I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For 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. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
Up until now, Paul has been concentrating on law and grace and how that applies to the gospel. His focus now switches to Israel. In the next couple of chapters, he will be diving quite deeply into Israel and its special relationship with God.
The preaching of the gospel to the gentiles was one of the first problems in the early church. THEY were God’s chosen people, the Gentiles were “everyone else”. They had a problem with accepting that, as far as the gospel is concerned, they were no more deserving than anyone else. Initially, since the very first believers were Jews (and they met in the temple courts), they resisted the proclamation of the gospel TO the gentiles.
1. There was a problem with the widows, the gentile widows complaining that they were being overlooked, and that the Hebrew widows being favoured.
2. Peter has to be given a vision directly from God before he will accept the proclamation of the gospel to the gentiles.
The relationship between Christians and Jews over the centuries has been a turbulent one. On the one hand, it was in a Jewish culture that Jesus came and lived and if you read the accounts in the Gospels and Acts, you cannot miss the antagonism between the Jewish leaders and Jesus and also the early Christians.
Over the centuries, Christians have committed some abhorrent crimes against the Jews, who they blame for killing Jesus.
On the other hand, some of the most vocal supporters of the Jewish people and of the nation of Israel are Christians.
The nation of Israel today, and the status of the Jews in our modern world, is very complicated, and a very dangerous road to tread. This is not a political point about Israel, but I believe that the Jews are still God’s special people, that God says in his word, He will bless those who bless Israel, and those who curse Israel He will curse (cf. Genesis 12:3). We cannot simply dismiss the Jews or their relationship with God out of hand. How they fit into God’s plan of salvation is something which Paul is going to unpick in the next three chapters.
But initially, I want to think about a few things from vv.1—5. The first thing struck me really powerfully as I read the passage. The Jews were (are!) God’s chosen people, they have the Scriptures, they have all the advantages Paul lists in this passage — the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the law, the worship, the promises, the patriarchs. They were waiting for and looking for the Messiah. Presumably they still are.
Jesus is the anticipated Messiah, the suffering servant of Isaiah 53, He is the one prophesied throughout the Scriptures. How many prophecies? Depending on how you count them, I’ve heard counts ranging right up to 456, however many there are, Paul says in Romans 1:2 that the Gospel was promised beforehand through the Scriptures (that’s the OT, the Jewish Scriptures). Jesus says it Himself when he is talking to the Jews in John 5:39, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me”.
And yet the Jews missed Him! (HOW?) And note, we can’t say they weren’t looking out for Messiah. The opposite in fact is true.
This, for me, is a massive warning about my own life and walk with Jesus. Is it not at least possible that even if I want to hear from God, even if I’m looking out for His guiding hand there is a chance, a risk, that I might miss it? I don’t want to do that.
## Be careful not to miss the things of God.
I know the core answer to this point can be a spiritual one,
– *“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case, the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God”* (2 Corinthians 4:4). Satan blinds the minds of the unbeliever.
– *“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned”* (1 Corinthians 2:14). Spiritual things are spiritually discerned.
But **WE** are spiritual people, we are spiritually alive, we have been born again. We don’t have that excuse, we are not unbelievers, we have been born again and have had our spiritual eyes opened. We should be able to know when God speaks to us. After all, Jesus says *“my sheep hear my voice”* (John 10:16), and in John 19:37, he tells Pilate *“For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice”* (John 18:37).
Yet it is true to say that far more frequently than we care to admit, we miss God’s leading in the moment as we go through life, we stumble on and struggle through, and it is only when we stop and take a breath and look back that we can see His hand. That is why the footprints poem resonates so strongly with us.
BUT wouldn’t life be so much easier if we could hear Him at the time?
Some things which I think speak to this…
In Luke 8 and the parallel accounts in the synoptics, one of my favourite encounters with Jesus involves a rich, powerful and eminent man and a poor, nameless unknown woman, the man is asking Jesus to come to his daughter, and the woman creeps up and touches Jesus, this stops all the proceedings while Jesus stops to minister to her. Jesus was being pressured by everyone around Him (quite literally) and by the severity of the situation He was being hurried along to — the daughter is dying. It would have been the easiest thing in the world to carry on, ignore the touch, and miss the opportunity to minister to the woman with bleeding.
Next, there are two accounts of people who get healed. The first appears in John 9. A blind man is healed by Jesus, and there is a great furore about who the man healed was. He is interviewed by the Sanhedrin, his parents are brought in, people cannot agree who he was. We find the second in Acts 3, Peter and John are going to pray at the temple, they stops and Peter heals a beggar at the gate who goes walking and leaping and praising God as the song based on the passage says. Was this the first time Peter passed him? We can’t know for sure, but I would suspect not. I suspect the disciples, passed him every day until this moment. In both of these cases, these people were ignored by society at large and were, to all intents and purposes, invisible. My point as it relates to this morning is that some people can be invisible to those around them.
Jesus warns us not to miss the signs, not to miss things. The people were asking Him for a sign and he says *“a wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign”* He says it twice (Matthew 12 and Matthew 16). In the Matthew 16 passage He says, *“When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times”* (Matthew 16:2,3).
From the above, I want to make a few comments on HOW we can make sure we don’t miss the things of God.
1. SEEK HIM. It sounds obvious, but really the first key to hearing from God is to ask Him to speak to you, to speak to Him and let Him speak to you. *“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”* (Jeremiah 29:12-13).
2. SLOW DOWN! Far too frequently, we allow busy-ness and the worries of this life to crowd out the voice of God. How many opportunities have passed us by because we are so busy, tearing from one meeting to the next, or rushing through life that we miss the signals. (Car illustration, *“Don’t drive through life so fast that someone has to throw a rock at you to get your attention”*).
3. Get embedded in the Scripture, which is the word and truth of God. I know that I’ve already said that the Jews missed the signs even though they searched the Scriptures, but we have an advantage, we have the Holy Spirit in us as we look at them, and as Jesus said, the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth. Those who are of the truth listen to Jesus (John 18:37, again). And do, of course, have that real truth about God’s word, *“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path”* (Psalms 119:105).
4. Get yourself into a fellowship, amongst other Christians who can also hear his voice. The Bible does talk about there being wisdom in the counsel of many (Pr. 11:14 and 15:22 for example) …
– Proverbs 15:22: *“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed”*.
– Proverbs 11:14: *“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counsellors there is safety”*.
5. The last is one which I can’t really say is specifically mentioned in the Bible, but it is a biggie that I’ve come across frequently. That is “don’t decide beforehand what God has said” or HOW He will speak to you. I guess the two most pertinent passages are Abraham who, after being told he would father a great nation, took Hagar to bear a child (Genesis 16), or Elijah hiding in the cleft of the rock and God not being in the storm, or the earthquake, but in the still, small voice (1 Kings 19). If we have a preconceived idea of what God is saying, or how he will speak, we run a real risk of missing Him if He doesn’t fit our box. The Jews were looking for a military/political messiah, Jesus came as a suffering servant.
## How concerned are we for our people?
Paul has a deeply embedded concern for Israel, it is rooted in the depths of his being, he describes it as *“The truth in Christ”*, he reinforces it by saying, *“I’m not lying”*, then he talks of his conscience *“bearing witness in the Holy Spirit”* (remember in ch8, he has just talked of the Holy Spirit helping us in our weakness and interceding for us according to the will of God).
Note also the passion in Paul’s words, *“I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For 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”* (Romans 9:2-3). I don’t know about you, but do you love anyone that much? Enough that you would even be willing to give up your very salvation for their sake? I’m not sure I do, but this is what Paul seems to be saying.
How much do we love the people we live amongst? Jesus talks about our love being all consuming, He says, *“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends”* (John 15:13). Nehemiah was burdened for the people in exile, *“I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” As soon as I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned **for days**, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven”* (Nehemiah 1:2-4).
HOW? How can we develop that kind of love? Again setting aside the obvious answer that in the natural, in the “flesh” as the Bible describes it, our tendencies will invariably be bent towards ourself, our own comfort and success. People know this, that is why people who act selflessly are revered so much in society, Why else do people get honours? If everyone lived as they should, if everyone gave of themselves for their neighbours, their communities and so on, we would have all these award ceremonies for people who did it. These awards are a recognition of the significance of such selfless attitudes.
One reason people should be able to see we’re disciples of Jesus is that we love each other in a way which is not the way of the world! But if **everyone** (even the unbeliever) loved each other like that, if there were no difference, then people wouldn’t be saying, “Look how they love each other” about Christians, and they wouldn’t be celebrating and rewarding people who do. **AND** John 13:34 (*“people will know you are my disciples because of the love you have for one another”*) would be meaningless.
Loving the world, then, is something we do in the strength of the Lord BECAUSE we have the Holy Spirit in us, BECAUSE we have been born again and we have a new heart and a new spirit.
Secondly, we must understand that we share humanity with broken people. We are born again, yes, but we are still human, just as they are. The incarnation is about God coming to earth to live our lives, to share our humanity. He identified as one of us. One of the biggest factors in all the turmoil we’ve seen in recent years politically and socially is the tendency to group people into groups and then play on the “us and them” differences between groups. This week a read a very saddening blog by a very well known “progressive Christian” with the title *“white evangelicals, we’re done with you”*. This man claims to be a Christian. He, himself, is white, yet he has created an “us and them” separation between two groups of Christians and then used that as a justification for attacking. How does this match up to John 13:34? How can this man possibly pray for the people he’s attacking? These are his own people, Christians. The very people he is called to love to show the world the love of Christ.
If we do that kind of thing between us and the people in the world around us, how can we truly love them? Identify with them? We must fight the kind of “us and them” ideology with every fibre of our being. It is true that Christ said of the disciples (and, by implication, us), *“they are not of this world any more than I am of the world”*. Yet Christ bridged that gap. The largest gap that could ever exist, God became man and lived amongst us. In fact here, in this passage, Paul points out that Christ is not only man, but He says *“from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ”* (v5). Christ is one of them. He shares their humanity, even down to their ancestry.
Isaiah exclaimed *“I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips”* (Isaiah 6:5).
Paul recognises his connection with the Jewish people, his *“kinsmen according to the flesh”*.
Nehemiah cares about his kinsmen so deeply he mourns, he fasts and he prays for days for them.
After all, we are charged with a ministry of reconciliation – which at its core seeks to remove a barrier.
*“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”* (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).
## What do the Jews have?
In v4, Paul gives a number of advantages which their ancestry gives them. He lists a number of things that the Jews benefited from, so we read, from Romans 9:4 *“They are Israelites, and to them belong, (1)**the adoption**, (2)**the glory**, (3)**the covenants**, the giving of (4)**the law**, (5)**the worship**, and (6)**the promises***”.
And finally, v5 makes one of the clearest statements about Christ’s divinity that is in the NT, *“from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever”*
### The adoption.
The people of God are chosen, right from the start of their history, they had a sense of being chosen by God. They had a very real sense of being part of God’s family.
Although adoption was not common in the Jewish world, it was common practice in the Roman world (note Paul is writing to the Romans). Birthright is very important to the Jews, so Paul here seems to be cutting across cultural barriers when referencing the fact that adoption belongs to the Jews.
The point I think here is that even though their lineage (Abraham is our father) marked them as God’s people, The root of that is choice, Abraham was not from any particular line and he had no ancestral claim (if you like) to be favoured by God. God chose him. God adopts us into his family, but even Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel was chosen, and so was adopted in that sense.
The people of God called themselves God’s chosen people, but they didn’t really grasp what that meant.
Rachel was a lady in one of the churches we went to back in the day. She was adopted. Unlike many adopted people who seem to live with real emotional and even mental problems around the fact they feel abandoned, she did not. She had a very healthy self-esteem. Why? Because the flip side of the coin of rejection is choice. Natural parents get no choice. They cannot choose their children, they get what they get — “warts and all” as they say. Rachel recognised that her mum and dad could have chosen any of the orphans in the orphanage, but they didn’t choose any of them – they chose HER. Instead of feeling abandoned and worthless, Rachel felt chosen and special not rejected and unlovable.
**Aside**: This just goes to show how our attitude can really make a difference as we go through life.
### The glory.
Although this letter is in Greek and the word Paul uses is (δόξα) Doxa, he is referring to what people call the shekina glory.
*“When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled it. When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the LORD above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “He is good; his love endures forever.”*
This glory is the very presence of God. Which should elicit a response Cf. Isaiah 5:9 *“woe is me …”*.
WE want that don’t we? To have the presence of God in our lives? To always be aware of and attuned to His presence? The Jews had the promise of God. That even after the temple, the very dwelling place of God had been destroyed, that they would experience him.
Haggai 2:1-9 *“This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the LORD Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the LORD Almighty.””*
The Jews had that presence, the knowledge of the glory of God embedded in their culture. The Scriptures I’ve quoted and others reminded them of God and His glory.
### The covenants
Noting that a covenant relationship is a relationship at a completely different level to all other relationships. In the Biblical sense, the covenants Paul is talking about here are not between men, but between God and his chosen people.
I Thought it would be good to list them here. There are generally five recognised Old Testament covenants God made with His people …
1. The Noahic Covenant – Genesis 9
After having sent a global flood to destroy the wickedness that had become so prevalent on earth after the Fall, God promised Noah (and by extension all humanity) to never again destroy the world with a flood.
Genesis 9:11 *“I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth”*
2. The Abrahamic Covenant – Genesis 12
God would chose one man to become one nation which would (or should ) the instrument of His blessing to the entire world.
Genesis 12:1-3 *“Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed”*
Note God promised Abraham three specific things:
1. He will be made into a great nation (12:2).
2. This nation will be led into the Promised Land (12:1).
3. Through him (Abraham) all people of the earth will be blessed (12:3).
3. The Mosaic Covenant – Exodus 19-24
Exodus chapters 19-24 is key to understanding both redemptive history and the history of Israel as a nation. A conditional promise, the Mosaic Covenant is dependent on the peoples’ response to the law He gives through His servant Moses. *“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel”*.Exodus 19:5-6
God tells Moses that if Israel obeys, they will be His chosen people, His treasured possession. Ultimately, these blessings will be extended to all people.
4. The Davidic Covenant – 2 Samuel 7
After the people disobeyed the commands made in the previous covenant, God made the Davidic covenant as a means to bring them back into relationship with Himself. The key passage for this unconditional promise is 2 Samuel 7:12-17, *“When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My loving kindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.”’*
Here God tells David and his descendants that his house will rule over Israel forever.
5. The New Covenant – Jeremiah 31
Despite the failure of God’s people to live up to the covenants that were made, God graciously made a new one with his people:
*“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a **new covenant** with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But **this is the covenant that I will make** with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more”* (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
In this passage God makes several distinct promises:
1. He would change their hearts and give them a zeal for obedience and a desire to follow Him.
2. He will be their God, and they will be His people
3. He will forgive their sins.
Looking at these covenants through the lens of the New Testament, through the lens of salvation, we can, I am sure, see how they all point in some way to Jesus! But as I’ve already pointed out, the Jews missed it!
### The law
Linked very closely to the Mosaic covenant, which is enshrined in the Mosaic Law.
The thing about the Law is this. The law points to God and it points to Jesus. It reveals the very serious nature of Sin, what that means and it points to our need for salvation, it points to the need for a sacrifice and to the provision of a saviour. In Galatians, Paul describes it as a teacher or guardian: *“the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith”* (Galatians 3:24)
### The worship
The Jews knew that God had brought them out of Egypt so that they could worship God, they had the law and the commandments, so they knew full well that worshipping other Gods is a big fat “No No”,
*“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.*
*“You shall have no other gods before me.*
*“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments”*.
They knew that the worshippers went ahead of the army when they went into battle.
They knew that worship brings us into the presence of God (Psalm 68:24,25): *“Your procession, God, has come into view, the procession of my God and King into the sanctuary. In front are the singers, after them the musicians; with them are the young women playing the timbrels”*.
Jesus has an encounter with a Samaritan woman at well in John 4, and the conversation comes round to worship. He says to her *“You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.”* (John 4:22), Notice here that salvation and worship are linked.
In the John passage, we worship, Jesus says, in spirit and in truth. Worshipping in Spirit does not mean we get all stupid and fall about and all that kind of stuff, it is not just with our voices or our bodies we worship God – we worship Him in the depths of our being. In our very Spirit.
### The promises
If I make a promise to you, it does not depend on anything you do or say, it is something I do “unilaterally”. The nature of a promise is that it does not depend on the recipient.
Gosh – I can’t list all the promises God made to the Jews here, or I’d be going on for hours! We do however need to know that God made promises AND, that if God makes a promise, we can rely on it. These are not flippant, casual promises such as we often make; these promises of God are rock-solid, unequivocal commitments made by God Himself …
*God is not human, that he should lie,*
*not a human being, that he should change his mind.*
*Does he speak and then not act?*
*Does he promise and not fulfill?* (Numbers 23:19)
Here are just a handful of the promises that the Jews had… There are clearly the covenant promises God has made which we have already looked at and I won’t repeat.
– God promised Israel to be their God and make them His people (Leviticus 26:12–13).
– God promised that if we search for Him we will find Him (Deuteronomy 4:29).
– God promised protection for His children (Psalm 121).
– God promised that His love will never fail (1 Chronicles 16:34).
– God promised Israel that their sin could be forgiven, their prosperity restored, and their nation healed (2 Chronicles 7:14).
– God promised blessing for all who will delight themselves in His Word (Psalm 1:1–3).
There is one more thing that I want to talk about form these verses, but I think it would be better to leave that for next week. We are going to dig into v5 where Paul says:
*“Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.”*
Christ is God. This is direct evidence that the New Testament clearly teaches both the humanity AND the divinity of Christ. And since our faith stands or falls on Christ, it is important enough for us to dig a little deeper and look at what that actually means.
So next week we will dig into this most important of subjects.