Why is Israel Outside?
who is to blame for their fall from grace?
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.
For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.
For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness,
and seeking to establish their own righteousness,
have not submitted to the righteousness of God.
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Paul began Romans 9 with sorrow over Israel’s exclusion from the grace in Christ. From there, he explored the reason the people of God failed to enter the riches of Christ, concluding it was because they had rejected righteousness by faith. Despite their rejection, Paul longed for their salvation. But he knew they would never be saved if they continued to pursue establishing righteousness by the works of the Law. This righteousness of the Law is completely different than the righteousness available in Christ.
For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.” But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down from above) 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 preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
Paul quoted from Leviticus 18:5 and Deuteronomy 30:11-14 to show the contrast between the two types of righteousness. The righteousness by the law requires a life of strict obedience to the law. But the righteousness in Christ comes by faith, which means a person does not obtain it by performing some action but by believing the word preached by the apostles regarding the Lord Jesus.
For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
The truth that righteousness is available by faith is readily shown from the Old Testament. Paul did so earlier, in Romans 4, using the examples of Abraham and David. He now adds Isaiah 28:16, which references the coming Messiah and the promise given to those who believe in Him. He also quotes from Joel 2:32 which speaks of the end times and how people will be saved by calling on the name of the Lord (Genesis 4:26 also speaks of men calling on the name of the Lord, showing that people have done this throughout all of history). According to the Old Testament, righteousness has always been available by faith.
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? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,
Who bring glad tidings of good things!”
People cannot call upon God for salvation if they haven’t believed that God can provide salvation. And they cannot believe that God will provide salvation if they have not heard that God offers salvation. And they will not hear if no one is there to tell them. And no one will tell them that God offers salvation unless God sends someone with the message.
Faith is not based on nothing. It is impossible to believe someone if they have not communicated something. People cannot call upon God to save them if God has not sent the message of His salvation.
But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Returning to the original issue of Israel’s exclusion, it is a fact that the nation of Israel has, for the most part, rejected the gospel. Not that this was a complete surprise, for the prophet foretold they would not believe the report in Isaiah 53:1.
Given the fact that a person must hear the message of God’s salvation before they can believe in God, why is Israel outside of the grace in Christ?
But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed:
“Their sound has gone out to all the earth,
And their words to the ends of the world.”
Are they outside because God failed to send them the message, and so they haven’t heard it? That is not the reason – they have heard the message! God sent the message out to the whole earth, Israel included.
But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says:
“I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation,
I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.”
But Isaiah is very bold and says:
“I was found by those who did not seek Me;
I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me.”
Are they outside because the message was so unexpected that it is unreasonable to expect Isreal to embrace it? No, for the prophets foretold the coming of the message and its acceptance by the Gentiles. God let them know ahead of time that the message was coming. Why, then, is Isreal outside the grace of Christ?
But to Israel he says:
“All day long I have stretched out My hands
To a disobedient and contrary people.”
Paul placed the blame fully on Israel. God did not withhold the message, nor did He make the message impossible for them to believe. The truth is, they have not believed because they rejected God’s word of salvation. God urged them to receive His salvation, but they have rejected His word.