We are studying Romans chapter 9, and we have seen that it is theodicy--a vindication, or defense, of God. In the first five verses Paul gives us an introduction to this section. He tells us of his love for Israel. He says that he wished he could take their curse, implying that they were under the curse of God. This raises all kinds of questions. What about all the promises that God made to Israel? Has God's Word failed? Has God gone back on His promises? Those questions are extremely important. If it can be shown that God does not keep His word, what good is the Bible to us?
The Jew would say: Either Jesus Christ is not the Messiah, He cursed God's people Israel, or the word of God to Israel has proven false. This same argument is somewhat seen in modern Dispensationalism. They say that God has postponed His promises and will fulfill them in the future in physical Israel.
Paul responds to this by beginning his theodicy in verse 6. God's promises have not failed or gone off course, nor have they been delayed, they were misunderstood. God is working, and has always worked according to the principle of sovereign electing grace. "For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel." The Scriptures never promised blessing to every physical descendent of Abraham. The basis of God's blessing is not to be found in one's physical relationship to a particular forefather, but rather to one's spiritual relationship to God by faith. The nation was chosen to be a vehicle of blessing to the world, but not all within the nation are chosen to salvation. The nation was elected to privilege, but only individuals are elected to salvation.
We must understand the principle that Paul gives us in verse 6: There are two "Israels." There is physical, ethnic, national Israel and spiritual or true Israel. Covenant, not race, has always been the defining mark of the true Israel of God. I said last week that Jesus is the true Israel! It is in Him, and Him alone, that the promises of God are fulfilled. We could say, "They are not all 'in Christ' who are physical descendants of Jacob."
If Jesus is the true Israel of God, and if the New Testament writers apply to Jesus those First Testament prophecies referring to Israel as God's son and servant, then what Paul says here in verse 6 destroys Dispensational Christian Zionism, which is the dominant view of the Church today. Christian Zionists believe that the Jewish people deserve by right to possess the land of Palestine as their own, seeing the modern state of Israel as the equivalent of the biblical Israel.
Christian Zionism's leading proponent today is John Hagee, who is the senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, a non-denominational Charismatic mega-church with more than 19,000 active members.
Hagee has been to Israel twenty-two times and has met with every Prime Minister of Israel since Menachem Begin. John Hagee Ministries has given more than $8.5 million to bring Soviet Jews from the former Soviet Union to Israel. Hagee is the founder and executive director of "A Night to Honor Israel," an event that expresses solidarity between Christians and Jews on behalf of Jerusalem, the State of Israel, and the United States.
In March, 2006, John Hagee formed "Christians United for Israel" (CUFI). It is "a national association through which every pro-Israel church, para-church organization, ministry, or individual in America can speak and act with one voice in support of Israel in matters related to biblical issues."
Accordingly, Hagee says, CUFI intends to "interact with the government in Washington" and persuade it "to stop pressuring Israel to give up land for peace." Besides the fact that this does not work, Israel has a Bible mandate for the land. Now that Gaza has been given to Hamas, it has a military foothold a thousand yards from Jerusalem.
Understanding Christian Zionism you can see how important Romans 9:6 is to a correct theology. God's promises were not to all of Abrahams's descendants. And I commented on this last week, but let me be clear about this: There is no Jewish race today! Many people today still consider the Jewish people as a race, but there is no Jewish race today. After the destruction of Jerusalem, the nation of Israel, after the flesh, was scattered throughout the earth and lost all tribal relations. This scattering was made immutable due to the fact that all tribal genealogical records were destroyed with the Temple in A.D. 70. The simple fact is that there is no existing Jewish race. Consider the following quotation from the Encyclopedia Britannica (1973):
The Jews As A Race: The findings of physical anthropology show that, contrary to the popular view, there is no Jewish race. Anthropometric measurements of Jewish groups in many parts of the world indicate that they differ greatly from one another with respect to all the important physical characteristics. (vol. 12, page 1054)
Collier's Encyclopedia (1977) states:
A common error and persistent modern myth is the designation of the Jews as a 'race.' This is scientifically fallacious, from the standpoint of both physical and historical tradition. Investigations by anthropologists have shown that Jews are by no means uniform in physical character and that they nearly always reflect the physical and mental characteristics of the people among whom they live. 1977, vol. 13, p. 573).
Today, being a Jew simply means that one is of the Judaistic religion or a convert to it, or else in a "brotherhood" of those who are. Therefore, being a Jew has nothing to do with race. We are familiar with a number of notable figures, such as Sammy Davis Jr., Elizabeth Taylor, and Tom Arnold; who, in fact, became Jews by conversion to the religion of Judaism. There is no Jewish race or nation today. God put an end to Judaism in A.D. 70. And understanding this will put an end to Christian Zionism, and an unbiblical foreign policy.
Back to Romans: In Romans 9:6 thru 10:21 Paul is telling the story of Israel, which he narrows further and further to the final remnant. This narrowing is only done through the sovereign election of God. The Jew was a devout believer in the doctrine of election--that is the doctrine of corporate election. They felt that all who were physically descendants of Abraham were chosen. Using the Hebrew Scriptures Paul corrects this idea.
In Romans 9:7-13, Paul is reading and explaining the Word of God. He's saying that if Israel had read and understood their Bibles, they would have seen that what has happened is not contrary to the Bible, but is in full accord with what one finds in the First Testament.
Remember, the Jews would say that physical descent from Abraham made them an Israelites. They declared that any man born a Jew had a right to the promises of God. But Paul taught that "they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel." And then in verses 7-13 he proves this from the Hebrew Scriptures:
nor are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants, but: "THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED." Romans 9:7 NASB
Paul supports what he had just said by distinguishing between the "children" and "Abraham's descendants." Literally, this verse reads: "nor that seed of Abraham all children." Most translations like the NASB see "Abraham's descendants" as the larger category referring to ethnic Israel, and "children" as referring to the chosen. But I think this is backwards if we look at the text that Paul is quoting from:
But God said to Abraham, "Do not be distressed because of the lad and your maid; whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her, for through Isaac your descendants shall be named. Genesis 21:12 NASB
We see here that "descendants" is referring to the chosen ones of Isaac's decent, the elect. So Paul uses "Abraham's descendants" of true Israel, the spiritual seed; and "children" is used of physical descent from Abraham. Not that this is all that critical as long as we see that Paul is again saying that within the larger group of ethnic Israel is the true Israel.
The context of this quote from Genesis is where God is saying to Abraham: Even though you have an older son, Ishmael, he will not be the heir of the promise. Rather, "through Isaac your descendants will be named." What Paul sees here is that being a physical child of Abraham, and even being the oldest, did not make Ishmael an heir of the promise to the covenant people. Why? Because God did not choose him. The thought here is focused on God's choice of Isaac in contrast with Ishmael.
Paul's point here is that God chooses some of the sons of Abraham to salvation and not all; they are not all Israel which are of Israel. According to Genesis 25:1-4 Abraham had six other sons by his wife Keturah, but they too were rejected. So just being a child of Abraham doesn't guarantee spiritual blessings.
Paul is making the point that God is selective or elective. "THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED." The Greek word translated here as "named" is kaleo. Every other use of kaleo in Romans, seven of them, are all translated "called." Why they translated it "named" here is a mystery. The "calling" here is an effectual call, an irresistible call, a sovereign call as is evidenced by the fact that all who were called were justified and glorified as we see in:
and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. Romans 8:30 NASB
Why have the majority of Jews rejected the Gospel? It is because God's calling is selective. God's promises are true and sure, but they have been misunderstood. God's promises were to the select few and not the many.
That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. Romans 9:8 NASB
"That is"--tells us that this is a further explanation of what he had just said. "Children of the flesh" is the same as "children" in verse 7, and "the children of the promise are regarded as descendants" is the same as "Abraham's descendant."
Physical descent doesn't give one claim to the promises of God. Who are the true children of God? The children of promise, those called by God to receive the promise of salvation. God's children are those of whom Isaac is a type. He was born of a special act of God. He was born by supernatural power, and he was born in accordance with a divine promise:
Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah's womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, Romans 4:19-20 NASB
God had promised Abraham a son by Sarah and He fulfilled it. Turn with me to a passage in Galatians that gives us a lot of insight into this subject of true Israel:
For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants:... Galatians 4:22-24a NASB
Veres 24 says that these things are "allegorically speaking"--this is from the Greek word allegoreo (a-lay-gor-eh-o). An allegory is a story in which people, things, and happenings have another meaning, often instructive. Here, Isaac and Ishmael are symbols of the two covenants, old and new.
...one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. Galatians 4:24b-25 NASB
Let me ask you a question, "Is Paul's, 'present' our present?" Is this referring to today's Jerusalem? No! He is referring to the Jerusalem of that day that was destroyed in A.D. 70.
But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. For it is written, "REJOICE, BARREN WOMAN WHO DOES NOT BEAR; BREAK FORTH AND SHOUT, YOU WHO ARE NOT IN LABOR; FOR MORE NUMEROUS ARE THE CHILDREN OF THE DESOLATE THAN OF THE ONE WHO HAS A HUSBAND." And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. Galatians 4:26-28 NASB
Believers are like Isaac, they are children of promise; not born according to the flesh, but according to the will of God.
Paul is not speaking here of man's believing a promise and therefore being written down as one of God's children. He is speaking of the promise of God to Christ that characterizes the existence and calling of all the real children of God:
Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, "And to seeds," as referring to many, but rather to one, "And to your seed," that is, Christ. Galatians 3:16 NASB
The promise is made to Christ, the seed of Abraham. He expounds this in the next verse:
For this is the word of promise: "AT THIS TIME I WILL COME, AND SARAH SHALL HAVE A SON." Romans 9:9 NASB
This is a quotation from Genesis 18:10:
He said, "I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son." And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him. Genesis 18:10 NASB
Isaac, the coming child, did not believe the promise in order to be born. God promised Isaac to Abraham, and He kept His promise by a miracle. The birth of Isaac was supernatural.
God's promise was based upon what He does, not upon what men do. Isaac was a promised child in God's sovereign plan and so are all believers. Our birth, like Isaac's, is supernatural:
And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. Galatians 4:28 NASB
The Hebrew Scriptures represent the Father as promising the Son a certain reward for His sufferings on behalf of sinners:
But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. Isaiah 53:10-11 NASB
"He will see His offspring"--this is a reference to the elect of God. God has given the elect to Christ, we are children of promise. Notice, that it says "he shall be satisfied," and not frustrated.
Many Christians today are like the Jews of Paul's day, they think everyone will inherit the promises of God. Think through this with me. If God's purpose is to save all men, if Jesus Christ died for all men, if the Holy Spirit is trying to win all men to Jesus Christ; by observation and fact, it is obvious that most people don't believe in Christ and are dying without eternal life. Then what you have is a God who is disappointed, a Savior who is dissatisfied, and a Holy Spirit that is defeated. To argue that God is trying His best to save all mankind, but that the majority of men will not let Him save them, is to insist that the will of the Creator is impotent, and the will of the creature is omnipotent. But the God of the Bible is not impotent and under the will of man. The God of the Bible is absolutely sovereign:
"All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. John 6:37 NASB
According to this verse who is it that comes to Christ? All that the Father givesHim. God's chosen will come to Christ:
"This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. John 6:39 NASB
Who is it that receives resurrection life? All that the Father has given Christ. Isn't that what it says?:
Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. John 17:1-2 NASB
Who does Christ give eternal life to? He gives it to all those that the Father has given Him, the elect:
"I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. John 17:6 NASB
"I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; John 17:9 NASB
Who is it that Jesus prays for? He prays for those that the Father has given Him. He doesn't pray for the world:
"Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. John 17:24 NASB
Those given to Jesus Christ by God the Father are children of promise. God is selective in salvation. So Jewish unbelief doesn't make us question God's promises. Not all Israel are Israel. God's promises are not to all mankind, but to His elect.
The point here is that God's word has not failed. He has done what He promised to do:
And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; Romans 9:10 NASB
This is a stronger illustration. Not only Abraham and Isaac, but also Isaac's wife Rebecca (Genesis 25). Notice that he says, "She had conceived twins by one man." A Jew might have said about Ishmael, "Of course God didn't choose him as a child of promise. He didn't have a Jewish mother. Hagar was a Gentile."
Rebecca gave birth to twins, Jacob and Esau, and God chose Jacob. God's unconditional election finds its most unequivocal expression in the choice of the younger twin born to Rebecca. Esau was first born and should have had the right of primogeniture, a double blessing, but God chose Jacob. God is selective and sometimes He doesn't choose what would seem like a likely choice. God's choice was apart from custom or tradition:
for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, Romans 9:11 NASB
This is not a parenthesis as some translations make it. Why did God reverse the order of nature and choose the younger twin? "So that God's purpose according to His choice would stand. "The word purpose is the Greek word prothesis (proth'-a-sis), which means: "an intelligent decision which the will is bent to accomplish."
He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, Ephesians 1:5 NASB
His will and His purpose are one, what God purposes He wills:
He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him Ephesians 1:9 NASB
God has purposed in Himself the salvation of His people:
also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, Ephesians 1:11 NASB
God works out all things in time just as He planned them in eternity.
In choosing Jacob and rejecting Esau, God had respect to nothing but His own purpose. His purpose "would stand" means it should be established and recognized in its true character, that is, that it might be seen it was not of works, but of Him who calls. The choice is solely in God and His sovereign choices.
When we hear Paul say, "Not because of works," we naturally expect him to also say, "but by faith." But that is not what he says here. He says, "not because of works but because of Him who calls." Why? Because faith is not a condition of election. Election is unconditional.
Analyze the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You will find lying, deceit, doubt, duplicity, and contrariness. Yet God chose them. Why? God acted not out of any obligation, but rather out of His sovereignty, and thus chose freely on the basis of His own will. The election of God is not based upon the works of the individual, but on the will of God.
Contrary to what this text and the Bible as a whole teaches. W. B. Riley, states, "The soul's election depends upon the soul's choice. Thou, my friend are the only person who can settle this question of election. It is not settled in Heaven; it is settled on earth. It is not settled of the Lord; it is settled by man." That is a common Arminian position:
...so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls it was said to her, "THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER." Romans 9:11b-12 NASB
Verse 12 is a quotation from:
The LORD said to her, "Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples will be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger." Genesis 25:23 NASB
Based on what is said here some say that what Paul is talking about in Romans 9 is the election of a nation as over against nations, and not election of individuals. It is true that this text is talking about nations, Edom and Israel. But what Paul is doing in Romans 9 is defining who Israel really is. And if you remember what we said last week, the True Israel is Christ, and we are in Christ by faith. So it is a foolish argument to say that this is about nations and not individuals. If it is unjust for God to select one man over another, why is it okay if He selects one nation over another? Aren't nations made up of individuals?
Just as it is written, "JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED." Romans 9:13 NASB
This is a proof text of all that Paul has been saying. He selected one of the twins, and He rejected the other twin. He is quoting Malachi:
The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi. "I have loved you," says the LORD. But you say, "How have You loved us?" "Was not Esau Jacob's brother?" declares the LORD. "Yet I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau..." Malachi 1:1-3a NASB
This is in reference to the nations that descended from Jacob and Esau, respectfully, Israel and Edom. The prophet is here reproving the Jews for their ingratitude. As a proof of His peculiar favor, God refers to His preference for them from the first.
Do you see how God is arguing for His love for Jacob? They say, "How have you loved us?" And He answers, "Wasn't Esau Jacob's brother?" In other words, "Didn't Esau have as much right to being chosen as you? Wasn't he the son of Isaac? Wasn't he a twin in the same womb with you? Wasn't he even your elder brother? Nevertheless, I chose you. But I hated him."
Some try to twist it by saying that hate doesn't mean hate, but it means "to love less," or "to regard and treat with less favor." Hate is used in this way in several passages:
"If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Luke 14:26 NASB
Here hate would have the idea of "to regard with less favor." But in the original context of Malachi 1:1-5 that Paul quotes from "loving less" hardly fits with the visitation of judgment:
but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness." Though Edom says, "We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins"; thus says the LORD of hosts, "They may build, but I will tear down; and men will call them the wicked territory, and the people toward whom the LORD is indignant forever." Malachi 1:3-4 NASB
This doesn't sound like hate means: "loving less." We know from the Scripture that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah:
So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and indeed he loved Rachel more than Leah, and he served with Laban for another seven years. Genesis 29:30 NASB
"Loving less" is quite different from hating.
The quotation of Paul from Malachi 1:2-3 in Romans 9:13 is for the purpose of confirming what had just been quoted from Genesis 25:23, which points to a discrimination that existed before the children were born or had done good or evil.
"Jacob I loved"--that is the root of election, God chooses because He loves. God is sovereign in the exercise of His love. What I mean is that He loves whom He chooses to, God does not love everybody. He didn't love Esau, you must admit the Bible says that. Let's put it in the form of a syllogism:
Major premise: God hated Esau
Minor premise: Esau is part of the world
Conclusion: God doesn't love everyone in the world.
Sovereign election is probably one of the most hated doctrines of the Bible. Men's response to this doctrine is not new, fallen men don't like God making choices in their lives:
"But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. "And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." Luke 4:25-27 NASB
Jesus is teaching the principle of Divine Sovereign Election. There were a lot of widows in Israel, but God chose a Gentile. There were a lot of lepers in Israel, but God chose a Gentile. Notice the crowd's response to God choosing outside Israel:
And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, He went His way. Luke 4:28-30 NASB
Men do not like the Doctrine of Sovereign Election because it strikes at the heart of his view that there is something good in him which God accepts and makes him acceptable before God. Men still react this way today to election, don't they?
Every person chosen to salvation, whether in Israel or in the Church, is chosen by God before the person is born. The Bible says your name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life from the foundation of the world:
All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. Revelation 13:8 NASB
We are so man centered today, even in our theology, that if it doesn't start with us, we can't grasp it. We think it's unfair for God to choose between Jacob and Esau. And we think it's wrong for God to choose some individuals and not others. May we allow the Scriptures to shape our thinking so we will have the mind of Christ. God is sovereign, even in His love.
Paul has now so far vindicated God's word despite the failure of Israel. The promises belong only to the chosen elect of God and not all in the nation. God operates on the principle of Divine Sovereign Election. National Israel misunderstood the promises.
Jesus fulfilled all that Israel was destined for. And now every person, Jew or Gentile, who trusts in Christ, is united to Him and becomes part of this true Israel in Christ.
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