by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 9 Paragraph # 1 Study # 4 August 5, 2008 Lincolnton, N.C.
(422)Thesis:High privilege does not guarantee anything.
Introduction:In our studies of Romans 9 we have seen that Paul is presenting himself as a mirror of the love of God. We have focused our attention upon the reality of Paul's, and Christ's, willingness to endure an unending Death for the sake of the Jews. We have seen that Paul has presented a crucial reality of the experience of godliness: that great joy and extreme grief can coexist in our hearts. We have seen that we have been called to love like that, being unafraid of the grief and being unwilling to make pleasant experience an idol.
This evening we are going to look into Paul's description of his "kinsmen according to the flesh". It is our goal to attempt to understand both what Paul says is true of them and why he says it. Clearly, the description focuses upon "privilege". Just as clearly, the description focuses upon the tragedy of just how ineffectual "privilege" turns out to be. The question is this: what is driving Paul's declaration that his kinsmen were missing the Life in spite of the privileges?
The answer swirls around the content of the rest of chapters 9-11 -- chapters that highly exalt God's fundamental part in bringing men to Life. It seems to boil down to this: if men were not brought to Life by being nestled down against the highest of privileges, what does it take? With that question in mind, let us at least begin to consider Paul's description of his kinsmen.
I. What Does It Mean to be an Israelite?
A. At the most superficial level, 9:6-7 tell us that being a physical descendent from Abraham through "Israel" makes a person an "Israelite".
1. Abraham is invariably in the picture.
a. Romans 11:1 brings Abraham to the fore.
b. 2 Corinthians 11:22 does the same.
c. Galatians 3:29 raises the bar significantly -- making being "Abraham's seed" the "end" and belonging to Christ the "means" (is not the "end" always greater than the "means"?).
2. But "Israel" (Jacob) is also absolutely required.
a. Abraham's major "failure" in his "strength" was to produce a "non-Israelite" who proved to be the major antagonist to God's Plan.
b. Paul's insistence upon "Israel" is the beginning of a major aspect of his subsequent argument that "Love" makes "hard" decisions of "exclusion" (every "birth" was faced with the question of "inclusion/exclusion", as Jacob and Esau revealed), and does so without permitting any human-sided element of prejudice (as Romans 4:16 so clearly declares).
B. At this level, being an "Israelite" automatically established a person within a heritage of significant special privilege.
1. The entire Old Testament reveals the Plan of God for human history and "Israel" sat astride that Plan for the "middle section" of that history (there were 2,000 years of preparatory activities from Adam to Abraham; there were 2,000 years of central focus upon Israel from Abraham to Christ; and there have been 2,000 years of consequences since Christ).
2. Paul's two-pronged point is made by this "identity" issue.
a. On the one hand, there was a sovereignly designed "proximity-nest" for Israelites that, for the most part, forced a "proximity" to God: given the fact that Life flows from God, "proximity" is on the highest order of privilege.
b. On the other hand, there is the "so-awesome-it-is-beyond-our-grasp" reality that what the Bible calls "Sin" is so potent that Israel's "proximity-nest" did not do her any good ofitself.
C. At this level, it can be argued that "special privilege" is one of the most dangerous elements in this current creation.
1. Satan's fall was from the position of greatest privilege.
2. Man's fall was from the same reality.
3. According to 1 Corinthians 1:26, history bears out this thesis of danger.
4. It is also worth noting that, in spite of the danger, men still lust after this position and encourage others to do the same.
II. What Does It Mean to "Possess" the Adoption?
A. What is "the adoption"?
1. This question is answered by two texts.
a. Romans 8:23 identifies "the adoption" as "the redemption of our body".
b. Acts 13:33 identifies the "Son-placement" at the point of "resurrection".
2. This question is clarified by keeping the biblical definition separate from our current American definition.
B. How does one "possess" it without participation in it?
1. The "possessing" is only byfaith in a yet undeveloped prophetic future.
a. This is not a minor, and meaningless, reality: one's "faith" is presently determinative of the vast majority of "Life" realities.
b. But, it is only by prophetic declaration that one can "possess".
c. This means that if God has made some prophetic declarations about a group to which one "belongs" in some sense, in that sense that one "possesses".
2. Since "participation" is yet future and by faith, a person can actually be in the center of the "proximity-nest" in the present and be completely excluded presently and in the outworking into the final future.
C. Paul's Point: his kinsmen according to the flesh were being excluded from their position of privilege by their attitude.