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A VERBAL TRANSFIGURATION, ROMANS 9:1-5
Romans has wonderful coverage of so much in the doctrine of Christ, so systematised without having system swallow up the reality and impact, that it is like a stalwart soldier, ever ready, frequently relevant to matters of the very core.
Not only so, it has passages of enormous appeal, and in Romans 9:1-5, it has a woven rhetoric which does not spare eloquence, and a sharpness which like the points of multiple spires, soaring to the joy of the beholder, in its wonderful artistry, which is to be seen clearly as it penetrates not only the sky, but the skyline.
Consider the flying buttresses of the grammatical grounding, the subordinate spires and the mighty one, the mounting heights of the architectural, the giant solemnity of the whole, the unity of the architecture and the crescendo of the summit.
Paul could wish himself accursed if this might redeem his brethren, but it is not he, born a man, but Christ, eternal God, who has provided such an offering. Yet since so many of his brethren are not saved, what then is the point of this so greatly stressed Jewishness, this significance of being Israel ?
Paul then reminds one of the Song of Solomon, when in Ch. 5, the beloved finds herself challenged as to what is so great about her missing monarch ? but with Paul, it is for his race that the miss occurs.
As to his countrymen, his brethren according to the flesh (for the spiritual bond between him and them is both profound and missing), he lists the wonders of such a setting.
As to these, who are Israelities, he gives a list moving towards a climax, as it gathers scope.
These ? these are they of whom is
the giving of the law,
the service of God and
and he re-affirms, significantly re-using the same relative pronoun,
Thus he proceeds with his list, still using the same sonorous relative pronoun.
From this follows another wn, with the preposition for "out of"
in front of it, one which does not change its appearance or sound,
so providing a sonorous assemblage,
out of whom
the Christ, according to the flesh.
Thus we are given this symphonic list, one exuberant with its skirl of whom, whom, and it proceeds from Paul's brethren according to the flesh, to the Christ, according to the flesh, the two intimate sub-termini, or preludes. The according to the flesh countrymen have all these terms attributed to them, as Paul lists their wonders, and this list proceeds till he comes to the other, the next, the culminating nether limit, Christ according to the flesh.
The former term limits Paul's membership in the countryman grouping, the latter limits Christ's participation in Israel, in this, that it also is according to the flesh, His BEING, like Paul's membership of the kingdom of heaven, being what is beyond outward form, and what provides for Paul the differential from his brethren in spirit, and for Christ, from Israel in His very being, as deity.
Indeed, this latter point, like the former one in Paul's case, is given no uncertain differentiation. The passage now turns to indicate, as the term countrymen for Paul, who this is - the One who is over all, no less its the portent. That job done, we now find what is to be the listing for this supreme person. To do this, Paul is moved to write a new form of presentation altogether, for this matches ALL the items that were to be said about his countrymen, in one balanced architecture of words.
To make this clear (like the base of a spire), Paul uses a participle in a common but very different Greek construction, one which I find very delightful but which here is to be noted as an entire grammatical change from what went before. Now, instead of just saying,
"who is over all," or
"the being over all one," so moving from a list to a balancing new format. Thus, whose, of whom, out of whom, moves to "the one being..." so that now one finds not descriptive phrases, but an ascriptive denotation, a matching presentation concerning what is to be declared concerning this eminent person according to the flesh personage, to give to Him His substitute for a list. It is no matter of mere comparison. This, it is the unique and ever blessed sovereign Himself!
This over all person, just as the countrymen were with Paul people, has this declared (rather like declaring an item for customs): "God blessed for ever," and to sever the whole cathedral of words, ways and Wisdom, it ends with "Amen".
The rupture of this intricate verbal architecture is as unthinkable as suggesting a spire be removed from some vast cathedral: it is the high point of the discourse, bound by the grammatical novelty, the rhythmic assonance, the thrust of revelation, to its due place in the verbal building, and apposition of human and divine as categories, each with what specifically belongs to it, nothing abbreviated, nought truncated, all thrust through with one beam of unifying light. In a ring like bells, there is a sense of attainment, elevation, culmination and completion, of this.
It is as if to say: you find that notable ? listen now to what is to be said about this Christ according to the flesh, when you move from the national listing to the supernatural Lord, for He is not just first among a lot, but God blessed for ever. He is not a bit higher, as if among equals in type, He is superlatively supernal, the source and deity beyond all mere acclaim, and even this came to Israel (through the virgin).
To split the now grammatical format, stressing the BEING and not just attributes, which introduces Christ in this passage, with the cadence, together with the rhythmic manner and the ascending scenario would mean truncation of the entire system. It would be like a winning colt near the post, stopped in its stride, a sort of athletic abortion, leaving the entire system over-done, and all but ludicrously interrupted, rather than applied through its development and winning post change of style, or as if someone were to interrupt some opera singer and ask, in the middle of the last note in its crescendo, bellowing from the stalls, "Wait on, I did not hear that, What are you saying ?"
Paul then is moved to go on, in this Chapter, to deal with basic issues concerning God and man, the same apposition, at length.
Matthew Henry makes the point here that added to the rest is this wonder for Israel, that out of all that might be selected, it is from Israel that the choice is made, for the institution in flesh of the unsurpassable God Almighty.