Next is where? Kyushu. We need to wait a little more, but in time, a paradise on earth will be constructed in Kyushu. After that, it will be constructed in China. Then it will be in Jerusalem, and that’s it. So it will continue to go westward. The construction of a paradise on earth in Jerusalem marks the beginning of a paradise on earth for the world. From that time onward, the world will be unified.
Sermon, October 18, 1952
But one of you will say to me, “If this is so, how can God find fault with anyone? Who can resist God’s will?” But who are you, my friend, to talk back to God? A clay pot does not ask the man who made it, “Why did you make me like this?” After all, the man who makes the pots has the right to use the clay as he wishes, and to make two pots from the same lump of clay, one for special occasions and the other for ordinary use.
And the same is true of what God has done. He wanted to show his anger and to make his power known. But he was very patient in enduring those who were the objects of his anger, who were doomed to destruction. And he also wanted to reveal his abundant glory, which was poured out on us who are the objects of his mercy, those of us whom he has prepared to receive his glory. For we are the people he called, not only from among the Jews but also from among the Gentiles. This is what he says in the book of Hosea:
“The people who were not mine
I will call ‘My People.’
The nation that I did not love
I will call ‘My Beloved.’
And in the very place where they were told, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called the children of the living God.”
And Isaiah exclaims about Israel: “Even if the people of Israel are as many as the grains of sand by the sea, yet only a few of them will be saved; for the Lord will quickly settle his full account with the world.” It is as Isaiah had said before, “If the Lord Almighty had not left us some descendants, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah.”
So we say that the Gentiles, who were not trying to put themselves right with God, were put right with him through faith; while God’s people, who were seeking a law that would put them right with God, did not find it. And why not? Because they did not depend on faith but on what they did. And so they stumbled over the “stumbling stone” that the scripture speaks of:
“Look, I place in Zion a stone
that will make people stumble,
a rock that will make them fall.
But whoever believes in him will not be disappointed.”
My friends, how I wish with all my heart that my own people might be saved! How I pray to God for them! I can assure you that they are deeply devoted to God; but their devotion is not based on true knowledge. They have not known the way in which God puts people right with himself, and instead, they have tried to set up their own way; and so they did not submit themselves to God’s way of putting people right. For Christ has brought the Law to an end, so that everyone who believes is put right with God.
Moses wrote this about being put right with God by obeying the Law: “Whoever obeys the commands of the Law will live.” But what the scripture says about being put right with God through faith is this: “You are not to ask yourself, Who will go up into heaven?” (that is, to bring Christ down). “Nor are you to ask, Who will go down into the world below?” (that is, to bring Christ up from death). What it says is this: “God’s message is near you, on your lips and in your heart”—that is, the message of faith that we preach. If you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from death, you will be saved. For it is by our faith that we are put right with God; it is by our confession that we are saved. The scripture says, “Whoever believes in him will not be disappointed.” This includes everyone, because there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles; God is the same Lord of all and richly blesses all who call to him. As the scripture says, “Everyone who calls out to the Lord for help will be saved.”
But how can they call to him for help if they have not believed? And how can they believe if they have not heard the message? And how can they hear if the message is not proclaimed? And how can the message be proclaimed if the messengers are not sent out? As the scripture says, “How wonderful is the coming of messengers who bring good news!” But not all have accepted the Good News. Isaiah himself said, “Lord, who believed our message?” So then, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message comes through preaching Christ.
But I ask: Is it true that they did not hear the message? Of course they did—for as the scripture says:
“The sound of their voice went out to all the world;
their words reached the ends of the earth.”
Again I ask: Did the people of Israel not understand? Moses himself is the first one to answer:
“I will use a so-called nation
to make my people jealous;
and by means of a nation of fools
I will make my people angry.”
And Isaiah is even bolder when he says,
“I was found by those who were not looking for me;
I appeared to those who were not asking for me.”
But concerning Israel he says, “All day long I held out my hands to welcome a disobedient and rebellious people.”
I ask, then: Did God reject his own people? Certainly not! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people, whom he chose from the beginning. You know what the scripture says in the passage where Elijah pleads with God against Israel: “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me.” What answer did God give him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not worshiped the false god Baal.” It is the same way now: there is a small number left of those whom God has chosen because of his grace. His choice is based on his grace, not on what they have done. For if God’s choice were based on what people do, then his grace would not be real grace.
What then? The people of Israel did not find what they were looking for. It was only the small group that God chose who found it; the rest grew deaf to God’s call. As the scripture says, “God made their minds and hearts dull; to this very day they cannot see or hear.” And David says,
“May they be caught and trapped at their feasts;
may they fall, may they be punished!
May their eyes be blinded so that they cannot see;
and make them bend under their troubles at all times.”
I ask, then: When the Jews stumbled, did they fall to their ruin? By no means! Because they sinned, salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make the Jews jealous of them. The sin of the Jews brought rich blessings to the world, and their spiritual poverty brought rich blessings to the Gentiles. Then, how much greater the blessings will be when the complete number of Jews is included!
I am speaking now to you Gentiles: As long as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I will take pride in my work. Perhaps I can make the people of my own race jealous, and so be able to save some of them. For when they were rejected, all other people were changed from God’s enemies into his friends. What will it be, then, when they are accepted? It will be life for the dead!
If the first piece of bread is given to God, then the whole loaf is his also; and if the roots of a tree are offered to God, the branches are his also. Some of the branches of the cultivated olive tree have been broken off, and a branch of a wild olive tree has been joined to it. You Gentiles are like that wild olive tree, and now you share the strong spiritual life of the Jews. So then, you must not despise those who were broken off like branches. How can you be proud? You are just a branch; you don’t support the roots—the roots support you.
But you will say, “Yes, but the branches were broken off to make room for me.” That is true. They were broken off because they did not believe, while you remain in place because you do believe. But do not be proud of it; instead, be afraid. God did not spare the Jews, who are like natural branches; do you think he will spare you? Here we see how kind and how severe God is. He is severe toward those who have fallen, but kind to you—if you continue in his kindness. But if you do not, you too will be broken off. And if the Jews abandon their unbelief, they will be put back in the place where they were; for God is able to do that. You Gentiles are like the branch of a wild olive tree that is broken off and then, contrary to nature, is joined to a cultivated olive tree. The Jews are like this cultivated tree; and it will be much easier for God to join these broken-off branches to their own tree again.
There is a secret truth, my friends, which I want you to know, for it will keep you from thinking how wise you are. It is that the stubbornness of the people of Israel is not permanent, but will last only until the complete number of Gentiles comes to God. And this is how all Israel will be saved. As the scripture says,
“The Savior will come from Zion
and remove all wickedness from the descendants of Jacob.
I will make this covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”
Because they reject the Good News, the Jews are God’s enemies for the sake of you Gentiles. But because of God’s choice, they are his friends because of their ancestors. For God does not change his mind about whom he chooses and blesses. As for you Gentiles, you disobeyed God in the past; but now you have received God’s mercy because the Jews were disobedient. In the same way, because of the mercy that you have received, the Jews now disobey God, in order that they also may now receive God’s mercy. For God has made all people prisoners of disobedience, so that he might show mercy to them all.
How great are God’s riches! How deep are his wisdom and knowledge! Who can explain his decisions? Who can understand his ways? As the scripture says,
“Who knows the mind of the Lord?
Who is able to give him advice?
Who has ever given him anything,
so that he had to pay it back?”
For all things were created by him, and all things exist through him and for him. To God be the glory forever! Amen.
Romans 9:19–11:36 GNT
Published in Glory, no. 20, September 1, 2021