21 April 2016

Romans 9:1-5

“I am speaking the truth in Christ ...” (v. 1)

Psalm: Psalm 74:13-23


Today's passage brings a sudden change of tone from that which has gone before as Paul, having jubilantly proclaimed that nothing "will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:39), begins a section that deals with the question of Israel's failure and unbelief. We discover a Paul who is full of deep and genuine grief for Israel, and who would give his own life, if he could, in order to save them. Paul is at pains to stress his sincerity, his concern flowing from his belief and relationship in and through Jesus. The words "in Christ" are thought, here, to indicate someone who takes their relationship with Christ seriously and through whom Christ acts. Paul's anguish over Israel flows from his love and commitment to Christ.

Whilst Paul understands that the Israelites are currently outside of God's salvation through Christ, he also believes that God has not yet finished relating to them. After all, God has had a special relationship with the Israelites over a long period of time. Verses 4 and 5 describe the divine favour that has been shown across the years, and indicate the faithfulness of God to these particular people. We might wonder, then, whether Paul's concern is not just pastoral but theological. What of God's past promises now that a new relationship is possible through Christ? Will God still be faithful to a people who do not recognise what has been accomplished in Jesus? Paul understands that God will always be faithful (Romans 9:6-29), and despite the unfaithfulness of the Israelites and their rejection of Christ (Romans 9:30 - 10:21), God will never reject them and has not forgotten them (Romans 11). God's love and faithfulness is not really in doubt.

To Ponder

  • Are there people whom you care about who you worry might not have the assurance of God's salvation? Take some time to offer them, and your concerns, to God in prayer.
  • In what ways are you able to witness to the faithfulness of God?

Bible notes author

The Revd Nicola Price-Tebbutt

Nicola Price-Tebbutt is a presbyter in the Methodist Church. She has previously served in circuit in Sheffield and as a tutor at Hartley Victoria College in Manchester.