XIX. Romans: The Problem of the Jews (Rom 9:1-2)

Let me start an investigation of the third movement of Paul’s defense by directing attention to Russ’ series on Calvanism. There are many discussions that may arise based on very old arguments that I don’t want to spend (too much) time discussing. Not that the discussions shouldn’t be—but rather it detracts from my purpose of going through the book of Romans. Calvinists and Arminians would both agree that their respective stance is a systematic doctrine. These camps do not establish their doctrine solely on the grounds of these three chapters of the Bible so I will not limit my overview of these chapters to those doctrines either.

It is a great thing for believers to discuss their different perspectives and convictions from Scripture—yet it’s not always a great thing when those discussions degenerate into vicious attacks or a public portrayal of ungodliness before the world. Such actions on our parts, no matter how convinced we are with our position; wind up besmirching our testimony and perhaps even the reception of the gospel more than anything else.

I have personally been hesitant to start back on the Romans series. Firstly because of the new baby taking up much of my time and secondly because I have been devoting more of my studies to preparing for next an upcoming series in Genesis. Lurking somewhere between those two reasons is a slight fear of possible retaliation for sharing my opinions on this portion of Romans. A foolish fear, I know, yet there nevertheless.

I mustn’t forget then that this movement culminates with one of the most profound statements of worship and praise found in the entire Scriptures. I must examine my motives and presentation with the understanding that no matter how difficult this section may be, for Paul it proved to be the very answer to his opening lament. He turns from his discussion and reflects (with a sense of awe being inferred) when we read “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” ({{Rom 11:33}})

As I begin I should be immediately aware then that Paul is addressing not only a theoretical problem but a very much, practical problem as well. I might swerve into the theoretical side of Paul’s written defense but when seeing the emotion in those opening words I should note that the problem of the Jews affected Paul personally: “I’m telling the truth, I’m not lying, my conscience in the Holy Spirit as my witness—my heart is in immense sorrow and unending grief! I wish I was damned, separated from Christ, for the sake of my brothers, my kin, the Israelites!”({{Rom 9:1-3}})

Oh how it affected him. This man, preaching to the Gentiles, always taking time to first preach to the Jews around him, was hoping that they would come to Christ. Persecuted by his countrymen, chased out of towns and even stoned—they proved themselves to be against the message. What dissonance to know that the Jews have rejected whom they were looking for—their Messiah!

Can you see how it would impact the presentation of the gospel to a Gentile? There’s Paul at dinner with the eminent Felix and his wife, discussing matters of poetry or what not then finally touching on the questions of the Gospel. Felix versed in the Jewish message, listening intently to Paul’s presentation and growing very uncomfortable with such talk of sin and who exactly is this Jesus and what did He accomplish

“So Paul, you say this Jesus proved to be the Messiah with many proofs, yes?”

“Oh surely, Master Felix.”

“And you evidently back this up with the writings of your Jewish book, yes?”

“Of course, Master Felix. You yourself are acquainted with the Way!”

“Thank you, sir. Indeed I am. Mind if I ask, are there any other Jewish Rabbi’s who believe as you do? Who have also seen the evidence and can point it out in your Jewish writings? I mean, this is great stuff and such obvious proof—surely the great teachers in Jewish circles have recognized this!”

“Well…let’s see…well, I was almost a Pharisee…got pretty far down that road…studied under Gamaliel you know. Smart guy but well I guess he doesn’t really count”

“Yes…”

“And I mean, well Peter…but he’s a fisherman. And…Matthew is pretty smart too… Barnabas was a priest, you know…”

“Ah…well. Would you like another grape Paul? I hear tell it’s going to be a rough winter this year!” ({{Acts 24}})

The question of “Why do the Jews not believe?” must be addressed especially in light of the Gospel. How could the Christian message be “The God of the Jews has been made manifest!” and yet the Jews don’t believe? Sure, there’s a few Jews here and there who might believe but the authorities are rejecting the message as false, others are trying to stamp out proponents of the message and yet others are trying to make the message adhere more to Jewish traditions—but all in all, these people are not believers of Jesus the Christ.

So there’s the huge problem in this whole righteousness of God bit. If God’s righteousness is available to all and has precedence in the Torah…why has it seemingly failed when it comes to the Israelites…the elect Children of God? Has God’s word come crashing down and His righteousness proven to be a superficial thing that changes based on some unfathomable arbitrariness? What is the answer to the problem of the Jews—why do they not believe and how does this affect the righteousness of God?

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