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10. Israel's Unbelief
1Brethren, my heart's desire and my supplication to God is for them, that they may be saved. 2For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3For being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. 4For Christ is the end of the law unto righteousness to every one that believeth. 5For Moses writeth that the man that doeth the righteousness which is of the law shall live thereby. 6But the righteousness which is of faith saith thus, Say not in thy heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down:) 7or, Who shall descend into the abyss? (That is, to bring Christ up from the dead.) 8But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach: 9because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: 10for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be put to shame. 12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him: 13for, Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15and how shall they preach, except they be sent? even as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that bring glad tidings of good things! 16But they did not all hearken to the glad tidings. For Isaiah saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. 18But I say, Did they not hear? Yea, verily,
Their sound went out into all the earth,
And their words unto the ends of the world.
19But I say, Did Israel not know? First Moses saith,
I will provoke you to jealousy with that which is no nation,
With a nation void of understanding will I anger you.
20And Isaiah is very bold, and saith,
I was found of them that sought me not;
I became manifest unto them that asked not of me.
21But as to Israel he saith, All the day long did I spread out my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.
Importance of Preaching the Gospel; Perverseness of Israel. (a. d. 58.)
12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. 18 But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. 19 But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you. 20 But 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. 21 But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.
The first words express the design of the apostle through these verses, that there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, but they stand upon the same level in point of acceptance with God. In Jesus Christ there is neither Greek nor Jews, Col. iii. 11. God doth not save any nor reject any because they are Jews, nor because they are Greeks, but doth equally accept both upon gospel terms: There is no difference. For the proof of this he urges two arguments:—
I. That God is the same to all: The same Lord over all is rich unto all. There is not one God to the Jews who is more kind, and another to the Gentiles who is less kind; but he is the same to all, a common father to all mankind. When he proclaimed his name, The Lord, the Lord god, gracious and merciful, he thereby signified not only what he was to the Jews, but what he is and will be to all his creatures that seek unto him: not only good, but rich, plenteous in goodness: he hath wherewith to supply them all, and he is free and ready to give out to them; he is both able and willing: not only rich, but rich unto us, liberal and bountiful in dispensing his favours to all that call upon him. Something must be done by us, that we may reap of this bounty; and it is as little as can be, we must call upon him. He will for this be enquired of (Ezek. xxxvi. 37), and surely that which is not worth the asking is not worth the having. We have nothing to do but to draw out by prayer, as there is occasion.
II. That the promise is the same to all (v. 13): Whoever shall call—one as well as another, without exception. This extent, this undifferencing extent, of the promise both to Jews and Gentiles he thinks should not be surprising, for it was foretold by the prophet, Joel ii. 32. Calling upon the name of the Lord is here put for all practical religion. What is the life of a Christian but a life of prayer? It implies a sense of our dependence on him, an entire dedication of ourselves to him, and a believing expectation of our all from him. He that thus calls upon him shall be saved. It is but ask and have; what would we have more? for the further illustration of this he observes,
1. How necessary it was that the gospel should be preached to the Gentiles, v. 14, 15. This was what the Jews were so angry with Paul for, that he was the apostle of the Gentiles, and preached the gospel to them. Now he shows how needful it was to bring them within the reach of the forementioned promise, an interest in which they should not envy to any of their fellow-creatures. (1.) They cannot call on him in whom they have not believed. Except they believe that he is God, they will not call upon him by prayer; to what purpose should they? The grace of faith is absolutely necessary to the duty of prayer; we cannot pray aright, nor pray to acceptation, without it. He that comes to God by prayer must believe, Heb. xi. 6. Till they believed the true God, they were calling upon idols, O Baal, hear us. (2.) They cannot believe in him of whom they have not heard. some way or other the divine revelation must be made known to us, before we can receive it and assent to it; it is not born with us. In hearing is included reading, which is tantamount, and by which many are brought to believe (John xx. 31): These things are written that you may believe. But hearing only is mentioned, as the more ordinary and natural way of receiving information. (3.) They cannot hear without a preacher; how should they? Somebody must tell them what they are to believe. Preachers and hearers are correlates; it is a blessed thing when they mutually rejoice in each other—the hearers in the skill and faithfulness of the preacher, and the preacher in the willingness and obedience of the hearers. (4.) They cannot preach except they be sent, except they be both commissioned and in some measure qualified for their preaching work. How shall a man act as an ambassador, unless he have both his credentials and his instructions from the prince that sends him? This proves that to the regular ministry there must be a regular mission and ordination. It is God's prerogative to send ministers; he is the Lord of the harvest, and therefore to him we must pray that he would send forth labourers, Matt. ix. 38. He only can qualify men for, and incline them to, the work of the ministry. But the competency of that qualification, and the sincerity of that inclination, must not be left to the judgment of every man for himself: the nature of the thing will by no means admit this; but, for the preservation of due order in the church, this must needs be referred and submitted to the judgment of a competent number of those who are themselves in that office and of approved wisdom and experience in it, who, as in all other callings, are presumed the most able judges, and who are empowered to set apart such as they find so qualified and inclined to this work of the ministry, that by this preservation of the succession the name of Christ may endure for ever and his throne as the days of heaven. And those that are thus set apart, not only may, but must preach, as those that are sent.
2. How welcome the gospel ought to be to those to whom it was preached, because it showed the way to salvation, v. 15. For this he quotes Isa. lii. 7. The like passage we have, Nah. i. 15, which, if it point at the glad tidings of the deliverance of Israel out of Babylon in the type, yet looks further to the gospel, the good news of our salvation by Jesus Christ. Observe, (1.) What the gospel is: It is the gospel of peace; it is the word of reconciliation between God and man. On earth peace, Luke ii. 14. Or, peace is put in general for all good; so it is explained here; it is glad tidings of good things. The things of the gospel are good things indeed, the best things; tidings concerning them are the most joyful tidings, the best news that ever came from heaven to earth. (2.) What the work of ministers is: To preach this gospel, to bring these glad tidings; to evangelize peace (so the original is), to evangelize good things. Every good preacher is in this sense an evangelist: he is not only a messenger to carry the news, but an ambassador to treat; and the first gospel preachers were angels, Luke ii. 13, &c. (3.) How acceptable they should therefore be to the children of men for their work's sake: How beautiful are the feet, that is, how welcome are they! Mary Magdalene expressed her love to Christ by kissing his feet, and afterwards by holding him by the feet, Matt. xxviii. 9. And, when Christ was sending forth his disciples, he washed their feet. Those that preach the gospel of peace should see to it that their feet (their life and conversation) be beautiful: the holiness of ministers' lives is the beauty of their feet. How beautiful! namely, in the eyes of those that hear them. Those that welcome the message cannot but love the messengers. See 1 Thess. v. 12, 13.
3. He answers an objection against all this, which might be taken from the little success which the gospel had in many places (v. 16): But they have not all obeyed the gospel. All the Jews have not, all the Gentiles have not; far the greater part of both remain in unbelief and disobedience. Observe, The gospel is given us not only to be known and believed, but to be obeyed. It is not a system of notions, but a rule of practice. This little success of the word was likewise foretold by the prophet (Isa. liii. 1): Who hath believed our report? Very few have, few to what one would think should have believed it, considering how faithful a report it is and how well worthy of all acceptation,—very few to the many that persist in unbelief. It is no strange thing, but it is a very sad and uncomfortable thing, for the ministers of Christ to bring the report of the gospel, and not to be believed in it. Under such a melancholy consideration it is good for us to go to God and make our complaint to him. Lord, who hath believed, &c. In answer to this,
(1.) He shows that the word preached is the ordinary means of working faith (v. 17): So then, ara—however; though many that hear do not believe, yet those that believe have first heard. Faith cometh by hearing. It is the summary of what he had said before, v. 14. The beginning, progress, and strength of faith, are by hearing. The word of God is therefore called the word of faith: it begets and nourishes faith. God gives faith, but it is by the word as the instrument. Hearing (that hearing which works faith) is by the word of God. It is not hearing the enticing words of man's wisdom, but hearing the word of God, that will befriend faith, and hearing it as the word of God. See 1 Thess. ii. 13.
(2.) That those who would not believe the report of the gospel, yet, having heard it, were thereby left inexcusable, and may thank themselves for their own ruin, v. 18, to the end.
[1.] The Gentiles have heard it (v. 18): Have they not heard? Yes, more or less, they have either heard the gospel, or at least heard of it. Their sound went into all the earth; not only a confused sound, but their words (more distinct and intelligible notices of these things) are gone unto the ends of the world. The commission which the apostles received runs thus: Go you into all the world—preach to every creature—disciple all nations; and they did with indefatigable industry and wonderful success pursue that commission. See the extent of Paul's province, ch. xv. 19. To this remote island of Britain, one of the utmost corners of the world, not only the sound, but the words, of the gospel came within a few years after Christ's ascension. It was in order to this that the gift of tongues was at the very first poured so plentifully upon the apostles, Acts ii. In the expression here he plainly alludes to Ps. xix. 4, which speaks of the notices which the visible works of God in the creation give to all the world of the power and Godhead of the Creator. As under the Old Testament God provided for the publishing of the work of creation by the sun, moon, and stars, so now for the publishing of the work of redemption to all the world by the preaching of gospel ministers, who are therefore called stars.
[2.] The Jews have heard it too, v. 19-21. For this he appeals to two passages of the Old Testament, to show how inexcusable they are too. Did not Israel know that the Gentiles were to be called in? They might have known it from Moses and Isaiah.
First, One is taken from Deut. xxxii. 21, I will provoke you to jealousy. The Jews not only had the offer, but saw the Gentiles accepting it and benefitted by that acceptance, witness their vexation at the event. They had the refusal: To you first, Acts iii. 26. In all places where the apostles came still the Jews had the first offer, and the Gentiles had but their leavings. If one would not, another would. Now this provoked them to jealousy. They, as the elder brother in the parable (Luke xv.) envied the reception and entertainment of the prodigal Gentiles upon their repentance. The Gentiles are here called no people, and a foolish nation, that is, not the professing people of God. How much soever there be of the wit and wisdom of the world, those that are not the people of God are, and in the end will be found to be, a foolish people. Such was the state of the Gentile world, who yet were made the people of God, and Christ to them the wisdom of God. What a provocation it was to the Jews to see the Gentiles taken into favour we may see, Acts xiii. 45; xvii. 5, 13, and especially Acts xxii. 22. It was an instance of the great wickedness of the Jews that they were thus enraged; and this in Deuteronomy is the matter of a threatening. God often makes people's sin their punishment. A man needs no greater plague than to be left to the impetuous rage of his own lusts.
Secondly, Another is taken from Isa. lxv. 1, 2, which is very full, and in it Esaias is very bold—bold indeed, to speak so plainly of the rejection of his own countrymen. Those that will be found faithful have need to be very bold. Those that are resolved to please God must not be afraid to displease any man. Now Esaias speaks boldly and plainly,
a. Of the preventing grace and favour of God in the reception and entertainment of the Gentiles (v. 20): I was found of those that sought me not. The prescribed method is, Seek and find; this is a rule for us, not a rule for God, who is often found of those that do not seek. His grace is his own, distinguishing grace his own, and he dispenses it in a way of sovereignty, gives of withholds it at pleasure—anticipates us with the blessings, the riches choicest blessings, of his goodness. Thus he manifested himself to the Gentiles, by sending the light of the gospel among them, when they were so far from seeking him and asking after him that they were following after lying vanities, and serving dumb idols. Was not this our own particular case? Did not God begin in love, and manifest himself to us when we did not ask after him? And was not that a time of love indeed, to be often remembered with a great deal of thankfulness?
b. Of the obstinacy and perverseness of Israel, notwithstanding the fair offers and affectionate invitations they had, v. 21. Observe,
(a.) God's great goodness to them: All day long I have stretched forth my hands. [a.] His offers: I have stretched forth my hands, offering them life and salvation with the greatest sincerity and seriousness that can be, with all possible expressions of earnestness and importunity, showing them the happiness tendered, setting it before them with the greatest evidence, reasoning the case with them. Stretching forth the hands is the gesture of those that require audience (Acts xxvi. 1), or desire acceptance, Prov. i. 24. Christ was crucified with his hands stretched out. Stretched forth my hands as offering reconciliation—come let us shake hands and be friends; and our duty is to give the hand to him, 2 Chron. xxx. 8. [b.] His patience in making these offers: All day long. The patience of God towards provoking sinners is admirable. He waits to be gracious. The time of God's patience is here called a day, lightsome as a day and fit for work and business, but limited as a day, and a night at the end of it. he bears long, but he will not bear always.
(b.) Their great badness to him. They were a disobedient gainsaying people. One word in the Hebrew, in Isaiah, is here well explained by two; not only disobedient to the call, not yielding to it, but gainsaying, and quarrelling with it, which is much worse. Many that will not accept of a good proposal will yet acknowledge that they have nothing to say against it: but the Jews who believed not rested not there, but contradicted and blasphemed. God's patience with them was a very great aggravation of their disobedience, and rendered it the more exceedingly sinful; as their disobedience advanced the honour of God's patience and rendered it the more exceedingly gracious. It is a wonder of mercy in God that his goodness is not overcome by man's badness; and it is a wonder of wickedness in man that his badness is not overcome by God's goodness.