Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1998.
This is the latest volume in the publication of Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ (MLJ) masterful expositions on Romans which he preached between 1955-1968, and which have been published one volume at a time since 1970. This latest volume, which contains sermons preached in 1964-65, did not disappoint, but continued the uniform excellence of the series. Like the rest of the volumes in the series, this one contains several fine summaries of both the entire epistle up to this point (Romans 1-11, pages 257-258) and of the section in which we find the chapter which is the subject of this volume (Romans 9-11, pages 3-5, and again on pages 224-227). So if you haven’t read the preceding volumes, you can easily get your bearings with those summaries.
In chapter 8 of Romans, Paul had set forth the assurance that God will bring all of His people safely to salvation, and that nothing could stand in the way. “I am persuaded, that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities….shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:38-39). But an objector might say: what about the Jews? Doesn’t the fact that Israel rejected its Messiah mean that God’s plan for the Jews has failed? Not at all, says Paul. First, he himself is a Jew. Then there is the principle seen throughout the history of Israel, that God never intended to save every single Jew. Rather there is the principle seen in a key verse, 9:6: “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.” The remnant principle shows that there has always been a body of elect individuals within Israel which God would bring safely to salvation, a spiritual Israel within the natural or national Israel. And in chapter 10, he shows how disbelieving Israel was responsible for their own condemnation, because they rejected the righteousness by faith which God offered, but instead sought to establish their own righteousness (10:3). He begins chapter 11 by saying: “Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham…God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew” (11:1-2). So God’s promises to Israel are still being fulfilled to the remnant, for Paul says: “ Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” (11:5).
But then Paul advances the argument as he reveals a “mystery”:
“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery…that blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved” (11: 25-26).
With a background in dispensational teaching, I was particularly interested to see how MLJ would handle verse 26, and the concept of whether Israel has a part in God’s plans for the future.
So MLJ says:
My contention is that the Apostle raises this whole matter because he has been dealing with the glorious doctrine of assurance at the end of chapter 8. He has been glorying in the certainty and triumph of the purposes of God. But, with regard to the nation of Israel they seem to be contradicted and to have gone entirely astray if the gospel is true and if the church is the people of God …And the first part of the Apostle’s reply is that there is another Israel, a ‘spiritual Israel,’ within the natural Israel…that there has always been a remnant according to the election of grace (pages 225-226).
But you see that is not the whole story…in 11:25 he says, ‘I am going to let you into the secret. I have received a revelation. I am speaking as a prophet. I am not arguing any longer.’ He had been arguing in terms of the Old Testament. He says this is no argument, I give you a revelation. The mystery which he is revealing is, as we have seen, that Israel as a whole is going to be brought in. Now my contention is that there is no contradiction at all between what he says at the beginning of chapter 9 and what he says here in chapter 11 and especially towards the end. It is not a contradiction, it is an addition…There is no reason whatsoever for saying that the true Israel must always be a remnant. All Paul is saying is this, that this has often been the case. It was the case when he was writing, it would continue to be the case ‘until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in ‘ (verse 25). Then it would not merely be a remnant that would believe, it would be the whole of Israel. ‘All Israel shall be saved’ (verse 26) (pages 226-227).
So MLJ believes that God still has unfulfilled plans for national Israel. At some time in the future, before the second coming of Christ, the bulk of the nation of Israel--Israel was a whole, not just a small remnant within it—will be brought to saving faith through God’s sovereign grace. God is not through dealing with the nation of Israel, with the Jews, with the physical heirs of Abraham.
As a sidenote, MLJ contrasts his view with dispensationalism as follows:
What Paul is concerned about is the salvation of ‘all Israel.’ He does not say anything about the future of the Jewish nation from any kind of governmental point of view, nor even in terms of the land of Palestine. That is not what he is talking about. He is talking about its salvation and Jews are going to be saved in exactly the same way as everybody else…They will come into the church in exactly the same way as every one of us has come in—namely by repentance toward God and by faith in Jesus Christ (pages 186-187)
And then, in contemplation of this plan of God and of His grace, Paul closes chapter 11 with a wonderful doxology to the “depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God” (verses 33-36).
There were several subjects dealt with in the book which I would like to point out as worthy of particular notice:
1. The doctrine of judicial blindness, dealt with in chapter 5 (pages 35 ff.).
2. The imprecatory Psalms, dealt with in chapter 6 (pages 45 ff.).
3. Principle: the warning passages of scripture are the way God actually secures the perseverance of His saints (page 145).
4. The difference between history and prophecy, according to Charles Hodge: History gives the details of what happened; but in prophecy, great events are foretold, but the mode of their occurrence, their details, and their consequences can only be learned by the event (i.e., when they happen, or following their happening) (page 228).
5. Three principles in interpreting prophecy (pages 227-229).
This is a great book, like its predecessors in the Romans series. So, check it out!