The theme of the book of Romans thus
far has been the system of faith by which man can be saved. The need of
salvation has been adequately presented by showing how neither the Jew
nor the Gentile could obtain salvation through previous systems under which
they had lived. They had lived under different kinds of laws of works;
the Jew under a written law of works given by God at Sinai through Moses,
and the Gentile under a law of works, a moral law, written on their consciences,
and, to some degree, of their own making. The result was that the Jews
had failed to live perfectly under the law of Moses (and nobody could),
while the Gentiles had simply degenerated into conduct and situations of
the most abominable nature. Only by the gospel could man be saved. Spiritual
life was to belong to man only in the system of obedient faith which had
its merit in the blood of Christ, graciously given by God. This system,
therefore, because all men need salvation, was universally offered to Gentile
and Jew alike; that is, on the same terms. Such had always been God’s intention
and design since before the foundation of the world.
The Jews had been God’s chosen people for a special purpose. It was through them the promises made to Abraham were fulfilled. The greatest of these promises was the blessing for all men through Christ. The chosen people now are those who come to God by the gospel system or scheme. Men are saved by “the righteousness of God,” or the plan devised and designed by the Lord Himself rather than some other way. The way of salvation now operative is similar in principle to the way Abraham was justified. Paul at this point in the epistle has adequately discussed peace with God, spiritual life, and release from the wages of sin that belong to children of God who have become His children through the system of obedient faith that the book of Romans presents.
By the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Paul concerns us with the condition of the Jews since most (though not all) had rejected the system of Christ. In discussing the Jews, and God’s use of them, he also discusses others whom God has used to bring about the system of faith by which man is saved.
1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, 2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. 3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: 4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; 5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.Paul opens his remarks with strong terms insisting that the message he bears is truth, not only stemming from the Holy Spirit’s use of Paul’s experiences, but because of additional revelation from the Holy Spirit Himself. Paul carried in his heart grace concern, even sorrow, over the spiritual condition of the Jews. So great was this sorrow that he was personally willing to be lost if that would have accomplished the salvation of his fellow-countrymen in the flesh. He does not for a moment suggest that such would be possible, but it is an expression of a willingness at self-sacrifice, and the extent of his concern as Israelites. In other words, he realizes that the Israelites had formerly enjoyed a special relationship with God, and were God’s chosen people, even though they were chosen for a specific and limited purpose, and not chosen because of their own merit. Fleshly Israel had obtained adoption, and had been glorified as children of God, and enjoyed His care. They were the ones with whom God had made covenants. To them God had given a law. They had been in God’s service, and they and their fathers were the ones to whom and through whom God’s promises were offered. Israel in the flesh was the very nation to which Jesus Himself belonged. (The mention of Christ being “over all” proclaims His preeminence.) Of all people who had advantages, and should have recognized Christ, and enjoyed salvation by the system of God devised through Christ, the Israelites were that people. About eight special advantages they had are listed here: adoption, glory, covenants, law, service, promises, the heritage of their fathers, and Christ.
6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: 7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. 8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. 9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.Even with special advantages, the Israelites had not accepted God’s plan. Indeed, they had rejected the very One, Jesus Christ, who was the executor of the plan. Earlier in this epistle, chapter three and verse three, Paul took note of that rejection. But even with that rejection, the plan God devised through the Jews was not made void. (It is well to refer to comments made on chapter three about the rejection by the Jews of Christ, and how it made no material effect whatever upon the overall plan of salvation that God developed and delivered.) While the Jewish rejection of God’s system did not nullify, nor invalidate the system, it did mean that those who were of fleshly Israel, formerly God’s chosen people, were not God’s chosen people any longer. The phrase, “For they are not all Israel which are of Israel,” means that those who are of fleshly Israel no longer possess a special relationship to God by virtue of their physical birth. Just being a descendant of Abraham did not mean they were approved of God, nor were they of the spiritually chosen Israel. Those who were of spiritual Israel were those who were children of promise; that is, those who had become spiritual children of God because God had kept His promises made unto Abraham about blessing all nations through his seed, who is Christ. Therefore, salvation is based upon a person’s response to God’s system of salvation through Christ, and not upon one’s physical relationship with Abraham. On that relationship with Abraham is what the Jews, heretofore, had relied in order to be considered favorable before God. (Study Galatians 3:28, 29 with verses seven and eight.)
10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; 11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) 12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. 13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.To further show that one is a child of God through the system involved in the promise made, Paul notes how God decided that it would be through Jacob, rather than Esau, that the system would come into reality. Even before the time the twins, Esau and Jacob, were born, God had predetermined which one He would use for this purpose. This was done in spite of the fact that Esau was the eldest of the two. Of course, considering the nature of the two men, even with all the flaws of character that are often obvious in the life of Jacob, it is evident that God chose the better one for the linage through whom the Savior would come. Because one proved better than the other, the statement of verse thirteen is made that Jacob was loved and Esau hated. The significance is that Jacob allowed himself, in spite of early failings in youthful life, to be used, and God loved him for it, while Esau was of such a nature that he brought the wrath of God against himself.
14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. 15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.This seems to be an answer to an anticipated objection to the way God operated in producing the system of faith by using various and sundry people in a variety of ways. Paul states that the way God used people was in no sense unrighteous. Once again in this book we find Paul using the very emphatic term, “God forbid,” to deny any unrighteousness on the part of God. Rather than God being unrighteous, the methods and means God used were merely the demonstration of His divine right as God. It was as had been stated to Moses in Exodus 33:19, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”
17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. 18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.Another example of the use of God’s power and His use of men was God’s use of Pharoah. You are encouraged to go back to the Old Testament into the events recorded in Exodus and see how God used Pharoah in bringing deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage. Often the Scriptures speak of the hardening of Pharoah’s heart. It is said that God hardened his heart. It is also stated that Pharoah hardened his own heart (Exodus 7:3; 8:15).
19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? 20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? 21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? 22 What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: 23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, 24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?Again Paul seems to anticipate some objection some might raise against the way God has done things, and Paul answers the question, “If these people who were wicked were used to accomplish the overall purpose of God, why are they faulted for what they did? Who could resist the will of God?”
25 As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. 26 And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God. 27 Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: 28 For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth. 29 And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.Paul refers to two prophecies by Hosea, and two by Isaiah, concerning the Gentiles and the Jews. Keep in mind that Paul had under consideration the spiritual condition of the Jews, primarily, from the first of the chapter, and the use of them and others in bringing the fulfillment and completion of the system of salvation. He had shown that salvation was not for Jews only, but also for Gentiles, in verse twenty-four. As for the Gentiles, Hosea had spoken of the will of the Lord, and His intent that the Gentiles, “those which were not my people,” would be among those to be called. If salvation had not been extended to Gentiles as well as Jews, this prophecy would have been proven false. As for the Jews, Isaiah had remarked that many of the Jews would be lost, but a remnant would be spared. This indicates that some Jews would favorably respond to the call of God through the gospel. Such was actually the case. If all Jews had rejected the Christ and His will, the Jews would have been as completely destroyed as Sodom and Gomorrah; utterly destroyed. Because a remnant did follow the Lord they were not destroyed. The phrase, “The Lord of Sabaoth,” means the Lord of hosts, the Lord of many and all, with an emphasis on the greatness of the Lord.
30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. 31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.Drawing a conclusion from what has been written, Paul asks, “What shall we say then?” Indeed, what can we conclude from all this revelation? First, Gentiles, which did not follow a righteous path, and who did not have the law like the Jews, have now been included among the saved. This was not accomplished by means of the law, or by their own merit, but by the righteousness which is accomplished through the system of salvation in Christ. On the other hand, the fleshly Israelites, who had the law and other advantages, but did not live perfectly under it, even with certain privileges, have been rejected as a nation because they rejected the system of salvation given through Christ. Recalling again that a remnant did accept the Christ, Paul refers here to the nation of the Jews generally. The Jews as a nation did not receive the very system of salvation that God had devised, and the very system to which they as a nation had contributed so much in its development and revelation.
32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; 33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.Why did the Jews now find themselves in the deplorable spiritual condition that Paul describes? It was because they did seek salvation by the system of faith, but persisted in their attempts to be made righteous by holding to the old law that Christ fulfilled and took out of the way at the cross (Colossians 2:14). The purposes and functions of that law were accomplished. They held to a system that no longer was operative. They stumbled over what should have been their stepping-stone into glory.
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