WHAT a sharp change there is in the language which marks the transition
from the eighth chapter! In the close of the eighth he has been viewing
the procession of his enemies as they march before him all conquered and
chained. His faith has spread its wings in mighty affirmations of triumph;
he has soared aloft and cleft the heavens themselves, borne on the
swelling fullness of love divine. Learning in chapters one to three of
man's brazen iniquities and flagrant sins we may have cried, "What can
separate us from the wrath of the Creator, God?" But, now, that the
conciliation has been unveiled and God's magic potency in Christ revealed,
the shudder of fear has been changed to the shout of victory, and the
query of dread to the ringing challenge of Paul's own utterance "Who can
separate us from the love of God?"
At the climax of his ecstasy a thought of Israel flashes in upon him, and
his heart experiences a stab of mortal pain as he realizes that his nation
is not a sharer of his joy. He had progressed to the eighth chapter of his
epistle, but Israel had not even reached its third. So Paul's flight
heavenward ceases for the time, and in sympathy to his brethren he wings
his way downward to engage himself with the subject of Israel in relation
to the purpose of God.
Because of the character of Paul's gospel to the Gentiles, which seemed,
to say the least, to make little of the priority which belonged to Israel;
and also because of the dispensational function which he had to perform in pronouncing excommunication
upon his people, Paul's patriotism could easily be challenged by a
fault-finding Jew. Paul was the official hangman of the nation, and it is
ever true that "nobody loves the hangman." Indeed, those who hated Paul
and his gospel might have insinuated that his love to the Gentile was but
the other side of his hatred to the Jew. Paul now avers his patriotism in
the words "my kinsmen," "my brethren," and not only that but avows his
willingness to become a second Moses for his nation, "accursed from
Christ" if even that would save them.
In passing we would draw the reader's attention to the peculiar tense used
in connection with Paul's heroic longing. It seems to be what we can only
describe as a "discontinued desire." But why discontinued? Why "WAS
wishing?" Was he a hero no longer? Had the flame of his love for Israel
been extinguished? the answer is not difficult to find; but we will not
point out where it may be discovered, or in what it consists, just now.
Suffice it to say that something had brought his "wishing" to a close.
That "something" must have been either a decrease in his love, or an
increase in his knowledge.
Israel was a rich nation, and Paul proceeds to enumerate their wealth. On
the other hand Israel was a poor nation, for its wealth consisted of
checks that had never been cashed. They possessed a mine that they had
never developed; a treasury on which they had never drawn. But let us
display the riches of Israel as they are here enumerated by Paul:
|(a) The Sonship;
(b) The Glory;
(c) The Covenants;
(d) The Law - Moral - Government;
(d) The Rites - Ceremonial - Priesthood;
(c) The Promises;
(b) The Fathers;
|(a) The Son - the Messiah.
(Verses 4 and 5).
Paul had started down in the valley of pain to recount all that God had
bestowed upon His nation, and he climbs up rung by rung until he comes to
the climax of all - the birth of Messiah - and now it is as if he had
reached the ladder's topmost rung, and peeping into heaven itself his pain
vanishes in blissful delight and he bursts into a doxology "God over all,
blessed for the ages."
How had Israel re-acted to these divine gifts? How had the Jewish people
received these favors? As tokens of grace? Not at all, but as divine
recognition of their own worth! "We thank thee we are not as other men,"
was the burden of the boasts they dared call "prayers." They had not
received these privileges as gifts but as wages. God was in debt to them
rather than that they owed Him anything. They earned what they got. This
is the damnable attitude back of such expressions as "God chose Israel
because it was a spiritual nation; it was not a spiritual nation because
He chose it." Any man-made theology that makes God play second-fiddle to
man is a devilish insult to the God of Holy Writ.
Israel's false attitude and lack of spiritual understanding concerning all
these gifts is most plainly shown in their attitude and activity toward
the eighth and crowning item in Paul's statement. How they treated Him
is a clue as to how they treated them. Israel mocked the law long, long
before they mocked the Lord. The promises were trampled in the mud before
ever they hurried the Messiah to the cross. Was it not through Him that
the "adoption" became real? Was it not the receiving of Him that conferred
authority to become sons of God? Was He not the glory of all the glories
connected with the nation? As to "the law" was He not the fulfillment of
it? As to "government" was He not King? And if it was "the rites," was He
not Sacrifice and Priest? In Him, too, "the promises" were yea and amen!
And if Israel had been given "the fathers" was not Messiah's day the
which brought joy to Abraham's heart? And a cross was Israel's answer to
it all! "Spiritual nation?" what driveling, insane nonsense.
But what does this clause in the ninth verse, "According to the flesh"
mean? Why is there such a change from the language "whose are" to "from
whom" with its added qualifications? Israel did not produce Christ. He
was not the product of natural, or national evolution. That is the truth
that Paul would etch, or engrave, upon the memories of his "brethren." He
was God-produced. Thus is sounded the first golden note in the glorious
symphony of God's sovereign grace. It was God did it, not Israel. Israel
could produce its Herods, and its Judases, and all the other poisonous
human fungi and toadstools that grow so naturally in the swamps of
separate humanity, but it needed a God to produce a Christ.
The production of a Paul was a work no less divine, and the Apostle has
already recognized this fact in his allusion to Israel, his brethren and
kinsmen, but only "according to the flesh." Israel could produce a Saul,
but it took God to change his character as well as his name. And God did.
When will men realize that separate from God, "free" as they say, they can
only rot and rot and rot? As the hand severed from the arm can only
corrupt, but when "bound" in the organic unity of the body it retains its
liberty and health, so must man be laid hold of by the sovereign God and
"bound" in order that He may be made free as a bond-slave of Jesus Christ.
Man's sovereignty is sin: God's sovereignty is salvation. Man's
sovereignty is his slavery.
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