The Privileges of Israel

They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.”

- Romans 9:4-5

Having expressed his love for his kinsmen who have rejected the Messiah (Rom. 9:1-3), Paul identifies in today’s passage these kinsmen as his fellow Israelites, and he lists several privileges that they enjoy. All this is done as he explains why so many Jews in the first century had not received Jesus as their Lord and argues that the Israelites’ rejection of God’s salvation does not mean His rejection of Israel. The great blessings listed in today’s passage emphasize Paul’s latter point. If the Lord has granted such good things to Israel, surely He will not reject His chosen nation—at least not all of its members.

The Apostle enumerates eight blessings. First he mentions “adoption” (v. 4). As we will see tomorrow, this does not mean that the Lord adopted every physical descendant of Abraham for all time into the blessings of eternal salvation. Nevertheless, Scripture refers to the nation of Israel as the son of God, and does so ultimately with the view to Christ Jesus as the true Israel and, therefore, the true Son of God (Hos. 11:1; Matt. 2:13-15).

Second on Paul’s list of Israel’s privileges is “the glory” (Rom. 9:4). The Apostle refers here to the Lord’s special presence with Israel. God by His glory filled the tabernacle and temple of Israel, not the sanctuaries of any other nation (Ex. 40:34-38; 2 Chron. 7:1-3).

Another of Israel’s privileges is “the covenants” (Rom. 9:4). Since the Apostle is speaking of the Jewish people, he means the specific covenants given only to the Israelites—the covenants with Abraham, Moses, and David. While these covenants would have ramifications for all nations, before Christ’s advent the blessings of the covenants were mostly limited to the Israelites. This gave Israel a great advantage over the Gentiles, who as strangers to these covenants had “no hope” and were “without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12).

After the covenants, we read that Israel enjoys “the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises” (Rom. 9:4). All of these blessings, along with “the patriarchs” (v. 5), are related to the covenants. The commandments, sacrifices, divine oaths, and so forth point finally to our sin and the means by which we are reconciled to God.

The eighth and last blessing is Jesus, who is from Israel “according to the flesh” (v. 5). Here we have an unmistakable reference to the incarnation of the Son of God, for Jesus is identified with the “God over all.” God the Son took to Himself a true human nature, which was ethnically Israelite, in order to save us from sin.

Coram Deo

Throughout the rest of Romans 9-11, Paul will explain that Israel has not been rejected but enlarged so that God’s chosen nation now includes everyone who believes in Christ, Jew and Gentile alike. Thus, if we have faith in Jesus, the blessings of adoption, glory, covenants, the law, worship, promises, patriarchs, and Christ are all ours as well. Let us live in gratitude for these gifts and never fail to appreciate how much the Lord has given us.

Passages for Further Study

Exodus 4:22
Psalm 89:19-37
Ezekiel 43:1-4
Romans 15:8

We Recommend

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to www.ligonier.org.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343