A Voice in the
I tell the truth in Christ...that I have great heaviness and continual pain in my heart. For I myself was wishing to be accursed from Christ for my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites..." (~vs1-4)
What a level of love that most of us do not understand! For all the accusations and persecutions the Jews hurled upon Paul, he says here that he would not only give his life, but that if Israel would be saved as a result, he would even give up his salvation for their sake.
How many of us even 'care' about those we know who are in the "church"? The relationship Paul had with Israel is the same as many Believers have with the "church". Paul was a "Jew" of the tribe of Benjamin, had participated in all the Jewish rituals, and was an up-n-coming Pharisee. (Phil3:5) Israel had been given all of God's blessings. Salvation was "of the Jews" (Jn4:22b) The Law came through them. (vs4) They were keepers of the Scriptures. (3:2) Worship of God was required to happen from Jerusalem at the temple. (vs4,Deu16:5-6) And it was through Israel that Christ came "according to flesh" as "humanity". (vs5,1Jn4:2-3)
But he notes, "..not all those of Israel are Israel." (vs6) What does he mean? Is this a bunch of double-talk? Isn't red red? 2 equals 2. Israel is Israel. Right? Well, no. There are two -kinds- of "Israel". Many who confuse the "Church" and "Israel" as being the same misunderstand this. Even Israel misunderstood this.
There is Israel, the physical, genetic descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The physical bodies and souls of the Israeli nation/race. The -people-. And then, there is "Spiritual" Israel. Those who are of the "faith of Abraham". (4:16) Those who are of "promise". (vs8-9)
All of Israel, physically, left Egypt and ate manna in the wilderness. They all heard God's voice from Sinai. They all went through the Red Sea. They all received the Law. They all participated in the rituals of worship to God. And yes, they followed Christ (figuratively). "But with many of them God was not well pleased, for they were scattered in the wilderness." (1Cor10:1-5) If you read in the Law, any "foreigner" who wished to worship God had to participate in Jewish ritual and be circumcised. Essentially, a person who believed in and worshiped God was labeled a "Jew". If you wanted to worship God, you followed Jewish ritual. Even in exile, although Daniel called Him the "God in Heaven" (Dan2:28) He became known as the "God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego." (Dan3:29) The Jewish God. And again, the "God of Daniel." (Dan6:26)
Again, it's a difference between the physical and the heart. The -Spiritual- Israel is "not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that outwardly in flesh..." (2:28) This is what the Jews who killed Jesus looked to. Their fleshly rituals. But God did not call out Abraham and make all the promises just to have a unique, distinct 'race' of people, genetically. God's call was for the purpose of providing "Salvation" to sinful man as a provision because of Adam and Eve's sin at Eden. If it is merely a "racial" question, God made all mankind equally of "one blood". (Acts17:26) But "Israel" was a chosen race (1Pt2:9) for the purpose of providing salvation to the whole world (Jn3:16) through them. (Gen12:3b) The "whole point" in having Israel, at all, was for Salvation. Thus, the true understanding is that "he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart; in spirit and not in letter, whose praise is not from men, but from God." (2:29)
So, we see "..not all those of Israel are Israel." (vs6) In other words, Not all those who are physical descendants of Abraham are Believers in God. You see, while most of Babylon looked at the "God of Israel", Nebuchadnezzar was humbled by God and received "understanding" and then "blessed the Most High, and I praised and honored Him who lives forever, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom..." (Dan4:34) He became a Believer and said, "Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and exalt and honor the King of Heaven.." (vs37) It was no longer "Jew" to him, but a personal Faith in the Most High.
So, Paul looks at those labeled "Israel" with the realization that they were not all "Believers", and says "I have great heaviness and continual pain in my heart.." for them.
Today we have a similar entity. It has the Scriptures, doctrine and worship of God. They make certain claims to Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Something called the "Church" comprised of "Christians". Let's adapt Paul's words, 'for not all those of the church are the Church'. Or, in other words, 'not all christians are Christians'.
Over the years I have been blessed to have been in a lot of churches. As a missionary kid on furlough in deputation meetings. Concert tours ministering to many churches. Participating in crusades musically. That's a -lot- of people. But in recent years that "blessing" has become a curse. A heaviness on the heart. As a realization of the true state of the "church" has burdened my heart, I have often spent entire mornings, while working, in mourning, with tears; realizing that those hundreds (or thousands) of people I have known of in some manner, are not the "Church" (capital "C"). Many of them are not only deceived, but as Paul wrote, "For many are walking, of whom I have told you often and now tell you even weeping, as the enemies of the cross of Christ;" (Phil3:18) The tears come because of the knowledge that their "end is destruction.." (vs19)
Even though God is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2Pt3:9) how is the determination made as to "who" is going to be saved? There are some who follow some of the past "great men of God" and declare a grievous error from this chapter. They suppose that God goes 'eeny, meeny, mynee, mo' ... I'm gonna pick you, you, and you. But the rest of you I'm gonna cast away. And that His "picking" is something the person has "no choice" about. A person who is going to be saved can't help BUT be saved, and the lost has no choice BUT to be doomed. That those thus saved come as a result of "irresistible grace". After all, vs18 says, "He has mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will, He hardens."
Let's look at what God had to 'work with' for a moment. Even though Noah and family had been saved through the flood, the ensuing world became corrupt again, immediately, because "all the world lies in evil" (1Jn5:19) "Jehovah looked down from Heaven on the sons of men, to see if there were any who understood and sought God. All have gone aside, together they are filthy; there is none who does good, no, not one." (Ps14:2-3) He had, essentially, NOTHING to work with. Just lumps of clay. Worthless. So He 'picked' a particular lump, Abraham. On what basis did He do so? "Foreknowledge" "Whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.." (8:29) And regarding Israel, He "foreknew" them. (11:2) You see, while all we see is "lumps" of clay, "God looks on the heart". (1Sam16:7) He sees clear into the "dividing apart of soul and spirit" (Heb4:12) He knows all things (Jn2:24,18:4) and the "end from the beginning" (Is46:10)
Did God's 'choosing' of Jacob in the womb hinder Esau? (vs13) No. Esau had no "place for repentance". (Heb12:17) Did God's choosing of Jacob's "seed" condemn Esau's descendants? No. Job was Esau's descendent (Job1:1, Gen36:28, Lam4:21), and was a righteous man before God. (Job1:8,42:7,12)
When God 'chose' Pharaoh (vs17) to show His power, was Pharaoh an "innocent victim" of God's wrath? (vs19) Not hardly! God said, "I will harden Pharaoh's heart" (Ex7:3) But notice that he (Pharaoh) had ALREADY hardened his -own- heart when he retorted, "Who is Jehovah, that I should obey His voice? I know not the Lord..." (Ex5:2) He had already made his choice. So, God took what was already determined, augmented and used it to show forth His glory.
When God uses a "lump" as a "vessel..to dishonor" (vs21) does He do so with glee, without them having a chance to repent or soften their hearts? No. He "[endures] with much long-suffering". (vs22) His "long-suffering" is because He is "not willing that any should perish". (2Pt3:9) He does not wish to punish sinners. Through the prophet He asks the question, "Do I actually delight in the death of the wicked? says the Lord Jehovah. Is it not that he should turn from his ways and live?" (Ez18:23)
So, we come back to Israel. God chose Abraham and Jacob. The nation of Israel. A national entity through whom to bring "blessing" to the world. (Gen12:3,28:14) Israel, as a nation and label, the 'avenue' to Salvation. But even though God chose them -nationally-, on an -individual- level they were not all "Israel", even though they could trace their blood lineage back to Abraham. There is "free-will". People who espouse "predestination" without understanding "free-will" need to understand this. God "chose", "elected" and "predestined" Israel, but for the most part they rebelled. God had chosen to create Adam and Eve in perfection, but He also gave them the -ability- to disobey. The ones of Israel who are "not Israel" are thus because of "unbelief". (Heb3:19) They think they are Israel because of the "works of the Law." But they are not "of faith". (vs32)
But God has selected "vessels to honor". In His foreknowledge He "prepared" them "before" so that He could "make known the riches of His glory" (vs23) This was true of Israel where He assured Elijah, "Yet I have left seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed to Baal.." (1Kg19:18) The same is true today of the Church. This entity, the "Church", made up of predominantly Gentiles for a time (we'll discuss this at length in ch11), is presently the Body that worships, serves God, and is recipient of His promises. (vs4) But just like with Israel, there is a "remnant [that] shall be saved." (vs27)
The end comes quickly. (vs28) What does it take to be part of that "remnant" group; either Israel or Gentile? Israel with all their Law pursued righteousness, but "did not arrive at...righteousness" (vs31) And yet, the Gentiles who didn't have this legacy of "election" nor a national heritage of righteousness "have taken on righteousness". (vs30) How? By faith. Israel, as an entity did not arrive, because all their striving was "not of faith" (vs32) but relied on the -ritual- of the Law. And when Christ came, they "stumbled" as he told what the Law -really- meant (see the study series in Matthew at the website Library) as He "fulfilled" the Law. (Mt5:17) What He taught did not "fit" their preconceptions. They were "offended" at Him. (vs33, Mt13:57)
To be a "remnant" the ones "believing on Him shall not be put to shame." (vs33) These are the ones of whom He says, "I will call those not My people, My people; and those not beloved, Beloved." (vs25) It was promised that Israel would be like the "sands of the sea" (vs27, Gen13:16) and the "stars of the sky" (Gen15:5) for multitude. But due to unbelief and rebellion, they were scattered into all the nations, and there have been many attempts to annihilate them. And so even nationally, compared to the rest of the world's populations, they are a "remnant" in the land; and presently, still, in unbelief. If it weren't for God's mercy on them, they wouldn't even exist as an entity, but would be like Sodom and Gomorrah. (vs29) But God's promises for Israel's future restoration are sure. They will be called, "sons of the living God." (vs26)