17
January
2017

ROMANS 9.4-5 THE ISRAELITES BLESSINGS PART 2

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  1. the receiving of the Law (Deut. 5:1–22),

This would refer to (1) Moses’ receiving the Law on Mt. Sinai (cf. Exod. 19–20)

One of the chief criticisms of Paul by his Jewish countrymen seems to have been his alleged disregard for the law, since he taught that salvation was by grace through the atoning work of Christ and not by law-keeping.

However, Paul does not discount the law’s value. In fact, he has already affirmed its superlative value in Romans 3, where he first raised the matter of Jewish advantages. “What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew?” he asked. The answer: “Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God” (vv. 1–2). The phrase “the receiving of the law” means the same thing here.

This extraordinary advantage was possessed by no other nation until the Christian era, when the gospel of God’s grace in Christ and the books that taught it were deliberately taken to the entire world by the apostles and early missionaries in obedience to Christ’s express command.[1]

  1. the temple worship (latreia, “sacred service,” which may also include service in the tabernacle),

David’s developing the Temple service, and (2) possibly the Tabernacle of the Wilderness Wandering Period (cf. Exod. 25–40 and Leviticus).

This phrase refers to the extensive set of regulations for the religious rituals to be practiced first at the tabernacle and then at the temple in Jerusalem. It involves the construction of the temple itself, the laws governing the various sacrifices, and the times of the year for and nature of the specified holy days of Israel.                           

            The importance of these things is that they were designed to show the way in which a sinful human being could approach the thrice holy God. God must be approached by means of a blood sacrifice, which testified to the gravity of sin (“the wages of sin is death,” Rom. 6:23) and to the way in which an innocent substitute could die in the sinner’s place. Eventually all such sacrifices, which were only figures of the ultimate and true sacrifice, were brought to completion and fulfilled by Jesus Christ.[1]

Jer 31:35 Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for a light by day, The ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who disturbs the sea, And its waves roar (The LORD of hosts is His name): 36 "If those ordinances depart From before Me, says the LORD, Then the seed of Israel shall also cease From being a nation before Me forever." 37 Thus says the LORD: "If heaven above can be measured, And the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel For all that they have done, says the LORD.

  1. and the promises (esp. of the coming Messiah).

Since “the covenants” are mentioned earlier, “the promises” speak of those promises contained within the covenants and also refer to the Messiah (e.g. Gen. 3:15; 49:10; Deut. 18:15, 18–19; 2 Sam. 7; Ps. 16:10, 22; 118:22; Isa. 7:14; 9:6; 11:1–5; 53; Dan. 7:13, 27; Micah 5:2–5a; Zech. 2:6–13; 6:12–13; 9:9; 11:12.

These promises (covenants) are both unconditional and conditional. They were unconditional as far as God’s performance (cf. Gen. 15:12–21), but conditional on mankind’s faith and obedience (cf. Gen. 15:6 and Rom. 4). Only Israel had God’s self-revelation before the coming of Christ.[1]

Ro 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.

V (5) Also the Israelites were in the line of promise from its beginning in

  1. the patriarchs (cf. Matt. 1:1–16;

The “patriarchs” are the three fathers of the Jewish nation, namely, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, though in a looser sense such distinguished ancestors as Moses and David should also be included. These were all illustrious men to whom God revealed himself in special ways and through whom he worked to call out and bless his ancient people. To have such devout, saintly, and influential men in one’s past is rightly regarded by Paul as a significant national distinction of which Jewish people could all justly be proud[1] Genesis 12–50 (cf. Rom. 11:28; Deut. 7:8; 10:15).

  1. “From whom is the Christ according to the flesh” This referred to the physical lineage of the Messiah, the Anointed One, God’s special chosen servant who would accomplish God’s promises and plans, (cf. 10:6).

The term “Christ” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew “Anointed One.” In the OT, three groups of leaders were anointed with special holy oil (1) kings of Israel, (2) high priests of Israel, and (3) prophets of Israel. It was a symbol of God’s choosing and equipping them for His service. Jesus fulfilled all three of these anointed offices (cf. Heb. 1:2–3). He is God’s full revelation because He was God incarnate (cf. Isa. 7:14; 9:6; Micah 5:2–5a; Col. 1:13–20).[1]

Ro 1:3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, to its fulfillment in the Messiah,

The human ancestry of Christ. Everything Paul has said to this point would have been thoroughly echoed by his Jewish opponents, for they, too, regarded all these spiritual advantages highly, though they misunderstood and misused some of them. This is not the case with the last item Paul mentions, for they would have understood at once that Paul is referring here to Jesus of Nazareth, and they had no intention of recognizing Jesus as their national Messiah. Yet Paul cannot leave this matter out, if for no other reason than that everything he has mentioned thus far leads up to Jesus.

This is not a random collection of items. There is actually a very close connection between these advantages, according to which each rightly leads to the one following and all lead to Christ. Adoption is the right starting point, for it places the source of salvation in God’s electing grace, just as is the case also for believers in Christ. Having chosen to enter into a special relationship with his people, the next step was for God to reveal himself to them in a special way, which is what the word glory describes. God has done that for us in Christ, for he is where God’s glory must be seen today (John 2:11; 2 Cor. 3:18). When God revealed himself to the people, as he did at Mount Sinai, it was to enter into special covenants or agreements with them, to give them the law by which they were to live, to show the way of salvation through the temple rituals, and to point forward the full realization of their spiritual inheritance when the Messiah should at last be revealed.

The flow of God’s actions reaches back to the patriarchs, with which it began, and forward to the coming of Jesus, in whom it culminates (v. 5). These verses are as full and reasoned a statement of the blessings of God to Israel and the spiritual advantages of Old Testament religion as could possibly be given. Israel truly lacked nothing. The nation was enriched with every spiritual blessing and advantage.[1]

 Who is God over all, forever praised! Amen. This is a clear affirmation of the deity of Messiah.[1].

Paul does not use Theos for Jesus often, but he does use it (cf. Acts 20:28; Titus 2:13; Phil. 2:6).

All the early church Fathers interpreted this text as referring to Jesus[1]

This is a very striking statement. For Paul is not only saying that the Messiah was born of Israel, that is, that he was a Jew. He is also saying that this Jewish Messiah, born of Israel according to the flesh, is, in fact, God. And he is saying it in plain language. If we substitute the name Jesus for Christ, which we can do, since Paul is obviously writing about Jesus, we have the statement: “Jesus, who is God over all, forever praised!” Or, to simplify it even further, “Jesus … is God over all.”

 The sentence means that Jesus is himself the only and most high God.

 “Who is over all” This also could be a descriptive phrase for God the Father or Jesus the Son. It does reflect Jesus’ statement of Matt. 28:19 and Paul’s in Col. 1:15–20. This majestic phrase showed the height of Israel’s folly in rejecting Jesus of Nazareth.

Col 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

“Forever” This is literally the Greek vernacular phrase “unto the ages” (cf. Luke 1:33; Rom. 1:25; 11:36; Gal. 1:5; 1 Tim. 1:17).[1]

We have to admit at this point that there is an obvious restraint among the New Testament writers to say starkly that “Jesus is God.” And for good reason. Without explanation, a statement like this might be understood as teaching that God left heaven in order to come to earth in the person of the human Jesus, leaving heaven without his presence. Each of the New Testament writers knew that this is not an accurate picture. Each was aware of the doctrine of the Trinity, according to which God is described as being one God but existing in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Since Jesus is the Son of God, it was customary for them to call him that, rather than simply “God,” reserving the unembellished word God for God the Father.

This is why Jesus is not often called God explicitly.

Yet, although it is unusual to find Jesus called God for the reasons just given, it is not the case that he is never called God.

At the very beginning of that, Gospel of John writes: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning” (vv. 1–2, emphasis added).

A bit later, “the Word” is identified as Jesus (v. 14), so the text says that Jesus is God. True, the verses are written so as to distinguish the persons of the Father and Son within the Trinity. But they nevertheless identify Jesus as God explicitly.

Later in John’s Gospel, we find the same thing in Thomas’s great confession, which is the Gospel’s spiritual climax. “Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ ” (John 20:28).

Acts 20:28 is another important passage. Here Paul is speaking to elders of the church at Ephesus, telling them to, “be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” The blood that was the price of our redemption is the blood of Christ, but here it is called the blood of God. The only way Paul could make this identification is by thinking of Christ as being God so directly and naturally, that what he posits of one can without any forcefulness be said of the other.

Hebrews 1:8 calls Jesus “God” by applying Psalm 45:6–7 to him: “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever. …”

The best example of an identification of Jesus with God in Paul’s writings, apart from our text, is Titus 2:13–14, where Paul writes, “We wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. …” Apart from the context, the words God and Savior could mean only “God the Father and God the Son.” But since Paul is writing of the second coming and sudden appearance of Jesus, both words must refer to him, for it is not God the Father who is going to appear suddenly but rather “our great God and Savior,” who is Jesus.

Therefore, it is not true that Paul never identifies Jesus with God explicitly. He does, as do other New Testament writers, in spite of the discretion and care with which they usually write. However, even if it were the case that Paul nowhere else explicitly identifies Jesus as God, that fact alone does not prove that he cannot do it here—which, in fact, he does.

I like what John Calvin says of the attempt to separate God from Christ by splitting up the text in the way I have described. He writes wisely, “To separate this clause from the rest of the context for the purpose of depriving Christ of this clear witness to his divinity is a bold attempt to create darkness where there is full light.”

Even better is the judgment of Robert Haldane: “The Scriptures have many real difficulties, which are calculated to try or to increase the faith and patience of the Christian, and are evidently designed to enlarge his acquaintance with the Word of God by obliging him more diligently to search into them [sic] and place his dependence on the Spirit of truth. But when language as clear as in the present passage is perverted to avoid recognizing the obvious truth contained in the divine testimony, it more fully manifests the depravity of human nature and the rooted enmity of the carnal mind against God, than the grossest works of the flesh.”

Like many other commentators and Bible teachers, I find Romans 9:5 to be one of the most beautiful testimonies to the full deity of the Lord Jesus Christ in the entire Bible.

 Lessons

  1. To whom much is given, much is required

Lu 12:46 "the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. 47 "And that servant who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 "But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.

2.     To be saved, you have to believe that Jesus is God and in Him only can you be saved