September 6, 2011

Wednesday after the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 67, 101, 2 Sam. 1:17, Lk. 22:14-30
Evening - Ps.85, 98, Nahum 3, Rom. 9:1-5, 14-24, 30-33

Commentary
Romans 9:1-33

Romans 9 returns to a topic introduced in chapters 2 and 3; the relationship between the Jewish people and the teaching of justification by faith. It is a major intention of the book of Romans to show that all people in all times and all places have only one way to be made acceptable unto God; they must receive it from Him as a gift. No human being is able to earn it for himself, a fact proven by the law, which shows our many breaches of the standard of God's perfect righteousness (Rom. 3:20). Thus, all are guilty before God (Rom. 3:19) whether they are Jews or Gentiles, "for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom.3:23).

It is incorrect to think people in Old Testament times were made acceptable unto God through the rituals and sacrifices of the Old Testament law. They, like all people, committed sin, and the rituals and sacrifices could not atone for them. Furthermore, it was just as possible for an Old Testament Jew to go through the ceremonies without meaning them, as it is for a person to go through the service of Holy Communion without meaning it. Without faith, neither has any benefit. The system of sacrifices and rituals was a symbol of our Saviour Christ, who suffered death on the cross for our redemption, and "made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world" (Holy Communion, p. 80). His sacrifice makes us acceptable to God (justification), which we receive by trusting Him to make us acceptable (faith). "The just shall live by faith" (Rom. 1:17). This has been the major theme of the book of Romans to this point. In chapters 9-11, Paul returns to the Jews to show in more detail how this truth applies to them.

To understand this, we need to grasp a principle that permeates the Scriptures. I have previously spent much time talking and writing about it, so I will not take much of your time to restate it tonight, but it is important, so I will take some time. The principle is that the Bible meets its full meaning in Christ. This means things like the Temple and the Old Testament sacrifices find their full meaning in Christ, who gave His life as an offering for our sin. It goes even deeper than this, for even Israel is a symbol of the future scope of the Kingdom of Christ, which will include people from all nations and races and backgrounds, not just Jews. In other words, the promises given to Israel in the Old Testament find their full meaning in Christ and in the Church of the New Testament. The Church is the new Israel. It is the continuation of the work of God on earth by which He brings people unto Himself in Christ (Rom.9:23-26).

This means Jews were not "saved" just because they were Jews. This is the point of verses 6 and 7, "they are not all Israel which are of [natural children of] Israel [Jacob]: neither because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children." Jacob and Esau are given as examples of this in 9:10-13. Jacob was "saved," Esau was not. The entire point of these verses is to show that being born into the Jewish nation does not mean a person is born into the Kingdom of God. Keeping the ceremonies and ritual of the Old Testament did not make a Jew a child of God. Imperfect attempts to keep the moral and ethical law of the Old Testament did not make a Jew a child of God. Only faith made a Jew a child of God and a member of the true Kingdom of God (9:31-33). Faith is trusting God to make you acceptable unto Him through that one sacrifice the Old Testament pointed to, the Son of God who gave Himself as the ransom for many, the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world.

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