February 1 - Romans 9:1-9

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Romans 9:1-9 - Child of Abraham

I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised!  Amen.

It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”  In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.”

If we look back to Chapter 3, Paul deals with the question about the advantage there might be to being a Jew. He made it quite clear that simply belonging to the Jewish nation was not enough. A real Jew came from the inside. Real circumcision was inward and a work of the Holy Spirit, not simple obedience to the Law.  He spent the next five chapters talking about all people and their need for righteousness because they are under the condemnation of sin.

He returns to the discussion of the Jewish nation because it is so important to him. As much as he is called to bring the Gospel to all nations, it is just as important for Paul to remain true to his roots. He can't simply toss one off for the other. His integrity as a man of God is at stake and he will always be honorable to the training and upbringing he had.

However, Paul feels great sorrow for the Jews. If he could be cut off from Christ and save his people, he would sacrifice his own relationship with God for them.  His heart is crushed by them. In this passage, Paul lists seven privileges that belonged to the Jews: they were the original sons of God, the glory of God was made known to them in the desert. They received the covenants of God and the Law and they had been given the regulations for worshiping God as well as the entirety of the Old Testament which was filled with God's promises. They descended from the patriarchs and it is from the Jewish nation that the human ancestry of Jesus Christ comes.

Now begins Paul's teaching on exactly who the chosen people are. He sets out to explain that God did not abandon his covenant or his choice of Israel. God had promised to bless Israel, but that doesn't mean that everyone who descended from Jacob (Israel) belongs to the Israel who are the people of God.  Paul tells us that those who fulfill the promise are Abraham's true descendants.

Just as God chose Isaac, rather than Ishmael, to be the child of promise, now God chooses those who place their faith in Christ as the true children of Abraham. The relationship with God is not based on blood, but on faith. It is not about a person's ethnicity, but about their choice to be spiritually aligned with Jesus Christ.  God didn't turn his back on Israel, he clarified what it means to be a son of Abraham.