Introduction: Israel’s God-given Privileges Part 2 – Romans 9:4-5
Pastor Mark Hardy March 3, 2013
I remember when I was growing up I had a close friend who was an only child of very wealthy parents. He always wore the nicest and most expensive clothing and had the newest and best things in everything he did. After I moved away early in my high school years I didn’t stay in touch with him, but whenever I passed through the area during my college days I would stop by his parents house to say hi to them and see how Mike was doing. I found out that later in high school he abused his privileged, got involved with drugs, and was in trouble with the law. When I stopped by seldom did his parents know where he was, and were always heart-broken over the choices in his life. One thing I remember is that they would always ask me to pray for him.
To be “privileged” is to enjoy certain advantages or benefits that others don’t have. Whereas there is always someone who is better off than us, to others we can be better off than they. The very fact that we have clean drinking water, access to education and healthcare, and sufficient food and clothing, we would be considered wealthy. For most people in the world, less is not a choice; it’s a reality.
Now there is nothing wrong with a privileged life in itself, whether one is born into it or acquires it himself. However, a privileged life is no guarantee of a happy or godly life. Whereas privileges can be greatly used to help others who are less fortunate both physically and spiritually, these very privileges can also be abused and lead to a life of tragedy. This is because people pridefully depend on their privileges, instead of on the God who ultimately gave these privileges to them. This is exactly what happened to the people of Israel. Turn in your Bible to Romans 9.
As we continue on in our study of Romans 9-11 Paul begins with an introduction in the first five verses that can be divided into two parts: The first is Paul’s sorrow over Israel’s unbelief in vv. 1-3, which we saw last time, and the second is Israel’s God-given privileges and promises in vv. 4-5, which we will be looking at this morning.
In Romans 9:4-5 we see nine amazing privileges given to Israel by God, which make her rejection of the Messiah so surprising.
The first amazing privilege given to Israel is:
I. Being Chosen by God Himself
A. Look at vv. 3-5: For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.
1. Now out of his great love for his fellow unbelieving Jews, in v. 3 Paul lovingly wished that if it were possible, though it wasn’t, he would be willingly give up his salvation and go to hell, so that they could be saved. Now in vv. 4-5 he describes how their tragic fate is totally incompatible with the amazing privileges that God had granted to them.
2. The first of these privileges is: Being chosen by God Himself. Paul says in v. 4, “who are Israelites.”
3. The words “who,” “to whom,” “whose,” and “from whom” in vv. 4-5 all refer back to the unbelieving Jews that Paul called in v. 3, “…my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” This is who he is talking about!
4. Now the word “Israelites” (Israelitai) connects them ultimately to the patriarch, Jacob, who was renamed “Israel” by the angel of the Lord (Gen. 32:28; 35:10). “Israel” later became the national designation of all the people related to him.
5. And the word “Israelites is the ancient designation for God’s chosen or elect people (Deut. 7:6; Isa. 43:20-21; Amos 3:2). They preferred this designation of themselves over the term “Jews,” which was the term foreigners used to describe them.
6. Therefore, the Israelites were chosen by God from all the other people of the earth to belong to Him in a special way and to be the channel of His plan of salvation for the world.
7. Speaking of the significance of their name, Douglas Moo states, “…in contrast to the colorless, politically and nationally oriented title ‘Jew,’ ‘Israelite’ connotes the special religious position of members of the Jewish people. It is therefore no accident that Paul in Romans 9-11 generally abandons the word ‘Jew,’ which has figured so prominently in chaps. 1-8, in favor of the terms ‘Israelites’ and ‘Israel.’ Paul is no longer looking at the Jews from the perspective of the Gentiles and in their relationship to the Gentiles but from the perspective of salvation history and in their relationship to God and his promises to them.” (pg. 560-561)
8. So as God’s chosen people, the Israelites are a very spiritually privileged people! It is only to them that God gave these amazing privileges!
9. The second amazing privilege given to Israel is:
II. Their Adoption as God’s Sons
A. Look again at v. 4: to whom belongs the adoption as sons,
1. The word “adoption” (huiothesia) is applied to the Israelites only here in the New Testament, for it is normally used of Christians who become the sons or children of God through faith in Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:12; Rom. 8:15, 23; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5; 1 Jn. 3:1).
2. This word is never used in the Old Testament, though the concept is expressed in other terms. For example: Moses said to Pharaoh in Exodus 4:22: Thus says the LORD, “Israel is My son, My firstborn.” (Deut. 14:1; Isa. 43:6; 45:11; 64:8; Jer. 31:9; Hos. 1:10; 11:1; Mal. 1:6; 2:10)
3. And in Deuteronomy 7:6 we read, “…the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” (Ex. 19:5; Deut. 14:2)
4. Douglas Moo describes well the distinction between Israel’s and Christian’s adoption, “God’s ‘adoption’ of Christians gives to every believer in Christ all the rights and privileges that are included within new covenant blessings. God’s adoption of Israel, on the other hand, conveys to that nation all the rights and privileges included within the Old Covenant. These blessings, as Paul indicated earlier (2:17-38) and as he will reiterate again in the next paragraph (vv. 6-13), do not include salvation for every single Israelite. Nevertheless, Paul’s choice of the term ‘adoption’ is a deliberate attempt (after 8:15, 23) to highlight the continuing regard that God has for Israel, despite her widespread unbelief. It may therefore hint at the new and ultimate work of God among the people Israel that Paul predicts in 11:25-28.” (pg. 562)
5. The third amazing privilege given to Israel is:
III. God’s Glory manifested to Them
A. Look again at v. 4: and the glory
1. The word “glory” (doxa) here refers to the manifestation of God’s personal presence with His people. This is called the “Shekinah” glory of God.
2. It is the visible aspect of the invisible God. In the Old Testament we see that invisible God manifested Himself to His people in various ways:
• In the wilderness, the glory of the Lord appeared to Israel in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Ex. 13:21-22; 14:20; 16:10).
• The glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai where Moses spoke with God face to face (Ex. 24:16-17).
• God’s glory appeared in the Tabernacle during their wilderness wanderings (Ex. 29:42-43; 40:34-38; Lev. 9:23).
• The glory of God filled Solomon’s Temple (1 Kgs. 8:10-11; 2 Chron. 5:13-14; 7:1-2; Ezek. 1:28).
• God’s glory came to be permanently localized in the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle and Temple above the mercy seat between the wings of the cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant (Ex. 25:22; 40:34; Lev. 16:2; 2 Sam. 6:2; Heb. 9:5).
3. No other nation has had or will ever have the glorious privilege of God’s presence like this. But the ultimate residence of God’s glory was embodied in Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
4. John 1:1-2 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” (Verse 14) “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
5. The fourth amazing privilege given to Israel is:
IV. God’s Covenants established with Them
A. Paul says in v. 4: and the covenants
1. Notice that the word “covenants” (diathekai)) is in the plural because God established a number of covenants with His people. Now whereas this could possibly include all of the Old Testament covenants from Noah (Gen. 9:9) to the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:25-28; 37:26; Heb. 8:8-12), the most strategic for Israel are the Abrahamic Covenant, which was comprehensive (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:18; 17:4-21), the Mosaic Covenant (Ex. 19:5; 24:1f; 34:10; Deut. 29-30), and the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam. 7:8-16; 23:5; Ps. 89:3-28).
2. We should think of the covenants in terms of the promises contained in them, for Ephesians 2:12 refers to “the covenants of promise.” Once again, no other nation was ever blessed with such covenants with God that He initiated with His chosen people Israel.
3. The fifth amazing privilege given to Israel is:
V. The Giving of the Law
A. Look again at v. 4: and the giving of the Law
1. The “Law” (nomothesia) here is not just the Ten Commandments or books of Moses, but ultimately includes the entire Old Testament Scripture, which contain all of God’s laws, commandments, promises, and prophecies.
2. We already saw in 3:2 that Israel had the incomparable privilege of being “…entrusted with the oracles of God.” Only Israel was entrusted with the reception, collection, inscription, and transmission of God’s very words to mankind (Deut. 4:8; Ps. 147:19-20).
3. Although their possession of God’s Word didn’t mean that they were automatically saved, it was intended to show them that they were sinners (Rom. 3:20) and lead them to salvation and all its blessings. Therefore, since they possessed God’s special revelation of Himself, His will, and His promises concerning Israel’s coming Messiah and future salvation they could never plead ignorance and were more accountable to God, for increased privileges mean increased responsibility.
4. The sixth amazing privilege given to Israel is:
VI. The Provisions for divine Worship
A. Look at v. 4: and the temple service
1. John MacArthur accurately states, “The temple service refers to the entire ceremonial system that God revealed through Moses—the sacrifices, offerings, cleansings, and other means of worship and repentance administered by the priests and Levites.” (pg. 15)
2. God had appointed and ordered for His chosen people the provisions for divine worship. He made it very clear to them how they were to worship and serve Him as the one true living God, both in the tabernacle (Heb. 9:6) and the temple, and how to deal with their sin before Him through the sacrificial system.
3. Both the object and character of true worship of God had been revealed only to the Jews. Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:22-26 that “salvation is from the Jews” and that He was the promised Jewish Messiah who would offer salvation to all mankind.
4. The seventh amazing privilege given to Israel is:
VII. God’s Promises made to Them
A. Look once more at v. 4: and the promises,
1. The word “promises” (epaggeliai) here include all of the promises given to Abraham (Gen. 12:7; 13:14-17; 17:4-8; 22:16-18), Isaac (Gen. 26:3f), and Jacob (Gen. 28:13f), as well as, those of the coming Messiah who would be a descendant of David, His eternal kingdom, and eternal life (2 Sam. 7:8-17; Acts 2:39; 13:32-34).
2. As we saw in Ephesians 2:12, these promises have a close relationship to the covenants and represent various aspects of the messianic salvation promised in the Old Testament. Israel could never say that she did not know her promised destiny!
3. Thomas Schreiner correctly states, “Given that Israel was God’s elect people, they were the recipients of His special affection and care in the past, and they were granted promises of His saving righteousness for the future. Thus their failure to realize these saving promises is all the more agonizing, particularly because it calls into question the faithfulness of God (6a).” (pg. 482)
4. The eighth amazing privilege given to Israel is:
VIII. The Heritage of their Patriarchs
A. Look at v. 5: whose are the fathers,
1. The term “fathers” (pateres) refers to the patriarchs of Israel. Although this applies especially to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it probably also includes the twelve sons of Jacob and other great figures such as Moses, Joshua, Samuel, and especially David through whom the Messiah would come.
2. It was through the heritage of these men that the foundation of all the blessed privileges was laid. Although the majority of the Jews had rejected the Messiah, it is because of God’s promises to Israel’s fathers that they will still be fulfilled in His way.
3. We will see this when we get to 11:28 which says, “From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your (i.e. the Gentiles’) sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”
4. In other words, the future salvation of the end-time generation of Israel is a fulfillment of the promise first made to the patriarchs. This was their heritage!
5. The ninth amazing privilege given to Israel is:
IX. The Messiah descended from Them
A. Look again at v. 5: and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.
1. The word “Christ” (Christos) means the Anointed One, the promised Messiah of Israel. Now Paul placing “the Christ” after “the fathers” is appropriate since the Messiah is the fulfillment of all the promises made to them (2 Cor. 1:20; Gal. 3:16).
2. Whereas the fathers inaugurated Israel’s history, the Messiah is the consummation of it. Therefore, the climax of all Israel’s amazing privileges is the Messiah Jesus; He is their supreme privilege!
3. Notice that Paul does not say that Christ “belongs” to the Israelites, like he does the other privileges, but that Christ is “from” them. In other words, what he is saying is that Jesus the Messiah descended from the Israelites.
4. The phrase “…according to the flesh” means that the genuine humanity of Christ was of Jewish ancestry. He was born of Jewish stock.
5. Jesus didn’t just “happen” to be born a Jew, He was preordained to be a human descendant of Abraham and of David. We saw this back in 1:3, “Concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh.”
6. This is why Matthew gives the genealogy of Jesus’ adoptive Jewish father, Joseph (Matt. 1:1-17), and Luke gives the genealogy of His natural Jewish mother, Mary (Lk. 3:23-38).
7. John Calvin rightly said, “If he honored the whole human race when he connected himself with it by sharing our nature, much more did he honor the Jews, with whom he desired to have a close bond of affinity.” (Stott pg. 265)
8. Although Jesus is indeed an Israelite, He is also much more!
B. Look at the last part of v. 5, “…who is over all, God blessed forever.”
1. This statement has been the subject of much debate. The basic problem is whether Paul is saying that Christ is “God” or whether this is a doxology to God the Father.
2. The problem is compounded by the fact that the early Greek manuscripts of the New Testament are not punctuated. Without going through all of the different views and proposed ways to punctuate this, although in Romans Paul usually designates Jesus as either the “Son of God (1:3, 9; 5:10; 8:29) or as God’s “own Son” (8:3, 32), here are six reasons why he refers to Jesus as God here:
• First, the word order favors it. After referring to Christ, literally in the Greek it reads, “…the one who is over all God blessed unto the ages, Amen.” It is clear that the words “the one who” refer to Christ and no one else.
• Second, to have the doxology to God the Father requires an abrupt change of subject.
• Third, a doxology always places the word “blessed” before the name of God, but here the word “God” comes before “blessed.”
• Fourth, a joyful doxology is out of place in this context. Why would Paul bless God that Christ was born a Jew in a passage where he is expressing his sorrow over the Jews rejection of Him?
• Fifth, Christ being “according to the flesh” looks for an antithesis, which would be the deity of Christ. Thus, in this verse we see Messiah Jesus as both fully human and fully divine, which greatly highlights the surprising, and even stunning, nature of the Jews rejection of Him.
• Sixth, although Paul usually calls Christ “Lord” instead of “God” (Rom. 10:9, 12-13; 14:9; 1 Cor. 8:6; Phil. 2:11), Lord is equivalent to Jehovah or Yahweh. But he does allude to Christ being God elsewhere (compare 1 Cor. 14:10 with 2 Cor. 5:10; Eph. 1:20-22; Phil. 2:6-11; Col. 1:15, 19; 2:9; 2 Thess. 1:12; Tit. 1:3-4; 2:13).
3. Therefore, I believe that in this statement Paul is intentionally declaring the deity of Christ. Israel’s Messiah whom they have rejected is vastly greater than they had ever dreamed.
4. He may have His human origin in Israel, but He is God “over all,” which speaks of His sovereign supremacy over the entire universe. Colossians 1:16-17 says, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”
5. Thomas Schreiner summarizes this well saying, “To ascribe blessedness to Christ after identifying Him with God fits more naturally into the context since the Messiah sharing the divine nature is the consummation of Israel’s privileges. Indeed, an ascription of deity to Christ heightens the profundity of Paul’s grief. Not only have the Jews rejected the Messiah, who is ethnically related to them, they also are spurning one who shares the divine nature with the Father.” (pg. 488)
6. Paul then solemnly affirms the truth that Messiah Jesus is God by shouting out, “Amen” (amen), which literally means “So let it be,” it is true!
7. Therefore, Jesus Christ, the Messiah in Jewish flesh, is truly the God-Man: 100% God and 100% man. He is Israel’s supreme privilege, and yet, despite all of their amazing privileges they have rejected Him!
8. Israel’s God-given privileges serve only to accent the tragedy of her current unbelief. This not only grieved the heart of Paul, but also the heart of God.
9. But praise God that one day in the future when the Lord Jesus Christ returns, by His grace and mercy the vast majority of Jews alive at that time “will look upon Him whom they have pierced” (Zech. 12:10) and then Israel’s future restoration that Paul deals with in chapter 11 will be ushered in.
In closing, we have seen that a privileged life is no guarantee of a happy or godly life. As the chosen people of God, the Israelites had the amazing privileges of God’s adoption, glorious presence, covenants, Word, provisions for worship, promises, patriarch’s, and a Messiah who was not only of Jewish descent but was also God Himself. But instead of welcoming Him as their promised Messiah and receiving Him as Savior and Lord they rejected Him.
May we all learn from the failure of Israel! We may have had the privilege of growing up in a Christian home, of owning a copy of the Word of God, of going to church, and hearing the gospel. But as good as those things are, in themselves they are not enough. Every one of us must come to the place where we acknowledge that we are sinners in need of a Savior and personally receive Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord by faith. John 1:12 says, “But as many as receive Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”
Have you done that? If not, I’d love to talk with you personally. And if you have, are you daily surrendering to the Messiah’s Lordship in your life and obeying His Word? For only then will you be able to experience His blessings and personally know His indwelling power to transform your life and make you into the person He wants you to be.