Let us begin this morning by reciting our May memory verse, Romans 9:15-16, “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”
In your bulletin, there should be an updated list of all of our memory verses. As I have stated before, put this on your fridge or your bulletin board and review it with your family. A Christian home should be a home that is saturated with the Word of God. As it says in Deuteronomy 6, You should have these words on your heart, you should teach them diligently to your children, you should talk about them when you sit down, when you walk along the way, when you lie down and when you rise. The Word of God is not to be reserved for Sunday morning; it is to be your compass for every step you take in every moment of your life.
Last week, Jeff began us down a journey through a very controversial path that is found in Romans 9. And this controversial path is directly related to what Paul said in Romans 8. In Romans 8:33 Paul says, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”
As we have already discussed the word elect means to choose. And as we saw in Romans 8 the person doing the choosing is God. And how do we know whom God has chosen? According to Paul, the answers lies in Jesus Christ. Those who repent and put their faith in Jesus Christ are the ones that God has chosen. They are the ones whom God foreknew, predestined, called and justified.
However, this word election or chosen is an explosive word, not only for us today, but also for the Jews during Paul’s day and also in this day. And this is because in the Old Testament, those who are considered chosen by God are those who are descendants of Abraham, those who are Jewish. Listen to a few Old Testament verses that speak to this:
- Deuteronomy 7:6, “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”
- Psalm 135:4, “For the LORD has chosen Jacob for himself, Israel as his own possession.
- Amos 3:1-2 – “Hear this word that the LORD has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt:2“You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.
So what is at stake in this dilemma? What is at stake is the Word of God. The Bible is being called into question because of this tension. For if the Bible is truly the word of God, then it must be inerrant and infallible. It cannot have errors, or inconsistencies, or conflicts, or paradoxes. The Bible must be cohesive and consistent and trustworthy if it is to truly be the Word of God. Why? Because God is cohesive and consistent and trustworthy.
And what are the implications for us? If we can’t trust the Bible, then we can’t trust that we are saved. If we can’t trust the Bible, then all of the beautiful realities and assurances of Romans 8 become meaningless and powerless in our lives. If the Bible fails, everything fails. So this is a substantially important chapter. So with that said, let us stand in honor of God’s Word as we read Romans 9:6-13,
- Romans 9:6-13 – “6But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
Not All Israel is Israel
So right out of the gate we can see Paul address the issue. Verse 6, “But it is not as though the word of God has failed.” Once again what Paul is saying is the general unbelief of the Jews regarding Jesus is not evidence that the Bible is not true. And why is this? Paul tells us in the second half of verse 6, “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel.” Remember, when reading the Bible conjunctions like “for” are fundamentally important. The word “For” is just another way to say because. The word of God has failed because not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel.
So what does Paul mean when he says “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel.” In this sentence we see two trains that can easily pass each other in the night. The trains are both named Israel, but they are not the same Israel. One Israel is the Israel from the human perspective. The other Israel is the Israel from God’s perspective. If you recall from last month’s study on Romans 8 we discussed that Romans 8:29 was from God's perspective: those he foreknew he predestine, called, justified, and glorified.
Now just to make it easier, we call Israel from the human perspective, Physical Israel, and we will call the Israel from God’s perspective as Spiritual Israel.
So let us look at Physical Israel. As we can see in verse 7, Physical Israel had their beginning in Abraham. Most of us know the story or Abraham. In fact, we unpacked Abraham in Romans 4. The story of Abraham begins in Genesis 12 with his calling.
- Genesis 12:1-3 - “Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2And I will make of you a great nation.”
- Genesis 15:3 - “And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
- John 8:33, “They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.”
Now if you recall, when God called Abraham and told him that he was going to have offspring and they would become a great nation, Abraham was not a Spring chicken. Abraham was 75 years old. So in the mind of Abraham and his wife Sarah, who was 65, time was of the essence. But in classic God fashion, he did not get into a rush. He waited. Months, years, a decade passed with no children, and Abraham and Sara decided to take matters into their own hands and they purposed a plan that Abraham would conceive a child with Sarah’s servant whose name was Hagar.
- Genesis 16:15 - “And Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael.”
- Genesis 17:18 - “And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” 19God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.”
We see this in our text for this morning Romans 9:8, “This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.“ Isaac was of the promise and Ishmael was of the flesh.
Jacob I Loved and Esau I Hated
Paul then moves into his second argument to prove that man's Israel is not God's Israel. And in doing so he moves to the next generation after Abraham. He draws our attention to the children of Isaac. Look at verse 10, “And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac,”
This story is found in Genesis 25. Isaac, the son of Abraham, married Rebekah. They also had some difficulty becoming pregnant, but in God's timing they conceived. But there conception was slightly different, in that Rebekah was pregnant with twins. And her pregnancy with twins was not an easy one.
- Genesis 25:22 - “The children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. 23And the LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.”
Fortunately, Rebekah didn't have to write this diagnosis in her baby book for God wrote it down in His book. Why? So that we would know what God had a predetermined plan, and the plan was that the second child that came out of the womb would be the ruler over the first born. This was already determined by God.
Now what is important to realize about this plan of God's is is that it was counter cultural. It was not according to the tradition of man. It was traditional that the first born son would become the patriarch of the family and that all other siblings would take second chair to him. But according to God's plan, this was not going to be the case for the twins of Isaac. And as we know these twins were Jacob and Esau.
And once again, we know how the story goes. Jacob later had his name changed to Israel in Genesis 32 and he became the father of twelve sons who later became the twelve tribes who became the nation of Israel. Esau, on the other hand, was not a part of the twelve tribes, instead he married two Canaanite women and lived outside the promise land and became the father of the nation of Edom. And eventually, during the reign of King David, Israel ruled, and Edom served them. And all of this was predetermined by God before either one of them was born.
And Paul emphasizes this in Romans 9 by quoting Malachi 1:2 by saying, “As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” By this God is saying that he loved Jacob by choosing to set his covenant mercy upon him, and he hated Esau by choosing not to set his covenant mercy upon him.
Once again, remember that both of these men are descendants of Abraham. Abraham is their grandfather, but God did not choose them both. He chose Jacob, and He did not choose Esau. And his choice of Jacob was not according to the traditions of men, but based upon God's sovereign will. And not only that, this choice was not based upon anything that Jacob or Esau did in their life. This choice was made before they were born. Paul emphasizes this in verse 11, “ not because of works but because of him who calls.” God did not look forward into their life and see what would happen and then act accordingly. God's choice is not based upon their works, but only upon God's prerogative alone.
God's Purpose of Election Might Continue
But let us ask why? Why does God reject Ishmael and choose Isaac? Why does God reject Esau and choose Jacob? Paul tells us once again in verse 11, “in order that God’s purpose of election might continue.” What does this mean? It means that God, wants to make it abundantly clear to his covenant people, that he is the one who determines who receives the gift of his mercy. He desires His people to know that God is the one who is ultimately in control of who is brought into covenant relationship with him. God wants to know that he does not submit to the works of man. The covenant is not held by the hands of Abraham. Nor is it held in the hands of Isaac. The covenant is held by the hands of God himself. Therefore, God gets all the glory and praise for choosing who is and who is not Spiritual Israel.
And we must not forget where we started this morning in Romans 9. What was the purpose of Paul bringing up the election of Abraham over Ishmael and Jacob of Esau. The purpose was to demonstrate that not all Israel is Israel. And why is that important to understand? Because many Jews were claiming that Jesus cannot be the Messiah because a majority of Jews had rejected Jesus. But Paul is saying that not all Israel is true Israel. Only those who repent and put their faith in Jesus are true Israel. And who determines who is true Israel? God. God is the one who chooses who believes in Jesus and who does not. He is the one who predetermines who will be called and who will not be. He is the one who gets all the credit for our salvation. Therefore, he gets all the glory.
Salvation is ultimately about the purpose of God's election moving forward from generation to generation. God, who is unchanging, has been operating the same way since the beginning of time. He does not submit to the actions, purposes, traditions, and choice of man. God is sovereign in his dispensation of his grace. If you are saved today, and covered with the covenant blood of Jesus Christ, it is entirely based upon God's sovereign purpose of his election.
You cannot take credit for your salvation, it is God alone from beginning to end, which leads us to do one and only on thing, praise God for his glorious grace.