Theology and Politics from a Conservative, Biblical Perspective
Last time, we went over Romans 3:1-4 and essentially pointed out that Paul’s use of the word “oracles” (logia, in the Greek), did not mean either logos (word) or graphe (scriptures). Paul was in fact, saying something different and pointing to something unique within the Scriptures. Paul was saying that God was referencing His promises to Israel that He would never renege on fulfilling.
Unfortunately, in today’s religious climate, many even within Christendom see Israel as a problem rather than the source of blessing from God’s perspective. They point to the nation’s rejection of Jesus as Messiah and God’s judgment upon that nation in AD 70 by Rome. This, they believe, is when God not only judged the nation, but chose at that time to cut all ties with Israel forever. While God certainly judged, He most certainly did not cut all ties with Israel. Only through incorrect exegesis and allegorical maneuvering can God’s Word be said to teach that. The whole of the Bible does not support such an untenable position.
Not only is there is nothing in Scripture to support this erroneous conclusion, but there is actually ample evidence in the pages of Scripture that supports the fact that God has promised to bring a final remnant of believing Jews into the Millennial Kingdom over which Jesus will rule at the beginning of the next age. Those believing Jews will have placed their faith fully in Jesus. Their eyes will be fully opened to the truth just as the thief’s eyes on the cross were opened and he willingly, gratefully, and humbly embraced that truth (Luke 23:39-43).
That future final remnant of Jews who have received salvation will be the version of Israel that will be the recipients of God’s promises related to that chosen nation as regarding the Land originally promised to Abraham as recorded in Genesis 12; 13; 15 & 17.
Let me say it again, the only way to escape this conclusion is to allegorize these sections of the Bible to mean that what God may have intended with Israel, He has now transferred to the Church because of an alleged complete rejection of Israel as a nation. Only in allegorizing Scripture can this be concluded and unfortunately, it changes the intents and purposes of Scripture so completely that it ends up making God a liar, which of course, He is not.
It amazes me how commentators and so-called Bible scholars do this type of thing. A perfect example is the passage in Ezekiel that highlights the Valley of the Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14). In that section of Scripture, it is very clear that the Spirit of God is highlighting to the prophet Ezekiel what God has planned for the “whole house of Israel” in the latter days (v. 11). This is deliberate on God’s part so that there could be no mistake, yet commentators read that and think, “Oh, God must mean ‘all’ the house of Israel, which includes the Church!” No, it doesn’t. Israel and the Church are two entities that are not interchangeable. God is speaking there solely of the house of Israel, period.
While Christians are spiritually connected to Abraham (because we share the same faith as he had and it was through him that all the nations of the earth would be blessed because of the Messiah who reaches out to everyone), we are never “spiritual Jews” as I’ve heard countless Christians state. Christians do not become physically or spiritually Jewish by receiving salvation from Jesus. We remain Gentile (unless a person is Jewish to begin with and then receives salvation in Christ). Too many play fast and loose with Scripture in this regard and it not only muddies the waters, but essentially claims that God is saying one thing when He is saying no such thing.
In our first article in this series, we introduced several sections of Romans which have a specific eschatological feel to them. They are:
Specifically, we went over aspects of Romans 3:1-4, as noted above. Let’s now take a look at the second and longer section of Romans, chapters 9 – 11, which deals with the nation, Israel.
Commentator and Bible scholar John Phillips provides the following outline for this section of Romans (emphasis added):
In these three chapters, Paul makes it very clear that God chose the nation of Israel (stemming from Abraham through Isaac, through Jacob and his son’s, the patriarchs and their families), for His express purposes. Note that Ishmael and Esau are left out of the equation as it was a very specific genealogy.
In Romans 9 – 11, God (through Paul) reaches back to Romans 3 and responds to the questions asked there regarding whether or not God will be faithful to His original promises to Israel. The answers to this question undergird this second eschatological section of Romans 9 – 11.
What I find absolutely fascinating – unlike too many Christians today – is how Paul is clearly very emotionally torn over the fact that most Jews of Israel stand so far apart from God!
1 I am telling the truth in Christ (I am not lying!), for my conscience assures me in the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed—cut off from Christ—for the sake of my people, my fellow countrymen, 4 who are Israelites. To them belong the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from them, by human descent, came the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever! Amen. (Romans 9:1-5; NET)
Paul’s heart is literally breaking due to his intense love for his “countrymen.” Yet, what is often the response of Christians today where Israel and Jewish people are concerned? Instead of focusing on their need for Jesus, too many simply heap ridicule and condemnation on Jewish people! It’s as if these Christians believe “the Jews had their chance and they blew it! They only have themselves to blame!” Brothers and sisters, our hearts are to constantly reach out to all people who are lost – both Jewish and Gentile! There should never be a point when we toss people aside as eternally incorrigible. That falls under God’s authority, not ours.
The Jews alive today are desperately in need of Jesus just as the Gentiles alive today are and we cannot shirk our responsibility to witness to either group. Yet, too many so-called Christians jump on the boycotting bandwagon in their misguided efforts to make Jews pay for their sins. This is done while essentially giving a complete pass to Muslims or other groups, saying that they are the way they are because of terrorism of Israel. This makes no sense, as if to say that when Muslims stand before God, they will be given a pass because they were “pushed” into their actions because of the Jews? That won’t work and Paul clearly lays this out for us in the opening chapters of Romans. All are individually guilty, not because of what others have allegedly done to them, but because of what they are in their heart of hearts: sinners. All Jews and Gentiles born into this world immediately fall under God’s condemnation and it is only through salvation that we are moved out from under that condemnation and given peace with God through the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
This is the huge problem with politics, political viewpoints, and social movements. They tend to cause people to see others who are not aligned as we are politically as enemies. I’m quite certain that even though Jesus and the Pharisees did not see eye to eye, Jesus loved them.
After sharing the anguish of his heart because of how lost so many Jews were and because of it, Paul tells us that the entire nation of Israel would have to wait to see God’s glory. He then immediately points to the solution to the problem he has just stated.
6 It is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all those who are descended from Israel are truly Israel, 7 nor are all the children Abraham’s true descendants; rather ‘through Isaac will your descendants be counted’ (Romans 9:6-7).
This is one of those passages of Scripture that is frequently taken out of context by Christians who really do not understand our connection to Abraham. After pouring out his sorrow, Paul then implores us to understand that God’s Word has not failed! He then declares that not all Jews are actually part of Israel. What does he mean by this? Very simply, he means that only those Jews who have faith believing in God like that faith that was patterned after Abraham are actually part of true Israel. Paul was looking to the future when God would take for Himself that final remnant of Jews who would become the fulfillment of Israel. What about individual Jews then and now BEFORE this final remnant? As they turn to Jesus in faith believing they, like Gentiles become part of the Church, His Body. Paul is looking forward to that future time when God will claim that final remnant, which will occur during the coming Tribulation (which has NOT started yet!).
Just because someone is born into a Jewish household, that might make them Jewish, but it does not automatically mean that they are part of the Israel for which God has future plans. At the same time, this also does not mean that Christians somehow become “spiritual” Jews and part of Israel. This is nonsense! Paul is not even talking about Christians here. Yes, we share the same faith as Abraham but we are merely grafted into the place of blessing and only because of God’s promises to faithful Jews who will make up future Israel. Christians are like Abraham because we share the same faith in God. That’s the common thread but that does not make us Jewish.
God’s plan of redemption officially started with Abraham and was designed to extend to his immediate descendants (through Isaac and Jacob, but not Ishmael or Esau), as well as all the families of the earth, who would inherit salvation by exhibiting the same faith as father Abraham. Please notice that Paul specifically states that “through Isaac will your descendants be counted.” Abraham’s direct descendants who would go onto form Israel would come first through Isaac, then Jacob, then the 12 sons who would become direct patriarchs to the 12 tribes of Israel. Reading about the life of Joseph proves how little these patriarchs really cared about following God from the heart too, yet God persisted with them and created Israel in spite of them (Genesis 37 – 50).
At the same time, we know that though Jesus Himself came from the tribe of Judah and was a descendant of Abraham, the salvation that He purchased on our behalf is not just available to Jewish people. It is available to all. This hearkens back to Genesis 12:3 when God said, “and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” That refers to everyone including those of us who are not part of Israel.
Salvation is the main benefit to what God chose to do through Abraham, but certainly not the only benefit. When Paul speaks of the “word of God” that he says did not fail, Paul is not speaking of salvation that is available to all people. That much is clear from the context as well as from every other letter Paul wrote, not to mention his own missionary work. The reception of salvation by those who heard Paul’s message never failed because there were always some who received that word gladly. If Paul is not talking about salvation, then what is he speaking of here?
The context is the nation of Israel, correct? Paul is now narrowing his focus to help us understand that just because many Jews were completely unfaithful to God, this does not in any way negate God’s full promises to Israel (the subject of this section). Paul is pushing us to focus not on individual Jews here (though they most certainly need salvation), but on the future of Israel as a nation, as one entity. Paul is proving to us that there is a future for Israel the nation and he is carefully breaking it down for us.
It is easy for us to look at someone else and judge whether or not they are Christian. We’ve all done it. You’ve done it and I’ve done it and may the Lord forgive us our arrogance and impertinence. We have no right to judge someone’s heart because we cannot see it. We rightly judge their words and actions but then go so far as to believe “well, they can’t be authentic Christians if they live like that!”
Paul understood the temptation for people – and even Christians – to judge God’s plan concerning Israel by focusing on individual Jews and we must avoid doing this! Paul helps us with this by forcing us to focus on several realities. The first is that just because someone is physically Jewish does not mean they have or will have a part in future Israel. In fact, as we discussed last time, any Jewish person who places faith in Jesus for salvation today is baptized into His Body, the Church. They are not really part of Israel’s future because they will be “married” to the Groom, Jesus after their life here ends. It is the same for every Gentile who becomes a believer as well.
Paul is writing this section of Romans to ensure his readers (many of whom were Jewish at Rome), that God’s promises toward Israel will be fulfilled!
Stick with me and we’ll pick this up from here next time!