A sad example of the way Scripture can be distorted, even, with the best intentions, is shown in the treatment of Rom. 11:25 by a well-known expositor.
He tells us, rightly, that the complement of the Gentiles is: that company from among them "which God began to call out when He sent Peter to the house of Cornelius in Acts 10. At that time God began what is fittingly called a visit to the Gentiles for the purpose of taking out of them a people for His name. See Acts 15:14. This company from the nations was called in relationship to God's kingdom purposes, as Paul emphatically declares in 1. Thessalonians 2:12."
So far, so good; but then he goes on to say: "This was a work that God was doing in the Acts period, and the partial blindness of Israel at that time was related to this purpose. This work of taking a people from among the nations to serve God in the next stage of His kingdom was complete when Paul reached Rome."
Even leaving out the fact that "blindness" is an incorrect word in this context and that "insensitiveness" is the best rendering; this assertion is misleading in the extreme. Let us assume, for the moment, that it is correct. Then it follows that, when Paul reached Rome, Israel's insensitiveness ceased and the complement (or fulness) of the Gentiles had entered. No other conclusion is possible (on the assumption that the statement quoted is correct) unless Rom. 11:25 is itself incorrect.
But this expositor goes back at once on his own words. He immediately adds; "God was then ready to lift Israel's partial blindness, unveil the Lord Jesus Christ, and bring in the next great stage of His government." But Rom. 11:25 says or implies nothing to support the idea that insensitiveness in part had happened to Israel until God was ready to lift it. There is nothing whatever about God being "ready" either there or in the context. God will not act until He is ready; but that hardly needs saying, for God never does. The moment of crisis, which will bring about the lifting of Israel's insensitive ness, is the entering of the complement of the Gentiles; and this did not happen when Paul reached Rome and has not happened yet, as our existence here testifies.
Nothing "was complete when Paul reached Rome." He had then to carry out his mission to the Jews there, which he did; and then he had to spend "two whole years" there, "heralding the Kingdom of God and teaching that which concerns the Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 28:30, 31). His Kingdom work was most certainly not complete when he reached Rome.
If God was at that moment ready to do something else, why is Acts silent about His abrupt change of plan and why is no reason given for it? The plain answer is that God was not ready to do these things. Re was neither ready to lift Israel's partial insensitiveness nor to carry out to completion the necessary preliminary to that lifting, namely, to ensure that the complement of the Gentiles came in. They have not come in even yet, nearly 1900 years after!
We are next told, in an explanation which explains nothing and is a flat contradiction of Scripture: "But this was all suspended in order to make way for the present demonstration of God's grace." It would be incredible in any other kind of study that a statement so completely wanting in factual basis could be made seriously. The lamentable truth is that in theological writing such wild assertions are not the exception but the rule. Here one can only ask the reader who believes them to go through the last quarter of Acts and note down the passages in it referring to:—
In an attempt somehow to justify his contentions, this expositor adds: "There is no partial blindness upon Israel today. Her blindness is total, and it has been total ever since the salvation of God was sent to the Gentiles as declared in Acts 28:28." How he knows this is not stated, nor does he explain how and where Acts 28:28 mentions Israel's 'blindness' or Israel's insensitiveness or states that it became total there and then. It would be as well if expositors of 'Gentile origin were to bear in mind some words written just before Rom. 11:25, namely vv. 20, 21:—"Be not haughty, but fear. For if God spares not the natural boughs, neither will He be sparing thee. Perceive, then, God's kindness and severity! On those, indeed, who are falling, severity; yet on thee, God's kindness, if thou shouldest be remaining in the kindness: else thou also wilt get hewn out," Israel's condition is sad enough as things are, and it ill becomes Christians from the Gentiles to try and make her out to be any worse than she is.
At last we come to a statement which, being a truism, is indubitably true: "When God takes up His dealings with her again, it will not be to restore her to the condition of partial blindness," This is so, because it is impossible to "restore" anyone to a state in which they already are. But, unfortunately, it has no relevance to the situation. Since Rom. 11:25 is still true now, it is manifestly impossible to restore Israel to the condition in which she is. Nobody can restore to solvency one who is already solvent, or make a person partly blind when he is partly blind already. But what we are to think of the blindness of one who can write such a thing is. another matter. All this proves is the blinding effect of pre-determined theory when it is held with such tenacity that at all costs facts have to be forced to conform to it.
Insensitiveness in part came to be on Israel at a moment some time before Romans was written; i.e. some time before the end of the history recorded in Acts and therefore before the pronouncement of Acts 28:28. It will last until the complement of the Gentiles may be entering. This change heralds the saving of all Israel—the actual words of Scripture are: "And thus all Israel shall be saved." To say that this change has already taken place is to deny the truth of the secret which Paul here revealed.
As we might expect, this mounting wave of error at last reaches a climax: "The purpose for which a blindness in part came upon her has been fulfilled. God has His complement (fulness) from the nations. .. The truth declared in Romans 11:25 does not explain Israel's present blindness, but it does explain her blindness in the Acts period," So, according to this expositor, the complement of the Gentiles has already entered. If so, there is no more need for us to proclaim the Evangel or expound the Scriptures, for no more Gentiles remain to be brought in. It is just as well to know where we stand!
R. B. WITHERS. Last updated 18.3.2006