When coming to Scripture, there are few phrases that have such weight and implication as does “Not All Israel belong to Israel” in Romans 9. It says first that there are essentially two Israels—one that is truly Israel and another that merely a shadow or a prefiguring. It says also that there has been a misunderstanding by some earlier interpreters of Scripture. These interpreters believed that it was the physical descendents of Jacob who were the children of God and that it was those who would inherit eternal life (cf. Mark 10:17). Jesus refutes this notion on several occasions, none more poignant than his refutation of the Pharisees:
They answered him, “Abraham is our father . . . We were not born of sexual immorality (i.e. like the Samaritans). We have one Father—even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires” (John 8:39, 41-44).
The ultimate rejection of Christ’s words was not limited to the Pharisees for it was true of most of Israel, which prompts Paul, after his glorious declaration of the unfailing love of God in Christ at the end of Romans 8, to address the unbelieving, condemned state of Israel by looking at the nature of the Promise of God to Abraham.
Before he begins to address the nature of the Promise to Abraham, Paul first assures his readers of his deep affection for the physical descendants of Israel. There were undoubtedly those who attacked the hard truths that Paul had written about, and they questioned the genuineness of his love and concern for the nation of Israel. To address this accusation, Paul writes, “I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:2). Paul says that he would spend eternity in hell, separated from God forever if it would mean that the nation Israel would believe in Christ and be saved. What love this man had for his people! Yet this love would not deter him from speaking the truth that so offended these persons, but his love drove him to preach the hard truth, for he said elsewhere, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (cf. 1Cor. 9:16). Paul knew that it is not the lack of offense that brings freedom and salvation, but it is the proclamation of truth, no matter its palatability (cf. John 8:32).
Categories: Fridy Night Bible Study