From the Mind of a Jewish Christian #3
by Juster (1986)
PAUL - LAW - ISRAEL
In all of Scripture, there is no greater theological depth
and glorious truth than is revealed in Paul's teaching on the
Law. This teaching is central to the meaning of the Good News
itself. Yet, how tragically this teaching is misunderstood, both
by Yeshua's followers and those who do not follow Him. The error
is usually one of carelessness. A verse is taken out of context
and false conclusions are drawn, when the true meaning of the
verse can be seen only in the light of Paul's whole connected
presentation, Further, various meanings of the word "law" or
"namos" are not distinguished; all are lumped together. Yet, in
everyday speech, we know one word may carry several
meanings - according to the context of usage. In addition, there
are plays on words, so loved by Jewish thinkers, but totally
missed by the modern reader. We believe that Paul's teaching is
thoroughly in line with his profession and example in the Book of
Acts and fully in accord with Messianic Judaism.
Any teaching on Paul and the Law must take note of his key
foundational statements in relation to Torah as God's revelation,
as well as a reflection of His eternal standard of right and
wrong. So far as the Law reflects this eternal standard of God,
it is irrevocable. As such we should note these verses:
* Romans 3:31--faith established the Law. "Do we then overthrow
the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold
* Romans 3:2 states that the Law is a gift of God.
* Romans 3:7 teaches that the Law defines what sin is, while
Romans 6:1-2 says we are not to continue to sin.
* Romans 7:12 states the the Law is holy. "The commandment is
holy and just and good."
* Romans 7:14 states that the Law is spiritual; 7:16, that the
Law is good.
In the Law the great wisdom of God's standards is revealed.
Only the Bible reveals an infinite, personal, ethical God!
Paul certainly had the Law in mind when he said, "All
Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for
correction, for instruction and for training in righteousness
that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good
work" (II Timothy 3:16-17).
This verse was written before the New Testament came into
The Torah is to be a source of our correction and training.
As Paul said, the Law is good if one uses it rightly (I Timothy
Paul also quoted the Law to give ethical direction to
congregations under the Spirit: In Ephesians 6:1-3, "Children
obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your
father and mother; this is the first commandment with a promise,
that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the
earth." Paul takes it that the promise of Torah will apply to
them who obey.
Paul also maintained the validity of the Law as uniquely
related to Israel's continuing religious national identity and
special witness as a people.
Then what is the problem? Is it that there are passages in
Paul addressed to the misuse of the Law which are interpreted to
invalidate the Law itself? Is it that there are uses of the word
"law" that do not refer to the revelation in Torah, but are,
instead, false applications of it?
The major assault in Paul's writings is in regard to the use
of the Law as part of a system of works-righteousness. According
to this system, man stores up merits before God by keeping the
Law, i.e., earning God's acceptance and salvation. Such a view
produces hypocrisy, since the person with such a view does not
see how much he breaks the Law, though professing to keep it. It
also produces self-righteous pride. The exposure of the wrongness
of this view is central. We must first see that God's standard is
absolute holiness and perfection. Falling short of this, we stand
condemned by the Law before a holy God. Paul quotes a medley of
passages from the Psalms and Prophets to show God's view of our
selfrighteousness - from Psalm 53, "There is none that doeth
good, no not one, they are all fallen away ... all alike
Paul's conclusion is, "All have sinned and come short of the
glory of God" (Romans 3:23), and "the wages of sin is death,"
We think we can earn God's righteousness because we tend to
compare our achievements with others, not God's absolute holy
perfection and standard of total love and self lessness
(Deuteronomy 6:4; Leviticus 19:18). We may seem miles ahead of
others, but are still light-years away from real perfection when
we examine our heart attitudes and motives. Our self-
righteousness further calls into question whether we are
really ahead of others at all. Before God's Law, we all stand
condemned; not justified.
There is within us a nature that desires to break the Law,
to sin; it is called a sin nature. The rabbis perceived this in
their doctrine of the "Yetzer ha ra," the evil impulse. This sin
nature is such that the Law may even inspire it to desire to sin
more since sin finds the forbidden fruits sweeter. This is a
principle that Paul also calls a law, making a play on words with
"nomos" or "law." It is a "law" within me ("law" used in a
different sense than Torah) that when I want to do right evil
lies close at hand. To eliminate misunderstanding, Paul, in this
same chapter, calls the law (Torah) "holy, just, good" and
"spiritual," which of course is not the case with the law
(principle) "that evil lies close at hand."
These facts evoke two other principles also called "law"
in a play on words; again, they are not Torah.: They are the laws
of sin and death. The law of sin is the principle that God's holy
righteous Law is more a source of temptation to fallen man than a
source of righteous motivation. This is not because of any fault
in the Law, but because of sin's nature.
"But sin, finding opportunity in the commandment wrought in
me all kids of covetousness" (Romans 7:8). The weakness of the
Law is not its high standard, but that it is powerless to cause
the sinful man to fulfill it. "For we know that the law is
spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin (7:14). The law is
"weakened by the flesh" (8:3). So Paul says, "I see in my members
another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive
to the law of sin which dwells in my members" (7:23).
Breaking the Law leads to greater bondage, to more
lawbreaking and sin. The pervert, for example, holds that one
more indulgence of curiosity will assuage his desires. This is
so, but only temporarily. Later temptations are stronger and even
grosser. The liar, the drunkard, the thief and the glutton all
find a similar operation of sin in their lives!
This law of sin leads to death, in all its ramifications.
The law of death is the law of the wages of law-breaking,
separation from fellowship with God, physical death and, finally,
What an incredible tragedy that some think the law of "sin
and death" is the Torah! How unfortunate is this false
As John said, "Sin is the transgression of Law"; in Paul's
words, "where there is no law there is no transgression." All
therefore stand "guilty."
Paul's central question is: How then shall we stand as
righteous - not guilty - or justified before God? He finds his
solution in Abraham: "Abraham," says Genesis 3:15, "believed God
and God accounted it to him for righteousness." Abraham was
justified by faith! Only years later did he receive the sign of
circumcision as the sign of his covenant relationship with God
In Galatians, Paul argues that any interpretation of the
Mosaic revelation must be based on the foundational revelation of
the Abrahamic Covenant. The Mosaic Law, which came 430 years
later, "cannot annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as
to make the promise void" (Galatians 3:17). Paul is not, as some
think pitting the Mosaic revelation against the Abrahamic. They
have different but complementary purposes. "Is the law against
the promises of God? Certainly not!" (Galatians 3:21).
It is then that Paul goes on to delineate that we can be
accepted as righteous before God by faith; by believing in
Yeshua's life, death and resurrection. Combining the truths of
the old sacrificial images and of the teaching on Abraham, Paul
argues as follows:
As Adam (and all humanity) fell and became a fallen, sinful
race, so there is a new humanity in Yeshua. We, by faith, must
recognize that He died for our sin. He is the representative of
the race and the race is tied together into one human family. Our
reality is not only our separate, individual selfhood, but the
reality of the whole interconnectedness of the race. In identity
with us, the sinless One pays our penalty. He also exhibits the
suffering love and mercy of God and reveals the destructive
nature of sin which seeks to annihilate the one righteous and
perfect man. His sacrifice was accepted and He arose from death.
By faith we accept these truths. By faith we are accounted as "In
Messiah." These words, "in Messiah," are perhaps the two most
significant words in the New Testament. We are part of His
reality now. By faith we are given a new nature of righteousness
(II Corinthians 5:7) and are given the Spirit of God to dwell
within as promised in Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36. We are not
guilty but are justified in Him by faith.
So Paul can quote David, who was not justified by the Law
but by God's mercy and grace:
"Blessed is the man to whom the Lord reckons no sin" (Psalm
"Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin"
The believer now has supernatural power in identifying
with His atonement which puts sin to death as he prayerfully
applies its power, and in the new nature or spirit he is given,
and lastly by the power of the Spirit which motivates him and
enables him to do God's will. His eternal fate is sealed; he is
righteous in Messiah and has eternal life. Progressively, this
life works itself out into daily growth so he becomes more like
Now, what is the relationship of the Law to all of this?
First, we no longer turn to the Law seeking to find intrinsic
righteousness. To the whole legalistic preoccupation with the Law
we have died in the Messiah. Paul gives the example of a woman
whose spouse's death has freed her from the legal bondage of the
marriage. We have died to the Law (Romans 7:4) in the sense that
there is no more penalty to be paid or legal bondage. Our primary
focus now is on the power of the Spirit and His love working in a
life lived according to the law of love.
If this love is real, however, then the Law makes its
reappearance as a guide and teacher under the power of the
Spirit. Without the power of the Spirit and the power of the
atonement of Yeshua as our focus of dependence, our old nature
shall reassert itself. This is also the case with the mistaken
focus on the over 1,000 commands in the New Testament which can
also become a focus - of works - righteousness.
The Law will now be kept progressively in Spirit and truth
in response to God's mercy and grace. The whole Bible - including
the Mosaic Law rightly applied - will be our guide, "profitable
for doctrine, reproof and training in righteousness" (II Timothy
3:16). The reformers rightly perceived the wonderful use of the
Law as a guide, as well as a standard by which we are convicted
by the Spirit, "to continually confess our sins and find
forgiveness." They call this the third use of the Law. The Law is
a mirror for seeing the blemishes of your life; Yeshua is the
living Torah. Hence, the Christian reformers found no conflict
parallel to the conflict of today's misinformed Christians in
reciting, "Oh how I love thy law" (Psalm 119:97).
This view of Law and grace may seem paradoxical, but when
understood, it is certainly consistent and full of the depth of
truth. Even psychologists have learned that on a human level,
acceptance and forgiveness must precede obedience. Forgiveness
and acceptance by grace thereby become the motive for obedience.
This is our focus; this is the emphasis of all Scripture; "I am
the Lord thy God which brought you out of the land of Egypt" (by
grace, Exodus 20:2). Therefore, "you shall have no other gods
before me" (Exodus 20:3). To think we can earn God's love and
salvation is an affront to his holiness.
The confusion comes also from those who say that salvation
by grace through faith will lead to a moral laxity. This shows a
superficial understanding of grace, indeed. For the acceptance of
God's grace is the acceptance of a new nature which wants to obey
God, and the acceptance of God's own Spirit, who Ezekiel said
would dwell in our new spirit, causing us "to walk in" God's
"statutes" (Ezekiel 36:27). Paul also had to answer the foolish
arguments of those who did not understand, of those who said we
could "continue to sin that grace might abound." If we have
living faith and love for God we can respond as did Paul: "How
can we who died to sin still live in it?" (Romans 6:2). There are
a few phrases which tend to cause confusion; but with a little
prayerful thought they are quite clear. One we shall cover here:
"For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under
the law but under grace. What then? Are we to sin because we are
not under law but under grace? By no means!" (Romans 6:14-15).
Again, some take the phrase "not under law but under grace"
to imply that we have no relationship to "Law" or Torah. This
cannot be in the light of II Timothy 3:16,17 and all the other
verses we have previously recorded. The context makes this verse
clear. The key word is under. The Law is no longer a tyrant of
condemnation to us. We are not under the condemnation of the Law.
We are not in bondage and fear, seeking to obey the Law through
our own power as a way to please God, which is impossible. This
becomes wonderfully clear if we substitute Paul's own definition
of sin, since the Law defines sin - "therefore by the deeds of
the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by
the law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20) - or, as John and
James say, "sin is the transgression of law," or "law breaking"
(I John 3:4; James 2:8-10).
Let us then paraphrase: "For law-breaking will no longer
have dominion over you since you are not under the condemnation
of the law or a system of works righteousness, but under grace.
What then? Are we to 'break the Law' because we are not under law
but under grace? By no means!" (Romans 6:14,15).
It is the same teaching as in Ephesians 2:8-10. "For by
grace you are saved through faith, and not that of yourselves. It
is a gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast. For we
are his workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua, for good works,
which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."
And in Titus 3:5, "Not by works of righteousness which we
have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing
of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Ghost."
Often we hear Romans 10:4 quoted out of context as well.
"For Messiah is the end of the law, that everyone who has faith
may be justified," The word "end" here is "telos," not "finis."
Telos includes the idea of goal or purpose rather than the finish
What does it mean to say that Yeshua is the "telos" of the
Law? In Romans 9:31, Paul says the problem is not that Israel
pursued the Law, but that "they did not pursue it through faith,
but as if it were based on works." Israel's problem was not that
they pursued the Law, but the way they pursued the Law. In
context, Messiah is telos in these senses:
He is the personal embodiment of a human life lived in
spirit and truth according to Torah standards. He is the living
Torah. He is the goal of Torah, the perfect life to which holy
standard and sacrificial sytem had pointed. He is the finisher of
the misuse of Torah as a system of works-righteousness. When we
believe in His sacrifice, we understand the true purpose of the
Law was never to be a system of merits by works.
The "telos" of the Law, however, can never mean doing away
with the Law since the cardinal rule for interpreting Scripture
is that the true meaning of a passage must always be understood
in the light of the whole of the Bible! Scripture is a consistent
revelation from the infinite personal God of the universe.
I believe that we shall find Scripture to bear out this
exposition. Salvation is "by grace through faith" indeed! Yet God
is a God of Law, of principle upon which basis the universe
rests. God himself could save us and yet be righteous according
to His own standard of justice only by the righteousness of the
Messiah and His death for our sins. We are counted as righteous
in Him (Romans 3:26).
So we also hope with the prophet, "for out of Zion shall go
forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Isaiah
(AMEN to this understanding of the Law and Justification: the Law
defines sin; if there is no Law since the cross, then there has
been no sin; and if there has been no sin, there has been no need
for a Savior. To teach the Law of God was "abolished" at the
cross is gross theological gibidy-doo and theology from planet
Pluto - Keith Hunt)
PAUL AND ISRAEL
The preoccupation of much religious preaching today is
personal peace and happiness. The desire for God is really part
of a desire that He might make us happy. Fellowship with God is
the greatest joy and treasure to be enjoyed by human beings.
However, God desires us to lose our self preoccupation and be
enveloped in prayerful intercession for the salvation of the
world. Every person won by the Good News or by the coming of
God's Kingdom to earth through the reign of the Messiah Yeshua in
us is a fulfillment of God's real goal and burden on our hearts.
Therefore, God seeks to have us fulfill this burden in our own
witness and prayer for our immediate contacts - neighborhood and
city. If our hearts are knit with him we shall hear the Word,
"God so loved the world" (John 3:16).
Great saints have at times understood that the full coming f
of God's Kingdom and the hope of every creature hearing the Good
News are tied up with God's purpose of manifesting Himself
through Israel. Thus, Rees Howells interceded and prevailed after
years of prayer for the state of Israel to be formed. So
Messianic Judaism believes in a crucial future for
Israel. Furthermore, Messianic Judaism itself may somehow be
significantly related to the future. One of the keys to
understanding all of this is Paul's teaching on Israel,
Romans 9-11 are the central chapters in the Pauline writings on a
theology of Israel.
The ninth chapter begins with Paul's statement of his great
burden of sorrow and anguish for Israel.
Surely this was a prayer burden. He even says that he could
wish himself cut off for their sakes. Furthermore, Paul fully
recognizes Israel's national calling and in the present
continuous tense says that they have "the sonship, the glory, the
covenants, the giving of the law, the worship and the promises;
to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to
the flesh, is the Messiah" (Romans 9:4-5).
Paul then goes on to state, however, that not all who are
descended from Israel are spiritually considered to be Israel.
This is the doctrine of the remnant, an important concept which
we must unpack. Then he responds to those who would accuse God of
injustice in the matter of Israel's failure as a nation to
embrace Yeshua as Messiah.
Romans 9 seems like a very "harsh" chapter; it concerns
itself with Israel as a nation. It is not speaking of the
opportunity for individual salvation. In the affairs of nations,
God's wisdom goes far beyond our intellectual capacity. We cannot
accuse God, for "who are you, a man, to answer back to God?"
(9:20). Then Paul gives a lesson in pottery, a lesson greatly
misunderstood. He names several vessels: wrath, mercy, honor and
dishonor. Honor was a beautiful vessel, chosen to be displayed
for pouring water to drink, etc. Dishonor was a vessel which did
not come up to such a high standard of beauty; it was used to
wash feet or for other menial uses. The potter makes the choice
as to which vessel he will make, but both are needed. Mercy is a
vessel which breaks in baking, but is repaired and rebaked. If it
stays together it will be used, a vessel of mercy. If it does
not, it is a vessel of wrath or destruction. Note that Romans
says that "God endured with much patience the vessels of wrath
made for destruction" (9:22).
Any judgment by God took place after much long suffering.
The mercy of God to Jews and gentiles is even more pronounced in
the light of this; and despite our sin, we are vessels of mercy
made for His glory. All of the decision, however, must be left up
to God's sovereignty. Now that Paul has boldly asserted this
sovereignty, he can delineate some considerations in the Spirit
which reveal God's continued purposes in Israel.
First are prophetic intimations. In Hosea, we see that God's
relationship to different groups changes: "Those who were not my
people I will call my people" (Hosea 2:23). Isaiah in his day
(10:22-23) says that only a remnant would be saved from war's
There are other reasons, too. One is that Israel pursued the
Law in the wrong way, as a system of works-righteousness. Israel
did not succeed because they did not "pursue it through faith,
but as if it were based on works" (Romans 9:32). This produced an
attitude of self-righteousness whereby Israel, "being ignorant of
the righteousness that comes from God, sought to establish their
own" and did not "submit to God's righteousness" in Yeshua
(10:3). Hence the gentile, who did not have the pride of the Law,
was more capable of seeing his need and submitting to God's
righteousness than was Israel which, in a self-righteous pursuit
of the Law, did not see their need!
In addition, the Gospels clearly show that Israel expected
the Messianic king to defeat their enemies and set up His
worldwide reign of righteousness from Jerusalem. This is
certainly one of His roles. However, so preoccupied were the
Israelites with this image of the exalted King Messiah, that
there was little room for another Messianic visitation in which
the Messiah's role would be a suffering servant who bears the
sin, grief and sickness of the world as a dispensational step
toward His reign. The Messiah king would die a shameful death on
a cross of wood: "cursed is he that dieth on a tree" (Deuteronomy
21:23; Galatians 3:13), which was more than many Israelites could
accept. Yes, that curse was in identity with us, for us, and in
our place. Yet only God's Spirit could open up hearts to this
truth, for this message was a "stumbling block" to Jews, a
scandal! (I Corinthians 1:23). To the reasons for the Jewish
non-acceptance of Yeshua, we can add the importation of pagan
elements into institutional Christianity - even if such elements
were rebaptized and changed.
In addition, there is the almost unbroken persecution by the
institutional Church for 1,900 years, despite the fact the
non-Jewish followers of Yeshua were counseled in Romans 11 to
make Israel jealous for their own Messiah by great acts of love
The incredible capstone to Paul's argument is found in
Romans 11:1. as God rejected his people? By no means! Paul points
to himself as proof that God has not rejected Israel. What
meaning this must have in the light of Paul's own recollection of
his past as a persecutor of "the Way!" Indeed, there were 7,000
more than Elijah realized who were true to God in his day (1
19:18)! "So, too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen
by grace" (11:15). This remnant should not be thought of as
excluding the rest of the nation as God's elect, but as a first
fruit pointing to the eventual salvation of the nation as a
Paul quotes the prophets and David to show that the lack of
response on Israel's part was foreordained. The whole situation
of Israel and its pursuit of righteousness by works (in Chapter
10) now brings God's judgment. For now, Paul states that Israel's
unbelief is an act of God as well. "But have they stumbled so as
to fall? By no means" (11:11). The Greek here implies, "is their
stumbling fatal, an irretrievable fall?" Paul's answer is an
emphatic "No!" Israel shall yet have its day! However, their
trespass in not recognizing the righteous way of God in the
Messiah is the means by which "salvation had come to the
Gentiles" and "riches to the world" (vv.11-12).
What could Paul mean by this? Why would Israel's unbelief
have anything to do with gentile salvation? The historical
context of the Book of Acts makes this clear. Whenever posssible,
in each town to which Paul traveled, he went first to the local
synagogue. Some Jewish people accepted the Good News of Messiah,
but the majority usually rejected the Gospel. However, Gentiles
came in large numbers when they were given the opportunity to
know the God of Israel without the barriers of circumcision and
the Jewish national lifestyle being required of them.
Let us note Paul's controversy with the Judaizers. These
Jewish followers of Yeshua taught that gentiles could not be
saved unless they were circumcised and kept the Law of Moses.
With great difficulty, the apostles prevailed (Acts 15) and
refuted this view. Many Jews did accept the Gospel - myriads
according to Acts 21 - as well as numerous Gentiles; yet these
believers were still greatly a minority in Israel. Part of this
minority doggedly hounded Paul and the gentile converts. The
problems they brought about are addressed in Paul's epistles.
What if instead of a minority, the majority of Jews had accepted?
The percentage of Judaizers was not small. In every major city
there was a large Jewish presence, not to mention the powerful
Jews of the land of Israel. One to two million it is estimated
were in the land, four to five million in the Diaspora. Imagine
the pressure for the Judaizing viewpoint from three to five
million Jews "all zealous for the law" (Acts 21). This would have
been a huge barrier to the Gospel among the gentiles who were not
called to be part of the nation Israel. Now we see the sense of
Paul's words; but once the purpose of hardening has been
accomplished, "how much more will their full inclusion mean."
Jewish rejection also caused an intensified effort in preaching
Paul would see Israel made jealous for their own Messiah
through the riches gentiles had received by the grace of God; so
he "magnifies" his ministry. Here comes a semi-climax in the
"For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world,
what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? If the
dough offered as first fruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and
if the root is holy, so are the branches" (Romans 11:15-16). As
the first fruits sanctify the whole harvest, so Israel as a whole
is sanctified and will some day be accepted, as evidenced by
Jewish believers who are first fruits.
In other words, Paul foresees the acceptance of Israel by
God, and this event will mean the resurrection of the dead and
the establishment of the Kingdom of God over all the earth. Paul
breaks off his argument for a moment and now anticipates the
possible response of gentile converts.
He likens the community of salvation to an olive tree. Some
natural branches were broken off, not all (v.17), and wild
branches were grafted in, that is, non-Jews who had no
"cultivation" as a covenant people. Paul warns them not to boast,
but to stand in awe, for the root of salvation history in Israel
supports them, not they, the root. They are to stand in awe, for
if God did not spare natural branches, He will not spare them
unless they stand in humble faith. Now Paul begins an argument
again in relation to Israel. In v.23 we read that, "God has the
power to graft them in again ... how much more will these natural
branches be grafted back into their own olive tree?" And this is
exactly what will happen:
"Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand
this mystery, brethren, a hardening has come upon part of Israel,
until the (fullness) of the Gentiles and so all Israel will be
Again we are amazed to learn that some take "all Israel to
be saved" as meaning the Church! How would this destroy
non-Jewish conceit? Indeed, such an interpretation makes the
whole argument of the chapter superfluous. Certainly the
salvation of the Church is not at issue here, but the nation of
Israel. Could Paul quickly change terminology here and, after
speaking of Israel, all of a sudden be speaking of "spiritual"
Israel, the equivalent of the Church? Incredible! The rest of the
chapter looks toward things which totally refute this false view.
Paul quotes Isaiah 59:20-21, that "the Deliverer will come to
Zion; he will banish ungodliness from Jacob and this will be my
covenant with them when I take away their sins." (Romans
To Paul this will still yet happen; for the New Covenant we
are under shall be confirmed to all of Israel. "As regards the
gospel they are enemies of God, for your sake, but as regards
election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For
the gifts and call of God are irrevocable" (Romans 11:28-29).
Israel is still elect of God. Elect for what? To witness
that God is creator and the One who established them as a nation.
Sabbath and Passover reflect the call of Israel. In Israel's
preservation, the world sees the faithfulness of God. As a
nation, Israel shall yet be God's instrument in gaining His rule
over all nations. There will yet be a large minority in Israel
which will witness to the truth of the Good News.
Mention should be made here of the phrase "fullness of the
Gentiles." It could mean until all of the Gentiles are saved who
will be saved. Or it could parallel the phrase "fullness of
Amorites" in Genesis 15:16. This implied the fullness of the
stored up iniquity of the Amorites, whereby it would be the right
time for Israel to be used as God's instrument of judgment in
history. This phrase could parallel the one in Luke 21:24.
The iniquity would consist of all godless wars, killing, murder
and rebellion against God. Even more, God said, "I will bless
those who bless thee and curse those who curse thee" (Genesis
Surely, the period of Auschwitz when 6,000,000 of our people
were slaughtered while nations watched in apathy has brought
God's judgment. Israel's history in the Diaspora, although a
severe discipline, has also been a test for the nations; and we
can discern in the historical maltreatment of Israel a
corresponding correlation in the decline of the nations and
people who acted unjustly. Israel's prophetic purpose thus
continues even in the age of Diaspora; but now that Israel is in
her own land, as predicted in Scripture, one can even now hear
the steps of Messiah approaching.
Paul concludes his chapter by reviewing the course of
history. First, Israel is obedient, then disobedient while
gentiles are obedient; then Israel is again obedient. The reason
for all this? That God may have mercy on all! Only words of
praise can now leave the apostle's lips. "O the depth of the
riches and wisdom and knowledge of God" (11:33).
Nothing in Paul's teaching here blunts the truth of
Messianic Judaism - or that Jewish followers of Yeshua may still
maintain a glorious call as part of their people in their witness
to the world and in a personal witness to Israel of salvation in
One other issue must be briefly discussed: Does Paul use the
term "Israel" to refer to the Church, including non-Jews who are
in Yeshua? Is the Church "the new, true spiritual Israel," as one
person put it? Many who hold that Paul might have used the term
"Israel" of the Church, argue that the Scriptures retain a
definite place for national Israel.
It is this author's view that the terms "spiritual Jew" and
"spiritual Israel" are never used by Scripture to refer to
non-Jewish believers in Yeshua. This has been thoroughly argued
in many articles.
We have already concluded that Romans 11 does not use these
terms in this sense. Romans contains an often quoted verse,
though, which is thought by some to refer to non-Jewish believers
as spiritual Jews.
"For he is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true
circumcision something external and physical. He is a Jew who is
one inwardly and real circumcision is a matter of the heart,
spiritual not literal. Its praise is not from men but from God"
There is no reason to think that the "real Jew" within the
verses is a gentile who has a circumcised heart toward God. The
word "Jew" is related etymologically to the word "praise." Paul
is saying that if a Jew is to be a praise to God and is to truly
fulfill his destiny, he must not only have external circumcision
but the circumcision of the heart. This is what Moses told the
people in Deuteronomy 10:16-17: "Circumcise, therefore, the
foreskin of your heart and be no longer stubborn."
Indeed, the uncircumcised externally (the non-Jew) who keeps
the Law will condemn the circumcised who do not. The true Jew,
however, is one who has both circumcisions. Romans 4 is a key to
making the proper distinction. Here, gentiles who accept the
Gospel are called the children of Abraham by faith. They are not
called the children of Jacob or Israel.
There is a reason for this. The gentile has a glorious place
in God's eyes when he turns to God. Like Abraham, he is not
descended physically from a people under God's primary covenant.
He is justified by faith without being first circumcised. His
life parallels Abraham's more than Jewish people who are simply
physically descended from Jacob. The promise of blessing through
Abraham rests on faith - both for the adherents of the Jewish
Laws (Israel) and for those whose lives parallel Abraham's
(Romans 4:16). As we study further, we find that non-Jewish
believers are the spiritual seed of Abraham or children of
Abraham by faith!
Spiritually, the gentile convert is no longer a gentile,
especially in any sense of the word "pagan"; but neither is he a
Jew, although his spiritual status before God is equal to the
Jewish follower of the Gospel.
Galatians 6:16 states, "Peace and mercy be upon all who walk
by this rule, upon the Israel of God." However, it could as well
be translated and upon the Israel of God, distinguishing those
Jews who did not follow the false teachings of the Judaizers.
Enough has been said to establish our view that calling the
Church "spiritual Israel" is not biblical terminology.
"Commonwealth Israel" would be a more accurate term (see
Ephesians 2:12, R.S.V.). It reflects that gentiles have been
grafted in but do not replace Israel proper. Yet they have become
part of the commonwealth under the Messiah's rule. Besides these
few passages, the whole of the New Testament is silent on any
such use for the term "Israel." This silence should cause us to
forego the use of the term "Israel" to refer to the church.
To be continued
Romans 9-11 make it very clear that we still have the physical
Israelites, and that God is working a plan through them; some
relatively few are called to salvation today, the rest are
blinded. But one day salvation will come to ALL Israelites, in
the plan of salvation for the whole world. There is still a
people of physical Israel that will fulfill God's plan for them.
The writer does not know the truth of who are ALL Israel - the
Jews are only 3 tribes at the most - the other 10 so-called
"lost" tribes of Israel, are not lost at all. They have become
most of the nations of the West, and Joseph has become a nation
and company of nations - the British Commonwealth and the United
States of America, as we prove in other studies on this website.
We have today the "church" from all peoples of the earth, and we
have physical Israelites, and those physical Israelites will
still yet in the future fulfill their destiny as a people in the
age to come, as well as go on to salvation.