I say then, Has God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.…
I. THE CONSPICUOUSLY GOOD ARE THE FEW — NOT THE MANY. The many are the called; the few are the chosen who accept the call. God had not wholly cast away His people (ver. 1). It was then as it had been in the time of Elijah (ver. 4). And how is it now? Let us beware of uncharitable judgments. Nothing is easier than sweeping censures. God is tender in His judgments of men, often justifying many whom we in our severity should condemn. Still, would Christ acknowledge the majority in the churches, or would He have to turn to the minority? Certainly to only a small minority, whose faith is proved by their character and works. For, strip away from the profession of Christianity its accidental accompaniments, and what do you find? Nothing that is perfect, even in the loftiest; and nothing of unmixed evil in the meanest. But you will find in the few, in spite of great faults, a faith in Christ so genuine as to give a sure pledge that the goodness of the man will assuredly conquer the badness in the end. The man in whom the love of truth is a passion, in whom justice is a matter of greater concern than the falling of the heavens, and who burns with shame at the thought of an impure deed, and who has courage enough to suffer in the righteous cause like his Great Master; — why, that man forms part of God's elect remnant, who put to shame the majority of those who cry aloud the name of Christ, but who do not His deeds.
II. SOME OF THESE FEW ARE NOT FOUND WITHIN THE BOUNDARIES OF THE RECOGNISED CHURCH. They are in Christ's Church, but not in man's. And that is a cause of jealousy and anger to many of us. When Paul told the Jews that God was founding a Church outside their own nation, he knew that he was wounding their prejudices to the quick. So strongly did he feel this that he had to fortify himself by an appeal to Moses (Romans 10:19). But though fact and prophecy supported his statement, they would not admit that God was working upon lines outside their own. And yet the apostle insists upon it as the great revealed mystery which was to crush their pride and to precipitate their fall (ver. 25). And so now God is wider in His plans than our pride and prejudice think. We find it almost as hard to believe as the Jew did, that God has a Church outside the Church. And yet, are we not confronted by facts? I believe the Church is our right and natural place, and that it is its natural work to be foremost in doing whatever contributes to the highest welfare of men. But has it not been, and is it not so still, that God has other sheep which are not of this fold? Some of these have maintained an outward connection with the Church, though the Church has not identified itself with them. They have worked alongside the Church rather than with it. Wilberforce and Clarkson did not get the sympathy and support of the Church till their cause was triumphant. Who are the true prophets of this generation? For the most part men upon whom the Church looks askance. When we get to heaven we shall find men there whom we never expected to see, and miss others perhaps whom we expected to find in the foremost places.
III. THIS OUTER CHURCH OF THE GENTILES WAS TO PROVOKE THE JEWS TO JEALOUSY AND EMULATION. The Jews fell that the Gentiles might rise, and the Gentiles had risen that they might stimulate the Jews to rise too. The Church is evermore in need of this constant renewal and reconstruction. At the time of the Reformation Christian truth had to be rediscovered, and a new Church formed outside the lines of the old Church. But the fundamental principle of the Reformation did not long preserve its supremacy — the right of every man to exercise his own judgment — for the Protestants soon began to persecute men like the Catholics. There is a great cry in our day that religion is in danger, and that the churches are failing; such a cry as must have gone forth among the Jews when Paul first preached, but has the cry any greater warrant now than it had then? Was not religion then really rooting itself in a richer soil, and preparing to bring forth better fruit? The devout Catholic thought that the Reformers were devils, and prophesied the overthrow of all religion. But was it not rather a fresh ploughing and sowing of the human soul, and a new opening of the heavens? And as to the cry in our day, if the Christianity depended on the Roman Syllabus, the Thirty-Nine Articles, the Westminster Confession, then we might tremble, but God forbid that we should be overcome by such an ignoble fear. We believe in the religion of Christ, and we can see before it a nobler future. As the Jews had to learn from the Gentiles in order to their recovery, so we have some things to learn from the outer boundaries of God's Church.
(C. Short, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.