Chapter 9:4-5 – HAS THE WORD OF GOD FAILED?
4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
In the first installment of this study we saw the reason for Paul’s anguish and sorrow of heart for his kinsmen according to the flesh. Israel, like all other nations are under sin, and consequently under the judgment and wrath of God if they do not turn from their sins. God will not favor the Jew who is unrepentant.
Just as the Jews were to be the first beneficiaries of the blessing of the gospel, even so they would be the first with regards to God’s judgment.
6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but
for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality. ~ Romans 2:6-11
That the blessing of the gospel is to the Jew first (Romans 1:16) does not lessen its power or importance towards the Gentiles. The same is true of God’s judgment – the first partaker of God’s goodness, is also the first partaker of his severity.
It is this reality which causes Paul to sorrow over those among his kinsmen who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness. ~ Romans 2:8
In expressing his sorrow, Paul says, “They are Israelites. And to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” ~ Romans 9:4-5
Has God failed? Has God deceived his people?
Why are they to whom such riches were given now now subjects to his righteous judgment as all other nations who reject God? How did they get here? How did some of them end up on the outside of the covenant, while Gentiles who did not have the law, now feast at their table? Did they not know that the very gospel which has been extended to outsiders, is their heritage?
But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.” But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.” ~ Romans 10: 18-21
This plight of the Jewish people was agonizing to Paul, yet Paul knew the Word of God had not failed, for he writes the following:
6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.
Paul’s understanding of God’s promise in Isaac, which comes through strongly both here and in other some of his epistles, helped shaped much of Christian doctrine.
It is important to understand that Paul’s agony for his kinsmen is not nationalistic, but rather it is sorrow for every Jew who is misses out on the redemption that was provided to save them from their sins. This is the ultimate in lost of inheritance, for the gospel belongs to the Jew first, and if the Jew fails to partake, he has lost all his inheritance.
In our next installment in this study we will attempt to unpack some of the truth contained in the verses 6-8 (above) as we look closer at “the true Israel within Israel”.