Sep 10 2008


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The Epistle to the Romans

(Part 5)


Part II

(Chapters 9 -11)

The Case of the Chosen People

After presenting the “Case of Man’s Justificat­ion” and showing how man is justified by the righteousness of God, St. Paul proceeds to discuss the position of Israel – the “Chosen People” – towards the righteousness of God, and the relation of this position to the salvation of the gentiles, the faithfulness of God, and the salvation of Israel itself.  This discussion leads to some fundamental issues such as: Who is the true Israel? Is there any conflict between the sovereign will of God and His justice?  St. Paul also shows that the rejection of the Gospel by the nation of Israel, and its acceptance by the gentiles was already prophesied by the prophets of Israel and was therefore part of the eternal plan of God.  As this plan becomes revealed, St. Paul ends this section by praising God for the depth of the riches of His wisdom and knowledge.

1- Chapter 9: Israel’s Position towards the Righteousness of God

St. Paul discusses this subject from three aspects:

First (vs. 1-5): Sadness of St. Paul for the Jewish People who rejected their salvation despite the great many blessings of God to them.  St. Paul explains the privileges of Israel, the firstborn child, to whom God gave the promises, the divine law, and the covenants through Moses, Joshua, and the prophets, until Christ came from them in the flesh.  The situation of St. Paul here, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh” (Ro. 9:3), is similar to the situation of the prophet Moses in Exodus (32:32), “Yet now, if You will forgive their sin –; and if not, blot me, I pray you, out of Your book which You have written.”

Second (vs. 6-13): Israel rejected the Gospel of salvation thinking that they are the children of Abraham according to the flesh and therefore they have the promises.  As they refused the knowledge of God, God also refused them, and rejected their selection as children of Abraham.   Accordingly, God accepted the Gentiles, choosing them for their faith and not for any inheritance.

The pivotal verse here is, “That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as seed” (Ro. 9:8).  And the examples of this are in the Books of Moses: Isaac only was counted as the seed of Abraham, and not his other children (Ishmael and the children of Keturah, Gen. 25:1-18), and also Jacob (Israel) was elected and not his brother Esau, although both were born from the same father (Isaac) and the same mother (Rebecca), even on the same day (Gen. 25:19-26, Ro. 9:10-13).

Third (9:14 – 11:36): However, St. Paul comes back and reveals that there is a remainder of Israel who will be saved, will join the Gentiles and will form one Church in Christ.

As he was talking on the second item above (vs. 6-13), St. Paul comes across the question, “Is there unrighteousness with God?” (verse 14).  Hence, he discusses the issue of the justice of God in His predestination. In this issue, the Apostle emphasizes the sovereignty of God as the creator of all, but he also emphasizes that His predominant role is to “endure with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared (passive tense) for destruction” (v. 22), whereas with the vessels of mercy, He Himself “had prepared (it) beforehand for glory” (v. 23).  And here, the Apostle reveals that this vessel that God has prepared for glory is the New Testament Church, for which, indeed, He suffered even unto the cross and shedding of His blood, and which includes both those who were Jews or gentiles (v. 24), providing the Old Testament prophesies for this explanation (Ho. 2:23, 1:10, Is. 10:22,23, 28:22, 1:9, 13:19).

2- Chapter 10: The Salvation of Israel

The tone of sadness that prevailed in St. Paul’s words when he talked about Israel’s rejection of their salvation changes to the bright light of hope when he talks about God’s long suffering for them till they return and accept the faith.  This faith is the object of the law that was given to them.  He clarifies to them that the essence of the commandments, the worship, and the prophecies included in the law is “Christ”, saying, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Ro. 10: 4).

After that, St. Paul puts two conditions for salvation of everyone, Jewish or Gentile, saying:

1- If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus,

2- And believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

In these two conditions salvation is accomplished.

The topics of this chapter can be described as:

1-                 Israel Stumbled Because They Pursued Their Self-Righteousness, But Not The Righteousness of God (Ro. 9:30-10:4).

2-                 God’s Righteousness Is By Faith (Ro. 10:5-13), As Witnessed By The Law (Lev. 18:5, Deut. 30:12-14), And The Prophets (Is. 28:16, Joel 2:23).

3-         Israel Rejected, But Gentiles Received The Gospel (Ro. 10:14-21), As Witnessed Also By The Law (Deut. 32:21), And The Prophets (Is. 52:7, Nah. 1:15, Is. 53:1, Ps. 19:4, Is. 65:1,2).

3- Chapter 11: Has God Rejected His People Israel?

In this chapter St. Paul answers his question related to God’s rejection of His people Israel saying: No, God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew because God’s selection of man is not based on the behavior of man, but according to the love of God to man.  The selection is based on God’s love and not man’s love.  If Israel has stumbled, it is not for their fall, but to open the door of faith for the gentiles to enter.  Israel’s hardening of heart and their disobedience has partially happened to them, till the fullness of the Gentiles enters, and then, the rest of Israel will be saved.

The topics of this chapter can be described as:

1- God Elects a Remnant of Israel (11:1-10)

2- Gentiles Are Being Saved (11:11-15)

3- God Will Still Restore Israel (11:16-32), and here St. Paul presents the parable of the wild (gentiles) and good (Church) olive tree.

4- Doxology to God’s Ways (11:33-36)

(To be continued)

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