11 June, 2017

Romans 9:4-5—“… who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises”

I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. (Rom. 9:1–5)

In verse 4 of Romans 9, Paul says that the Israelites who rejected Christ and died in unbelief were nevertheless recipients of many external privileges (i.e. ‘adoption,’ ‘glory,’ the ‘covenants,’ the ‘giving of the law,’ the ‘service of God,’ and the ‘promises’ etc.). These external privileges are often interpreted to be ‘blessings’ of God and tokens of His favour, mercy and grace towards these individuals—and consequently evidence of a “common grace” upon the reprobate. 

The assumption is that every individual Israelite is said to have been a recipient of God’s “promise.” It is then further assumed that since not all Israelites were saved, and yet were recipients of God’s “promise,” the promise therefore must have been conditional.


Rev. Matthew Winzer

[Source: “Murray on the Free Offer: A Review,” in The Blue Banner, vol. 9, issues 10-12 (October/December 2000)]

The apostle to the Gentiles informs us that to the Israelites belong “the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises” (Rom. 9:4). His purpose was to assure his readers that the failure of certain individual Israelites does not mean that “the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel” (verse 6). Divine inspiration here teaches an infallible rule for interpreting both the Old Testament promises to Israel and the divine expression of desire that those promises be fulfilled. It is that these promises were made to Israel corporately, not individually. They were made to Israel as elect, as Paul’s subsequent teaching on election and reprobation demonstrates. So that the one in whom these promises are not fulfilled cannot be regarded as belonging to the true Israel, for “the children of the promise are counted for the seed” (verse 8). Thus, the divine expression of desire for His commandments to be obeyed and for His promises to come to fruition is not an unfulfilled desire at all. For God undertakes on behalf of elect Israel to put His laws into their minds and to write them in their hearts, so that the promise to be their God and to bless them as His people comes to fruition (Heb. 8:10)

[Note: M. Winzer is speaking of what is known as the “organic” concept (“Israel corporately, not individually”).



Rev. Daniel Kleyn

The way to understand that is as its true still today. Those who grow up in the church definitely have greater ‘privileges.’ As with those who grow up in the church, so also was it true with those whom Paul was talking about in Romans 9—they grew up in an environment where the word of God was there. They received all those things externally. They were part of an environment where there was the preaching, the sacraments, the Old Testament sacrifices, and the feasts, and they are all included and involved in all that. And though they received those things, it was not grace to them, because if they are not elect it is actually greater condemnation.

This reminds us of the word of Christ where He said it would be “more tolerable” for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for Tyre and Sidon (Matt. 10:15)—because Sodom and Gomorrah did not have Christ walking through those cities, performing miracles and preaching to that city. They did not have as many opportunities and privileges such as hearing the gospel and seeing the gospel as the cities did when Christ was on earth. And because of that, Christ says “Woe” to them (Matt. 11:20-24)—judgment is going to be greater for cities which Christ went through during His earthly ministry than it would be for Sodom and Gomorrah. So, its not “grace.” There will still be condemnation and even greater condemnation because of all those privileges that they had as those who grew up in the church.

And that is true still today. If there are those who grow up in Christian homes and families, who grow up in the church, who grow up in a faithful church and yet in years to come they reject it and abandon it, and they live a thoroughly worldly and ungodly life, God is going to hold them more accountable than some who had never had all those privileges.

That’s really the point of Romans 9: Because they had all these things and yet rejected that wealth, it’s not grace which God showed to them, but it will serve as a greater condemnation. What Paul in Romans 9 is really asking in bringing up all those things is “Why, even though they had all those things, did they not believe? They grew up in the church, they had the sacrifices, they had the ceremonies, they had the preaching of the word of God, they learned the things of God from childhood up, they were involved, they had parents that taught them … and yet they did not believe.” And then he said there were others that did believe; he gave examples in the lives of Jacob and Esau—two boys in the same family. They both grew up and were taught by the same parents the same things. One believed and the other did not believe. Why? Why was that? And with Abraham, we’re told in verse 7 that they had an Ishmael who was an unbelieving child and an Isaac who was a believing child. All of that is leading up to the discussion in Romans 9 about election and reprobation. Election is the explanation why some believe, and reprobation is the explanation of why some did not believe. So that is why he brings that up. Someone will take that and use it as proof for common grace, but it’s not. Because they’re not believing, in spite of all those external privileges that they had, it will all add to their condemnation.



More to come (DV)

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