A Study of the Epistle to the Romans
The Exercise of Human Responsibility in Rejection
But They Have Not all Obeyed the Gospel
God, through Paul, takes the responsibility for Jewish unbelief and places it squarely upon them. Here is the gospel, but they did not submit to it. The proof of it? He quotes again from their own Scripture, "For [Isaiah] saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?" What kind of a report was it they did not believe? The report of a Messiah, who was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, bruised for our iniquities - a Christ who was broken upon the Cross. That was the report that the prophet brought, looking down through the centuries. But who has believed the report? It was foretold - the very thing that came to pass.
There is a parenthetical clause here. He cannot pass up the opportunity of telling what faith is. The Jew might say, "Faith" That is hard. How can I get faith? If I do not have it, that is not my fault." Paul says, "Here is the way it comes: faith comes by hearing." How does haring come? "By the Word of God." If you want more faith, do you pray for it? No. Just listen to the Word of God and accept it, and your faith will grow. How can you believe a thing unless you know it? So, if you want a big faith, just feed upon the Word of God.
That word "report" in the sixteenth verse is identically the same word in the Greek as the two words which are translated "hearing" in the next verse. It is a very difficult word to translate, because it mans not only a report but that the who reported it had heard from somebody else. We might paraphrase it: "Lord, who hath believed that which we heard and reported?" It has within its meaning the idea of a message, and therefore in that seventeenth verse the word "hearing" is not a good translation. A better rendering would be, "A message heard."
Faith does not come just by your hearing. That would be human. But faith comes from something heard. Where do you get something heard? From the Word of God. That is where we get the message. Very simple, very plain.
When the apostle says that these Jews have not obeyed the gospel, he expects protests on small points. So he raises two questions. "Did they not hear?" A Jewish listener might say, "Some have heard, but not all." Paul says, "Yes, they have heard." He uses the language of Psalm 19 to remind them of the testimony of heaven and the stars. The apostle was correct; the gospel had gone through the whole Jewish world. It was therefore appropriate for the apostle to refer to this psalm.
Then he anticipated another objection. He would say, "Did Israel really know? Did they understand this? Did not God spring something on the Jews, and without warning?" Then Paul quotes twice in answer to that objection.
First, he takes them to Moses. "But I say, Did not Israel 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" (Deu. 10:19). So Moses foretold this situation fifteen hundred years before.
Second, Paul says, "[Isaiah] is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not of me" (10:20; see Isaiah 65:1).
Perhaps the Jew said, "This is too hard for me - I would not understand it." God says, "I am taking a nation that has no understanding at all, and they understand. These Gentiles understand this gospel, and have received it. Not only that, but I was found of them that sought me not. Here are people that did not even try to seek me - Gentiles that never raised a question about the true God and His righteousness, whereas you Israelites with all the light you have, and all the understanding you have, you cannot understand this simple gospel. You surely ought to."
The truth of the matter is in the last verse, which is the conclusion: "But as to Israel, He saith, All the day long did I stretch out my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people" (10:21; see Isaiah 65:2). Isn't that a startling verse after the ninth chapter? In His sovereignty God had rejected some and elected others, yet He says concerning this nation, "All the day long have I stretched out My arms to this nation!" That is grace, sovereign grace!
That word "day" does not mean a twenty-four hour day. Rather, it refers to the age of the law. All through those centuries, God says, "I had My arms stretched out to this nation, but they were disobedient when I tried to help them." So God has loaded the responsibility for this people's condition squarely upon their own shoulders.
The gospel is within the reach of every man. The only reason men are without Christ, without God, without righteousness and will go out into eternity lost is that they refuse to submit to God.
What a lesson for us! To think that it is possible for us to be zealous for God, to busy ourselves everyday with what we conceive to be God's work, and yet to be utterly blind to the truth of the simplicity of the gospel. To think that we are asked not to do anything big, but merely to submit to the righteousness of God and let Him put it on us as He wants to do.
Then here is another lesson: the Jews studied their Scriptures, and yet they utterly failed to see the truth. There is a possibility of that today. It is possible for a man to study diligently the Word of God, but if he does not see Jesus, it will profit him nothing.
~Alva J. McClain~
(continued with # 68 - "The Experience of Merciful Purpose in Reception")