A Fresh Look at Romans-Chapter 9
Romans Chapter 9
While Paul is writing this important letter to the church in Rome some things rest heavily on his mind. They come from his own past and present experiences, from his knowledge of the Old Testament and from what he sees happening in the time in the Roman Empire and in the Christian community. As someone who grew up in the Jewish Faith, he is painfully aware of how the Jews and himself in particular, had failed to understand God’s message delivered by Moses and the Prophets. When Jesus came to fulfil the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament, the decline in the Jewish religion had reached so deep that they failed to understand what Jesus came to deliver. The religious leaders in Judea and specifically in Jerusalem, had departed so far from what God wanted for them that they were in fact worshipping in vain. Jesus is recorded as telling them that in vain did they worship God, teaching the traditions of men rather that the truth from God (Matthew 15:8, 9). God’s truth had not touched their hearts.
So the question then arises; did God fail in what he intended? The question must also have rested heavily on the hearts of those who had grown up under the Jewish system of laws and regulations. This was not a new situation as it also existed in previous ages. Malachi, several hundred years before Jesus, wrote: “And now this admonishment is for you O priests, ‘If you do not listen and if you do not set your hearts to honour me and my name’, says the Lord Almighty, ‘I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings’,” Malachi 2:1, 2 (NIV translation).
So steeped in a tradition of living under the law, and also the traditions of the elders, it was really hard for the Christians from the Jewish back ground to really feel free from those laws. In Jeremiah 31:31 the prophet spoke about a new dispensation that would free people from the restrictive conditions of the Mosaic Law. So then when Paul brings the message that the law cannot bring salvation, only Jesus Christ can, it was a difficult concept for them to understand. Even today religious leaders are inclined to make Christianity a situation where laws and regulations dictate, rather than changed hearts.
The problem actually was not with the law as such, it was with those who abused it and used it to control the religious population to suit their own ends. That was why Jesus drove the money changers out of the Temple because they had turned the Jewish religion into something it was never meant to be.
One of the difficulties with understanding what Paul is saying in this chapter and also in other places in this magnificent book, is that he makes statements at times that have to be understood in the context of the bigger picture rather than isolating them and trying to build a doctrine around them. So it is a good time to look at the outline of Romans again. In the first 3 chapters Paul is showing us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. In the next three chapters he presents the new life that Jesus came to deliver. Now he introduces the life in the Spirit and explains what the Jewish system was meant to provide and why it failed. He will then explain what being and living as a Christian means in a practical way in a life.
In short the Law failed because, as in every age, people rejected truth from God and replaced it with human greed and lies to suit themselves. Should we then blame God for the failure? Paul argues no! God put a perfect plan into place from the beginning and yet only a small percentage of people have heard the truth and taken it to heart. Paul quotes Isaiah as writing that only a small remnant of Israel will be saved (Romans 9:27). What he then is saying in this chapter is that we should avoid questioning God and in fact blaming Him for our situation. We should rather listen to the message of love and grace and let it change our minds and our hearts to discover God’s will for us. In today’s “Christian” world many seem to be making the same mistake as was evident throughout the ages, “I will use God to feather my own bed” is the sad message of the Prosperity Gospel. On the flip side there are those religious organizations which control their people by manmade teachings, rules and regulations that keep the leaders in power.
Scriptures : taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 By The International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.