I had intended only to look at Romans Chapters 1-8. I was hoping that lock down might have been finished and we would be back at Church. To be honest the next few chapters of Romans are not the easiest to exposition. In the English the meaning in places seems to say the opposite of what is really I think intended. e.g. Is it saying that all Jews will go to heaven when Jesus returns because they are his elected people? Are these chapters preaching Universalism? There is a need to delve more deeply and sometimes into the Greek to be clear then what is truly being said. I bought and turn to Prof. Cranfield’s ICC Commentary on Romans 9-16 to help me with that. English was never my best subject never mind Greek of which because of that I only did a separate voluntary reading class when at University. As also struggling through a year of O.T. with Hebrew!
So I propose this week to look at Romans Chapters 9-11:32. The remaining verses the doxology better lead in to the next chapter. Chapter headings were a later addition and not in the original documents!
Thinking of these chapters I was reminded of that passage in Matthews Gospel Chapter 19:16-30 where a rich young man asks Jesus “What good thing must I do to inherit eternal life?” (NIV) For although about Israel Paul I believe is tackling here the fundamental question as he unpacks what being a Christian is all about.
He takes Israel as an example. He begins Chapter 9 then by expressing his anguish that God’s people had largely turned from him. Saying he would willingly give up his life if that meant they could be saved. His sorrow was that Jesus had died for them that they might be saved but like himself till his eyes were opened to the truth they did not see or understand that Jesus was their promised Messiah.
They were blind to the truth for he tells us they had instead built what they thought was a righteousness of their own making. Putting their trust wrongly instead in the fact that they were God’s people and in the outworking of their religion its rituals and its practises, which was the good thing they thought they must do. They failed to realise, just as the rich young ruler did, though that you cannot earn eternal life, that you cannot make yourself good enough. That it is not a case of doing enough good either to outweigh the sin we commit and so gain heaven. Indeed as the Scripture teaches there is no one good all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Faith is a gift no something we can gain.
The Israelites had as Paul tells us Romans 9, verses 4-5,
“They are Israelites, and to them belong the son-ship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ…”
Yet, they replaced faith in God with a righteousness of their own making and over which they had control. They hardened their heart towards God and they failed to receive Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
Having said that though all Paul would have us know is not lost for though Israel has largely abandoned God, God has not abandoned them. A remnant yet remains who do trust in God and in time to come before Christ returns many will turn anew to God.
Paul suggests that they will become envious of what we have i.e. the Gentiles in knowing faith in God through Christ. He says and makes the distinction between spiritual Israel that finds faith and Israel that remains lost blinded by their failure to see the truth, sincerely mistaken, thinking that they are all right when they are far from that in their pride and presumption. Seeking and failing to gain a salvation based on works rather than faith. Romans chapter 10 verses 8-10,
“But what does it say? The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is the word of faith which we preach); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved.”
It is not by what we do that we are saved. Faith is god’s gift. With man it is impossible for him to gain eternal life but as Jesus tells us Matthew 19:26,
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Paul rejoices that hence that even out of Israel’s rejection of Christ it has meant that the Gentiles have come to know faith in Christ that God’s purposes for the salvation of the world are thus coming about. He sees a mystery unfolding here and believes that once the full number of those Gentiles who are to be saved are saved, then there will be a return of many of Israel also to faith in Christ before the end comes. Chapter 11 verses 25, 26
“Lest you be wise in your own conceit, I want you to understand this mystery, brethren: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles come in, and so all Israel will be saved”
(‘all Israel’ that is, in terms of the true Israel that has faith, not literally and universally all Jews who ever existed) To quote John Stott from the Bible Speaks today commentary on Romans in chapter 11,
“It is to note that in both halves of verse 32, regarding those whom God has imprisoned in disobedience and those on whom he will have mercy, Paul does not actually write of “all men” or of ‘all’, but of “the all” (tous pantas). And this expression in its context refers to the two groups who are contrasted throughout the chapter, and especially in verses 28 and 31, namely the ‘they’ and the ‘you’, the Jews and the Gentiles.
God may have mercy upon all, but not all are the elect of God, only, such as those who put their faith in Him. Jesus died for all (generally) but not all (individually) sadly will be saved.
The rich young ruler went away, sad we are told, because he had great wealth.
I do hope that there is not anything in your life that is keeping you from accepting Christ as Lord and Saviour and putting your faith in Him.
For as Paul writes Ephesians 2:4- 10 and with these words I close,
“But God, who is rich in mercy, out of his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God- not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”