I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.(Romans 9:1-5)
The epistle to the Romans is often said to be the perfect rendering of the gospel, because the epistle wasn’t written to correct a specific heresy as many of the others were. I have always believed this to be true and have stated it many times, but now I have been shown that I was wrong on that point.
Romans is indeed the best and most complete rendering of the workings of the gospel that I know of in scripture. But the epistle was written to address an error that had crept into the church in Rome, and which would eventually make its way into almost all of the churches.
That error is called “Replacement Theology”, the false teaching that the church of Jesus Christ is the new Israel of God, and that other than coming into the church as individuals, God has no ultimate plan for the physical children of Israel.
In New Testament history, the Roman church underwent several phases. The church can be traced back to Pentecost itself, when Romans were among the Jewish pilgrims in Jerusalem, who heard Peter preach the gospel. The earliest Roman church was almost entirely Jewish, ask virtually all other churches were.
As the revelation came to the apostles, that Gentiles could have a share in the gospel of eternal life, the Roman church began to convert and disciple Gentiles. Thus the second phase of the Roman church was Jewish, with Gentile converts.
Then in 49 AD, Claudius the Emperor expelled all Jews from Rome, which would include the Messianic Jews as well as the others. The book of Acts makes mention of this as well as the Roman historian Seutonius,
After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them.(Acts 18:1-2)
Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome. (Seutonius)
Notice that the secular record of the expulsion of the Jews by Claudius, came because of the instigation over a figure named “Chrestus”. Could this be a corruption of the name Christ?
Thus the third phase of the Roman Church would be as an entirely gentile congregation. The church thrived, reaching hundreds of former pagans. Its development in those years, was Gentile. An explanation developed as to why the Jews were absented, which became the heresy.
Five years later, the new Emperor Nero allowed for the Jews to return to Rome. This began the fourth phase of the Roman church, which by then was predominantly Gentile with a smattering of returned Jews.
Paul had to write this letter to teach the predominantly Gentile Roman church the place of Israel in the heart of God, and in the church. He took 8 chapters to make the case that the gospel is equally applicable to Gentile and Jew, setting up the three chapters which teach the true place of Israel.
Replacement theology in the church eventually leads to the unthinkable, anti-Semitism. The very things Paul warned us of in Romans 9-11 are happening to the church today.
Consider that the once evangelical Presbyterian Church (USA) has been meeting with “Palestinian” Christians to rewrite the Bible, removing references to Israel and the Jews! This madness is the end of a long process of denominational denunciations of Israel, divestment campaigns, and boycotts.
One heresy leads to another, for evil has a tendency to snowball and compound.
Consider that the Roman Church which began almost entirely Jewish in outlook and leadership, morphed into the oftentimes antisemitic church of the Popes, indulgences, and of countless other abominations over the centuries, primarily field by the belief that the church is the new Israel and that God is through with the Jews as a people.
Remember that it was Roman Catholicism which first forced Jews in Europe into Ghettos and made them wear yellow stars to identify them as Jews.
By contrast behold the heart of Paul, “the apostle to the gentiles” for His own natural people, Israel. His greatest prayer and desire for the Jews was that they might be saved. He is speaking by the Holy spirit, and there is no hyperbole here; Paul is constantly burdened for their salvation, and if he could, he would gladly be accursed in their place.
Two others have said the same thing and meant it, Moses and Jesus. At the height of the golden calf incident, when Israel proved herself so faithless, Moses plead for them, that He might be “blotted out of God’s book” of life in their place.
But only Jesus could truly offer himself as a substitute for Israel, and he has done so, being accursed for God, for their sake that Israel might be saved. The Father and the Son love Israel, and still have a plan for her. Only by seeing this and acknowledging it, can one even begin to know what is happening these days .
This is why we must go through Romans 9-10-11.