Chapter 4 from Forgotten Truths by Sir Robert Anderson
It is extraordinary that any student of Scripture can miss the clearly marked difference between the gospel of the opening clause of the Epistle to the Romans, and the gospel specified in the characteristically “Pauline” postscript at its close.
“Sojourners from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,” were among the multitudes who heard the Divine amnesty proclaimed at Pentecost. And it was “to Jews only” that in those early days the word of that gospel was preached. (Acts 11:19) In Rome therefore, as elsewhere, Jews and proselytes constituted the nucleus and rallying centre of the Church. And we read the Epistle to the Romans amiss, if we fail to recognize what an important place its teaching accords to those Hebrew Christians. The word which had won them to Christ was that “gospel of God which He had promised afore by His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son who was born of the seed of David.” Language could not more definitely indicate that it was the fulfillment of the hope of every true Israelite. Hence his words to the “Chief of the Jews” in Rome “For the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.” (Acts 28:20) And, as already noticed, his answer to the charge on which he was imprisoned was that his preaching to the Jews was based entirely on the Law and the Prophets. (Acts 26:22)
Such, then, was the burden of his ministry to his own people, a ministry he shared with all his brethren. But to Gentiles he preached a gospel which he had received by special revelation. And the specific purpose of his third visit to Jerusalem was to communicate that gospel to the other Apostles. (Galatians 2:2) In writing to Timothy he speaks of it as “the gospel of the glory of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.” It was the precious deposit which, on the eve of his martyrdom, he handed back, as it were, to the God who had entrusted it to him. (2 Timothy 1:12) And this is the “My gospel,” of the postscript to his Epistle to the Romans. (Romans 16:25, 26)¹
Here are his words’ “Now to Him that is able to stablish you according to my gospel, even the preaching of Jesus Christ according to a revelation of a mystery kept in silence through times eternal, but now manifested, and by prophetic writings according to the commandment of the Eternal God made known to all the nations unto obedience of faith” (or “obedience to the faith”).²
It was in grace that God made promise to Abraham and granted him the covenant. But on the faithfulness of God it is that we rely to keep His promise and to fulfill His covenant. It is of his “kinsmen according to the flesh” that the Apostle speaks in the opening words of Romans 9. And of them, the Israelites, he says, “Whose is the adoption and the glory, and the covenants and the giving of the law, and the service of God and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came.” And it was as “sons of the covenant” that the gospel was preached to them at Pentecost. (Acts 3:25) “The promise is to you and to your children,” the Apostle testified; (Acts 2:39.)³ for to them belonged the gospel of the covenant. But to the Gentiles, who were” strangers from the covenants of promise,” (Ephesians 2:12) was preached the gospel of grace—the gospel of the “mystery” truth, that grace was”reigning through righteousness unto eternal life.”
The covenants and promises to the Patriarchs neither exhausted nor limited the grace of God to men. And though “grace came by Jesus Christ,” it was restrained during all His ministry on earth. “I have a baptism to be baptized with (He exclaimed), and how am I straitened till it be accomplished.” Not till Divine righteousness was manifested in the death and resurrection of Christ, could Divine grace be fully and openly revealed. That there was forgiveness for the earnest seeker after God is not a distinctively Christian truth at all. It was always so. But the revelation of grace enthroned far transcends all that earlier ages knew. A parable may explain what that revelation means. “The Lord’s day”4 is one of our national institutions (for England is still a Christian country). And under English law that day is a day of grace, on which no court of justice can deal with criminals. Let their crimes be never so heinous, they cannot even be arraigned until the day of grace is over. And the present age is God’s great day of grace; “He knoweth how… to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.” (2 Peter 2:9)
We have a Divine commentary upon this from the lips of Christ Himself, when, on that Sabbath day in the synagogue of Nazareth, He stood up to read the 61st chapter of Isaiah, and stopped in the middle of its opening sentence. The record tells us that having uttered the words “He sent me…to preach the acceptable year of the Lord,” He closed the book and sat down. And then, in reply to the wondering looks of all the hearers, “He began to say unto them, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.” (Luke 4:16-21) “And the day of vengeance of our God” are the words that follow without break or pause, but He left those words unread. For till “the acceptable year of the Lord” has run its predestined course, the coming of “that great and terrible day of the Lord” is, through Divine longsuffering, delayed. In view of the rejection and death of the Son of God, the only possible alternatives were the doom of Sodom or the mercy of the gospel; and mercy triumphed.
The Indian Mutiny was followed by an amnesty. And so long as that amnesty remained in force, the honour of the Sovereign and Government of Britain was pledged to the rebels that on laying down their arms they would receive a pardon, instead of having their treasonable acts imputed to them. And during this day of grace, God is “not imputing unto men their trespasses.” Nay, more than this—for Divine grace surpasses every human parallel – He is pleading with them to accept the gospel amnesty. These amazing truths are well-nigh unbelievable. And yet behind them lies another truth that is still more wonderful: the Divine prerogative of judgment has been delegated without reserve or limit to the Lord Jesus Christ; and He is now “exalted to be a Saviour.”
And this is the solution of the crowning wonder of a silent heaven. God is silent because the gospel of His grace is His last word of mercy, and when again He breaks the silence it must be in wrath. The moral government of the world is not in abeyance, and men reap what they sow; but all direct punitive action against sin awaits the day of judgment. For in virtue of the Cross of Christ the throne of God has become a throne of grace. And the silence of heaven will be unbroken until the Lord Jesus passes to the throne of judgment.
In the ages before Christ came, men may well have craved for public proofs of the action of a personal God. But in the ministry and death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, God has so plainly manifested, not only His power, but His goodness and love-toward-man, that to grant evidential miracles, now, would be an acknowledgment that questions which have been for ever settled are still open. Moreover, miracles of another kind abound. For in recent years the gospel has achieved triumphs in heathendom, which transcend anything recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. And infidelity is thus confronted by surer proofs of the presence and power of God than any miracle in the natural sphere could offer. For miracles in the natural sphere are not necessarily a proof of Divine action they are the lure by which some of the demon cults of the present day ensnare their dupes; and the time may be near when such signs and wonders will abound.
While therefore we dare not limit what God may do in response to individual faith—for there is a gift of faith—to claim a sign is to tempt God, and to leave ourselves open to be deceived by the seducing spirits of these last days.5
This truth of grace enthroned may be called the basal truth of the distinctively Christian revelation. And yet, in common with certain other truths of that revelation, it was lost in the post-apostolic age. The writings of the Patristic theologians will be searched in vain for a clear enunciation of it. And though it flashed out like April sunshine at the Reformation, it soon disappeared again. And, needless to say, the Romish system is a flagrant and open denial of it.
- The same phrase, “My gospel,” occurs also in ch. 2:16. How can anyone imagine that the Apostle would call the gospel his, save in the sense that it was the subject of a special revelation to himself!
- The first kai in this sentence is obviously epexegetic. If read otherwise, as in our English versions, the Apostle is made to distinguish between the gospel of Christ and a gospel of his own. And “the Scriptures of the Prophets” is a mistranslation that reduces the Apostle’s words to an absurdity. For he is thus made to say that this “mystery” gospel was kept secret in all the past, and yet that it was plainly taught in the Old Testament Scriptures. The Greek is simple and clear. In ch. 1:2, the words are: “His prophets in holy writings” (i.e. the Old Testament Scriptures). In ch. 16:25, 26, the words are: “prophetic writings” (the inspired Scriptures of the New Testament). A prophet is “one who, moved by the Spirit of God, declares to men what he has received by inspiration” (Grimm’s Lexicon). And therefore “prophetic” is equivalent to inspired; the element of foretelling the future is merely incidental.
- It is a gratifying proof of increasing light that so many modern expositors explain the words that follow (“and to all that are afar off”) as referring to the Jews of the dispersion. To say that the promise was to Gentiles is utterly opposed to Scripture. (See e.g. Romans 9:4; 15:8; Ephesians 2:12; etc., etc.) It is certain, moreover, that not one of Peter’s audience would put such a meaning on his words.
- Sunday is thus designated in our older statutes.
- These last clauses are taken from the Preface to the ninth edition of The Silence of God, a book in which I have sought to unfold the forgotten truth of “the mystery of God.”
Anderson, Sir Robert. Forgotten Truths. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1980. Print.