I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,…
These verses open up to us the great problem discussed in the three following chapters, "the rejection of the elect people" (Godet). God had chosen his people; he now repudiates them. And as the apostle in the previous chapter has been transported into an ecstasy of exultation in contemplating the final victory of God's true people, he is now brought back to sorrow and pain of heart by a thought of the contrasted lot of Israel. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" he had asked. But they have not known this love! He could well-nigh wish himself deprived of these high blessings that his people might possess them. For they are his beloved brethren, and the new spiritual endowments on his part do but intensify the claims of natural affinity. But in themselves, who are they, this people? In vers. 4 and 5 he sets forth their lofty claims; and we have in this shining catalogue - their ancestry; their dignities; and their boon to the world.
I. THEIR ANCESTRY. "Whose are the fathers;" "Who are Israelites." Nations pride themselves most on the heroes of their history, and they delight to trace their descent from men of renown. How is it with this nation? They are sprung from the patriarchs, of more than heroic fame. Abraham, God's friend, the man of whom in his communings with God amidst the corruptions of the world it might be said, "His soul was like a star, and dwelt apart;" Isaac, the quiet, meditative man, whose deeds made no blaze of excitement among men, but with whom was "the secret of the Lord;" and Jacob, whose day rose so murky and dark, but whose sunset was of the most glorious - so mean, yet afterwards so strong; a supplanter and deceiver among men, who yet became a prince of God, one around whom the heavens opened, and whom God touched : - these were the fathers of the race! They, then, themselves were Israelites, princely ones with God.
II. THEIR DIGNITIES.
1. The adoption. According to God's message to Pharaoh (Exodus 4:22), "Israel is my son, even my firstborn." God is dealing with nationalities as with individual men, and in calling the nations to himself he summons Israel as the firstfruits from among the peoples.
2. The glory. To Jacob in his dream the glory of the opened heavens had appeared; the Israelites in their journeyings were led by a cloud that from its dark depths shot radiance; the same glory, as of God, shone in the Shechinah of the holiest place. Theirs was this symbol of an ever-present Deity.
3. The covenants. How many times had God said to the patriarchs, "Surely blessing I will bless thee"! And these covenants were perpetuated in the abiding covenant with the chosen people.
4. The giving of the Law. Having adopted them as his firstborn son, and shown them his glory, and made with them a covenant, he had trained them, in fatherly wisdom, by the Law, which was designed to be their schoolmaster in all high and holy things.
5. The service. And trained in righteousness, they were trained likewise in godliness - priests of the most high God.
6. The promises. They were emphatically a people of hope; their whole history pointed towards better things to come.
III. THEIR BOON TO THE WORLD. "Of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen." "The patriarchs, from whom the people sprang, are as it were its root; the Messiah, who sprang from the people, is as it were its flower" (Godet). But let us notice two antitheses.
1. "Of whom is Christ. This people was called and trained that it might give birth, humanly, to the world's Deliverer. A high calling! But though from them, he is not to be their exclusive possession: Over all? From them springs the world's Christ. Oh that they had known their high destiny! why it was that they were a nation of priests!
2. "As concerning the flesh. Humanly his origin was from them. Not a Jew, but a true, perfect Man, fashioned from Jewish human nature. All tender human sympathies of soul, as well as faculties of human body, were his to link him to his brethren among men. But in him, the Man, was an inhabitation, an incarnation of the Divine: God blessed for ever. Oh, wondrous truth! Here was the truest Shechinah, tabernacling in the world and for the world! the Word made flesh"! Here the truest fulfilment of Israel's dream - the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on man. Such the world's heritage: God is ours! But this inheritance the ancient Israelites have given to the world. May he not well grieve that they have despised their own boon? And may he not well set himself to grapple with the problem - How can such an elect people be rejected of God? - T.F.L.
Parallel VersesKJV: I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,