Books For You
Click titles to see latest offer prices
Israel’s Rejection of Christ was in Spite of Privilege
9:1-2 I am telling the truth in Christ (I am not lying!), for my conscience assures me in the Holy Spirit —I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.
The hardened and unrepentant attitude of his nation brought sorrow to the apostle’s heart. The words convey a heaviness which had deeply affected him for a long time. He calls three witnesses - Christ, his own conscience and the Holy Spirit to confirm the truth of his words.
9:3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed — cut off from Christ — for the sake of my people, my fellow countrymen,
Paul so longed for Israel to be saved that he was prepared to be cut off from God if only that would result in their salvation. Moses felt the same way (Ex32.30-32). Yet only Christ who was without sin could make his soul an offering for sin. Paul’s words reveal Christ’s love in Him. Christ was not only prepared, but did give his life for the whole nation of Israel and for the whole world. Because of his death and resurrection, salvation is available for all who believe. Yet despite their tremendous privileges, the Jews continued to reject Jesus Christ. As a Jew himself, Paul lists those privileges in v4,5.
The Jews are the descendants of Jacob (Israelites) to whom God made certain promises, including I will make you a great nation, and I will give your descendants this land. (Gen 28.13-15)
With great power God brought Israel out of Egypt to be His own special people (the adoption)
Because of this, God was called their God. (The Glory - Psalm 106.20).
The covenants which God made with Israel. God promised Abraham to give his descendants the land and to be their God. This covenant was attested by circumcision. Gen 17.4-14. The covenant at Sinai (Ex24.7,8) was to be ratified by their keeping of the law, including keeping Sabbath as a sign that Israel was separated for the Lord. (Ex 31.13-16)
They received the law itself, the living word of God which taught them God’s standard of holiness and revealed the way of salvation.
They were given the service of worship via the priesthood in the Tabernacle / temple. Mathew Henry says, “while other nations were worshipping and serving.. idols of their own invention, the Israelites were serving the true God in the way of his own appointment.”
The many promises given by God to his people, especially concerning the manner of Christ’s coming.
They had the faith and example of their ancestors to follow,
Most of all, it was from Israel that Christ came, according to the flesh - the one whose name is Immanuel - God with us, the forever blessed God. This was the reason why the nation of Israel was chosen and separated.
All these privileges should have made the nation ready for Christ’s coming, that they might receive him as Saviour and Lord. But they did not. “He came unto his own and his own did not receive him.” The reason for their rejection was that they insist on trying to attain their own righteousness by works instead of receiving God’s righteousness by grace.
Israel’s Rejection of Christ was a Rejection of God’s Grace
It was not as if anything had gone wrong with the promises of God. Rather, the people refused to accept the means by which those promises would be fulfilled, as had been made plain in the scripture.
Israel Trusted in their own Lineage
9:6 It is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all those who are descended from Israel are truly Israel,
Natural descent from Abraham did not guarantee acceptance with God. Yet many Israelites in Jesus’ time thought it did. In John 8.12-59 Christ taught them that though they were Abraham’s descendants naturally, they needed to become his children spiritually by faith in Him. Paul explains how the promise to make us children of God is secured not by human descent (John1.12) but through faith in Christ and by the power of the Spirit.
9:7-9 nor are all the children Abraham's true descendants; rather "through Isaac will your descendants be counted." This means it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God; rather, the children of promise are counted as descendants. For this is what the promise declared: "About a year from now I will return and Sarah will have a son."
The case of Isaac illustrates this point well, for since Sarah was barren, Isaac was born by a miracle of God, according to His promise, which was received by faith. “At that time I shall return and Sarah shall have a son.” In Rom 4.19-22 Paul has already explained how Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness. In Heb 11.11 he shows how Sarah believed God and so received strength to conceive seed.
Israel Trusted in their own Law Keeping
9:10-12 Not only that, but when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our ancestor Isaac —even before they were born or had done anything good or bad (so that God's purpose in election would stand, not by works but by his calling) —it was said to her, "The older will serve the younger,"
Not only is the promise not by natural descent - it is not obtained by works. The case of Jacob and Esau illustrates this. The promise that Jacob would be greater than Esau was made when both twins were still in the womb, before they were born or had done anything good or bad. This was to show that God’s promise is not attained by good works but by His grace.
Some would point to the profanity of Esau as the basis for God’s rejection of Him, and that is quite correct, but let us remember that Jacob was also a liar, a thief and undeserving of God’s mercies. (Gen 32.10) The point Paul is making is that it is by God’s grace and not by works that we obtain the promise of salvation. Eph 2:8-9; Titus 3:5
9:13 just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."
God set his love on Jacob and his descendants because he chose to, not because they deserved it. Deut 7.7,8 God continued his own purposes through Israel rather than Edom for He chose to.
Israel’s Rejection of Christ was a Rejection of God’s Way of Righteousness
9:14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice with God? Absolutely not!
Was Israel right to reject God’s righteousness? Was God the one in the wrong? Is God unjust? Does he show partiality? (Deut 10.17). Why does he have mercy on some and not others?
9:15 For he says to Moses: "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."
Since we are all sinners and undeserving of mercy we depend on God’s grace. God owes no man anything. He does not have to show grace to anyone. As he told Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” Mercy is the prerogative of God. No man can CLAIM or INSIST on mercy. It is God’s to give. Yet he wills to give it to all, for he is not willing that any should perish. 2 Peter 3.9
The picture given is of Moses pleading with God on behalf of his people after they had sinned. God makes clear to Moses that it is not on the basis of his intercession, but on the basis of his own grace will the nation be spared. The same is true for us as individuals - sinners have no claim on God’s mercy unless He is pleased to bestow it.
9:16 So then, it does not depend on human desire or exertion, but on God who shows mercy.
That is why it is “not of him that determines” - a man may wish to have eternal life but God will not give it to man on his terms, for what right does a man have to ask favours of God? It is “not of him who strives hard in good works or law keeping”, for no man may earn God’s favour. God does not give to any man because he deserves it. He shows mercy because of his love and grace, as revealed in the gospel. So Paul sums up by saying that salvation is not of man, but is the gift of God alone. Eph 2.8
9:17 For the scripture says to Pharaoh: "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may demonstrate my power in you, and that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth."
Was Israel right to reject or question God’s way of righteousness? From the life of Pharaoh Paul shows how God does his own will in the earth. Pharaoh may have thought himself king by right, but God made him King, so that He would gain glory for himself through His acts of judgement. God is a free agent and under no obligation to any man. He does as he pleases and who dare question him? Paul goes on to show how just as God is willing to show mercy to the repentant, He is also willing to demonstrate his anger on those who refuse to repent. When Pharaoh hardened his heart against God, God did not overrule him, but gave him up to his stubbornness, making him even more stubborn, so that by his acts of Judgement God would make himself known throughout the world. Christ rejecters harden their hearts in the same way and will face the same consequences and have no right to question God about it.
9:18 So then, God has mercy on whom he chooses to have mercy, and he hardens whom he chooses to harden.
God shows mercy on his own terms. Those who refuse His terms are given up to the hardness of their hearts, becoming even more stubborn and worthy of judgement.
9:19 You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who has ever resisted his will?"
“If it is God who makes us harden our hearts, why does he blame us for doing so?” is the question of a spoilt child. It is not for man to reply against God, but to submit to him. In their rejection of Christ, Israel were likened to Pharaoh in his rejection of God’s word. The scripture explicitly states that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. He refused to repent. That is why God hardened him, in order to multiply his wonders in Egypt.
9:20-21 But who indeed are you — a mere human being — to talk back to God? Does what is molded say to the molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Has the potter no right to make from the same lump of clay one vessel for special use and another for ordinary use?
To finish his point, Paul uses another illustration from scripture which was well known to the Jews. It was the picture of a potter with the clay Jer 18.6. We are the clay, God is the potter. What right have we to question what God does? How dare mere mortals reject God’s way of salvation.
9:22 But what if God, willing to demonstrate his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath prepared for destruction?
God deals patiently with men for although he is willing to demonstrate his wrath against the unrepentant, he holds back for a time, to give all men opportunity to repent and be saved.
Israel’s Rejection of Christ was not Final
As we continue in Romans Paul will explain how Israel's' rejection of Christ brought:
The Salvation of the Gentiles
9:23-24 And what if he is willing to make known the wealth of his glory on the objects of mercy that he has prepared beforehand for glory —even us, whom he has called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?
Salvation is available on God’s terms to all who receive Christ as Saviour, referred to here as vessels of mercy. At the time of Paul’s writing, God’s mercy was being shown both to Jews and Gentiles through Jesus Christ and it still is. Paul’s theme in ch 11 is that the fall of Israel made a way for the gentiles to hear the gospel. This had been predicted by the prophets Hosea 2.23 Even so, Israel’s rejection of Christ was not final. There were a minority who believed, which is why Paul writes of:
The Salvation of a Jewish Remnant
9:25-28 As he also says in Hosea: "I will call those who were not my people, 'My people,' and I will call her who was unloved, 'My beloved.' " "And in the very place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' there they will be called 'sons of the living God.' " And Isaiah cries out on behalf of Israel, "Though the number of the children of Israel are as the sand of the sea, only the remnant will be saved, for the Lord will execute his sentence on the earth completely and quickly."
In ch11 Paul shows how when every believing gentile has been gathered in, God will once again bring Israel as a nation to Himself through Jesus Christ. Even today there are a minority of believing Jews in the church of Christ, a pledge of Israel’s future restoration in God’s purposes. Although the nation of Israel as a whole had rejected Christ, it is by no means true that every Jew had rejected Christ. Paul was evidence of that. Isaiah prophesied that a small number of Israelites would respond to the gospel call. Isa 10.22,23
9:29 Just as Isaiah predicted, If the Lord of armies had not left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, and we would have resembled Gomorrah."
Were it not for this faithful remnant the nation of Israel would have ceased to exist as Sodom & Gomorah
9:30-33 What shall we say then? — that the Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness obtained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith, but Israel even though pursuing a law of righteousness did not attain it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but (as if it were possible) by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written, "Look, I am laying in Zion a stone that will cause people to stumble and a rock that will make them fall, yet the one who believes in him will not be put to shame."
Paul gives his own summary is these verses. While many Gentiles had received God’s righteousness by his grace through faith, as had a minority of Jews, the majority of Jews had not done so, for they still sought to be justified by works of law. It was this stumbling over the message of salvation through faith in Christ that was predicted by Isaiah, 28.16, and which brought such sorrow to the heart of Paul who longed for the salvation of his own nation. For although the stumbling was predicted, the promise remains the same - whoever believe in him shall not be ashamed. This is the reason why Paul made the gospel so clear in Romans, that his fellow country men might repent and receive this gospel message.
Copyright (2009-2014) Sharon Full Gospel Church, UK. Reg. Charity No. 1050642 www.sharonchurch.co.uk