Before the event narrated in Matt. 13:14, 15, salvation was of the Jews. Everything centred around Israel. Outside of Israel there was no evangel of any sort. Men who believed God could approach Him only through Israel. Those who desired to adore the infant Jesus had to travel to Him, to the Land of Israel. If they desired to go further along the pathway of faith, the only line of approach for them was through the Temple, the offerings, the Law, the Levitical priesthood, and then only as proselytes.
Yet, even so, at the very start there was a hint, in some measure a type, of a different state of affairs. The very first event to happen after the birth of the Lord Jesus was the arrival of the shepherds of Israel followed by the coming of the magi from the East to Jerusalem and thence to worship Him at Bethlehem. In these two events, Israelites were first, then the magi from the Gentiles. This intervention by Gentiles instantly aroused the enmity concealed behind a false appearance of faith in the ruler of Israel; and. this forced the departure of Joseph and Mary with Him to Egypt. This surely is a type of what was to come: the rejection of the Lord Jesus and His saving work being sent to the Gentiles. Eventually Herod's decease occurred and then the return of the Lord Jesus to the 'Land of Israel, "for those who are seeking the little Boy's soul have died." Such is the eventual doom of His enemies.
We must not, however, press this very far, for the spirit of Egypt is as hostile to the Lord Jesus as Herod was. This comes out in the last reference to Egypt, in Rev. 11:8; where the great city Jerusalem is being, spiritually, called Sodom and Egypt. The spiritual state of sinful mankind, apart from grace, is the same throughout. What makes the great city and its people worse than the others is that they have added to their sins the further sin of turning against the greater light which was given them. So Joseph was able to find relative security in Egypt from the danger which Jerusalem threatened; and so also had the Apostle Paul to turn from Israel to the Gentiles.
Throughout our Lord's earthly life the line of approach to God for Gentiles was through Israel and through the Law; and, as was later revealed in Romans, the Law is producing indignation; and in Galatians; the Law was added on behalf of the transgressions (3:19) until the Seed should come. Thus, the Gentiles were throughout in an inferior position to Israel, since they had to approach through Israel; and in no way a superior position, seeing that they too had to come under the dominion of the Law or not at all. The Law was a disability; and continually so, because it was inescapable and its effect was always to produce indignation.
Always was it true that covenant standing and privilege really depended on faith, though Israel never appreciated the fact; and always was it true that righteousness was out of faith, as Abraham's righteousness was: but in the period between Abraham's covenant and the pronouncement of Matt. 13:14, 15 the door of faith was in practise open only to those who sought it along the lines of covenant and the Law. God was merciful to the individual of the Gentile'! who was of faith" but He had bound Himself to admit nobody to the full privileges of faith except through covenant and the Law. Any of the Covenant People who wished to could enter into these full privileges—though, needless to say, they could take advantage of them only in and through faith.
But at Matt. 13:14, 15 the situation changed abruptly. Those who were of faith remained as they were before; but for those who were not of faith the door to privilege and to salvation was barred. They were automatically set back to exact equality with the Gentiles who were not of faith.
So matters continued until after the death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus, Pentecost, and the unlocking of the Kingdom, first to Jews, then to Gentiles. These events prepared the way for something new, a repetition and expansion on an enormous scale of what Abraham found (Rom. 4:1). Abraham's faith and its effects could now operate for all who were of faith, whether Jews or Gentiles; because covenant and the Law had ceased to be the complete barrier they had been. To the Jew they had been a barrier because, unless he saw that faith came first and that they were no substitute for faith, they had become for him in practise an impediment. To the Gentile they had been a barrier because they imposed prior conditions of approach to God which Gentiles (by the very fact that they were Gentiles) could not fulfil except by the long and tedious process of becoming proselytes, if so be that an opportunity presented itself.
Perhaps those who have previously found themselves unable to understand the relevance of Romans 1-4 to the Evangel will now have a better appreciation of its meaning. The great aim of these chapters so far has been to explain the relation between faith and righteousness, whatever the circumstances of those who are of faith. For us, their main importance is to show how those who have no claim on God may yet have access to Him, and achieve His righteousness, in faith. But it is necessary also for us to know how others, under covenant and the Law, may approach Him, because only thus .can we fully understand our own case.
There is, however, an important corollary to these facts. Scripture does not deal with theoretical questions unless corresponding practical questions exist and require their elucidation. If it Was worth Paul's while to write about how God's Evangel concerns those under covenant and the Law, it must be because either there are, or else there will be, people who will receive the Evangel under covenant and the Law. But we find in several places in his epistles that Paul's own Evangel is incompatible with such, conditions, that the Old Covenant is vanishing away, that the New Covenant is yet to be concluded and, when it is, will be with the houses of Israel and Judah (Heb. 8:8-12). The state of affairs envisaged by Paul and the writer of Hebrews regarding such people did not exist then and does not, and even cannot, exist now. Therefore, it must be the case that the present form and conditions of the Evangel are only temporary and that, some day, they will be superseded by covenant and the Law, and with the Covenant People once more pre-eminent. So we may deduce with absolute certainty that the present conditions will end and, what is more, the conditions set out in Matt. 13:14, 15 will end also. This deduction is amply confirmed by Scripture; but I need not, I trust, set out the passages, of which Rom. 11:12-32 is the chief, and the numerous prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures which cannot possibly be fulfilled unless this is true.
As regards the time of this change, no century, year, day or hour is disclosed. That the fullness of the Gentiles will be gathered in is foretold in Romans 11; how in 1. Thess. 4:13-17. That some day the Temple will be rebuilt is implied in 2. Thess. 2:4 and the Revelation. Daniel shows the sacrifices and the offerings will take place once more, for their cessation in the midst of the 70th heptad is foretold. Dr. Bullinger demonstrated in his book on the Apokalypse that there is no room for the church which is Christ's Body among these events. All this places our departure before they can begin. This, however, is not the place to go into the question, which I have already discussed elsewhere.
Recently, in an influential ecclesiastical newspaper, a clergyman of the Anglican Church has objected to a rule of his church that Rom. 4:8-14 should be read from January 1st to the 5th. He claims that it is entirely irrelevant to the life of those to whom he has to read it. He also claims that it is unintelligible to them as well; but that is his fault for not understanding his job. What he contends amounts to this-that what the Apostle Paul teaches about the Evangel in Rom. 1-4 is irrelevant and unimportant. If he is correct, what I am writing in this series is worthless also, and we might as well scrap it, with Romans and Galatians as well; and indeed everything that Paul wrote, for those chapters are the foundation of the whole lot.
Such men are blind leaders of the blind. They presume to claim to be preaching the Evangel while they do not know even what the Evangel is! For one thing; the word "righteousness" is found ten times altogether in the four Gospels (Matt. 3:15; 5:6, 10, 20; 6:1, 33; 21:32; Luke 1:75; John 16:8, 10); and not even one of them gives the slightest clue to how righteousness is to be attained or achieved. If a man desire righteousness, he can search the Gospels from end to end in vain: he must turn to Paul or abandon the quest.
Perhaps some may likewise search the Gospels for the references in them to the word "evangel" or "gospel" ; but they will not find anything in them to match what the Apostle Paul tells us about it. The reason for this is perfectly plain: it is not there. The Gospels are written to tell us about the Lord Jesus, not how to grasp that for which we were grasped by Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:4-16).
Let us get this point quite clear. I am not trying to make out that the way of righteousness cannot be deduced from or squared with what is taught in the Gospels; but simply that it is not set out in them, and that it is set out in Paul's Epistles. To work out for oneself the material of the first four chapters of Romans, solely from the data supplied in the Gospels plus the Hebrew Scriptures, would require transcendent spiritual insight; and it is a matter of experience that those who base their whole teaching on the Gospels and virtually ignore the Epistles never attain to what is revealed in Romans or use it and the other Epistles in any other way than as a collection of isolated texts.
Moreover, it is impossible to achieve a full understanding of the Gospels without first achieving a very considerable, if not a full, understanding of the Epistles as a whole.
Few realise this, yet the fact stares us in the face from the pages of the Gospels themselves that the oral teaching of the Lord Jesus did not produce even one convert to stand beside Him in the last terrible hours. Some loved Him enough to come to His cross; none had sufficient faith, THEN, to endure the cross as well. The reason is, as He tells US Himself, that many things remained to be taught which He could not tell them then. Where are these to be found but in the Epistles?
Although He was the Way, no man could follow until He had opened it Himself. To go back to the Gospels alone is to go back to the start of a Way which had not been opened up. This is plainly set out in the 9th, 10th and 11th chapters of Hebrews, an Epistle which, like Romans, is obsolete in the eyes of our very clever modern teachers who control the preponderating churches in our days.
Always Paul stands pointing to faith as the only effective way to righteousness. Gentiles, pursuing righteousness, overtook righteousness—yet righteousness out of faith (Rom. 9:30). But the only declared way (in a sense, official, way) for any of mankind was through the Law and the offerings of the Law; and that was never an effective way, as it led to indignation, because the Law had to be kept in full, else the consequences were even worse than if it had not been kept at all. So those following the Law who did attain to righteousness did not do so by their following of it. but in a sense as a by-product of their unavailing efforts to pursue righteousness-law: in fact, they achieved righteousness not because of the Law but because of their faith. But the Gospels never say this. They do commend faith and declare its effectiveness; but they do not commend it as the key to righteousness.
Where we are—some of us—better off than any of faith in those early days, whether Gentiles or Israel, is that we possess what Paul revealed in Romans. Those people happened Upon righteousness because they had happened upon faith. They, as it were, groped in the dark, and found; but we need not be in the dark, that is, unless we have been grossly deceived by the false teachers of Christendom and thus prevented from having effective access to Paul's Epistles. If we fail to achieve righteousness, it is not because we cannot find the way of faith, but because we prefer to pursue law-works, to pursue an idea which by its very nature must continually outstrip us even more effectively than it outstripped Israel.
Yet this is the way which the false teachers repeatedly present to us. They give us exhortations from the Gospels, which by their very nature cannot be complied with directly, except sometimes by those who have already achieved righteousness out of faith; and as it were whip their hearers on to a pursuit of righteousness-law similar to Israel's futile efforts. No wonder people get "Gospel hardened," even as Israel did.
Those who are familiar with the ripe wisdom of that great classic among children's books: "Through the Looking glass," will remember Alice's attempts to get away from the house and right into the garden. Each time she turned her back on it she immediately found herself approaching it. Then she wanted to talk to the Red Queen, but was advised to walk the other way. This sounded nonsense to her so she "set off at once towards the Red Queen. To her surprise, she lost sight of her in a moment, and found herself walking in at the front door again." So "she thought she would try the plan, this time, of walking in the opposite direction. It succeeded beautifully. She had not been walking a minute before she found herself face to face with the Red Queen, and in full sight of the hill she had been so long aiming at."
This is a wonderful parable of the Christian life. Only when we cease to bother about self, our own way, our own works, our own gladness and holiness, our own legalism and law-keeping, and turn our backs on our own things, can we reach our hearts' desire which is truly our own. Once we turn our backs on our search for our own righteousness, and abandon our aims, to seek instead for God's righteousness through Jesus-faith; we have at once, not what we think we want, but what we really want and need: righteousness which is truly our very own because it is first and last and all the time God's righteousness.
This helps to explain, and is in turn explained by, the opening words of Romans 9. At the start is set out the standing of the Israelite; and, lest any should be so foolish as to assume that this refers to some sort of supposed 'Spiritual Israel,' the declaration is sandwiched in between the phrases 'my kin according to flesh' and 'Christ according to flesh.' That which is according to flesh is what is in view here. There are no Israelites who are not so according to flesh. Let us get this fact perfectly clear in our minds at the start, and we shall not then go astray.
Having securely laid the foundation, the Apostle Paul can immediately build the superstructure which is so vital to the understanding of Israel's present position. He is explaining his sorrow and the fact that it is not as though the word of God has lapsed. The vital point is that it is not flesh which is the key thought, but promise. "The children of the promise He is accounting unto seed." Physical descent is indeed contemplated here, but also descent according to promise. Ishmael was Abraham's son as well as Isaac; but Isaac had something which Ishmael had not—he was born according to the promise.
All that follows, for three whole chapters, is concerned with the relation between Israel and the Gentiles while the Evangel of the uncircumcision is in force. Part of some people's trouble over appreciating this lies in a fundamental misunderstanding. They are inclined either to think that the individual of the Gentiles who receives salvation enters into Israel's heritage, or to think that Gentiles and Israelites are perpetually different in, every respect. This 'either-or' position is untenable. Righteousness which is out of faith is equally needed by the individual whether of the Gentiles or of Israel. So far, there is no difference whatever. Abraham's seed are not all children of the flesh, but the children of the promise are the seed; whether of Israel or Gentiles, and again there is no difference. Yet this does not confuse in any way the distinction between Gentiles and Israel; even though the righteousness is equally needed by both and is equally out of faith for both.
Where, then, is there any difference? The answer is simple. For the Gentiles the righteousness is conditional on faith and on nothing else whatever. It is an uncovenanted blessing, incompatible with law-works, tied to no conditions or observances and to no explicit obligations. For Israel it is bound to covenant, to the covenant sign circumcision (the peritomE), to obligation to know and to observe the whole law; it is still with these ties conditional on faith, but on faith which is inseparably bound up with law-works and which -can operate effectually only when law-works are carried out effectually. Those Gentiles who by faith, in reigning grace, become children of the promise do so in spirit only. They have no standing and no place according to flesh, except in the negative sense that their standing depends on the fact that they possess no fleshly standing.
The children of the promise who are also the seed according to flesh are Israel, even though now they exist as the chosen remnant only. The promises to them and the Law have not lapsed; they have simply ceased to operate because, as things are at the present time, there exists no standing which is according to flesh, for all such has been cancelled out at the Cross. But there is not a word in Scripture to say or even to suggest that this cancellation is permanent. If there were, it would mean that Israel also is permanently cancelled and reduced to nothingness. Many who call themselves Catholics do actually believe this; but with sound worldly wisdom they refrain from offering any precise Scripture references as proof of their view, for none exist.
In due course I hope to consider Romans 4 in detail. Mean-while the important point to observe is that it envisages two kinds of fatherhood of Abraham—that which is spiritual and not according to flesh in any way, that belonging to Israel which is according to flesh and spiritual as well. For us what is according to flesh and what is according to spirit are incompatible; for Israel in days to come they will be inseparable and will be gloriously sealed in the New Covenant.
That righteousness is out of faith, that the children of the promise God is accounting unto seed, that according to flesh certain things belong irrevocably to Israel—these are universal truths set forth in Romans and permanent in this present eon and the eon to come.
Whether righteousness is linked to covenant and its sign peritomE, circumcision, or free from all covenant obligation; whether that which is according to flesh has a standing and assured place, or whether it is cancelled utterly and completely; whether blessing is in flesh and spirit inseparably linked together or purely spiritual, terrestrial in scope and promise or wholly celestial—these wholly contrasted pairs of ideas are in polarity, so that one or the other is in force at any given time, but never both.
Failure to perceive this vital distinction is the cause of all the various aberrations which so distress and divide us. Instead of holding both sets of truths in polarity, people swing over erratically from one to the other, trying to match a fragment from one pole to another fragment from the other without discrimination or any attempt to see truth as a whole, so that a host of different and conflicting sects appears. Since the Apostle Paul alone discusses these themes, either Paul is in practise scrapped entirely, or the parts of his teaching which do not happen to suit the sect are ignored or openly denied, or Israel is relegated to permanent setting-aside. Only by regarding Paul's Epistles as a unity can the truth be understood and enjoyed in full.
The saving work of God is unchanging and unchangeable; but when it was sent to the Gentiles it began to operate in totally different conditions from the covenant relation which governs all God's dealing with His covenant People, Israel. First it came to Israel. Then it was sent to the Gentiles. It did not when sent to Israel turn them into something else, nor did it when sent to the Gentiles turn them into Israel. Gentiles can receive the saving-work only as Gentiles. Israel as a covenant nation is temporarily cast away, so the individual of Israel, the Jew, can for the present receive the saving-work only as one of the Gentiles, in ceasing to be a Jew; but it is not the saving-work itself which makes him of the Gentiles, but the present non-entity of covenant and circumcision. He can and. should receive the Evangel of the uncircumcision as the Apostle Paul did and become as he was in Phil. 3:7-14.
This brings us to the heart of the matter. We are apt to look on all these ideas as if they centred around two notions, , flesh' and' spirit,' and as if these two were by their very nature opposed to one another owing to their incompatibility. What makes the whole thing difficult to get perfectly clear is that our point of view is the truth—for ourselves at this present time. The mistake comes in the deduction that it is true for other people at other times.
There are not two notions to be held in view, but THREE: flesh alone, spirit alone, and flesh and spirit in complete and permanent harmony. For Israel, as God intended Israel to be and as Israel one day will be, flesh and spirit are not in conflict but in perfect harmony. For the present, Israel's standing is solely in flesh, which has failed; and our standing is solely in spirit; but present conditions, as regards terrestrial things, are abnormal. For the present, what there is of covenant itself is being nullified and in practice has ceased to exist,. because covenant has been completely broken by Israel; that evangel which is based on covenant, the Evangel of the circumcision, is overshadowed by an Evangel wholly incompatible with it, that of the uncircumcision. For the Apostle Paul and those who receive his Evangel, owing to the failure of the flesh all fleshly standing is to be deemed a forfeit (Phil. 3:4-6), being superseded by what is in spirit.
That Israel's standing is to be a complete concord of flesh and spirit is no mere deduction. It permeates Scripture from -God's covenant with Abraham to the closing chapters of Revelation. It is summed up in the terms of the future New Covenant (Heb. 8:8-12); and, immediately after he reveals the secret of Israel's insensitiveness, it is summed up by the Apostle Paul, first in Isaiah's words (Rom. 11:26, 27) and then from the standpoint of Paul's Evangel: "According to the Evangel, indeed, they are enemies because of you; yet according to the choice, beloved because of the fathers. For unregrettable are the graces and the calling of God." (Rom. 11:28, 29).
This final sentence of the quotation is the final and conclusive answer to all who teach that the state of affairs which forms the background of Romans 9-11 is a permanency. Those expositors who hold that this section of the epistle is what they call 'dispensational' are not far from the truth, for it deals with the relationship between Israel and the Gentiles during this period of reigning grace. In particular, Rom. 9:6, 7, though it will still be true afterwards, will no longer have any point; for when the New Covenant is concluded ALL Israel will be saved, none will be merely children of the flesh, for all will be children of the promise also. On this passage a doctrine of 'the Seed' has recently been built which seems in practise to restrict it to the seed according to flesh only. I do want to bring home here the point that it is not enough to found a doctrine on a single passage of Scripture without defining the limits of time and circumstances within which it holds good. Always we are in danger of flying to extremes. Faulty though. it was in some ways, 'dispensationalism' did us one service beyond price: it taught us not to assume that because something is true or in existence at one point of time and in one set of conditions, it must necessarily be true or in existence at other times and in other conditions. Because it over-emphasized time boundaries and thus went to excess, some are now tempted to the other extreme and are going back to the old error that there is nothing in Scripture corresponding to what we called 'dispensational' changes. For truth's sake, for our own sakes, let us keep to that middle path which is the only way of truth and sanity. By all means let us reject without hesitation what is faulty in 'dispensationalism'; but do not let us be so foolish as fa reject what is sound and true. Such extremism is, and always has been, the bane of Scripture research. New truth does not destroy old truth.
It is as well here to study the occurrences of the expression 'according to flesh.' It is found 21 times in Paul's epistles. and perhaps also in Acts 2:30. Unfortunately there is some doubt about this latter, as two readings exist. In English the longer form reads as follows, the doubtful words being enclosed in brackets: "Having perceived that God swears to him with an oath, out of the fruit of his loin, (according to flesh, to raise the Christ) to be seated on His throne: perceiving this before, he speaks concerning the resurrection of the Christ." In order to make sense with the bracketed words omitted, the C.V. substitutes "to seat One" for "to be seated." The wording of Ps. 132:11, of which this is a free quotation from the LXX., is equally indefinite, though it is hard to see how it could have been otherwise. Bagster's translation of the LXX. reads: "of the fruit of thy body will I set a king upon thy throne." There is no "One" in the Greek, and even with it the clumsiness of the sentence should be a danger signal.
The longer reading consists of six words: "to kata sarka anastEsein ton christon." Note that "anastEsein" is future infinitive active, so "to be seated" must be understood as future also. Many modern critics reject the bracketed words, regarding them as an ancient marginal note which slipped into some texts. Even so, it is undeniable that the longer reading makes good sense while the shorter is so elliptical that it has to be manipulated in translation. And even then, the net result implies the longer reading, which certainly guards two points, that it is the Christ Who is in view, and furthermore that it is the Christ according to flesh. One objection is that the six Greek words are tautological; but "according to flesh" certainly is not, and of the undisputed words "perceive" occurs twice and "with an oath" does not seem to add much except emphasis to "swear"; whereas "according to flesh" does definitely add something to "loin"; and if it can fairly be objected to here, would not such an objection be even more valid against its double appearance in Rom. 9:3-5? If it is necessary to add something anyhow, why should it be tautological to read "the Christ," which reading is "what is obviously meant? The Companion Bible tells us that "the texts" have the short reading. This is a very biased comment; for, as Bloomfield points out, only a very few MSS have the short reading and the quotations in the Fathers about cancel one another out. To say more here would be to raise a very large question, but to those who follow the modern preference for the generally briefer readings of the oldest extant uncials I would commend the sound rule of the C.V. "Introduction" (p. 36), which accords with the experience of all who have to call upon the services of shorthand-typists: "Omissions are easily made: restore them. Additions are rare: weigh them." Here the weight of evidence, and common sense too, suggests that the six Greek words are an omission, not an addition, and ought to be kept.
If I may add a personal comment here, I would like to say that I have had extensive experience with shorthand typists both for ordinary and also highly technical matters, and I have found that, even with the best (and very good they are) omissions are far more common than additions, and that their additions are almost invariably repetition of words or phrases or whole lines, and seldom make sense, and never add anything material to the matter drafted for them or dictated to them. Additions to be meaningful have to be deliberate. Perhaps the outstanding instance of this is 1. John 5:7.
The fuller reading of Acts 2:30 links up with Rom. 9:3-5, where "kata sarka" occurs twice and very significantly, and also with the first occurrence in Paul's epistles, Rom. 1:3. "God's Son comes of the seed of David according to flesh. Rom. 4:1 refers to Abraham "our forefather according to flesh," and the question arises: Who are the persons designated by "our"? I suggest that from Rom. 3 : 1 to this point, "we" and "our" refer to the Jew, primarily at any rate where general matters are in view and exclusively in Rom. 3:31 and 4:1, as indeed the context indicates.
In 1. Cor. 1:26 we are told that there are not many wise according to flesh. In 1. Cor. 10 : 18 the Corinthians are referred' to Israel according to flesh in order to illustrate Paul's argument. In 2. Cor. 1:17 he asks if his plans are according to flesh; in 10:2, 3 he speaks of those who reckon us as walking according to flesh and says that "walking in flesh, we, are not warring according to flesh"; and in 11:18 he speaks of the many who are boasting according to flesh. In Gal. 4:23 he contrasts the maid begotten according to flesh with the free woman through promise; in 4:28, 29 he refers to Isaac and his persecution by one generated according to flesh. In Eph. 6:5 he exhorts slaves to be obeying their masters according to flesh, and this exhortation is repeated in Col. 3:22.
By contrast, the expression occurs in Rom, 8:1, 4, 5, 12, 13 in a very different sort of context, and in the third of these it is expressly contrasted with those who are according to spirit. Also these five are in harmony with the two remaining occurrences, in 2. Cor. 5:16. We no longer know Christ according to flesh now; we belong, in fact, to a new creation.
If those who are so anxious to make out that in Christ we have come to be of Israel, or in some way never clearly explained a "spiritual Israel," would only study all these passages they would surely see their error and definitely and decisively turn away from a doctrine which bears all over it the brand marks of being "according to flesh."
Mr. N. J. Weins, in The Roundtable for March-April, 1947, pp, 21,22, has attacked the Compiler of the Concordant Version for his notes on 1. Peter 2:10 and Rom. 9:25, 26. Both passages contain a quotation from the Prophet Hosea, and comparison of the ways of the two apostles in dealing with it is most instructive. This distinction is subtle and delicate, but Mr. Weins manages in a heavy-handed way to ruin it and in so doing to contradict himself. The C.V. Note to the former reads (the emphasis on "But" is my own to point the contrast):—
"The phrases 'not a people' and who 'have not been shown mercy' are usually referred to the gentile nations, in contrast with Israel. This passage is then adduced in favour of applying Peter's epistles indiscriminately to all men at all times, especially to the present ecclesia which is Christ's body; But a closer consideration will show that this passage proves the very opposite, for it quotes from the prophecy of Hosea who speaks of the sons of Israel, and cannot possibly be interpreted of any other people."
Mr. Weins's comment is:—"Correct, except for the injected 'but,' because both titles refer to the same people, the one recognizing their covenant standing, the other their lo ammi status during the era of their alienation." In other words, the C.V. Note is correct, for both descriptions, 'not a people' and 'Israel' refer to the same people; but according to Mr. Weins incorrect for the same reason. At least, that is what he seems to mean, for the 'gentile nations' certainly are not and never have been Israel, as the Scriptures testify throughout. Nevertheless, it is only right to say that Mr. Weins elsewhere seems to identify them; for on the same page he writes of "the two factions of the race of Israel during 'that era' (Eph. 2:12) of their division." Of course no proof is offered: we are expected to "see" that the statement is true, in defiance of the plainly visible fact that the passage says nothing of the sort. However, it is for Mr. Weins or those who follow him to explain and justify his words—if they can.
As it stands, his statement is wholly irrational; yet he does not scruple to launch a further attack:—"Had the editor seen this he would not have had the trouble revealed in his Note on the same quotation in Rom. 9:25, 26, where Paul uses it to identify the called residue out of the nations. But since such an admission would have ruined his divisionist Abeyance Parenthesis theory he had no alternative but to call it a mere 'illustration.'" But Paul says nothing in Rom. 9:24 about any "called residue out of the nations." His actual words are:—"us, whom He calls also, not only out of Jews. but out of Gentiles also"; that is, himself and the Romans, both of Jewish and Gentile origin. Then from Hosea he makes a quotation which (as Peter shows) refers to Israel alone, and extends it illustratively to cover all God's people ("AS He is saying in Hosea also"). But this extension is not in Hosea's words themselves: there is not a trace of any such thing. Paul was writing Scripture, so he could with propriety add to existing Scripture. But you and I are not writing Scripture, so in no circumstances ought we dare to add to it, as so many expositors do, and as Mr. Weins in effect does. There are two reasons why you and I must never attempt such a thing. First, we are neither apostles nor prophets. Second, even if we were, we would need a special commission to write Scripture. This is obvious when we ask ourselves how many of the known apostles appear as the authors of the Scripture books. Third, the canon was completed some 1900 years ago. To make any sort of attempt to add to God's Word is the extreme of presumptuousness.
It is interesting to note that the call here is "not only out of Jews but out of Gentiles also." This effectively answers those who foolishly claim that the Jews are not Israel.
Mr. Weins then goes On to write:—"That Paul's Old Testament quotations are not intended for illustration but to show their fulfilment is clearly established in the second Corinthian epistle, chapters three to seven. The saints, being participants in the blood of the new covenant (1. Cor. 11:23-26) are here shown the manifold blessings accruing to them from the dispensation of that covenant, including the mercy and grace of God so long denied them (Hos. 1:6; 2. Cor. 4:1; 6:1, 2). Then follows a condensed list of promised blessings (6:14-18), concluding with the statement (7:1): "Having" then, these promises, beloved. .." Note that these people were 'of the nations' (1. Cor. 12:2)."
This is a typical example of the kind of exposition which makes extremely positive statements buttressed by textual references which have nothing whatever to do with them. The reader should examine the passages quoted for himself. What Paul actually states is: "For you are temple of God living, according as God said. . . ." Here is a plain application to them of something that was promised to others, namely, to Israel. Mr. Weins virtually admits the fact in his closing "Note," only he seeks to conceal it by quoting the C.V. mistranslation of 1. Cor. 12:2, which properly reads: "when you were Gentiles." Some of God's promises to Israel can and do, through His grace and in spirit, though not according to flesh, flow out to God's people from the Gentiles; but such an application is emphatically not their fulfilment. Why, indeed, should Israel be robbed of them? If we wish to see fulfilment of prophecy stated, we can turn to Matthew's Gospel, where "that it might be fulfilled" occurs nine times.
Mr. Weins does not conceal his real aim. He writes:—"There are those who speak of a national as distinct from individual salvation. But the aim of God's present salvation is the creation of a nation, that holy nation which fleshly Israel vainly dreamt of being but which the gospel has shown. to be formed of all the saints whom it has brought individually out of darkness into His marvelous light (1. Peter 2:9). God recognizes no other nation as His than the one now being created by His spirit, in truth and in righteousness." Further on he tells us of God's calling in Rom. 11:29:—"That calling is one of the seven unities listed (Eph. 4:3-6). Its members are the sole heirs of God, being joint heirs with Christ. Their realm is the world. . . ."
This deliberate and audacious attempt to twist Scripture into teaching that members of the body of Christ are really' Israel condemns itself. The passages already quoted in which the words "according to flesh" are found with reference to Israel apply to Israel according to flesh only, and will be consummated in the terrestrial glory of Israel according to flesh and truly according to spirit as well. Mr. Weins's system is a double robbery; for not only does it deprive Israel according to flesh of the promises which definitely and unalterably belong to them according to flesh; but it robs us, who once were Gentiles in flesh, of the promises which exclusively belong to us in spirit.
No apology need be made for dwelling on these wrong headed ideas at such length, for they afford a valuable illustration of the follies to which departure from the strict words of Scripture can lead and thus are important for our present discussion. Nowhere does Scripture speak of Israelites becoming Gentiles in flesh or according to flesh, but it does speak of an individual's circumcision becoming uncircumcision. So far as covenant rights and standing are concerned, that amounts to the same. thing—but only so far. Israel never becomes Gentile in flesh. By breaking their covenant completely they become as if they were Gentiles in losing their circumcision, but not actually Gentiles. This cuts both ways. While it destroys the Jew's covenant standing it also removes the obstacle to his salvation as a sinner without claim on God. As Paul did, by repudiating what is according to flesh he can receive what, in spirit, belongs to Gentiles alone. While this is Pauline truth, it is by no means exclusively so, for it is stated in part in Acts 15:11. It is important also to bear in mind that although Paul repudiated his circumcision in flesh and his Jewish standing according to flesh, he never became a: Gentile; but passed into a state in which there are neither Jews nor Gentiles, circumcision nor uncircumcision, but instead new creation.
Sometimes in these papers Israel has been treated as non existent in the present period; elsewhere in this chapter "the relationship between Israel and the Gentiles during this period of reigning grace" is referred to. The contradiction is only apparent. So far as God's dealings with humanity are concerned, no Israel exists during the present time. They do not exist as Israel, as the Covenant People, as a Nation which has a claim on God and on whom God has the claim that they continue to keep His covenant "as a going concern," so to speak. But they DO exist as Israel according to flesh, as people who have abandoned their God and crucified their Messiah, on whom the words of Isa. 6:9, 10 have been pronounced, on whom insensitiveness in part has come to be until the complement of the Gentiles may be entering. Unless we clearly keep this distinction in mind, we cannot escape confusion. Yet it is not difficult to produce some sort of analogy. A Frenchman or Spaniard by birth, or any other national, may betray his nation and be branded as traitor and outcast and forced to live in a foreign country. He has lost his nationality with its rights and privileges; but that cannot alter his ancestry and the characteristics it has implanted in him, and there is always a possibility that he may be pardoned and brought in again. Where the analogy breaks down is that, now, all Israel are "not My People," instead of merely isolated individual exiles; but the general idea is the same. Now they are cast away. Some day they will be received back.
But does all this necessarily mean that righteousness essentially linked to covenant and righteousness essentially ,severed from covenant cannot both exist together at the same time? That is to say, why should not one person receive righteousness as a Gentile and another receive righteousness under covenant as an Israelite?
This cannot happen at present because in rejecting Messiah Israel have repudiated their covenant standing. Nevertheless, this state of theirs is not permanent; for in days to come God will conclude the New Covenant with the houses of Israel and Judah. For that to be possible all Israel will have to be converted. So the saving-work of God will have already returned to them and the Evangel of the circumcision pro-claimed to them. When this begins to happen, does it necessarily follow that present conditions will have ceased?
Hitherto all "dispensationalists" have until recently unhesitatingly answered "Yes," and I agree with them; but this answer is now under attack. Although the subject is not, strictly speaking, part of the Evangel of the uncircumcision, on our understanding of it depends whether such an evangel exists at all. One peculiarity of the attack is that it is by suggestion rather than by direct argument, by inference from certain passages from Scripture rather than by what Scripture actually states in plain words. This makes it exceedingly difficult to meet, as all attacks by infiltration must be. It is arguable that we should therefore ignore the attacker until he chooses to come out into the open; but such a course is unsafe and unwise; so in due course it is hoped to deal with the problem in a separate paper.
"No longer 'blessed with faithful Abraham'; we must, if
So declares a well-known and much admired expositor. His
statement affords a most striking example of the technique of
conveying error by the half-truth, the false antithesis, and the
association of quite different ideas as if they were but varying
presentations of the same idea.
blessed at all, be 'blessed with all spiritual blessings in the
heavenlies in Christ.' (Eph. 1:3, 4).
"I, as a saved Gentile, have no more to do with the Abrahamic
covenant and the kingdom unalterably promised to Israel, than I
have to do with the law of Moses and with circumcision."
"As a saved Gentile" the member of the church which is Christ's body has nothing directly to do with the Abrahamic covenant, Israel's kingdom, the Law of Moses or circumcision. He requires to know about these matters in order to under stand that with which he actually has directly to do. Other wise they certainly are no concern of his. But it equally certainly does not follow that he has nothing to do with Abraham. This is obvious when we reflect that Abraham was 'a saved Gentile.'
This matter was discussed at some length in Chapter 10
(Vol. 16, No.5, p. 227, October, 1954). For our present
purpose the important Scripture is Rom. 4:9-12:—
"For we are saying, 'To Abraham the faith is reckoned for
If, then, we are no longer blessed with faithful Abraham, we
are, as this passage shows, no longer blessed in either of the ways indicated, either in circumcision or in uncircumcision.
Thus, then, the quotation at the beginning of this chapter
should have ended ". . . and with circumcision or uncircumcision"; for the essence of Abraham's blessing was that it
was in uncircumcision. This is stated twice in the Romans
passage, lest by any chance the point might be missed.
Thus also, if this writer is correct, besides these two ways
there must be some third way of being blessed which is ours.
His answer in the quotation is:—
righteousness.' How, then, is it reckoned? To him, being in
circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in
uncircumcision. And a sign he obtained: of circumcision—
seal of the righteousness of the faith which was in the uncircum-
cision—for him to be father of all those who are believing
throughout uncircumcision, for the righteousness to be reckoned
also to them; and father of circumcision—not to the Circum-
cisionists only, but also to those who are observing the funda-
mentals by the footprints of the faith, in uncircumcision, of our
". . . . we must, if blessed at all, be 'blessed with all spiritual
Let us therefore turn to Ephesians 1 and find out—if we can—
just how else this blessing comes to us.
blessings in the heavenlies in Christ.' (Eph. 1:3, 4)."
We find the first intimation in vv. 13, 14. It comes on "hearing the word of truth, the evangel of your salvation" in the Christ. And we are told that in Him on believing also we "are sealed to the Spirit of the promise, the Holy (Spirit), which is earnest of our inheritance, unto deliverance of the acquisition (or procuring), unto praise of His glory" (very literally). So we have, first, to believe the Evangel of our salvation; then we are sealed.
So far, so good. Eph. 1:15-23 goes on to Paul's prayer of thanksgiving for all this: their faith, and his desire that they should have wisdom's spirit and revelation in His realization, for them to perceive the expectation of His calling and other transcendent glories connected with it.
So far, so good; but still no clue as to how this (supposed) third way of blessing comes. Ephesians 2 goes on to tell what we once were. Then we come to a further item of these glorious revelations:—"Yet now, in Christ Jesus, you who once were far, were become near in the blood of the Christ. For He is our Peace. . . ." (Eph. 2:13, 14).
So far, so good; but still no clue as to how we are so blessed, or what we hear and believe. So we pass on to Ephesians 3 and the statement of the Secret in vv. 6-12. Here it comes—at last:—"through the Evangel of which I became dispenser." (Eph. 3:6).
So, after all, it turns out that we are back to where we started—the word of truth, the evangel of our salvation; the Evangel of which the Apostle Paul became dispenser. And, what is more, nothing further is to be found along these lines in Ephesians. We must, in fact, take it or leave it as thus summed-up.
However, to ensure that there can be no misunderstanding by any reasonable person, in Philippians we get a most clear and plain statement of Paul's past: "according to righteousness (that which is in law) becoming unblameable." (Phil. 3:6). Then comes what he did: "But what were to me gain, these I have deemed forfeit because of the Christ" (v. 7). Then why he did it: "that I should be gaining Christ, and may be found in Him; not having my righteousness (that out of law) but that through faith of Christ, the righteousness out of God, on the faith. . ." (vv. 8, 9).
Therefore: blessed with all spiritual blessings among the celestials means that we are blessed through Paul's Evangel.
Where is Paul's Evangel set out but in Romans, 1. Corinthians and Galatians in particular; in fact, in Paul's earlier epistles?
Where do we find righteousness through faith of Christ but in the first four chapters of Romans?
Where are we sealed as in Eph. 1:13 but in 2. Cor. 1:22; 5:5?
Where is our inheritance but in Rom. 8:17 and Gal. 3:29? The reader should go through the occurrences of klEronomia, inheritance, and klEronomos, heir, in Paul's epistles. He will find that the whole teaching about our inheritance rests firmly on Rom. 4:13-25—the very matter with which we are supposed to "have no more to do." There is no escaping this fact. The first reference to these words is in Rom. 4:13: "For not through law was the promise to Abraham or to his seed for him to be world-heir, but through faith-righteousness." Those with this faith-righteousness are heirs with him. Thus it is that we are God's heirs, joint-heirs of Christ (Rom. 8:17). Gal. 3:18, 28, 29 carry on the same theme, which leads straight into Eph. 1:14, 18. Col. 3:24 confirms this, and Titus 3:7 clinches the whole matter: "In order that, being made righteous by that One's grace, we should be becoming heirs, according to expectation of eonian life." One thing is absolutely certain: in all this it is impossible rightly to insert a wedge between Paul's earlier and later epistles.
Where do we find the expectation of Christ's calling but in Paul's earlier epistles. In the Prison Epistles we have, it is true, Phil. 3:20. We are awaiting a Saviour. Yes, indeed; but not very precise unless it is a reference to 1. Thess. 4:13-17 and to 1. Corinthians 15. And the citizenship is not in a void, so to speak, for in the same epistle (Phil. 1:27) Paul urges his readers to be citizens worthy of the evangel of Christ, which he does not define in the Prison Epistles.
Where do we find wisdom's spirit but in 1. Corinthians 1 and 2? The word "wisdom" occurs fifteen times in these two chapters against thirteen in the whole of the rest of Paul's epistles. Here again an examination of the word with the aid of a concordance will show how impossible it is to sever one set of his epistles from the other with reference to it.
Where do we find the idea of becoming near in the blood of Christ and of Him as our Peace save in Romans 5, which sets out the consequences of becoming righteous in precisely the same manner as Abraham became righteous? The word prosagOgE, access, occurs three times only: in Rom. 5:2; Eph. 2:18; 3:12. It binds Romans to Ephesians, not severs them.
Lastly, there remains the awkward fact that Paul's Evangel is referred to seven times in his earlier epistles, four times in the Prison Epistles, and once in 1. Timothy, which is of unknown date. However unwelcome this circumstance may be to those who want to sever the later from the earlier epistles, the fact remains that none of them have ever yet attempted to explain it away. So serious a stumbling-block is it that it is most carefully ignored.
In the face of all this, what can be said of those who presume to make such statements as that quoted at the start of this chapter? One hesitates to impute or even suggest any lack of candour on their part; but surely it is not unreasonable to demand a very clear and definite proof of anything so sweeping? Yet no attempt is made to prove that our spiritual blessings are not given either in circumcision or in uncircumcision. This is not surprising, for it is an impossible task; since all men must come under one heading or the other until they come to be in Christ Jesus (Gal. 6:15). Moreover any objection that this passage does, in fact, show that the blessing of those in Christ Jesus is neither in circumcision nor in uncircumcision, cannot be sustained. This is because it refers to those who are in Christ Jesus; but those who have not yet received the Evangel are not yet in Christ Jesus; so, while they are in that state, that is, while they have not received the Evangel, they must either be in circumcision or in uncircumcision. Furthermore, those who follow the teaching quoted at the beginning of this paper separate Ephesians "dispensationally" from Galatians, so they have no right to expect to be allowed to have it both ways and bring in Gal. 6:15 to support their case. Galatians either applies to "Ephesians believers" or it does not. If it does, then these "believers" are "blessed with faithful Abraham." (Gal. 3:9).
So, also, Romans either applies to" Ephesians believers" or it does not. If it does, then Romans 4 applies to them, and they have believed through the same faith as Abraham had and became righteous with the same righteousness as Abraham received. The way to Ephesians is ultimately via Romans. There is no other way; and even the extreme exponents of "dispensationalism " recognize this, though they minimize it as much as possible. Later on, we shall see that the direct way from Romans to Ephesians is via Galatians.
Do let us all refrain from minimising the importance of Abraham for us, for all of us; whether Gentiles who have believed God in uncircumcision or people of Israel who in days to come will believe God. For those of Israel Romans 4 will still be true. Like him they will believe God in uncircumcision, and a sign will obtain: "of circumcision—seal of the righteousness of the faith which was in uncircumcision"; for to all these he is "father of circumcision," that the New Covenant may be concluded with them.
This is the place in Scripture wherein is set out the fundamental unity between the diverse ways of God with mankind— the fatherhood of Abraham of all who are believing throughout uncircumcision, who have, no flesh sonship of him, but solely in spirit. and whose blessings are solely in spirit among the celestials—and the fatherhood of Abraham of all who, like him, will receive also the sign which he obtained, of circum cision and all which it implies. These means are utterly diverse in operation, but they both proceed from Abraham's faith and their ultimate basis is the same—faith-righteousness.
We cannot understand Romans 4 until we understand Romans 1 to 3; and we simply cannot understand the true meaning and inwardness of Paul's Evangel until we have a complete grasp of Romans 4. For what follows it in the epistle is rigidly and unalterably linked to it: "Being made righteous by faith. . . ." (Rom. 5:1). Those who are not made righteous by faith have no part in any of it, and those who claim that they have no part in Abraham cannot really understand how or why they have been made righteous, even though, in God's mercy they have been.
The foolish craving to cut adrift from Abraham, the first Gentile to receive faith-righteousness, leads to even worse folly when Galatians is under discussion. To avoid contentiousness, a very mild example which certainly cannot be set aside as foolish, may now be mentioned. It is a pamphlet recently received, which, though it contains interesting features, is largely spoilt by an underlying assumption that Galatians was written to Israel. Yet surely the outstanding fact about the Galatians was that they were essentially a Gentile assembly which, however, had come under the influence of Judaism? How this happened, we do not know and have no means of finding out; but we learn from Acts that, the party called Circumcisionist was very active and had a strong proselytising zeal; and it may well be (to say the least) that the circumstances in Galatia were very specially favourable for their activities.
Those influenced by Dispensationalism all tend to overlook the fact that the epistles of Paul were written to only a few hundred people, or at most a few thousand; whereas the facts of history and experience demonstrate that they were written for a vast company, among which we ourselves are numbered. A proportion of that company have, through temperament or through circumstances, a bias towards the sort of legalism against which Galatians was directed. They need to know the functions of the Law and the snares of legalism; we need to know these things as an integral part of our education in God's service. Without it we would be left defenceless, or largely so, against the legalists of every sort.
The author of the pamphlet, for instance, says of the
Galatians' inheritance of the promises made to Abraham:—
"This must be willingly given up, and renounced by Israelites
If this does not mean that Romans 4 must be given up before
anyone can learn the deeper truths which immediately follow it, words
do not mean anything. In this respect Israel was not in any way in a
different position from Gentiles.
before they could be identified with Christ and taught the
deeper truths of Romans 5 and 8."
The author of this strange statement almost certainly means by the promises, the special covenant promises; but he fails to perceive this point because he is apparently still bemused in mind with ideas of which the quotation at the start of this chapter is a sample. He has failed to ask first which of the promises must be given up, and why by Israelites and, presumably, not by Gentiles? Romans 4 demonstrates that one of them, righteousness out of faith, is for us all. Strange ideas, which like the quotation deny this, are like dry-rot in wood. They spread their filaments everywhere beneath the surface of the thinking of those who have been influenced by them. Such writings again and again reveal that their authors have failed to grasp the vital fact that Paul had no evangel for Israel as Israel and that he appealed to the individual Jew only in so far as that Jew was prepared to become a Gentile as Paul himself had done. The Evangel now is exclusively to sinners, to those who have no claim on God; and this automatically cuts out Israel; for the essence of the idea "Israel" is claim on God. It just is not possible for one who claims covenant rights to receive Paul's Evangel.
There is one text in Galatians which is sufficient to destroy finally any idea that the epistle is addressed to Israel: Gal. 6:12—"They are wanting you to accept circumcision. . . ." But no male of Israel at that time could accept circumcision, for the simple reason that he had already been circumcised as an infant. The same thing is true of Gal. 5:3. These two passages can be applied only to Christians of Gentile origin.
Then we have Gal. 4:21, "Tell me, those wanting to be under law. . .." No Jew would ever want to be under law, for he already was under law. The fact that some of the Galatians did want this proves that they could not have been Jews.
Yet it is Galatians 3 which is relied on for building their case by those who desire to make the epistle "Jewish." They fasten on "we were garrisoned under law" (3:23); "the Law has been our escort to lead us to Christ" (3:24); "we are no longer under escort" (3:25): carefully ignoring the antecedent "we" in Gal. 2:15, 16—"We, by nature Jews and not sinners out of Gentiles. . . we also believe unto Christ Jesus that we may be made righteous out of faith of Christ and not out of law-works." The first two occurrences of "we" are very emphatic, the third is included in the verb. There is also an unemphatic "we" in Gal. 3:14. It is very plain that the emphatic "we" refers to Peter and Paul themselves.
As already pointed out, Galatians is in one aspect a commentary on Romans 4 forced on the Apostle Paul by departure of some from the truth he there sets out. Those who write as if the Galatians were Jews are departing even further from the truth than did the Galatians themselves.
To speak of reaching "Ephesians via Romans" direct is to exhibit dangerous confusion of thought. The path to Ephesians is via Galatians; and, indeed, if Galatians had never been written there would be far more excuse for severing Paul's Epistles into two groups than there is now. Those who strive for this severance shut their eyes to the fact that Galatians definitely bridges whatever gap there is between the two sets. For instance, Romans and Galatians each name Abraham nine times, but the Prison Epistles not at all. But Romans refer to "circumcision" fifteen times, Galatians seven times and Ephesians only once; though the Prison Epistles together use the word seven times.
Nevertheless, we do not need to perform any word counting to demonstrate this characteristic of Galatians; and, anyhow, such enumeration without regard to the way words are used in the writings concerned can be very misleading. All we have to do is examine Galatians itself; and it speaks plainly enough. It starts with Paul on the defensive against Judaisers; going up to Jerusalem to justify his commission and explain the evangel he had received, and accepting the somewhat condescending approval from James with one token condition, obviously made just to emphasize the physical predominance of Jerusalem at the time, a condition so pointless and feeble as to be virtually a dead letter in that it is in any case a part of the duty of all Christians. Yet, without a pause in the narrative, Paul's spiritual predominance at once asserts itself, and continues to do so with steadily increasing splendour right through the epistle up to its crowning display in Gal. 6:14, 15.
These two verses are the twin foundations of the doctrine of the Prison Epistles. On the second is erected Ephesians 1, On the first Ephesians 2, on the two together the rest of the epistle. As Galatians 1 is embedded firmly in Acts and Romans, so Galatians 6 is embedded in Romans and Ephesians.
There are several places where righteousness and peace are associated together, and we shall discuss them presently; but this is the only one in which peace is directly associated with the verb dikaioO itself—not that this has a great deal of significance, for it is the basic idea of the word, not its particular form, which matters. Yet it has sufficient to draw our special attention to the passage; and it is particularly unfortunate that here there should be some doubt as to the true text. The MSS authority for the reading here given (echOmen) and the A.V. reading (echomen, present indicative, we are having) is fairly well balanced; so we are placed in the difficult position of having to determine on other grounds what the original reading probably was.
Some Commentators have introduced further difficulty by insisting that echOmen must be hortatory: let us be having; but it is far from clear that there is any "must" about it. The verb is in the Subjunctive Mood; and no clear reason appears in any commentary available to me for supposing that the ordinary force of this Mood is inadmissible.
The Companion Bible prefers to cut the knot rather than
attempt to untie it, by asserting:
"The R.V. 'let us have peace' is not warranted. The apostle's
No doubt, it is very nice to be so certain; but such a
pronouncement tells us no more than that the writer of it "knows his
own mind"; and we may well take leave to doubt whether he knows God's mind in the matter. So we are left with the
question: Does peace toward God follow automatically upon
righteousness, or is it something further which has to be
achieved? The only way to answer this is to examine the
conjunction of. the two ideas in the Greek Scriptures and see
what they tell us; and this we will proceed to do.
teaching is plain. Having been justified, therefore we have peace
The first is in Luke 1:75&79, in the prophecy of Zacharias: "To be offering divine service to Him in benignity and righteousness before Him all our days. . . ." and "In which He visits us—an uprising from on high—to shine forth to those sitting in darkness and death's shadow, to direct our feet into a way of peace." Very evident is it here that the peace does not follow immediately, still less automatically, from the righteousness. Nevertheless, it must be remembered that this is Israel's prophecy and that what is true for Israel is not necessarily true for those outside covenant; so we cannot with safety build anything on this passage by itself.
Second: John 16:8-10&33. This is all one speech, and again righteousness comes first, thereupon peace; but there is no immediate connection between them.
Third: Acts 10:35&36—Peter's speech when unlocking the Kingdom to the Gentiles: "Of a truth I am grasping that God is not partial; but, in every nation the one fearing Him and working righteousness is acceptable to Him. Of the word He despatches to the sons of Israel, evangelizing peace through Jesus Christ (this One is Lord of all!) ye know..." Again no immediate sequence.
Fourth: Rom. 3:21&17. "Yet now, apart from law, righteousness of God has become manifest, testifying by the Law and the Prophets" and "And a path of peace they know not." Here the order is reversed and there is a contrast between conditions with God's righteousness manifest and those with law-works, proving that those seeking righteousness with them cannot reach God's standards.
Fifth: Rom. 5:1, the passage under consideration.
Sixth: Rom. 10:3-10&15, 16. Here we are back on ground similar to Peter's speech: first, a discussion of righteousness, then: "'How beautiful the feet of those evangelizing peace.' But not all obey as regards the evangel." There is some doubt here over the correct Greek text, as some read "good" instead of "peace"; but neither reading helps us on our quest.
Seventh: Rom. 14:17. "For the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in holy spirit." The Kingdom of God is all these equally, and for those who are truly of His Kingdom there is no separation between the three. But still the question remains: Does the peace come immediately upon the righteousness?
Eighth: Eph. 6:14-16. "Stand, then, girding about your loins with truth, and putting on the cuirass of righteousness, and sandalling the feet in readiness of the evangel of peace." Here again, righteousness comes first; but the peace is clearly seen to be a separate element of the outfit essential for withstanding. It is very plainly not an appendage, so to speak, of the righteousness.
Ninth: 2. Tim. 2:22. "Be pursuing righteousness, faith, love, peace."
Tenth: Heb. 7:2. About Melchisedek: "first, indeed, translated 'King of Righteousness; yet, after that, King of Salem also, which is 'King of Peace.'" Personally, I regard this as decisive. Apart from the rather emphatic "after that," it would be possible to read it as meaning that being King of Salem was necessarily involved in being King of Righteousness, as a direct consequence. But epeita, after that, or thereafter, invariably involves a space of time, sometimes short, sometimes long, but always appreciable.
Eleventh: Heb. 12:11&14. "Now all discipline, for the present, is not seeming to be of joy, but of sorrow; yet, subsequently, to the Ones exercised through it, it is yielding peaceable fruit of righteousness. . .Peace be pursuing with all; and that holiness, apart from which no one will see the Lord." This adds its testimony to the other relevant passages.
Twelfth: James 3:17. "Now fruit of righteousness in peace is being sown, by those making peace."
Thirteenth: 2. Peter 1:1, 2. "Simeon Peter, slave and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those chancing upon equally precious faith with us, in righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ: May grace to you and peace be multiplied. . . ." Here again the peace does not necessarily follow on the righteousness.
Fourteenth: 2. Peter 3:13, 14. "Yet new heavens and new earth, according to His promises, are we hoping for, in which righteousness is dwelling. Wherefore, beloved, hoping for these things, endeavour, unspotted and unflawed, in relation to Him, to be found in peace."
I think these sum-up pretty well all that the Greek Scriptures have to say On the relationship between righteousness and peace. Though some shed no light on it, the others leave no room for doubt that, although peace is unattainable apart from righteousness, it does not necessarily follow from it, but needs to be sought and won by the working-out of God's righteousness in our lives. We may, then, safely conclude that the reading of Rom. 5 : 1 best in agreement with the rest of Scripture is as at the start of this paper, " we may be having peace toward God." So the first two verses may be rendered:
"Toward God" (pros ton theon) occurs 20 times, in John 1:1, 2; 13:3; Acts 4:24; 12:5; 24:16; Rom. 4:2; 5:1; 10:1; 15:17, 30; 2. Cor. 3:4; 13:7; 1. Thess. 1:8, 9; Heb. 2:17; 5:1; 1. John 3:21; Rev. 12:5; 13:6; but the reading of Rom. 4:2 is a little doubtful. It will be seen from these that the idea "peace towards God" is unique. The only things at all like it are "confidence towards God" (2. Cor. 3:4) "faith towards God" (1. Thess. 1:8) and "boldness towards God" (1. John 3:21).
"Peace" occurs 11 times in Romans, and the reader who cares to look into the matter will see that they form an Introversion, the first corresponding with the eleventh, the second with the tenth, and so on. Corresponding to Rom. 5:1 is 14:19, which reads: "Consequently, then, the things of that peace let us be pursuing, and the things of mutual edifying." Corresponding to 8:6 is 14:17; which read respectively: "For the disposition of the flesh is death, yet the disposition of the spirit is life and peace" and "For the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in holy spirit." It will be noticed that in 14:19 I have read "let us be pursuing" as Rotherham, Bloomfield, Alford and the New World Translation, and against the C.V.
The whole world desires peace, or says it does; but few there are who are willing to seek it in the only way it can be found, through righteousness. In Rom. 3:9 Paul is charging Jew and Greek to be all under sin: "Not one is righteous, not even, one"; and he finishes his argument by declaring, "Bruises and wretchedness are in their paths, and a path of peace they know not" (3:16, 17); and then he goes on to tell how righteousness of God has been manifested (3:21-26). Correspondingly, having spoken of the expectation of Israel, he says (Rom. 15:13), "Now may the God of that expectation be filling you with all joy and peace in believing. .." Peace is not a purely Pauline truth, for less than half of the references to it are in Paul's epistles. Like all Kingdom truth,it has a general aspect for Israel and the world and also a purely Pauline aspect; and although Romans deals largely with the former, it does not ignore the latter. "The expectation in power of holy spirit" (Rom. 15:13) looks forward to both the Prison Epistles and 1. Thessalonians.
It cannot be said that the word "expect" is an altogether happy rendering of the verb "elpizO," especially as in certain contexts "rely" has to be used instead of it if the word "hope" is to be avoided, as the C.V. Concordance argues. The consequent discordance in the C.V. of Rom. 15:12 is unfortunate. This verse is a distinct echo of Matt. 12:21 which is the prelude to the great change in Matt. 13:14, 15. So far from showing (as some would have it) that Rom. 15:9-13 is "Jewish," this fact points the opposite way. It is not that our expectation depends on Israel's, but that the fulfilment of Israel's now depends on ours! Matthew 13 narrowed down the Lord's ministry as it applied to Israel; but it opened the way to something else, on the fruition of which hangs the whole fulfilment of Israel's own hopes. The Gentiles' ultimate hope on earth will depend on Israel's earthly glory; but both of these hopes now await the completion of God's present purposes for the Gentiles.
We misunderstand Romans when we fail to grasp that it is two-sided. Primarily, it is the setting-out of the new state of affairs brought about by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. It tells those who would be God's people, at last, the way to righteousness—which way had to be trodden thenceforth by all who are to be of God's people, whether along the line of covenant or the line of uncovenanted blessing. In this, it is based firmly on the Law and the Prophets; being, in fact, essential to the completion of both. Hence it contains such quotations and references as are found in Chapters 3, 4, 9, 10, 11 and 15. But these fundamentals are equally so for all of God's people. Although the "peace" of Rom. 5:1 is the starting-point of new and glorious revelations, before it can be sought and approached and apprehended the righteousness of God must first be attained; and that righteousness is wider than the channel which opens out in Rom. 5:1. And, indeed, the expectation of the Gentiles in Matt. 12:21 is wider than the channel which opens out in Matt. 13:14, 15. Wider; but not deeper. Man often works from the general to the particular, but God from the particular to the general. The Lord Jesus had to turn from the whole nation of Israel to the little band of disciples in Matt. 13:14, 15 in order that ultimately in the glory to come He might win the whole nation to something far more fundamental than healing those who came to Him for help. So, righteousness eventually will dwell in the new heavens and earth (2. Peter 3:13), but first it has to make its home, in spirit, in God's celestial people whom He is now calling out from among the Gentiles.
Having then been made righteous by faith—something done to and for us by God in Christ—there comes something to be done which we ourselves have to do on our own account: be having peace towards God. This peace, as are all our blessings, is through our Lord, Jesus Christ. Presently the Apostle Paul developes this theme, but first there are other matters to be dealt with.
Peace we may be having; but access we have had. What does this involve?
This question carries us at Once into the sphere of Ephesians; for the word "access," prosagOgE, occurs only here and in Eph. 2:18; 3:12. In the former we read: "And coming He evangelizes peace to you, those afar, and peace to those near; seeing that, through Him, we both have had the access, in one spirit, toward the Father." Eph. 3:12 reads: "In Whom we have the boldness and the access in confidence, through the faith of Him." Both refer to Christ Jesus, and the second is the concluding portion of the statement of the Secret of Eph. 3:6-12.
A good deal was written about this context in the paper "One Body" in Vol. 18, No. 5. In Christ Jesus, the one termed "Uncircumcision" who once was afar off, and the one termed "Circumcision, in flesh, hand-made" (I suggest that all five English words comprise the term), are now, in Christ Jesus, created "into one new humanity, making peace." This is in complete harmony with the closing words of Galatians: "For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything—but new creation." The seed here sown blossoms in the Prison Epistles, where we see both circumcision, in flesh, hand-made, and uncircumcision, left behind; those who had them being created in Christ Jesus into one new humanity, both being reconciled in one body to God through the cross. The joint-body is the ruling theme of Ephesians, the cross of Philippians and the reconciliation of Colossians.
"We both have had the access" (Eph. 2:18). This points backwards, and can point only to the first occurrence of the word, in Rom. 5:2.
What is this "access, as to the faith" or "faith-wise" which we have had through our Lord, Jesus Christ? What have we been reading about in the four previous chapters and, in particular, Rom. 4? It is, literally, "access into this, the grace in which we have stood." In other words, the making of us righteous through faith in accord with grace. That faith gave Abraham access to God, faith which enabled God to bless him in unfettered grace altogether apart from law-works, and which enabled him, and does enable us, to stand. The glory of this grace is the subject of what follows Rom. 5:1, 2; but before we go on to investigate this, in another paper, we ought to consider the verb "stand."
This verb histEmi is much less common in the epistles than in the rest of the Greek Scriptures. In the Revelation its Occurrences number only one less than in the whole of the epistles. The first occurrence in the latter is: "Are we then abrogating law through this faith? But no, that may not be: law we are causing to stand!" (Rom. 3:31). The next (after Rom. 5:2) is Rom. 10:3: "For they, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and their own righteousness seeking to stand up, were not subject to the righteousness of God." Next, Rom. 11:20: "By unbelief they are broken off, yet thou, by the faith, hast been standing." Last, Rom. 14:4: "He shall be made to stand, however; for the Lord is powerful to make him stand."
The basic idea of the Greek verb is stopping and placing oneself, the notion being the assumption of the position a person or thing ought to occupy or hold as an active entity, or, in a material thing such as a jar or building, to carry out the function for which it was designed. By faith, then, we are causing or enabling law to carry out its proper functions. In "this grace" (Rom. 5:2) we are enabled to be what we ought to be and act as we ought to act. In Rom. 10:3, Israel were represented as trying to carry out with their own righteousness the functions which God's righteousness alone could perform. In Rom. 11:20 the figurative wild olive branches have, in the faith discussed in the earlier chapters, been able to function as branches, and thus avoid having to be broken off. Rom. 14:4 explains itself.
In his definition of his Evangel, in 1. Cor. 15:1, 2; the Apostle Paul writes: "the evangel which I evangelize to you, which I accepted also, in which also you have been standing, through which also you are getting saved, if you are retaining what I said in evangelizing you—outside and except you believe feignedly." It is Paul's Evangel in which we, any and all of us, have stood; in which is our ability to get saved and to keep safe. So, earlier, in 1. Cor. 10:12, he warns anyone who is supposing himself to have stood to beware lest he should be falling.
In Paul's Epistles, the great passage concerning our duty to stand is Eph. 6:10-17. We need to put on the panoply of God to enable us "to stand in spite of the stratagems of the Slanderer. . . . and having effected all, to stand." Then Paul details the items of our armoury, in which, as we have already noted, are righteousness and peace. And that cuirass of the righteousness (of God) has to be put on, not merely received and put away safely for some future day's wear. Then the feet have to be sandaled with readiness of the evangel of that peace which is now for us if we will but take it. Sandals are not just slipped on ; their fixing has to be a purposeful operation. None of this equipment grows on one as do the coat and claws of an animal. It has to be put on or taken up.
All this is intensely practical. We have far, far too many Christians among us who do not stand, but lie down and sleep, content to leave others to do the standing for them. The only warring these people accomplish is against the few who dare to stand against the spiritual forces of wickedness among the celestials, which forces are growing stronger every day, largely because we are so few, and so weak, and so handicapped by the quislings within our ranks. For, make no mistake about it, those who raise a chorus of protest whenever a public stand is made against false doctrines are quislings—in plain terms, open traitors to Christ Jesus our Lord. Their one desire is to be left to their comfortable slumber, their one resentment is against those who battle in their stead. It matters not at all to them that others are fighting with all their strength to defend the ramparts while they interrupt their slumbers only to hinder and frustrate them. Hardly any term of abuse is too strong for such people to apply to those who make an uncompromising stand against doctrines which cannot face the test of Scripture and must therefore be false. Personally, I care not at all what is said against me. Whatever others, even those who claim to be Christians, may assert; I intend to go on wrestling with the spiritual forces of wickedness among the celestials, until the time may come, if it does, when I am to be silenced. That does not matter either; for when one falls out of the battle, God raises up another to take his place, and the end of that one's struggle is peace without end. What does matter is that some should wrestle on, for that is the only path to peace; and only those who follow that path can have peace towards God.
The first occurrences, in Matt. 19:16 and 29, definitely associate the getting of Life Eonian with works: in the first, keeping the precepts; in the second, leaving property or relatives on account of Christ's Name. The Apostle Paul's first reference to it, in Rom. 2:7, is also linked to good works. Nevertheless, lest we should suppose that this is solely an "evangel of works," Matthew's next and remaining reference is in connection with the gathering of all the Gentiles before the throne of the glory of the Son of Mankind whenever He may be coming in His glory, at the final point where sentence is pronounced: for the unrighteous, chastening eonian; for the righteous, life eonian (Matt. 25:46).
Marks' two references (Mark 10:17 and 30) are in a passage parallel to Matt. 19:16-30, and so also are those in Luke 18:18 and 30. But the other, Luke 10:25, occurs at an earlier point in the Lord's ministry than any; yet it is still connected with good works and leads up to the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Acts 13:46 and 48 link life eonian with believing, and lead up to what Paul has to teach on the subject. His first mention of the term, Rom. 2:7, though associated with good works, or, rather, endurance in them, leaves open for the moment the question of how it is possible to carry them out. In fact, his statement here is the introduction to all that follows in the epistle. Neither can be properly understood without taking account of the other.
The next occurrence comes at the climax and conclusion of what Paul has to say about reigning-grace. Though works are totally eclipsed by grace here as a means of attaining righteousness, they have their place in maintaining it. The reigning of grace unto life eonian is through righteousness.
We have made so much—and rightly—of the absolutely vital truth that righteousness is through faith and not through law-works, and that any attempt to mix works with that faith merely stultifies it and renders it impotent; that we are perpetually in danger of failing to appreciate that righteousness is not itself faith nor faith itself righteousness, however strongly they are linked together. Righteousness without faith is an impossibility; as also is righteousness through faith mixed with works; for such" faith" is no real faith at all. That is why the Apostle Paul begins his argument in Romans by demonstrating throughout the bulk of the first three chapters that no one has produced or can produce works adequate to produce righteousness, either by works apart from law or by law-works. Even further, after this demonstration he points out something else which seems to have escaped general notice—that it is not our faith in and by itself that creates righteousness in the first place.
This is startling, but true, for see again Rom. 3:21-23: "Yet now, apart from law, God's righteousness is manifested." Although the main emphasis of the Greek is on "apart from law," yet the context, by its actual lay-out, gives special emphasis to the point that it is God's righteousness and not ours which holds the centre of the stage here. There is no need to demonstrate this other than by suggesting to the reader to look at the references to "God" from Rom. 1:1 to 4:3. In no passage of comparable length does the Name occur so often—51 times in 95 verses. Not only so, but the emphasis is strongly on God as God absolute; for the Name of Christ is found only 9 times in that passage. This is not to say that He is comparatively ignored; for at this crowning point He takes His rightful place: "yet God's righteousness through Jesus Christ's faith." Only then does faith as it applies to ourselves come into view: "unto all and on all believing." And, even so, the point that it is still God's righteousness that is in, view is clinched by what follows: "for there is no distinction, for all sinned and are wanting of the glory of God." In short, true righteousness is God's righteousness and it is through Jesus Christ's faith. Only so is it unto all and on all believing. If the faith is not Jesus Christ's faith, it is no true faith at all; just as if the righteousness is not God's it is no true righteousness at all. There is no room for anyone but God to be first in this.
So Paul works up to his climax: "For we are reckoning a human being to be achieving righteousness faith-wise (or, as to faith) apart from law-works." (Rom. 3:28). Note well that even here it is not actually by faith, but simply the Dative of the word faith—as to faith, faith-wise, characterized by faith or associated with faith. We, who truly believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, come to share His faith and so to be associated with His faith and its consequences. Faith, just simply faith in and by itself, is of no avail. To be saving faith it must be "Jesus faith" (Rom. 3:26), that is to say, Jehovah-Saviour-faith; not just belief in God, not just "belief in Jesus" as the nominal Christian so often has it, but the belief that in the Lord Jesus, Jehovah is Saviour.
The notion that "faith," faith in a void, so to speak, is
good enough, is one of the most subtle and dangerous of
heresies. It comes about partly through reading Romans without due care
and discrimination and partly through
failing to hold the balance of truth and to use James' Epistle
as a corrective against misunderstanding Romans. Here it was that
Luther failed. Because he saw that Paul was
greater in this he disparaged James, not perceiving that all
God's saints are great in some way and that star differeth from star in
glory. His sin was, perhaps, less than that of those moderns who
despise James because of their own artificial dispensational theories.
James' words are frank, even blunt:
"But someone will be declaring: 'THOU hast faith, and I
All this was gone into very thoroughly in our Vol. 14, p. 236;
and one comment made I would like to quote:
have works!' Show me thy faith apart from these works, and
I, to thee, shall be showing, by my works, my faith! Thou
believest that God is one. Ideally art thou doing! The
demons also are believing, and are shuddering! Now art thou
willing to understand, 0 empty man! that the faith apart from
the works is dead? Abraham our father, was he not out of
works made righteous, when offering up his son Isaac on the
altar? You are observing that the faith worked together with
his works, and out of the works the faith was perfected; and
the scripture was fulfilled which is saying: 'Now Abraham believes as to God and it is accounted to him unto righteousness'; and 'Friend of God' he was called. You are seeing
that out of works a human being is achieving righteousness, and
not out of faith only." (James 2:18-24).
"The age-old conflict between James and Paul goes up in
This is nothing like so far a digression as it must appear at
first sight. On the contrary, it establishes the connection
between righteousness and life eonian and between good
works and both of them. It is in reigning grace that we are to attain
righteousness unto life eonian through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
smoke once we see that James has nothing to say about 'works
Amplification of this fact that life eonian is an attainment
is found in Rom. 6:22, 23, which reads:
"Yet now, being freed from the sin, yet enslaved to God, you
Throughout, "the sin" is plainly the "sin" referred to in Rom.
3:19, 20 and 4:8, for the intervening occurrences are all prefixed by
the Definite Article. Life eonian is the result
of the holiness which is the fruit of God's gracious gift of
freedom from that sin. It is not an automatic consequence
have your fruit unto holiness. Now the consummation is life
eonian. For the ration of the sin is death, yet God's gracious
gift is life eonian, in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Not till near the close of Galatians do we come across life
eonian again, and we find there the same sort of idea in a
different context (Gal. 6:7, 8):
"Be not self-deceived: God is not to be sneered at; for whatso-
Do we always appreciate the solemn force of this prelude to the revelations of the Prison Epistles?
ever a man may be sowing, this also shall he be reaping; seeing
that he who is sowing unto his own flesh, out of the flesh shall be
reaping corruption; yet he who is sowing unto the spirit, out of the
spirit shall be reaping life eonian."
The next occurs toward the close of the preface to the first of Paul's Personal Epistles; and beyond saying that it is in line with the rest, it calls for no special comment here (1. Tim. 1:16). Next is the exhortation to Timothy to "get hold of that eonian life" into which he was called (1. Tim. 6:12). Note the emphasis given by the change in the order of the words. The last in this epistle (1. Tim. 6:19) is doubtful. Some texts read "life eonian," others "life indeed." The fact that this word ontOs occurs in this epistle more frequently than in any other book of the Greek Scriptures favours its authenticity, and it certainly reads extremely well in the context; though we should bear in mind that each of the three other occurrences (5:3, 5, 16) refers to widows. To decide which reading to accept is a puzzle. It is hard to see how either one could inadvertently have been changed to the other in copying, yet there is quite respectable authority for each. I would not be surprised if some very early manuscript were to turn up one day showing both, thus: "treasuring up for themselves an ideal foundation for the future, that they may be getting hold of the real life, eonian life." For the present this solution must be dismissed, as no direct evidence exists, which is a pity; for if that were the true original reading, the variants would be much easier to explain. It is, on the face of it, much more likely that one or other were dropped out in transcription by scribes; for it would have been so easy for the eye to leave one aiOniou during writing and alight on the other. This mistake, technically known as haplography, that is, writing only once what appears twice in the original being copied, is extremely easy to make, as I well know from experience.
Paul's other two references (Titus 1:1, 3:7) accord with what we have found already. So does the remaining one outside John's writings, in Jude 21.
In most of the references in John's Gospel, including the first six, life eonian i
s associated with faith. Indeed, even the seventh implies some measure of faith in that the Jews were supposing that in the Hebrew Scriptures they had life eonian; but, as in James' Epistle, it was not a sufficient faith, for it was not faith on Jehovah-Saviour. The Jews search the Scriptures, they were, in fact conspicuously searchers of the Scriptures, and still are; and there are plenty of Gentiles who follow their example—but all in vain, for they were searching for the wrong thing and in the wrong way. Only as We search for the Lord Jesus Christ in the Scriptures are we using them as they were meant to be used. Any other sort of "Bible study" is a chasing of a will-o'-the-wisp; yet these false trails are all that the bulk of Christendom knows. I once attended an "Oxford Group" "House Party" (Now, apparently, "Moral Re-armament") and was impressed by finding that the only use for the Bible those who ran the Party seemed to have was for getting "guidance" in every sort of problem of conduct. Others use it for "proof texts" to support the tenets of a teacher or of a sect or of "the Church." Yet others, as the Jews, to find, as they suppose, life eonian. The only true way, to come to the Lord Jesus that they may have life, is ignored.
This idea is reinforced in John 6:27, 40 and right through
the Gospel, summed-up in the last reference (John 17:3):
"Yet this is that eonian life: that they may be knowing Thee,
John's First Epistle is to a large extent an expansion of this, as
the opening words indicate. The closing words (1. John
5:20) clinch the point:
the only true God, and Him Whom Thou dost commission,
"Yet we are aware that the Son of God is arriving, and has
And as a final warning we are urged (v. 21): "Little children, guard yourselves from the idols." Not just some idol or
idols, but the idols as a whole. For it is possible to turn life
eonian into an idol, as the Jews themselves did when they
searched the Scriptures for the life eonian which they supposed
themselves to be having in them. Yet they were not willing
to come to the Lord Jesus that they might have life (John
given to us insight, that we are knowing the True One, and we
are in the True One, in His Son, Jesus Christ. This One is the
True God and life eonian."
So here we have the definition of what life eonian actually
is: KNOWLEDGE of the only True God in Jesus Christ His
Son. For we read (1. John 5:11, 12):
"And this is the testimony: That life eonian God gives to us,
Thus we are confronted with one of the sharp contrasts of Scripture: the fact that righteousness depends on faith alone
and calls for only the very minimum of knowledge, whereas
life eonian not merely depends on, but actually IS, knowledge
of the only True God in Jesus Christ, His Son. And this last is not a Pauline doctrine, but Johannine.
and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life. He
who has not the Son of God has not the life."
One of the truths that our former preoccupation with
"Dispensationalism" during the past fifty years or so has hidden, is
the importance of John's Gospel. Some even of the most extreme
dispensationalists have displayed their uneasiness over writing it off
as " Jewish," and very properly. We are indebted to them for this
candour, in striking contrast to their lack of it over" dispensational"
boundaries vital to their theories. The purpose of John's Gospel is
plain (John 20:30, 31):
"Many and other signs, then, indeed, does Jesus in the presence
Remarkable is it that this comes incidentally, almost casually,
in the midst of the tale of the Resurrection appearances of our Lord.
There is an echo of the first part of it at the close of the Gospel.
Two features come out plainly: that the "signs" are only a selection,
as we know already from the other three Gospels, and that they were
written with a view to the reader believing. But this is not the
extensive range of believing that Paul is concerned with: the vast
vistas of righteousness and all that springs from it. The word
"righteous" occurs only thrice (John 5:30; 7:24; 17:25),
"righteousness" only twice (John 16:8, 10). Life eonian is John's
of His disciples, which are not written in this scroll; yet these
are written that you should be believing that Jesus is the Christ,
the Son of God; and that, believing, you may have life eonian
in His Name."
Furthermore, perusal of John's Gospel suggests that, apart from this declared purpose, its intended audience is the persons who already believe. This is, it is hardly necessary to say, true of all Scripture; but it is much more noticeably so in John's Gospel and Epistles. These have always been a main source of strength and comfort to the humble Christian, and rightly so, since their aim is " that, believing, you may have life in His Name." The fact is, John leaves the fight for present truth to Paul. The panoply of our warfare is Paul's concern, the food on which we graze and build up our strength is to a large extent John's. It is altogether mistaken and wrong to disparage one for the sake of the other.
For this cause one must deplore the Note to this passage in the 1930
C.V., for it is a sad mixture of important truth and potent error. It
"It is evident that the signs in this account are a selection,
If instead of "present truth" the annotator had written "what is
exclusively true for the present era," he would have shed great light
on the subject and transformed his Note. And for "seems especially" he
should have written "is also." He has failed to take in the great truth
that John's Gospel and Epistles are not exclusive to anyone era, either
to the present period or to the days which are to come. They
belong to us all.
chosen to give a complete picture of Israel's failure and Israel's
Saviour. They are intended to signify to all who have ears
to hear that the One Who speaks and acts is no other than the
Messiah foretold by the prophets of old, and the further fact
that He is also the Son of God. Eonian life is for all who
receive this testimony. As we have seen, His present exaltation,
while Israel is apostate, is carefully overlooked. Hence we must
not expect to find present truth in John's account. He never
had a commission for the nations, not even for proselytes, as
Peter had. Because his ministry seems especially intended for
millennial days, when the nations will be blessed through Israel,
his allusions to world-wide blessing are often mistaken for that
which has come to us while Israel is apostate."
Scripture does not take this line. The verb sOzO, save, and the nouns sOtEr, saviour, as well as sOtEria, salvation and sOtErion, saving-work, together take up less than a third of the space taken in the concordance by the words connected with righteousness. This does not necessarily mean that they are less important; but it is a pointer, and should be tested. The words salvation and righteousness occur together in Rom. 1:16, 17; 10:10; 2. Tim. 3:15, 16; Heb. 11:7 only. The first of these reads: "For I am not ashamed of the Evangel, for it is God's power into salvation to everyone who is believing—to Jew first and to Greek as well. For in it God's righteousness is unveiling out of faith into faith, according as it is written, 'Now the righteous out of faith will be getting him life,'" or "getting life for himself," as the verb is in the Middle Voice. There can be no doubt that here righteousness out of faith has the priority. Life results from getting this righteousness, and the Evangel embodying it is God's power into salvation. Salvation is highly important, but righteousness comes first in order.
This point is taken up with reference to Israel in Romans 10. Here Paul starts with his heart's delight and petition to God for their salvation, yet God's righteousness has to come first; and faith, the only way to achieve it. So in the first eleven verses righteousness occurs seven times, and faith and believe six times altogether, but save and salvation no more than twice each. 2. Tim. 3:15, 16 dwells on the supreme importance of the Scriptures. They "are able to make you wise into salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." The verb able is Middle in form. The Sacred Scriptures have the power in themselves to give this wisdom which brings right into salvation and to "discipline in righteousness that the man of God may be equipped, fitted out for every good work." This passage has long been under attack from various sorts of unbeliever on account of its unequivocal testimony to the Scriptures. Not long ago, one of these objected to the practise of distributing Bibles in pagan lands, on the ground that they were worthless and even harmful except when read under guidance of "the Church." Naturally, those who refuse to believe the Scriptures are opposed to their circulation, and particularly opposed to this particular passage from them. Lastly, in Heb. 11:7 we find faith and righteousness linked together into salvation for Noah and his house. Thus, righteousness out of faith is seen as the pre-requisite of salvation for all sorts of mankind, for Noah, for Israel, and for those who receive God's Evangel.
There is nothing wrong or evil, there is nothing even mistaken, about seeking salvation; provided that it is sought in the right way, that is, in God's way. This means that it definitely is wrong to seek salvation as an end in itself, to seek it apart from faith, apart from God's righteousness which comes from faith alone. Thus, those who talk so much about salvation as an end in itself are "putting the cart before the horse," they are getting their priorities all wrong. They are substituting what concerns self and appeals to self for what belongs to God first and, more than that, to God alone. To seek for salvation apart from faith-righteousness is to chase a shadow.
That was the reason for Israel's failure, as Paul shows in Romans 10: "For they, being ignorant of the righteousness which is of God, and their own righteousness seeking to establish, to the righteousness of God they were not subject" (10:3). Yet zeal for God they had—but not according to full knowledge (10:2). This is, in essence; precisely the same position as that assumed by those who want salvation but do not particularly desire righteousness. We do not have to look very far to find out why this should be so: such people lack faith. In Rom. 10:4-15 the words faith and believe occur no less than eight times altogether. There is no salvation apart from righteousness. There is no righteousness apart from faith.
The righteousness of God is first referred to in Matt. 6:33. Users of the C.V. and some other versions might question this, for its Greek text here reads tEn basileiankai tEn dikaiosunEn autou, literally, the kingdom and the righteousness of it. This provides a pitfall into which the English speaking translator may easily tumble and the translator of the 1930 C.V. did. This literal translation sounds perfectly reasonable in English; but it is inadmissible all the same, because basileia is feminine and autou masculine or neuter, so the latter cannot possibly refer to the former. Therefore, if this Greek text is followed, there is nothing to which "of it" can refer. It is left hanging in the air, so to speak. The 1944 revision has: "Yet seek first His kingdom and righteousness," thus making autou (which can also mean "of him") refer back to "your heavenly Father" in v. 32, an expedient which is not only grammatically questionable but introduces a new idea: "the kingdom of the heavenly Father." Fortunately other, and fuller, texts read "the kingdom of God." This enables us to take autou as masculine and render the passage "the kingdom of God and His righteousness" as, indeed, King James' translators did.
So the Lord Jesus told His hearers to be seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness-but He left it to His Apostle Paul to indicate just how the two were to be sought. God's righteousness is not referred to again till Rom. 1:17, except in connection with His judgment of the world (Acts 17:31). Nevertheless, as Paul most plainly shows, there is no way for anyone at all to righteousness, or to salvation, except through faith.
None of this is to be taken as any sort of disparagement of the idea of salvation. On the contrary, we do not disparage anything by getting it into proper perspective. The divine order is faith—righteousness—salvation. We attempt to alter it only at our peril.
We may profitably list the other passages where "the righteousness of God" or "of Him" with reference to God are found. First, however, we should examine the form "God's righteousness," that is, the form without the Definite Article" the." As we have noted already (p. 160), without the, the character of the object is what is in view; and so it is here in the first occurrence, in Rom. 1:17, for we are told that the Evangel "is God's power into salvation to everyone who is believing, for in it God's righteousness is unveiling, out of faith into faith." This defines the character of God's Evangel and the character of what is unveiling in it. Righteousness in it is God's righteousness.
The next occurrence is Rom. 3:5: "Now if the unrighteousness of us God's righteousness is recommending, what shall we assert?" (very literally). The verb sunistEmi has the idea of standing together, and recommending is hardly apt. In Col. 1:17 the Greek reads, literally, "and the all in Him has stood together," or more freely, "and the universe in Him has cohered." So in this verse we have the remarkable idea of the unrighteousness that is ours standing together with the character of God's righteousness. They are in no way inconsistent with one another. It is to be observed that, in trying to get the idea into readily comprehensible English, I have found myself using the word "inconsistent" which, through the Latin, itself contains the notion of standing with. In Rom. 3:21, 22 "God's righteousness" occurs twice. That which has the character of divine righteousness has now, apart from law, been manifested. Yet it is divine righteousness through Jesus Christ's faith, into all and on all who are believing. This brings us right into the heart of the matter. The character of divine righteousness is inseparably linked to faith and to nothing else whatsoever except one, which we now come to in 2. Cor. 5:21. Yet this is not actually a different link, but the same one viewed from the opposite direction: "For the One knowing no sin He makes sin for our sakes, that we may be becoming God's righteousness in Him." Actually, the whole of this chapter is by no means so clearly understood as it ought to be, and much remains to be learnt about it.
Twice more is this character of divine righteousness referred to. James 1:20 tells us that "man's wrath is not working God's righteousness." In 2. Peter 1:1 we find the Apostle addressing "those whose lot is to have equally precious faith with us in righteousness—of the God of us and of Saviour Jesus Christ" to render it very literally. This sets out wonderfully the lot of those to whom Peter is addressing himself. The character of that equally precious faith is in righteousness, and it is righteousness of One Who is our God and our Saviour. And unless that faith of ours is equally precious, it is not real faith enjoined by the Apostle Paul. In this respect there is complete harmony between the two Apostles; but further discussion of this most precious epistle must await some future occasion.
Apart from Matt. 6:33 there is no reference to "the righteousness of God" anywhere in the Greek Scriptures outside Paul's Epistles. This isolation gives very special point to the Lord's words, particularly as with Paul the expression itself occurs only in Rom. 10:3, though "the righteousness of Him" with direct reference to God occurs elsewhere. In translating this verse a while back, an attempt was made to indicate the slight difference in the Greek. The first occurrence is literally "the of the God righteousness," the second "the righteousness of the God." The emphasis in the former is on the fact that it is of God, in the latter that it was of a particular kind of righteousness, that of God, by contrast with what Israel supposed was their own righteousness. Read in association with Matt. 6:33, on which Romans 9-11 is really an extended commentary as regards Israel, we perceive why it is that the nation as a whole rejected the kingdom of God. Further illumination is given by yet another expression which occurs once only, literally: "the out of God righteousness" (Phil. 3:9). Here we have: ".. . . not having my (own) righteousness, that out of law, but that which is through Christ's faith, the righteousness which is out of God on that faith. .." Those who are infected with the virus of Coles' theory do not like this passage because it flatly contradicts the notion that Romans and Philippians belong to different "dispensations"; and even the more rational expositors too often fail to see the point as well as they might. For it would be difficult to devise a more comprehensive reference to Romans in so few words. "Jesus Christ's faith" occurs in Rom. 3:22 and "Jesus faith" in 3:26. Galatians, that bridge between Romans and Ephesians, refers to "Jesus Christ's faith" in Gal. 2:16, 3:22. In the former of these there is no sufficient evidence for adopting the C.V. reading "Christ Jesus."
"His righteousness," the reference being plainly to God, occurs in three places. The first two, in Rom. 3:25, 26, supply part of the answer to the question tacitly raised by Matt. 6:33: "How can we find God's righteousness?" Paul has just told (vv. 21, 22) that it has been manifested apart from law, that it is "through Jesus Christ's faith, into and on all who are believing." Then comes the second part of the answer: "for there is no distinction, for all sinned and are wanting of the glory of God; achieving righteousness gratuitously by His grace, through the deliverance which is in Christ Jesus. . . towards the display of His righteousness in the current era, for Him to be righteous and One putting right the one out of faith of Jesus." The other occurrence is in the parenthetical v. 25: "'\Thorn God proposed for propitiatory through the faith in His blood, into display of His righteousness, because of the passing over of the penalty-of-sins which occurred before in the forbearance of God." There is a very delicate difference here. In the parenthesis of v. 25, God's action itself displayed His righteousness. In the main argument of vv. 24 and 26, God's action was proceeding and it still is; so Paul sets out its aim, its objective, which is towards the display of His righteousness in the current era. He could not say "into display" as in the parenthesis, because it has not yet completely penetrated into, and filled up, the display, as is the sense of eis, into. The current era is still in progress. The other reference, 2. Cor. 9:9, is an assurance that His righteousness remains for the eon.
However unwelcome it may be to those who are tied to "dispensationalism," Abraham's righteousness is the key doctrine of the Greek Scriptures. All other doctrine is related to it, because until a person is put right, is righteous before God, it is impossible for him to make even one single step forward. This righteousness of Abraham is linked to faith in the two chapters that specially refer to it: Romans 4 and Galatians 3; and the former is preceded by a lengthy treatise in which the word faith occurs no less than fifteen times. James in his epistle quietly confirms Paul (James 2:20-23). Yet none of this truth is to be found directly stated in the Gospels, in spite of the fact that collectively they refer to Abraham more frequently than Paul does (34 times to 19). Once only is any clue given: in John 8:39, in the lengthy argument between the Lord Jesus and the Pharisees: "They answered and said to Him, 'Our father is Abraham.' Jesus answered them: 'If you were children of Abraham, the works of Abraham you would be doing.'" The other associations of children and Abraham repay study too. The first is Matt. 3:9 (paralleled by Luke 3:8); and this is also not only the first reference to the Pharisees but the first encounter with them, that of the Lord's forerunner, John the Baptist. Naturally, the Pharisees failed to get the point of this; but for us it should not be very difficult to see the reference to it in 1. Peter 2:1-10 and Romans 9. Indeed, in the latter is the next association of the two words (vv. 6-8).
Here Paul was restating the words of the Lord Jesus in John 8:39-40 in an expanded form. He begins with a declaration that he is saying truth in Christ, as the Lord Jesus Himself declares to the Pharisees. And we should bear in mind that although the Lord Jesus and His Apostle Paul are both addressing themselves to Israel, what they say is for our learning, very much so, and for ourselves so far as they are applicable to those who are not specifically of Israel. For, once again, the vital point must ever be kept in mind that Abraham believed God as a Gentile. From this flowed out all that became Israel and the eight blessings of Israel recorded in Rom. 9:4; yet if there had been no Abraham the Gentile who believed God in uncircumcision (Rom. 4:10-12); there could never have been anyone to become father of circumcision. It is a fact, and a most significant fact, that nowhere does Scripture have one single word of any sort to say about believing God in circumcision. For covenant to have any meaning at all, let alone any efficacy, it must follow faith. Never does faith follow from it. True, many of the Covenant People were of faith; but nowhere is it suggested or implied, let alone stated, that their faith depended on their covenant standing. Always their works show that they had believed God even as Abraham did.
It is the measure of the apostasy of Christendom that most of the churches deny this in their deeds. For circumcision of infants they substitute a spurious "baptism" in which they presume to declare a so-called covenant between the child and God. That this" baptism" does not procure faith or righteousness is a fact of experience. But for "Catholic" dogma nobody would ever suppose that it did. In theory, this ceremony involves an obligation on the parents and sponsors of the child to bring it up to be a Christian, and to their credit many earnestly endeavour so to do; yet there is no reason to suppose that the so-called baptismal grace supposedly imparted to the child in this way affords the smallest help towards their success. The whole thing is quite unreal, a conventional fiction, and no more.
Last of all is 1. Peter 3:6. The general subject here is the way the holy women of the past adorned themselves; and, in particular, their subjection to their own husbands. Peter's illustration is: "as Sarah obeys Abraham, calling him 'lord,' whose children you became." This admirable precept has been slightingly contrasted with Paul's exhortation in Eph. 5:22-24; but this is unfair and somewhat unreasonable as well. Peter's precept applies to all women who, by faith, have become children of Abraham. This notion is entirely befitting in a "general" epistle; that is to say, one applying to all God's people (except where the context makes some particular precept applicable only to those directly addressed), and not simply one section of them, as Paul's are. The circumstance that the general exhortation is replaced in Eph. 5:22-24 by another, and particular, one ceases to matter when we reflect that Paul would have had no revelation of Christ as Head of the church and Saviour of the body if there had never been any "body" of those who believe and are one in Christ Jesus; for all such believers had in believing become children of Abraham. If ever there were a case of the greater including the lesser, this is it.
Disparagement of Abraham is one of the outward visible signs of that
poisoning of the spirit and therefore of the mind brought about by
substituting man-made "dispensational" theories for God's Word as it
is. This appears in its most extreme form in the writings of the
followers of the most extreme of these theorists, J. J. B. Coles. A
characteristic example is to be found in Mr. C. H. Welch's book
"Dispensational Truth," p. 178:
"No longer 'blessed with faithful Abraham'; we must, if
This is a characteristic example of the false antithesis, the
erroneous setting in opposition of ideas that are in no way opposed.
Can it really be true that a man who has been writing for years about
the Scriptures can yet be unaware of the teaching of the first four
chapters of Romans and of Galatians 3, and of Phil. 3:9 as well,
unaware that there is no other blessing but that which comes from the
righteousness set out in God's Evangel? The only way to answer such a
man effectively is to ask him to state plainly how we are to obtain any
spiritual blessings in Christ at all by any other means than faith such as Abraham had, that is, in uncircumcision (Rom. 4:10)?
blessed at all, be 'blessed with all spiritual blessings in the
heavenlies in Christ.'"
The wilful blindness of such teachers is well illustrated by what follows the assertion by Mr. Welch, quoted above:
"I, as a saved Gentile, have no more to do with the Abrahamic
So he says; but why should this be used to distort and deny the
truth set out in Romans 4 and Galatians 3? To confuse
Abraham's faith (Gen. 15:6) with the covenant of circumcision which God
afterwards made with him (Gen. 17:10) is deliberately and inexcusably
to introduce error and confusion. Until God gave him a covenant of
circumcision, Abraham had no more to do with circumcision than we have!
Rom. 4:10 stands, whatever these blind teachers of the blind may say.
covenant and the kingdom unalterably promised to Israel, than
I have to do with the law of Moses and with circumcision."
For the name of Abraham, coupled with that of David, stands securely on the threshold of the Greek Scriptures and permeates them. It appears nine times in Romans, nine in Galatians and in 2. Cor. 11:22; ten times in Hebrews, twice in James, and in 1. Peter 3:6 referred to above. More than half the references to him are in the Gospels and Acts. However, even if we give full weight to the references outside Paul's Epistles; the fact remains that in them are nineteen references to Abraham, most of which are intimately concerned with Paul's Evangel and therefore with ourselves. Much as some extremists apparently desire to, we cannot get rid of Abraham any more than we can do without Abraham's faith.
R.B.W. Last updated 22.1.2006