You worship you know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.…
I. THE WHOLE PRIDE OF MODERN WISDOM IS THIS: "SALVATION OF MAN IS FROM MAN." This has been differently understood.
1. Human nature formerly was each individual man.
2. Latterly human nature has been considered one person or society.
3. However, at no time could man have regarded himself merely as an individual being, for society is to man what the soil is to the plant.
4. Between the two man found a resting place in nationality, a beneficent idea when we place it in the line where individuality and humanity meet. But so far from this individuality lost its finest character. Personal religion, by being made national property, was merged in the community and humanity was almost entirely effaced.
II. HISTORY IS FROM ONE POINT OF VIEW THE CHRONOLOGY OF NATIONALITIES, AND GOD HAS RECTIFIED AND CONSECRATED THE IDEA OF NATIONALITY TO THE TRIUMPH OF THE PRINCIPLES OF INDIVIDUALITY AND HUMANITY.
1. Thus the Christian can accept Christ's statement that Christianity is of the Jews. Non-Christians, however, object.
(1) One would not deny that salvation in a sense is of, say, the French.
(2) Others refuse to allow a particular people to be the dispenser of common felicity. But none but a Christian wishes it to come from the Jews.
2. About the term salvation there is no dispute. It is the welfare of human nature and the fulfilment of its destinies. Christ came to save humanity as well as man.
3. In what sense, then, can it come from the Jews? No one will, of course, mistake the channel for the source (Revelation 7:10). In its ignorance ancient poetry represented certain countries as the abode of the sun. This is false in physics but true in morals. In the world of grace the rising sun has a home. Salvation is of the Jews. How? Not because Christ was born and lived in Palestine, spoke its language, chose Jews as disciples, or was crucified by Jews. Salvation is of the Jews as the water of stream comes from the basin in the rock at the top of the mountain. There the water is collected and from thence it flows, but the water is from heaven.
4. This being established, let us avail ourselves of the doctrine that each people is the bearer and representative of an idea, and that each idea in order to fix itself in the world has need of a people. This truth is invariably cultivated at the expense of other truths, and thus becomes exaggerated, and is never more than part of the truth. Now if this be the case, might not a whole people in conformity with this great law be the apostle of the truth which contains all truth! Now God has dealt with a certain people in a manner favourable to the discharge of this function. The Jews were a Theocracy, a people amongst whom God lived, whom God governed, to whom He spake, and whose law was His worship, a people elected for this very purpose.
5. But why confine this truth to the Jews? Was it the whole truth? How is this national deposit reconciliable with the doctrine that salvation is personal acceptance of Christ? Let us see. Christ and your soul have met! But at what cost? You are dying with thirst; a drop of water from the river revives you. It was only a drop, not the river, but the whole volume of water was necessary to carry along the drop. The river therefore saved you. In the same way the Church saved you because it gave you the knowledge of Christ whom you savingly received. The Church by its volume and might carries forward that element by which you are renewed. How has that current been formed? Look well at those waves red with human blood and dark with martyr ashes. Your Christianity, however individual it may be, is extracted from the Christianity of sixty generations.
6. Why, then, since each of us proceeds from the Church, should not the Church proceed from the Jews. As everything ends with the individual, so everything begins. The Church was within the Jewish nation, this whole nation was in the loins of Abraham the father of us all. So the ancient posterity of Jacob find a place in the work of individual salvation.
III. OUR PROPOSITION WOULD BE TOO EASILY DEFENDED IF WE COULD SAY THAT CHRIST IS ONLY THE LAST DEVELOPMENT OF THE WISDOM OF THE JEWS. It is not because He is a Jew, but because He is God manifest in the flesh, that He is our salvation. Yet —
1. The Jewish race from which He came fulfilled an important function in preparing for His advent. The Old Testament is a progressive instruction that leads us gradually up to Him. The law in the letter is succeeded by the law in the Spirit, a ritual worship by the worship of the heart, legislation by prophecy, Abraham by Moses, Moses by Isaiah, so that when the King arrives there is a people ready to receive Him.
2. This people, which will be the first fruits of a universal Father, could only be drawn from the Jewish people.
3. But apart from the spiritual Israel, the Jewish people as a whole received from God the education necessary to be the forerunner of Christ among the nations, and when Christianity, after having collected in Judaea all that belonged to it, finds Jewish colonies which Divine Providence had scattered which became the first Christian churches.
4. The Jews also carried their history with them which became an immortal lesson for the human race, viz., the manner in which God interposes in human affairs, just as a specimen of a plant explains the whole species.
5. Here we must turn to Romans 11:12. As a political society and race, the Jews had to fall away, because the new economy appealed to individuals. But the falling away is not to be for ever. It must, is, and will be gathered anew according to the principle of individuality and the law of liberty. The world will yet see its fulness, and what will that fulness be? (Isaiah 49:16-19).
(A. Vinet, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.