Contributor: Leye Olayiwola
In our last in-depth study of the concluding verses of Romans Chapter 8 we considered the depth and intensity of God’s love for us. We were reminded that as long as God is for us, no one can be against us; If He justifies us, then no one can condemn us. How fulfilling and refreshing to be reminded that no matter what we go through, nothing can alienate us from Christ’s love. In Romans chapters one through eight, Paul thoroughly convinced us about man’s need and God’s glorious provision in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. Now, in Romans 9 through 11, Paul deals with the problem associated with the condition of Israel. What does it mean that Israel has missed its Messiah? What does this say about God? Or about Israel? What does it say about our present position in God? Some of these questions will be addressed in today’s lesson.
Romans 9: 1-3
“I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,”
- Paul solemnly testifies that what he is about to say is the truth. He is not lying. While one’s conscience can be hardened or deceived (Titus 1:15) the Christian’s conscience can be cleansed, so that the Holy Spirit bears witness through our conscience (1 Timothy 1:5)
- With all honesty, Paul can say in verse 2 that his response to Israel’s unbelief and very real peril is that of sorrow and grief. These are the responses of love, not of bitterness or vengeance. In spite of all the Jews have done against Paul, he still loves them and finds no joy in their downfall.
- Paul’s love goes far deeper than this as he tells us in verse 3. It is not enough for Paul to feel sorry for his people. He wishes he could demonstrate his love in an even more active way. If it were possible, he would wish to be like Christ, sacrificing himself for the salvation of his fellow-Jews. This great passion for souls gave Paul’s perspective. Lesser things did not trouble him because he was troubled by a great thing – the souls of men. “Get love for the souls of men – then you will not be whining about a want yet to be met and the little disturbances that people may make by their idle talk. You will be delivered from petty worries (I need not further describe them) if you are concerned about the souls of men… Get your soul full of a great grief, and your little griefs will be driven out.” (Spurgeon)
Romans 9: 4-5
“Who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.”
The pain Paul feels for his lost brethren is all the more severe when he considers how God has blessed them with all the privileges of being His own special people.
- The glory speaks of God’s Shekinah glory, the visible “cloud of glory” showing God’s presence among His people.
- Paul also considers the human legacy of being God’s chosen people. Israel not only gave us the great fathers of the Old Testament, but Jesus Himself came from Israel. This entire spiritual legacy makes Israel’s unbelief all the more problematic.
- “Christ… who is over all, the eternally blessed God, Amen”: This is one of Paul’s clear statements that Jesus is God.
Romans 9: 6-9
But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” 8 That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. 9 For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.”
- Paul thinks of someone looking at Israel and saying, “God’s word didn’t come through for them. He didn’t fulfill His promise for them because they missed their Messiah and now seem cursed. How do I know that He will come through for me?” Paul answers the question by asserting that it is not that the word of God has taken no effect.
- For they are not all Israel who are of Israel: One meaning of the name Israel is “governed by God.” “Paul tells us that no one is truly Israel unless he is governed by God. We have a parallel situation with the word ‘Christian.’ Not everyone who is called a Christian is truly a follower of Christ.”
- The children of the promise are counted as the seed: God’s word didn’t fail, because God still reaches His children of the promise, which may or may not be the same as physical Israel (but also Believers in Christ). Paul shows that merely being the descendant of Abraham saves no one. For example, Ishmael was just as much a son of Abraham as Isaac was; but Ishmael was a son according to the flesh, and Isaac was a son according to the promise. One was the heir of God’s covenant of salvation, and one was not. Isaac stands for the children of the promise and Ishmael stands for the children of the flesh.
Romans 9: 10-13
And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac 11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), 12 it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”
- Our father Isaac: God’s choice between Ishmael and Isaac seems somewhat logical to us. It’s a lot harder to understand why God chose Jacob to be the heir of God’s covenant of salvation instead of Esau. We might not understand it as easily, but God’s choice is just as valid.
- Not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil: Paul points out that God’s choice was not based on the performance of Jacob or Esau. The choice was made before they were born.
- That the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls: So we do not think that God chose Jacob over Esau because He knew their works in advance, Paul points out that it was not of works. Instead, the reason for choosing was found in Him who calls.
- The older shall serve the younger: God announced these intentions to Rebecca before the children were born, and He repeated His verdict long after Jacob and Esau had both passed from the earth (Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated
- We should regard the love and the hate as regarding His purpose in choosing one to become the heir of the covenant of Abraham. In that regard, God’s preference could rightly be regarded as a display of love (accepted/ loved more) towards Jacob and hate (rejected/ loved less) towards Esau – Gen.29:31, 33; Matt.6:24; John 12:25.
- All in all, we see that Esau was a blessed man (Genesis 33:8-16, Genesis 36). God hated Esau in regard to inheriting the covenant, not in regard to blessing in this life or the next.
- “A woman once said to Mr. Spurgeon, ‘I cannot understand why God should say that He hated Esau.’ ‘That,’ Spurgeon replied, ‘is not my difficulty, madam. My trouble is to understand how God could love Jacob.’” (Newell)
- Our greatest error in considering the choices of God is to think that God chooses for arbitrary reasons, as if He chooses in an “eeny-meeny-miny-moe” way. We may not be able to fathom God’s reasons for choosing, and they are reasons He alone knows and answers to, but God’s choices are not capricious. He has a plan and a reason.
CONCLUSION: Romans 9:14-15
What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.”
- Is there unrighteousness with God? Paul answers this question strongly: Certainly not! God clearly explains His right to give mercy to whomever He pleases in Exodus 33:19.
- I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy: Remember what mercy is. Mercy is not getting what we do deserve. God is never less than fair with anyone, but fully reserves the right to be more than fair with individuals as He chooses.
- Jesus spoke of this right of God in the parable of the landowner in Matthew 20:1-16.
- We are in a dangerous place when we regard God’s mercy towards us as our right. If God is obliged to show mercy, then it is not mercy – it is obligation. No one is ever unfair for not giving mercy.
This study is culled from https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/romans-9/