Thursday, December 07, 2017

9. Concentrated Romans (9:1-11:36)

See the bottom for the whole series.

II.3 What about Israel?
Romans 9-11
A. Paul's love for his people (9:1-5)
  • This is the third and final section of the first half of Romans. The first section addressed the question of "Who will be justified before God and how?" (1:18-5:11). The second addressed the follow-up question of "What about sin and the law, then?" (5:12-8:39). Now we get the big picture question, "What about Israel?"
  • When Protestant interpreters read Romans 1-8 in universal, individual terms, Romans 9-11 seemed out of place. But in truth, the question of the inclusion of the Gentiles into the people of God has been the underlying question of Romans from the very beginning. Paul declares in the first section that not only Gentiles but Jews themselves come into right status with God by faith. The question of sin and the Law is a question of the Jewish Law and its purpose if Jews and Gentiles are justified by faith.
  • So now we arrive at the elephant in the room. Has God just abandoned his special relationship with Israel then? If Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, why is it that more Gentiles than Jews have believed? What's going on?!
  • 9:1-5. Paul makes it clear in these verses that he cares about his own people. No doubt some had accused him of hating his own people. By contrast, he says he would willingly become accursed if it would save his own people. Their lack of faith in Christ is a matter of great sorrow and anguish for him.
  • He speaks of the great honors that are Israel's. God first chose them to be his "son" among the nations of the world. Now the rest of the world is becoming his sons and daughters. They were given great honor in the Old Testament (cf. Rom. 3:1-2).
  • Israel was given the Law, which shows us God's righteous expectation, especially to love our neighbor. Theirs were the covenants--with Abraham, with Moses. Theirs were the fathers.
  • Theirs was the temple. Paul gives not a hint that the temple is obsolete in its functions, nor does he foresee the temple's destruction in any of his writings.
  • To Israel belonged the Messiah, Jesus. There is a grammatical question in 9:5. The original manuscripts did not have punctuation. In fact they were written in continuous letters without many spaces. Does Paul mean to say, "the Christ according to the flesh, who is God over all, blessed forever" or "the Christ according to the flesh. God who is over all be blessed forever"?
  • The theology of the first is of course what we believe as Christians, but it is not a statement Paul makes anywhere in his writings other than Titus 2:13. It does not deny the theology of the first to conclude that it would be more typical of Paul to say the second.
B. God can do what he wants (9:6-29)
  • These verses are the central passage on predestination in the Bible. Several things should be kept in mind as we read them. First, Paul still has the Jew-Gentile question in view. That is to say, he is not really talking about individual predestination but God's plan with regard to Israel and the Gentiles. Paul's fundamental point is that if God wants to harden Israel for a season to save the Gentiles, he can do whatever he wants for he is God.
  • A second thing to remember is that the hardened of Romans 9 can still be saved in Romans 11. Paul does not see predestination as something that is unalterable.
  • Paul does not harmonize his language of predestination with his language of free choice. This fits with some cultural dimensions from his day. In the Oedipus cycle, Oedipus has a fate that works its way out, but he acts freely throughout the story. Paul does not explain how these two conflicting notions fit together. That is why we have Calvinists, Arminians, Molinists, and others today.
  • Central to Paul is that God is not to blame. God's word to Israel has not failed. Why? Because this is part of God's sovereign plan. This is also the key biblical passage for God's sovereignty, his absolute authority over his creation.
  • 9:6. "Not all Israel is Israel." Here is an important theological point for all time. Those who visibly seem to be part of the people of God are never exactly the people of God. Even in ancient Israel, not all Israel was Israel. In the church, not everyone in the church is truly in the church. But see 11:26
  • The passage certainly sounds like double predestination, but we have to keep in mind the rest of the New Testament as well, which does not sound that way. Among all of the New Testament, this is the unusual passage. Paul makes his point well enough. God can do whatever God wants to do because he is God.
  • "The clay would not say to the potter, would it, 'Why have you made me thus?'" (9:20). Again, Paul makes the point clearly enough. God can do whatever God wants to do because he is God. We know of course from elsewhere (e.g., 1 Tim. 2:4) that God wants everyone to be saved. That is what he ultimately wants to do.
  • 9:23-29. God's will is to save the Gentiles. That is what this passage is really about. Paul uses a string of verses from the Old Testament to substantiate his point.
C. Justification by Faith (9:30-10:21)
  • 9:30-33. We revisit some of the material from the first part of Romans but now with the underlying issue fully in view. The Jews have not been seeking justification in the right way, but many Gentiles now have.
  • Gentiles have attained righteousness, justification, by faith. But Israel, pursuing justification by the Jewish Law, "works of Law," have not. They have tripped over Jesus, God's fore-ordained path to justification.
  • Again, Paul reiterates that his hope for Israel is salvation. They have a zeal (like he once did), but it is a zeal without knowledge. They do not recognize their own Messiah.
  • Christ is the goal, the telos, the "end" of the Law. Christ is the one to whom the Law pointed (cf. Gal. 4:1-2).
  • 10:5-13. Justification, a right standing with God, is not a matter of great effort, of "works of Law." You do not need to climb to heaven or descend to the underworld to get it. The word of faith which puts you in right standing with God is in your mouth.
  • "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (10:9). That is, you will escape the wrath of God on the day of judgment. "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (10:13), whether you are a Jew or a Gentile.
  • The Lordship of Jesus, here as elsewhere, is intrinsically connected to Jesus' resurrection. It is when Jesus sits at God's right hand that he is "enthroned" as Messiah, Lord, and Son of God.
  • As simple as it is to do so, it is not simply putting down true on a quiz. It is a life commitment. It will lead to a life of works, and we will each give an account for the deeds done in the body (2 Cor. 5:10). We are committing our allegiance to Jesus as our king.
  • 10:14-21. Paul now moves toward one of his purposes for writing Romans. He is hoping that the churches of Rome will support him on a mission to Spain. If the Gentiles can be saved, then missionaries are needed to go tell them. Paul is just such a missionary. How can they call on Christ if they have not had faith yet? How will they have faith if they do not hear? How will they hear unless someone goes?
  • Paul is not dealing with a separate question. How does God deal with those who have never heard. We looked at this question briefly in relation to Romans 1:19-20.
  • Israel, however, has not believed even though they have heard. Paul gives several Scriptures to support this claim.
D. Israel will be saved (11:1-32)
  • 11:1-32. There is still hope for Israel. A key indication that predestination language in Romans 9 does not function in the way Augustine, Wycliffe, and Calvin thought it did is the fact that those whom God has hardened in Romans 9 can still be saved in Romans 11.
  • 11:1-10. God has not rejected his people. Indeed, 11:29 will tell us soon that God's calling on Israel is irrevocable.
  • 11:2-5. There is a remnant who believes, the true Israel within the ethnic people of Israel, as in the days of Elijah.
  • 11:6-10. In the mystery of God's will, Israel is currently experiencing a "stupor" in relation to its own messiah.
  • 11:11-24. But they have not stumbled beyond recovery. In this section Paul develops the branch metaphor. God has broken off many natural branches to the tree so that he can graft in the wild Gentile branches. Clearly, then, Paul still considers ethnic Israel in the Old Testament the trunk of the tree.
  • But this is not a fixed situation. The natural branches (ethnic Israel) can be grafted back in. God would be delighted to do so. Similarly, if the grafted branches (Gentile believers) turn away, they can be cut back out again. 
  • God is using the in-grafting of the Gentiles into the people of God to provoke the natural Israelite branches to jealousy.
  • 11:25-32. Here are highly debated verses, but the train of thought is clear. Part of Israel is currently experiencing a hardening until the full number of the Gentiles come in. Then all Israel will be saved. Paul looks to the eventual faith of ethnic Israel. The Messiah will turn godlessness away from Jacob. That is, he will bring faith to unbelieving Israel.
  • This of course did not happen in Paul's lifetime and has not happened since. In their enthusiasm for the re-establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and their horror for the Holocaust, many Christians have forgotten that nothing has changed with unbelieving Israel from Paul's point of view. In fact, there are far more Palestinian believers in Palestine than there are Israeli believers today. 
  • 11:32. All are in a state of disobedience, both Jew and Gentile, but God's plan is to have mercy on both.
E. Doxology (11:33-36)
  • Paul ends the first half of Romans with a doxology of praise to God. Who can understand the plans of God? We cannot think his thoughts after him. He is sovereign and in control. He is the source of all things ("from whom"), the means of all things ("through whom"), and the purpose of all things ("for whom").
  • Praise be to God!
I. Introduction
1. Romans 1:1-15

II.1 Who is Justified?
II.1.1 Humanity's Problem
2. Romans 1:16-17
3. Romans 1:18-32
4. Romans 2:1-3:20

II.1.2 God's Solution
5. Romans 3:21-31
6. Romans 4:1-5:11

II.2 What about Sin?
7. Romans 5:12-6:23
8. Romans 7:1-8:39

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