The opening paragraph of Romans 9 lists the extraordinary privileges and advantages of the Jews, God’s ancient people. In the words of Paul, they have been given “the adoption as sons…the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship… the promises [and]…the patriarchs.” But to this extraordinary list of privileges Paul now adds the greatest privilege of all, namely, that they are those through whom the Redeemer of the human race has come. “…from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.”
This is a very striking statement. For Paul is not only saying that the Messiah was born of Israel, that is, that He was a Jew. He is also saying that this Jewish Messiah, born of Israel according to the flesh, is, in fact, God. And he is saying it in a stark language. If we substitute the name Jesus for Christ, which we can do, since Paul is obviously writing about Jesus, we have the statement: “Jesus, who is God over all, forever praised!” Or, to simplify it even further, “Jesus…is God over all.” The sentence means that Jesus is Himself the only and most high God.
Yet this is not all the passage teaches. It actually contains four very important teachings, including Jesus’ deity. (1) The humanity of Jesus. The first heresy in church history was the denial of the true humanity of Christ. It was called docetism, from the Greek word dokeo, which means “to seem.” It taught that Jesus only “seemed” to be a man. There is none of this in the New Testament. For here in Romans 9:5, as in other passages, the biblical writers are united in their insistence that Jesus was a true human being, a descendant of Abraham according to the flesh. This has a number of important implications, for it means that God not only fully understands but has also Himself likewise experienced all that we experience as human beings. The doctrine of Christ’s humanity is of great importance for us if we are to live a victorious Christian life.
(2) The deity of Jesus. As I said, the earliest heresy in the history of the church was the denial of Christ’s humanity. But today the case is the exact opposite. Few would deny His humanity since to our way of thinking Jesus was obviously a man, even an exemplary man. Instead there are strong, numerous, and popular attempts to deny His deity. Countless numbers of our contemporaries regard Jesus as having been nothing but a man. Far more is lost with this denial than in denying Christ’s humanity. What is lost is the value of His atonement for sin, for no mere man, however good, would be able to pay the infinite price required for our redemption. The combination of Christ’s humanity and deity, and the reason for it, makes Calvary the very center of the Christian faith. It is the reason the Son of God came to earth. There is no gospel without it.
(3) The supremacy of Jesus. But Jesus didn’t only die, humbling Himself for our salvation. He also rose again and has now ascended to heaven, where He is honored as God, having being given the name that is above every name (Phil. 2:8-11). If Jesus Christ is Lord, as these passages say He is, the supremacy of Christ described in Romans 9:5 (“who is God over all”) includes His rule over us, who are His people, and we are not His people if we fail to submit to that rule. There is a great deal of bad thinking and even error in this area at this present time. It has become customary in some places to think of Christianity as a two-stage commitment. In the first stage we come to Jesus as Savior, simply believing on Him as the one who died for sin. In the second we come to Him as Lord, thereby becoming serious about our Christianity and about being Christ’s disciples. But nothing like this is found in the New Testament. On the contrary, to become a Christian is to become a disciple and vise versa. Submitting to Christ’s lordship is the very essence of true faith, or Christianity.
(4) The rightness of praising Jesus. The fourth doctrine taught in Romans 9:5 is the rightness of praising Jesus, for the text reads, “Christ, who is God over all, forever praised!” It raises two questions: “Do we praise Him?” and “Do we praise Him as we should?” The answer to the second question is obviously no, for no mere human or earthly words can be adequate for praising Christ properly. Yet we should do it, knowing that it will be our privilege, joy, and glory to praise Jesus Christ in heaven forever. The angels are doing it (Rev. 5:12). According to Revelation, one day we are going to join with them (Rev. 5:13). So let’s do it now! Let us praise our Savior, who is God over all, as best we know how – live for Him until He comes again.
There is one last thought as we return to the paragraph in Romans from which our text is taken (Rom. 9:1-5). We have seen that Paul is expressing sorrow over the fact that the ancient nation of Israel had as a whole rejected Jesus and that, in that context, the ascription of deity to Jesus is appropriate as conveying the full tragedy of the Jews’ rejection. It’s bad enough that the nation should have missed the full value of the other privileges listed: the adoption, the divine glory, the covenants, the law, the temple worship, the promises, and the patriarchs. But it’s a tragedy beyond description that they should have rejected Jesus as the Messiah whom God had promised. Yet we also need to say more. However tragic the Jews’ rejection of Jesus may have been (and is), the rejection of Jesus by others, both Jews and Gentiles, is equally tragic today, perhaps even more so, since the gospel has been so widely proclaimed and been so amply defended in the many centuries of subsequent church history.
It would be especially tragic is you yourself should reject Him, either forcefully (“I will not have this man to rule over me”) or by neglect (“Speak to me about it again, some other time”). If you are doing either of those two things, how can we who know Jesus have anything other than “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” in our hearts for you? To reject our words is nothing, but to reject Him is a loss of cosmic proportions. So we say, “Do not reject Him. Believe on Him. God is making His appeal through us as we say with Paul, “Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20) and remind you that “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (v. 21). That is the gospel. Do not allow the opportunity to respond to that wonderful message pass you by.
Romans 9:5 Reflection Questions:
What is the cause of Paul’s emotions in verses 1-5?
Why is Paul so upset about the Jews’ lack of response to the gospel?
Paul seems to be searching for possible explanations for this troubling problem. What are some of the solutions he explores?