The Spirit of God has caused it to be placed on record that -
"Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election
hath obtained it" (Rom. 11:7).
Of what is the apostle speaking? What is it Israel was seeking for and
had not obtained, but which the election had obtained and was in possession
of, at the time the Epistle to the Romans was written?
The apostle deemed it not necessary to specify what he had in mind. We
may infer it was something so well known that they to whom the Epistle was
addressed would understand his meaning without a more explicit statement. And
surely, what Israel was expecting was, and is, so well known by all who have
any acquaintance with Bible prophecy and Jewish history, as to make a definite
specification thereof unnecessary. Moreover, the context makes plain what it
was that the election had obtained.
But let us, before proceeding further, observe that, whatever had been
the object of Israel's quest, Israel had now (at the time the Epistle was
written) lost it irretrievably; for the inspired utterance declares that, not
only had Israel failed to obtain it, but another company, "the election," had
obtained it. And furthermore, one of the chief purposes for which this passage
(Romans IX-XI) was written was, to make known that God, in bestowing the
coveted blessing upon the believing remnant of Israel and in incorporating
with that remnant the saved from among the Gentiles, was fulfilling the
promises He had made by the mouth of His holy prophets to Israel; "for they
are not all 'Israel' which are of Israel" (9:6). Clearly then, what is here
referred to is not something which that generation of Israelites had missed
and God had temporarily withdrawn, with the intention of bestowing it upon a
And further let us observe preliminarily that Paul is not speaking
here Of something that lay in the then future purposes of God, but of a
promised blessing whereof the set time had come, a blessing which had in fact
already passed into the possession of those for whom it had been intended, the
People of God "which He foreknew" (v. 1). For the word is, "The election HATH
TO WHOM PERTAIN THE PROMISES
At the beginning of the Passage the apostle gives a list of seven
things whereby God had distinguished the Israelites from all other Peoples
(9:4, 5) ; which list includes "the promise." And there is no dispute, or room
for it, that the blessings God had "promised Therefore by His prophets in the
Holy Scriptures" were all expressly for "Israel," for "the seed of Abraham."
Therefore, although the Jews of that day had misunderstood "the voices of the
prophets" (Acts 13:27) and had carnalized the things their prophets had
foretold, they were nevertheless not in error in the belief that the glorious
things promised by them were all for "Israel." Their error, as has now been
plainly pointed out in the N. T. Scriptures, was two-fold: first (as already
shown) they misunderstood the nature of the promised blessings, for they
supposed them to be natural and earthly, instead of spiritual and heavenly;
and second, they did not understand that the promises were, not for the
natural seed of Abraham, but for his spiritual seed; or in other words, that
they who compose the true "Israel of God" are not those who have merely the
outward "sign of circumcision," but those "who also walk in the steps of that
faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised" (Rom. 4:11,
And so to-day, the differences that have arisen between those who
study the prophetic Scriptures and seek the meaning thereof, are not as to
whether the promises of God through the 0. T. prophets were expressly for
Israel, for the Jews, for the circumcision, for the seed of Abraham; but as to
who are the "Israel" of promise? Who is "a Jew?" Who are "the circumcision?"
and who "the seed of Abraham?" But how comes it that there are differences as
to those questions between those who accept the New Testament as the Word of
God? seeing that the first is expressly answered by Romans 9:6-8; the second
by Romans 2:28, 29; the third by Philippians 3:3; and the fourth by Galatians
But at this point some will say: "True, there is a spiritual Israel as
well as a natural Israel, an Israel of God' as well as an 'Israel after the
flesh'; but may it not be that some of the blessings promised of old by the
prophets of Israel are intended for the natural Israel, and are reserved for a
yet future day? And is not the gift of the land of Canaan to Abraham and his
seed a promise of that sort?
We believe a clear answer is to be found in the very passage we are
now considering. For to begin with, if what Israel was then seeking after was
the restoration of its nationality and there-possession of the land of Canaan
- and undoubtedly that is what they were most ardently seekin- then manifestly
the words, "the election hath obtained it," would be a complete bar to thei r
hopes .But we look further into the matter.
The promises of God were numerous and were expressed in various ways;
yet they were often viewed in their totality as a comprehensive whole. For
example, in Galatians 3:7 we find the words, "heirs according to the promise";
as if all the promises scattered through the messages of the prophets
constituted in the aggregate a single all-inclusive "promise," which in due
time was to be fulfilled to "the seed of Abraham." Doubtless it is this
comprehensive, all-embracing promise that Paul had in mind when he wrote of
"that which he (Israel) seeketh for." And it is also quite certain, both from
the Scriptures and also from Jewish history, that what that intensely
patriotic people were ever seeking for was the repossession of the land of
Canaan. And one of the Scriptures upon which their hopes were founded is this:
"For lo, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the
captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord; and I will cause
them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall
possess it . . . "For it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of
hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and shall burst thy
bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves to him; but they shall
serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto
them" (Jer. 30:3, 8, 9).
This is a typical expression of "the promise," and of what Israel was
seeking after, according to their interpretation of it. Hence it is what they
had failed to obtain, and what the election had obtained.
God's original promise to Abraham and his seed of a territorial
possession is recorded in these words:
"And I will give unto thee, and unto thy seed after thee, the land
wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting
possession" (Gen. 17:1-8).
Upon a close examination of this passage it will be seen that the
promise is so worded that it would have been literally fulfilled had God
thereafter given that land to the descendants of Ishmael; for Ishmael was as
much the seed of Abraham as was Isaac. Later Scriptures, however, limit the
promise to Isaac's descendants - "which things are an allegory" - and still
later Scriptures limit it to the children of Jacob, excluding the off spring
of Esau. But as between the twelve sons of Jacob no distinctions were made;
and hence, if God should give that land to any single descendant of Jacob, it
would be a literal fulfilment of the promise. And is not that precisely what
God has done? But let us go a little further in quest of what the Scripture
says concerning God's promise to Abraham.
In Romans 4, immediately following the verse quoted above, which tells
who the real children of Abraham are, we read:
"For the promise that he should be the heir of the world, was not to
Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of
faith" (Rom. 4:13).
By this we learn that God's promise to Abraham was much larger than He
chose to reveal in 0. T. times. It embraced the whole world. And now that we
know the full breadth of the promise, we clearly recognize that God, by giving
the whole world to the seed of Abraham would literally fulfil this promise;
for the greater includes the less.
The apostle then goes on to show that it is impossible that the
promise to Abraham could be fulfilled to those who were merely his natural
"For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the
promise made of none effect" (Rom. 4:14).
In other words, the bestowal of the promised land upon the nation of
Israel ("they which are of the law") would be -not the fulfilling of "the
promise," but the nullification of it.
And the passage continues -
"Therefore it is of faith that it might be by grace, to the end the
promise might be sure to all seed; not to that (seed) only which is of the
law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of
us all. (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations)".
By this we are given to know that the promise to Abraham, recorded in
Genesis 17:1-8, runs to Abraham and his spiritual seed, those who are of the
faith of Abraham, and that the clause "I have made thee a father of many
nations" (Gen. 17:5), means that saved Gentiles were to be among the heirs of
The subject is still further elucidated in Galatians; where we read:
"Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to
seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy SEED, which is CHRIST (Gal.
Thus we see that Christ is the true and only legitimate Heir of the
promise to Abraham; but by the same Scripture (and by others as well) we learn
that Christ's members are included with Him in the promise. In Galatians it is
"Even as Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for
righteousness, know ye therefore, that they which are of faith, the same are
the children of Abraham."
"And if ye be Christ's then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to
the promise" (Gal. 3:6, 7, 29).
Now, since "they which are of faith," they that are Christ's, are the
elect remnant of Israel (with believing Gentiles incorporated with them into
one body) we have reached a clear explanation of what is meant by "the
election hath obtained it." Christ and His people are the heirs "according to
the promise," which embraces all the promises. It follows that there remains
for the natural Israel nothing whatever of God's promise to Abraham concerning
a territorial possession in the world. The election hath obtained it, and will
never be dispossessed.
But, in order to put the matter beyond all doubt, the apostle not only
states affirmatively who are the heirs of God's promise to Abraham, but he
also shows negatively that Abraham's natural descendants have no share
therein. He rebukes those of his contemporaries who held the contrary,
charging them with not understanding the Scripture which records that "Abraham
had two sons" (Gal. 4:21-31). We will not expatiate further on that wonderful
"allegory"; but would merely remind the reader again that Ishmael represents
Abraham's natural seed, and Isaac his spiritual seed, the latter being the
heirs of the promise; and that the words, "cast out the bondwoman and her son,
for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman,"
were a prophecy that the natural descendants of Abraham should not share the
inheritance with his spiritual seed, the elect remnant.
Manifestly therefore, those who now maintain that the natural
Israelites as such are the heirs of God's promise to Abraham, do not only fail
to understand the allegorical significance of his family history, but they
also close their eyes to the clear explanation thereof in Galatians 4:21-31.
In Romans 9:6-8 the same truth is stated in these words:
"For they are not all 'Israel,' which are of Israel. Neither because they
are the seed of Abraham are they all children; but in Isaac shall thy seed
be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not
the children of God: but the children of the Promise are counted for the
This Scripture gives us, in addition to the important truth that not
all Israelites are included in the "Israel" of God's prophetic purposes, the
closely allied truth that "the children of God," that is, those who are saved
by the gospel, are "the children of the promise" (definite article in the
original) ; and that they are "counted for the seed" (of Abraham). By this
passage it is also seen that Romans IX continues a subject that was begun in
Chapter VIII, the inheritance of the whole redeemed creation by the children
of God. For in Chapter VIII it is written:
"The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the
children of God: and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs
with Christ") (Rom. 8:16, 17).
And the succeeding verses show that the inheritance here referred to
is the entire creation of God, which is hereafter to be delivered from the
bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
Here is another Scripture which never could have been written if there
were to be a Jewish millennium intervening between "the sufferings of this
present time" and "the glory which shall b revealed in (or to) us" (v. 18).
HATH GOD CAST AWAY HIS PEOPLE?
If therefore, God had cast out the bondwoman and her son (Israel after
the flesh) and had decreed that the son of the bondwoman was to have no share
in the inheritance promised to Abraham ("the world"), could it be said that He
had "cast away His people"? Manifestly if the natural descendants of Abraham
were "His people," the answer would be, Yes. But Paul's answers to that
question is an emphatic and indignant, "God forbid." And he goes on to explain
that the natural Israelites were not His people; but that "His people which He
foreknew" was that very small "remnant according to the election of grace"
which believed in Jesus Christ (Rom. 11:1-7). The plain and decisive answer
given by the apostle in this passage is, that God had not cast away His
people, because the apostate nation which He had cast was not His people.
Those were "the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction," which for centuries
past He had "endured with much longsuffering" (Rom. 9:22), and to whom He had
said through Isaiah, "All day long I have stretched forth My hands unto a
disobedient and gainsaying people" (10:20-21).
Those were not His people, and they never were, for when Elijah made
intercession against "Israel," and instanced some of the enormities they had
committed, what was God's answer? "I have reserved to Myself seven thousand
men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." That "very small remnant" were all
He owned as His people in that day; and Paul says, "EVEN SO" it is "at this
present time also"; and he had shown in the preceding chapter (9:25, 26) that
"this present time" is the "that day" foretold of God through Hosea, in which
He would disown His nominal people as "not My people," and would "call them My
people which were not My people" (Hos. 1:9; 2:23). There is no obscurity in
the apostle's answer to his own question, "Hath God cast away His people?" the
answer being in effect that God had in contemplation a people, "which He
foreknew," which were not the natural Israel (for only a small fraction of
that nation were to be included among them) and these He had not cast away,
but on the contrary they had obtained and were already in possession of that
which the natural Israel had been vainly seeking for.
And yet, in the interest of modern Dispensationalism, this luminous
explanation is not merely disregarded, but is reversed; and the passage is
made to mean that the natural Israelites are God's people, and that as such
they are to "obtain" in a future dispensation that which they have been
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
What Israel was seeking for was usually in those days designated by
the then current expressions, "Kingdom of God" and "Kingdom of the heavens";
and the Holy Spirit has made use of those terms in the New Testament.
Therefore, in closing this chapter, it is appropriate to call attention to the
fact that, what Paul was inspired to reveal in detail in Romans and Galatians,
had been briefly foretold by the Lord Himself in His last words spoken to
chief priests and elders of the people just before His death. It is recorded
by Matthew that, after speaking to those Jewish leaders the parable of the
Wicked Husbandmen, the Lord put to them a question which led them to pronounce
the doom of their nation. For, replying to His question - "What will he [the
lord of the vineyard] do to those Wicked husbandman?" -they said:
"He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his
vineyard to other husbandman, which shall render him the fruits in their
season" (Mat. 21:33-41).
Little did they imagine that, in so speaking, they were uttering a
true prophecy of what was about to happen to that nation. But the next
words of Jesus make this clear; for He said:
"Therefore I say unto you, The Kingdom of God shall be taken from you,
and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof" (v. 43).
What Christ declares in these words is the same thing in substance as
what Paul afterwards stated, when he said: "Israel hath not obtained that
which he seeketh for, but the election hath obtained it"; for obviously, "the
election" is that "nation" to which, according to the words of Christ, the
kingdom of God (which Israel was seeking for) was to be given. The election is
that "holy nation," which "in time past were not a people, but now are the
people of God" (I Pet. 2:9).
Further discussion of the subject of the people of God, and
particularly of the place which Gentiles have in that company, will be found
in the next succeeding chapter.
THE WORD OF FAITH WHICH WE PREACH
A specific instance of that which Israel was seeking for and had not
obtained, but which the believing remnant had obtained, is found in the
reference which Paul makes in Romans 10 to the last prophecy of Moses
concerning Israel. That citation is of the highest importance; for it
furnishes in and of itself conclusive proof that the promises of future mercy
to Israel, when they should repent and return to the Lord, are promises of
gospel-salvation, not of national restoration. Therefore we ask special
attention to what follows:
Immediately preceding the words quoted by Paul from Deuteronomy 30,
are prophecies of the complete apostasy of Israel; foretellings of the days to
come when they would turn from the Lord, would break His covenant and serve
other gods, even sacrificing unto devils; because of which He would bring upon
them all the curses written in the book of the law, "until He have destroyed
thee" (Deut. 28:45, 48, 61; and 29: 24-28).
But now, against the background of that dark cloud of coming judgment,
God sets the lustrous bow of promised mercy. Let us therefore pay careful
attention to the words of Moses and to the explanation of them the Spirit has
given through the apostle Paul:
"And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee ...
and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations whither the Lord thy
God hath driven thee, and shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and shalt obey
His voice, according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy
children, with all thy heart and with all thy soul; that then the Lord thy
God will turn thy captivity. and have compassion on thee, and will return
and gather thee from all the nations whither the Lord thy God hath scattered
"And the Lord thy God will bring thee into the land thy fathers
possessed, and thou shalt possess it . . . And the Lord will circumcise
thine heart, and the heart of all thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with
all thine heart and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live .... And thou
shalt return and obey the voice of the Lord, and do all His commandments
which I command thee this day." (Deut. 30:1-8).
Here we have a clear statement of what Israel was seeking for; and we
can readily understand how the unspiritual rabbis, those "blind leaders of the
blind," should have interpreted this and similar scriptures as promises of
political restoration for Israel and of the repossession by that nation of the
earthly Canaan; for they were blinded to the truth that the land of Canaan was
but a fleeting "shadow" (Heb. 10:1) of the true land of promise (Eph. 1:3) ;
even as the earthly nation itself was but the shadow "for the time then
present," of the true Israel of God.
And then follow these words, to which we special- ly invite attention:
"For this commandment, which I command thee this day, it is not hidden
from thee, neither is it far off . It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest
say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may
hear it and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say,
Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it
and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth and in thy
heart, that thou mayest do it" (Deut. 30:11-14).
Paul quotes from this scripture and says that Moses Was referring
there to "the word of faith which we preach," that is, the gospel; and he
declares the inner meaning of these words of Moses to be, "That if thou shalt
confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus" - Moses had said "in thy mouth and in
thy heart" - "and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from
the dead, thou shalt be saved" (Rom. 10:9). And the apostle goes on to say
that the promise was not for repenient Jews only, but for all men: "For there
is no difference between the Jew and the Greek; for whosoever shall call on
the name of the Lord shall be saved" (vv. 12, 13).
The essence of all this, stated in the fewest words, is that "this
commandment which" - Moses said - "I command thee this day," and which was to
be brought "very nigh" unto them, was to hear and obey the gospel of Christ.
And from this Paul argues the imperative necessity of preaching the
gospel to all men, Jews and Gentiles alike; "for how shall they believe in Him
of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" And,
still keeping Moses' prophecy in view, he Continues:
"But - I say, Did not Israel know? [that God's promised mercy was to
embrace Gentiles also]. First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by
them that are no People, and by a foolish nation I will anger You. But
Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I
was made manifest unto them that asked not after me. But to Israel he saith
All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and
gainsaying people." (Rom. 10:18-21).
And then the apostle sums up the truth of the matter by saying:
"Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath
obtained it, and the rest were blinded."
Here we have an authoritative explanation of God's promise of mercy
for some future generation of Israelites upon condition of repentance and
faith; and thereby we learn that, although it spoke of things seemingly
material and earthly, such as the re-possession of the tiny bit of earth's
surface formerly possessed by their ancestors, it was in reality a promise of
gospel-salvation. Further we learn thereby that the promise is being fulfilled
now to all those Jews (the remnant according to the election of grace) who
confess the crucified Jesus as LORD and who believe in their heart that God
has raised Him from the dead; and that the promise is for believing Gentiles
as well as for believing Jews.
By this explanation we learn also that the failure Of Israel as a
nation to obtain the promise of Deuteronomy XXX, which the remnant has
obtained, is in fulfilment not only of the prophecies of Moses but of other
prophecies as well; such for example as that which God spake through Isaiah,
saying: "All day long I have stretched forth My hands unto a disobedient and
gainsaying people." Both classes of prophecies - blessings and cursings - are
in course of fulfilment now. For it necessarily follows that all similar
prophecies of mercy and restoration for the Jewish people are prophecies of
gospel salvation, and have their fulfilment in this present day of grace. And
it is appropriate at this point to recall once more the enlightening word
spoken by Peter, whereby we know that it was revealed to Israel's prophets
that the things foretold by them they ministered, "not unto themselves, but
unto us"; which prophecies are the very things now reported by those that have
preached the gospel unto us with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. (1 P.