Saturday, 1 August 2009

Rom 11:25-36

It is time now to discuss the central text of our study: ‘Thus all Israel shall be saved.’ For a healthy interpretation of that verse, we must take everything into account that Paul has written previously in his letter, and especially the direct context of Rom 10 and 11.

In Rom 11:25, Paul says to the non-Jewish followers of Jesus in Rome, that they must not be wise in their own sight. He says this in connection with his previous imagery of the olive-tree; Jews who do not believe in Jesus have been broken of, but if they come to faith in Christ, they will be grafted into the tree again and participate in salvation. The non-Jewish believers must not consider themselves as higher than the unbelieving Jews, for God still desires that these Jews come to faith. Read Rom 11:25-26:
I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And thus all Israel shall be saved.
‘A partial hardening of Israel’ - Paul spoke about this previously, in Rom 11:7-10. There he explained that the elect part of Israel had become partaker in salvation, but that the rest was hardened. I think we should not differentiate between the hardening mentioned in Rom 11:7-10 and the hardening Paul mentions in Rom 11:25. He speaks about the same matter.

In Rom 11:11, Paul writes that this hardening of Israel ensured that salvation could come to the nations. I think Paul says the same thing in other words in Rom 11:26, when he speaks of the fullness of the nations that enter. We must notice the parallelism in the passages Rom 11:7-10 and 11:25-26.

So when Paul speaks about the fact that he wants to make hardened Jews jealous, in order to save some (Rom 11:11b-15), then that seems to me to be the logical parallel to ‘thus all Israel shall be saved.’ (Rom 11:26)

From the beginning of the letter, the question of the Jewish believers in Rome was clear: ‘Paul, please explain, God has promised great things to Israel. Would he not save Israel with the coming of the Messiah?’ Paul has now given his answer. Only a small part of Israel has come to faith; that is how the Gospel could go to the nations. Now is the time for the non-Jewish followers of Jesus to preach the Gospel to the Jews.

This is what Paul discusses in Rom 11; Jews have been hardened; pagans come to faith, and must bring the Gospel to the Jews so that they will come to faith. Paul speaks of himself and his role, not of a distant end of times scenario.

In Rom 11:30-32 Paul repeats the same concept: Jews are hardened, but people from the nations have come to faith, so that they now proclaim the Gospel and Jews come to faith. Paul explicitly uses the word now: ‘so that now they receive mercy’. He is not speaking about a distant end of times, but about his own task, and the task of the congregation in Rome. Seeing this, it seems obvious that the words of Rom 11:26 must be read in this context. A part of Israel has been hardened, people form other nations come to faith, and they must now proclaim the Gospel to Israel. This is not eschatology, but missiology for Paul. He discusses the task of the Church.

Israel has been partially hardened, Paul says in Rom 11:26. That does not need further discussion. We have seen in the whole letter of Paul that this is a fact that he preaches. Most Jews have not accepted Jesus Christ as Lord. This partial hardening has to do with a mystery, says Paul: The plans of God have not gone wrong by Israel’s unbelief, but salvation could come to the nations in this manner. Many people there came to faith. The hardening of Israel is until the fullness of the nations has gone in. I have often heard it said that this refers to the total number of pagans coming to faith throughout the centuries. To me this seems completely unjustified, exactly because Paul places his whole discussion in the context of missiology (the testimony that must be given to Israel in his own time), not eschatology, as we have seen.

The concept of fullness of the nations occurs in the Old Testament in Genesis 48:19. Jacob blessed Ephraim with the words that his posterity would be a fullness of nations. In the LXX we read about this pleetos ethoon; Pasul uses the related words pleeroma toon ethnoon. Does Paul refer to these words of Jacob? That would fit very well in the context, because Paul makes clear in his whole letter that whosoever believes in Jesus Christ, whether he is Jewish or not, may consider himself posterity of Abraham.

‘When the fullness of nations goes in’ refers to the non-Jews who are coming to faith, and who thereby enter into the Kingdom of God. The concept of fullness does, in any case, not refer to all, just as the blessing of Jacob to Ephraim does not mean that Ephraim will be the forefather of all nations. In the immediate context, in Rom 11:11, the word fullness is also used in regard to Israel. There it refers to the opposite of the fall and unbelief of Israel. In this context the term has nothing to do with a complete number or something like that either.

‘Thus (Greek: houtoos) all Israel shall be saved.’ The word thus does not mean ‘after this’ or something like that. Paul is not defining a specific time, but the issue of cause and effect. Paul explains in what manner Israel can be saved.

‘All (Greek: pas) Israel’: In the whole letter, Paul always means numerical totality with this word ‘all’. We would be foolish to not interpret the word ‘all’ in the same manner in Rom 11:26. Paul has clarified in his letter that all who believe in Christ shall be saved. If the Jews in the Church in Rome wonder about the promises of God to save all Jews, the answer of Paul is clear. God does stick to his promises. In order for all Israel to be saved, all Jews have to believe in Jesus Christ. Paul does not give any guarantee in this verse that all of Israel will be saved; he explain in what manner all of Israel can be saved.

And that term ‘saved’, or ‘salvation’? Paul has said enough about this in his letter. I refer to Rom 8, where Paul clarifies what salvation means for all followers of Christ, both for Jews and for non-Jews. Never does Paul infer that there is a special route to salvation for Jews. God wants to show mercy to all people, including the Jews (Rom 11:31-32).

To the believers from the nations, mercy has been shown, and God wants to use them, to ensure that unbelieving Jews would now (now, that is, around 55-56 AD) find mercy. Paul quotes two verses form Isa 59:20 and Jer 31:33-34. It is instructive to look at those verses in their context. Isaiah says that the redeemer will come from Zion for those who convert from their transgressions. And Jeremiah says that God writes his laws in the hearts of those whose sins are forgiven. Paul has underlined in his whole letter that this is how God offers forgiveness: when people come to faith in Christ. There is no shortcut for anyone.

So we see that Paul, in regard to the question about salvation for Israel, answers with a task for the church in Rome. ‘Yes’, Paul says, ‘God wants all Israel to be saved. But in order for Israel to be saved, it has to accept the Gospel. There is no guarantee that all Jews will ever do so, but our task as a church is to present the Gospel to them. Only thus, in that manner, all Israel shall be saved. There is no other way.’

Friday, 5 June 2009

Romans 11:1-24

So did God reject his people of Israel? (Rom. 11:1) By no means, says Paul. It is important to wonder what the question ‘did God reject his people’ actually entailed. In order to find out, it is good to listen carefully to the answer of the apostle. How does he prove that God did not reject his people Israel?

1) By pointing to the fact that he was an Israelite himself (Rom. 11:1)
2) By showing that even in the Old Testament, when Elijah felt he was the only servant of God, there were 7000 other believers who refused to serve Baal (Rom 11:2-4)
3) By saying that ‘at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace’. (Rom 11:5-6)

The fact that God has not rejected his people, therefore, does not means that all Israelites become believers and shall be saved. Paul proves that the people are not rejected by pointing to the few Jews who follow Christ. I conclude from this, that the question Paul starts with, means in fact: Has God rejected all Israelites in such manner that they will not believe and be saved?
To this, Paul’s answer is: of course not. Look around. He is a Jew, and there are many other Israelites following Jesus Christ.

So how should we view the situation of the Israelites? ‘What then?’ (Rom 11:7)
What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened. (Rom 11:7)
In Romans 9:30-31 we already read that Israel was pursuing righteousness. Paul repeats the idea here. In spite of most Israelites earnestly seeking salvation, they have not attained it. Only the elect did. Those elect were also mentioned in Rom. 8:33. There it points to believers in Christ from Jews and gentiles.

‘The others were hardened’, Paul says of the Israelites who did not believe in Christ. We must see this in line with Rom 9:18, where Pharaoh is mentioned who was hardened so that God could make his name and power known over all the earth. For this same reason, most Israelites were hardened. Later more about this issue.

Paul first underlines that it was God’s decision to ensure that most Israelites did not believe in Christ:
God gave them a spirit of stupor, even so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day. (Rom. 11:8)

May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them. May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever. (Rom. 11:9-10)
Paul then ask whether God make Israel stumble in such a way that they could not get up anymore. (Rom. 11:11) The Israelites who were hardened by God and who did not believe in Christ, could they not come to faith anymore?

‘Not at all!’, is the clear answer of Paul. (Rom. 11:11)
Rather, because of their transgression (literally: fall), salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression (literally: fall) means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring! (Rom 11:11-12)
The Israelites in the time of the New Testament have had Christ crucified – and thereby they made the Gospel possible. And because the synagogues rejected the Gospel, they ensured that the Gospel was preached to the nations.

Their stumbling and fall – that is, the fact that they were lost without Christ – means riches for the world. That riches is that the nations heard the Gospel and many came to Christ, to become participants in all the promises of God. (Rom. 11:12) So:
…how much greater riches will their fullness bring! (Rom 11:12)
What do these words mean? Terms like ‘stumble, fall, loss’ must be seen as opposites of fullness (Gr: pleerooma) in this verse. If the fall and the loss of Israel are about the fact that a large part of Israel does not believe in Christ and is lost, then it is logical to assume to their fullness entails the fact that they do believe in Christ and are saved. The fullness is that they reach the goal that God has with them, namely, that they are followers of Christ through faith.

The world has been greatly blessed by the unbelief of Israel; how much more will the world be blessed when Jews come to faith in Christ. How is the world blessed by their unbelief? Because the Gospel was offered to the nations after most Israelites rejected it. If many Israelites come to faith in Christ, this will be even better for the world. Then the Gospel will be spread eve further.

We must not think of all Jews who come to faith, when we hear that word ‘fullness’; fullness is the opposite of being lost. That Paul does not expect all Israelites to come to faith, is clear from the following verse. Paul points the heathen believers in Rome to his own task. He hopes to
….somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them.(Rom. 11:14)
Paul places the issue of the unbelief of a great part of Israel not in an eschatological light, but in the light of his own mission in his time. He places the blindness of Israel to the Gospel in a part of salvation history that, in his opinion, is already past: the period in which God used the disobedience of Israel in order to implement God’s plans with the Messiah and in order to take the Gospel into the world of the other nations. As that had been accomplished, Paul now believes that the time has come to lead those Jews who had stumbled, into the fold of Christ.

In Rom. 11:15 Paul repeats what he had said in Rom. 11:12, but in other words:
For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
What is the meaning of those words ‘rejection’ and ‘acceptance’? I think we must see these in the light of God’s actions. Israelites who do not believe in Christ, are rejected by God. When those who initially did not belief in Christ, become believers, they will be accepted by God. Their belief will lead to more blessings for the nation, as it adds to the faith and witness to Jesus Christ.

Paul uses for this change of heart of these Jews the term ‘life from the dead’. To me, this seems to be a parallelism with the term ‘reconciliation of the world’ Paul had used in the same sentence. Because Israel rejected Christ, the Gospel could come to the nations. If Israel does accept Christ, this will even be better for those nations.

Paul then uses this imagery of the olive tree to say that Jewish branches (of Jews who do not follow Christ) have been broken of, while non-Jewish branches (of believing gentiles) have been grafted in. These non-Jewish branches were by nature part of a wrong tree. Paul uses this imagery to explain that it is natural to expect that Jews who come to faith in Christ, will be grafted in again. They are not rejected forever.

This means that believers from other nations must not look down on Jews who do not believe in Christ.

What are the branches? Paul makes clear that in his imagery, the branches are individual believers, followers of Jesus Christ. Jews who do not believe in Him are cut off from the tree and its root. Earlier in his letter Paul said that Jews who reject Christ, do not participate in the promises of God to Israel; the covenant is for them, but because of their unbelief they have no part in it.

What is the tree? The root? It seems not possible that the tree or the root point to the nation of Israel in the physical sense. If all Jews would be broken off, the tree would still be there. I think we should see the root and the tree as spiritual belonging to Abraham and his posterity, and the covental promises of God. Yes, those were made to Israel, but they are only effective for those who follow Christ, both for Jews and for gentiles.

But it is also clear that when people who physically descend from Israel, are being grafted into their own tree when they come to faith in Christ in a unique manner. Their conversion is a form of homecoming. They do not only find their Creator, but they are also linked to the roots of their own culture and family.

Consider this: Paul is writing this to believers in Rome in the context of his comment that as an apostle for the nations, he hopes that he is able to save some Jews. And about the grafting of Jews on the olive tree, he uses the conditional word ‘if’. See Rom 11:23:
And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
Paul is not predicting or promising the conversion of all of Israel. He is speaking about his own mission. He hopes that through his own labor among the nations, he will also see more Jews being grafted into the tree that is so natural to them – the relationship with God and all of his promises. Paul does not speak of an event thousands of year later, but about his mission work in his own time.

The Greek word for thus (Gr: houtoos) that we will see in Rom 11:26 (thus all Israel shall be saved) is used in Rom 11:5, where it is translated as ‘so too’. It means here: in the same manner.
The greek word for all (Gr: pas) as used in Rom 11:26 is not used in the first part of Rom 11.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Romans 10:1-21

Romans 10 begins with words that could just as well be seen as the end of Romans 9. Paul again speaks of his desire to see Jews saved, as he had also mentioned in Rom. 9:1-5. His heart desires and he prays for their salvation. This means, that they are not saved. This word, salvation, is the same word used in Rom. 11:26: ‘And so all Israel will be saved.’

Jews are zealous, Paul says, but in a wrong manner. They do not know the righteousness of God and try to establish their own. They do not submit to Gods righteousness. (Rom. 10:2-3)

In Rom. 10:4-8 Paul repeats his earlier words. Christ is the end (or: the goal) of the law. There is righteousness for anyone who believes. Moses stresses that those who do the whole law will live by doing so. (Rom 10:4-5) Paul has repeatedly made clear that no-one is able to do so.

Those who expect to be justified by faith, know they do not have to climb to heaven, or descend into the deep. Christ has come down from heaven, and rose from the dead. We do not have to struggle, because Christ did all for making us righteous. It is enough to believe with the heart and to confess that Jesus is Lord and that he rose from the dead: you will be saved!
For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Rom 10:10)
I think the words of this verse should be read as a parallelism. Those who believe and confess, received God’s righteousness and salvation. That is a command, and a promise as well. Those who want to be saved, must believe in Christ, but it is also that easy. You do not have to ascend to heaven or descend deep down: Christ already did so. He came from heaven – he is Lord. He come from the deep – he rose from the dead.

Paul underlines his Gospel with a quote from Psalm 25:3, something he had also said in Rom 9:33:
As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." (Rom. 10:11)
For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Rom. 10:12-13)
If it is true that those who call on him are saved, then the believers in Rome can only do one thing: proclaim the Gospel to their Jewish and non-Jewish neighbors. People will only call on him if they believe the Gospel, and they will only believe, if someone tells them. (Rom. 10:15)
But it is also clear that not all who hear the Gospel, listen and believe. This is nothing new; it was already clear in the Old Testament. Listen what Isaiah says of Israel:
All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.(Rom. 10:21)
Not all in Israel obeyed God, but among the gentile nations, some people would obey God, says Isaiah:
And Isaiah boldly says: "I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me." (Rom. 10:20)

Even Moses had already predicted that God would make his nation Israel jealous of those who, at that time, were not his people:
Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, "I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding." (Rom. 10:19)
The construction of Paul is clear. The Gospel is preached in the whole world, but only part of Israel believes, while among the other nations, people also come to faith in Christ.

The word for thus, so (Greek: houtoos) that occurs in Rom. 11:36 (so all Israel shall be saved), is found in Rom. 10:6. There we read: ‘But the righteousness that is by faith says (thus): "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven’?” I included the word thus, as that Greek word is used in this place.

The word all (Greek: pas) that occurs in Rom. 11:26 is also used in Rom. 10:4, ‘for everyone who believes.’ In Rom. 10:11-13 that same word occurs four times:
As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
In Rom. 10:16 it occurs again: But not all the Israelites accepted the good news
And in Rom. 10:18 also: Their voice has gone out into all the earth.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Romans 9:1-33

After the first 8 chapters of his letter, Paul must, in rather strong words, underline that he truly cares about his Jewish compatriots:
I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen. [Rom. 9:2-5]
The idea that Paul would want to be cut off from Christ for the sake of his brothers who do not follow Christ, underlines that it has dramatic consequences for Jews to not believe in Christ. In his first 8 chapters, Paul has worked this out carefully. Without Christ, all people, including Jews, are lost.

The little list that Paul gives (adoption as sons, etc) can therefore not be applicable to all Israelites. Naturally, they are attributes of the people of God, because God chose them, but they are not applicable to any Jew who is not attached to Christ.

So what about the promises of God? Had he not promised that with the coming of the Messiah, all Israel would be saved? Has God’s word failed? No, says Paul. The word of God has not changed, or failed, but it does need good exegesis. Paul explains:
For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham's children. On the contrary, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned."In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring. [Rom. 9:6-8]
The Greek word pas, used for all in ‘thus all Israel shall be saved’ occurs here in Romans 9:6 and 7. Paul says that not all who are offspring of Israel are truly Israel. And not all are to be considered Abraham’s children who are his physical descendants.

In previous chapters, Paul has discussed this issue, so he is not saying anything new here. In Rom 9:9-13 he explains it further by pointing to the fact that in the Old Testament God chose certain descendents of Jacob, not all. So: even in the Old Testament it was clear that not all physical posterity of the one who received the promise, enjoyed the covenantal blessings of God.

Is this unjust of God? This was very likely the argument of many Jews who heard Paul speak. But Paul does not consider God unjust, and point to the full right of God to be merciful to anyone he likes, or to harden the heart of anyone he chooses. [Rom 9:18]

To prove that God indeed chooses whom he likes, Paul uses an example from the most formative history in the nation of Israel – that is, the exodus from Egypt. God says to Moses: "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So, Paul says, it is not a matter of what someone wants or does, but of God’s compassion. [Rom. 9:15-16].

Pharaoh is an example of someone whose heart is hardened by God in order for God’s name to be become known on earth .[Rom. 9:17]

Later, in Rom. 11:29-32, Paul picks this thought up again. Looking at that verses, it seems clear to me that Paul uses the example of Moses and Pharaoh in Rom. 9:17-18 to show that when God hardens someone (or Israel), this is meant to make sure that the whole world gets to know Him. These verses, therefore, are not a general theological statement about election or predestination, but in the first place a discussion of a concrete moment in salvation history. That is also clear from the next words of Paul. Again he mentions that God is entitled to do as He pleases:
But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? [Rom. 9:20-21]
In the words ‘why did you make me like this (houtoos)’, we see the word that is later used in the text: ‘thus (houtoos) all Israel shall be saved.’ In Rom. 9:20 this means ‘thus, in this manner, in this way.’

In Romans 9:22-23 Paul says important things in complicated sentences. I will try to follow his argument:
1. God bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction
2. He was patient, even though He wanted to show his wrath and power
3. He was patient because He wanted to reveal the riches of his glory
4. He reveals this glory to the objects of his mercy
5. He has prepared these objects of his mercy to (participate in) this glory.

By speaking about wrath and objects of mercy, Paul continues with his metaphor of the potter and his pots. To understand what Paul is saying, we start with Rom. 9:24, where he speaks of the objects of mercy that he has prepared for glory:
[those are we], whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles.
This is the church of Christ. Paul shows that already Hosea had a vision for the fact that God would one day say to gentiles: you are my people, those while once you were not loved, now you are. Those who were not Gods people, will be called sons of the living God. These words of Hosea harmonize with Isaiah, who says that only a remnant from Israel will be saved. Not all Jews will be saved, says Paul here.

Back to Rom. 9:22-23. The objects of mercy are Jews and gentiles who follow Jesus Christ. The objects of wrath are the unbelievers from Israel and the nation. Paul says nothing that he did not discuss before in this letter! See for instance Rom. 1:18-2:4. Paul speaks there about the history of mankind; a history of rebellion against God. God has restrained his wrath because He has a plan to show his glory to those who would become followers of Christ.

In Rom. 1 and 2, where Paul speaks of the wrath of God and of these evil people, he never suggests that these people cannot convert and change their life; he calls them to faith and conversion.
The apostle then summarizes what he has said in previous chapters. People from the nations have found righteousness through faith, while Israel complete missed this grace of God, because it focused on so-called good works, not on faith. [Rom. 9:30-32]

Christ is the stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame. [Rom. 9:33]

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Intermediate Conclusion: Romans 1-8

Well, those were the first eight chapters of Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome. For me this was an interesting quest, to read these chapters with our question about the relation between Church and Israel at the heart. A few comments before I proceed.

1. I think I have followed Paul’s argument rather closely, even though I am also sure I missed some theological finesses, purposely or foolishly.

2. Paul’s discussion about law and faith was not, I am sure, held in a vacuum. The question must also have played a role among those Jews who did not follow Christ.

3. I have the impression that when Paul speaks about the law, he uses that term in its different meanings; sometimes he speaks of concrete moral rules, at other times about Scripture in general.

4. My presupposition that Paul wrote this letter mainly for discussing the relation between Church and Israel, seems confirmed by how easily all he says falls into this scheme. I do not have the feeling that I had to push Rom. 1-8 into a straightjacket to see this theme in all Paul wrote.

5. I think Paul wrote his theology about salvation in order to clarify his views on Church and Israel. This does not mean that Paul did not describe in detail what his actual views on salvation (including justification by faith) were; it only means that the issue about Church and Israel was a right reason for doing so.

6. Before proceeding to Rom. 9-11, I will hereunder describe my findings from Rom. 1-8. What Paul wrote in Rom. 9-11 about the relationship of Church and Israel logically follows what Paul said previously in Rom. 1-8, or it repeats it. In no case is it logical to assume that he contradicts in Rom. 9-11 what he has said in plain and equivocal terms in Rom. 1-8.
The gospel Paul preaches, is about the Jew Jesus Christ from the Jewish tribe of David; this gospel was promised by the Jewish prophets in their Jewish Scriptures. The Gospel, however, is not only for Jews, but for all people. God is partial; all people are equal before God.

The gospel is God’s power for salvation for all who believe, first for the Jew and for the non-Jews as well. All people are in need of salvation, as God’s wrath is also for all people, Jews and non-Jews. This is because all people are equal sinners. With many quotes from then Jewish Scriptures Paul says that all people are unrighteous, and that no-one seeks for God. This means, Jews and non-Jews are equally bad.

The fact that the Jews possess the law is an enormous advantage for them, because they know the will of God. But knowing that, and being circumcised, mean nothing for God, if it does not go together with obedience to the law.

If uncircumcised not-Jews keep the law, God sees them as if they are circumcised. And if a circumcised Jew who possesses the law does not follow the law, he will be judged by those form the nations who follow the law.

The real Israel are those from the Jewish nation who believe in Christ, together with the believers in Christ from the nations.

By trying to follow the law, no-one becomes righteous. God makes righteousness available for those who, separate from the law, believe in Christ. This is also how Abraham was justified: by faith, when he was not circumcised yet. Circumcision was a confirmation of his faith.

Paul explains that Abraham is a father of all believers in Christ from the nations, and for believers from Israel as well. In this way, Paul creates unity in the Church in Rome. In Abraham, Jews and non-Jews have a forefather in common by faith. Not Moses and the law unite the believers, but Abraham and his faith. Not Moses, but Abraham is the paradigm for Christians.

The promise to Abraham and his posterity that they would inherit the world was not related to the law but to the righteousness that is the result of faith. Faith and its related promises makes people heirs of the world; people who think that obedience to the law makes them heirs of the promises, are not heirs of the promise, is what Paul says. He says that such Jews are not part of God’s covenant promises.

Just as through one man, Adam, death entered the world, so through one man, Jesus Christ, justification entered the world. There is no difference between Jews or non-Jew. For all believers, whether born Jewish or not, the facts are the same: they were dead in sin, but in Christ they are free form sin. Their destiny is also the same: eternal life.

If Christ and his Spirit live in someone, he is able to please God. If someone is not connected to Christ in faith, he cannot please God, as he is in the flesh and he has the mind of enmity to God. Jews without Christ have this mind of enmity to God.

But for Jews and non-Jews in the Church in Rome the same is true:
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs— heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Abraham and his posterity inherit the world. When a Jew does not believe in Christ, he is not an heir. But: whoever is a child of God through faith, is an heir of the promises to Abraham, an heir of all the promises of God. And this inheritance is described as glorification in eternal life. Paul speaks in great words about this:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Whoever is in Christ Jesus, Jew or non-Jew, is connected to the love of God, without any difference. By nature, all miss the glory of God, but through faith in Christ, they are assured of being heirs of the world, and of participating in the glory of God. All who are in Christ through faith, Jews or non-Jews, have been predestined by God in eternity, to be heirs of the glory of God.

The heirs of the promise await God’s glory in eternity, honor, peace, being set free from this body of death. That is the salvation the gospel offers. The opposite of this is being lost. Connected with that is missing the glory of God, his wrath, the day of wrath, judgment.

Salvation is the gift of God for all who believe in Christ; the gift of eternity in the glory of God. The opposite, being lost, is the situation of all who do not believe: eternal judgment.

In Rom. 1-8 the word all, or everyone (Greek: pas) occurs regularly. This word, also occurring in the verse that says that thus all Israel shall be saved, means numerical totality, compleness, no-one is not included.

Finally, about the word thus (Greek: houtoos) that also occurs in this verse, see Rom. 1:15, 4:18, 5:12,15,18,21 and Rom. 6:4,11,19. It means that is why, thus, so, in this manner. It does not add to what goes before, but it is the conclusion of it.

8. Romans 8:1-39

The law could not help Israel, but those who were in Christ through faith, had been made free from the law that was related to sin and death (Rom. 8:1-2, compate 7:4). The law could not help the Jews, but Christ could (Rom. 8:3-4).

If Christ lives in us, than the Spirit of Christ lives in us, and then we are able to please God. If a person does not have the Spirit of God, he can not please God, because he is in the flesh and so he has a tendency of enmity to God. The mindset of the Spirit is life and peace. Those are terms that are closely related to the eschatological expectation of Israel in the Old Testament and at the time of Paul (Rom. 5:8-11).

Jews without Christ have the mindset of enmity to God, is what Paul says. And: if someone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to God, according to Paul in Rom. 8:9b. We can also say this more positive: Jews and people from any nation who believe in Christ, all have the same Spirit and serve God through that Spirit. For that one group of believes, irrespective of their national background, Paul has the great promise of Rom. 8:16-17. Together they will be saved as heirs of the Christian hope:
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs— heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Heirs? That is a term we saw earlier in this letter, in Rom. 4:13 about Abraham who was an heir of the world. And in Rom. 4:13, where we read that a Jew who does not believe in Christ, is not an heir.

Jews and people from the nations who believe in Christ, share in the one inheritance. There is no difference. Paul describes this inheritance as sharing in his glory. We saw same term related to his glory also in Rom. 2:7,10, 3:23, 5:2, and we will come across the word again in Rom. 8:17,21, and Rom. 9:4,23. The word is related to the glory of God, see Rom. 3:7 and 11:36. All these terms are based on the Greek word doxa, glory.

Then, Paul speaks in great words about this sharing in His glory; the believers look forward to this, Jews and people from the nations together. There is no difference. The suffering of this time is rather minor compared to the glory we all look forward to (Rom. 8:18). In Romans 8:23-24 Paul describes what this glory is that we look forward to:
… we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.
Interesting in the context of our research are the words of Paul in Rom. 8:28-30:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Look at this… again the word glorification at the end of this passage. Paul has previously (Rom. 8:17) used that word to describe the future of all believers in Christ. In the verses 28-38 Paul days that all people who love Him, whether Jews or others, are called according to God’s foreknowledge. Believers in Christ, irrespective of whether they are Jews or not, are destined to glory at the same moment – in eternity.

These verses contained many terms related to salvation. Rom. 8 is full of expectation of the future wellbeing of the believers, though the term salvation itself is not used.

In Rom 8:32 we find the Greek word that will also occur in Rom. 11:26 for all (Gr: pas). The word occurs twice in the verse:
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all (Gr: pas) — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things (Gr: pas)?
The term also occurred in Rom. 8:22, about all creation, and in Rom 8:28, all things. It will also occur in Rom:8:37, in all this. So the word refers to all, all things, everything. Nothing excluded. There is no difference in God’s eternal decisions as regard nationality. Each person who believes in Christ, is saved and awaits the same inheritance: glorification in eternity.

Finally, Paul describes in Rom. 8:31-39 that the believers are conquerers, in the midst of the problems they suffer from. It this context he quotes Psalm 44:23. That Psalm is absolutely only about the suffering of the nation of Israel. Paul applies this on the Church of Jews and people from all nations:
For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.
But Paul and the Church in Rome are not depressed by this. He says in Rom. 8:37-39:
Maar Paulus en de gemeente in Rome laten zich daardoor niet neerdrukken. Hij zegt in Rom. 8:37-39:
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Whoever is in Christ Jesus, Jew or non-Jew, is connected to the love of God, without any difference. By nature, all miss the glory of God, but through faith in Christ, they are assured of being heirs of the world, and of participating in the glory of God.

7. Roman 7:1-25

Rom. 7 is a difficult chapter that has generated much theological debate. Is Paul talking about his own spiritual life as a Christian, or is this about his life in his pre-Christian days? I will try to read this chapter in the manner of the previous chapters, that is with my focus on the question how Paul treats the issue of the relationship between Jews and non-Jews in the Church in Rome.
Paul speaks to the Jewish believers in the Church – those who know the law. He shows them that because they died with Christ, they are also dead for the law, in order to be owned by Christ and to live for Him (Rom. 7:1,4).

Being owned by Christ – that is a term that is related to salvation. This is related to the concept that the law no longer owns them, but that they live in a new state of the Spirit (Rom. 7:4,6).

Paul makes a comparison with marriage; as long as both partners are alive, divorce and remarriage are taboo. However, if one of the two partners has died, the remaining one is free to remarry. So Paul says to the Jews in the Church in Rome, that they, by the body of Christ (who died), have died with Him for the law, to become possession of Christ who rose from the dead. The comparison with baptism is continued here from Rom. 6. The believer rose with Christ from death, in order to bear fruit for God (Rom. 7:4). Bearing fruit refers to seeds that die in the earth, in order to rise to a new life and bear fruit.

This is a radical comparison. A Jew, who used to be connected to the law, is by his death with Christ no longer connected with the law, but with Christ. For law-abiding Jews who were not Christians, this was a horrendous statement. A Jew who is dead for the law but alive for Christ? In Rom. 7:5-6 Paul continues with such radical language.
For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
The we that Paul uses here can only refer to Jewish believers, because a) Paul began with this in Rom 7:1, but also b) because believers from the nations did not have to be released from the law. They had never been under the law of Israel.

Consider this for a moment. What is Paul saying about Judaism without Christ? Just like all other people, they had sinful passions, but the impact of the law was that these passions were even stronger. The result was that these people were fruitful unto death. They were captives of the law.

Again the logical question is asked: so is the law wrong? No. Certainly not. The law revealed what sin is, because without the law, sin is dead, Paul says in Rom. 7:8. Paul cannot mean this is in an absolute sense; earlier in this letter he showed that even before the law existed, people were sinners and died because of this. And just a few verses before, he said that the law aroused the existent sinful passions. Paul probably wants to say that the law sealed God’s verdict of death.

In Rom. 7:9 Paul says that he first lived without the law, but that when the law came, sin sprang to life and he died. The very commandment that was supposed to bring life, made him die. This proved the powerful nature of sin.

When Paul says that he lived without the law, what period in his life does he refer to? Maybe to the time before he became a Pharisee? I can also imagine that Paul in these verses puts himself in the place of Israel as a nation. Earlier in his letter he spoke about the time before Moses, when Israel did not have the law yet; then the law was added. For Israel this did not lead to a closer relationship with God, but to a greater awareness of sin. It even aroused sinful nature.

Man proves his wickedness because he sins more after the coming of the holy and good law, according to Paul (Rom 7:12).

Fine. So Paul, you say that the good law became my death? No, is the answer. The law is not the problem; man is the problem. Paul says in Rom. 7:14-16:
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.
The fact that Paul uses the I-form here does not show that he spoke of his own Christian life. He is explaining what it means to be a slave to sin, and he has earlier, for instance in Rom. 6:6, made very clear that Christians are no longer slaves to sin.

Paul speaks here about non-Christians, and with Rom 7:1 in view, it is reasonable to think that he speaks mostly about Jews who do not follow Christ. He does this in the context of the question of Jews in the Church who wrestle with the question of how the law and adherence to the law relate to the Christian life, and what believers from the nations must do with these laws.
Paul continues: even though law-abiding non-Christian Jews try to do what is good, sin is always present. They are prisoners of sin (Rom. 7:23). On behalf of this non-Christians part of Judaism, Paul then cries out, in Rom. 7:24:
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!
In Rom. 7:25 Paul finalizes his words about non-Christian Judaism with:
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
In Rom. 8 Paul explains that those who believe in Christ, have been set free from the law of sin. That is a good reason to think that in Rom. 7, Paul does not speak of his own life, but about his pre-Christian life of trying to be law-abiding. And by describing this, he also describes the status of all of Israel without Christ.

The Greek words pas (all) and houtoos (thus) did not occur in this chapter.