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The Pinnacle of Paul’s Roman Temple

By Elmer A. Josephson, RIPelmermugnew.jpg (15124 bytes)

"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33)

The greatest literary accomplishment of Paul’s life was the writing of the book of Romans. It sets forth "the gospel of God," clearly and in more detail than any other N.T. writings. The zenith of this book is chapter 9,10 and 11 which deals almost exclusively with Israel in her world role as God’s key to redemption. We have space here only to touch on the highlights of these towering passages.

The apostle begins by putting himself under a multiple oath: (1) "I speak the truth (2) in Christ; (3) I lie not, (4) my conscience also bearing me witness (5) in the Holy Spirit, that I have great grief and pain in my heart, for I could wish that myself were accursed [It is not the Greek word, ep-ee-kal-oop-to meaning "unto eternal destruction", but it is the word, anathama, which means excommunication – not from relationship but from the fellowship and blessing of Messiah] for my brethren, my kinsmen . . . ." (Romans 9:1-3).

Dizzying Spiritual Heights

All spiritual blessing we ex-Gentiles enjoy belong to Israel. Let us dissect verses 4 & 5. Paul, by divine inspiration, wrote of his kinsmen, "who are Israelites, to whom belongs [present tense, now, as much as ever] the adoption [as a nation, i.e., the House of Israel and Judah] the glory [the Shekinah, the Spirit of God which indwells believers, that accompanied and led Israel through the wilderness, the Ner Tamid – eternal light – now symbolized over the Ark containing the Torah scrolls in Jewish houses of worship today] the covenants [both the "old" and "new"] the law [upon which all God-fearing civilized societies have been founded and which is now written upon the hearts of believers – Heb. 8:10; 10:16] the service of God, [as God said to Moses, ‘Ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests’ – God’s governmental order – Exo. 19:6; Rev. 1:6] and the promises [all 32,000 were given to Abraham’s seed and vouchsafed to us through Christ] whose are the fathers [Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc., the world’s spiritual parents] and of whom concerning the flesh Christ came [made of the seed of David according to the flesh – Rom. 1:3] who is over all, God blessed forever" –- the divine revelation of God, "for verily he took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham" (Hebrews 2:16).

V. 6, "Not as though the Word of God has taken none effect [It is as unchanging as the law of gravity] for they are not all Israel which are of Israel: [A mixed multitude came out of Egypt and many Gentiles have joined themselves to Israel through the centuries.]

V. 7, "Neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children, [i.e., not Ishmael through Hagar and the 12 princes he begot, nor the 6 sons of Keturah whom Abraham married after the death of Sarah] but in Isaac shall thy seed be called" - that is, the natural and spiritual posterity of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and Jacob’s sons’ families, etc.

V. 8, "That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God [Ishmael and the sons of Keturah were born of the natural strength of Abraham’s loins] but the children of the promises are counted for the seed." Speaking of the seed of Isaac whose birth was supernatural because of "the deadness of Sarah’s womb." God alone could and did fulfill the promise.

V. 9, "For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come and Sarah shall have a son." But the posterity does not stop there as we read in:

V. 10, "And not only this but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac" - continuing the family tree, the election of the children of Israel even before birth.

V. 11, "(for the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of him that calleth;)

V. 12, "It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger." This is the very antithesis to the law of inheritance.

V. 13, "As it is written, Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated." Immediately the unspiritual natural mind shifts into rebellion against the Almighty for using His sovereign prerogative in choosing one family (Jacob-Israel) to the rejection of another, though it be for the purpose of blessing all nations of earth.

While I was pastor at Leavenworth, Kansas, a young married couple of my church asked me to go with them to the orphans’ home at Atchison, 25 miles north, to assist them in adopting a son. They were under no obligation to choose one above another, nor under condemnation if they chose none. But they did makes a choice, not the most handsome or strongest. So with God: He has chosen a family "not for thy righteousness or uprightness of heart" (Deut. 9:5), for the grand purpose of blessing all the world through them . . . God’s ultimate purpose in all things.

Dazzling Eye-Blinding Truth

Continuing on in Romans 9, verse 14, "What shall we say then? is there unrighteousness with God? [choosing Jacob\Israel and rejecting Esau] God forbid."

Here, as related in other places in the Scriptures, God’s sovereignty shines through with such dazzling bright and powerful light, it all but puts out our intellectual eyes. We can only see this by the help of God’s Spirit, for "the natural man [who lives and reasons only according to the natural intellect] receives not the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them because they [the Scriptures] are spiritually discerned" (I Cor. 2:14). As oil and water repel each other, so do man’s nature and God’s Spirit, unless there be a divine intervention.

Many who claim to live and think in the realm of the Spirit still endeavor to explain God’s sovereign power and acts on the basis of man’s limited reasoning, such as interpreting election and predestination on the basis of God’s foreknowledge. In the realm of man’s intellect, God’s sovereignty and man’s free will are two parallel lines that never cross in this world. Man’s finite mind can never reconcile them. Through Spirit-born faith we can rest completely in God’s sovereign will, knowing that He is God over every condition and circumstance, and as mature individuals and as free moral agents, accept full responsibility for our acts and deeds.

In the matter of eternal salvation, of which the call of Israel is a model, let us continue in Romans 9:

V. 16, "So then, it is not of him that wills [that has a strong desire and great determination] nor of him that runs [that puts forth great physical effort] but of God that shows mercy."

No man of God ever had a tougher assignment than Jeremiah, and of God’s sovereignty he writes, Who is he that speaks and it comes to pass when the LORD commands it not? - if He has not ordained it (Lam. 3:37). The Jewish Wisdom of the Fathers’ speaks on the subject of Providence: "If God does not approve, a fly won’t make a move."

If ancient Israel during the time of their enslavement in Egypt had been asked, "Who is your worst enemy?" they would have replied, "Pharaoh. If we could be rid of him, we would have a very good life in Egypt." However, the Almighty had a different view and plan. He declared,

V. 17, "Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up [speaking to Pharaoh] that I might show my power in thee and that my Name might be declared throughout all the earth.

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Max Wein and Chris Josephson. Holocaust survivor, Max Wein (now of Miami, Florida) was second on Schindler's List.

V. 18, "Therefore has He mercy on whom He will have mercy and whom He will He hardens." Let us remember the Pharaohs and Hamans when we are tempted to fly into the teeth of someone He has hardened.

Parenthetically: The Name of the Lord has been declared throughout all the earth by the Jewish people the past 3500, as they annually celebrate the Passover, their deliverance from Egyptian bondage, which is a type of world-wide redemption. When Yahshuah (Jesus) sat down to partake of the Passover with his disciples, he instituted a memorial symbolic of His sacrifice. And so true Christian believers around the world also declare His Name, through the ordinance of the "Lord’s Supper", throughout the earth, i.e., deliverance from pagan bondage and sin. The Redeemer ‘our Passover was sacrificed for us’ (I Cor. 5:7).

V. 19, "Thou wilt say then unto me, Why does He yet find fault? For who has resisted His will?" In other words, why then does God judge those who rebel against Him? Paul goes on to say in:

V. 20, "Nay, but O man, who art thou that replies against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why have thou made me thus?" As children, we trust our earthly parents’ decisions, why not our heavenly Father’s?

V. 21, "Has not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump [Adam] to make one vessel [descendant] unto honor and another unto dishonor?

V. 22, "What if God, willing to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much long suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction?" As C. H. Spurgeon queried, ‘Are we to envy the ox being fattened for the slaughter?’

V. 23, "And that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had before prepared unto glory." The Almighty reserves the right to exhibit His redemptive mercy in chosen people.

V. 24, "... whom He has called, not only of Jews but also of nations" [as it reads in the Greek]. Let us be eternally grateful if He has tendered our hearts to His love and grace.

When once we grasp God’s sovereignty in simple child-like faith, it will forever settle most other questions and bring deep solid peace of mind that resists all frustration, whatever the conditions and circumstances of life may be. Therefore, it would be logical to assume that all the satanic forces of heaven and earth would set themselves against this truth that is the true "key of wisdom and knowledge." -