Romans 9, Part 2
Nov 26, 2010
(1) I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, (2) that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. (3) For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, (4) who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons[huiothesia] and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, (5) whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.
Because of Paul's friction with the Jews and with the Christian Judaizers, he finds it almost necessary to swear an oath that he is telling the truth. He loves his own "kinsmen according to the flesh." He does not hate them. No doubt many had accused him brutally of going against all of the traditions of the elders. His inclusiveness of all men as equal citizens of the Kingdom struck at the heart of Judaism itself, which considered itself more privileged than others.
And yet, after telling us that nothing could separate us from the love of God, he confesses a willingness to be "separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren." If that could indeed cause them to be united with Christ, he would be willing to sacrifice himself on their behalf.
The glaring truth, however, was that the Israelites as a whole (both Israel and Judah) had come under divine judgment. Israel had been separated from God many centuries earlier when God divorced the house of Israel (Jer. 3:8) and sent them out of His house into captivity. God had warned Israel in Lev. 26 and Deut. 28 that He would do this if they persisted in violating His Law and rejecting His rule.
In fact, it was precisely because they had been "chosen" and had been given the Law that they were more accountable to God than the other nations. Amos 3:2 says,
(2) You only have I known among all the families of the earth; therefore, I will punish you for all your iniquities.
Israel alone had been married to God and enjoyed an intimate relationship with Him. This marital relationship was designed to bear fruit by producing the sons of God. But instead, they had committed adultery with other gods by worshiping them and adhering to their laws.
That marriage, of course, had been based upon the Old Covenant, so it was destined to fail from the beginning. As Paul explains in Galatians 4, the only way to bring forth the heirs of the promise would be through the New Covenant. The two relationships are described in terms of Hagar and Sarah and their differing marriage relationships with Abraham.
So Paul tells us that to Israel belonged the huiothesia, "the adoption as sons," and all of the promises of God. Yet we know that the sons of God could only be brought forth through Christ and through a New Covenant (Sarah) relationship with Him. The Israelites as a whole did not have that kind of relationship with Him. In fact, the vast majority had rejected Him outright in His pre-existent state as Yahweh. Likewise, the remnant of Judah in first-century Palestine had rejected Christ in His bodily form.
Israel had been cast out and separated from God. Judah was soon to be cast out as well, as soon as the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple were fulfilled, as Jesus had prophesied in Matthew 24. The war with Rome was just ten years in the future at the time of Paul's letter, for it began in 66 A.D.
It appears that Paul understood that Jerusalem was soon to be destroyed, for Jesus had prophesied about the temple in Matt. 24:2,
(2) Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down.
In other words, it looked as if all of the promises of God either had failed or would soon fail. The Jews refused to believe that such a thing could happen to God's temple and His "holy city." To them, the promises of God were theirs unconditionally. But God had a bigger plan, and they did not understand it.
Paul continues in Romans 9:6, 7,
(6) But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; (7) neither are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants, but: "through Isaac your descendants will be named."
There are many views as to what Paul meant by not all being Israel who are of Israel. Fortunately, we do not need to speculate, because Paul immediately explained what he meant. He based his view on the "text" of Gen. 21:12. In that context, we find that the promise was to Isaac--excluding Ishmael. Ishmael was indeed descended from Abraham, but he was not counted as the "seed," that is, the heir of the promise.
Ishmael was the product of an Old Covenant relationship through Hagar. Ishmael must always be cast out in the end (Gal. 4:30), even though he attempts to lay claim to the Birthright on account of physical descent from Abraham. Ishmael was disqualified, not because of his father, but because of his mother ("the bondwoman"), who was not called to bring forth the heir.
(8) That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. (9) For this is a word of promise: "At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son."
In Galatians 4:28 and 29 Paul refers to Isaac as the child of promise, and Ishmael as being a child of the flesh.
(28) And you, brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. (29) But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh [Ishmael] persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit [Isaac], so it is now also.
Ishmael was born by natural childbirth. Isaac was born supernaturally by promise when his mother was 90 years old and beyond child-bearing age. Hagar was a bondwoman, while Sarah was a free woman. Their marriage relationships with Abraham were different and were allegories of the Old and New Covenants. The whole idea was to show that the Old Covenant relationship with God could never bring forth the promised heirs, the sons of God.
Paul tells us clearly that the principle also applied to Judaism, which had rejected the Mediator of the New Covenant. By remaining under the Old Covenant (Hagar), the adherents of Judaism could claim only a fleshly relationship with Abraham and under those conditions could never inherit the promises or bring forth "Isaac."
Such "Ishmaelites" could only be cast out along with their mother, the Old Covenant. The fact that Israel had been cast out of the land from 721-745 B.C. proved that their spiritual mother was Hagar, not Sarah, regardless of their physical genealogy. Likewise, the fact that Jerusalem and its temple was about to cast out proved Hagar to be their mother as well.
Hence, not all who were descended physically from the man named Israel were actually Israelites by God's definition of the term. A true Israelite is one who can claim Sarah as their mother, not in a carnal sense but in the sense that Paul understood in Galatians 4.
In other words, no one is an Israelite apart from Jesus Christ, the Mediator of the New Covenant. One cannot claim automatic chosen status on account of genealogy. No one is chosen apart from Jesus Christ. And conversely, any man can come under the New Covenant through Jesus Christ and be equally chosen as a citizen of Israel, which is the Kingdom of God.
These are the heirs that will fulfill the promises of God.
This is the second part of a series titled "Romans 9." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones