The Gospel According To Paul 7
We turn now from a study of doctrine to
one of prophecy. A prophecy involving both Jews and Gentiles that unlocks a
secret hidden from the foundation of the world. From among both, God would
create a new race of man, neither Jew nor Gentile, called the Church. As Paul
would write to the Ephesians, "His purpose was to create in Himself one
new man out of the two" (Ephesians 2:15) and to the Galatians, "You are all sons of God through Christ
Jesus …There is neither Jew nor Gentile" (Galatians 3:26,28) and to the Corinthians, "Do not cause
anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks (Gentiles) or the Church of
God." (1 Cor. 10:32). It's
the Church who would inherit the Kingdom. Here's how it happens.
I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience
confirms it in the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my
heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for
the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is
the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of
the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and
from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever
praised! Amen. (Romans 9:1-5)
With all his heart Paul wished he could somehow make the
Jewish people understand and accept the gift that had been offered to them,
even if it cost him his own salvation. But after waiting 4000 years for the
Redeemer promised to Adam and confirmed in countless prophecies, when He came
their leaders didn't recognize Him and rejected Him as an imposter.
It is not as though God's word had failed. For not all who are descended
from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all
Abraham's children. On the contrary, "It is through Isaac that your
offspring will be reckoned." In other words, it is not the natural
children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are
regarded as Abraham's offspring. For this was how the promise was stated:
"At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son."
God had always known that this would happen. By making Sarah and Abraham
wait until they were 90 and 100 years old to have the child that was promised
to them, God had been giving us a clue as to what was coming. Those who
populate the Kingdom won't do so because of a natural birth, but a supernatural
one. And as it was with Sarah, at the appointed time God would again return and
the Kingdom would be filled with His Children, supernaturally born. Yet to
all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to
become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human
decision or a husband's will, but born of God. (John 1:12) Some
were once Jewish and some were once Gentile, but having been born again they're
not either anymore. They're now the Church.
Not only that, but Rebekah's children had one and the same father, our
father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or
bad—in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works but by
him who calls—she was told, "The older will serve the younger." Just
as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." (Romans
No one will come into this Kingdom because of a birthright, nor can anyone
earn his or her way in. But God, with the same foreknowledge He demonstrated
in telling Rebekah about the lives of her twin boys, has predestined those who
choose Him to become the children of God. Remember from our study of Romans
8:28-30, predestination follows fore knowledge. Long before the event, God
knows what we'll do and then appoints it to happen.
Esau despised his birthright (Genesis 25:34) and sold it for a single
meal. Afterward, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected.
All of his tears of regret were shed to no avail. (Hebrews 12:16-17) It
was as if God had said, "Fine. You despise and reject that which you were
born to inherit. Since that's what you want, I'll make certain that it
happens." Jacob received the blessing and Esau's descendants wound up
serving the children of Israel, just as God had foretold.
Jesus said the same to the leaders of Israel in the parable of the Tenants.
"Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from
you and given to a people who will produce its fruit." (Matt 21:43)
He was speaking to Israel about the Church. Like Esau, the leaders of Israel
chose to reject the promise they were born to inherit. And again the Lord
said, "Fine. Since that's what you want, I'll make certain that it
happens. The tax collectors and prostitutes will come into the Kingdom
before you." (Matt. 21:31) Tax collectors and prostitutes had
no more standing under the Law than Gentiles. But when John the Baptist showed
them the way to righteousness they believed him. Notice that Jesus didn't say
instead of you, but before you. Unlike Esau, Israel will eventually be blessed,
as we'll see.
What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses,
"I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on
whom I have compassion." It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire
or effort, but on God's mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I
raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and
that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." Therefore God has
mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For
who resists his will?" But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?
"Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like
this?' " Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump
of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? (Romans
If we were reading these verses in a vacuum, it would be easy to adopt the
view that God determines who will be saved, not man. But fortunately we have
the perspective of the entire chapter and beyond that the rest of Scripture.
For example, how could John 3:16 or Romans 10:13 be true if man
has no choice in the matter of his own salvation? And if God desires that none
should be lost but that all would come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), why
didn't He make it so? And why, if He determines who will be saved and who will
not, did He tell His followers to make disciples of all nations? (Matt.
28:19) The Greek word translated nations is used 164 times in the New
Testament. It's translated "gentiles" 94 times, and nations, or
people, the other times. Since it's preceded by the word all, which means each
and every one, it literally means the entire human family.
From the context of this chapter it's clear that Paul is making God's case
for offering salvation to the Gentiles, even though the Jews were His Chosen
and He had focused exclusively on them for the previous 2000 years. God
created the Gentiles just as He had the Jews, and He has the right to offer
salvation to one group just as He had to the other.
What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore
with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if
he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy,
whom he prepared in advance for glory— even us, whom he also called, not only
from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? As he says in Hosea:
"I will call them 'my people' who are not my people; and I will call
her 'my loved one' who is not my loved one," [Hosea 2:23] and,
"It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them,
'You are not my people,' they will be called 'sons of the living God.' "
[Hosea 1:10] (Romans 9:22-26)
Notice that Paul says, "Not only from the Jews but also
from the Gentiles." The idea that in God's view it's not a question of
saving either Jews or Gentiles, but that through the creation of a new race
called the Church He's calling both, is made clear again.
Isaiah cries out concerning Israel:
"Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the
remnant will be saved. For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with
speed and finality." [Isaiah 10:22,23]
It is just as Isaiah said previously:
"Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become
like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah." [Isaiah 1:9]
These two quotes cap off the thought that salvation is not a matter of
birthright. Jews who reject God's call will be treated no differently than
What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not
pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but
Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not?
Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled
over the "stumbling stone." As it is written:
"See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to
stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will
never be put to shame."[Isaiah 8:14, 28:16] (Romans 9:30-33)
Paul combined two passages from Isaiah to imply that while
Jesus is a "stumbling stone" to those steeped in the Law, everyone,
Jew and Gentile alike, who pursues "a righteousness that is by faith"
through the atoning sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ will inherit His
Kingdom. He told the Corinthians the same thing.
Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom,
but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to
Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is
the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Cor. 1:22-24)
As was His sovereign right, God chose the Jews to be the
people through whom He would reveal Himself to the world. He could have picked
anyone, but He picked Abraham, promising to bless all nations through Him. Now
He was giving Gentiles the right to become spiritual children of Abraham as
well, and together with the Jews, heirs according to the promise. To both the
gateway to this inheritance was and is the atoning death of the Lord Jesus.