Saturday, September 19, 2009

Romans 9 (Part 3 - the conclusion)

My thoughts about Romans nine... continued and concluded.

Section 4: It's not just for the Jews: remember what God has said to you?

Even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
Again, this is part of the last section, but links into this next section. Each point flows smoothly into the next. Much earlier, Paul put forward that not all of Israel would be saved, and now he adds onto that the claim that gentiles will be saved. Not only will not all jews be saved, but also gentiles will be saved. Again, this is not a concept that the Israelites find plausible or acceptable. Paul isn't just making this stuff up, so he goes on to quote some more Scripture!

As He says also in Hosea: “I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved." “And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘ You are not My people,' There they shall be called sons of the living God.”
There you have it! Right there, in the Scriptures! Gentiles will be saved. They will be called God's people, who were not God's people. Remember, this is building off of all the earlier points. First Paul has torn down their presuppositions about being the chosen people, and made it clear that God doesn't work that way they think He does or should. God does not choose based on works, and He does not choose just based on lineage. Going on from there, he's made it clear that it isn't their decision to make, but God's decision make. It is God's place to choose who to have mercy on and who to harden, and their place to respond in humility and reverence to what God decides. After putting forward the idea that they had been wrong, and that they cannot judge what God chooses, Paul is putting forward what God has chosen: God has chosen gentiles!

Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: “ Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved. For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, because the LORD will make a short work upon the earth.”
Here Paul further establishes his previous claim that not all the Israelites will be saved. Among all of Israel, only a "remnant" of them will be saved. , Paul now gives conclusive Scriptures for them to see and truly understand for the first time.

And as Isaiah said before: “ Unless the LORD of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we would have become like Sodom, and we would have been made like Gomorrah.”
Now that was something! Jews, to some degree I think, looked down on the gentiles. Yet here Paul is saying pretty much that except for the grace of God, they are no different. "There, but by the grace of God, go I." Of all the gentiles, they are compares to Sodom and Gomorrah! If the Israelites believed that, they would quickly realize that they really did need salvation! Not only had Paul challenges the preconceived ideas that they somehow were promised salvation, and deserved it because they obeyed the law, but has now shown them how very very wrong they are! They do not have a "free pass" somehow, and they don't deserve God's grace any more than the Sodomites did! And as any Jew would know, the Sodomites did not deserve grace or salvation.

Conclusion: Up to God. Not by works. Not just for us. For gentiles, and by us, by faith and not works! And yes, it's a stumbling block, but it's the truth.

Now at last everything is brought together and wrapped. "What shall we say then?" What is the conclusion here? What is the point? The points have already been put forward, clarified, and supported that salvation is up to God, not up the them. That it is not according to works, but according to what God wants. That it is not just for the Israelites, but also for the gentiles. That is it not according to lineage, and not all Israelites will be saved. What is it all about then? It has been put forward that "God has mercy on whom He will have mercy," and whom does God will to have mercy on? If not everyone will attain righteous, who will attain it? And how?

What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.
First there is the idea of "attaining righteousness," and this righteousness is obviously not the "filthy rag" various of righteous, but the pure and perfect righteousness that is allowed in the presence of the Lord Most High. Paul explains that from among the gentiles, the gentiles who attained perfect righteousness, which is to say the righteousness of Christ, attained it because of their faith. In sharp contrast, from among the Israelites, not one of the jews who sought to attain their own righteousness by following the law succeeded.

Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.
Now the question is asking clearly, for the purpose of clarification, "Why?" Why did the gentiles achieve it by faith, while the lawful Israelites fell short? The answer to this question, the answer to this whole chapter is right here. What is it all about? Faith, apart from the works of the law. Faith, and not good works. Those that sought by faith attained, and those that sought according to works did not attain. Notice the distinction and contrast here: faith is contrasted with works. Faith is not a good work, and not a work of the law. Faith is very separate and different. The Jews actually understood this, and took offense. A pharisee could spend his whole life studying the law and trying to follow it perfectly, and would be judged, whereas a prostitute (A prostitute!) could turn to Jesus and be saved! They realized that faith had nothing to do with merit, and thought that it would be ridiculous and unjust for God save people based on just faith! This whole chapter answers that objection by really putting them in their place and clarifying that God is the on the throne.

As it is written: “ Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, and whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”
Paul ends the chapter by affirming that yes, it is a stumbling block. It's a hard pill to swallow. Yet he affirms that even if the truth be a hard truth, it is the truth. The truth, from the Scripture is that being chosen is not based on lineage or works, it's all about faith, and "whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame." Salvation does not depend on us, but on God. He chooses the conditions, and we do not. Wrapping it together, if God says that salvation is attained by faith, who are you, oh man, to answer back to God? God choices may seem ridiculous, but, as Paul says elsewhere, God chooses the foolish things to put to shame the "wise."

[After note: This is my reading of the Scriptures and thoughts about it. I know I could be mistaken. The Bible is correct of course, but my thoughts are not always correct. I take my beliefs with a grain of salt. It seems to make sense to me, yes, but I may be missing huge chunks of the truth! Once again, this also is not meant to be a persuasive essay, but rather a summary of what I personally see throughout this chapter.]

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