A STUDY IN ROMANS 9 -11 (Part 4)

Chapter 9:9-13 – HEIRS ACCORDING TO THE PROMISE 

For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac.

Ishmael was born after the flesh (by human effort) and Isaac was born according to the promise, when Abraham and Sarah were beyond the age of bearing children. Ishmael was a descendant of Abraham as was Isaac, but Isaac was the child of promise.

Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob.

Esau was Isaac’s firstborn son, yet he did not esteem his birthright as first born,, which would have made him the heir to the blessing. Instead, he sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of pottage (stew) ~ Genesis 25:29. Jacob bargained with Esau for his birthright because he desired the blessing. Through a series of events Jacob inherited and possessed the blessing which originally belonged to Esau.

Esau was a descendant of Abraham as was Jacob, but God loved Jacob and hated Esau because Jacob desired the blessing and Esau despised it.

As it was with Ishmael and Isaac, and Esau and Jacob, so it was with the nation of Israel. Within Israel, there were those who were Abraham’s descendants according to the flesh only. They were not heirs according to the promise, they are not the true children of Abraham.

In John 8, Jesus was opposed by some antagonistic Jews who boasted that they were the children of Abraham, in their opposition to Jesus.

Jesus says the following to them:

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father. They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. ~ John 8:36-39 KJV

Jesus goes on to tell them that not only were they not Abraham’s children, but they were actually the children of the devil even though they were physical descendants of Abraham.

The family God promised to Abraham is a household of faith – a spiritual family. In his confrontation with the antagonistic Jews in John 8 (referenced above), Jesus identified the true spiritual father of these physical descendants of Abraham.

But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. ~ John 8:40-44 KJV

In this confrontation, Jesus does not dispute the physical descendancy of these Jews. In fact he affirms it,“I know you are Abraham’s seed” ~ (v 37).  However, this physical descendancy did not mean they were God’s children, For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. ~ Romans 9:6-7

Jesus did not define “Abraham’s children” by their physical descent only. Neither did John the Baptist, who warned those who did not repent and follow Jesus that they would be cut off as the people of God.

And think not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: ~ Matthew 3:9-11

The baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire is not a reference to the same blessing, but rather, a contrast between blessing and judgment. Those who would repent would receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Those who would not repent, would receive the baptism of fire, which is God’s wrath.

In the very next verse, after the baptism of fire is mentioned, John says, “Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” ~ Matthew 3:12

The ministry of Jesus and his fore runner John the Baptist, reveal that only those who responded to the gospel, from among the Jews, were truly Abraham’s children.

Consider Paul’s words from Romans 9:7-8 again: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

We can see from these words of Paul that not all in Israel were the children of the promise, and therefore were not considered “the true seed of Abraham” in the eyes of God. This is consistent with the words of Jesus and John the Baptist.

Only those who were children of the promise were counted as the seed. Who then are the children of promise? They are those who are the children of Abraham by faith according to the truth of the gospel.

For  the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. ~ Romans 4:13

Notice first, that Abraham was promised to be the “heir of the world.” Abraham’s children were to be from “all nations” ~ Galatians 3:8. Secondly, notice that he says that the promise was not made to Abraham or his seed “through the law.” 

The Law was given to Israel through Moses, and served as ethnic Israel’s covenant with God. The Law bound the Jews with the curse if they did not circumcise their hearts to obey God, and serve him only. The Law made a distinction between ethnic Israel and the Gentile nations, serving as the rule of law and constitution for the Jewish people. It was the “wall of separation” of which Paul speaks in Ephesians 2, which made a distinction between the people of Israel (who were God’s covenant people) and the nations. Israel failed to obey the Law, and consequently broke the covenant.

When Paul says the promise was not made to Abraham or his seed “through the Law,” he is referring to Israel’s ethnicity.  The promise was not given to those who possessed a particular DNA, or ethnic status. This is why Paul makes the following argument:

Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision (Jews) only, or upon the uncircumcision (Gentiles) also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised. ~ Romans 4:9-12

The promise was spiritual, and pertained to those who would follow Abraham’s faith!

For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.  Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. ~ Romans 4:13-17

The promise which God made to Abraham was that he would be the father of many nations. Abraham believed this promise and Abraham was declared righteous in the sight of God.

According to Galatians 3:8, when God made this promise to Abraham, he preached the gospel to him. In the fullest sense of the word, Abraham believed the gospel when he believed God’s promise to make him the father of many nations and was declare righteous!

Christ is the promised seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:16) through whom the blessing promised to Abraham comes to fruition, for it is only in and through Jesus Christ that a person can be justified in the sight of God. Abraham was justified by God because he believed the promise  God made “in Christ”  (Galatians 3:17).

God promised to make Abraham the father of many nations through Christ the promised seed of the covenant.

Being an heir to the promise God made to Abraham comes only through faith in Jesus. This applies to Jews and Gentiles alike. Being a descendant of Abraham “after the flesh” is not the same as being “an heir to the promise.”

For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. ~ Galatians 3:26-29

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A STUDY IN ROMANS 9 -11 (Part 3)

Chapter 9:6-8 – In Isaac shall thy seed be called.

6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. ~ Romans 9:6-8

Here Paul makes a striking distinction between the Israelites, applying the promise God made to Abraham which says “in Isaac shall thy seed be called” (KJV) to those within Israel who are of faith, and not to those who were of natural descent only.

Paul here echos that which he has already stated in chapter 2:

25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. ~ Romans 2:25-29

In Paul’s doctrine, one who was a Jew in the flesh (the circumcision) but did not keep the law, was as an uncircumcised person in the eyes of God “if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision.” And the uncircumcised (Gentile) who obeyed the law was counted as a Jew in the eyes of God, “So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?”

Abraham’s family has always been a household of “faith” in the eyes of God. Being Jewish (Israel) has never been about race only. In his letter to the Galatians Paul tells the Gentile brethren, “if ye belong to Christ, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” ~ Galatians 3::29.  In the next chapter, Paul tells the Galatians, “For we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.”  ~ Galatians 4:28

Notice that Paul does not say to the Gentiles at Galatia, ye, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of the promise.” Paul uses the pronoun “we” which would include himself, a physically circumcised Jew.

This is where many often stumble over Paul’s teachings. They think that the Gentiles have become the “spiritual children” of Abraham, while the Jews remain as the “true children” of Abraham because of their physical descent. This sort of thinking is out of sync with Paul’s.

The promise God made to Abraham was a family from “all nations,” for the children God promised to Abraham would be those who would follow his faith. They are the heirs of the promise which God made to Abraham. Abraham is the father of all who believe and that is why Paul makes the distinction that he does between the Israelites who sought righteousness through faith, and those who sought it through the works of the Law.

In Romans 9-11, Paul tells us that only a remnant of the people of Israel truly found God’s way of righteousness and that the people of Israel, as a whole, did not obtain righteousness because they did not seek it by faith. Instead, they sought it by the works of the Law, i.e., through their national identity.

In Romans 4, Paul tells us that because of Abraham’s faith, he was declared righteous in the sight of God, apart from the works of the law. Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness. In Galatians Paul says, “…the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, in thee shall all nations be blessed.” ~ Galatians 3:8

Abraham believed the gospel in advance which was God’s promise to justify all who believe. Therefore all who are of faith (faith in Jesus) are the children of Abraham and heirs to the promise – this is true for the Jew and the Gentile.

A STUDY IN ROMANS 9 -11 (Part 2)

Chapter 9:4-5 – HAS THE WORD OF GOD FAILED?

Verses 4-6

They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoptionthe glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

In the first installment of this study we saw the reason for Paul’s anguish and sorrow of heart for his kinsmen according to the flesh. Israel, like all other nations are under sin, and consequently under the judgment and wrath of God if they do not turn from their sins. God will not favor the Jew who is unrepentant.

Just as the Jews were to be the first beneficiaries of the blessing of the gospel, even so they would be the first with regards to God’s judgment.

6 He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but
for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 
11 For God shows no partiality.  ~ Romans 2:6-11

That the blessing of the gospel is to the Jew first (Romans 1:16) does not lessen it power or importance towards the Gentiles. The same is true of God’s judgment – the first partaker of God’s goodness, is also the first partaker of his severity.

It is this reality which causes Paul to sorrow over those among his kinsmen who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness. ~ Romans 2:8

In expressing his sorrow, Paul says, They are Israelites. And to them belong the adoptionthe glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

Has God failed? Has God deceived his people?

Why are they to whom such riches were given now now subjects to his righteous judgment as all other nations who reject God? How did they get here? How did they end up on the outside of the covenant, while Gentiles who did not have the law, now feast at their table? Did they not know that the very gospel which has been extended to outsiders, is their heritage?

18 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for

“Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
    and their words to the ends of the world.”

 

19 But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,

“I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
    with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”

 

20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,

“I have been found by those who did not seek me;
    I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”

 

21 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.” ~ Romans 10: 18-21

This plight of the Jewish people was agonizing to Paul, yet Paul knew the Word of God had not failed, for he writes the following:

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

Paul’s understanding of God’s promise in Isaac, which comes through strongly both here and in other some of his epistles, helped shaped much of Christian doctrine.

It is important to understand that Paul’s agony for his kinsmen is not nationalistic, but rather it is sorrow for every Jew who is misses out on the redemption that was provided to save them from their sins. This is the ultimate in lost of inheritance, for the gospel belongs to the Jew first, and if the Jew fails to partake, he has lost all his inheritance.

In our next installment in this study we will attempt to unpack some of the truth contained in the verses 6-8 (above) as we look closer at “the true Israel within Israel”.

A STUDY IN ROMANS 9 -11 (Part 1)

Chapter 9:1-3 – PAUL’S GREAT SORROW AND ANGUISH OF HEART FOR HIS FELLOW JEWS

Verses 1-3 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

Paul expresses his deep love for his fellow Jews. This love is expressed in sorrow of heart which Paul describes as “unceasing anguish”, so much so that Paul would rather be separated from Christ than for his kinsmen according to the flesh to perish.

As we study Romans 9-11 we need to keep in mind that Paul is not addressing Israel from the position of 21st century end-time eschatology. At the time of Paul’s writing of the book of Romans, Jerusalem had not yet been besieged by the Romans, the temple which Jesus pronounced judgment upon was still standing, and the temple service continued

In the opening chapters of the book of Romans, Paul addressed the rebellion of humanity which did not have the written law given to Israel, and in contrast, Paul shows how the Jewish people who do the same things are also subjects to the wrath of God, even though they had been separated as the people of God and given the Law.

Consider the following from Chapter 2:

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.

12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

At the outset of Romans, Paul levels the ground between the Jew and the Gentile, giving the Jew who sins and rebels against God not outlet for boasting before God, for the Jew may boast that he has the Law, but if it isn’t written on his heart, he has become as one who is uncircumcised in the eyes of God.

It is this which causes sorry to the heart of Paul. What he writes in chapters 9-11 is the continuation and outworking of the mystery of God with regards to Israel within the plan of God’s redemption, not only of the Jewish people but the whole world. And Paul’s grief in not that of 2019 eschatology. Paul’s grief is that of sorrow over the hardness and unrepentant hearts (uncircumcised hearts) of the Jewish people who boast in the law, while rejecting Christ.

In the verses which follow Paul, a will make a distinction between “Israel in the flesh who did not obtain what it had sought after, and the remnant seed within Israel who did.