Paul's Epistle to the Romans, Israel Defended

 (30) Israel Defended
Romans 9:1–5       

1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit,
2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart.
3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,
4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;
5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.



Paul expressed his grief over the fact that most of the Jews were alienated from God. He wished himself “accursed” (Gk. anathema) and that he would be destroyed in place of his countrymen. Although Paul’s mission was primarily to the Gentiles, he never ceased to show deep concern for his brothers “according to the flesh,” that is, his fellow Jews. Paul mentioned some advantages enjoyed by the Jews in their relationship with God that made their rejection of Christ even more tragic: The glory of God’s presence, the covenants, the Law, and the promises. Even Jesus the Messiah was born a Jew.

1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit,

By insisting that salvation is for Gentiles as well as for Jews, Paul gave the appearance of being a traitor, a turncoat; a renegade as far as Israel was concerned. So, here he declares his deep devotion to the Jewish people by using a solemn oath. He speaks the truth. He is not lying. His conscience, in fellowship with the Holy Spirit, affirms the truth of what he is saying.

I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying,—The strong character of this language indicates that the apostle’s Jewish opponents had charged him with being hostile to his nation and insincere in his actions. He begins his reply by a statement, the force of which is to show that his fellowship with Christ makes insincerity impossible.

my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, --Not “my conscience bearing me witness.” His conscience bore witness in accordance with God’s word. Moreover, it was a conscience enlightened and guided by the Holy Spirit. Only when the Holy Spirit controls the conscience, can it be trusted—but it remains imperfect, and its counsel must always be evaluated against the Word of God.

"But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God." (1 Cor. 4:3-5)

2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart.

The only nation that God ever called His Son is the nation Israel. However, when Paul thinks first of Israel’s glorious calling, and now of its rejection by God because it rejected the Messiah, his heart is filled with great sorrow and continual grief.

3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,

In this strong announcement, we sense the highest form of human love—that which compels a man to lay down his life for his friends—“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). And we feel the enormous burden which a converted Jew experiences for the salvation of his countrymen. This statement about being accursed (anathema; cut off from Christ) is reminiscent of Moses’ statement made upon returning from Mount Sinai. As the great leader viewed the children of Israel involved in the wicked worship of the golden calf, he desired to have his name blotted out of God’s book in return for the salvation of Israel (Ex 32:30–33). The understanding of Paul, however, in relation to justification by faith, does not allow him to actually wish himself accursed from Christ (i.e., separated from Christ for everlasting destruction). Paul knows that his life is not his own. Therefore, he is not the master of his own life and does not have the power to cast away eternal life, because the blood of Christ purchased that for him. Paul would accept everlasting destruction in return for the salvation of Israel, but God will not allow him to do so.

Whatever was in his heart that brought out such strong feelings for his countrymen (that they might be saved), two things are apparent; that it was impossible to accomplish, and even if it was possible, it would not accomplish what he wanted, their salvation.

4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;

who are Israelites;—This is the national name, including all the descendants of Jacob, who obtained from God the name of Israel, “a prince with God” (Gen. 32:28). As used here, the title Israel refers to the dignity and privileges attaching to those who come under the name.

God had adopted that nation to be His son and delivered them out of Egypt. He was a father to Israel—“You are the children of the Lord your God…” (Deut. 14:1) — and “Ephraim was His firstborn” (Jer. 31:9). (Ephraim is used here as another name for the nation of Israel.)

They shall come with weeping, And with supplications I will lead them. I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters, In a straight way in which they shall not stumble; For I am a Father to Israel, And Ephraim is My firstborn. (Jer. 31:9)

to whom pertain the adoption (sonship),—The reference is probably to Exodus 4:22 and Hosea 11:1.
Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Israel is My son, My firstborn. (Ex. 4:22).

“When Israel was a child, I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son.” (Hos. 11:1).

Israel was brought into an unusual relationship with God in contrast to all other nations.

the glory,—That is, the special favor granted them of the manifestation of the presence of God in their midst.

And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by My glory.” (Exodus 29:43).

The reference here is to the Shekinah or glory cloud, which symbolized God’s presence in their midst, guiding, and protecting them. It rested on the ark and filled the tabernacle during all their wanderings in the wilderness. In Jerusalem, it continued to be seen in the tabernacle, and later, it was seen in the temple, and it only disappeared, when at the captivity, it disappeared.

the covenants,—This refers to the promises made by God at various times to the patriarchs. They were originally given to Abraham (Gen. 12:1–3), and confirmed in a vision (Gen. 15:18).

Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:1-3)

On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates. (Gen. 15:18)

The English word “covenant” signifies a mutual undertaking between two parties or more, who agree to carry out certain commitments. However, these commitments do not involve the idea of joint obligations, but instead signifies that which is carried out by one person only. “Covenant” is frequently used interchangeably with the word “promise,” as in Galatians 3:16, 18. The covenants referred to here were of this nature.

Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ…For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise." (Gal. 3:16, 18)

It was with Israel, not with the Gentiles, that God made the covenants. It was with Israel, for example, that He made the Palestinian Covenant, promising them the land from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates.

There are six Biblical covenants:
1. The covenant with Noah (Gen 9:8-17).
2. The covenant with Abraham (Gen 12:1-3).
3. The covenant of Law given through Moses at Sinai (Ex 19-31; Deut 29,30).
4. The priestly covenant (Num. 25:10-13).
5. The covenant of an eternal kingdom through David’s son (2 Sam. 7:8-16).
6. The new covenant (Jer. 31:31-34).

God has already carried out many of the covenants. He said He would make them a blessing to all people. He said to David that this One would come in his line. The Lord Jesus Christ has fulfilled all of this.

It is an amazing thing for God to approach men and enter into a pledged relationship with them. It is the simple truth that God has never left men alone. He did not approach them once and then leave them alone. He has always made approach after approach. And He still makes approach after approach to save the human soul. He stands at the door and knocks; but it is a tragedy that man can refuse to open.

the giving of the law, the service of God,—“The service,” is a term used here to mean the worship connected with the tabernacle and the temple and of the ordinances relating to those services.

"Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary." (Heb. 9:1)

It was to Israel that the law was given. They and they alone were its recipients.

The elaborate rituals and service of God connected with the tabernacle and the temple were given to Israel, as well as the priesthood. Israel was to be a kingdom of priests—“And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation…” (Ex. 19:6). The nation failed God, but God did not give up His purpose that they should be priests. God took the tribe of Levi and gave them the responsibility of serving and caring for the tabernacle and, later on, the temple. In the future, during the millennium, the nation Israel will once again be God’s priests upon the earth.

and the promises;—The word here refers to Abraham and his seed (Gal. 3:16). The promise was given to Abraham in Genesis 12:1–3. The first promise contained in itself all subsequent promises. Here the term is plural; therefore, it involves all that God has undertaken to bestow upon Israel.

In addition to the covenants mentioned above, God made numerous promises to Israel including protection, peace, prosperity, forgiveness of sins, the inheritance of the Promised Land, but most especially the promise of the Messiah, Gal 3:16. When He came to earth, He was a Jew. The woman at the well called Him a Jew.

Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. (Jn. 4:9)

5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.

of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh,—The literal meaning would be “from whom,” not “of whom,” signifying that Christ sprang from their race, being born of the Virgin Mary. That He sprang from the nation of Israel is the highest of all the privileges granted to Israel. The fathers is a reference to the patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the twelve sons of Jacob. These were the forefathers of the nation. And they had the greatest privilege of all

Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God.—Christ, on the human side, came from Israel. The words translated “who is,” literally mean “the One being.” The phrase shows that his Sonship is essential. Who is over all is a statement of the deity of Christ, and it puts the finishing touch upon the privileges and blessings given to Israel. The eternally blessed God is also a positive statement of the deity and humanity of the Savior.

Amen (so be it) — a solemn word used by a person to show approval of a statement, an oath, or a covenant. It is also used in worship to encourage a preacher, or to show support and approval of a prayer. In Isaiah 65:16 the Lord is called “the God of truth”; the original Hebrew means, “the God of amen.” This is Isaiah’s way of saying that the Lord is the One who remains eternally true, the One who can always be relied on. In the New Testament, our Lord Jesus Christ is given the same title: “the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness” (Rev. 3:14). He, too, is eternally true and reliable.



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