Christ, The End Of The Law
The Jewish Problem Felt

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 47a of 83

1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. 2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Romans 10:1-4).

The apostle Paul has just explained why so few Israelites were converted. The reason, simply stated, is God’s sovereign election and predestination.

It was no accident that so few of the Israelites were converted. In fact, both the prophets Hosea and Isaiah had prophesied that only a remnant of the Israelites would be saved, and that the Church would become predominantly Gentile.

Furthermore, the Prophet Isaiah spoke of how Christ would be a precious corner stone to the elect Gentile, but a stumbling stone to most of the Israelites.

This prophecy has also been fulfilled. And “the kingdom of God [has been] taken from [Israel], and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Mt 21:43), namely the Gentiles.

There is no question, therefore, that what has happened in Israel was in accordance to God’s plan.

But there are still some questions that need to be re-examined. For example, there is a question of the Law. Did not God give Israel the Law as a way of salvation? If so how can it be that the Israelites who are keeping the Law zealously are perishing. Did God change His mind about how He would save His people?

This must be a problem in many Jewish minds. Paul has, in some ways, already addressed these questions. But problems which touches on the emotions are like stubborn stains. They are hard to solve without constant repetition. So there is a need to reiterate and to clarify.

This is what Paul now embarking to do in chapter 10. But this chapter is quite rich; therefore, we want to begin in this study by look at just the first few verses of it.

Here we see:

1.     The Jewish problem in Paul’s heart. Or the Jewish problem felt (v. 1).

2.     The Jewish problem in Paul’s eyes. Or the Jewish problem observed (v. 2-3).

3.     The Jewish problem in Paul’s mind. Or the Jewish problem evaluated (v. 4)

Let us consider, firstly,…

1.  The Jewish Problem in Paul’s Heart

How did Paul feel about situation that the Israelites were in? The Israelites hated him. They were after his blood. Did he, therefore, smile in his heart that God was repaying them for their sin?

No, no; Paul had already indicated earlier that he could wish himself to be accursed from Christ where it possible that by this means his kinsmen in the flesh could be converted. Now, he tells us the desire of his heart again:

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved” (Rom 10:1).

Paul’s desire was that the Israelites might be saved. And he pours out his heart unto the Lord about it. He prays that they might be saved.

Here is a lesson for us in regard to praying for the unconverted. Some think that it is wrong to pray for the conversion of unbelievers because we do not know if they are elect or reprobate.

But Paul shows us the right way: We should pray for their conversion. Indeed, it is because we do not know if they are elect or reprobate, that we can plead with the Lord to save them.

The apostle John reminds us that we are not to pray for anyone who has committed a sin which is unto death. That is, if we know that someone has committed an unpardonable sin, then we must not pray for him. So, if we know that someone is a reprobate, then we must not pray for him, for none of his sins will be forgiven him.

But God has in His wisdom not allowed us to see if a person is elect or reprobate. Yes, if we are convinced that person has committed the unpardonable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, then we know he is probably reprobate and we must not pray for him. But how many people do you know who have committed the unpardonable sin? I cannot say I know of any. So, effectively, God has chosen not to reveal to us who is elect or reprobate.

For that reason, we may and must pray for those who are unconverted whom we know.

The Lord will, of course, save whom He will. He will save His elect, but He is pleased to receive our petitions which are poured out from our hearts.

To pray according to God’s will is not to pray according to His secret will. It is to pray according to His revealed will. And in so far as God has not revealed unto us who are the reprobates, we have the warrant to pray for everyone.

Paul prayed for the unbelieving Israelites, knowing that the majority of the Israelites were vessels of wrath. So, let us not give up hope over our relatives and loved ones who are still unconverted. Sometimes, humanly, it may seem so impossible that they would ever be converted and so we feel discouraged to pray for them. But let us remember that what is impossible with man is possible with God.

…to be Continued, next issue

—JJ Lim