Paul's heart grieved for Israel because they were so deluded! He did not harbor any grudge against them because of their mistreatment of him! He didn't even ask God to avenge him. Of course, he knew that their acceptance of Christ would change their treatment of him. The attitude of those who mistreat us will also be changed when they receive Christ as Savior and Lord!
Paul spoke out of the deep longing in his heart for Israel's salvation! It would give him the greatest pleasure and delight to see them receive Christ! So he said, "Brethren, my heart's desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge." (vv.1-2)
Zealousness for God that is rooted in ignorance, has no merit with Him. The only correct knowledge of God has to come by revelation, because the natural mind cannot comprehend spiritual realities. Israel's zealousness, misdirected sincerity and ignorance brought sadness to Paul's heart, and prompted him to intercede for them.
Paul knew all about this zealousness, for he had once shared it. He had observed all the rituals; he had been careful to eat according to their Kosher laws! He knew that the scrolls containing the laws were so precious to the Jews, that they practically worshiped them. This zealousness is triggered by their desire to achieve the righteousness of the law. Paul was even more zealous for his ancestral traditions than his contemporaries were, but clinging to them kept him from receiving Christ! In all sincerity he had persecuted the Christians beyond measure, trying to destroy the church of God. The Jews' ancestral traditions were Judaism - not Christianity! Now that Paul saw the difference between ancestral traditions and Christianity, he desired to impart true knowledge to them!
Security in religious traditions is not only widespread among the Jews, but also in all religious people - even among religious Christians! Religious holidays have to be kept; customs have to be observed. Deviation from tradition is frowned upon! Zealousness and legalism are the earmarks of religion.
"For not knowing about God's righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God." (v.3) The Jews lacked knowledge of the righteousness of God, not because they had not heard the message, but because they did not submit themselves to it. So they established their own standards. Man's standard can never measure up to God's standard. In clinging to his own set of rules and prohibitions, man is refusing to subject himself to the righteousness of God.
Man does not agree with the idea of subjecting himself to God's standard of righteousness. By saying he has free choice, he remains in charge of his life. He substitutes choice for submission to God. He thinks he has free choice; he thinks he is in control of his life; he doesn't recognize his slavery to self. Letting go of his own ideas and receiving Christ's truth requires a subjection to truth! The lies and deception of the carnal mind seem like truth to us, so it is difficult to let go of them.
"For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." (v.4) Christ is the end or the goal of the purpose of the law! God's purpose was that the law should not be an end in itself. It was to show man his inability to keep the law, and thus awaken him to his need of a Savior. Yet the Jews were worshiping the law and doing everything in their power to keep it. The law was to bring them to Christ - to show them their inability to keep the law and their need of help! But to receive Christ, they had to leave the law. The very law that the Jews were trying to keep, was keeping them from Christ because they refused to leave it. The law was all about Christ, but they did not know that, so they wouldn't receive Him.
There is no grace in the law. The law does not understand forgiveness, nor does it know grace; the law requires that all disobedience has to be condemned and punished. Leniency can only be practiced if it is incorporated in the law. In Christ we come into grace! Works cannot bring us into grace! Grace cannot be polluted! As soon as merit enters the picture, it is no longer grace. Dependence on works and merit does away with grace. To receive grace we have to recognize our depravity and the futility of our own endeavor.
Grace and truth came in Jesus Christ! Before Christ came, we did not realize that we needed grace and truth. We thought we could attain righteousness by keeping the law; we thought we could merit righteousness. We thought we had truth; we didn't know that our truth was error. The carnal mind does not have truth, for its truth consists of lies and deception. Therefore we need Christ, for He is truth!
Christ fulfilled the law 100%! He was the only one who could. So when we receive Christ, we receive the fulfillment of the law! He has become our righteousness! We could never become righteous in our own strength, ability and works. Since Christ has become our righteousness, He is the end of the law for righteousness. The law together with its condemnation ends in Him! In Him we come into grace.
"For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness. But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: `Do not say in your heart, "Who will ascend into heaven?" (that is, to bring Christ down), or "Who will descend into the abyss?" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).' "But what does it say? `The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart' - that is, the word of faith which we are preaching." (vv.5-8)
This is a quote from Deut. 30:12-14. "It is not in heaven, that you should say, `Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?' Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, `Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?' But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it."
The Jews said that they believed the law. So Paul told them that in the very law they believed in, Moses wrote of the salvation that he, Paul, was preaching. The Jews had missed the point. They thought they had to search for Christ and their salvation. But Christ was already here; their salvation had already been accomplished; all they had to do was to act on it!
The Jews were involved in a search. They searched the scriptures to find life. But there is no life in the letter of the scriptures! They erroneously thought life was in the scriptures, but Jesus said life was in Him! Because they were not willing to leave their old thinking, they would not come to Jesus to receive life! (Jn. 5:39-40)
People today are also involved in the search. Some are even satisfied with the search per se. Some search to find themselves, others search for God. They look for God in nature and in themselves. Nature is His handiwork, but it is not God - just like the things we make are not us. When we are in Christ, God dwells in us, but we are not God. Many are seeking for God's will for their lives. They fast and pray, go into seclusion, go for counselling and read Christian literature in their zealous search for God and His will. They believe there is merit in the search. So they do everything they can, but they refuse to come to Christ.
They do not realize that God has already revealed Himself to us in Christ Jesus; He has also revealed His will for us! He has also revealed who we are in Adam, the natural man, and who we are in Christ, the spiritual man! We need to believe God's revelation to us, and live in the reality of who we are in Christ!
In Deut. 30:11-14 Moses told the Israelites that they did not have to search for the law; they already had it. They needed to recognize it and act on it! Moses said, "But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it." Paul latched onto this verse and said, "that is, the word of faith which we are preaching."
What is the word of faith? It is a declaration that God has accomplished our salvation and has freed us from our carnal thinking. It means "to confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead." If you do this you will be saved! (v.9)
What does it mean to confess Jesus Christ as Lord? It doesn't say to confess Jesus as Savior. Confessing Him as Savior encompasses His death, burial, resurrection and ascension. It involves our forgiveness of sins. This is very important, but it is not enough. Forgiveness alone does not produce a change in lifestyle. Only giving mental assent to a stated fact is not enough. It says we are to confess Him as Lord! This goes beyond confessing Him as Savior!
A while back bumper stickers were the rage. One of the popular ones had the name JESUS in big bold letters. But that only tells us the beginning of the story. Jesus is the name of His humiliation. When God put on the work clothes of our flesh He was given the name Jesus. He was known as Jesus of Nazareth. The word Christ is not a name, but a title. It means Messiah or the Anointed One. Jesus Christ is the Anointed One who fulfilled all the Old Testament prophecies.
The name that is above every other name is LORD. (Phil. 2:9) In the Old Testament, God was called LORD. Jesus of Nazareth, called the Christ, died and rose again. At His ascension He received a new name - a name not given Him at His birth. This is the name of LORD! That name encompasses all that He is and all that He achieved! It includes the fact that He not only died and was buried, but that He defeated every foe, rose from the dead and ascended to the Father! Therefore He is Lord! By confessing Him as Lord, I am confessing my allegiance and obedience to Him! I am confessing that He is alive! Lordship means that He is the One who has jurisdiction over me. He is the One I obey! This necessitates a change in lifestyle. Obedience to Christ makes us partakers of His victory!
"For with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation." (v.10) There is a difference between believing with the heart or with the head. Believing with the heart will produce a change in our thought and our actions. Believing with the head is merely giving mental assent to certain facts; it does not change us. Mouthing words which the Holy Spirit has not given us, will not bring us into faith. God works from the inside out. The mouth speaks forth the conviction the Holy Spirit has given us! We cannot speak faith into existence; faith is given us through the work of the Holy Spirit within us.
Believing God is not a choice, it is a persuasion. Choice comes through the deliberations of the natural mind; belief is a persuasion that comes from the heart. Our confession comes out of a faith that is rooted in Christ! We cannot speak salvation into existence, because it is already in existence. We believe it and therefore speak it! The confession of this belief that is in the heart results in salvation! A time is coming when every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord! (Phil. 2:9-11)
"For the Scripture says, `Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.' For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for `Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.'" (vv.11-13)
What blessed assurance! All we have to do is to call upon Him! No other credentials or qualifications are needed! We don't have to belong to a certain family; our background is of no account; the number of sins we have committed doesn't shut us out; the number of good deeds we have done doesn't impress God; what others say about us doesn't affect Him either! The only requirement necessary is the recognition of our need of Him! As long as we are satisfied with ourselves, we won't call upon the name of the Lord! When we recognize that we are sinners and cannot work out our own salvation, we then call upon Him and won't be disappointed!
This applies to both Jews and Gentiles! There is no difference! The ethnic background does not have merit with God! God's chosen people are those who are believers! They believe what God says about Himself and what He says about humanity! They believe that there is only one Lord, that He abounds in riches for them and that He is able to perform His will!
The natural mind creates different ideas about the Lord because it does not know Him. It is foreign to the natural mind to think that our Lord only wants goodness for all who call upon Him. So it creates different images of God, and worships the images it has created. These images are grotesque aberrations and distortions of the true God.
Among these images is a god who is out to get them, one who needs to be appeased, one who is influenced by one's good deeds, one who has limited power and is always hampered by the surprise attacks of the devil, one who is always inflicting punishments - even a punishment of endless suffering and torment in an endless fire for all who have not believed in Him; this includes those who never had the opportunity to hear about Him! Then there are those who reject these images and declare that there is no God. So they become their own god.
Christ abounds in riches toward all who call on Him! As soon as the natural mind hears the word riches it thinks of material prosperity. It wants that! So the prosperity teaching gains many adherents. God's riches toward us is spiritual! He does not withhold anything good from us! He has given us Himself - His nature, His love, His joy and His peace! He has also provided for us materially, and we thank God for His provision. But without His spiritual provision we would remain in darkness and in turmoil and be lost forever! God's riches toward us brings us into an abundance of everything He is! What an awesome God we have!
Since people live in ignorance of our wonderful God, there is an overwhelming need for enlightenment. How are they going to get to know God? Paul asks these questions.
"How then will they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? How shall they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent?" (vv.14-15a)
How can people call upon a God to help them if they do not know that He exists? They need someone to tell them about the true God - the God who has power to deliver! Then they need to believe the message! They need messengers, and they need to have faith that the message is true! Messengers are sent ones. These messengers have to be sent by God! There are many messengers who bring wrong messages. These are not sent by God. Many messengers are sent by churches and organizations - not by God. When Paul and Barnabas were sent out by the church, the Holy Spirit had already ordained them for this work. The church recognized this ordination, and sent them.
A true messenger brings glad tidings of good things! "Just as it is written, `How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!'" (v.15b) Young's translation adds, "good tidings of peace". Peace does away with conflicts. Good news supersedes a former condition or thought. The good news that God has accomplished our salvation releases us from our former thoughts and wrong images of our Lord! It tells us that we can be released from our slavery to sin; that we can receive a new Lord, and that the salvation He gives us does not depend upon our effort. It depends on what our Lord has already accomplished! Because it is already in existence, we can believe it is true! Anything that has not been proven, remains a theory. The resurrection of our Lord proves the validity of this message! It is a glad message because our release from lord sin has been completed!
Notice that God looks at things differently than we do. He calls feet that are hardened, calloused and deformed from climbing mountains, beautiful! These are not beautifully manicured feet with colored toenails. Feet symbolize our walk. Are we walking in the ideas and deception of our carnal mind, or in the truth of the spiritual mind?
In Rev. 21, where the bride of Christ is described, it says that the street is of gold. There is only one street, and it is pure gold. Gold symbolizes the divinity of God. Our walk is in the purity of God's divinity! These messengers have been transformed by the salvation they are preaching, and they proclaim the good news regardless of the difficulties involved. They have feet that are beautiful spiritually - they have been willing to bring a message of joy to people who live in darkness! The beautiful in God's sight are those who bring the good news that our salvation has been accomplished - that we have been reconciled to God!
"However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, `LORD, who has believed our message?' So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." (vv.16-17)
Faith comes by hearing, yet not all who hear the good news, believe it. This is difficult to understand. The answer lies in the latter part of verse 17. "Hearing by the word of Christ." What is the word of Christ? Christ means the Anointing or Messiah. In other words, the hearing has to be anointed. It is not enough to have the message go forth in the anointing of the Holy Spirit; our hearing has to be anointed to hear the true message.
Jesus often told the people that though they had ears to hear, they did not hear. They did not have ears to hear the spiritual message; they only heard natural words, and their natural mind interpreted them wrongly. Hearing spiritually results in faith, and faith leads to obedience. Faith produces corresponding actions! If we say we have faith in God's provision, and then worry about our lack, we do not have faith. People who worry lack faith.
James 1:22 says, "But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves." Many Christians think they are doers because they can quote the scriptures. Yet their lives are filled with worry and doubt. They are talkers about the scriptures, but not doers of the word. The scriptures are the written witness of God, and the word is the spoken message the Holy Spirit gives us. Those who are merely talkers about the scriptures have not heard what God is saying, so they are living in delusion and deception. The actions of a doer of the word of Christ correspond with the message! These are the ones who are living in truth, and Christ is the truth!
Living in truth is living in Christ. In Him there is no fear nor lack; there is only peace and provision! If we are filled with fear and worry, we are not living in Christ. If we are living in darkness and disobedience, we are not living in Christ! This is a simple and easy way of determining where we are living. When we hear the voice of the Spirit, and put His instruction into practice, we are walking in truth!
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth! "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth..." (Jn. 16:13) It is always safe to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit; He delivers us from fear and never leads us astray!
"But I say, surely they have never heard, have they? Indeed they have; `Their voice has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.'" (v.18) The excuse that they had never heard the message was not a valid one. They had heard it, but they had missed it! They were not interested in paying attention to it! They heard it but they did not truly hear it! If they were not interested enough to pay attention to it, they had no reason to complain when Paul went to the Gentiles and proclaimed this glorious salvation to them!
Paul had been to many synagogues. It was his custom to proclaim the good news to the Jews before going to the Gentiles. But the majority rejected the gospel. Synagogue after synagogue had risen up in riot against him and tried to kill him! They didn't want the gospel. They preferred to continue in their worship of the law!
"But I say, surely Israel did not know, did they? First Moses says, `I will make you jealous by that which is not a nation, by a nation without understanding will I anger you.' And Isaiah is very bold and says, `I was found by those who did not seek Me, I became manifest to those who did not ask for Me.' But as for Israel He says, `All the day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.'" (vv.19-21) Rotherham's translation says, "I will provoke you to jealousy on account of a no-nation, on account of an undiscerning nation will I make you very angry."
The Gentile world consisted of many nations. They were not one nation like the Jews were. The thing they had in common was that they were not seeking for God. Though the Gentiles did not seek for Christ, they received the message gladly when it was preached to them! They realized their failure, welcomed God's offer, and accepted it through faith. The Jews, thinking they could earn salvation by keeping the law, rejected God's offer. It is our task to see that everyone hears the gospel. Israel had heard, and understood, yet refused to believe! God had continuously stretched out His hands to an unyielding and contradictory people!
Abraham was a believer. Abraham's faith was not an easy one. It was exercised in the face of overwhelming odds of circumstances! But in Abraham's eyes the promise of God absolutely outweighed all those circumstances. He believed the promise before there was any external evidence of its fulfillment. This was counted to him for righteousness. His natural descendants were not believers! To become descendants of Abraham we have to be believers. By believing the good news, we become the spiritual descendants of Abraham!
Let's believe God! Not only has He forgiven our sins, but He has made us a new creation in Christ. In Him we can walk in truth and victory! The grace of God has accomplished this!