Romans 9:21-24 – God’s Action Equals Our Knowing

Introduction:

Last week we unpacked verses 19-21.

  • In these verses, Paul was answering the charge that God’s “purpose of election” was unfair.
  • If God is doing all the choosing, how is anybody responsible?

 

Paul gave a two-pronged answer to this charge.

  • (1) The Jobian Beatdown.
  • (2) An Answer to a Better Question.

 

See last week for the details of the above.

  • For now, we need to know that an important element of Paul’s answer was this:
  • The lumps aren’t individuals – they are corporate Israel.

 

With that in mind, we need to dive deeper into verse 19.

 

 

Honorable and Dishonorable Use:

Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

 

As with Paul’s previous arguments in Romans 9…

  • Here too, he alludes to the OT.

 

One allusion is to the prophet Jeremiah.

  • Jeremiah 18:3–6 (ESV) — 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4 And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. 5 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

 

God has always reserved the right to mold Israel, as He sees fit.

  • And Paul is telling us that this is happening right now – as he writes.

 

In fact, Paul makes a shocking claim.

  • One lump would be for honorable use.
  • One lump would be for dishonorable use.

 

Michael Bird says this of Paul’s claim:

“God has decided to create from one ‘lump of clay,’ that is, from ‘Israel,’ one group for special purposes like a wine decanter (i.e., a remnant of Christ-believing Jews) and another group selected for lesser ends like a chamber pot (i.e., the remainder of ethnic Jews). The choice is rooted in divine purposes and in the freedom of the divine prerogative” – Michael Bird.

 

So what exactly are these two uses, honorable use and dishonorable use?

  • How do they relate to or reveal God’s “purpose of election”?

 

We noted last week that answering these questions…

  • Would finally lead us to Paul’s explanation of how to understand God’s “purpose of election”.
  • Which would, in turn, explain why God’s chosen people rejected the Messiah.

 

Michael Bird already provided some clues for their meaning.

  • A special use, “like a wine decanter”
  • An ordinary use, “like a chamber pot”.

 

His phrases capture how the Israelites may have taken Paul’s words.

  • They convey how scandalous and shocking Paul’s words are.
  • A lump of Israel would be molded into something akin to a chamber pot!
  • But they don’t really tell us what Paul means.

 

Greek Lexicons will help steer us toward the answer.

  • The BDAG says these words concern, “the use to which [the lumps] are put”.
  • Similarly, the TDNT says they concern, “the use for which [the lumps] are destined”.

 

So from this we can see where Paul is headed.

  • Each lump has always been destined for a specific use in God’s “purpose of election”.
  • Something Jeremiah tells us has always been God’s prerogative.

 

So the meaning of what Paul means by “honorable” and “dishonorable”…

  • Is tied directly to the specific use of each lump.

 

 

Purpose-of-Election-Use:

So what is the destined use of the Israelite lumps for God’s purpose of election?

 

Paul’s introduction to the answer is found in verses 22-24.

  • Before we unpack it, we need to remind ourselves of Paul’s main point thus far in Romans 9.

 

Paul’s main point thus far is:

  • God’s purpose of election explains why God’s chosen rejected their Messiah.

 

With this in mind, we need to be aware that:

  • Paul’s aim is to zero in on the Jews who have rejected their Messiah.
  • The lump made for dishonorable use.
  • And to tell us exactly what God’s purpose-of-election-use is for this dishonorable lump.

 

So what is God’s purpose-of-election-use for the dishonorable lump?

  • What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

 

His answer is pretty jarring.

  • desiring to show his wrath…
  • “…to make known his power…
  • “…to make known the riches of his glory…”

 

There are two really important things going on here.

  • (1) An incredibly important principal on how knowledge of God is obtained – God’s-Action=God-Knowing.
  • (2) The details of the purpose-of-election-use for the dishonorable lump – “the vessels of wrath”.

 

For the remainder of this lesson…

  • We will contend with the first.
  • Next week, we will contend with the second.

 

But, we do need to appreciate that Paul has finally given us the answer to our question.

  • What is God’s purpose-of-election-use for the dishonorable lump?

 

His answer is that this lump – the lump that has rejected their Messiah…

  • Has done so in order that God’s power and glory are made known via their judgment.
  • Again, we will unpack this next week.

 

For now, lets wrestle with the important principal on how knowledge of God is obtained.

 

 

God’s-Action = God-Knowing:

So why does what Paul just told us make any sense at all?

  • How is it that His wrath upon “vessels of wrath” leads to knowledge of Him, His power, and His glory?

 

We need to be aware that, as usual, this is nothing new.

  • Israel’s knowledge of God has always been experiential, not just propositional.

 

And interestingly:

  • In the OT we find actions that were beneficial and detrimental to Israel.
  • Both of which served to make Him known.

 

Let’s look at some beneficial actions of God that made Him known:

  • Exodus 6:7 (ESV) — 7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
  • Joshua 3:10 (ESV) — 10 And Joshua said, “Here is how you shall know that the living God is among you and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites.
  • 1 Kings 20:13 (ESV) — 13 And behold, a prophet came near to Ahab king of Israel and said, “Thus says the Lord, Have you seen all this great multitude? Behold, I will give it into your hand this day, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
  • Isaiah 49:26 (ESV) — 26 I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh, and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with wine. Then all flesh shall know that I am the Lord your Savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”

 

Let’s look at some detrimental actions of God that made Him known:

  • Exodus 7:5 (ESV) — 5 The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.”
  • Exodus 14:18 (ESV) — 18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”
  • Ezekiel 6:14 (ESV) — 14 And I will stretch out my hand against them and make the land desolate and waste, in all their dwelling places, from the wilderness to Riblah. Then they will know that I am the Lord.”
  • Ezekiel 7:4 (ESV) — 4 And my eye will not spare you, nor will I have pity, but I will punish you for your ways, while your abominations are in your midst. Then you will know that I am the Lord.
  • Ezekiel 15:7 (ESV) — 7 And I will set my face against them. Though they escape from the fire, the fire shall yet consume them, and you will know that I am the Lord, when I set my face against them.

 

So God’s merciful action toward Israel made God known.

  • And God’s judgment upon the wicked of Israel made God known.

 

How so?

 

It appears that in the ancient Near East a particular mindset was in operation.

  • The history and destiny of peoples and nations was in control of the gods.
  • This was obviously true of Israel as well – they were Yahweh’s inheritance, His people.

 

This dynamic meant that when Yahweh exercised control over the fate of other nations – in real time history…

  • He demonstrated His unique and superior “Godness” for all to see – Israel and the Nations.

 

Likewise, when Yahweh judged his own people for their wickedness…

  • He demonstrated his holiness and justice for all to see – Israel and the Nations.
  • He was not a capricious god like the gods of the nations who could be bribed.

 

To put another way:

  • Yahweh’s actions within the history of Israel and the Nations brought order to chaos.
  • The wicked oppression of Israel by Egypt was chaos.
  • The sin of His very own inheritance, Israel, was chaos.

 

Both, God’s historical actions of deliverance, and judgment were restoring order.

  • So, His universal actions on all these fronts demonstrated to all that He was God over all.

 

Now we can come back to Paul in Romans 9.

  • The same God’s-Action=God-Knowing principal applies.

 

Andrew Perriman gets at the details for us.

“There is a crucial premise to grasp here, which is that Paul believed that the God of Israel was about to reveal himself to the Greek-Roman world, about to demonstrate his power, concretely, historically, and imminently, through the judgment and restoration of his people. To this end, he has chosento destroy the ‘vessels of wrath’, with which his patience has run out, and to glorify the ‘vessels of mercy’”.

 

In other words, what we need to get here is that Paul isn’t talking theology.

  • Paul is talking history – imminent history.
  • God is about to act through the dishonorable lump, at their expense, and make Himself known.
  • Just as He had done in the past.

 

What action was God about to bring upon the dishonorable lump of Israel to make Himself known?

  • Mark 13:1–2 (ESV) — 1 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” 2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

 

And this action in history by God is evident today!

temple

Romans 9:19-21 – A Jobian Beat Down and A Lump

IsraelFlag-cross

Introduction:

We saw last week that Paul sought to vindicate God from an apparent blemish in God’s faithfulness.

  • God’s “purpose of election” seemed to flounder with the Jewish rejection of the Messiah.
  • This brought the charge that clearly God was unjust to His elect.

 

The way Paul answered this charge was to allude to a couple of stories in Exodus.

  • Moses and Israel after the Golden Calf incident.
  • Pharaoh and the seventh plague.

 

In each, Paul made the point that its God’s prerogative to deal with the guilty (Jew or Gentile) as he chooses.

  • He had mercy on Israel despite its lack of believing loyalty.
  • He had mercy on the unrighteous Pharaoh, sparing him personally from the first 6 plagues.

 

In each case, the implication of Paul’s allusion to these texts was this:

  • God’s decision to extend mercy or judgment is not based on Gentile or Jewish affiliation.
  • God’s decision is based on His purposes – the big picture.

 

We saw that this purpose seemed to involve a revelation of God to the world.

  • We noted a couple of Paul’s OT allusions that seemed to bear this out.
  • Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, ‘Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!’” – Malachi 1:5.
  • But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” – Exodus 9:16.

 

 

God’s Purpose of Election and Human Guilt:

Moving forward from all this…

  • It’ll help us to figure out where we are now in Paul’s argument.

 

9:1-21 Outline:

  • Lament – vss. 1-5 (Jews had every privilege yet rejected their Messiah)
  • Foundation/Explanation – vss. 6-13 (Purpose of Election is where explanation of rejection to be found)
  • Answering Charge 1 Rabbit Trail – vss. 14-18 (Foundation means God must be unjust and arbitrary)
  • Answering Charge 2 Rabbit Trail – vss. 19-21 (God’s purpose working equals no personal responsibility)

 

So today’s text is the second rabbit trail Paul takes to vindicate God.

  • And what’s the charge?

 

You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’

  • Paul’s rhetorical opponent apparently thinks that given what Paul has taught thus far…
  • God’s “purpose working” exempts the objects of his working (them) from personal culpability.

 

Paul obviously disagrees.

  • But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

 

We need to press into this answer, and not blow right through it.

  • Why?

 

There are at least two reasons to hang out in these two verses.

  • (1) For starters, they come across as a somewhat brutal “Jobian” beat down.
  • (2) Secondly, it isn’t clear how it exactly answers the charge.
    • Either the charge is flawed, and Paul is addressing the real issue…
    • Or, Paul’s answer is irrelevant to the charge.

 

 

A “Jobian” Beat Down:

Consider what we know about God and humanity.

  • God loves humanity.
  • In fact, humans are God’s image bearers.

 

These two facts are so important that much of God’s redemptive history flows from them.

  • God loves a rebel humanity and seeks to restore it – and does so through Christ.

 

And yet, Paul’s words seem to paint another picture.

  • Humanity is a lump of clay.
  • And God can mold it how He wants – to suit His purposes.
  • Brutal – doesn’t sound very loving.

 

So what are we to make of this jarring description of humans as clay?

 

I think Paul wants his Jewish opponent to be jarred.

  • I think he wants his Jewish opponent to be thoroughly humbled.
  • And the same goes for us!

 

In this way, then, this isn’t an answer to the charge.

  • It is a slap upside the head to pay attention to what is really the issue.

 

Paul’s critic has seem to forgotten the implications of his humanity – he or she is a creature.

  • This is worth repeating – humans are merely creatures.
  • And importantly, Jewish ethnicity does not elevate this in anyway!

 

Moses teaches something similar in his dealings with the Jews in the wilderness:

  • Deuteronomy 7:6–7 (NRSV) — 6 For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession. 7 It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you—for you were the fewest of all peoples.

 

And here:

  • Deuteronomy 10:14–15 (NRSV) — 14 Although heaven and the heaven of heavens belong to the Lord your God, the earth with all that is in it, 15 yet the Lord set his heart in love on your ancestors alone and chose you, their descendants after them, out of all the peoples, as it is today.

 

Both of these texts are similar to Paul’s text.

  • People, nation and land were the hallmarks of a worthy people in the ancient Near East.
  • Despite the fact that Israel started with none of these, God chose them.

 

And more than that, God chose the Israelites despite the fact that:

  • He was the Creator God who “owns” all of creation (including those people with impressive nations).

 

So in both Moses’ and Paul’s case, they were dealing with a particular Jewish problem.

  • “The children of Israel were tempted to presume upon God’s gracious favor, to assume, for example, that because the Lord had placed His temple at Jerusalem, they were exempt from judgment” – Timothy George (HIBD).

 

All of this reminds me of God’s “Jobian” beat down.

  • Job 38:4–7 (NRSV) — 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

 

So is Paul’s description of humanity as clay a brutal depiction?

  • Yep – as it should be.
  • And ideally it should lead Paul’s critics (and us) to humility not outrage.

 

But is it an answer to the charge against God?

  • Let’s find out.

 

 

Answering the Charge:

Now we can unpack how, or if, Paul’s reply answers this pressing question.

  • ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’

 

Let’s look at Paul’s answer again:

  • But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

 

In these two verses:

  • Paul takes us in a couple of directions.

 

(1) The first direction was the “Jobian” beat down we just explored.

  • Who are you, O man, to answer back to God?
  • It is laughable for a mere creature (“the molded”) to question the legitimacy of God’s (the “molder”) economy of choosing, as revealed in the OT.

 

In other words…

  • God can find fault because He is the standard, not the creature.
  • It’s His economy of choosing not ours.

 

(2) The second direction points us towards the foundation Paul laid in vss. 6-13.

  • That is to say, it has to do with God’s “purpose of election” or plan of choosing.

 

Look what Paul says:

  • Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

 

What is crucial to see in this verse is found in an obvious distinction.

  • God is working all of Israel (the lump) for a particular use in his “purpose of election”.
  • An “honorable use
  • A “dishonorable use

 

So how does the fact that there exist two distinct uses for Israel…

  • Answer the question as to why God is in the right to find fault?

 

Remember earlier I suggested two possibilities about Paul’s answer.

  • The charge is flawed, and Paul is addressing the real issue.
  • Or, Paul’s answer is irrelevant to the charge.

 

It seems to me the first possibility is correct.

  • Let’s get at this with another question.

 

Does Paul’s answer actually address how an individual is or isn’t responsible for a certain standing before God?

 

I don’t think so (obviously, I’m not the only one).

  • And I think this is where the questioner gets off track and asks the wrong question.
  • The context here is God’s dealing with corporate Israel – not individuals.

 

Remember, we are headed towards Paul’s answer for why God’s own (corporate Israel) rejected the Messiah.

  • The foundation of his answer was God’s “purpose of election” for the Jews – corporate in scope.
  • So Paul is steering us back towards where he started – before all the rabbit trails.

 

Paul’s point, then, is this:

  • Corporate Israel has been divided into two vessels – based on God’s “purpose of election”.
  • Vessel 1 – is for an honorable use (this may be the remnant Paul brings up later?).
  • Vessel 2 – is for a dishonorable use (apparently those who rejected the Messiah).
  • Both vessels are crucial for God’s “purpose of election”.

 

All this can be teased out further.

  • It was God who called out the original “lump” through His call to Abraham.
  • Its God’s prerogative to separate this “lump” into two “vessels”.
  • This doesn’t violate His covenant faithfulness.
  • And, apparently, His “purpose of election” gives Him a very good, and just reason to do so.

 

So what exactly are these two uses, honorable use and dishonorable use?

  • How do they relate to or reveal God’s “purpose of election”?
  • Stayed tuned.

 

 

 

Romans 9:14-18 – God Is Arbitrary and Unjust?

lady-liberty-scales-of-justice-h-1000

 

Introduction:

Last week we saw that Paul began to address a serious question.

  • Why had God’s chosen people rejected their Messiah?
  • An issue he was in deep lament over (vss. 1-5).

 

One answer he gave to this question was simple enough.

  • it is not as though the word of God has failed” (vs. 6)

 

His second answer, however, was a more complicated answer.

  • in order that God’s purpose of election might continue” (vs. 11)
  • We paraphrased this – “God’s plan of choosing” – to help us out a bit.

 

We saw that Paul didn’t actually tell us what he meant by this…not yet.

  • Though he did give us a clue with an allusion to Malachi’s Esau text.
  • Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, ‘Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!’

 

What he did do is begin to build the foundation for fleshing out this answer.

  • And what was the foundation Paul laid?

 

God is a God who chooses to suit his purposes.

  • His choices are not arbitrary.
  • God chose to be the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – not the God of Abraham, Ishmael and Esau.

 

And the results of His choices are corporate in scope:

  • There are children of the flesh.
  • And within them are children of the promise.

 

 

Another Controversy:

This foundation leads to another set of problems.

  • All of which Paul wants to address before he gets back to his main point.
  • So Paul takes a rabbit trail to address them.

 

However, we will see that Paul’s rabbit trail does curve back into verse 11.

  • “in order that God’s purpose of election might continue”

 

The perceived problem raised by God’s seemingly arbitrary choices is this:

  • A God who chooses the “children of promise” based on His own plan and purpose…
  • And not based on their ethnic status as God’s chosen…
  • Or their supposedly righteous spiritual status…
  • Must be an unfair and unjust God.

 

Remember, Paul was sure to tell us last week…

  • though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad” (vs. 11)…
  • God chose and loved Isaac, but He rejected and disfavored Esau.
  • Even though both were ethnic Jews…
  • And neither had any spiritual standing at all in terms of obedience and disobedience.

 

This is why he exclaims in verse 14:

  • What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!

 

So now we need to chase after Paul and see where he is going.

  • We need to find out why there is no “injustice on God’s part”.
  • We need to find out why the foundation Paul laid in vss. 6-13 is secure.
  • As with last week – Paul takes us back to the OT to make his point.

 

 

Moses and Exodus 33:

The first place Paul goes in verse 15 of Romans 9 is Exodus 33.

  • For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

 

To get an idea of what is going on here, we need to look at a bigger chunk of Paul’s citation from Exodus.

  • Exodus 33:12–19 (ESV) — 15 And he [Moses] said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” 17 And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” 18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.

 

This text takes place after Israel’s rebellion at Sinai.

  • They had built the Golden Calf and God set a plague upon them.
  • The text Paul alludes to deals with Moses’ intercession on behalf of a rebellious Israel.
  • God had declared to Moses – “I will not go up among you” (33:3).

 

Moses pleads with God.

  • You have to go with us.
  • How else will “it be known” that the Israelites have “found favor in your sight”? (vs. 16)

 

He presses the point.

  • Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” (vs. 16)

 

In other words…

  • The nations will know that Israel is God’s inheritance, His people…
  • Because of His presence and action on their behalf.

 

God apparently relents.

  • This very thing that you have spoken I will do” (vs. 17)

 

God then went on to tell Moses:

  • I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. (vs. 19)

 

This statement is made in response to Moses’ intercession for a rebellious Israel.

  • God makes clear that because He is “The LORD”…
  • It is entirely His prerogative to extend grace and mercy as it suits Him.

 

Israel – God’s chosen – have failed in their believing loyalty to Yahweh.

  • They deserve nothing.

 

God can justly handle them how he chooses.

  • He can abandon them for their disobedience.

 

Or He can show mercy out of deference to the covenant with Abraham.

  • His decision – take them “to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’(33:3)

 

This is why Paul can argue that this passage answers his question…

  • “Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means.” (vs. 14)

 

Because of Israel’s failure in the believing loyalty department – and thus their guilt…

  • God’s “purpose of election”, his “plan of choosing” will always be…
  • Dependent, “…not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” (vs. 16)

 

In other words,

  • If God is just to choose Israel and bring them out of Egypt to begin with.
    • To make them His inheritance.
  • God is just to either to judge them for their disloyalty or show them mercy.
  • However God wants to work out His plan with Israel – His actions are just.

 

But just in case you are still not convinced of this.

  • Paul takes us to Exodus 9.

 

 

Pharaoh and Exodus 9:

The second place Paul takes us in verse 17 is Exodus 9.

  • For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”

 

As before, we need to look at the whole passage.

  • Exodus 9:13–16 (ESV) — 13 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. 14 For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth. 15 For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. 16 But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.

 

The context of this passage was the seventh plague of the nine that God had set upon Egypt.

  • Once again, God sent Moses to Pharaoh saying, “Let my people go, that they may serve me”. (vs. 13)

 

But God added a new wrinkle for Moses to disclose.

  • The coming plagues will be upon Pharaoh himself, “on your yourself, and on your servants and your people”. (vs. 14)

 

God’s reason for this is that:

  • Pharaoh, “may know that there is none like me in all the earth” (vs. 14)
  • The plagues against the crops, rivers and animals apparently didn’t have the desired affect.
  • This is fodder for a theodicy!

 

In fact, God’s disclosure of this new twist prompts Him to let Pharaoh know something surprising.

  • God had thus far had mercy on Pharaoh – a hardened, Gentile persecutor of God’s own people.

 

This is made clear in verse 15.

  • For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth.

 

So God didn’t strike Pharaoh down – not yet anyway.

  • Why?

 

It wasn’t an arbitrary, unjust decision.

  • In fact, God had a very good reason.
  • But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” (vs. 16)

 

God had used Pharaoh’s hardness and position…

  • To demonstrate to all of Egypt His power over creation.

 

This declaration is hugely significant for Paul’s purposes.

  • God has the right show His mercy to anyone He chooses.
  • Even a hardened, Gentile persecutor of God’s very own people.
  • And He does so based on his purpose of election.

 

How can God act this way?

  • Because God’s people are such by God’s own choice, purpose and plan.
  • They are not as such because they are “better” people than the Gentiles.
  • They are not as such because they don’t have hardened hearts.

 

Paul says as much in his conclusion of this Exodus story in Romans 9:18:

  • So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.” (vs. 18)

 

This is why Paul can allude to this passage as an answer to his question in vs. 14:

  • “Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means.” (vs. 14)

 

Why?

  • Because, the thing that is driving God’s choices is not the worthiness or unworthiness of any peoples.
  • Jew or Egyptian.
  • It is God’s “purpose of election” or “plan of choosing”.

 

And in the Pharaoh example, we get a glimpse of exactly what this purpose or plan might be:

  • so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.

 

Pharaoh was hardened and received mercy during this hardening…for a time.

  • This was so that God could accomplish His purposes.

 

It just so happens that God’s choosing to then withhold His mercy on Pharaoh…

  • Eventually benefited the Israelites.
  • But, it doesn’t always have to be this way.

 

 

Conclusion:

So God’s plan of choosing does not mean He is unjust.

  • It means He is God – He is creator.
  • It means God chooses based on his plan and purposes.
  • And these don’t always have to line up with Israel’s well being.

 

Again, Paul still hasn’t fleshed out exactly what God’s purpose of election or plan of choosing is.

  • Remember, he has taken a rabbit trail that trailed off of the foundation he laid last week.

 

But, like last week, we get another clue about this purpose and plan…

  • Remember – Paul is ultimately trying to explain why the Jews rejected their very own Messiah.
  • His answer is wrapped up in God’s purpose of election – His plan of choosing.

 

Last week we encountered this clue:

  • Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, ‘Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!’” – Malachi 1:5.

 

This week we encountered this clue:

  • But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” – Exodus 9:16.

 

It seems God desires to make Himself known.

  • It seems God desires to draw people to himself.

 

If this is a clue to what God’s purpose and plan might be…

  • It has an obvious Jesus connection…
  • Philippians 2:10–11 (ESV) — 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

Romans 9:6-13 – A Glaring Problem – Jews Rejected Their Messiah

ma_star-on-torah

 

Introduction:

I think the best way to dig into these texts (and chapters 9-11 specifically)…

  • Is simply to parse out what Paul seems to be saying on a plain reading.
  • The reason for this is to try and leave the baggage of our various traditions behind.
  • Keeping in mind, of course, that baggage has a way of creeping in anyway.

 

So having just expressed his lament for his fellow Jews in verses 1-5…

  • Jews who were connected to God’s promises and the Messiah…
  • Yet missed out on the fruit of these promises.

 

Paul now wants to address the elephant in the room – a potential huge problem.

  • If Israel was God’s elect, why do so many reject their Messiah?
  • This fact is problematic.
  • And it seems to impugn the character of Paul’s God.

 

There appear to be two answers to this question revealed in our text.

  • One is an affirmation of a negative.
  • The other is more drawn out, and centers on Paul’s interjection in verse 11.

 

Specifically Paul’s answers are:

  • (1) “it is not as though the word of God has failed” (vs. 6)
  • (2) “in order that God’s purpose of election might continue” (vs. 11)

 

 

Paul’s First Answer:

“But it is not as though the word of God has failed.” (vs. 6)

  • This is straightforward enough.

 

Paul wants to be clear that the ways God has acted in history on Israel’s behalf were not hollow.

  • God’s promises, His covenant faithfulness, etc. haven’t failed.
  • His character is not in jeopardy.

 

It’s debatable whether he is extending “the word” forward to include the Gospel.

  • The Gospel is certainly a continuation of God’s action in history on behalf of Israel.
  • The Gospel comes out of His promises and covenant faithfulness.
  • And Paul, after all, does mention Jesus in his lament.

 

So then, if “the word of God” wasn’t to blame…

  • How does Paul account for the glaring problem of Jewish unbelief in their Messiah?

 

 

Paul’s Second Answer:

in order that God’s purpose of election might continue” (vs. 11)

  • A paraphrase of this is – “so that God’s plan of choosing might continue”.
  • And this answer is where it gets complicated.

 

To liken Paul’s answer to a house, we might say that…

  • In chapters 9-11, Paul is building a house – one with many necessary rooms.
  • But like any house, it needs a foundation.
  • And our text today is where Paul is laying the foundation.

 

So it is only the beginning of his second answer.

  • The complete answer will come when we apprehend the entire house and all its rooms.

 

The House Foundation:

6b For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad…12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

 

The foundation is, textually, pretty basic.

  • The history of Israel is a history of God acting and choosing.
  • God called out ethnic Israel generally – “children of the flesh” (beginning in Gen. 12).
  • God chose through whom the promise to ethnic Israel would flow specifically – “children of the promise”.
    • Isaac and Jacob – not Ishmael or Esau.

 

Importantly, this choosing on God’s part had nothing to do with merit.

  • His point is God’s prerogative to choose, not the spiritual state of an individual.

 

He presses this point with the Jacob and Esau illustration.

  • Before they even had, what we might call “a spiritual status” – “done nothing either good or bad”…
  • God made his choice.

 

In fact, this leads to the foundation Paul is laying:

  • God chose and chooses…
  • “in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls” (vs. 11).

 

Before we unpack how Paul teases all this out…

  • I think it will be useful to pack it all in a helpful proposition.

 

God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – not the God of Abraham, Ishmael and Esau – and this was God’s choice, and it suited his purpose/plan of election/choosing.

 

 

The Flesh and The Promise:

Paul builds his foundation with two distinctions – children of the flesh, and the promise…

  • He does so using a number of different ideas.

 

Verse 6b – He says in verse 6b, “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel”.

  • Here he is making an important distinction.
  • There is a difference between ethnic Israel – “descended from Israel”.
  • And those that “belong to Israel”.

 

Importantly, we need to notice…

  • All those who “belong to Israel” are “descended from Israel”…
  • But not all those who are “descended from Israel” actually “belong to Israel”.

 

Verse 7 – Paul then builds on this distinction.

  • He says, in verse 7…
  • “and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”

 

Paul nuances the distinction made in verse 6.

  • He says that just because your are Abraham’s “offspring”…
  • Meaning just because you are an ethnic Jew, in the line of Abraham…
  • And thus “descended from Israel”…

 

Doesn’t mean that you are…

  • children of Abraham”.

 

This means Paul is layering the distinction from verse 6.

  • It is the “children of Abraham” that “belong to Israel”.

 

So who are the “children of Abraham”?

  • Paul’s answer, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”

 

What is this supposed to convey?

 

Verse 8 – He explains it this way:

  • “This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.”

 

So using yet another phrase that connected back to verse 6’s “descended form Israel”…

  • Paul says that these folks – the “children of the flesh” – are not really “the children of God”.
  • So, they are not really the “children of Abraham”.

 

The real “children of Abraham”…

  • Those that are truly “counted as offspring” are the “children of the promise”…
  • Not the “children of the flesh”, not the “descended from Israel”.
  • That’s a lot of layers.

 

So why bring Isaac into the picture?

 

Isaac is the archetype of the “children of the promise”.

  • How so?
  • Paul thought you might ask.

 

Verse 9 – Paul lifts up Isaac as the archetype of the promise because…

  • “For this is what the promise said: ‘About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.’”

 

This text is an allusion to and quote of an awesome story.

  • Genesis 18:10–14 (ESV) — 10 The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.

 

God made a promise to Abraham.

  • Old Abraham and barren Sarah would have a descendant.
  • And Isaac was the fulfillment of that promise.

 

This is why Paul cites Isaac as the archetype or representative of the “children of the promise”.

  • Though Isaac certainly was “descended from Israel” and a child “of the flesh”…
  • He was more than that.

 

Isaac was the fulfillment of a God-made promise to Abraham.

  • And Isaac’s unique status as the promised offspring was his…
  • Only by God’s choice.

 

This is why Paul began the Isaac bit in verse 7 with:

  • through Isaac shall your offspring be named”.

 

God decreed with these words…

  • That Isaac, not Ishmael (the son of Hagar)…
  • Would be the one through whom His promise would be borne out.

 

So Isaac was born from the barren Sarah by God’s choice and promise…

  • And he was set apart from Ishmael by Gods’ choice and promise.
  • So Isaac is the archetype or representative of the “children of the promise”.

 

But just in case additional objections are raised about Paul’s layered distinctions.

  • Distinctions between the “children of the flesh” and “children of the promise”…
  • Paul brings in another archetype or representative of the promise – Jacob.

 

Verses 10-13 – And this example is more emphatic than the first.

  • And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad… 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

 

In these verses Paul quotes and alludes to both Genesis and Malachi.

  • Genesis 25:21–23 (ESV) — 21 And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22 The children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. 23 And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.”
  • Malachi 1:3–5 (ESV) — 3 but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” 4 If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the Lord of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the Lord is angry forever.’ ” 5 Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!”

 

Here Paul introduces another promise story.

  • Rebekah learns that she is pregnant with twins – Jacob and Esau.
  • And God tells her (promises her) that, “the older shall serve the younger”.

 

This is an odd promise.

  • Typically, it is the older son who is in the driver’s seat.
  • Not so this time.

 

Paul also points out a peculiar feature of an already odd promise.

  • Just in case one thinks the Esau has committed an unrighteous act in the womb…
    • Like was thought of the blind man in John 9.
  • And so deserved to loose his birthright…

 

Paul wants us to know that God declared that Esau would serve Jacob even…

  • “though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad”

 

In other words:

  • The relationship between the two was to be so…
  • Because God had determined to promise Rebekah it would be so.

 

It was a decision that had nothing to do with the actions of Esau and Jacob.

  • Their righteousness or lack thereof was irrelevant.
  • Their spiritual status was irrelevant – or non-existent – at the time of the promise.

 

But just in case we are still hesitant to embrace Jacob as an archetype of the “children of the promise”…

  • Paul busts out a brutal sounding verse from Malachi.
  • As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

 

These words are chillingly clear.

  • God chose/promised Jacob – He “loved” Jacob.
  • And he “hated” Esau.

 

Strong words – what does “hated” actually mean?

  • Hated” means – “to decrease in status” or to “disfavor or disregard”.

 

The point here is that…

  • God chose to elevate Jacob’s status – a promise he made to Rebekah…
  • But in so doing he chose to decrease the status of Esau.

 

So as a result of God’s choice and promise…

  • It would be Jacob that would obtain the birthright that belonged to Esau.
  • Jacob would be the progenitor of Isaac’s line.

 

So like Isaac…

  • Jacob is a representative or archetype of the “children of the promise”.
  • Those that “belong to Israel”, are “counted as offspring”, and are “children of God”.

 

Verse 11b – But why would God choose and promise with such specificity?

  • As we said at the beginning…
  • “in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls”

 

But there is a big picture principle behind all this specificity – thus the archetype language.

  • In other words, Isaac and Jacob weren’t chosen simply as individuals.
  • They were chosen to suit the much bigger, corporate in scope, purposes of God – the status of the “children”.
  • All of which suited His “purpose of election” or “plan of choosing”.

 

So the explanation for why Paul’s “kinsman according to the flesh” (vs. 3)…

  • Are cut off from Christ…
  • Is not found in a deficiency in God or His promises.
  • It is so that God’s “purpose of election [plan of choosing] might continue”.
  • The same purposes or plan that Isaac and Jacob were caught up within.

 

What exactly is God’s “purpose of election” [plan of choosing] that must “continue”?

  • As we said, the answer to this takes 3 chapters for Paul to develop.

 

What we have today is only the foundation for the answer.

  • The entire answer will be found in the rooms that Paul builds on this foundation.
  • Rooms we will explore over the coming weeks.

 

Paul’s citation of Malachi 1 does give us a clue.

  • Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, ‘Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!’” (vs. 5)
  • God’s disfavor of Esau and judgment of Esau’s Edom seemed to have a certain desired affect.

 

And what was the foundation Paul just built?

  • God is a God who chooses to suit his purposes.
  • His choices are not arbitrary.
  • God chose to be the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – not the God of Abraham, Ishmael and Esau.

 

And the results of His choices are corporate in scope:

  • There are children of the flesh.
  • And within them are children of the promise.

 

 

Romans 9:1-5 – Paul’s Lament for Israel

Romans 9:1–5 (ESV) — 1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

 

 

Intro:

The most obvious thing about this text is its abrupt change in tone from Romans 8.

  • Speculations abound about how to account for this.

 

Many suggest that Romans 12 seems to make more sense as a follow up to Romans 8.

  • This is because it deals with how the awesomeness of Romans 8 impacts the Christian life.
  • Romans 12:1 (ESV) — 1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

 

In contrast to Romans 12, Romans 9-11 gives us:

  • “Paul’s anguished wrestling with the problem of Israel’s unbelief” – Doug Moo.

 

But this is not a topic that is out of place for Romans.

  • Paul brought it up already.

 

In Romans 4, Paul went out of his way to include Abraham with those in Christ…

  • And to redefine what it meant to be the people of God.

 

During those lessons we dealt with the badges of inclusion – circumcision, Sabbath observance, etc.

  • Underneath all this was an explanation of, if Jesus was the Messiah, why did so many Jews reject him.

 

So it seems in Romans 9-11…

  • Paul has decided to come back to this…big whoop.

 

It also might help us make sense of Paul’s transition to Romans 9-11 with a question.

  • We can simply ask, why did Paul write it?

 

There are at least three reasons (certainly more).

  • (1) Defense of the Gospel – word of God has not failed (vs. 6).
  • (2) Definitively account for the “status of the people Israel” – Doug Moo.
  • (3) “Paul…wants to make clear that his focus on the Gentile mission has by no means meant the abandonment of his concern for, and, indeed, plans for, the salvation of their fellow Jews. But he also wants to dispel any notion that he might have joined with the Gentile Christians in Rome in their sinful disdain for the Jewish people” – Doug Moo.

 

Let’s dive in and see what Paul has to say.

 

 

Paul’s Lament – Verses 1-2:

I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.

 

It makes sense to me that after sharing all the blessings that accrue to those in Christ in Romans 8…

  • Paul’s heart was tugged towards those who were missing out on these blessings.

 

In light of this…

  • Paul declares that what he is about to say is the “truth in Christ”…
  • That he is “not lying”…

 

And more than that, Paul says his conscience is pricked, not by some feeling of worldly guilt…

  • But by a conscience saturated “in the Holy Spirit”.

 

Then in verse 2 he shares what the true thing is that the Spirit confirms.

  • He says, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart” for his fellow Jews (vs. 2).
  • The BDAG says this phrase refers to a great “pain of mind or spirit”.

 

Most think it is best to understand this pain as expressing an intense, heartfelt lament.

  • A lament similar, many say, to the laments of the OT prophets over Israel.
  • Jeremiah 4:19 (ESV) — 19 My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain! Oh the walls of my heart! My heart is beating wildly; I cannot keep silent, for I hear the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.

 

Why would Paul have such profound concern for the salvation of his fellow Jews?

  • Do Christ and the Holy Spirit aid in his heart felt lament?

 

How might we find such a concern for our fellow Gentiles?

  • We have Christ and the Spirit – what’s my/our excuse?

 

 

Accursed – Verse 3:

For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

 

Here Paul confirms our suspicions that he is definitely talking about his fellow Jews.

  • His “brothers” and “kinsmen”.
  • Who are such by virtue of being “according to the flesh”.

 

Paul’s commission by Christ was to the Gentiles.

  • Acts 22:21 (ESV) — 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ ”
  • But never doubt that his heart is deeply inclined toward his fellow Jews.

 

And he also confirms for us his lament is over their status in Christ.

  • This is implied by his sacrificial plea.
  • It is actually they who are “accursed and cut off from Christ”.

 

We need to unpack Paul’s selfless gesture to sacrifice himself.

  • Paul says, he wishes he could be “accursed and cut off from Christ”…
  • If it meant his fellow Jews were not so.

 

Interestingly the word “accursed and cut off” here is the Greek “anathema”.

  • The idea relates to one’s standing before God.

 

One can either be “consecrated” to God.

  • Or, one can be separated from God.
  • Anathema” is obviously the latter.

 

Paul’s apparent willingness to go through this is startling.

  • But it clearly conveys just how deep his lament was for his fellow Jews.
  • Again, one wonders what would bring us to such lament for our fellow Gentiles.

 

BTW – a short history lesson is in order here.

  • Anathema” is a word that has been used throughout Church history.
  • It came to mean to be denounced and excommunicated – BDAG.

 

During the Church councils of the first millennia…

  • It was used as an epithet hurled at those who rejected…
  • Beliefs that were being established as “orthodox”.

 

Some examples can be found in Chalcedon in 553.

  • “If anyone does not confess that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are one nature or essence, one power or authority, worshipped as a trinity of the same essence, one deity in three hypostases or persons, let him be anathema”.
  • “If anyone does not confess that God the Word was twice begotten, the first before all time from the Father, non- temporal and bodiless, the other in the last days when he came down from the heavens and was incarnate by the holy, glorious, God-bearer, ever-virgin Mary, and born of her, let him be anathema.”

 

 

Benefits of Inheritance – Verses 4-5:

They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

 

So after expressing the depth of his lament for his fellow Jews…

  • He lists out the privileges they have been afforded as Israelites.

 

All of which, as we saw last week…

  • Flow from God’s election of them as His inheritance.

 

He says to them belong:

  • Adoption – “Paul’s way of summing up the OT teaching about Israel as ‘God’s son’” – Moo.
  • Glory – “God’s presence with the people of Israel” – Moo.
  • Covenants – Made with Abraham, Noah, David, etc.
  • “Giving of the law” – It is they, not Gentiles, to whom God gave the law.
  • Worship – This refers to worship and honor of god through the sacrificial system.
  • Promises – These are bound up in the covenants – like the promise of people, nation, land.
  • Patriarchs – This is one of the badges of membership into the Promises.

 

They even have, “according to the flesh…the Christ, who is God over all”.

  • This is the ultimate crowning achievement.
  • The Jesus the Messiah is Himself a Jew, descended from the Patriarchs.
  • The Jews birthed the Messiah!

 

But, as N.T. Wright reminds us, such a relationship to the Messiah is not enough.

“The Jews really are the people of the Messiah, but they are that ‘according to the flesh’. The Messiah really does belong to them, but only in the ‘fleshly’ sense…” – N.T. Wright.

 

By implication, the point is they don’t stand in relation to him through faith!

  • And here lies the problem.

 

Israel is the source of the Messiah…

  • But they know him not.
  • Thus…the reason for Paul’s lament.

 

 

Jesus as God?

We need to pay special attention to the end of verse 5.

  • “According to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.”

 

Is Paul saying that Christ is God (ho on theos)?

 

Depends on your particular translation.

  • ESV – “according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.”
  • NRSV – “according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.”
  • HCSB – “by physical descent, came the Messiah, who is God over all, praised forever. Amen.”
  • NASB – “from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.”

 

These translations disagree with each other.

  • The ESV and HCSB have Paul saying Christ is God.
  • The NRSV and the NASB do not.

 

Why such vastly different takes?

“Exegetes and theologians since the inception of the church have been sharply divided over this question. The issue is one of punctuation and therefore of interpretation, for Greek manuscripts of the NT rarely contain punctuation marks and the marks that are found tend to be sporadic and irregular” – Doug Moo.

 

The differing translations can be understood broadly in two ways:

  • (1) Christology – Paul’s thought was that “God” was predicated to “Christ”, so that “Christ” is “God”.
  • (2) Doxology – Paul’s thought was that only “over all” was predicated to Christ – as in “Lord over all”.
    • Meaning that “God blessed forever, Amen” starts a new thought.
    • Specifically it would be a doxology offered to God for all the privileges had by Israel.

 

Which one is right?

 

Doug Moo, after going into great detail on both options, says this:

  • “Connecting ‘God’ to ‘Christ’ is therefore exegetically preferable, theologically unobjectionable, and contextually appropriate. Paul here calls the Messiah, Jesus, ‘God,’ attributing to him full divine status” – Doug Moo.

 

But Gordon Fee, after going into great detail on both options, says this:

“It seems incongruous both to the letter as a whole and to the present context in particular—not to mention Paul’s usage throughout the corpus—that Paul should suddenly call the Messiah theos when his coming in the flesh is the ultimate expression of what God is doing in the world”.

  • In other words, the importance for the context is the distinction between Jesus and God.

 

So…take your pick.

  • Just be flexible about it.