Mal Couch, Ph.D., Th.D.
The Church Is Not Israel
As Paul was writing this Roman epistle he had no thought of seeing the church becoming a new Israel. Israel is (present tense) still Israel. And while they sinned and rejected their Savior, God is not through with them, nor has He canceled the promises made to the Jewish fathers!
who are Israelites [to] whom presently the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the law and the worship and the promises … (9:4) (Couch, Greek Translation)
9:4 The designation Israelite (Israeelitees) is used ten times in the New Testament, and the word always means a Jewish person by birth. The church is never called Israel nor are individual believing Gentiles said now to be a "new Israel." Paul uses the Present Indicative of the "to be" verb eimi. The Jews right now, presently, constitute the Jewish people, the nation of Israel! The church has not replaced Israel! To reinforce this idea the apostle also used the Present Active Participle (on) of eimi ( whom, who). The Present Participle carries the thought: "It is characteristic of the Jews presently that all of these promises, qualities, and gifts continue." God is not done with them as a people! To the Jewish people, as a nation, certain promises and qualities remain. They are still here now. Even during this present church age, these "glories" have not gone away, even though the Jewish people are in rebellion and in unbelief as regard to Christ as their Savior and King!
Vine says on who are Israelites: "This is the national name, including all the descendants of Jacob." (p. 394) It does not refer to the church! Only foolish allegorists, preterists, Covenant guys, believe that God has gone back on His Word concerning Israel!
The adoption as sons is actually two Greek words put together: uios=son, thesia=placement. To adopt then is to position one as a son who was not previously. God began His sovereign work with the Jewish people by calling Abram out from Ur (Gen. 11:31-12:3). The Lord designated him and his descendants as His own special earthly race. Abraham was a Semite. God isolated him and his family for His own special purposes! The Lord repeated the promises to Abraham in Genesis 15, 17. To Abraham’s physical seed He said: "I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God" (17:8). Again, God emphasized: "Thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant" (v. 13). Here the Lord was speaking of the Jewish circumcision rite that would remain as a constant symbol that all His promises would constitute "My covenant" to Abraham’s children after him "throughout their generations" (v. 9). The sonship for the Jews is mentioned many times in the Old Testament (Exod. 4:22-23; Deut. 14:1-2; Mal. 1:6).
The glory (doxa) refers to the fact that God has placed His own stamp of glory upon the Jewish people. His glory appeared at Sinai (Exod. 24:22-23) and it filled the Tabernacle (40:34-38). While the Jews have been imperfect and rebellious they still belong to Him. He has made promises and those promises will not be cancelled, abrogated, turned into mush, and somehow strangely now applied to the church!
The covenants (diathakai) would be the Abrahamic, the eternal promises to Israel, the three mini-covenants: Land, Seed, Blessing). These covenants really form the driving force of God’s dealing with the Jewish people. The covenants
refers to the promises made by God at various times to the patriarchs, that, e.g., originally given to Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3), and confirmed in a vision (Gen. 15:18), and again by the birth of Isaac (Gen. 21), and by Divine oath (Gen. 22:15-18). (Vine, p. 394)
The giving of the law is actually one word that is made up of two words: nomos=law, thesia=placing, giving of. This is a reference to the Mosaic (the Law with its 613 commandments). This would not have to do with any of the false, manufactured Reformed Covenants of Works and of Grace. The Reformed guys admit that these are not explicit in the Bible, but to them, they say they are implied—though on one can really find them! The Mosaic/Law covenant gave Israel a morality and spirituality that no other nation had. It was never meant as a why of salvation though later generations wrongly took it that way.
The service is actually the Greek word latreia, referring to the entire body of worship given to Israel in order that they might know and love God properly. The nations of the world practiced false worship, or distorted praise to the deities that were meaningless. This service has to do with the worship of the Tabernacle and the Temple—the only legitimate worship in the dispensation of the Law in the world. (Nicoll, p. 657)
The promises for Israel would refer to the coming of the Messiah and His literal earthly messianic reign in Zion. It would also include personal salvation and a promise of resurrection from the dead. There are promises to Israel and promises to the church saints. Some of them may be similar but many may also be distinct.
to whom the fathers, and from out of whom the Christ (the Anointed) according to the flesh, of whom over all, God blessed into the ages, amen! (9:5) (Couch, Greek Translation)The fathers were those to whom the promises were repeated over and over—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Paul will make it clear in 11:28-29 that those promises still stand. In God’s election the Jews are presently still "beloved" in His sight because He made promises to the fathers of Israel (v. 28). Therefore, "the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable" (v. 29), meaning God is not through with the Jews—His promises of the land and the messianic kingdom will come to pass!
The Lord Jesus Christ of course comes through Israel in the sense of His earthly birth. He was the eternal God the Son, the second person of the Trinity, who invaded earth in a human body (though without sin) in order to become a part of humanity. According to the flesh "is solid proof that the promises of God were not made to the Chinese, the Arabs, the Swedes, or anyone but the Jews." (Kroll, p. 155) The expression according to the flesh is an accusative of general reference, "as to the according to the flesh." Paul limits the descent of Jesus from the Jews to His human side as he did in 1:3-on. (A. T. Robertson, p. 381)
There are differences of opinion as to whether Paul is referring to Christ as blessed by God "into the ages," or if this is a reference to God the Father Himself being blessed forever. The early church applied the clause to Christ saying that He is indeed God the Son who is blessed forever. "A clear statement about [Christ’s] humanity. This is the natural and the obvious way of punctuating the sentence." (A. T. Robertson, p. 381)