Romans 3:1 – 4 — “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.”
One might ask, that after all that we heard as Paul took those of his own nation to task about their failure to live up to their end of the covenant, what good is it then to be in a covenant with God?
The apostle Paul answers this simply and to the point here, where he can say, “Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” When the apostle later comes back to this subject of his “kinsmen according to the flesh”, he has this to say about their position before God:
Romans 9:4 – 5 — “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.”
However, as we said in the past, with great privilege comes great responsibility. Most in Christian circles fully recognize the reality of the elect nation’s status as the people of God in time past. Too many, however, fail to perceive of how this fact factors into properly understanding many supposedly difficult Scripture passages.
The Jew, or the Circumcision, as Paul also calls them here, had the oracles of God committed to them. This word, oracles, is used three other times in our Bible:
Acts 7:38 — “This is he [Moses], that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us [Israelites]…”
Hebrews 5:12 — “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.”
1 Peter 4:11 — “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to Whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
Looking at the first reference above, Stephen is speaking about the Law of God, which He gave to Moses on Sinai. The “lively oracles” were the very words of God spoken to the children of Israel. They were not meant to be heard only, but also to be obeyed. The following verse shows how well the nation, so shortly after God gave the oracles, obeyed:
Acts 7:39 – 40 — “To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt, Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us: for as for this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.”
All of Stephen’s message in Acts chapter 7 is a rebuke against the people of Israel for their persistent unbelief. The nation, having received the oracles, as he says in 7:51, “received the law by disposition of angels” did not keep it. I have often thought of Stephen’s message here like the closing arguments of a prosecuting attorney in a criminal case. He lays out all the facts as they are commonly known from history, resting his case against their unbelief with the fact that they were the betrayers and the murderers of the Just One, the very Son of God.
This privilege makes the crime greater, for they should have known. The very fact that “unto them were committed the oracles of God” only raises the level of guilt.
But let us look at what it means to be committed something: The owner of a business often commits the management of his company to managers, or as the scriptures call this position, to stewards. Two passages in Luke come to mind that are very difficult to understand without this perspective on the stewardship of the oracles of God: Luke 12:42 – 48, and Luke 16:1 – 13. Read these two passages with the concept of Israel as the steward of the oracles of God and see if they truly are not more readily understood in this light.
The time of our Lord’s visitation was a crisis point in that nation’s history. The Lord spoke in a parable regarding what was happening during His visitation:
Luke 13:6 – 9 — “He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.”
How the Lord loved His people, and how He cared for His fig tree, His vineyard:
Isaiah 5:1 – 4 — “Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?”
Matthew 23:37 — “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”
The nation would show itself faithless, but God would still be faithful. God will always be true, and true to His Word. The nation that rejected His Word and His Son in His incarnation, in resurrection, and from heaven, would not receive the Kingdom promised to them, but it would be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits of the Kingdom. That will happen when the branches are graffed back in to their own olive tree:
Romans 11:25 – 27 — “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is My covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.”
Their sins will be remitted, but every Israelite must accept the fact of his position now, before the Lord. He is a sinner just as is the Gentile. He is concluded under sin just like the Gentile. And he can be saved, just as the Gentile, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. The Jew can come to Christ just like the Gentile, but, he must come to Christ just like the Gentile.
Romans 10:11 – 13 — “For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him. For whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.”
You as well can be saved, because it is God’s will that all men will be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. If you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, that He died for your sins, and that He rose from the dead, He will save you.
1 Corinthians 15:3 – 4 — “…Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures…”
Acts 16:31 — “… Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…”