Reading for Friday, Feb. 10: Romans 9
After the crescendo of ch 8, we’re entering into one of the more difficult sections of Paul’s writing. Paul turns an eye toward his fellow Jews to discuss Israel’s status as God’s chosen people. Have the promises of God failed? Has God rejected Israel proper in favor of a “new” chosen people — the Christians to whom Paul is writing? These are the kinds of issues Paul turns to in Romans 9.
Paul takes up the issue a few different ways. He starts off by grieving the condition of Israel. The sonship, the glory, the covenants, the receiving of the Law, the promises — these are Israel’s possession. Israel is uniquely situated to receive the fulfillment of God’s promises in Jesus…yet they reject Him. You can see Paul’s heart on display when he says, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers…(v3).”
But Israel’s rejection does not negate God’s faithfulness. “It is not as though the word of God has failed” (v6). Paul points out that true children of Abraham are descendants of his promise and his faithfulness, not necessarily descendants of his flesh. “This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring,” (v8). Paul then traces the lineage of this promise from Abraham through Isaac to Jacob and Esau, Moses and even Pharaoh’s role in this whole thing (v7-18).
In v20, Paul pushes back a little at those who would put God on trial. “Are you going to answer God back? Is this REALLY what you want to be doing?” Paul sees God’s faithfulness to His promises; therefore, our part to play is to live out faithfulness to the Covenant Promiser. As such, Paul doesn’t have much room for those who want to accuse God — at least not in this section of his writing. He closes the chapter with quotations from the prophets (Hosea, Isaiah) to demonstrate God’s faithfulness to “the remnant” — true Israel, children whose very identity is linked to the promise of a loving and faithful Father. This number includes us — children of the promise, descendants of Abraham by faith.
In Rom. 9.5, we have one of the most important theological statements about Jesus in the NT: “Christ, who is God over all…”. The early church grappled with how to understand Jesus as fully God and fully man at the same time. But in this text, Paul equates Christ the Son and God the Father. Plenty of other passages speak of Christ’s subservient nature to the Father, but Paul doesn’t qualify his statement here. God the Son is of the same essence — the same “stuff” — as God the Father. Jesus is not less than God the Father in this sense; He is not some “lesser god”. But that’s just the point: He subjects His will to the will of the Father and, in so doing, wins our salvation.