What About Israel? (Romans 9)
What About Israel?
Romans 9:1ff (GSv) - I say the truth in Christ, I tell no lie, my conscience witnesses with me in has the Holy Spirit, 9:2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing pain in my heart. 9:3 For I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brethren’s sake, my kinsmen according to the flesh: 9:4 who are Israelites; whose is the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of Torah, and the liturgy of God, and the covenant promises; 9:5 whose are the fathers, and of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, God over all, blessed for ever. Amen. 9:6 But it is not as though the word of God has come to nothing. For they are not all Israel, that are from Israel . . .
What About Israel?
As we have seen, Romans 8 is a new covenant manifesto. It declares that we are true, renewed Israel (Eph. 2:15f). Paul has made clear that “in Christ” as joint heirs (8:17) we are given all the covenant blessings of Israel: redemption (exodus), sonship/adoption, land/inheritance or new creation, and the restored glory. Yet, we have not received the full consummate form of these blessings which will come in the Resurrection (8:23). Because of this, we see that Paul now must deal with the “Israel question.” Hence, chapter 9’s explanation would not follow.
What About Predestination?
Romans 9 is one of those high octane, black coffee Calvinist dream passage - on steroids. I remember using, 9:16 as a baseball bat over the head of many Arminians in my day. “So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that has mercy.” Unfortunately for the “cage-stage” Calvinists, this passage is really not addressing individual election. Paul is showing that the principle of the selectivity of the “seed” ultimately leads to new covenant Gentile believers (plural, see Eph. 2:1ff for the same point). As it says in 9:24f, “even us, whom he has called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? As he also says in Hosea: “I will call those who were not my people, ‘My people.’” It is true that this all presupposes the absolute sovereignty of God. It seems clear that Paul takes as a first principle that God has unanswerable authority, power and sovereign (He is the potter). Paul writes: “ 9:20 But who indeed are you—a mere human being–to talk back to God?”
What About Israel, Really?
Paul returns to the theme to point out that the Church is now a new people of God. This is what Hosea and Isaiah predicted. It is ironic that the Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness obtained it, but Israel who coveted it (see Rom. 7:7) did not receive it. Paul turns the phrase this way: “even though pursuing a Torah of righteousness did not attain Torah.” That is the literal translation. Why not? Because they pursued it as a matter of their Judaistic identity and birthright, not a matter of faith or dependence. This is to say those who believe they should have salvation by right will be denied, but those who know that they themselves are unworthy and claim nothing of themselves shall receive.
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more