Sunday, June 12, 2011

Commentary on Scripture: Romans 9

I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart.

Romans 9:1 ~~ A triple repetition for effect, a common convention in Hellenic rhetoric. In this case Paul uses it with subtle distinctions between "I tell the truth in Christ" (possibly taking an oath 'by Christ'), "I am not lying" (pledging himself and his honor), and "my consciences testifies with me in the Holy Spirit" (invoking his conscience and the Holy Spirit as his witnesses).

Romans 9:2 ~~ An abrupt transition from the Providential security of Romans 8:31-39 to Paul's own great sorrow and sense of desolation, inspired by the sudden remembrance that Israel had lost its security and salvation.

Romans 9:3 ~~ Paul yearns for the salvation of Israel, his fallen brethren.

Romans 9:4-5 ~~ "What benefit has the Jew?" Paul had asked in Romans 3:1. Here he answers: they were adopted as sons, they received the glory, the covenants (of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and David), the giving of the Law, the Temple and temple services, and the promises (of the prophets, the hope of the Messiah). This passages concludes with a brief and evidently spontaneous doxology.

Romans 9:6 ~~ Israel may have been displaced, but their non-assurance of salvation does not demonstrate the failure of the Word or the Love of God.

Romans 9:6-8 ~~ Children of Israel defined not according to the flesh (physical descent, or circumcision under the law) but according to the promise (the covenant with Abraham). "Through Isaac your descendants will be named" -- Isaac, historically one of the lesser patriarchs, is in this light the center of the story of Israel. He defines the covenant.

Romans 9:10-14 ~~ God's preference for Jacob is by principle (and by time) prior to any work, yet His preference is not therefore unjust. This theme continues....

Romans 9:15-18 ~~ God's providence (predestination) is not dependent on the man but on the will of God.

Romans 9:19-22 ~~ God's justice consists in having the right to dispose as He sees fit, even to demonstrate His wrath. Yet He exercises this rule sparingly and with great restraint, for our benefit.

Romans 9:22 ~~ Awesome verse. "God [is] willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known," yet He withholds or defers His judgment over us. He "endures with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction": temporal punishment (the natural consequence of sin) is allotted in place of destruction and wrath, the eternal punishment (the spiritual consequences of sin).

Romans 9:23 ~~ Patience predestination and deferred punishment are to "make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy which He prepared beforehand for glory."

Romans 9:25-29 ~~ Paul cites passages from Hosea and Isaiah to prove the universal scope of salvation even under the Abrahamic covenant.

Romans 9:30-33 ~~ Paul summarizes: Gentiles who did not seek righteousness (who do not even have the law, cf. Romans 2:14) attained righteousness by faith (by doing the law, they showed themselves to be a "law to themselves," cf. Romans 2:15). Yet the Jews, who knew the law and pursued the law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. "Why? Because not by faith, but as out of works." Please note that in these verses, the "law" is identified with "faith" and explicitly contrasted with "works." It should be clear that Paul is using "law" in a broader sense than the Torah, and using "works" in a narrower sense than "deeds."

No comments:

Post a Comment