The Kingdom being given to the elect only, any adoption into that elect portion must be revealed by express Divine Revelation.
PROPOSITION 64. The Kingdom being given to the elect only, any adoption into that elect portion must be revealed by express Divine Revelation.
No addition to, or continuation of, that elect portion to whom the Kingdom is alone promised (by way of inheritance), can be made without direction from God Himself.
Obs. 1. It has already been shown (Prop. 30), how God, in order to vindicate His foreknowledge and purpose, revealed that Gentiles should participate in the blessings of the Kingdom. But the manner in which they should be introduced, was left unexplained. The indefinite nature of the predictions (as e.g. by Moses in Deut. 32) are now, in the light of fulfilment, become definite. But it was not so in the days of Jesus and His disciples; something was to be added to show how this incorporation could be effected, for with the special election of the one nation, it would have been presumptuous for any one to have joined others with it without due authority from God. Hence we find Jesus before His death promising the keys of the Kingdom of heaven to Peter, i.e. the authoritative knowledge by which that Kingdom could be gained. Owing to the excessive sinfulness of the nation in rejecting and killing the Messiah, the one key concerning the Jews (Acts 2:38), was given to Peter on the day of Pentecost, while the other key pertaining to the Gentiles was given to him later by special revelation (Acts 10:1–48).[*]
Note. Comp. my Art. “The Keys,” in Evang. Review, vol. 20, p. 269 and 341. Our line of argument disproves the utterly unfounded assertion of Lord Bolingbroke, that the Gospel was only for the Jews, and that Paul was the first one who saw it necessary to extend it to the Gentiles, which he did, corrupting it, etc. The Key of Knowledge was first given to Peter, and from him extended to the others. It is amazing, in the light of the predictions of Jesus and the fulfilment in Peter (next Obs.), that Reuss (His. Ch. Theol., p. 259), can say, after placing the call of the Gentiles prior to the conversion of the Centurion of Cęsarea by “a simple (?) chronological arrangement:” “To some obscure Cyrenicians and men of Cyprus, friends of the illustrious proto-martyr, justly belongs then the honor of having been the first to break down the barrier which limited the word of God within the sphere of the Israelitish nationality.” We, however, are content to leave this “honor” with Peter, to whom it more “justly belongs.” Reuss unintentionally belittles Peter (making him weak and foolish) and the other apostles, by making these unknown (for he cannot even name them) preachers persons of far greater enlightenment than the apostles themselves, adding: “in their case, no visions, ecstasies, or celestial voices were needed to enable them to receive the positive and repeated assurances of the Saviour.’
Obs. 2. This doctrine of the election of the Jewish nation, is one so clearly taught that it was deeply rooted in the minds of the Jews. The result was that no addition could be made to it or allowed without an extraordinary Divine revelation. Hence we read (Acts 11) that when “the apostles and brethren that were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God,” they contended with Peter in consequence of his thus encouraging the Gentiles. Peter rehearsed the whole matter; what vision he had seen; what directions he had received; what results had followed; how God had acknowledged the validity of such an engrafting of Gentile believers by the bestowal of the gifts of the Holy Ghost. This was satisfactory; for “when they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying: Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” On a later occasion when the dispute was again raised by a few respecting the conversion of the Gentiles under Paul and Barnabas, Peter interfered, showing how the Gentiles through him heard the Gospel and believed, the Holy Ghost testifying to the same. Then Paul and Barnabas increased the force of the testimony by relating what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles through them. The result of the discussion is announced by James (Acts 15:13–21), in which we have distinctively three things presented: (1) The election and incorporation of the Gentiles, “Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His name;” (2) the identification of this elect people with them (the Jews) in the covenanted Kingdom, “And to this agree the words of the prophets, as it is written, ‘after this’ (viz.: after this people are gathered out) ‘I will return and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up,’ ”—both elect enjoying this restored Theocratic-Davidic Kingdom; (3) the blessings that would follow this restoration, “that the residue of men,” etc.[*]
Note. The comments of various commentators are exceedingly unsatisfactory (as also of writers, e.g. Hengstenberg’s Christ, B. 3, p. 233, etc.), simply because they forget to place themselves in the Jewish position, ignore the necessity of adoption and incorporation, and misapprehend the nature of the Messianic Kingdom. Even Olshausen, generally good in noticing the intent of passages, is here weak and uninstructive, while such commentators as Barnes (loci) flatly contradict their own Church-Kingdom theory by admitting a line of reasoning which is fatal to it. For Barnes admits (1) that this has reference to Messianic time; (2) that these times, thus described, are identified with a Jewish restoration to great prosperity and blessings, etc. But the Messianic times and Kingdom cannot be thus established, as predicted, because no such prosperity, no such restoration came upon the Jews at the First Advent; instead of such a fulfilment history records the sad fate of the nation. It is true that Barnes and others endeavor to shield their view under the ever-convenient but pitiful subterfuge of making this prediction emblematical of the favor of God and of other blessings than those specified.
The entire history of the election of Gentile believers indicates, from the jealousy with which it was regarded and the divine proofs that had to be necessarily attached to it, that in the minds of the apostles and believing Jews it was connected and blended with their own national election; it was regarded as a virtual engrafting and adoption as the seed of Abraham, to whom the covenants and promises belonged. If it be asked why such a revelation was necessary, owing to a previous admission of Gentiles as proselytes, the answer is, that the former system of admission being abrogated, and the Abrahamic covenant being renewed and pertaining exclusively to the faithful portion of the Jews, it was requisite, if the Gentiles were to be adopted, etc., to show how this could be accomplished.
Obs. 3. Various authors of eminence have unjustly accused the apostles, and especially Peter, of being “too Jewish” in their views respecting the call of the Gentiles. But in the light of the covenants and the election, how, we ask, could they be otherwise? It will not answer, as some defenders of Christianity, to assume that this “Jewish exclusiveness” was merely “a husk” enveloping something else; for we find this alleged “husk” an important and indispensable element even down to the present day. Recent Christian writers may, rather sarcastically, remark that Peter thought that “the Gentiles must be brought, as it were, over the bridge of Judaism into the Kingdom of God.” But Peter had no right to think otherwise until God revealed the matter to him how Gentiles could be engrafted and also become of the elect people without observing the rites and ceremonies of Judaism. In this whole affair, the apostles sustained the very attitude required by our Propositions concerning the covenants and election.[*]
Note. The criticisms of some writers on Peter are of such a nature that it almost seems as if they thought the keys were given to themselves instead of being presented to Peter. It will not answer to say, as some do, that salvation is just as necessary to the Gentile as it is to the Jew, and hence that no difference is made, no engrafting takes place, etc. Admitting that both need salvation, the question to be constantly kept before us is how God Himself arranges and carries out His Divine Purpose of Salvation. The objection, if it is to be regarded as such, might with equal propriety be alleged against preceding dispensations (as e.g. the choice of the Jewish nation, its Theocratic relationship, etc.), and even against this one, seeing what little provision has been made for the salvation of the heathen of past centuries, although they also needed salvation. A Christian cannot thus object, because God, who is all-wise and merciful, undoubtedly selects the best methods by which (in the briefest time, consistent with man’s moral freedom and His own Purposes), to attain to the ultimate Redemption of the world with the least loss and with the greatest honor to His moral government. Hence we, unable to grasp the innumerable details and principles underlying a Divine Plan only partially unfolded, should not set ourselves up as judges and arbiters of the matter, but simply receive the mode indicated by the Word itself. Such writers as Froude (Short Studies, p. 239), when they proclaim “the narrow littleness of ‘the peculiar people,’ ” of course do not regard the covenanted Theocratic relationship, etc., but seek after objections to gratify their own “high-mindedness.”
Obs. 4. The pronouncing, by Paul, of this election of Gentile believers as “a mystery,”—something, which, in view of the elected position of the Jews, was unexplained and to human reason inexplicable,—confirms our line of reasoning. That which made “the mystery,” was the sole and exclusive promise given to the seed of Abraham; the solving of “the mystery,” was the making known how the Gentiles could be incorporated with the elect nation.
Obs. 5. Even the intimations given by Jesus, before his death, could not break in the minds of the disciples the force of this exclusive promise, until it was also shown how the Gentiles could become the seed of Abraham without observing the rites, etc., of a previously ordained proselytism. In the nature of the case, it could not be otherwise, and it increases our admiration of the correct knowledge and attitude assumed by the disciples.[*]
Note. Let us briefly survey one of those intimations as given in Matt. 12:14–22. Here we have—(1) the Pharisees holding a council, and consulting to destroy Him; (2) when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from thence, and “charged them (the people that followed) that they should not make Him known,” in order that two things “might be fulfilled: (a) His submissiveness to suffering and death, and (b) in view of His rejection by the nation and the nation’s fall, the call and election of Gentiles. But in this, as in others, the manner of incorporation is passed by, it being left for future revealment. Some writers (as e.g. Potter, Freedom and Fellowship in Relig., p. 207), assign to Paul, and not to Peter, the calling of the Gentiles; but this is opposed to the divine statements (Obs. 1 and 2). It is confounding Paul’s special apostleship to the Gentiles with the call, and it is setting up a claim for Paul which he never assumed.
Obs. 6. Dr. Reuss (His. Ch. Theol., p. 151) adduces as proof that the Kingdom itself changed its nature and became spiritual, the removal of exclusiveness in the call of the Gentiles. But this is a strange and most erroneous inference. Paul tells us in Rom. ch. 11, Jesus declares in Matt. 21:43, other passages assert, that the calling of the Gentiles resulted, not from a change in the Kingdom (God forbid), but, from the posture of the Jewish nation, viz.: its deliberate rejection of the King and tendered Kingdom. To argue that the Kingdom itself was changed to accommodate it to the Gentiles, is to violate the covenants, to annul God’s oath to David, to make the Gentiles another separate and superior elect nation, in brief, to override the important and scripturally sustained reasons given in preceding Propositions. Reuss’ position (which only illustrates that of multitudes) is opposed to the teaching of the prophets (Prop. 35), who, although announcing the conversion of the Gentiles, never intimate the slightest change in the Kingdom, but constantly refer to it as the restored Theocratic-Davidic. It is hostile to the express declarations of the apostles, who, when in council to consider the relationship of the Gentiles, announce that it is not in conflict with the still future restoration of the fallen tabernacle of David. It is contradictory to the entire tenor of the Word, which only predicts and promises one Kingdom, the restored Davidic, for the elect to inherit. The theories which require for their support a present existing Davidic Kingdom, must, of necessity, not only advocate a change, although it is an ignoring of the most precise covenants, but seek in its behalf the lame apologies already so abundantly presented.[*]
Note. This subject of the election and the call of the Gentiles, with the engrafting on the principle of faith, fully accounts why Paul enters so largely into the matter of, and lays so much stress on, the doctrine of justification through faith. The contrast between his writings and that of the other apostles in this particular is so great that some have concluded it—erroneously—to be “another Gospel.” But the key is to be found in his being specially appointed as the apostle of the Gentiles. His very mission made this a very significant and highly important topic, and consequently, in faithfulness to his calling, he enlarges upon it.