Israel's unbelief 9:30-10:4


Paul has argued that not all Jews are part of God's true Israel. Just because a person is a descendent of Abraham does not necessarily make them a child of God. Now, in 9:30-10:21, Paul explains why it is that most Jews have failed to appropriate God's promises to Abraham, now realized in Jesus Christ. The reason is simple, most of Paul's fellow countrymen have used obedience to the law of Moses as the means of improving their standing before God, when, of course, a person's standing before God has always depended on God's mercy appropriated through faith.

The passage

v30-31. "What do we now draw from all this?" How is it that those who never had the law of Moses and so had no reason to pursue covenant membership, end up members, blessed by God's saving mercy, while Jews, who have the law and live it to the full, end up missing out?

v32a. Paul's fellow Jews lost their favored position before God because they pursued it through law-obedience rather than faith. Israel used the law as a mechanism for advancing their spiritual life, assuming that law-obedience secured an obligation from God.

v32b-33. The purpose of the law is to lead us to rest on the faithfulness of God, to rest on his promised mercy. By failing to understand the true purpose of the law, Israel ultimately stumbled over God's mercy realized in Christ. Their legalistic handling of the law blinded them to Christ and thus guaranteed their condemnation before God. Many in Israel may have been offended by Christ, yet those who believe will "never be put to shame."

10:1. Paul declares his love for his fellows Jews and so prays that they may be saved.

v2-3. There is no question as to the enthusiasm the Jews have in their service to the living God. Yet, their religious zeal lacks knowledge. They have no understanding of God's freely-available saving righteousness and end up trying to secure their own self-deserving before God. So, as a consequence, they have failed to access God's free mercy in Christ.

v4. Israel thought that the purpose of the law was sanctification, to which end they were zealous, but the purpose of the law is to expose sin and so drive the sinner to God for mercy, which mercy is found in Christ. Christ is the end-purpose of the law, not zealous self-improvement. The law points us away from ourselves toward the one who is the source of God's saving mercy, which salvation is for everyone who believes.

A saving knowledge

I was involved recently in a discussion over the essential elements of the gospel. What information is necessary for a person to savingly respond to the gospel? What information must we know to enable us to believe and be saved?

My colleague, who is actually an evangelist, believes it is essential for a person to know that they are a sinner and thus separated from God, and to understand the atoning work of Christ to rectify this problem. So, when he preaches the gospel he focuses on the cross. Given the increasing influence of Eastern religions on Western culture, there is weight to his argument. Sin is not an issue in Eastern religions. In Eastern religions the issue is balance, harmony. Getting ourselves back into balance, into spiritual harmony, is the way to gain union with the divine. So, obviously it is important to establish human loss before the Creator, to make it clear that "there is none righteous, no not one", and so reinforce the truth that a person's standing before God cannot rest on an effort of the will, but on the redemptive work of Christ.

None-the-less, I still believe that Christology (the person of Christ) lies at the centre of gospel proclamation. Israel had failed to understand the true character of God. They did not know him as the merciful one, and therefore they did not recognize Christ as the source of God's grace. They just submitted to the law as if obedience secured brownie-points for blessing and so were blind to God's free grace in Christ. What Israel needed was to understand the uniqueness of Christ.

Our gracious, kind, living Lord freely offers the gift of life to all who ask. Eternal life belongs to those who recognize this truth, and act on it.


"Christ is the end of the law". What does this mean? Discuss.

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