Israel's Rejection of the Gospel

Romans 9:1-5

Tom Pennington  •  September 9, 2018
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Well, I invite you to turn this morning, with me, to a new section in Paul's letter to the Christians in the church in Rome, Romans 9. This week I did a little research and I discovered that there are about 14.3 million Jewish people in the world, 14.3 million. Four of every five of them live in one of two countries. About 43% reside in the nation of Israel and about 40% reside here in the United States. On Israel's 70th birthday, the nation's 70th birthday this past April, its population was 8.8 million. That's more than ten times what it was when it was founded back in 1948. The state of Israel today has a population that is 75% Jewish, 21% Arab, and 4.6% are non-Arabs, non-Jewish, Christians and other miscellaneous.

An article in the Jerusalem Post that I came across says this,

According to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, 9.4% of Israelis define themselves as ultra-Orthodox, 10% are Orthodox, 13.6% are traditional religious, 22.6% are traditional nonreligious, [that is, they practice a lot of the Jewish traditions without any connection to the Jewish faith,] and [an astounding] 43% are self-identified as secular.

This is the nation of Israel today. Of the 43% who said they are secular, almost half of them, that means about 20% of the population of the country, say they do not believe that God exists. Only 2% of Israel's population identify as Christian, and the vast majority of that 2% are not Jewish, they're Arabs. In the United States, 1.7 million of the 5.3 million Jews who live here, or about 30% of them, identify as Christian.

Now you have to trust my math, but in the end, what that means is that today only about 16% of Jewish people worldwide even claim to have believed in Jesus Christ as their Messiah. Now I thank God that there are a number here in this church, but as I share those statistics, let's admit that the low number is surprising, even shocking. In fact, the reality that so few Jewish people have believed in Jesus Christ and His gospel raises some important and even serious questions. It does now and it did in the first century as well. That's why when Paul wrote the Roman churches that were comprised primarily of Gentile believers, he spent three chapters dealing with this simple question, why haven't more of God's chosen Old Testament people believed in their Messiah?

In Romans 9-11 Paul addresses this issue. And as we will see, this is not an inconsequential question. Perhaps you are tempted to think, well, you know these three chapters don't really apply to me. Nothing could be further from the truth. These three chapters have massive theological and practical ramifications for every professing Christian here, be you Jew or Gentile.

Now let me remind you of where we are, let's step all the way back and remind ourselves that the theme of this letter is the gospel of God. In fact, that's how it begins. Paul begins this letter by mentioning the gospel of God and at the center of God's gospel, we've discovered, is justification by faith alone.

Now, let me give you an outline of where we've been so far in this great letter. When you open the book of Romans you discover in the first 17 verses, what we could call a greeting and introduction. Then he gets to the meat of the letter, he gets to the heart of this letter; it begins in chapter 1 verse 18.

And the first major section of this letter I've entitled, "The Gospel Explained: Justification by Faith Alone." That begins in chapter 1 verse 18 and runs all the way through the end of chapter 4. He begins by explaining the need that we all have for the gospel, not only pagans, but also those who claim to be connected to the true God, the God of the Bible, and then all people. And then he comes to explain the gospel itself, "The Gospel Explained," in chapters 1 through 4. We've just finished the second major section of this letter, and that is "The Gospel Experienced: The Security of Our Justification." That runs from chapter 5 through chapter 8.

Now this morning we come to the third great section of Paul's letter to the Romans and I've entitled it, "The Gospel Defended: Election, Israel, and God's Promises." "The Gospel Defended." Now let me say that many believe that these three chapters are merely a parenthesis in Paul's thought. In fact, even the great Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones, although he certainly understands the importance of these chapters, calls them quote "a kind of postscript." But in fact, there is an immediate logical connection between these chapters and what has gone before.

Think about what we've learned in chapters 5 through 8. In those chapters, Paul has been arguing that the believer's future glorification is certain, and that we are absolutely secure in Jesus Christ because we have been justified. We have been declared right with God through the work of Jesus Christ and our faith in that work and that work alone. In fact, he's just told us, at the end of chapter 8, that God foreknew us, that God set His eternal love upon us, and then He called us to Himself through the gospel. He's told us that when God set that electing love upon us, that nothing can ever separate us from that love.

But if that's true, and obviously it is, then what happened to God's chosen people in the Old Testament, the Jewish people? Why have a majority of them rejected their Messiah and His gospel? Is it possible that God has actually broken His covenant with them and has now rejected them completely? And if He did that to them, then what assurance do we have that our salvation is secure? What if He changes His mind regarding us as well? You see, nothing could be closer to the point of this letter and to your security in Christ than these three chapters.

Now let me begin by giving you an overview of Paul's argument in chapters 9, 10, and 11 of Romans. This is just to give you a roadmap where we're going. He begins in chapter 9 verses 1 through 5, with a kind of introduction, and I've entitled that introduction "Israel's Rejection of God's Gospel" because in this introduction Paul poses this question, why, why have God's chosen people rejected their Messiah and His gospel? And to that introductory question, Paul then goes on to provide three basic answers.

Answer number one is, the reality of divine election. That's chapter 9 beginning in verse 6 and running down through verse 29. In this section Paul explains that not all of the ethnic descendants of Abraham have ever been truly converted. Not all of them are being converted today and not all of them will be converted until Christ returns. It was never God's plan for every ethnic descendant of Abraham to be a true believer, as proven through the doctrine of sovereign election that he will unfold in these verses.

His second answer as to why so few of the Jewish people have embraced their Messiah is, the reality of human responsibility. It begins in chapter 9 verse 30 and runs through chapter 10 verse 21. Here Paul explains that the reason the Jewish people have not believed is ultimately their own responsibility. Yes, God sovereignly elects those who believe, but the reason they have not believed is their own responsibility. In fact, he develops this argument that they have actually chosen to reject God's gospel, the righteousness that comes from God as a gift, and sought instead to establish their own righteousness. They were eager to reject the true gospel which attacks their pride and embrace instead a false gospel which elevates it.

The third answer he gives to this question is found in chapter 11 verses 1 through 32 and it is, the reality of God's faithfulness. He concludes his arguments in chapter 11 by explaining that God is always faithful to His promises. And what that means, practically, in the case of Israel, is that God still has a plan for the ethnic descendants of Abraham. He ends chapter 11, verses 33 to 36, with what I've called, "Doxology." Here is our adoration of God and of His character because of the incredible wisdom of His divine plan of redemption. So that's the roadmap.

Today, I want us just to begin by studying Paul's introduction, Israel's rejection of God's gospel. It's found in chapter 9 verses 1 through 5, let's read it together.

I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. 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.

Now when you read this, and if you're reading through the book of Romans, you notice immediately that there is an abrupt transition between chapters 8 and 9. Chapter 9 doesn't begin with any conjunction, any of the normal connecting words that Paul loves so much. In addition, the tone changes dramatically. In chapter 8, it's a celebration, a celebration of God's love and His goodness and His grace; it's like a song when you end chapter 8. Chapter 9 begins with a lament, with grief, with sorrow. In these five verses, Paul really just introduces the issue that he'll spend the next three chapters discussing. In these verses, he raises the troubling issue that so few of his fellow Jews had believed.

Now think about that for a moment. How could the people of God have failed to recognize their Messiah? I mean, after all, the gospel was promised in the Old Testament. Go back to chapter 1, Romans 1:1, he mentions the gospel of God, there's the theme of the letter, and then he says this in verse 2, "which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures." How could they have missed it? It's there, it's in the Hebrew Scriptures. In addition, verse 16 of chapter 1 says this gospel was intended first for the Jews. So why didn't they believe it? And then how exactly does Paul's ministry to the Gentiles fit into this plan? How does that sync with the Old Testament? And is there any future for Israel, for the Jewish people? Paul sets out to answer those questions.

He begins, as you noticed, with his own grief about their rejection. Then he explains his passion to see them come to Christ. And then he finishes these five verses by mentioning their many spiritual advantages. Advantages, frankly, that make their rejection of the Messiah even more shocking, even more amazing, so let's look at it together.

First of all, let's consider a profound grief over Israel's rejection. You see this in verses 1 and 2. And he begins, in verse 1, with the proof of his sincerity. He says, "I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying." It's interesting, isn't it? Paul begins by compellingly asserting his own sincerity. In fact, if you could read Greek you would find that verse 1 actually begins with the word truth as a point of emphasis. And he emphasizes it both positively, "The truth I am telling," he says, and then negatively, "I am not lying."

And then he adds that he's speaking the truth, notice, "in Christ." This adds solemnity. This adds gravity. He says, listen, what I'm about to say I am saying to you in the full awareness of my relationship to Jesus Christ and even of His presence as I say these things. And to all of that, he adds in verse 1, "my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit." His own conscience testifies with him and to him that he is speaking the truth and he's not lying; he has a clear conscience about the truthfulness of what he's about to say.

But you know conscience is only as good as what informs it. A lot of people have a conscience that tells them they're good, and they're really not. And so he adds, "in the Holy Spirit." Paul says, as a believer, my conscience assures me of the truth of what I'm about to say, and it does so by means of the Holy Spirit. Now, why? Why does Paul work so hard to convince us of his sincerity? Well, you have to remember the context. You remember, Paul was Jewish. He was Jewish and yet at the same time his ministry was as an apostle to the Gentiles. Think about the conundrum that put him in.

Beginning with the Jerusalem Council, if you read the book of Acts, beginning with the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, Paul had defended the Christian gospel against the Judaizers, against those who championed the Law, against those who insisted that the Gentiles keep the Law of Moses in order to be saved. In other words, Paul was fighting the predominant view of Judaism in the first century. His defense of the gospel then had earned him the reputation of being anti-Jewish. He wanted to make it clear to both the Jewish and the Gentile believers in Rome that he still loved his people, Israel. His ministry to the Gentiles in no way demonstrated a lack of concern for his fellow Jews, and so he begins with verse 1, which seems over the top. It's because he was accused of not loving his people and, in fact, of being anti-Jewish. And so he begins by saying, please believe me when I say this.

Having proven his sincerity, he then explains in verse 2, the depth of his grief. He says, "I have great sorrow" That word great is a word that you know, it's a word that's been transliterated into English that you've used before. It's the word mega, it's mega. And the word for sorrow is defined as pain of mind or spirit. So literally, Paul says this, "the pain or sorrow of spirit to me is mega, it's great." And then he says, "I have sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart." That word grief means mental pain, distress. And this is unceasing, it's constant. Paul's concern for the Jewish people is real, and it's constantly on his heart and mind. It's pain in his soul.

Now if you've read the Old Testament you know that what Paul is saying here sounds a whole lot like the Old Testament prophets. It sounds like Jeremiah who just can't stop crying over the fate of his people. It sounds like Daniel, we'll get there on Sunday nights as we study that book, but in Daniel 9, where he just pours out his heart to God for his people, he's broken-hearted about what's happened to his people. That's the same spirit here. And what's interesting about that is, when you look at the laments of the Old Testament prophets over the fate of Israel, what usually follows those laments? Hope for their future restoration, which is exactly where Paul goes in chapter 11.

By the way, before I leave this point, let me just say this, what we read here in verses 1 and 2 shows that becoming a Christian doesn't change our natural familial relationships and ties. They should still matter to us just as they mattered to the Apostle Paul. Yes, it's true that sometimes our deepest relationships are with believers because we share a common Lord, a common faith, but that doesn't mean that our connections are lost, that we don't have a passion and concern for those people. Paul experienced a profound grief over Israel's rejection of her Messiah and His gospel.

And that leads, secondly, to an unrelenting passion for Israel's salvation, an unrelenting passion for Israel's salvation. In verse 3 Paul doesn't directly state the reason for his grief, but he clearly implies it. Look at what he says, "For," here's the reason for my grief, "For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh." Now, by raising the possibility that he himself might be accursed for their sakes, what is he saying is the current state of his Jewish brethren? They are accursed, separated from Christ. And that's the reason for his grief, that's the reason for his sorrow.

Now, I want you look at verse 3 again because this verse can be easily misunderstood. I want you to notice that Paul does not say this is his wish or that it is his prayer. Instead, the verb tense, even as it's translated here, implies a hypothetical situation. One commentator, Cranfield, paraphrases it this way, Paul says this, "I would pray, were it permissible for me so to pray and if the fulfillment of such a prayer could actually benefit them, this is what I would pray." In other words, Paul is not actually saying, God, damn me, so that they can be saved.

I mean, think about this, Paul has just made the point for the entirety of Romans 8, that nothing can separate us from the love of God, not even ourselves. He hasn't changed his mind three verses later. But what this does is it shows us Paul's heart. If it were permissible, this would be his prayer, this would be his wish.

Martin Luther says, "It seems incredible that a man would wish to be damned in order that the damned might be saved." Paul says that he loves his people so much that, if it were permissible, "he would wish," notice what he says, "that he himself were accursed, separated from Christ." Literally, the Greek text reads this way, "that he himself would be anathema from the Christ," "anathema from the Christ." And the word from has the idea of separated from, that's why they've added that word.

Now the word anathema is a word that is familiar to people who know the Old Testament and particularly the Septuagint translation, the Bible of Jesus and the Apostles, because this word anathema comes from the Old Testament where it translates the Hebrew word that means set apart for God. Sometimes that word appears in a positive sense, like something devoted to God in a good way, in a good sense.

But most often this word is used of something devoted by God to destruction. For example, the word anathema is used of the city of Jericho in the Septuagint. It's used of the plunder of the Canaanite cities that the children of Israel came in and destroyed, and they weren't to take anything from them because all of those things were anathema. They were devoted by God to destruction.

So in other words, that which is anathema is devoted by God to eternal damnation, that's the idea here. Paul makes that clear in Galatians 1 where he says, "Let anyone who preaches a different gospel [be what?] anathema." Let them be devoted by God to destruction, to damnation.

So now look at what Paul is saying. He's saying, "If it were permissible, I could wish myself eternally damned, devoted by God to destruction," notice what he says, "for the sake of my brethren." Paul had two families, two extended families. On the one hand, he had his brothers in the Lord, Philippians 1:14, and on the other hand, he had his Jewish brothers. Here he clarifies which he means. Notice he says, "my brethren, my kinsman according to the flesh."

Now, notice again exactly what he says in verse 3, "I could wish that I myself were accursed," were anathema, "from the Christ," from the Messiah, "for the sake of my brethren." That preposition includes the idea of in the place of. He could potentially wish that he was taking the place of his Jewish brothers under God's curse of eternal damnation. That is remarkable. Paul obviously had an unrelenting passion for the salvation of the Jewish people.

Look at chapter 10 verse 1, he says, "Brethren, my heart's desire and my prayer to God for them is their salvation." He says, I long for this, I pray for this. Look at chapter 11 verse 14, as he describes His ministry to the Gentiles, he says maybe God will even use that, verse 14 of chapter 11, "if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them." This was Paul's heart, a passion, an unrelenting passion for the salvation of his people.

Charles Hodge writes, and I love this, he says, "Paul considered himself as nothing and his happiness as a matter of no moment," or no consequence, "compared with the salvation of his brothers." Listen to that. Could this be ever said of us? He "considered himself as nothing and his happiness as a matter of no consequence compared with the salvation of his brethren." This was Paul's heart.

It's also the pattern and reflection of the heart of another character in Scripture. Who is that? It's Moses. Go back to Exodus, back to Exodus 32. You remember the golden calf incident where Moses is on the mountain and while they're there, Aaron consents and constructs a golden calf, and they fall down and worship it, not as a replacement for Yahweh, but as Yahweh. And God is rightly angered. Verse 30, Exodus 32,

On the next day Moses said to the people, "You yourselves have committed a great sin; and now I'm going up to Yahweh, perhaps I can make atonement for your sin." Then Moses returned to the Lord, and said, "Alas, this people has committed a great sin, they have made a god of gold for themselves. But now, if You will, forgive their sin – and if not, please blot me out of Your book which You have written!"

Understand what's going on here; Moses is not saying, look, I want to be with my Jewish brothers more than I want to be with you, God, so if you're not going to save them, then don't save me. That's not what he's saying. He's offering himself as a swap. He's saying, if you won't forgive them, then don't forgive me and forgive them. God will have none of it, verse 33, "The Lord said to Moses, 'Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.'" The book here is the book of the living, Psalm 69. It's the book of life; it's the book in which the names of the righteous are written, and Moses says, blot me out of it for the sake of my people. And the Lord says, "No, don't pray that. Don't pray that because the person who sins, they will be blotted out of My book."

I think that's why Paul doesn't pray that; he knows, based on this text, that he shouldn't. God corrects Moses. Instead, I think he says, if it were permissible, I would. So this is the heart of someone who loves his people.

I have to tell you, as I studied Romans 9 this week, I had to ask myself these questions, and now I ask you a couple of very simple questions. Do you care about the salvation of your family? Do you care? Do you care about the salvation of your extended family? Do you care about the salvation of those who are ethnically connected to you? Paul had a continuing loyalty to and concern for those who were related to him physically. We need to ask ourselves, do we? Do you?

But don't misunderstand, Paul was not a racist. Paul also had a passion beyond his own race, for the nations, for all the peoples on this planet; we are all one blood, as Paul says in Acts 17. So here's the question. Paul not only cared for the salvation of the Jewish people, his ministry was to the Gentiles. So here's the question. Do you care about the salvation of people from every tribe and language and people and nation? Because that's the heart of God, that's the heart of Christ.

In fact, go back with me to Psalm 67, Psalm 67. This is an amazing Psalm, it's really an evangelistic Psalm, right here in the heart of the Old Testament. Notice what it says, Psalm 67:1, "God be gracious to us," God show us your favor, undeserved, unmerited, treat us as we don't deserve, "and bless us, and cause your face to shine upon us." Why? In order "That Your way may be known on the earth, and Your salvation among all nations."

You see, rightly understood, the Jewish privileges were not just for the Jews. They were God's witness nation to bring the world to know the true and living God. Verse 3, "Let the peoples praise You, O God." In other words, let the peoples all over this planet come to know you. "Let the nations be glad and sing for joy; for you will judge the peoples with uprightness and guide the nations on earth." God, you're not a local deity, confined to one people group or confined to one piece of land, you are the God of all the earth. Use us to make your name known to all the peoples. Verse 5,

Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You.
The earth has yielded its produce; [even the physical blessings they enjoyed.]
God, our God, blesses us.
God blesses us, [why? In order,]
That all the ends of the earth may fear Him.

Is that your heart? Is your heart to move to the New Testament, Matthew 28 and the Great Commission? Do you understand that not only do the people of God generally, not only do we as a church, but you as an individual Christian, have a responsibility to be about making disciples for Jesus Christ? That may mean, it always means, sharing the gospel with the people in your life. It means praying for the salvation of others. It means, for some of us, going with our whole lives; for others of us, it means going on short-term trips. For others it means using part of the resources God gives us to fund the making of disciples as others go. It means getting involved with the care teams here at Countryside, to pray for and support the missionaries who go. It means having a heart for the world. Paul had it.

Why does it matter? Why is a passion for the nations important? Look at Revelation 5, Revelation 5. The words of this were part of the song we heard this morning. Revelation 5:8,

The Lamb takes the book, and [verse 8 says the church,] the twenty-four elders fall down before the Lamb. And they [verse 9] sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You [this is to Christ] to take the book."

That's the title deed to the Earth that Christ begins to break the seals of and take back possession of the Earth, which is rightly His. That's the rest of the book of Revelation, it is, or most of the book, it is the tribulation period. And it says in verse 9, You are worthy to take that scroll and break its seals, and here's why, "for You were slain," and notice this, "and you purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation." Listen, that was the heart of Christ. As Christ died on the cross, He was thinking about His people whom He was dying to purchase from every conceivable place and background on this planet.

Is that how you think? Is that your heart? I won't ask if we've ever been so passionate about the salvation of anyone that, if it were allowed, we have wished ourselves anathema, under the curse of God's eternal damnation, in their place so that they could know Christ; that's a hard one. But let's ask ourselves the easier questions. Have we loved the people around us in our lives enough to consistently pray for their salvation? That's not hard. Have we opened our mouths to actually share the gospel with them? May we, like Paul, have an unrelenting passion for the salvation of our families, our extended families, and the world.

We've considered a profound grief for Israel's rejection and secondly, we've considered an unrelenting passion for Israel's salvation. Thirdly, in verses 4 and 5, we see a sad reflection on Israel's advantages, a sad reflection on Israel's advantages. Paul inserts this list here because there is such wide scale, large-scale Jewish unbelief, and it's incompatible with the many privileges and the unique position that God has given Israel in the Old Testament. Paul here lists nine spiritual advantages that his people, according to the flesh, enjoyed. Look at them briefly.

First of all, there is the ethnic heritage. Verse 4 says, "who are Israelites." That's very interesting, because in chapters 1 through 8 Paul consistently used the term Jews to describe his race. But in chapters 9 through 11 he only uses that word twice and only then when it's in contrast to Gentiles, to make it clear he's not talking about Gentiles. Instead, in these chapters, he uses the terms Israelites and Israel, words that he didn't use one time in the first 8 chapters. Why? Because, the word Jew is a political or ethnic or nationalistic description, but the term Israelite describes the spiritual and religious position of the Jewish people. It describes their relationship to God and His unique promises to them. It literally means, those who belong to Israel. Where did the name Israel come from? It was given by God to Jacob. It means a prince with God. Later, this word Israel was applied to his descendants, and it describes the descendants of Jacob as those God specially chose to belong to Him and to be a part of His plan.

In fact, look at chapter 11 of Romans, chapter 11 verse 1. Here you see it essentially defined. He says, "I say then, God has not rejected," notice this, "His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite;" "an Israelite" marked the Jewish people as God's people, God's people. They enjoyed a tremendous privilege in their ethnic heritage.

Secondly, the adoption. Verse 4 says, "to whom belongs the adoption as sons." Now don't be confused, back in Romans 8 Paul said that all individual believers in Jesus Christ who have been justified have been adopted by God, individually. That's not what he's saying here. Instead, what he's saying is, in the Old Testament, this word adoption described the Jewish nation as a whole, not all of the individual members in it. The nation was adopted by God. That's why you have, for example, Exodus 4:22, "Israel," that is, the nation, "is My firstborn son." Deuteronomy 14:1, "You are the children of the Lord your God." Jeremiah 31:9, "I am Israel's," that is, the nation's, "Father." So, the adoption here is when God, in the Old Testament, adopted the nation of Israel as His. But, it did not mean a promise of salvation for every single Israelite. That's what he's going to argue in the next paragraph, to the nation belonged the adoption as God's son.

A third advantage they had was simply called here, "the glory." This is likely a reference to the visible manifestation of God's glory at the tabernacle and later at the temple, the Shekinah, that blazing cloud that symbolized the presence of God. In Exodus 29:43, regarding the tabernacle, God says this, "I will meet there with the sons of Israel, and it will be consecrated by My glory," meaning, by that display of My glory, that visible display. In Exodus 40:34, when the tabernacle is completed, it says, "the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle," that display of His presence. And then when the temple was built, 1 Kings 8:11, "the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud."

Don't take this lightly, can you imagine, having some location in your nation where you could go and see the visible presence of God displayed? What an advantage, "the glory." He adds, number four, "the covenants," "and the covenants." This refers to the covenants made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with Israel at Sinai through Moses, and with David. These are the covenants that, in Ephesians 2:12, Paul calls the "covenants of promise."

Fifthly, there was "the law," "and the giving of the law." This refers specifically to the Law of God delivered to Moses at Sinai. Can you imagine? Again, go back in your mind to what happened there. In Exodus 19 it's described for us. It's described as on the top of the mountain there was this dark cloud with thunder and lightning, and out of that cloud came the sound like a trumpet, and the sound of the trumpet kept getting louder and louder and louder, ear piercing. And then suddenly it stops. And out of that cloud you hear the actual voice of God speaking His Law, The Ten Commandments. In addition, God then, as it were, takes His finger and carves those Laws into two tablets of stone. What an advantage. Amazing.

And then there was the temple worship. Verse 4 says, "and the temple service." You'll notice the word temple is in italics, that means that it doesn't appear in the original, that the translators included for clarity. The reason that they inserted that word temple is that the word for service usually describes the worship of God's people through the priesthood and the Old Testament sacrificial system. Now I know, they were shadows, right? But can you imagine having the shadows when you had nothing else? At least they were shadows. They gave you the shape of what was to come in Christ. That was a huge advantage to them.

In addition, number seven, they had "the promises." These are likely the promises that God gave to Abraham and to the other patriarchs, which included the promise of salvation through the coming Messiah, "through the seed all the nations of earth will be blessed," meaning the seed, singular, Christ. The promises were given to them of salvation coming through a future Messiah.

Number eight, "the fathers." Verse 5 says, "whose are the fathers." Whose, that is, of the Israelites, "are the fathers," meaning the patriarchs. Now why is that important? Because the promises we just talked about were made to the fathers and their descendants, so to be descendants of theirs was to be potential recipients of the promises.

Paul finishes the list with Israel's greatest privilege, the Messiah. Verse 5, "and from whom is the Christ." The word Christ is the word, it's the Greek equivalent of Hamashiach, the Hebrew word meaning the anointed one, the Messiah. In Greek it's the Christos, the Messiah according to the flesh.

But notice Paul changes the construction here. He doesn't say, "the Messiah belongs to the Israelites," as he said with the other things. Rather he says, "the Messiah is from the Israelites." And he says the Messiah comes from the people of Israel, in this sense, "according to the flesh." In other words, the humanity of the Messiah was thoroughly and completely Jewish.

That's where Paul began. Go back to Romans 1. Romans 1, he begins talking in verse 1 about the "gospel of God," verse 2, that was "promised by the prophets in the holy Scriptures," and that gospel, verse 3, is "about His Son," and "His Son was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh." So, He was Jewish. And in fact, Matthew you remember, when he traces Jesus' genealogy, in chapter 1, traces it back to whom? To Abraham. He's Jewish.

But that's not the end of the story. Notice verse 5, "from whom is the Messiah according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen." Now let me just tell you that that last line of verse 5 is one of the most debated passages in the Bible. Here's the question. Does it refer, does that little phrase, "who is over all, God blessed forever," does that refer to God the Father or does that refer to Jesus Christ?

And here's the reason for the problem, it's the problem of punctuation. The original manuscripts were not written with punctuation. And so, if you put a comma after the word flesh, this refers to Christ. If you put a period after the word flesh, then it could refer to the Father. Now let me just be very clear, this debate does not affect the doctrine of the deity of Jesus Christ. That is taught everywhere and consistently in the Old and New Testaments. The only question is, is that being taught here? The evidence points heavily in the direction that this is a reference to Jesus Christ.

Let me very briefly give you several pieces of evidence. First of all, the ancient translations almost all take God as a reference to Christ. They were Greek speakers, they understood it, and this is how they translated it. This is how they understood it. Secondly, the grammar supports the view that he's talking about Christ as God, because literally here's how it reads in the Greek text, "Christ the one being over all, God blessed forever." Thirdly, the normal biblical doxologies to God the Father begin, with only one exception in all of Scripture, with the word blessed, "Blessed be God." This goes the other way and says, "God blessed."

Number four, the phrase, "according to the flesh," that expects an antithesis. He's this, "according to the flesh." It kind of leaves you hanging, like playing do re mi without hitting the last note. You know, it's like, wait a minute, I can't handle that. What do you mean, "according the flesh," He's this, what else is He? Well, the answer is, "He's God over all, blessed forever."

Number five, most commentators take this approach and understanding. I won't give you a long list, just a couple: John Calvin, Charles Hodge, Bruce Haldane; a lot of great scholars through the years have understood this. So, what you need to see is that Paul here in verse 5, and let this settle into your soul, Paul here calls Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, God. He attributes to Him the full status and the name of deity, and that is remarkable when you remember that Paul was Jewish. He was a monotheist and he identifies the Jewish Messiah as Jesus throughout this letter, and then he describes Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, as God. Notice what he says, "the one who is over all." The all there is neuter in the Greek text meaning it's probably not all people, but all things. He's God over all things, and He is "blessed forever." That's Jesus Christ our Lord. And there's only one thing to say to that, and that's what Paul says, "Amen."

Now, most of you don't know Hebrew, but you know a little Hebrew. First of all, you sang it this morning, hallelujah. That's a Hebrew word, it's "praise Yahweh." Now you know another Hebrew word, it's amein in Greek, but it goes back to the Hebrew and it simply means true, let it be so. That's what Paul says. "Jesus Christ, God over all, blessed forever. Amen."

So, here's the question, how could the Jewish people have had so many spiritual advantages and still reject the gospel and reject their Messiah? Let's make the question more contemporary. Let's make it about people sitting right here in this room. How could someone grow up in a Christian home, and in a good church, and hear the Bible faithfully taught week after week, and reject Jesus Christ? And how could they, in some cases, walk away entirely from the faith? Paul will answer both of those questions starting next week. Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for this incredible passage that we are going to study together. Exalt Yourself, O God. Exalt Your Son. Exalt Your Word and the gospel. Father, put Yourself on display in this remarkable passage. May we love You more, be more devoted to Your Son. May we worship You with clearer vision as a result of what we will study together.

But Father, in the meantime, we have to confess to You our sin. We have failed. Lord, we haven't loved our families and our people and the people all over this planet from every tribe and tongue and nation, like our Lord did. We haven't even loved them like Paul did. Lord, we get so caught up in our little busy lives and the stuff, the stuff that we're going to leave behind someday, the stuff that's all going to be burned up. Father, forgive us. Give us a passion for the salvation of the people on this planet. May our heart beat with the heart of Christ. May we see this as our task, a task that remains unfinished. Oh, God, give us individually and corporately as a church, that kind of mindset.

I also pray for the person here this morning who is without Christ, perhaps who's had all kinds of spiritual advantages throughout their whole lives, never seen them, have never repented, never believed in Christ. Father, help them to see today. Open their eyes and may they repent and believe in Your Son, "who is God, over all, blessed forever." We pray it in His name, amen.