Romans (20): What About Israel? (ch. 9)

Date: 11/9/2008
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Romans 9: An Exposition (20) - What About Israel?
All Saints * Dr. Gregg Strawbridge * November 9, 2008

I say the truth in Christ . . . that I have great and unceasing sorrow in my heart. 9:3 For I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ on account of my brethren, 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 to them belong the patriarchs, 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, 9:7 nor because they are of Abraham’s seed, are they all children. . . . it is not the children of the flesh that are children of God; but the children of the promise are reckoned as heirs . . . Even as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 9:16 So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that has mercy. 9:17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose did I raise you up, that I might show in you my power, and that my name might be proclaimed to all the earth. 9:18 So then he has mercy on whom he will, and hardens whom he will. . . . 9:25 As he also says in Hosea: “I will call those who were not my people, ‘My people,’ and I will call her who was unloved, ‘My beloved.’” . . . 9:27 “Though the number of the children of Israel are as the sand of the sea, only the remnant will be saved . . . 9:30 The Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness obtained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith, 9:31 but Israel even though pursuing a Torah of righteousness did not attain Torah. 9:32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but, as if it were possible, by works [of Torah]. (Romans 9:1-9:33)

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.” This question also arises in the Gospels and every other portion of Scripture, too.
Who is Israel? Romans 9 is often treated in our circles as one of those high octave Calvinist passages. E.g., “Jacob I loved, Esau I hated . . . So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that has mercy.” Unfortunately, making this about individual election misses thrust of the passage. It is true that this all presupposes the absolute sovereignty of God (e.g., Dan. 4:35, Rom. 9:20). But here 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” “I will call those who were not my people, ‘My people.’”
Why is Israel, Israel? 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 says (literally), “pursuing a Torah of righteousness [they] did not attain Torah.” 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 deserve salvation will ever be denied, but those who know that they themselves are unworthy and claim nothing of themselves shall receive it freely through faith in Jesus.
WHY ARE YOU SAVED? ______________________________________________
Gregg Strawbridge 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