Chapter # 11 Paragraph # 6 Study # 1
October 27, 2009
25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
27 For this [is] my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
28 As concerning the gospel, [they are] enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, [they are] beloved for the fathers' sakes.
29 For the gifts and calling of God [are] without repentance.
30 For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:
31 Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.
32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.
1901 ASV Translation:
25 For I would not, brethren, have you ignorant of this mystery, lest ye be wise in your own conceits, that a hardening in part hath befallen Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in;
26 and so all Israel shall be saved: even as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer; He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
27 And this is my covenant unto them, When I shall take away their sins.
28 As touching the gospel, they are enemies for your sake: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sake.
29 For the gifts and the calling of God are not repented of.
30 For as ye in time past were disobedient to God, but now have obtained mercy by their disobedience,
31 even so have these also now been disobedient, that by the mercy shown to you they also may now obtain mercy.
32 For God hath shut up all unto disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.
- I. The Pride Dissipating Mystery.
- A. At stake: the readers' spiritual life.
- 1. The threat: a lapse into "the pride of life" (1 John 2:16) as evidenced in "boasting" (9:18) and highmindedness (9:20) to which God will respond by "not sparing" (2:21) and "cutting off" (11:22).
- a. This "pride of life" is the characteristic of man when finding himself in a privileged position.
- b. These responses by God are characteristic of His antagonism toward the proud and are manifest throughout history as the way He responds when men sink into that morass.
- 2. The impact: a "hardening" that follows hard on the heels of the lapse into pride.
- a. The issue here is both incidental and incremental. No man maintains "humility" inviolate. However, at every point of failure (incidents) there is a danger that pride will gain a bit more of a hold on the mind/heart of the man who fails (incremental).
- b. Paul was not as concerned about the incidental as he was about the success of increment. Man is not in any danger of being "cut off" until his pride has hardened into a doctrinal commitment which shows itself in his teaching of salvation by human performance.
- B. The revelation.
- 1. It is an "ignorance banishing" unveiling of a hitherto unknown aspect of the Grand Plan.
- a. Paul calls it a "mystery". In 16:25 he says "the mystery was kept secret since the world began." This has to mean that God has been doling out the content of the Truth in bits and pieces over time (this is the doctrine of progressive revelation). This also means that Paul is claiming that his message contains parts that are new to the understanding of those who follow the teaching of the Scriptures. This means that he has to be able to validate this "newness" in some way. His argument is both historical (this is what is happening) and biblical (selected quotations from the Old Testament at least show that, though new, this "doctrine" is not contrary to the biblical forms of the Truth).
- 1) This "argument from historical reality" is absolutely fundamental to the biblical claims of legitimacy.
- a) Christ presented Himself as the Christ only after He had firmly established His credentials in history.
- b) Peter argued in Acts 11:1-18 that his personal history of the recent past, combined with a biblical leeway to allow the conclusions that history pressed, established the Truth about God and His Plan.
- 2) The foundation of this argument is the nature of biblical forms of Truth. Once those are discovered and understood, "history" can guide men into reality. Thus, the authors of the Scriptures invariably argue how their "truth" has both biblical validity and historical reality. However, it is more often than not the puzzle which history presses upon man that is responsible for his discovery of the biblical forms of truth that give the answers the puzzle demands. Man does not typically look for answers to unasked questions.
- b. As a "mystery", Paul says that its content has the ability to establish genuine humility as it prevents people from becoming what the translators call "wise in your own conceits". His point is rather obvious: if this is the Grand Plan, the individuals have no basis for boasting as if they made it happen. Things that have been an element in God's plans since the world began obviously have a divine origin and initiation that subverts any human "pride of accomplishment". If it is God's Plan, and has been, of what does man have to boast? It is part and parcel of Paul's concept of divine election and its purpose (9:11) that "before man has done anything to accomplish, or oppose, it, the determination was made." According to this apostle's argument in Ephesians 1:4-6, "grace" stands or falls on this foundation of a "pre-human-labor" divine fiat. And, according to Ephesians 2:8-9, "grace" was designed to keep human beings from "boasting". Thus, Paul claims that the revelation of this mystery will, if embraced, restrain man's tendency to be "wise in his own conceits" so that Life may flow between God and man unhindered.
- 2. It is a competitor to man's tendency to be "wise in his own conceits" in that it reveals that God's Plan includes, and always has, a partial hardness for Israel as well as a partial mercy for the Gentiles.
- a. The issue of "wise in your own conceits". This is a rather strange "translation" in that there are only two words in Paul's language to be rendered and neither of them includes "conceits".
- 1) Paul literally said "that ye not be 'practical to yourselves'".
- 2) The key term is the one I have followed the Logos Library System in calling 'practical'. It is regularly used in contexts where the issue is "making decisions that work out well after the fact". The man who builds his house on a rock is "practical" in that the house is thereafter able to withstand the onslaught of the storm of water (Matthew 7:24-25). The disciples who are sent forth among wolves need the 'practicality' of serpents while maintaining the harmlessness of doves (Matthew 10:16). The five virgins who went out to meet the bridegroom were 'practical' because they took extra oil for their lamps just in case his coming was delayed; the other five were "morons" because they did not think ahead at all and it cost them everything (Matthew 25:1-13). Thus, 'practical' turns out to be very much like our "common sense", which, in turn, simply means "to have a practical understanding of how things work that is generally widely shared".
- 3) Paul used the same terminology again in Romans 12:16 where he actually identified a key factor in the determination of whether a person could be 'practical' or a 'moron'. He said that if a person's concept of "common sense" included "distinctions" between "one another" that were rooted in what the world values as "ways to be exalted", the result would be that the person would be "wise in his own conceits", or "a moron".
- 4) But Paul's concern was not as much that his readers would "be practical" as that they would consider themselves to be practical. In other words, there are two stages here: first, there is the actual decision-making issue where decisions are made that bring good afterwards; and then there is the reflexive action of looking at what has occurred and congratulating oneself on being "so wise". It is the self-congratulation that is the major problem because it is that which is able to turn an otherwise "practical" decision into a disaster after the fact.
- 5) Thus, Paul's concern is that the actual experience of good "after the fact" will be twisted at the point of "cause". He accepts that the Gentile branches have been grafted into the fatness of the root; what he does not accept is that this "grafting" has been ultimately rooted in the superior wisdom of those branches. They do "stand by faith", but that "faith" is not rooted in their own good sense.
- b. The issue of a partial hardening imposed upon Israel.
- 1) Paul's reference is to the fact that God has allowed the natural development of hardness in that Israel that is of the loins of the fathers. He, obviously, could have prevented it just as He prevents it in "the elect". But He did not. Anyone who presumes that he/she is so "important to God" as to press the envelope of hardness is going to awakened to the hard fact that God has released them to their own "conceit".
- 2) This action by God is not at all unlike what He did prior to the Genesis flood or what He did prior to the dispersion at the tower of Babel. In both cases He permitted the incremental development of "hardness" because it was useful in the larger "Plan".
- 3) In our text, the larger Plan was for a "fulness of the Gentiles". In other words, there was an element of the Plan that included a "fulness of Israel" and there was an element that included a "fulness of the Gentiles". Paul's readers simply fall into that element that focuses upon the Gentiles. They did not create, or cause, this. Thus, becoming aware of their own lack of pivotal identity (they did not create or cause their participation in the fatness) makes it possible for them to refrain from being "wise in their own conceits", or, as Paul actually said, being "self-congratulatory" about their own "common sense".