Arminian Today

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Romans 9:4-5

This is part of a series of posts that I began on Romans 9.  You can find the first post here.

Romans 9:4-5 reads,

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.

Dr. Vic Reasoner correctly states that these two verses may be marked, “Israel’s Privilege and Presumption.”  He points out that Paul gives us eight advantages of the Jews in this text.

  1. Adoption
  2. The Glory
  3. The Covenants
  4. The Giving of the Law
  5. Worship
  6. Promises
  7. The Patriarchs
  8. From their flesh, Christ, who is God over all

However, nowhere in the Old Testament are individual Jews called “sons of God.”  It is obvious from reading these eight advantages then that Paul does not have individual Jews in mind but a corporate body in mind.  While John Piper sees salvation (unconditional election) in Romans 9:1-5, I do not.  I see God’s choosing of a people, the Jews, and Paul is about to discuss the faithfulness of God as it relates to His promises that He gave to the children of Israel.

Furthermore, it must be pointed out that, as Dr. Reasoner does in his commentary on Romans, that Israel lost all these advantages.  If we are to find individual salvation in Romans 9:1-5, why not also teach that a believer can lose their advantages as a believer?  This would obviously go against the doctrine of perseverance of the saints and thus would be denied.  However, the fact that Israel lost their advantages shows that the Israel’s election was not unconditional.  God clearly says in the Old Testament that Israel must not rebel against Him.  Deuteronomy 4:23-24 reads,

23 Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the Lord your God has forbidden you. 24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

Deuteronomy 8:11-20 is also clear about Israel not forsaking the Lord God:

11 “Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15 who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. 17 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ 18 You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. 19 And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. 20 Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God.

Israel must not forsake the Lord lest He forsake them.  It was clear that His covenant with Israel was not unconditional but was conditional.  Israel would be His chosen people if they followed Him.  If Israel rejected the covenant of God, He would forsake them.

The point of this, by Paul the Apostle, is to show that God was faithful to His promises and to all eight of the advantages that Paul gave in Romans 9:4-5.  It was Israel, as they often did in the Old Testament as well, who failed God.  Paul is wanting to show the Jews that their election was conditional and not unconditional lest the Jews would say that they are the chosen people of God by virtue of birth.  They would claim their salvation by their ethnicity and Paul is going to show (as he has shown in Romans 1-8) that salvation is based on faith in the Lord Jesus, the Messiah of God, and through Him alone.  This condition must be met or one is not a part of the true people of God.

One last note about Romans 9:4-5.  Does Romans 9:5 teach that Jesus is God?  John Fletcher, the esteemed theologian friend of John Wesley, wrote that Paul masterfully is able to place both the humanity and deity of Christ in the same passage!  In Titus 2:13 Paul calls Jesus God.  Here in Romans 9:5 Paul calls Jesus God as well.  In fact, Fletcher points out that Paul doesn’t simply say that Jesus is “with God” but that He “is God.”  Just as in Revelation 5:13, Paul is praising the Lord Jesus who is God over all.  Jesus is above all (Colossians 1:15-20) and He created all (Hebrews 1:1-3).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/05/2014 at 10:49 AM

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