Reading through the Bible together
After Paul sets forth a clear description of the gospel in the first eight chapters, he moves to the practical applications of the gospel in the last half of the book. We also find that he addresses his deep concern for the Jewish people.
In this chapter, Paul expresses his deep sadness for the lost spiritual condition of the Jews. These are his kinsmen according to the flesh, but they are not spiritual brethren. Going back in time, some of the Jews had accepted the true gospel, like Isaac. His was a miracle birth and the beginning and confirmation of the new covenant. Abraham had other sons, but they were not the sons of the covenant. Those who become spiritual Israel must have a new birth, which is also a miracle. Physical birth alone, even if born a Jew, will not save any. Some of us Seventh-day Adventists are like the Jews of old. We have the truth, but do we have faith in Christ to bring about the spiritual birth that God promised us.
Paul has an interesting discussion on the differing responses to the mercy of God. Jacob responded to God’s mercy, yet Esau did not. God sent His mercy and power to Pharaoh repeatedly, but Pharaoh became hardened in sin. It is not God’s fault that some from His creation do not respond to His mercy, and become vessels “fitted for destruction.” But those who do respond in faith are the potter’s clay that He shapes into vessels of honor (vs. 11-24). The striking paradox is that many Jews responded to the mercy of God seen in the person of Jesus, but did so with hardness of heart, and put Him to death. They had all the truths, but they did not recognize the Giver of truth. Yet many Gentiles did respond to God’s mercy when they did not have all the spiritual advantages that the Jews had.
Paul concludes the chapter by quoting Hosea, Isaiah, and Psalms. We have all wandered from God like the harlot who became Hosea’s wife. Yet through the redemption that is in Christ, God has made us His people and we are His remnant through whom He will “finish the work and cut it short in righteousness” (vs. 25-33).
Those in the remnant who do not have faith will, like Israel of old, find Christ to be a stumbling block. However, those who believe in the Jesus of Scripture will be transformed into a remnant that is not ashamed of Christ and His gospel.
Norman McNulty, M.D.
Neurologist, Lawrenceburg, TN, USA