You have to see, as we continue in this passage that the glory of the fathers was their faith in the Son. The fathers were who they were because they were trusting in a savior who was greater than they were. Genesis 15:1-3 + John 8:58 remind us that the history of Abraham is about Jesus. Hebrews 11:17-12:2 adds weight to this:
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones. By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 11:17-12:2 ESV)
As we continue with an exposition of Romans 9:5 we notice several things: First, Jesus was a Jew. “According to the flesh”; Humanly speaking! Matthew 1-2 helps us understand the importance of this passage as Matthew goes to great lengths to prove that Jesus was the Davidic Messiah by repeating the phrase, “this was to fulfill what what spoken by the prophet.” Notice too that Jesus is not given to the Jewish people like everything else. Notice that he comes from the Jewish people, he doesn’t belong only to the Jewish people, but to the nations.
Jesus is also, clearly God: Philippians 1:6; Colossians 2:9; There is a scholarly argument over this passage as to whether or not the doxology at the end is aimed at God the Father or Jesus. I think, along with other guys who have more degrees than Fahrenheit, that the doxology is referring to Christ. The phrase, “according to the flesh” speaks of his Jewish identity. The rest of the phrase is pointing to his divinity.
This means that everything in your existence is centered around what you have done and are doing about Jesus Christ. You aren’t different than all the people in the Bible. Your life isn’t worse than theirs or better than theirs. We’ve got people who were the greatest bible teachers of their time and people who killed Christians as a sport. We can all agree that Christians are a messed up bunch. The question is this: What are you going to do about Jesus? Is your life built around seeing and savoring Jesus Christ in the gospel?
To borrow from Abraham Kuyper, there is no square inch of our lives over which Christ who is Lord over all does not declare, “Mine!” and the gospel-wakened heart does not gladly proclaim “Yours!” This idea of gospel-wakefulness is a helpful distinction for me and I pray it will be for you as well. Jared Wilson wrote a great book on Gospel Wakefulness and you should get it and read it. He lists a few ways to tell that you have not been awakened to the gospel. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t saved. It just means that while your allegiance might be to Christ, you have established other things as central to your life and you must repent of these things and seek after Christ with your whole heart. (You need revival, if you remember that phrase) So listen and work through these in your heart and mind:
- The gospel doesn’t interest you—or it does, but not as much as other religious subjects.
- You take nearly everything personally.
- You frequently worry about what other people think.
- You treat inconveniences like minor (or major) tragedies
- You are impatient with people.
- In general, you have trouble seeing the fruit of the Spirit in your life (Gal. 5:22–23).
- The Word of God holds little interest.
- You have great difficulty forgiving.
- You are told frequently by a spouse, close friend, or other family members that you are too “clingy” or too controlling.
- You think someone besides yourself is the worst sinner you know.
- The idea of gospel centrality makes no sense to you.
Do any of these describe you? Is your heart centered on things besides Jesus? Ask God for forgiveness and ask him to burn in you a passion for Jesus in the gospel. Repent and believe in Jesus. No matter your history, everything points to Jesus.