God that are beyond understanding. We can't put it all together. We can believe it, but we can't explain it.
For instance, it is clear from Scripture that nothing God ever planned interferes with human responsibility. Nothing God has ever said will happen in any way infringes on our free will or choice. We are free to make choices. We know it. We feel ourselves free to decide to do this or that, to do good or bad. Nothing God ever plans interferes with that freedom of human choice. And yet the amazing thing is that nothing humans ever do can frustrate God's sovereign plan. Isn't that amazing? How can you explain that? No matter what we do, whether we choose this or that with the freedom of choice we have, ultimately it all works out to accomplish what God has determined shall be done. That is the kind of God we have. Paul is not only impressed with God's inscrutable wisdom and ways, but he contrasts it with the impotence of man. He asks three very searching questions. If you have trouble with this, try to answer his questions: His first one is, "Who has known the mind of the Lord?" What he is asking is, "Who has ever anticipated what God is going to do?" Have you? Have you ever been able to figure out how God is going to handle the situations you get into? Oh, we all try, but it never turns out quite the way we think it will, does it? There is a little twist to it that we never could have guessed.
You see this in the case of Jesus. Remember how the Pharisees asked him, "Should we pay taxes to Caesar?" They thought they had him! If he said "No," the Romans would be mad at him; if he said "Yes," then the Jews would be mad at him. Do you remember how he handled it? He called for a coin and said, "Whose picture is on this coin? They said, "Caesar's." He said, "All right. What Caesar has put his image on, you give to Caesar (i.e., pay your taxes); but what God has put his image on, you give that to him," (cf, Matt 22:16-22, Mark 12:13-18, Luke 20:19-26). God had put his image on man, and that is what they owed to God -- themselves. The Pharisees couldn't handle that kind of an answer. It wiped them out.
Remember the woman caught in adultery? Her stern and self-righteous accusers were ready to put her to death. Then Jesus came. He didn't do a thing at first; he just sat and wrote on the ground. He looked up, finally, and said, "He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone," (cf, John 8:7). They stood there, puzzled and transfixed, then every one of them began to think of other places they ought to be. Soon they were all gone, and no one was left except the woman and Jesus. How could you ever have anticipated that he was going to handle it that way? How unsearchable are his judgments! Who has anticipated what God is going to do? No one. Second question: "Or who has been his adviser?" or "Who has ever suggested something that God has never thought of?" Have you ever tried that? I have. I have sometimes looked at a situation and saw the way to work it all out and suggested to God how he could do it. I thought I had been very helpful to him. But in the final outworking of the matter, it turned out that he knew things that I didn't know and he was working at things that I never saw and couldn't have seen. God's final outworking of it was right, and mine would have been wrong. So the question remains, "Who has ever suggested something to God that he has never thought of?"
Paul's last question is, "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" That is, "Who has ever given God something that he didn't already have?" Who has put God in his debt? "Why," Paul says, "everything we are and have comes from him. He gives to us; we don't give to him." There is nothing we could give to God that he doesn't already own or have in abundance, or could make, if he had to. There is nothing. And so he concludes with this great outburst: "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen." God is the originator of all things; all things come from him. He is the sustainer of all things; they all depend on him. As C. S. Lewis puts it, "To argue with God is to argue with the very power that makes it possible to argue at all!" He is the end purpose. All things will find their culmination in God. He is the reason why all things exist. Therefore, "to him be the glory forever! Amen." (Ray Stedman, http://pbc.org/dp/stedman/romans2/)
Israel and the New Covenant
I find a very strange phenomenon growing among Christians across the country and around the world today. Many are saying, "We can believe in the faithfulness of God for ourselves, but we doubt it when it comes to the nation of Israel." Many people raise the question, "What part does that strange people called in the Scriptures itself 'God's chosen people', play in the future?" Many have written the nation off as not having a part in the program of God.
Let's look at what God has said about his promises to that strange people. We wonder what God has in mind as we read the newspapers and see still centered in the headlines of the world this strange nation. And what is more remarkable, we know that many Jews are unbelievers in their own Scriptures. It's a very astonishing thing that they still exist as a nation after all the centuries of dispersion and wanderings. Many are asking the question, "Where do the Jews fit into the program of God?"
I want to begin by going back to the very center of our own Christian faith, the one ritual that all Christians agree is central -- the supper of the Lord. Periodically we gather together to celebrate the Lord's supper, to do together what he told us to do on that unforgettable night when he was betrayed. Let me refer to Matthew's familiar account (Matthew 25:26-29):
...Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." And then he took the cup and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sin. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I will drink it new with you in my father's kingdom." (cf, Matthew 26:25b-29)
Notice carefully the words that Jesus uses to introduce this event as he passes the cup among these disciples. He says, "this is my blood of the New Covenant." Now that's a clear reference back to the words of Jeremiah found in the 31st chapter of his prophecy. Jeremiah says, beginning in Verse 31 of Chapter 31, these words:
"The time is coming," declares the Lord, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt [i.e., the covenant of the Law, the Ten Commandments], because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the Lord.
"This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the Lord. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the Lord. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." (Jeremiah 31:31-34 NIV)
Now that was what was taking place on the night our Lord was betrayed. He was making a New Covenant with the house of Israel; every one of those disciples that were there were faithful Jews. (Judas had all ready left the apostolic band to go to do his dirty work of betrayal.) The eleven disciples that were remaining were Israelites from various groups and various parts of the land of Israel. They were representatives of the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
Our Lord borrows here the very words which Moses had used when he announced the covenant of the Law when he came down from Mount Sinai. You remember Moses sprinkled the people with blood from animals and said, "Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words," (Exodus 24:8 (RSV)). It is not a mere accident that when Jesus, too, says, "this is my blood of the New Covenant which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Return to Jeremiah 31, the prophet goes on to say these words (Verse 35):
This is what the Lord says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that the waves roar -- the Lord Almighty is his name: "Only if these decrees vanish from my sight," declares the Lord, "will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me." This is what the Lord says: "Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done," declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 31:35-37 NIV)
Do these ordinances still exist today? Is the sun still shining in the sky? Do the moon and the stars still appear at night? Isn't it remarkable that with all the achievements of science, and with all the explorations of space, the sending out of these space travelers out to explore the planetary system and even beyond, yet we still have not learned how to measure the universe in which we live. The prophet says, "Only if heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath..." We have done neither of those. We have found theories, but no one has been able to explore in this area. Therefore, God says,
"If heaven can be measured, and the and foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done," says the Lord. (cf, Jeremiah 31:37 KJV)
Now, that's a most remarkable promise. God has bound himself, by the faithfulness of his Being and of his Word, that Israel shall have a place in his program as long as the heavens and the earth remain. God will never cast them off as long as the sun and the moon maintain themselves in their courses and as long as long as the scope of the heavens remains to be measured and the interior of the earth remains unexplored.
Well, if that is the case, if this is the covenant which Jesus made with Israel, as the Lord's supper clearly indicates, we must ask ourselves the question: "Why is it that Israel lies in spiritual shambles today, while Gentile Christians, with whom this covenant was never made, are now enjoying the fulfillment of the New Covenant?"
Many people wonder about this in regard to the Jews, and a number of explanations have been suggested. Most of you know that over in the 8th chapter of Hebrews, the writer quotes verbatim, word for word, this promise of God in Jeremiah 31. He makes clear that New Covenant, referred to there, applies to the church. The New Covenant was a covenant made with Israel, but it is being fulfilled today by believers from all the nations. The writer of Hebrews repeats the fact that that covenant was made with the house of Israel and Judah (that is, the whole literal nation of the Jews ) but he applies three essential elements of this covenant to us today.
It is very helpful for us to understand that these terms and conditions of the New Covenant are faithfully carried out whenever anybody turns to Christ. Listen to the provisions of the New Covenant again, as the prophet Jeremiah had announced, but which are quoted in Hebrews 8:10:
"I will put my law into their minds, and write them on their hearts." (Heb 8:10b NIV)
Here is the first provision of the New Covenant: There will be a new awareness rising within us so that we know inwardly how to tell right from wrong. I want you to think back to when you first came to Christ: You will discover that there came into your knowledge, your existence, your experience, a different feeling about right and wrong. Before you became a Christian, right and wrong were spelled out to you in terms of what you had been taught as you were growing up. Whether these standards were related to the Ten commandments or not, there was something external to yourself that constituted a set of standards imposed upon you from without. But, when you became a Christian, you suddenly became more sensitive in this area. That's the New Covenant being fulfilled in our lives. The second element of the New Covenant is that God has said,
"I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest." (Heb. 8:10c-11 NIV)
Once again, if you think back to your first days as a believer in Jesus, you became aware that you had become a member of a new family and that God occupied a different relationship in your life. He was no longer a stern judge, condemning you every time you turned around, but he was now a loving Father. A new word came to your lips -- you began to call him Father. You sensed a new intimacy with God.
I'll never forget when I first became a Christian, I was only ten years old, and received the Lord in a Methodist camp meeting. The summer that followed that was an unforgettable summer to me because I had a constant consciousness of God in my life. I used to sing some of the hymns to myself over, and they would cause me break into tears because I was so conscious of the nearness of God. That's what the New Covenant does for us, the provision that God has made for everyone. You begin also to discover when you meet other Christians that they feel the same way as you. They too know God, you didn't have to tell them. They also know him as their Father. They understand that same relationship you have been brought into. That's the greatness of the New Covenant. And then there is third element in the New Covenant, one that is most important, given by these words:
"For I will forgive their wickedness and I will remember their sins no more." (Heb 8:12 NIV)
Do you remember the lifting of the load of guilt in your life when you first came to Christ? I'll never forget this in my own life. To me it was a wonderful thing to realize that all the mistakes and the ugliness of my past life, all the things I had done wrong, all the shameful episodes I would like to have forgotten were forgiven. I now had perfect access to my Father in heaven, there was now nothing between us -- He had taken care of it all by the blood of Jesus. Nothing in all of life meant more to me then, and does today, than that reality.
Most Christians, I think, fail to see that forgiveness is something we need every day. Even as Christians we go on sinning and making mistakes. Every day we need the cleansing of the blood of Jesus. Every day we need to admit to him that there are things that were wrong yesterday, or this morning; and claim again that wonderful promise, "I will forgive their iniquity and their sin I will remember no more."
Now, that's the New Covenant, wonderfully applied to us today, to us who are not Jews, who don't belong to the house of Israel. There are some, of course, among us who are Jews -- all come into the church, whether Jew and Gentile, on the same basis. Now this is why some people have greatly misunderstood the promises to the Jews. They say that the church has replaced Israel. They say that we, the church, have taken over all the promises that were given to Israel. They claim that all these promises are now spiritually fulfilled in us, and, therefore, Israel no longer has a place in God's program and plan. Now, this teaching is pressed to the point sometimes where the church is often called the new Israel or spiritual Israel, titles that are never found in Scripture.
The idea is set forth that it was God's intent to reach us Gentiles, that this was the final goal. When the Gentiles became believers in God, all the promises of God were fulfilled and Israel would no longer have a place in God's plan. But, if you think that's true, then you've forgotten what Jeremiah has said regarding Israel and God's ordinances concerning the sun and the moon, and the inability of man to measure the heavens or to plumb the depths of the earth. When you got up this morning the sun rose, or, if you rose a little later, you could count on the sun having risen. As Jeremiah has reminded us, as long as those ordinances maintain in themselves in the earth, God has pledged that he will never cast off his people Israel but they have a place in his kingdom.
When you come to the book of Romans in the New Testament you discover that the Apostle Paul explains the apparent mystery. We learn that Israel has been temporarily set aside because of their unbelief. In Romans, Chapters 9, 10, and 11, the Apostle Paul deals at length with this problem: "Where does Israel fit in the program of God?" In these three remarkable chapters the apostle carefully distinguishes between the church and Israel:
The church -- which includes believing Jews and Gentiles alike -- is called the body of Christ, which the nation Israel never is. Paul distinguishes between the church, and the nation of Israel -- which consists only of Jews, and mostly unbelieving Jews, who do not even give credence to their own Scriptures.
In Chapter 9 the apostle describes for us some of these differences. Twenty-five years after the church was born, after it came into existence on the Day of Pentecost as you have recorded in the opening chapters of Acts, the apostle admits that the unbelieving nation of Israel still has certain advantages which they cannot lose. He lists for us these advantages and distinctives in these opening words of Chapter 9:
I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit [See how he undergirds with the authority of God what he's about to say], that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites [See, clearly Jews], and to whom [pertains or] belongs the adoption as sons of God, the glory [the Shekinah glory that filled the temple and the tabernacle], the covenants [those made with Abraham and with David, with Isaac and Jacob and with others throughout the Old Testament, the covenants including the New Covenant], the giving of the Law [the Ten Commandments brought down from the mountain top, not by Charleton Heston, but by Moses himself], the temple service [that is, the tabernacle, the temple and its rituals of sacrifices and offerings], and the promises [of God, all belong to Israel -- and he goes on], whose are the fathers [the patriarchs -- Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob], and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh [the Messiah], who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. (Rom 9:1-5 NASB)
Now that's a great statement. And in it the apostle is telling us what belongs to Israel by the faithfulness of God, and can never be set asideGod has an appointed time when he will fulfill the promises of the New Covenant to make Israel the head of the nations of the earth, and Jerusalem the center of the government of the earth. This is what he asks us to pray for when we pray the Lord's prayer,
"Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." (Matt 6:10 KJV)
This is why the disciples came to the Lord Jesus risen from the dead and they said to him, (as we are told in the opening verses of Acts),
"Will you at this time restore the kingdom unto Israel?" (Acts 1:6b RSV)
Now, Jesus did not rebuke them for asking that question. All he did was correct their question about the timing. They said, "Will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" This is after he'd been with them for 3 1/2 years and taught them much. But they still obviously expected that there would be a time coming when Israel would be restored as the head of the nations of the earth. The kingdom was to be the promises restored to Israel. But Jesus warned them, "Times are not for you to know," (cf, Acts 1:7). Times are uncertain -- but events are not. In Romans 11, Verse 12 and following, the Apostle Paul tells us what will happen when Israel does experience the fulfillment of the New Covenant. Look at these words,
Now if their fall means riches for the world, (cf, Rom 11:12a KJV)
Did you ever realize that the greatest blessing any nation has ever had, in this whole age since the coming of our Lord, was the entrance of the gospel into that nation? The secular world does not want to recognize this. But you can prove this to yourself -- every nation where the gospel has been preached since the coming of the Lord, has been a nation where people have found freedom. Freedom always accompanies the teaching and the preaching of the Word of God. And wherever a nation has had the gospel once, found freedom, and then turned its back on God, that nation goes back into despair and into national oblivion. It loses its ability to function, to a large degree, as a nation. Totalitarian government and authoritarianism comes in and the people become virtual slaves.
Now, the greatest witness of this fact today is what has happened in the Soviet Union. Here is a people that 70 years ago turned its back on what it had known about the gospel, and threw out the moral absolutes of God, and tried instead to erect certain artificial absolutes supported only by intense government oppression. As a result the Russian people lost their freedom.
Turn away from God and you, too, will lose your freedom as an individual -- always. Freedom is the greatest riches that the world can know. Through the course of history today you can trace this out -- every nation that has received the gospel and given heed to the Word of God has been a nation blessed by God, blessed with freedom -- its people are relatively free. That's what Paul means, if the fall of Israel meant that God turned to the Gentiles and brought riches to them, then (now listen to this):
...and their failures riches to the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am an apostle of the Gentiles, (cf, Rom 11:12b-13a KJV)
He goes on to tell us that, when the nation Israel believes, the nations of the world will be brought into greater riches than resulted from the failure of Israel. In fact, it will be like from death unto life! Look at Verse 15,
For if their rejection be the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? (Rom 11:15 NASB)
Most of you know your Bibles well enough to know that God's appraisal of the peoples of the world today is that they are lost, they are all dead in trespasses and sins -- that deadness, that death that produces violence, and anger, and hatred, and terrorism, and warfare, and crime, and all the other destructive things we see today -- that death which blights all the nations will end only when Israel accepts their Messiah. Then, at that time, the promise of the New Covenant is fulfilled in their national life.
We know that will be the time when our Lord returns. As the prophet Zechariah and others tell us, Jesus will then personally assume the throne of his father David. And the twelve apostles will reign with Jesus -- as he specifically states back in Matthew 19:27. Let me read these words to you -- these are the words of Jesus himself,
Peter answered and said to him, "See, we have left all and followed you; therefore what shall we have?" [Now listen!] So Jesus said to them, "Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, [that is, the restoration that is coming] when the Son of Man sits on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands for my name's sake, shall receive a hundred fold and inherit eternal life. (cf. Matt 19:27-29)
This is our Lord's own description of that coming kingdom which Revelation 20 tells us (six times over) will last for one thousand years, it is what we call the millennium. To wind this up, the Apostle Paul confirms all these things in the eleventh chapter of Romans in these words in Verses 25-27. He says:
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved; as it is written: "The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will turn ungodliness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins." (Romans 11:25-27 NIV)
What covenant? Why, the New Covenant. The New Covenant was made with the house of Israel and Judah on the night our Lord was betrayed, "This is the blood of the New Covenant which is made with many for the remission of sins." So, you see, that which began at the first coming will be fulfilled in its entirety at the second. All of us, all Christians, have to live in a sense with between the already and the not yet. Already the Kingdom of God has begun within us but its not yet fully manifest or fulfilled upon the earth -- we have to live waiting for that promise.
Just before he died Dr. Francis Schaeffer, one of the major prophets of our day, was asked what he believed about the promises of God to Israel, and this is his reply. He says,
"I believe that if God can revoke his promises to the nation Israel then I have no assurance of my own personal salvation. I believe that at the end of the present age the Lord will return and establish his kingdom for one thousand years and the purpose of the millennium will be to demonstrate conclusively that man's problem is himself, and not Satan. Evil is present during the millennium, even though Satan is bound because evil in man is a result of the fall unless there be a regenerated experience. When Satan is released he will find thousands who will immediately respond to his call to mount a final rebellion against God."
We have the very promise of God. Do you know that the Apostle Peter tells us that someday the heavens will pass away with a great noise and the earth shall be melted with fervent heat (cf. 2 Pet 3:10). Those ordinances of the sun and the moon and the stars and the heaven and the earth will end in that day, and then the creation of a new heaven and a new earth shall come into being, where evil will no longer be present in any form whatsoever, as Peter, Isaiah, and other of the prophets predicted. But before that time comes, God promises he will fulfill every word spoken to that strange nation there in the Middle East. So Israel does have a part in the promises of God -- and our very existence as a church borrows from, and rests upon, those promises made to Israel long ago! That's the faithfulness of God. (Ray Stedman, http://pbc.org/dp/stedman/misc/isrnewcov.html)
Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will? (Hebrews 2:1-4)
Lambert Dolphin | November 23, 2003. | Romans notes: http://ldolphin.org/romans/
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