Without Much Fruit (continued)
In connection with this phase of our discussion I concluded my previous installment by quoting from Rev. H. Hoeksema’s seminary notes on “Principles of Mission.” I made this quotation with reference to the question what expectation of results there can be in so-called evangelism among the unchurched.
The point is made in these remarks that the distinction of the generations of the Jews who have been cut out of the olive tree is that they can be grafted in again upon their own olive tree after they have been cut out as branches,—something that does not, as general rule, hold true of the Gentiles. Hence, the work of evangelism among “dead” Gentile branches is without much fruit because God does not return to the branches that are once cut off.
On this idea the Rev. Hoeksema writes in further detail in a sermon on Romans 11:11, entitled “The Divine Purpose of Israel’s Stumbling,” from which I quote the following instructive excerpt (cf. “God’s Eternal Good Pleasure,” pp. 372, ff.):
“. . . . Paul is speaking of the ‘rest’ (vs. 7), that is, of those reprobate Jews in their generations. This we must bear in mind. He does, indeed speak of those Jews who at the time of Jesus’ public ministry, His crucifixion and resurrection, and of the establishment of the New Testament church, stumbled at the stone, rejected the Messiah, crucified the Lord of glory, and did not enter into the Kingdom of God of the new dispensation. But he is not thinking of those individual Jews, of which we said a moment ago that they had fallen into perdition, but rather refers to them as a class, as they existed in his own day, and as they would continue to exist in the ages to come throughout the new dispensation in their generations. It is of the still unbelieving Jews, of the children and generations of those Jews that crucified the Christ and consented unto His death, that the Apostle speaks in the question and answer of our text: Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid! This we must bear in mind. Paul had spoken of the remnant according to the election that was saved. And he had written of the rest that were hardened and blinded. And now you might ask the Apostle: Do you mean that the remnant according to the election of grace that is saved at this present time and that already entered into the church of the new dispensation, is all there will ever be saved of the Israelites; and will all the rest be rejected forever? Is there no salvation for the generations of those Jews whom you call the ‘rest’? And it is to these questions that the Apostle answers emphatically: God forbid!
“And this fact I consider the special privilege of the Jewish people. Not that the Jewish nation as such shall in the end be restored; nor that we must expect a mass conversion of all the Jews in some future age, is the peculiar privilege of the Jews. But it is their special privilege that they may be grafted in again upon their own olive tree from which they were once broken off; or to speak in terms of the words of our text, that the ‘rest’ that were once hardened may be provoked to jealousy and be saved in their generations. This, I believe, is indeed something special. Scripture and experience both teach very plainly that, apart from the Jews, God never returns with His saving grace to those generations that were once branches in the vine but have become apostate and have fallen away from the gospel and from the church of Christ. This is a very serious matter, that is well worthy of our attention. You may see the truth of what I now say round about you, in our own country and our own community. If you could trace the history of many a family with whom you come into daily contact, and that are now aliens from the commonwealth of Christ and enemies of the gospel, you would discover that in a not very distant past their progenitors were believers and living members of the body of Christ. Many a Christian tradition in our country testifies to the fact that our forefathers left the Old World and settled on these shores because it was their desire to serve God according to the dictates of the gospel and their own conscience. In our own community you meet with families whose history you would have to trace back only a few generations in order to discover that their ancestry left the old country and settled in the wilds of Michigan, chiefly because on the other side of the ocean they could not find the freedom of religion they so earnestly coveted. They were willing to suffer and to endure hardships for the sake of the gospel. And where are they today? What has become of the generations of the Puritans, the Pilgrim fathers, the original Dutch settlers, all of whom once belonged to the Church of Christ? They have forsaken the truth. They have become strangers to Christ. They have become hardened unbelievers. They are blinded and hardened. They may still have their churches, but the light is taken from the candlestick. Many of those very churches in the eastern part of our country that were established by Puritans and Pilgrim Fathers no longer preach the truth. When you enter them on the Sabbath in the hope of hearing the gospel, you are sadly disappointed. They offer you stones for bread, human philosophy instead of the gospel of Christ. And as generations they are lost for the Church. God does not retrace His steps. His covenant is established in the line of continued generations, but where once those generations have been abandoned they do not return unto repentance. There may be an exception occasionally, an individual that is plucked as a brand out of the fire; but as generations they have stumbled in order that they should fall, and they will never return.
“I may add to this that it is a mistake to think that these generations of apostates are to be sought only in the lower classes of society, and in the slum districts of our larger cities. This notion seems to prevail sometime with those who consider it their calling to carry on mission-work among them that have departed from the gospel . . . .”
If we are interested in mission principles, and if we want to talk about fruit, here is a point to consider.
(to be continued)