Calling Of The Jews & Gentiles
God’s Plan For The Gentiles

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 46a of 83


“…30  What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.  31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.…” (Romans 9:17-18).

Romans 9 is well-known as the locus classicus for the doctrine of sovereign double-predestination. What is not so well-known is that the apostle Paul actually came to the subject because he is seeking to explain why the majority of the people of Israel remained in unbelief despite the persuasive power of the Gospel of Christ. His explanation can be summed up in one word, namely, ‘election.’ God did not elect everyone in Israel to be saved! Not everyone in Israel is God’s child of the promise. “They are not all Israel which are of Israel” (v. 6). It is this context that Paul proceeds to explain the doctrine of sovereign election. God “will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will, he hardeneth” (v. 18).

We may not fully understand this doctrine. How can God justly condemn the reprobate when He hardens them? We do not have all the answer, but who are we to question God? We are but lumps of clay. Can the clay question the potter? This is what He has revealed about Himself. We must humbly receive it without seeking to fit Him into our own mould of thinking.

But now notice how Paul brings us back to the question of the position of Israel as he concludes his discussion on election and reprobation.

He has just spoken about how God has sovereignly ordained some people to be vessels of wrath in order that He might make known the riches of His glory unto the vessels of mercy. These vessels of mercy were prepared by God unto glory from eternity past (v. 23). Who are these?  Paul tells us who they are in verse 24—

“Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?” (Rom 9:24).

That is to say: God has afore prepared some of us, —both Jews and Gentiles, —for glory.

But this fact is quite surprising for many of the Jews. Many of the Jew thought themselves to be the only people favoured by God.

For this reason, Paul will spend the rest of the chapter (from v. 25 to the end) to show that this has been in God’s mind throughout the Old Testament.

This passage is therefore crucial for our understanding of Old Testament prophecies concerning Israel, as well as our understanding of the relationship between Israel and the Church today.

This passage can be divided into three sections:

·        From verses 25-26, we see Paul quoting the prophet Hosea to speak about the calling of the Gentiles.

·        From verses 27-29, Paul turns to the prophet Isaiah to show that only a remnant of Israel after the flesh would be saved.

·        Then from verses 30-33, Paul draws some conclusion and application from his observations from the Old Testament.

1. God’s Plan for 
the Gentiles

25 As he saith also in Osee, ‘I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.’ 26 And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called ‘the children of the living God.’

The name Osee, is simply the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name ‘Hosea.’ The apostle Paul is quoting from Hosea. Verse 25 is a quotation from Hosea 2:23 while verse 26 is a quotation from Hosea 1:10.

Now, it is clear that the apostle Paul is using these two verses to speak about the calling of the Gentiles. Those who were not God’s people were Gentiles, but now they have been made God’s people.

But though this is very clear, there are some commentators who refuse to see that the calling of the Gentiles was prophesied in the Old Testament. These are known as Dispensationalists. They claim that God never intended to call the Gentiles. His original plan when Christ came upon the earth is to establish His kingdom upon earth with Christ upon the throne. But the Jews rejected Christ, and so God was forced to take a plan B action of raising the church. The Church, they say is a parenthesis or bracket in God’s redemptive plan. God has temporarily suspended His dealing with Israel. He will deal with the Gentiles until the full number of the Gentiles are brought in, and then the Gentiles will be raptured and God will then deal with Israel again.

I was taught a version of this doctrine in Bible college. But this doctrine, it seems apparent, simply does not agree with the interpretation of the Holy Spirit.

Yet the Dispensationalist is very sure of his interpretation. Why is he so sure? He is so sure because he believes that he has an infallible principle of interpretation of the Scripture, which is: “When the plain sense makes sense seek no other sense.” Thus, if a prophecy mentions ‘Israel’, it must be about the nation of Israel. It cannot mean anything else but the nation of Israel!

Now, if you read Hosea 1:10 and Hosea 2:23 you will realise that those verses quoted by Paul are indeed prophecies concerning Israel. Look at Hosea 1:10. Paul quotes the second part of the verse, but what does the whole verse say?

“Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God” (Hos 1:10)

The Dispensationalist says, “See this is a prophecy about Israel. It is about the re-gathering of the nation of Israel. When the plain sense makes sense, seek no other sense.”

But wait! How do you know the principle is right? How can the principle be right when Paul writing under inspiration contradicts it? It is clear that Paul is quoting Hosea 1:10 and Hosea 2:23 in reference to the gathering of the Gentiles.

So, Paul is telling us, under inspiration, that the prophecies of Hosea concerning the re-gathering of Israel are really prophecies about the gathering of the Gentiles into the Church. The fact is: the principle, “When the plain sense makes sense, seek no other sense,” does not always work!

But do not go away with the idea that Paul is reading into the Old Testament prophecies or misusing them. The fact is: Even in the original context in Hosea, it can be seen that God is referring to Israel as His visible covenant people and not merely as the nation of Israel. Today the visible covenant people of God is the visible church of Christ.

Put simply, in the original context, Hosea is preaching to the people in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. You may recall that the people of God were divided into North and South after the reign of Solomon. The Northern Kingdom began to worship God using golden calves to represent Him. But they went further and further into apostasy so that they soon began to worship Baal, Asteroth, Chemosh and all the other strange and false gods of the surrounding heathen nations.

Hosea was preaching to the apostate people in the North. He was telling them that God had given up on them and was about to cut them off. They would cease to be the people of God.

God carried out His threat by sending the Assyrians to destroy the Northern Kingdom. Most of the people were either killed or dispersed, though some of the godly people migrated to the South.

But then, God also pronounced through Hosea: “I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.” And again, “in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.”

What does God mean? What He means, according to Paul, is that He would reconstitute Israel. Israel is the name of God’s covenant people. Notice how God refers to the Abrahamic covenant in Hosea 1:10 when He speaks about how the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea. Israel is not merely the name of a nation. It is the name of God’s covenant people. Israel of Old, according to Hosea, would be scattered. But God would sow His seed again and raise up Israel again.

This was why God instructed Hosea to name his first born son ‘Jezreel.’ ‘Jezreel’ means “God will scatter,” but at the same time, it means “God will sow.” God would scatter the Israel of Old; but He would sow again and raise Israel of New.

God would not raise Israel by gathering back the Israelites that He scattered. The fact is today, it would be near impossible to find a people who could trace their ancestry back to the people in the Northern Kingdom.

The people in the Northern Kingdom, unlike the people in the South did not maintain their integrity as a people. They were dispersed everywhere, and by and large have inter-married with other races.

So, when God says He would “call them my people, which were not my people,” He is speaking about the gathering of the elect Gentile or the children of Abraham scattered around the world.

Paul, writing under inspiration, is quoting an Old Testament passage which when read literally seems to be speaking about the re-gathering of the Israelites. But he tells us that this is fulfilled in the calling of the Gentiles. And when we examine the context of prophecy, we see that it makes perfect sense.

Well, the Dispensationalist agrees that Paul is quoting a passage about Israel and that he is talking about the calling of the Gentile. But he says, “Paul is not giving an interpretation of the text! He is simply applying the text to the Gentiles!” Well, if Paul is doing so, he is misapplying the text and abusing the word of God to suit his own doctrine!

Surely, this is not the case. Paul is indeed interpreting the passages from Hosea; and He is doing do accurately.

Thank God that we can be part of the Israel of God. Thank God that He has, in His wisdom and power, gathered us into his fold to be His people.

We are strangers of the covenant, having no hope in this world. But God has made us citizens of Israel, His covenant people.

Paul puts it this way in Ephesians 2:11-13, 19—

11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.

What shall we say but to thank God for His mercy shown us? What shall we do but to live faithfully as His covenant people, knowing that if stray from Him as Israel of Old did, then God can easily scatter us and raise up other congregations to be part of His Church.

But what about the Jews?

…to be Continued Next Issue

—JJ Lim


 


“How they stumble at Christ, who trust in their works, it is not difficult to understand; for except we own ourselves to be sinners, void and destitute of any righteousness of our own, we obscure the dignity of Christ, which consists in this, that to us all He is light, life, resurrection, righteousness, and healing” (Calvin’s comments on Romans 9:32)