Derek Prince - A Concern For Israel
This is the first of four teaching sessions in which we will be working through Romans chapters 9, 10 and 11. We will work through them systematically. You’ve been provided with an outline which will help you to follow, and you need an open Bible in front of you if that’s at all possible. The title of these four sessions is The Destiny of Israel and the Church. Their central theme is God’s sovereignty and grace operating through His choice. I want to say those words again because they are vital. God’s sovereignty and grace operating through His choice. These are great central truths of the New Testament, but according to my observation, very few contemporary Christians really have laid hold upon them.
There’s a kind of wide gap in the understanding of Christians today. If I could use a little comparison, much of the church is like astronomy was before Copernicus, when people still believed that the sun revolved around the earth. And you remember it was an intellectual and a religious revolution before the truth could be established that the earth revolves around the sun. Before that, man’s view of the universe was earth centered, and because of that, there were many other areas that he couldn’t accurately measure or understand. Why do I say that? Because I think many Christians have a view of God which is man centered. They view Jesus Christ as somehow revolving around us and there to meet our needs and answer our prayers and do what we want. That is a totally distorted picture of God.
Thank God, Jesus is there, He does answer our prayers, He does take care of us, He does love us and provide for us, but we are not the center. Jesus Christ is the sun, and our little earth revolves around Him. And when you put that in the center of your picture, many other things fall into place which you cannot accurately understand when you’re viewing everything from a self-centered perspective. I have taken a little time to define the word sovereignty. Again, that’s a word that’s very little used amongst contemporary Christians. My definition of sovereignty, which is a sort of simple down-to-earth definition, is that it means this: God does what He wants when He wants, in the way He wants, and He asks no one’s permission. I think I’ll say that again. I meet a lot of Christians who really think God needs their permission to do things in their life. So, that’s sovereignty. Just try and see how you adjust to it. God does what He wants when He wants, the way He wants, and He doesn’t ask my permission and He doesn’t ask your permission.
Now, there is a contrary philosophy which is also a kind of religion which is very prevalent in our contemporary society, it’s called humanism. And humanism says man is at the center. If God does anything, He has to get our approval. And if we don’t approve, God oughtn’t to have done it. That’s not a new philosophy. Actually, by my background I am a professional philosopher. I spent many years studying Greek philosophy and other philosophies. and I was qualified to teach them at the university. And If you go back to about 600 BC, the first Greek philosopher of whom we have any recorded sayings there were not many, but his shortest and pithiest saying was, Man is the measure of all things. His name was Heraclitus. That’s precisely humanism. So, it’s not new, it’s just come back to the surface.
So you have two opposing views of the world and of life. The Biblical view: God centered. Everything begins with God and ends with God. The humanistic view which has infiltrated the church, as a matter of fact, to a remarkable extent, which is: God needs our permission before He does anything. And if we don’t like what He does, we’ll withhold our permission. I don’t know exactly what difference that will make to God but that’s the attitude. Now, I’ve selected a number of key verses from these chapters, that’s chapters 9, 10 and 11, which kind of pick out the main themes. If you have your outline in front of you, it’s on Page 7. I’ll just go through them rather quickly. Romans 9:11 That God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls.
You see, that’s God’s sovereignty. It happens because God chose. And God didn’t choose because we earned it or deserved it, He just chose because He chose. I want to ask you this question: Do you trust God to choose? It’s a very important question in your life. I’ll tell you one way that I learned how important it was. Just about 15 years ago God called my first wife home, Lydia, after we’d been married, living happily, and serving God together for almost 30 years. That was the hardest single blow, the most painful experience that I have ever yet had to endure. As I was in the midst of deep grief, I thought of the words of Job when he said, The Lord gave and the Lord took away. The Holy Spirit posed this question to me: If you trust God to give, do you also trust Him to take away? And I saw that it was completely illogical if I only trusted God to give and not to take away. If I believed He did the right thing in giving Lydia to me, then I had to believe He did the right thing in taking her in His timing.
I know that some of you have been through bereavement. When I minister to widowers or widows, I always empathize with them in a special way. Maybe that’s a question that some of you need to ask of yourself. Do I trust God? Do I trust His choice? Do I trust His timing? When you can come to the point of trusting Him, you’ll be a very much more peaceful person. The second key Scripture is Romans 9:16: So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. Ultimately, it’s not our effort, it’s not our cleverness, it’s God’s mercy. I feel this kind of silence inside of you at that moment. I feel that some of you scarcely ever faced that issue. The results that really matter in your life don’t come with all your efforts or all your cleverness; they come because God is merciful. And you see, it’s good because we can much better trust God’s mercy than we can trust our own cleverness.
The third scripture, "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one who believes." Many of us are familiar with that Scripture but many of us have not really applied it in our religious lives. We’re still somehow trusting in keeping a set of rules to achieve righteousness with God. And, it doesn’t work. I was in this auditorium, I believe, if I remember rightly, about two or three years ago, and I was preaching on these issues and without really planning what I was going to say, I said, Of course, Christianity is not a set of rules. And I looked at the faces of the people in front of me and they were shocked. I think they would have been less shocked if I said there is no God. But, Christianity is not a set of rules. What is it? That’s another question.
Romans 10: 9 If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved. That’s the most important single piece of information you need in your whole life: How can I be saved? And that’s the answer. Then in Romans 11: 5 There has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. That’s the NASB translation. More literally, according to the choice of grace. And we’re back again, it all depends on God’s grace and His choice. And then 11:22, words that are desperately needed in the contemporary church: Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness, otherwise you also will be cut off.
See, there’s a lot of preaching that really only deals with God’s kindness. But, there’s another side to God, that’s severity. And it’s the way we relate to God that will determine which side of God we see. Then, Romans 11:29 For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable. Once God has given something, He never withdraws it. Once God has called someone, He never withdraws His calling. And finally, what is really a summation of these chapters: For from him [that is God], and through him, and to him are all things. Everything starts with God, is maintained with God and ends with God. Now we’ll go into a more detailed review of these chapters. If you want to follow in your outline, we are now on Page 8. I don’t quite know how we got as far as Page 8, but that’s where we are.
Now we’re dealing only with chapters 9, 10 and 11. Often theologians and preachers have referred to these chapters as a digression or a parenthesis. Just dealing with Israel as a sort of side issue that really isn’t of importance. There’s nothing in the chapters whatever to support that view. Furthermore, as I’ve already pointed out, right in the middle of chapter 10 you get God’s answer to the most important question in human life How can I be saved? That’s in the middle of chapter 10. How ridiculous to call that a parenthesis or a digression. I am not Jewish but I have to say in my opinion to classify those chapters as a digression or a parenthesis is an expression of Gentile prejudice. That’s really what it is.
God’s dealings with Israel, which are the main theme but by no means the exclusive theme of these chapters 9-11, provide a historical demonstration of many vital spiritual principles which apply equally to Christians. They’ve been outworked in the history of Israel, they’re part of recorded history, but they’re there for our benefit because they're same principals God hasn’t changed His principles the same principles are working in our lives. We need to know them. They concern us vitally. Now we’ll go into the actual chapters and I’m going to deal with them in short sections, reading from the chapters and then commenting on them.
So we begin now with Romans 9, beginning at verse 1. We need to bear in mind that the chapter divisions were not in the original letter. They were put in by a translator, I think, in the 16th century as were a lot of other things. In the original text there are no capitals, there are no periods, there are no paragraphs, there are no new chapters. I perfectly understand it’s important for modern readers to put those things in, but you have to bear in mind that they’re subjective; they’re not necessarily correct, they’re just the best that the translator could do. And so, we should not make too big a gap between chapter 8 and chapter 9, do you understand? Chapter 8 ends with this glorious conclusion that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ.
And then Paul goes on with what is a remarkable contrast. He actually says, I wish I could be separated from the love of God for the sake of my fellow Israelites. But, of course, God doesn’t agree to that. Here is what he says I think you need to understand that Paul has always been viewed with real hostility by the Jewish people. A lot of Jewish people say Jesus we can accept but Paul. And one reason is they consider him to be a source of anti-Semitism. And even in his own life he was bitterly persecuted by the Jewish people because he was taking the gospel to the Gentiles. And his own Jewish people felt that he was taking something that belonged exclusively to them and giving it to people whom they considered to be very inferior and unworthy.
If you study the life of Paul as revealed in the New Testament, you’ll find that that was the main reason why he was persecuted by his own people. He was making a speech on the steps of the Roman castle after they tried to kill him in the temple in Romans, I think, chapter 21. And when he spoke Hebrew to them, they listened carefully and with great attention until he came to the place where Jesus had told him to go to the Gentiles. And then they shouted out, threw dust in the air and said he’s not worthy to live. So, you have to bear in mind that Paul who deeply loved his own Jewish people, had this tremendous burden all through his ministry that they regarded him, in a sense as a traitor.
And so, here he begins this chapter by declaring his complete commitment to the well-being of his own people. You have to understand it from that background. I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit [something he takes very seriously], that I have great sorrow and increasing grief in my heart. What’s the cause of his sorrow and his grief? For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh He was so deeply concerned about the condition of his fellow Jewish people that he said, I could wish that I would become lost if God could accept them in my place.
That’s an amazing statement. I think there are only two men that have ever felt that way. The one is Paul, the other is Moses. Two of the men whom God used as much as any other man to fulfill His purposes. And it speaks to me as someone called to the ministry that one of the conditions for doing what God wants done is a real burden for the well-being of God’s people. Keep your finger in Romans 9, you’re going to need your finger pretty frequently, and turn to Exodus chapter 32, which is the scene after Israel had made the golden calf. Moses had to go up and intercede with God on their behalf.
Exodus 32 verse 31 and following: Then Moses returned to the LORD and said, Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. But now [and he’s speaking to God], if thou wilt forgive, forgive their sin and if not, please blot me out from the book which thou has written!’ [Blot me out of the book of life. God’s answer is worth listening to] The LORD said to Moses, Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot him out of my book. Do you think that still applies? I think God has only one book. I think it’s very rash to assume automatically that because of some event in your past your name remains indelibly in the book of the Lord. At any rate, Moses and Paul, as far as I know, were the only two men who had that intense devotion to God’s people that they were willing to become lost if that could bring salvation.
Of course, it couldn’t. There was only one person who could do that. Who was that? Jesus, that’s right. He did what Moses and Paul wished they could do but could not. I’m returning now to Romans 9 verse 4, where Paul describes his fellow Jewish people. He says who are Israelites And I’d like you to observe that in almost every place, with perhaps one or two exceptions, where Paul in these chapters uses Israel, it would be absolutely impossible to apply the words to the church. Here’s why. Because he’s writing about his fellow Israelites who are lost. That’s his deep grief. And then he describes what makes them a special people, which was God’s dealings with them over a period of, shall we say, two thousand years. And he speaks about eight specific, distinctive privileges which Israel enjoyed.
As I read these verses, see if you can pick out the eight privileges. Beginning in verse 4: who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Messiah according to the flesh Did you pick out the eight? Shall we go through them briefly? Number one, adoption as sons. And when the Lord was telling Pharaoh to release Israel in Exodus 4 verse 22, he said: Israel is my son, my first-born, let him go that he may serve me. Then he said to Pharaoh: If you do not let him go, I will demand your first-born. That’s what happened, of course, on the night of the Passover.
So there is God’s declaration, Israel is my son, my first-born. First-born amongst the nations. Then the second thing is the glory, the visible manifest presence of God. In various forms: as a cloud, as a fire, and so on. Then covenants. All the covenants of the Bible were originally from Noah onwards were revealed to Israel. The giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. That’s number four, I think, isn’t it? Number five, the temple service. Number six, the promises of God were all given to the Jewish people. Number seven, whose are the fathers, the patriarchs. And then number eight, from whom the Messiah came according to the flesh. According to His human nature, Jesus was a Jew. And then it says of Jesus: who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. So there is one of the various places in which Paul specifically gives the title God to the Lord Jesus Christ.