Who are we that love the Lord? Let’s talk about it tonight on Deeper Waters.
This is another one of those blogs where I’d just like to share my thoughts on a topic I’ve been pondering and get some feedback on it. One of my favorite passages in Scripture that is most assuring to me is when I get to Romans 8 where we are told that all things work together for good to them that love the Lord.
As I thought about it one night, I started wondering just how it is that Paul knew this truth. It seems simple to us, but what was there behind it? I started asking the question about who those are who love the Lord and then remembered that if I was reading Romans, chapter 9 immediately starts off with talk about Israel.
What if all those who love the Lord are what Paul wishes to call Israel?
Let’s consider how the book begins. It starts with the first chapter about how the gospel is for the Jew first and also for the Greek. Keep in mind that in Rome at the time, it is quite likely that the Jews had just returned from being exiled out by the emperor and Paul was dealing with some who were thinking “We already have a church. We’re Gentiles. What about them?” There could have been some strong anti-Semitism going on here.
How does he begin? He begins by talking about how the Gentiles went away from God. Those Gentiles who are Christians should literally thank God because their past is not too pretty. Polytheism, idolatry, and homosexuality would have been abundant in the ancient world. The first was a theistic error. The second was a specifically religious sin. The final would tear apart the very family unit.
Okay. The Jews are liking this. Not so fast! Chapter 2 shows Paul doesn’t let them off the hook. They’re not exactly saints. In some ways, they’re worse because they have the Law and they have the covenant promise of circumcision and even while having the Law, sometimes the Gentiles are doing better than they are. Also, they have the commands straight from God and they still violate them!
Romans 3 begins then with what is the advantage in being a Jew? First, they have the very oracles of God. Notice that Paul says first. There is a second, but he never explicitly mentions it. Instead, he gets on his first point with the idea of “How does this help us with righteousness?” He shows that all are equally condemned and that salvation cannot come through the Law. Well how are we to be saved then?
For that, we bring in exhibit A, Abraham, the friend of God. If it worked for Abraham, it works for everyone. Paul makes a master argument establishing that the righteousness Abraham was credited with was granted to him before the covenant of circumcision was given! Thus, one can be righteous and be uncircumcised since Abraham was! Abraham was instead declared righteous by faith!
The next chapter is our response and how God reached out to us and why it was necessary. We have peace with God that Adam ruined for us. Christ was the perfect representative of the human race and he was what Adam had been meant to be. Adam had reached out for equality with God and lost it. Jesus willingly did not consider his equality something to be grasped, and thus it was truly declared of Him in His earthly life.
If this is all true, and we are all covered, why not sin anyway? We have grace! It has been said if you are ministering and people do not hear a message of antinomianism sometime, you really haven’t touched on grace. Of course, Christians are not anti-Law. Paul wasn’t. They are pro righteousness however and holy living exists apart from the Law. Romans 6 is about how we left a lifestyle behind that would have given us a death sentence. Let us not serve it any more!
Then comes Romans 7 where we hear about the futility of righteousness by the Law. Some have said in Romans 7 Paul is talking about himself. I’m skeptical of that claim. Others have said it is about Adam, but as I have thought about it, what if it was really Israel he had in mind? Now follow me with this to chapter 8.
Chapter 8 is about forgiveness, but also how all of this extends to the restoration of creation. He then gives us the verses this blog is about, but notice he speaks about those who God called. If Paul has been talking about the benefit of being a Jew throughout this, who would he have in mind? Who was it that was called in the Old Testament? It was Israel. Those who love the Lord are Israel!
Have I thought it through the rest of the way? No. That is still being pondered, but I do notice that Romans 9:1 is the first time in the book that Paul uses the word “Israel.” Until then, he has been just saying “Jews.” Could it be that Paul is not wanting to say that because someone is a Jew, they are automatically Israel? Could it be that Paul is wanting to widen the categories so that Gentiles can be truly Israel and this could help explain the “All Israel shall be saved” verse? Is it that those who truly love God and are the “remnant” are the true Israel and the Gentiles in Rome should in fact be friendly to the Jews because these Jewish believers are true Israel?
This is an exciting idea I think and I am going to be pondering it further, but for now I wanted to get the idea out there. All things work for us who love the Lord perhaps we are all now the Israel of God. The promises given to them apply to us and their past is ours. Keep in mind Paul does speak to a church with several Gentiles in 1 Corinthians 10 but at the same time says “Our forefathers passed through the Sea.” Has the gospel broken down the barrier between Jew and Gentile so much that a Gentile can be considered Israel?
Just something to think about.