Chapter # 9 Paragraph # 1 Study # 4
August 5, 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".
- II. Paul's Description of His "Brethren".
- A. The first question is why Paul goes through the list of his "brethren's" identity issues [See Notes for July 29, 2008<420>].
- B. He clarifies the concept of "brethren" with "my kinsmen according to the flesh" [See Notes for July 29, 2008<420>].
- C. Then he calls them "Israelites". He reveals what he means by this term in Romans 11:1. There he simply says, in effect, an "Israelite" is one who is "of the seed of Abraham". This is "qualified" in 9:6 as being "limited" to "of the seed of Israel" (so that being of the seed of Abraham, but also of the seed of Ishmael, does not make one an "Israelite").
- 1. The question here is this: what difference does it make that his "brethren according to the flesh" are "Israelites"?
- 2. The answer has to involve what he is trying to say in terms of the flow of his words. It is clear from the rest of the description that he has the "nation of Israel" in mind with its long history of divine involvement and its rich heritage by reason of that involvement. In other words, he describes his "beloved-to-the-point-of-accursedness-from-Christ brethren" as the people of a nation with which God has been deliberately, poignantly, and intensively involved for approximately 2,000 years (if we use Abraham as the 'starting point').
- 3. Thus, when Paul writes of his love for these "brethren", he is placing himself right alongside of God Himself in respect to His attitude toward them. That his love is as self-sacrificing as his words declare in 9:3 also places Paul right alongside of Jesus Himself in respect to His attitude toward them.
- 4. Summary: Paul describes his "beloved brethren" as "Israelites" to reinforce his claim to a very "positive" attitude toward them because he makes his attitude a mirror of God's. In addition, he is revealing just how "close" his kinsmen were to being able to participate in the Life of God. This is the opposite of what he said about the Gentiles in Ephesians 2:12 where he was showing how "far" the Gentiles were from being able to participate. It is a sad tragedy for someone to be within reaching distance of a great benefit and simply ignore it.
- D. From "Israelites" he moves to the issue of the "adoption".
- 1. In 8:23 he revealed his concept of "the adoption": he calls it "the redemption of our body". This is in harmony with the explanation of the quotation from Psalm 2:7 in Acts 13:33. It is "resurrection" that ultimately gives meaning to "Thou art My Son". In other words, the idea of "adoption" is not that one which pervades 21st century American English (where "adoption" means taking the child of another and formally identifying him/her with a new family). Rather, "adoption" according to Paul is an event in the actions of God toward those who are already His children whereby God moves them into a new state and stage of experience and privilege/responsibility. The "adoption" has to do with placing a person into the Kingdom of God as a "Son". This has always been the intention of God toward the "Israelites". The "nation building" that God did by means of the deliverance from Egypt, the giving of the Law at Sinai, and the conquest of Canaan was a detailed illustration of His plans regarding the nation in respect to its privilege in the final Kingdom of God.
- 2. Paul's "to whom pertaineth the adoption" does not mean that any of the Israelites had already experienced it, nor that simply being an "Israelite" includes getting in on what "adoption" means. It simply means that this is the revelation of the plan of God for "Israel": it is His "intention" to place the nation (and, consequently, those who make up that nation) into His Kingdom as a "Son" with high privileges.
- 3. The revealed plan of God to "adopt" the "Israelites" has always been a part of the rich heritage of the nation. But, that plan does not "automatically" include all who are "Israelites" in the sense of physical descent from "Israel" and "Abraham". Paul would have no need for his continual pain if this inclusion was "automatic" to the birth reality. God has made the "offer"; they who "receive" the offer by faith get to participate and those who "reject" in unbelief will be excluded...thus Paul's pain -- in his setting, they are "rejecting".
- E. From the "adoption" Paul moves to "the glory".
- 1. There is at least some possibility that Paul's meaning for "the glory" is "the Shekinah": the visible presence of God in cloud and pillar of fire. He may have meant that Israel's future included a significant level of "glory", but his use of "glory" with the definite article implies a particular "glory". Israel's uniqueness in the world was that "God" dwelt in her midst in a visibly demonstrable form. Israel had "the glory".
- 2. Thus, Paul moves from God's plans for "Israel" to her greatest privilege: God in her midst. Even Jesus, as Emmanuel, was Jewish and walked among the Jews. God was in the midst of the nation.
- F. From "the glory" Paul moves to "the covenants".
- 1. That "the covenants" preceded "the giving of the Law" implies that Paul had something in mind that preceded Sinai.
- 2. The most likely pre-Sinai "covenants" were those subsumed under the Abrahamic Covenant which had, in its form, the seeds of those which followed. God promised, in a covenant, that Abraham would have a land, a seed, and a great name. Then, as the Plan unfolded, God gave the "Land Covenant", the "Davidic Covenant", and the "New Covenant" to be the outworkings of what He had promised to Abraham.
- 3. The "covenants" were specifically designed to address the human needs. Peter says "exceeding great and precious promises" were made so that those who embraced them could partake of the divine nature. The particular issues that keep one from such participation are John's categorical factors: the lust of the flesh; the lust of the eyes; and the boastful pride of life. Thus, the promises counter the lusts. The "Land" covenant addressed the needs of the flesh in contradiction to its lusts; the "Davidic" covenant addressed the needs of the eyes in contradiction to their lusts; and the "New" covenant addressed the needs of the spirit in contradiction to its penchant for pride.
- 4. God's commitments have been delivered to men in divine revelation in the form of covenants. However, for them to have their impact, the people must "own" them. Paul claims his brethren according to the flesh had such access to "ownership" if they would but believe them ... but they would not.
- G. From "the covenants" Paul moves to "the giving of the Law".
- H. From "the giving of the Law" Paul moves to "the service of God".
- I. From "the service of God" Paul moves to "the promises".
- J. From "the promises" Paul moves to "whose are the fathers".
- K. From "whose are the fathers" Paul moves to "of whom as concerning the flesh Christ".