1 Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
With this one word Paul united all who are in Christ Jesus, whether Jew or Gentile, excluding all others. However, there is an underlying pathos in its usage here, for it is the apostle's earnest wish that those who are his brethren in the flesh, fellow Israelites, might also be his brethren in Christ.
This address is also desired to give special emphasis to what follows. He wants them to realise the serious situation into which the folly of Israel has led the nation, since the Gentile ecclesia might also imitate Israel's attitude to the Truth.
My heart's desire
An expression which indicates Paul's attitude of hearty and sincere benevolence towards his fellow Jews. It shows that Paul was not biased against Jewry, but rather the opposite: that his heart went out to his people, and his personal feelings were heavily weighted in their favour. He sincerely sought to bring the Truth to them, notwithstanding their tragic history
and current opposition to the gospel message.
In this the apostle manifests the godly characteristics expounded - by the Master:
"Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you".
And prayer to God for Israel is
Thus endorsing the final appeal of the Lord Jesus Christ from the cross:
"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Lk. 23:34).
That they might be saved
Notwithstanding their treatment of Yahweh's Anointed, and the general rejection of the nation by God (Mat. 22:7), forgiveness was possible upon the basis of acknowledgement of their sin, and the development of faith. Such Israelites needed to associate with the disciples, and commit themselves to following "the way" (cp. Acts 19:9): a life of sacrifice and dedication to the things of God.
The Christadelphian Expositor
2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
But, is there no moral difference between Paul's infidels or unbelievers, and the misbelievers of our day? Misbelievers acknowledge the existence of the Eternal Spirit, and that Jesus is Christ, the Son of Deity; that he died for sin, and rose again, and is now at the right hand of power. But, because of their ignorance, they do not believe the doctrine he taught, and commanded the apostles to teach. Yet, they are very conscientious, admire his character greatly, and are as correct in their deportment, socially, as the most enlightened saint.
Ambassador of the Coming Age, May 1866
They have a zeal of God
The Diaglott has: "zeal for God". The word rendered "zeal" (Gr. zelos) signifies to boil or seethe, and is expressive of eager, vehement passion, ardor or fervor. The noun, zelotes (Eng. zealot), is used to describe an "uncompromising partisan", and was applied by the Jews to an extreme element of the Pharisees who were bitterly antagonistic to the Romans.
Paul's usage of the word zelos is thus indicative of the intensity of Jewish fervor. This characteristic was revealed in Israel's stubborn application of ritual and ordinances, notwithstanding that they were unable to answer the challenging statements of the Lord which showed the vanity of their religious observances (cp.Mat. 23:25-31).
They were diligent in fulfilling the ordinances of the law and the traditions of the elders, but neglected balancing their zealousness with an understanding of the mission and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and the purpose of Yahweh in him.
It is important to manifest zeal. The Lord is the perfect example of righteous zeal:
"his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up" (Jn. 2:17).
The Corinthian disciples had "provoked" others with their good example of fervency for the Truth (2Cor. 9:2), as did Epaphras for the Colossians (Col. 4:12). But zealousness without Truth is a fire without a purpose; it burns without hope — and in this Israel failed its divine destiny.
Paul was well aware of the nation's zeal. He had earlier displayed this same purposeless zeal when he had persecuted the ecclesia: Acts 9:1; 22:3; Gal. 1:14. Now his plea is that they might follow his example of conversion, and allow their zealousness to be properly channelled in the way of righteousness.
The Christadelphian Expositor
3 For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
so called, are the vagaries of this spirit of the flesh. Babes are born into sectarian families dwelling in the material mists of the Apostasy. As they grow up, they become infected with the "strong delusion" everywhere prevalent.
Their Cautiousness is powerfully acted upon. They hear of eternal torments for graceless souls; they hear long and fervid "prayers" for God to give them religion; to send the Holy Ghost and fire into their heads to convert them: the spiritual atmosphere becomes intensely hot, and they begin to relax under the exalted temperature.
They sleep; they dream; and spectral images scare them in the visions of their heads. They awake, and find their organs permanently mesmerized; and, knowing no better, they declare it is the Holy Ghost that has converted them, and pardoned their sins!
Their infatuation is complete. They have experienced a change; and they know that the Bible has had nothing to do with it. In their case, then, they discover that "the Spirit operates independently of the word."
Of what value, then, is the word to them? They were converted without the word. They knew nothing of the kingdom when they were converted. It is therefore of no vital consequence; hence the word is laid aside as the letter that killeth, while the spirit makes alive!
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Dec 1856
4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
When we say "through Christ ", we bring into view the fact that the law has been made operative in him. He was "made under the law" (Gal. 4: 4), to which he was obedient in all things; and for his obedience "even unto death" he became "the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Rom. 10:4). Thus the law was made effectual through Christ. The law was not a failure; God's word never "returns to him void".
It accomplished its mission in two directions. It condemned Israel, who were disobedient--every man of them, more or less--" stopping every mouth", and it bestowed its blessing on Christ, who "magnified the law and made it honourable" (Isa. 42:21). The mode of his death brought him under its curse, but without the surrender of his righteousness, since his submission to that mode of death was in itself an act if obedience. It was necessary that he should bear its curse away "to redeem them that were under the law" It was therefore necessary it should come upon him, yet that it should come righteously, that all the ways of God might be consistent one with another.
The law was a rule of procedure towards mortal men. It ceased to be a rule of procedure towards Christ when he died and rose again. As a rule of procedure towards all others, it could only condemn them, because they are all transgressors. Therefore righteousness for transgressors in the sense of forgiveness unto life eternal cannot come by the law. This was Paul's great contention against the Judaism of his day. His argument is drawn to a focus in the statement of Gal. 2: 21, "If righteousness come by the law, then is Christ dead in vain". But he has not died in vain. He died to declare the righteousness of God as the ground of invitation for sinners to receive forgiveness. He died to remove the old covenant as a rule of procedure towards men.
The "learned" of this world misconceive the subject altogether. While they truly recognize the limited or tribal character of the Sinaitic enunciation, they draw wrong conclusions from it through the effects of a wrong theory in another direction. They assume that all men are immortal, and on a footing of equal acceptability to God, and that therefore a system like the Mosaic system, which limited its proposals to a particular nation, and ignored the rest of mankind, must have had a human origin. The argument really turns the other way; that the Mosaic limitations being divine are a confutation of popular views as to the nature and position of the human race.
The ten commandments as the authentic formulation of divine will concerning the deportment of individual man are of unspeakable moment. They embody the fundamental principles that regulate human life.
Law of Moses Ch 3
The Gentile (Constantine) Sabbath
The Mosaic law enjoined the observance of the seventh day: Constantine appointed the day after, or the first day of the week, as the Sabbath. There are some in our day who make this a reason for contending for the observance of the seventh, and not the first day of the week. If it were a question of Moses versus Constantine, this contention would be unanswerable. But in truth it is not a question of one or the other for the brethren of the Lord.
Constantine is not their lawgiver; and they are certainly "not under the law" (Rom. 6: 14-15), but under Christ, who is "the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Rom. 10:4), and who never enjoined the observance of the Sabbath.
He is never found by his own mouth enjoining the law of Moses on believers. He rather seeks to fasten attention on himself. Though he was born under the law (Gal. 4:4) and obedient in all things (Heb. 5: 8-9), he places himself above the law in the precepts he enjoins, as manifest from the recurring phrase in" the sermon on the mount": "Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time ", thus and so (" hate thine enemy "). "But I say unto you, Love your enemies" (Matt. 5: 43-44; also 21, 27, 31, 33 and 38).
This over-vaulting authority is also asserted in those remarkable expressions: "A greater than Solomon is here... a greater than Jonas is here... in this place is one greater than the temple" (Luke 11: 31-32; Matt. 12: 6). Jesus truly came to fulfil the law, but he came to "fulfil" in much higher sense than merely conforming to the letter of its enactment. He came to end it by accomplishing in himself all that it foreshadowed, plucking the sting out of it by giving himself up to its curse in suffering himself to be crucified.
These things are testified, and will not be ignored by minds in earnest about truth. The testimony is explicit. "Christ is the end of the law" (Rom. 10: 4). "The law is a shadow of good things to come... the body is of Christ" (Heb. 10: 1; Col. 2: 17). He "blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross" (Col. 2: 14). "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree .... The law was our schoolmaster. We are no longer under a schoolmaster" (Gal. 3: 13, 24, 25).
Law of Moses Ch 6
The Sabbath and the Ten Commandments
The two tables of stone upon which the ten commandments were written by the finger of God, are respectively summarised in the first and second commandments, which contain the sum of all duties to God and man, stated under two heads.
The first four injunctions corresponding presumably to the first table and first commandment, concern the Creator; while the next six statutes relate to the creature. They comprehend all the positive and negative enactments contained in the rest of the law. Both classes of injunction were necessary to secure the end proposed.
The Bible is pre-eminently a book of what to do and what not to do. The ten commandments are all reproduced except one in a variety of ways in the New Testament institution. The one not reinstituted is the one relating to the sabbath. This was no longer obligatory upon Jews who had embraced the truth; for being a matter concerning "times and seasons," and not eternal principles, it was destined in due time to give place to the "body" of which it was the shadow; for so the apostle instructs us, for says he,
"A feast day, or a new moon, or a sabbath day are a shadow of the things to come; but the body is Christ's (Col. 2:16, 17,).
The weekly sabbath was only one of a number of sabbaths, to observe which was a work of superogation. After the shadow had given place to the substance, upon which fell the meridian light of Heaven's brightest revelation.
The sabbath-rest of God's purpose truly remains as something yet to be entered upon (Heb. 4:11), but the "light of the world" having appeared with the effect disestablishing the old shadowy covenant in favour of the new which he ratified by his own blood; there is no further place for the abolished thing (2 Cor. 3:13); the true foundation of all that is, and is to come having been laid in the hallowed life, the flesh-crucified death, and the thrice blessed resurrection of him who is
"the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Rom 10:4).
He has, as it were, "ceased from his own works as God did from his," as the firstfruit of an harvest of sons, all destined in due time, to share with him the joy of "that hallowed morn" which will usher in the sabbath of creation, and the attendant blessedness of all nations upon earth in Abraham and his victorious seed.
Whilst the outward form of the truth's service has varied with each dispensation-patriarchal, Mosaic, Christian-the inner principles of the truth itself are the same from age to age. The outer form concerns Sabbaths, holy days, "divers washings," circumcisions, bodily purifications, eating of meats, and all carnal ordinances, imposed only until the "times of reformation" inaugurated by Christ; but the inner principles concerns faith, worship, righteousness, hope, love, obedience, holiness, forgiveness, and perfection of conscience.
Under the law these were associated with asperities, rigours, and servitude which made it, says Peter,
"a yoke which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear."
In this particular things are changed, for, as John says,
"the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."
We have, therefore, to do now with a "grace-abounding" institution in which the position of bond-servant is exchanged for the freedom and privileges of sonship. What this means, as compared with the service required by the law, is everywhere illustrated in the New Testament: for instance, take, first, what is called the beatitudes and the precepts accompanying them, then take the fraternal counsels which are so peculiar to the epistles.
Under the law we have a nation of redeemed slaves; under grace we have the adoption of sons. There was a sense of course, in which Israel, after the flesh, were the children of God (Deut. 14:1), the same as there was a sense in which Adam was the son of God (Luke 3:38); but this was a mere present-life sense-a sense in which the existence received respectively as a man and a nation, was wholly due to divine intervention. It went no further than was visible to the eye in the mortal aspects of the case.
Unlike John's "sons of God," it had no "shall be" in it. "Ye are not come," saith the apostle, "to the mount that burned with fire, but to the general assembly and ecclesia of the firstborn"-no longer children of Jerusalem the bondmother, but sons of Jerusalem the free. (Gal 4:25, 26) In one word,
"Ye are not,' saith Paul,
"under the law but under grace"
-grace which has the promise of both the life that now is and of that which is yet to come; grace, however, in which the "carnal ordinances" of the law of Moses are swallowed up of the "law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus," for "the letter killeth but the spirit giveth life." This being so the apostle well represents the changed situation when he says,
"but now have we been discharged from the law, having died to that wherein we were holden, so that we serve in newness of spirit and not in the oldness of the 'letter'".
The service is therefore as of those who have risen from the dead - a service no longer rendered under the influence of fear, but in the spirit of fraternal love. In the new institution the ten commandments stand thus:-
Commandments 1. 2. 5. 8. 9. 10. are retained.
Commandment 3. is amended.
Commandment 4. is abolished.
Commandments 6. 7. are extended.
Christ possessed the necessary authority to retain, amend, extend, or abolish whatever he deemed necessary so to do, as is evidenced in his treatment of some of the "old-time" institutions in his discourse on the mount; and not less in the fact that he was "Lord of the Sabbath," and "a son," where Moses was only "a servant" (Heb 3:5, 6).
The Christadelphian, June 1888
7 Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)
In Rom. x. 7, abyss is used by Paul in asking, "Who shall descend into the abyss?" in the C.V. deep: and he tells us what sense he attaches to the word in letting us know the purpose of the descent -- "that is," says he, "to bring up Christ again from among dead ones, ek nekron." This is an abyss which is "never full;" still bottom can be reached when there shall be no more death, and the grave shall be destroyed.
In this use of the word, abyss does not signify "the invisible receptacle of departed spirits," but the common receptacle of dead bodies; or more strictly speaking, the aggregate of dead bodies themselves. These are a sea of death, which when living were
"a troubled sea, whose waters cast up mire and dirt" (Isa. lvii. 20).
Etymologically, αβυσσος, abyssos, may be said to signify without bottom, if the "a" be taken in a privative sense. Paul uses the phrase εις την αβυσσον, into the abyss, in Rom. 10:7, where the common version has it into the deep. In this place it clearly stands for the receptacle of the dead; for he says,
"Who shall descend into the abyss, that is, to bring up Christ from among the dead?"
Now, the Scripture saith that the grave is one of the four things that "are never satisfied." In this sense, it may be said to be bottomless. But in the sense used by Luke and John, the Greek "a," alpha, is not privative, but augmentative, increasing the force of βυσσος; for βυθος, from deep to very deep.
The Christadelphian, Apr 1872 - Bro Thomas's dictionary
17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
To bring to mind, to keep in mind, to renew our faith, then, are the great desiderata. This is the true meaning of edification: the building of one another up in our most holy faith. Now that which gives us the faith in the first instance is that which must keep the faith. The reading that will plant the faith is the reading that will preserve and nurture it. The human mind is like shifting sand in relation to everything-not only in relation to things divine, but things human; though more especially things divine.
Human memory is a very feeble thing. The substance of the mind, as it were, is always on the move-always changing, always receiving new impressions, new thoughts. The thoughts and impressions of yesterday are feebler to-day than when first received; and as time goes on, they become feebler and feebler, until we are almost unconscious of them. To keep a thing constantly in the mind, it must be held continually in contact with it in some shape or form.
The faces of friends seen daily are not forgotten. Now the truth is our great friend. If we look in its face daily, we shall keep it in mind; but if we live in neglect of it, if we abandon or refrain from reading the scriptures, or assembling one with another, the face of friend Truth will become dim. The impressions that the truth has made upon our minds will gradually fade, until they disappear altogether, and we shall become worldly-minded.
What a mistake for any of us to give the preference to any friend above friend Truth. Friend Business, Friend Sociality, Friend Enjoyment, will cheat us at last; but Friend Truth is a tree of life to them that lay hold of her. Happy is everyone that receiveth her; she will never deceive us but be precious and refreshing to our last mortal hour, and crown us with life and joy for evermore.
Ambassador of the Coming Age, Nov 1868
It must have struck us all, some time or other, how feebly men are moved by the idea of pleasing Christ-even some men professing the Truth. Some matter of life or course of conduct is in dispute, you suggest, perhaps, that such and such a course will be well-pleasing to God, or in harmony with the will of Christ. How flat the suggestion seems to fall. It evokes no response and stirs no feeling.
Very likely your words will be received with ill-concealed disgust or contempt, as if you were appealing to a chimera. Brethren, there is drawing near a time when what Christ thinks will be a matter of supreme anxiety to everyone, a thing of great weight and urgent practical moment. Our Bible readings and meetings are preparing us for that moment. Their joint effect is to bring us under the power of things that are not seen but actual.
We stand related to many invisible things that are very real. What more actual and essential than the air we breathe? What more invisible? What more invisible than the life we live, the thoughts we think, the feelings we have; take these away, what reality would be left for us?
People can see the force of the thought in these cases. Why should they be insensible to it in other things, as much out of sight for the time being, but more real in their bearing upon present and future well being?
Christ is out of sight, God is out of sight; the things that have happened are all out of sight except in so far as they left traces. The things that belong to the future are "not seen as yet." But their reality is a prevailing fact with intelligence.
It is only ignorance or forgetfulness that are insensible to their power. Ignorance and forgetfulness are vulgar qualities. They belong to a state of low development. This is the state of the world at large around us. They are uninfluenced by the invisible things of the Truth because their feeble mentalities are overpowered by the impressions of the passing hour. The greatest facts to which they stand related are hidden from sight by the images of the proximate ephemeralities.
We are all liable to be the victims of this deception. It is a struggle between the impressions of sense and the discernments of wisdom. When the latter get the upper hand we obtain the victory of faith which overcomes the world. There is nothing mysterious about the faith or its victory.