It may surprise us to realise that so many of the holy people in the Bible belonged to the same nation. It is very rare to find someone who is truly sincere, humble and holy (Ecclesiastes 7:27-29). However, our Bibles are full of accounts of such people in every part of Israel’s history. Such people even existed at times when the whole nation seemed to be against God (compare 1 Kings 19:10 and 19:18).
In many translations, Paul says that the ‘patriarchs’ belong to Israel. However, the word in the original language (Greek) is a more general word, which means the ‘fathers’. Paul could mean any of the great men who loyally served God in Israel’s history. The ‘patriarchs’ mean in particular Abraham (4:1), Isaac (9:10) and Jacob. It was from their family that the nation called Israel, or the Jewish people, came.
Jesus was also Jewish. So were Paul and all of the first Christians. However, Paul does not want to speak about himself here, but to give honour to Jesus. He refers to Jesus not by his name, but by his title of honour ‘the Christ’, which means simply ‘the king’. Here was the king whom God had long promised to Israel (Psalm 110). God himself had come to rescue his people (Malachi 3:1).
That is a wonderful reason to praise God. In some translations here, Paul declares that Christ is God; in others, he simply praises God. Both translations are correct, because Paul’s words can have either meaning. However, Paul and all the first Christians believed that Christ is God (John 1:1-4; John 1:14). He became a man, to die for us (8:3), but he has always been God (1:3-4; 8:9-10).
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© 2017, Keith Simons.