Romans Nine: I’m a Jew.

Posted: July 29, 2011 in Romans

            Seldom does an entire chapter of the Bible cause me to pause before attempting to write. Don’t get me wrong, I do not write (intentionally) without praying through the material, so that what I write is Biblical, as well as helpful. Romans nine, though? I don’t feel worthy of addressing anything in this chapter without exegeting every last word and fully explaining the entirety of Paul’s theology. I say this because my understanding of Romans nine is a firecracker in evangelical circles, especially concerning the opposing theological camps of synergists vs. monergists, as well as dispensationalism and covenantalism. I may have made that last word up- “Covenant Theology” is what it’s typically known as.

            I will not use this post to pit one side against another, nor will I attempt to prove or disprove the validity of one position over the other; I simply wish to present the material as I believe it to be, but I do this with the knowledge that many of you will not agree with my interpretation.

            Paul is almost in despair over his Jewish brethren, because there is a huge problem. Despite the fact that adoption belongs to Israel, and that the glory of God was given to Israel, and that God made covenants with Israel, and that the Law was given to Israel, and that the privilege of worshipping God was given to Israel, and God made all kinds of promises to Israel, despite all this, Israel, by and large, is perishing to eternal Hell. Paul hates this. He says, “I could go to Hell if it meant the salvation of my people.”

            So here is the huge problem: if Israel is God’s chosen people, the partakers in the Covenant blessings of God, and yet Israel is perishing and going to Hell in unbelief over the Messiah Jesus, than does this not mean that God’s promises have all failed? If God promised a land to His people, and He promises to be their God, and they will be His people, and yet they are not His people and they perish in unbelief, isn’t it then true that God’s Word is no good? That is a HUGE problem!

            But no, listen to Paul. “But it is not as though the word of God has failed.” God didn’t fail His people, Paul is saying. God’s words are true. God will keep His promises. God will do everything He said He would do. But if this is the case, how do we explain the damnation of so many Jews?

            We can explain it by coming to grasp the reality that not all Jews are Jews. Not all descendants of Abraham are truly descendants. Not all of his children were his children. What do I mean? Paul says “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel.” In other words, God is keeping His promises to Israel, but not everyone born into the Jewish culture truly belongs to Israel. There are two Israel’s- “real” Israel, and “non-real” Israel. Paul says it again in different terms: “not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring.” Again, though they are all children of Abraham, there are some among that group that are “real” children and some who are not. God’s promises were intended for the “real” descendants. And then, to hammer home the point one more time, Paul brings up Jacob and Esau. Both were descendants of Abraham, yet the promises were not extended to both, for as we see in the text, God loved Jacob, yet hated Esau. Yeah. Hated. What it boils down to is this: not all physical Jews are beneficiaries of the promises of God. It’s not a matter of birth, but rather placement into true Israel through the work of the Holy Spirit.

            Piper surmises it this way: “Has the word of God failed because many Israelites are accursed and cut off from Christ? Have the promises of God come to naught? The answer is no. And the reason Paul gives three times is that the promise of God itself accomplishes its purpose, and that purpose is make for himself a true Israel. The promise and purpose of God was never that every Israelite would be guaranteed salvation. The promise was: God will see to it that the true Israel is brought into being and saved. And we have seen, and will see again; this true Israel includes Jews and Gentiles.”

            But then Paul drops the hammer and asks a hypothetical question: “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part?” To which he answers- “By no means!” And why isn’t it? Because God can do whatever He wants with His creation. Supporting this argument, Paul says, “For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion,but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’ So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.” Do you see the logic here that Paul is employing? “Look guys, didn’t God tell Moses that He would have mercy and compassion on some and not others? Didn’t God tell Pharoah that Pharoah’s purpose in life was to be destroyed by God in other to make His own name great?”

            These are hard, hard words…but Paul isn’t done yet, because he knows that his readers may have a problem with God being the one who decides who receives grace and who doesn’t. It’s not about the will of the individual, or the work they perform. It’s about whether or not God decides to save some or harden them. Paul addresses the next issue that he knows this will raise by saying this: “You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?”

            The human race was God’s creation, and we as a race willfully fell into sin. God could have allowed us all to go to Hell, but instead He chose to create for Himself a people among whom He would demonstrate His love, mercy, grace, kindness, care, etc. etc. And in this plan, God chose to demonstrate His wrath upon sin, His holy hatred, His righteous indignation upon a fallen race by choosing not to save all men, but rather those who by grace place their faith and trust in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. As I concluded in this post:

               If you have been born again, you are born again because God elected to save you before you were even born. This decision of God’s was not based upon any foreseen faith on your part, because faith itself is a gift from God, and even if it wasn’t you would never put your faith in the cross because prior to your rebirth you saw the cross as foolish and stupid.

              Apart from grace, you would have never seen your sin for what it was, because repentance is also a gift from God. You never would have come to Jesus had the Father not drawn you, and all who the Father draw will be saved. God formed an intimate relationship with you before you were born, and he predestined you to receive eternal life, rather than the eternity in Hell that you yourself chose apart from grace.

                In time, God regenerated your dead heart and drew you to Himself, giving you the faith you placed in Christ, which in turn led to your justification, ongoing sanctification, and eventual glorification. If you are saved today, you are saved because God gave you to Jesus, who died for you, appeasing God’s wrath upon your sins, and the Holy Spirit gave you new life.

                It was, is, and will always be about God. You are saved by grace, NOT because of anything you did apart from grace. You deserved Hell, you rejected God, you hated God, you rebelled against God, you chose Hell over God, and everything you did prior to your salvation was all for you, not for Him. And yet…God showed His love for us by saving us- not because of us, but in spite of us. That is grace.

 

 

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  1. […] REALife Theology Where reality and theology collide… Skip to content HomeAbout ← Romans Nine: I’m a Jew. […]

  2. […] humanity was in the fact that if God didn’t act among us, sovereignly saving whom He will, then no one would ever be saved because no one would want to be saved. It’s not like God kicks people into Hell that are begging […]

  3. […] However, God is willing to allow this to happen because in the end it will glorify Him more (see Romans nine for an explanation of this). Of course, one could simply point out that 2 Peter 3:9 is in reference […]

  4. […] written elsewhere about my issues with this based upon Paul’s letter to the Romans, and I’ve found a […]

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