Follow-up to January 1st teaching
Sunday Follow-upRomans 9 – “Is God unfair? – part 1”
In Paul’s day, from a Jewish perspective, you were either a Jew or a Gentile. From among all the people of the world God chose one man named Abram and made an agreement with him. Abraham and his descendants would be God's people and He would be their God. With that agreement came several promises. One promise God gave to Abraham and his descendants is that a savior would come forth from them who would be a blessing to all the nations of the earth. He would be a blessing by bringing salvation to all of mankind.
Later, God instructed Abraham to circumcise himself and all the males in his household. The institution of circumcision became an outward sign of the covenant between God and what we know today as the Jewish people. It was an outward way of identifying them as God’s people. Then God made an agreement with Moses. This agreement was conditional and dependent on the Israelite's observance of God’s law that was given to them through Moses.
Eventually, the Jewish people as a whole had come to believe they had a right standing with God (saved) because they were chosen by God to have a unique relationship with Him. This relationship was confirmed by the rite of circumcision and through the giving of the law. Another way of thinking of this is – they believed it was their natural birth and their observance of the Law that saved them.
A very important key to rightly interpreting chapter 9 is to understand two things. First, Paul’s style of writing is one in which he is anticipating certain responses to what he has already said. Second, you have to understand that the responses Paul is anticipating are responses that will come from individuals who are of Jewish heritage, who rejected Jesus as the promised Messiah, and who believe they are already saved because they are God’s chosen people.
One of the first responses Paul anticipated is this. “If what you say is true Paul, then what benefit has there been for those of us who are supposed to be God’s chosen people?” So, in verses 1-5 Paul lays out the benefits the Jewish people have enjoyed throughout their history.
The second response Paul anticipates is this. “As God’s covenant people, we were promised salvation. Did God fail to keep his promise? How can we be God’s chosen people and not be saved?” From the perspective of an unbelieving Jew, this would seem unfair. It would be similar to a child growing up in a Christian home and believing they were saved because of that and going to church.
It would seem unfair to the unbelieving Jews that Gentiles, who did not worship the one true God and who did not observe the law, can be declared to have a right standing with God and be called His people simply by believing Jesus is God’s promised Messiah. And yet those who were God's covenant people and who worked hard at keeping the law, don't have a right standing with Him because they have rejected Jesus.
Paul's response in verses 6-8 is that the true children of God are those who come into the family of God through spiritual birth, not natural birth. Salvation is the result of spiritual birth that comes through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
I am thankful that we serve a loving God who has made salvation available to both Jews and Gentiles.
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