Chapter # 9 Paragraph # 1 Study # 3
July 29, 2008
4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;
5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
1901 ASV Translation:
4 who are Israelites; whose is the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;
5 whose are the fathers, and of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
- I. Paul's Focus Upon His "Brethren".
- A. This may seem strange at first blush. Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles by divine decree. One might think that, therefore, his focus would be upon them.
- B. However, since he was expending most of his energies in ministry to the Gentiles, it may be that no one would seriously "doubt" his commitment to them, but, given his doctrine and ministry focus, it would not be hard to "doubt" his love for the Jews. They were, after all, his most virulent enemies; and, in his own words, they were proud and self-righteous and not at all easy to love. Thus, because he has some things to say that will further goad "doubts" about his love for the Jews, he wants to make sure at the outset that his readers do not think that his doctrine is arising out of any kind of antagonism toward "Jews" and all things "Jewish". Quite the opposite is true. Genuine Truth is not a "sign" of "antagonism". Men often take Truth as insulting and, therefore, arising from a hateful attitude, but that is only because we are so self-centered that we cannot understand how the wounds of Truth are for our own benefit. Being told that we are vile and wretched wounds us, but, since it is true, it can be a great help if there is a solution offered along with the description.
- C. It is crucial for "faith in the doctrine" for the "believer" to understand the roots of that doctrine. If the root is hate, the doctrine is false and should not be "believed". If the root is love, the doctrine is true and should be "believed". [Please note that I did not say "if the root is a "profession of love", nor did I say "if the root is a twisted notion of love". Love is of God and everyone who loves is born of God -- a biblical truth that has a very critical grasp of what it is, exactly, that constitutes "love".] Paul's readers were going to be swayed in the direction of acceptance, or rejection, of the doctrine according to their perception of his heart-motives. In 9:1 Paul makes his "profession" of truthfulness. If that is to be believed, then the rest can follow.
- II. Paul's Description of His "Brethren".
- A. The first question is why Paul goes through the list of his "brethren's" identity issues. In 9:6 and following, he fundamentally rules out the impact of all of these identity issues by saying that, in effect, it was always the plan of God to only make them real for "the children of the promise". This raises two fundamental problems: one, why Paul was so emotionally distraught (and God, too) over people who were never "included" anyway; and two, why Paul goes through the list when it makes no difference in any case.
- 1. These are not small issues. How can Paul be so distraught and be willing to pay such a high price when he knows that none of the identity issues are "difference makers". For some, he is being an irrational idolater whose attitude is not like God's at all because God would not, say they, be so upset in any real sense about the way things are or He would do something about it. This leads immediately to the false doctrine of "limited atonement". God would never waste His feelings (if He really has any), or His action of sacrifice, if the final result was going to be Gehenna for those who were their objects, so Christ only died for the elect.
- 2. This heresy is rooted in "rationalism" and not Scripture. It says that "it makes no sense" for God to waste any feeling or effort for those whom He did not "elect". It would be a futility to do so The Scripture, however, says pointedly that Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world and, though the heretics attempt to argue that it is the "whole world of the elect", the context makes it plain that the meaning is that Christ died for every human sinner who ever lived.
- 3. But this is problematical (if God's thoughts and ways really are as much higher than ours as is the heaven above the earth, we should not be surprised at "problems": Isaiah 55:8-9) because it raises the question of "wasted emotion and action". Why spend any "feelings" of "great heaviness and continual sorrow" on those who are damned in any case? Why be willing to be accursed from Christ for the sake of those whose own arrogance is so great that it will plunge them into the experience of eternal wrath? Why suffer for those for whom suffering will make no difference at all? What is Paul's point?
- 4. Paul's "point" is this: God's essential character includes genuine love for His enemies.
- a. For men, for whom "suffering" is too great a "pain in the neck" to be willing to endure it if it is going to prove to be "fruitless", this makes no sense. Nor does it make any sense to them to posit any "fruitlessness" to the actions of God. This boils down to the age-old claim that God is not really loving or He would do something about the stuff that causes all of the pain; in fact, if He were really loving He would not have let all the stuff into existence in the first place. But, we must understand that such "logic" is rooted in the twin desires to not have to suffer and to have someone to "blame" if we do. It is not real logic.
- b. The real logic is this: God is a Person Who suffers when others suffer even when the suffering is rooted in their own foolishness. He is not afraid to suffer, nor does He turn from it. Neither is He unwilling to "waste" His time and effort on those for whom the action will accomplish nothing. Therefore, "logically" God is willing to do things that are both emotionally painful for Him and unfruitful for the particular objects of His pain. Men have a profound fear of futility; God has none.
- c. But. The revelation of Scripture, though allowing for a God of futility and painful feelings, nevertheless reveals that what is "futile" in respect to one person is enormously "effective" for another, and what is "painful" in respect to one person is incredibly "joyful" in respect to another. In other words, for God there is no one-sidedness. The diminishing of His "pain" is the diminishing of His "joy". The diminishing of His "futility" is the diminishing of His "effectiveness". When one sees the wonder of a vast forest of enormous redwood trees, he counts all of the "wasted" pollen that never fertilized a single seed as a very small thing. No one loses sleep over the "waste". In order for God to "make room for" less-than-God creatures, He accepted the slop in the gears that makes "waste" inevitable. In all revelation about "God" there is this reality of "apparent" contradiction -- justice and mercy, love and hate, patience and explosive anger, wrath and forgiveness, etc.. Thus, "purposefulness" and "futility" also come into play. "Pain" and "joy" coexist. Predestinating particulars and allowing slop in the gears are the actions of God. We must, however, realize this also: what is "wasted" in respect to a "major", or "primary" purpose may well, in the enormous wisdom of God, prove to be remarkably "fruitful" in respect to what is cast as a "lesser", or "secondary" purpose. Pollen which does not fertilize a seed may well be a useful tool in some other process that has nothing to do with fertilizing seeds. The "futility" of sacrifice for the hardened sinner may well prove to be an enormously effective tool in the sanctification of the one making the sacrifice -- especially if he gives up his idolatry of "painless living" and "futile behavior".
- B. He clarifies the concept of "brethren" with "my kinsmen according to the flesh". This clarification indicates that he does not have any "spiritual" sense to his word "brethren" in distinction from Jesus' use of the same word in Mark 3:33-34. Thus, he is writing about "people with a common ancestry", not "people of a common faith".