The Role of Israel In The Book Of Romans

Many casual readers of Romans believe that Paul’s writing of chapters 9, 10, and 11 is parenthetical, in the Book of Romans; just as Tamar’s story is parenthetical in Genesis 38. While Tamar’s story is indeed parenthetical, Paul’s discussion of the Jews is not. These are the same people who assume that these 3 chapters in Romans are the only time Paul discusses the Jews in the Book of Romans. Galatians 3:28 states: 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” While it is true that both Jews and Gentiles are equal before Christ, there are lessons that can be learned by looking at Israel’s relationship with God that are applicable to both.
The beginning of chapter 2 appears to be a continuation of Chapter 1, which speaks of the Gentiles and their guilt. Warren W. Wiersbe, however, in his book, BE RIGHT (A NEW TESTAMENT STUDY – ROMANS), tells us on page 25: “Bible scholars do not agree on whom Paul was addressing in Romans 2:1-6”. Further down the same page he states: “But it seems to me that Paul was addressing his Jewish readers in this section. To begin with his discussion of the Law in 2:12-16 would have been more meaningful to a Jew than a Gentile. And in 2:17, he openly addressed his reader as ‘“a Jew”’.
Paul then admonishes the Jews by saying that they teach the Law, but asks if they follow it. Chapter 2:21-24 states:
21 You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? 22 You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? 24 For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written.
Paul goes on to tell us in verses 28-29: “28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” In Chuck Smith’s book, THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO GRACE, he tells us on page 19 that “The Jews were trusting in the Mosaic ritual of circumcision for their salvation, but their disobedience of the spirit of the Law invalidated the ritual.”
Paul starts Chapter 3 by stating “What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? 2 Much in every way! Paul then goes on to explain why this wasn’t enough.
Paul summed up the argument and refuted those Jews who tried to debate him. They raised three questions. (1) “What advantage is it to be a Jew?” Reply: Every advantage, especially possessing the Word of God. (2) “Will Jewish unbelief cancel God’s faithfulness?” Reply: Absolutely not–it establishes it. (3) “If our sin commends His righteousness, how can He judge us?” Reply: We do not do evil that good may come of it. God judges the world righteously. (Wiersbe pg 29-30)
Scripture tells us that all have sinned and Paul then goes on to quote the Old Testament to show that this is not just a First Century problem.
Although not speaking directly of Israel, Paul uses the Old Testament figures of Abraham and David to show that we are justified by faith, not by works. Abraham is one of the most highly revered figures in Judaism, and considered the father of the Jewish people. Chapter 4 starts out in verses 1-4 to state:
What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness” 4Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.
Paul also quotes Psalm 32:1-2 to show that David understood that righteousness is by faith, not by works.
As I previously stated, many Christians consider Romans 9, 10 and 11 to be parenthetical to the Book. They think that Paul is speaking only to the Jewish Believers in Rome. Without further study, it might appear that way. While Paul is speaking to the Jews, it is not just for the benefit of the Jews but also the Gentiles.
Paul starts out with a very interesting comment in Romans 9:1-5:
I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen[a] according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.
Paul is mirroring Moses’ intercession after the Israelites built the golden calf in Exodus 32:32 “32Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.” I have to admit that on a trip to Israel in 2001, I was able to pray the same prayer as Paul. It’s a deep prayer, but I made it in the knowledge that no one can be “snatched” out of Jesus’ hand, according to John 10:28:” 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” I’m not sure that Paul had that same assurance when that he prayed his prayer.
When Romans was written, Israel has corporately rejected God.
At this point in his letter Paul explains that God has removed the national privileges and blessings from Israel. The Jews had enjoyed a most-favored-nation status with God. However, by rejecting the righteousness proved for them through Jesus, the Messiah, the “natural branch” of Israel has been cut off for a time.
In matters of salvation, Israel no longer retains a privileged status. Jew and Gentile alike must come to Jesus, for He is God’s answer to every man’s sin. “All have sinned, and come sort of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption this is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24 – Smith pg 77)
Paul goes on to explain that not all the children of Abraham will be considered Israel. The line goes through his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob (Israel). God uses Chapter 9 to show the different says that Israel has rejected Him. First they rejected Christ, then God’s purpose and justice. He concludes Chapter 9 thusly:
30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.[n] 32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law.[o] For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. 33 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.”
Chapter 10 reiterates Paul’s desire that all of Israel should be saved and
one of the reasons that Israel has rejected God.
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel[a] is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Paul was trying to show his beloved Israel that Christ was the only way to God. Using the Law and being circumcised were never enough to impute righteousness on anyone. Only through Christ, or for the Old Testament Saints, the belief that He was coming, can one obtain righteousness and salvation
This brings us to chapter 11. Israel’s rejection was not total. There was, and still is a remnant that remained true to God. “To be sure, there was a faithful remnant in the nation of that looked for His arrival such as Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:25-38); but the majority of the people were not ready when He came. (Wiersbe pg 113)” The same remnant has always existed, but until the early 20th century, those who professed Christ as savior were at times required to deny their Jewish heritage Today it is possible to “be Jewish” and accept Jesus as Messiah.
Paul uses chapter 11 to explain his lineage and proclaim that while Jewish, he is accepting of Jesus as Messiah. In verses 1-6 Paul states:
I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, 3 “LORD, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life”?[a] 4 But what does the divine response say to him? “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”[b] 5 Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 6 And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace.[c] But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.
This is also the chapter where Paul tells us that Israel’s rejection is not final.
God will restore the Jews to His love and favor when He opens their eyes and they receive Christ. The fullness of the glorious kingdom of God will then come. Zachariah testified to this day, saying, “And one shall say to him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends” (Zechariah 13:6)…..One day the Jews will realize their blindness and folly. They’ll accept Jesus Christ, and the glorious national restoration of these people will bring in the Kingdom Age (Smith pg 100).
Paul uses Romans to highlight the blessings and follies of Israel as they tried to follow the Lord. He successfully shows that only reliance on the Lord, through faith, brings salvation. By showing what the Jews did correctly and incorrectly, he educated not only the Jews who wanted to believe in Messiah Y’shua (Jesus), but also the Gentiles.

Works Cited

Smith, Chuck, Pastor. THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO GRACE Costa Mesa CA The Word for Today 1981, Print.

Wiersbe, Warren W. BE RIGHT (A NEW TESTAMENT STUDY – ROMANS) Colorado Springs, CO, Cook Communications Ministries, 2004, Print

Bible Gateway, New King James Version, Holy Bible. https://www.biblegateway.com, accessed 3/10-3/14/17

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