Thursday, December 18, 2003

The Jews and the Gospel

Has the Jewish Age ended? As I read Paul's words in Romans 9 - 11, I have to conclude that the answer is, "No."

This is essay #6 in this series. To start at the beginning click here.

Here is how Paul begins chapter 11:

I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! 

For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? "Lord, they have killed Your prophets, they have torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life." 

But what is the divine response to him? "I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." 

In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice. (Romans 11:1-5)

As I read this, the Lord has not rejected His  people. Paul makes it clear that he is speaking of physical descent here for he says, "I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin." He underscores being physically a Jew by invoking 3 physical lines of descent. So, "has God rejected His people?" Has the Jewish Age ended? "May it never be."

Paul looks back at another time when much of Israel was in apostasy. Elijah witnessed a great falling away to the point where he thought that he was alone. But God told him that there was a remnant that carried on. Even though many had killed the prophets, God had not abandoned His people. God had chosen a remnant. By extension, even though many had been involved in the death of the Son, God had not abandoned His people, but had preserved a remnant. Paul looks at the divine response to Elijah and claims that it is the same response that God has for the current situation.

Paul continue to connect his argument to the foundation that he laid in Romans 9. God had said, "I have kept for myself" and Paul concludes that the remnant is "according to God's gracious choice."

Is it that Paul does not realize the because they have now killed the Son and not the servants, that we should draw a distinction? What are we to make of this parable?

And He began to tell the people this parable: "A man planted a vineyard and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey for a long time . At the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, so that they would give him some of the produce of the vineyard; but the vine-growers beat him and sent him away empty-handed. And he proceeded to send another slave; and they beat him also and treated him shamefully and sent him away empty-handed. And he proceeded to send a third; and this one also they wounded and cast out. 

"The owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.' 

"But when the vine-growers saw him, they reasoned with one another, saying, 'This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance will be ours.' So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 

What, then, will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others." 

When they heard it, they said, "May it never be!" 

But Jesus looked at them and said, " What then is this that is written : 'The stone which the builders rejected, This became the chief corner stone'?  Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust." (Luke 20:9-18)

The issue, I would surmise, is the identity of the vine growers. Are they the Jews or their leaders? Is it the Jews as a class or those Jews who reject only? I would say that Paul's words, and I have not finished with all that he has yet to say, prohibits understanding Jesus' parable as saying that God gives His vineyard to the Gentiles. Both Jesus and Paul talk of the stone that the builder's rejected. Jesus leaves the nature of the stone ambiguous, but Paul identifies the stone as righteousness by faith rather than Law.

Tomorrow, I will continue.

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>


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