The Twenty-Sixth in a Series of Sermons on Paul's Epistle to the Romans
In order to answer the question, “why is it that Israel is under God’s judgment, even though the gospel went to Israel first and only then to the Gentiles?” Paul has pointed out that God is working out his mysterious purposes through the election of a believing remnant (“true Israel”) chosen from among the whole of Israel (“all Israel,” cf. Romans 9:6). The apostle will now address Israel’s responsibility for rejecting her own Messiah, despite God’s sovereign and merciful purposes. Paul will then draw a sharp contrast between two kinds of righteousness (a justifying righteousness that is by faith), and human righteousness based on works (which condemns).
The main issue with which Paul must deal is Israel’s present condition of unbelief (apistis). In Romans 9:6-29, Paul emphasized God’s sovereignty in showing mercy to all those whom he wills in order to explain why there is a believing remnant of elect Jews (true Israel) with the larger body, national Israel. But now Paul will demonstrate that Israel’s unbelief stems from her own unwillingness to believe. As John Murray once put it: “The emphasis upon the sovereign will of God in the preceding verses does not eliminate human responsibility, nor is the one incompatible with the other.” The reason that all Israel does not believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah is because the people of Israel do not want to believe that Jesus is the Messiah! Instead, Paul’s own beloved people tragically sought righteousness through works of law flowing from a zeal not based upon knowledge.
As Paul has made plain, only those chosen by God and called to faith through the gospel, believe the promise. Those not chosen, willingly remain in their sins, counting upon the supposed righteousness of their own good works to justify them on the last day. Ironically, however, the godless Gentiles embraced the gospel because of God’s mercy, even as the believing remnant among Israel has done so. But sadly, “all Israel” does not believe and as Paul continues to flesh out the fact that while Israel received all of the blessings described earlier in the chapter (vv. 4-5), the nation as a whole stands condemned and under God’s curse. As Paul sees it, Israel, not God, is to blame.
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