Questioning the Promises

The epistle of Paul to the Romans is Scripture famous. Is there a more beloved letter in the New Testament? There certainly isn’t one that develops and celebrates the good news as much as Romans. “The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes”! The reality that we all have sinned and deserve God’s wrath, followed by the revelation that God justifies those who believe in the sacrifice of His Son, is amazing doctrine. By the time the reader gets to the end of Romans 8 he is overwhelmed. “We are more than conquerers through him who loved us.” Nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

And as I brought up near the end of the previous post, wouldn’t it have been an obvious transition from the glories of God’s sovereign mercy and securing love in chapter 8 to the call to present ourselves as living sacrifices to God at the start of chapter 12?

This brings us to the first of five questions: Why are these three chapters here in the epistle?

Answer: the reason Paul wrote Romas 9-11 is to vindicate God’s faithfulness to His word to Israel.

The gospel promises are fantastic. They are worth living for and dying for. But a thoughtful reader of Romans would necessarily wonder 1) Why have so many Jews rejected Jesus? and 2) Has God changes His mind about the promises to the Jews? As it turns out, this is a huge issue. If God’s previous promises are revoked or redefined, then how can we trust that the gospel promises won’t be?

These chapters are dealing with the accusation against God that His word failed (Romans 9:6). Paul said it did not fail. But what is that word about? It’s about Paul’s “kinsmen according to the flesh.”

They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 9:4–5)

Chapter 10 begins wth Paul’s desire for “them,” his national kinsmen, to be saved. Chapter 11 begins with the question: “Has God rejected His people?” And the answer is No, because Paul himself is a believing Israelite, not just that he is a believer.

The very presence of these chapters assumes that certain promises to Israel have not yet been fulfilled, otherwise there is no need to deal with the charge of “failure” in Romans 9:6. Even more, the placement of these chapters argue that our confidence in the gospel is inextricably connected to God’s faithfulness to the Jews. So the argument continues about a future fulfillment of His word, not a redefined or spiritualized fulfillment, and that is good news indeed.

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