by Alan Burns

WHAT a sharp change there is in the language which marks the transition from the eighth chapter! In the close of the eighth he has been viewing the procession of his enemies as they march before him all conquered and chained. His faith has spread its wings in mighty affirmations of triumph; he has soared aloft and cleft the heavens themselves, borne on the swelling fullness of love divine. Learning in chapters one to three of man's brazen iniquities and flagrant sins we may have cried, "What can separate us from the wrath of the Creator, God?" But, now, that the conciliation has been unveiled and God's magic potency in Christ revealed, the shudder of fear has been changed to the shout of victory, and the query of dread to the ringing challenge of Paul's own utterance "Who can separate us from the love of God?"

At the climax of his ecstasy a thought of Israel flashes in upon him, and his heart experiences a stab of mortal pain as he realizes that his nation is not a sharer of his joy. He had progressed to the eighth chapter of his epistle, but Israel had not even reached its third. So Paul's flight heavenward ceases for the time, and in sympathy to his brethren he wings his way downward to engage himself with the subject of Israel in relation to the purpose of God.

Because of the character of Paul's gospel to the Gentiles, which seemed, to say the least, to make little of the priority which belonged to Israel; and also because of the dispensational function which he had to perform in pronouncing excommunication upon his people, Paul's patriotism could easily be challenged by a fault-finding Jew. Paul was the official hangman of the nation, and it is ever true that "nobody loves the hangman." Indeed, those who hated Paul and his gospel might have insinuated that his love to the Gentile was but the other side of his hatred to the Jew. Paul now avers his patriotism in the words "my kinsmen," "my brethren," and not only that but avows his willingness to become a second Moses for his nation, "accursed from Christ" if even that would save them.

In passing we would draw the reader's attention to the peculiar tense used in connection with Paul's heroic longing. It seems to be what we can only describe as a "discontinued desire." But why discontinued? Why "WAS wishing?" Was he a hero no longer? Had the flame of his love for Israel been extinguished? the answer is not difficult to find; but we will not point out where it may be discovered, or in what it consists, just now. Suffice it to say that something had brought his "wishing" to a close. That "something" must have been either a decrease in his love, or an increase in his knowledge.

Israel was a rich nation, and Paul proceeds to enumerate their wealth. On the other hand Israel was a poor nation, for its wealth consisted of checks that had never been cashed. They possessed a mine that they had never developed; a treasury on which they had never drawn. But let us display the riches of Israel as they are here enumerated by Paul:


(a) The Sonship;
     (b) The Glory;
          (c) The Covenants;
               (d) The Law - Moral - Government;
               (d) The Rites - Ceremonial - Priesthood;
          (c) The Promises;
     (b) The Fathers;
(a) The Son - the Messiah.

(Verses 4 and 5).

Paul had started down in the valley of pain to recount all that God had bestowed upon His nation, and he climbs up rung by rung until he comes to the climax of all - the birth of Messiah - and now it is as if he had reached the ladder's topmost rung, and peeping into heaven itself his pain vanishes in blissful delight and he bursts into a doxology "God over all, blessed for the ages."

How had Israel re-acted to these divine gifts? How had the Jewish people received these favors? As tokens of grace? Not at all, but as divine recognition of their own worth! "We thank thee we are not as other men," was the burden of the boasts they dared call "prayers." They had not received these privileges as gifts but as wages. God was in debt to them rather than that they owed Him anything. They earned what they got. This is the damnable attitude back of such expressions as "God chose Israel because it was a spiritual nation; it was not a spiritual nation because He chose it." Any man-made theology that makes God play second-fiddle to man is a devilish insult to the God of Holy Writ.

Israel's false attitude and lack of spiritual understanding concerning all these gifts is most plainly shown in their attitude and activity toward the eighth and crowning item in Paul's statement. How they treated Him is a clue as to how they treated them. Israel mocked the law long, long before they mocked the Lord. The promises were trampled in the mud before ever they hurried the Messiah to the cross. Was it not through Him that the "adoption" became real? Was it not the receiving of Him that conferred authority to become sons of God? Was He not the glory of all the glories connected with the nation? As to "the law" was He not the fulfillment of it? As to "government" was He not King? And if it was "the rites," was He not Sacrifice and Priest? In Him, too, "the promises" were yea and amen! And if Israel had been given "the fathers" was not Messiah's day the vision which brought joy to Abraham's heart? And a cross was Israel's answer to it all! "Spiritual nation?" what driveling, insane nonsense.

But what does this clause in the ninth verse, "According to the flesh" mean? Why is there such a change from the language "whose are" to "from whom" with its added qualifications? Israel did not produce Christ. He was not the product of natural, or national evolution. That is the truth that Paul would etch, or engrave, upon the memories of his "brethren." He was God-produced. Thus is sounded the first golden note in the glorious symphony of God's sovereign grace. It was God did it, not Israel. Israel could produce its Herods, and its Judases, and all the other poisonous human fungi and toadstools that grow so naturally in the swamps of separate humanity, but it needed a God to produce a Christ.

The production of a Paul was a work no less divine, and the Apostle has already recognized this fact in his allusion to Israel, his brethren and kinsmen, but only "according to the flesh." Israel could produce a Saul, but it took God to change his character as well as his name. And God did.

When will men realize that separate from God, "free" as they say, they can only rot and rot and rot? As the hand severed from the arm can only corrupt, but when "bound" in the organic unity of the body it retains its liberty and health, so must man be laid hold of by the sovereign God and "bound" in order that He may be made free as a bond-slave of Jesus Christ. Man's sovereignty is sin: God's sovereignty is salvation. Man's sovereignty is his slavery.

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