Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Reading Through the Letter to the Romans #3 (9-11)

Romans KeenerThis post continues my reading through Paul’s letter to the Romans accompanied by Romans, New Covenant Commentary Series, by Craig S. Keener. In this important section Paul argues that the Gentile mission was always in the plan of God. However, this does not mean that the Gentiles displace the Jews. The church will always have a Jewish remnant and. before Christ returns, there will be a great return of Israelites to God. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Paul returns to the issue of Jew and Gentile in the church in chapter 9. First, he shares his concern for his Jewish countrymen who have not believed in the One who fulfills their scriptures and God's purpose for them. First, he again answers the objection to the gospel that most Jews have not believed with the fact that not all ethnic Jews or sons of Abraham were in the covenant. God has always worked through a chosen remnant. The Hebrew scriptures show that God is free to choose His people and show mercy to whomever He pleases. Keener sees Paul as using the Exodus story here as a paradigm of how God works in saving and preparing a people. God "raised up" pharaoh, an evil man, to show His power over evil to save the nation and even lead Egyptians to join with them. Paul's point is that what is happening in his time is consistent with the way God has worked in His people in the past.

Because Scripture often associated God’s righteousness with his covenant faithfulness to Israel, the failure of some Israelites to believe could appear to some as a sign of God’s unrighteousness (9:14, essentially repackaging the objection in 3:3, 5). But the very question is misplaced, Paul shows, for God is right to do as he pleases, and what he pleases will always be what is right. Humanity merits punishment, but God shows mercy and compassion where he wills (9:15), graciously saving some though he is obligated to save none (cf. 3:23). Romans 9.1-15, 118

Paul can infer that God cares about Gentiles as well as Jews (9:24). Just as the new exodus of salvation evokes the pattern of how God saved Israel in the first exodus, so is the pattern in this passage. In 9:22–23 the wrath against the Gentile Pharaoh prefigures the eschatological wrath (cf. 2:5; 5:9), but the mercy (evoking 9:16–18 and especially the text in 9:15) involves salvation, for both Gentiles and ultimately Israel (11:30–32; 15:9). Romans 9.16-30, 120–121

Paul continues his discussion of the relationship between Jews and Gentiles in the church in 9.30-11.36. First he deals with the issue of so few Jews receiving the message of Christ. He says that the reason so few Jews have followed Christ is the same as in the OT (and the same reason most people in general don't respond): they refuse to trust God for their righteousness and want to establish it on their own terms. This is why the true people of God have always been a "remnant." The problem is not with God because salvation has always been readily available to everyone by faith (chapter 10). In chapter 11 he responds to the idea that God has rejected the Jews. Paul's presence, along with a Jewish remnant, in the church is present proof that God has not rejected the Jews. Paul sees Jewish "disobedience" as temporary, which allows the gathering of the nations into God's family. He thinks that the massive influx of Gentiles in the church will "provoke the Jews to jealousy," and in the end, there will be a great Jewish movement to turn to Christ and God's plan will be complete. The big point is that Jew and Gentile should humbly serve together in the church and love one another because all of us are in God's family by God's grace. Nobody is righteous before God because of their ethnic origin or their own good deeds.  

Just as God prefaced the Ten Commandments with a reminder of redemption (Exod 20:2), so now salvation from sin was by grace through faith, expressed by right-doing. God’s way of saving through the newer historical salvation event in Christ is analogous to the way he saved through the law. Romans 9.30-10.10, 127

As Christ’s death produced reconciliation, so did Israel’s loss (5:10; 11:15). But just as Christ’s risen life will produce even greater benefits than his death (5:9; 8:32), so also Israel’s restoration will produce greater blessings than their failure (11:12). Romans 11.1-24, 133

Paul expects the obedience of a number of Gentiles from all nations to the God of Israel to provoke Israel to jealousy, hence to turn to Jesus, bringing about the promised restoration (11:11–15). This observation suggests Paul’s expectation of the second option: the completion of the Gentile mission in 11:25 would in turn lead to the Jewish people trusting in Christ, precipitating his return. Romans 11.25-36, 138

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