“Redemption for Jew and Gentile”
“And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29, KJV). Here, Paul defines true spiritual Israel. Later he declares: “ is nothing; uncircumcision is nothing; the only thing that counts is new creation! All who take this principle for their guide, peace and mercy be upon them, the Israel of God!” (Gal. 6:15, 16, REB).
After the sublime “Hallelujah Chorus” of Romans 8, Paul’s change of mood seems suddenly dark and foreboding. As a student of the scriptures, especially the 70-week prophecies in Daniel 9, he must realize the significance of the stoning of Stephen. He has just declared that nothing can separate us from the love of God, but his mind is reminded that there is one thing that can separate even those specially chosen by God. Persistent, deliberate choices to disbelieve His promises will eventually be honored. Paul realizes God labored long with Israel, His chosen people. There were tests of faith in the wilderness after leaving Egypt, unbelief on the verge of entry, then captivity to cure idolatry, years of apostasy, then finally Israel corporately murdered His Son. Even then God sends one more messenger, Stephen; even the cross does not reach their hearts. Through its leadership, Israel rejects and stones Stephen so the gospel is officially taken to the Gentiles.
Paul, motivated by the , feels anguish over the loss of his brethren. He declares he is willing to be accursed or separated from Christ for the sake of his kinsmen. Under other circumstances, this would be self-serving exaggeration. For this to be genuine, it can only be a gift of the Spirit.
Paul then analyzes why Israel’s separation was not the fault of God. He begins by explaining that as God defines Israel, He has kept His promises. God does not define true Israel by race, language, or even lineage from Abraham. The promises were not repeated to Ishmael or Esau, but over and over He reminds them He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Who comprises Israel? “We learn also who are Israel. The name was given to him in token of the victory which he had gained by faith. It did not bestow any grace upon him, but was a token of the grace already possessed. … It is not the name that brings the blessing, but the blessing that brings the name. As Jacob did not possess the name by nature, so nobody else can. The true Israelite is he in whom is no guile. … So the Israelite is only the one who has personal faith in the Lord. …
“Let every one who would fain be known as an Israelite consider how Jacob received the name, and realize that only so can it be worthily carried by anyone. Christ, as the promised seed, had to go through the same struggle. He fought and won through His trust in the word of the Father, and so He is of right the King of Israel. Only will share the kingdom with Him; for Israelites are overcomers, and the promise is, ‘To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne.’ Rev. 3:21” (E. J. Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant, p. 116; Publishers ed.).
What did Jacob overcome? “It was by self-surrender and confiding faith that Jacob gained what he had failed to gain by conflict in his own strength. God thus taught His servant that divine power and grace alone could give him the blessing he craved. Thus it will be with those who live in the last days. As dangers surround them, and despair seizes upon the soul, they must depend solely upon the merits of the atonement. We can do nothing of ourselves” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 203).
What was the blessing Jacob craved? Throughout his life, he schemed to obtain what God had promised was his. His father, Isaac, indeed had bestowed the birthright on him, yet he struggles with a stranger for assurance he has it. Why the insecurity? He had been depending on his schemes, actions, and strength to assure himself the birthright was his. Jacob “prevailed” by surrendering any faith in his ability to overcome. He laid hold of the strength of the Angel he had been fighting and was given victory. Only then could he receive the gift of overcoming.
In verse 16 of Romans 9, Paul reminds Israel that God’s mercy is not generated or created by the actions of humans. God is merciful because He is love, and is merciful toward the objects of His love. The lump of clay cannot question what the potter makes of it, likewise man cannot dictate the actions of God. If Jacob had enough inherent strength to overcome the Angel, he could demand the blessing as his right, yet he gained victory only by admitting he was without strength.
Paul continues his argument that God is not at fault for the Jew’s separation, by using the sad example of faithless Gomer who persisted in finding support and comfort in her illicit lovers. The faithful Hosea pursued her in spite of her failings, a living portrayal of Christ attempting to woo His indifferent bride.
This is where Paul’s examples of Israel’s waywardness enter our time in history. Never has the church been so distracted that she fails to know her true condition. The experience of Christ’s Bride will be different from the experience of any previous generation. The truth about the character of God must stand revealed in that final glory which lightens the earth.
“The supreme interest of Jesus, our , is to win the heart of His bride which will make the atonement complete. Her reticence to accept her Divine Lover is the result of her immaturity. Her fickleness and her consorting with the princes of Babylon grow out of her childish appreciation of what her real Lover has given and gone through to win her hand. … He is waiting for His Bride to grow up and cease her playful infatuation with the human honor that comes one of another, but which destroys faith (John 5:44). … Her consummate beauty is not just because she has put off her whoredoms and ceased from sin, but because she knows and appreciates the struggle her Lover has endured to obtain victory and she as an army in battle has gone through the same struggle. She has gone to the cross with Him. She has grown up in this conquest and her soul longs to be at the side of her Lover. … Her union with the Bridegroom provides much more than the forgiveness of sin. Her sin is not only taken away but the vacuum is filled with the Holy Spirit” (Donald K. Short, Then Shall the Sanctuary be Cleansed, p. 91).
Today, we, the individuals who comprise the church, are slumbering along with the ten virgins. We continue to obsess over victory over sin as if that were the only thing necessary for salvation. Like ancient Israel, steeped in old covenant thinking, we persist in believing “born again” means to try harder and harder to obey. True obedience flows from a heart completely unified with Christ by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. At the cross, believers refuse to be assured by their own strength, but with Christ, submit their spirit to Him in faith that He will fulfill His promises to true Israel.
Note: We invite you to read a verse-by-verse study of Romans 9 from the perspective by Paul E. Penno. You will find it on the Internet at: http://www.1888mpm.org/articles/redemption-jew-and-gentile
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For an excellent companion book to these studies, please see Waggoner on Romans: the Gospel in Paul’s Great Letter, by E. J. Waggoner. You may access the complete book at: http://www.1888mpm.org/book/waggoner-romans
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