Saturday, April 20, 2013

Everyone Who Calls (part 2)

Not only were there many in Israel that were expecting their messiah to accomplish the overthrow of the subjecting Romans, but many of those that harbored that expectation also expected that the messiah, with the sovereign power of the covenant God of Israel at his back, would subjugate all nations (Gentiles) to them as the covenant people.  For many (though not all), this was a zealously held position.  However, it would turn out that this was not at all in line with the revealed truth (using Paul’s language) that the Creator God intended to bring all nations, both Jew and Gentile, into a single covenant family under the rule of His Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. 

As Jesus would come to demonstrate, the creation and construction of this worldwide family (a global empire) was not going to be accomplished through a zealous taking up of arms, but rather, through a laying down of nationalistic claims and aspirations, and the embracing of an entirely different kingdom ethic. 

The Apostle Paul cuts right across all of these Jew versus Gentile issues, getting directly to the heart of the matter when he writes, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).  That’s it!  This salvation, which must be understood in accordance with and according to Israel’s covenant narrative, was for Jew and Gentile alike.  Salvation, as understood by the covenant people, was not to be the exclusive domain of Israel alone. 

Restricting considerations to this letter to Rome, it can be insisted this was “the word of faith” (10:8) that Paul said was his singular message, and this can be demonstrated to be true, as effectively, verse nine outlines the message of the Gospel (Jesus is Lord).  Belief in this Gospel, as ridiculous as the claim may be in light of the crucifixion (which would indicate the failure of a messiah figure) and a supposed resurrection (it was a well known and readily accepted fact that people do not simply come back from the dead), and submission to its strange power that would serve to make it possible to order one’s life according to the Creator God’s purposes, was that which would graft (to use terminology from chapter nine) an individual into the grouping of the Creator God’s covenant people, and allow that person to experience the blessings associated with being a member of the covenant people (as addressed to Abraham, as outlined in Israel’s historical narrative, as expounded upon by Jesus Himself, and as would have been understood at the time by Paul). 

The next verse follows in the same vein, as Paul goes on to write: “For ignoring the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking instead to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to God’s righteousness” (10:3).  Paul says that they ignored the covenant God’s righteousness.  That is, they ignored their God’s covenant faithfulness to His oft-stated desire to draw all nations to worship Him because of and as a result of the knowledge of Him and the light of His glory that they would be able to see and experience in and through His people Israel.  Rather, Paul insists, they sought to establish themselves as the separate and autonomous people of their own separate God, setting up strict and un-breachable boundaries of covenant markers such as circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, and food-laws, that would serve to identify them as the Creator God’s chosen people, and therefore as the exclusive recipients of the benefits to be had from allegiance to Him.

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