now takes on a subject which would be rather difficult. Just what is the role
of the Jews, the chosen people of God, in the kingdom of Christ?
agony for his people
Romans 9:1-5 NIV
speak the truth in Christ--I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the
Holy Spirit-- (2) I have great sorrow and
unceasing anguish in my heart. (3) For I
could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my
brothers, those of my own race, (4) the
people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the
covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. (5) Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is
traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
our last lesson
of the problems the early church faced – at least in logic, if not practice –
was this: just why are the Jews so hostile to Christ? How is it that God
could let this happen?
who is of course Jewish, sees the problem as one of personal anguish: these
are his people, and they have refused Christ their Lord. This opening
statement is an emotional one:
Paul just taught us (last chapter) he can’t be cut off from Christ –
nothing can do that. This is a heart cry, not a theological proposition.
is this something Paul is writing to impress the reader. He is the
apostle to the Gentiles; there is no glory in the Jews for him.
this is an imitation of Christ. As Christ was cursed for us, so Paul
would be cursed for the people he loves.
please, that the sorrow he has is great – the word means “heavy” as well – and
unceasing. Anyone who has agonized over a wayward child, over a long time,
understands the problem well. The theological problem is one thing, and an
important one. The emotional problem for Paul is what brings it to the
of the Jews
the problem seems remote to you. But consider: when someone has “all the
advantages” we expect more out of them. When that someone fails, we think it a
tragedy. The same results from someone disadvantaged might be quite
reasonable. From a religious point of view, that’s what we have here.
Consider the advantages the Jews had over the Gentiles:
are “Israelites” -- the descendants of Jacob. If you will, they have
the right family connections.
is not just biology -- they are also adopted. (Have you ever picked
out a puppy at the dog pound? What love is given such!)
glory of God -- they actually saw Him “face to face” at times such as
pillar of fire in the wilderness
filling of the Tabernacle
filling of the Temple
covenants (possibly singular in some manuscripts) -- with whom else did
law itself -- above all others they knew right from wrong, and were often
devoted to it.
worship -- they alone knew enough about God to offer pleasing worship.
promises -- and there are dozens -- were made to them alone.
patriarchs -- and the tradition of wisdom and worship they started
finally, in God’s own time, through them Jesus came.
were given so much – and thus their failure is much sharper. What a tragedy
Romans 9:6-18 NIV It is not
as though God's word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are
Israel. (7) Nor because they are his
descendants are they all Abraham's children. On the contrary, "It is
through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." (8) In
other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is
the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring. (9) For this was how the promise was stated:
"At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son." (10) Not
only that, but Rebekah's children had one and the same father, our father
Isaac. (11) Yet, before the twins were born
or had done anything good or bad--in order that God's purpose in election might
stand: (12) not by works but by him who
calls--she was told, "The older will serve the younger." (13) Just
as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." (14) What
then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! (15)
For he says to Moses,
"I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." (16) It
does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. (17) For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I
raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and
that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." (18)
Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he
wants to harden.
more cynical authors have viewed the relationship of Christ and the Jews as
being evidence that God’s “mission to earth” has failed. They assert:
Jews, the chosen people, should not have rejected Christ. It was not
right (this is correct). Therefore, God’s plan somehow went astray.
proof of this view is said to be in the Resurrection – that Christ’s
execution was not planned, and the Resurrection was God’s way of rescuing
a plan which did not go as desired.
the contrary, the prophecies concerning the Crucifixion and the Resurrection
are numerous and detailed. It would seem that God knew this was going to
happen – which isn’t the same as poor planning.
we must ask: how does this square with the omnipotence of God? Couldn’t he
have made it happen “right?”
answer, simply, is that he did make it right – the first time. The argument
assumes that God is somehow bound to the best answer in our view. But we may
ask: is God forced to pick some person or group of people for his
answer seems to be that he is not only not forced, but often selects people who
seem to be the worst possible choices:
couldn’t handle public speaking.
was the great warrior-chicken
weren’t chosen for holiness – but ancestry.
Israel was selected for being the least.
might even be argued that God didn’t select the “right” person to be head of
household. Instead he assigned the task of love to the man (who finds it
difficult, unlike the woman) and obedience and submission to the woman (who
finds it nearly impossible). God often selects people DESPITE their merits.
For example, the apostle to the Gentiles should be a gentile, learned in Greek
wisdom – that’s seeker friendly, right? Somebody who wouldn’t object to the
occasional orgy, as long as you went home with your husband, right? You’d
never send a Pharisee, of all people, would you?
you wouldn’t. God would.
is not fair
in the matter of who he sends, God isn’t reasonable. He isn’t fair; he doesn’t
pick the right people. He’s the same way about whom he blesses. Why did he
pick the Jews in the first place? Why did he allow the Gentiles in; what did
they ever do for him? The answer is simply this: God does things his way –
that’s “election” – and sometimes we don’t understand it. He said his way is
perfect. He never said you’d see it that way.
God selects, it’s usually so that you can see the character of God. So our
definition of “fair” may not apply. But consider this also: arbitrary is
fair. Have you ever flipped a coin? Why did God pick out that man to
be born blind so that we might see the glory of God?
mercy and charity are not fair either. No one deserves mercy; that’s the very
definition of the word. God is righteous – but in his sovereign power elects
not to be fair. The problem is not God; the problem is our limited perception.
Romans 9:19-29 NIV One of
you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his
will?" (20) But who are you, O man, to
talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did
you make me like this?' " (21) Does not the potter have the right to make out
of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common
use? (22) What if God, choosing to show his
wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his
wrath--prepared for destruction? (23) What if
he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy,
whom he prepared in advance for glory-- (24)
even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the
Gentiles? (25) As he says in Hosea:
"I will call them 'my people' who are not my people;
and I will call her 'my loved one' who is not my loved one," (26) and,
"It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them,
'You are not my people,'
they will be called 'sons of the living God.' " (27)
Isaiah cries out concerning Israel:
"Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea,
only the remnant will be saved. (28) For the
Lord will carry out
his sentence on earth with speed and finality." (29) It
is just as Isaiah said previously:
"Unless the Lord Almighty
had left us descendants,
we would have become like Sodom,
we would have been like Gomorrah."
not my fault
course, the next argument must be seen coming.
If God’s election is sovereign, then the reason I’m a failure is that God
didn’t elect me – in other words, it’s not my fault. It must therefore be
God’s fault. Right?
forget what’s happening here: God is electing some few to rescue from their
own sinfulness. That doesn’t excuse the rest; we are still free moral agents.
If Pharaoh was really a nice guy, he would have let the Israelites go without
Moses having to argue with him.
argument has buried in it an implicit assumption that is wrong. Specifically,
it assumes that God and the sinner are equals. God was merciful to Joe; he
wasn’t merciful to me – and I’m just as deserving as Joe. Therefore God failed
did we get this idea? Our current excuse is the “good buddy Jesus” movement in
the church, but the thought is much older. Either man is supreme, or God is.
If man is, then it appears that God makes all sorts of mistakes.
if God is in charge, do we really want him to be just? Or do we really want
him to be merciful? You can’t have it both ways.
Romans 9:30-33 NIV What then
shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have
obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; (31)
but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. (32) Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith
but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the "stumbling
stone." (33) As it is written:
"See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall,
and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."
it usually does, it comes down to Jesus Christ. If you think you are supreme,
and that God should do what you want him to, you are stuck in your own
righteousness. That righteousness depends upon your own works – and we have
seen how successful that approach isn’t. If you rely on your works, the
standard you must meet is the life of Christ – sinless man. If you rely on
Christ, the answer is found in grace. Either way, the answer is in Christ.