4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;
Israel’s failure to claim the promises was the reason for Paul’s agony in the first three verses. Verse four delineates their abandonment of their special election. It was Paul’s cause for grief.
Paul enumerated seven prerogatives of the nation Israel in order to establish their privileges as a nation:
They were adopted by God.
They experienced God’s glory.
God gave them unconditional covenants.
God gave them the Old Testament.
God gave them temple worship.
God gave them many promises.
God gave them a heritage through the patriarchs whereby the Messiah came.
4 who are Israelites,
Israelites are a group of people chosen by God as His special people, a singular theocracy under God. They preferred the name “Israelites” over “Jews.” “Israelites” connotes God’s chosen people, whereas “Jews” just distinguishes them from Gentiles. These are the people who caused Paul’s distress.
to whom pertain the adoption,
Israel was God’s chosen people. He adopted them as an elect people. They were not naturally God’s people.
The glory of God specially appeared to the Israelites. They were the receptors of a number of physical manifestations of God (theophanies). God manifested Himself to Israel is a special sense. These manifestations were Christ Himself. However, God removed the glory in Ezekiel’s day (Ezek 10:4; 11:22-24). The glory will reappear when Christ comes at His Second Coming.
God gave unconditional covenants to Israel. These were contracts of promise, unilateral on God’s part, such as the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants (the others being the Land Covenant and the New Covenant). Israel is the only nation on earth with whom God chose to make formal contracts (covenants).
the giving of the law,
God gave the custodianship of moral, ceremonial, and legal codes to the nation Israel. He did this for no other nation. As in other places, the NIV is wrong: it is the giving, not the receiving, of the law here.
the service of God,
“Service” here is sacred service, which included worship in the tabernacle and temple. This was the Israeli system of fellowship with God.
and the promises;
God gave hundreds of promises in the Old Testament and among them where over five hundred promises of the first coming of the Messiah. There were many more of His Second Coming.
Christians today neglect their prerogatives in Christ.
As Israel of old, Christians today neglect their prerogatives in Christ. Superficial Christianity is the norm today. Very few take the Word of God seriously and claim its promises by faith. They do not even know the promises in the first place, so they cannot subsequently claim them.