by Philip Layton
Paul explains God’s sovereignty in bringing the gospel to the Gentiles
- The New International Version of the Bible has footnotes suggesting other ways of phrasing verse 5. What is the difference between them and why do you think the translators preferred to write it in this way?
- Do you know people, groups or churches who rely more on ‘good works’ to be saved rather than faith in Jesus (vv 30-33)?
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Going Deeper From 'Words of Life'
‘The Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works’ (vv 30-32).
Paul appears to put on kid gloves when he introduces the subject of this chapter. He does not want to offend his readers but intends to present the truth as he sees it, nevertheless. He points out that his message has the confirmation of his own conscience together with the approval of the Holy Spirit.
Paul then lists the privileges of the people of Israel. They are God’s adopted children who had experienced the splendour of the divine presence. They had covenants with God, the Law, the temple worship, the promises of God, the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who loved his people and was ready to die for them (vv 4-5).
Paul then comes to the point: ‘Not all who are descended from Israel are Israel’ (v 6). The people of Israel are God’s children not because of their lineage or their works but because of their faith and trust in God. The Gentiles would be judged by the same measure (v 30).
Paul recalls words of the prophet Hosea: ‘“I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one”’ (v 25). Not everyone would be pleased with the generous way in which God handled the Gentiles, but Paul says: ‘God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy’ (v 18). Who are we to criticise God?
There are Christians who find their God too generous with their brothers and sisters. Here is a reminder to us all that it is not respect for a system, or careful following of self-made rules, or good works, or the retaining of some tradition, or loyalty to a particular denomination that assures our status as ‘children of God’. ‘It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy’ (v 16). After that it is a matter of faith in God and obedience to the leadings of the Holy Spirit.
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