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Theology in Romans - Christ and Israel Print E-mail
Theology in Romans

I.  Introduction:

 The last two passages in our study through Romans (11:1-10 and 11:11-32) have dealt with the people of Israel.  Likewise, we saw a few weeks ago that Paul is struggling with Jewish unbelief in Romans 9-10 (see 9:1-5).  Let me try and sum up briefly what we have seen so far.  Paul gives two reasons for Israelís rampant unbelief: Godís sovereignty in election (9:6-29) and Israelís own failure to believe the gospel (9:30-10:21).  Yet, God has chosen a remnant from among Israel that will believe in Christ (Paul, himself, being one of them) (11:1-10).  Israelís continual unbelief (hardening) will last only for a season and will be replaced by a large ingathering of Jews who will believe in Christ for salvation (11:11-33).  These ideas have a larger impact on how we approach the question of Israel (and the Law) in general in the New Testament.  Although several approaches have been offered, the one that I find most satisfying to the different passages that we have views the promises to Israel made under the Old Covenant being fulfilled through Christ and those in Him (both Jews and Gentiles).  Paul still views Israel as the people of God in one sense due to their election (see 11:28).  But he does not teach that Israel will be saved apart from faith in the gospel.  Only those who repent and believe in Christ will be saved, be they Jew or Gentile.  The promises made to Godís people in the Old Testament will then be realized in Christ and those who put their faith in Him.  In order to see this more, letís consider biblical theology and systematic theology.

II.  Biblical Theology:

 After the Fall, the Old Testament clearly teaches that God chose Israel to be His people.  They were given the promises and covenants and blessings.  Yet, as Paul has taught, God still chose a people from within the larger group of descendents of Abraham to be the true Israel (9:6-13), thus maintaining the truth of salvation by faith in Yahweh.  Men like Abraham and Moses and Joshua and David, although they were far from perfect, exhibited such faith in God.  These men typified the coming of Christ and the redemption of the Church.  The preaching of the gospel would not be limited to one nation.  Rather, it would go to all with the promise that any who believed in Christ would be saved.  This does not mean that being a Jew holds no privileges (see Romans 3:1-2, 9:4-5), it simply means that the gospel of salvation through faith in Christ will not be limited to them.  Even this was foreshadowed in the Old Testament through people like Rahab and Ruth.  After the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, a large ingathering of Jews will place faith in Christ so that there will be gathered around Godís throne men from every tongue, tribe, and nation.  Thus, our hope for Israel rests in Godís promise to grant them faith in Christ. 

III.  Systematic Theology:

 A.  Galatians 3:15-29 Although promises to Israel are never revoked in the New Testament, it does seem that they are extended to more than just national Israel.  This is what Paul is teaching in Galatians 3.  Paul quotes from Genesis and points out that the promises given to him were for his offspring (singular) and not his offsprings (plural).  Paul further argues that this points to Christ as the offspring of Abraham.  Thus, the promise is for those of faith in Yahweh, or faith in Christ, not those who keep the Law.  In fact, Paul points out that we could never obtain the promise of God through keeping the Law because of our sin.  Rather, the Law prepared us for the coming of Christ.  Now that He has come, we are no longer in need of a guardian.  We are justified through faith in Christ whether we are Jews or Gentiles, slave or free, male or female.  Through Christ, we are all Abrahamís offspring, heirs according to promise.  Thus, the promise given to Israel is fulfilled in Christ and those who put their faith in Him.

 B.  Hebrews 8:1-13 The author of Hebrews makes it clear that the old covenant gives way to the new with the coming of Christ.  The old covenant was a copy and a shadow of what was to be realized in Christ.  His priesthood is far superior.  His ministry is far superior.  His covenant is far superior.  If the first covenant had been perfect then there would be no need for a new covenant, but as the Jeremiah quotation highlights, there indeed was a need for a new covenant.  Christ came to establish that covenant with His blood.  The author of Hebrews concludes that now that the new covenant has been established, the first covenant is obsolete and is ready to vanish away.  Based on these verses, I think we must be cautious to view Israel in any way that fails to understand the discontinuity between the two covenants.  Christ has secured for us a new covenant, ratified by His blood at the cross.  It is not based upon nationality or anything else other than faith in Christ.  We must be careful not to turn the argument in Hebrews on its head.  The old covenant foreshadows the new.  It prepares us for its coming.  Yet, now that Christ has come, we should not go back.  We should see in Him the fulfillment of all the promises of the old, which leads me to some implications.

IV.  Conclusion: Some Implications

 Let me close with some implications based upon what we have seen.  Of course, more could be said, but these are issues that I think are important for our understanding of Israel and her relationship to Christ.

 A.  See the fulfillment of Old Covenant promises in Christ.  The promise was made to Abraham and his offspring.  Paul identifies that as a reference to Christ.  Thus, the focus is no longer one nation, but all those from every nation who believe in Him.

 B.  Be cautious in applying Old Covenant blessings/curses to New Covenant circumstances.  I mostly have in mind the idea that God will bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse her (based on Genesis 12:3).  I fear that many apply this old covenant blessing to national Israel today.  I think such an application fails to consider the New Testament teaching concerning Israel and the new covenant.  Of course we should fight for and defend any country that has legitimate needs, but to do so for blessing, based on Genesis 12:3, does not seem faithful to the rest of Scripture.

 C.  Hold out the gospel to Israel and pray for their belief in Christ.  Just as Paul did in his ministry, so should we pray for and preach the gospel to Jewish people.  Although we do not know when the promises of Romans 11:25-32 will be fulfilled, we do know that God has promised to save a remnant of Israel during their partial hardening and that a future ingathering is promised as well.  Thus, we should hold out the gospel to Israel with confidence in Godís power and plan to save.  May we labor to that end.  Amen.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 23 November 2010 )

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