Pastor David B. Curtis


Sovereign Discriminating Love

Romans 9:7-13

Delivered 09/21/1997

Does God keep his promises? Can we count on his Word? Those questions are extemely important. If it can be shown that God does not keep his word, what good is the Bible to us?

Did Israel's failure come about because God is unable to save those whom he wants to save? Is that the problem?

We are studying Romans chapter 9, which is a theodicy, a defense of God's justice and righteousness. The emphasis in this chapter is clearly on the sovereign election of God. The question being discussed is Has God's plan changed? Has God gone back on His promises to Israel? 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 in verse 6. God's promises have not failed or gone off course, or been delayed, they were misunderstood. God is working, and has always worked according to the principle of sovereign electing grace. "They are not all Israel which are of Israel." 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.

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. All who are physically of Israel are not spiritually of Israel because of the principle of sovereign election. When we talk about Divine sovereignty, we are speaking about God's authority and about God's power. Is your God absolutely sovereign?

The word authority contains within itself the word author. God is the author of all things over which he has authority. He created the universe. He owns the universe. His ownership gives Hm certain rights. He may do with his universe what is pleasing to His will. In His will He has elected, sovereignly elected some, but not all, to salvation.

A common view of salvation today is that God votes for a man, the devil votes against a man, and the individual casts the deciding vote. Where does the Bible teach that? Nowhere!

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. Is your God still sovereign?

The idea of election is the idea of selection, it means to choose. The objects of election are sometimes angels, sometimes nations, and sometimes individuals.

In Romans 9, it is individuals who are the objects of election and the purpose of election is toward salvation. Romans 9 is speaking of God's selection of individuals to salvation, and in verses 7-13, Paul cites four distinct Old Testament passages proving this has always been God's method.

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.

Luke 4:25-27 (NKJV) "But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; 26 "but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 "And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian."

Jesus is teaching the principle of Divine sovereign election. There were a lot of widows, but God chose one. There were a lot of lepers, but God chose one.

Luke 4:28-30 (NKJV) So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, 29 and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. 30 Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.

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?

I only believe in sovereign election because it is taught in the Bible.

2 Timothy 1:9 (NKJV) who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,
2 Thessalonians 2:13 (NKJV) But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth,
Acts 13:48 (NKJV) Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

Notice who it was who believed. The ones who were appointed to eternal life believed. Who appointed them? God! Clearly, the reason that they believed is because they were appointed.

John 10:24-26 (NKJV) Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, "How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly." 25 Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father's name, they bear witness of Me. 26 "But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.

Many today would say, "you're not of my sheep because you don't believe." but that's not what our Lord said, He said, "You don't believe because you are not mine, you're not one of my elect." They didn't believe because they were not appointed to eternal life.

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 Old Testament.

Paul lays down the principle in verse 6, "they are not all Israel which are of Israel." The principle is that God chooses by sovereign choice who Israel is. It is not of physical birth. Then he goes on to illustrate it to us. In verses 7-13, Paul uses Abraham and Isaac, two instances in the Old Testament, to prove that God works on the principle of election.

Remember, the Jews would say that physical descent from Abraham made him an Israelite. They declared that any man born a Jew had a right to the promises of God.

Romans 9:7 (NKJV) nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, "In Isaac your seed shall be called."

Paul supports his position -- he distinguishes here between the seed of Abraham and children (of God). "Seed of Abraham" is used of physical descent from Abraham and "children" is used of true Israel, the spiritual seed. Paul supports this by an appeal to scripture:

Genesis 21:12 (NKJV) But God said to Abraham, "Do not let it be displeasing in your sight because of the lad or because of your bondwoman. Whatever Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice; for in Isaac your seed shall be called.

The thought here is focused on the choice of Isaac in contrast with Ishmael. What he is demonstrating here is that natural descent does not make true children. All descendants in Abraham are not in the covenant and receive the promises. Who was the first born son of Abraham? Ishmael, but he was excluded from the covenant. Isaac was the child of promise.

God promised Abraham a son, but Sarah was barren so she comes up with a plan. She had Abraham go into her handmaid Hagar. Hagar bore Ishmael of Abraham.

Genesis 21:13 (NKJV) "Yet I will also make a nation of the son of the bondwoman, because he is your seed."

Ishmael was Abraham's seed (Romans 9:7) but he was rejected, he was not in the covenant of promise. Isaac was the child of promise.

POINT -- 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 you spiritual blessings.

POINT -- God is selective or elective."For in Isaac shall your seed be called." The key word here is called, it is the Greek word kaleo. This 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.

Romans 8:30 (NKJV) Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

Why have the majority of Jews rejected the Gospel? It is because God's calling is selective, in Isaac. God's promises are true and sure but they have been misunderstood. God's promises were to the select few and not the many.

Romans 9:8 (NKJV) 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.

This is a further explanation, that is. "Children of flesh" is the same as verse 7, "seed of Abraham." "Children of God" is the same as" children" in verse 7. Physical descent doesn't give you claim to the promises of God. "Children of God" is equal to "children of promise" and "children" in verse 7, they are the true seed. 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.

Romans 4:19-20 (NKJV) And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb. 20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God,

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.

Galatians 4:22-28 (NKJV) For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, 24 which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants:

Verse 24 says that these things are "symbolic." The KJV uses the word "allegory," from the Greek word allegoreo. 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.

the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar; 25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children;

Let me ask you a question, is Paul's, "now is" our "now is?" Is this referring to today's Jerusalem? No! He is referring to the Jerusalem of that day that was destroyed in AD 70.

26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. 27 For it is written: "Rejoice, O barren, You who do not bear! Break forth and shout, You who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children Than she who has a husband." 28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise.

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.

Galatians 3:16 (NKJV) Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, "And to seeds," as of many, but as of one, "And to your Seed," who is Christ.

The promise is made to Christ, the seed of Abraham. He expounds this in the next verse.

Romans 9:9 (NKJV) For this is the word of promise: "At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son."

This is a quotation from Genesis 18:10

Genesis 18:10 (NKJV) And He said, "I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son." (Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him.)

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.

His 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.

Galatians 4:28 (NKJV) Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise.

The Old Testament Scriptures represent the Father as promising the son a certain reward for his sufferings on behalf of sinners.

Isaiah 53:10-11 (NKJV) Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. 11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.

"He shall see His seed," 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.

John 6:37 (NKJV) "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.

According to this verse who is it that comes to Christ? All that the Father gives Him. God's chosen will come to Christ.

John 6:39 (NKJV) "This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.

Who is it that receives resurrection life? All that the Father has given Christ. Isn't that what it says?

John 6:44 (NKJV) "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

He raises up all that the Father draws, which are those who the Father has given him.

John 17:1-2 (NKJV) Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: "Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2 "as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.

Who does Christ give eternal life to? He gives it to all those that the Father has given him, the elect.

John 17:6 (NKJV) "I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.
John 17:9 (NKJV) "I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.

Who is it that Jesus prays for? He prays for those that the Father has given him. He doesn't pray for the world.

John 17:24 (NKJV) "Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.

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 is Israel. God's promises are not to all mankind but to His elect.

Romans 9:10 (NKJV) And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac

This is a stronger illustration. Not only Abraham and Isaac but also Isaac's wife Rebecca (Genesis 25). She 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.

Romans 9:11 (NKJV) (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),

This is not a parenthesis. Why did God reverse the order of nature and choose the younger twin? "That the purpose of God according to election might stand." The word purpose is the Greek word prothesis. It means an intelligent decision which the will is bent to accomplish.

Ephesians 1:5 (NKJV) having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,

His will and His purpose are one, what God purposes He wills.

Ephesians 1:9 (NKJV) having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,

God has purposed in himself the salvation of His people.

Ephesians 1:11 (NKJV) In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,

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 "should 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 that calls. The choice is solely in God and His sovereign choices.

Verse 12 is a figure of spiritual election.

Genesis 25:23 (NKJV) And the LORD said to her: "Two nations are in your womb, Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger."
Romans 9:13 (NKJV) As it is written, "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated."

This is a proof text of all that Paul has been saying. He is quoting Malachi 1:2-3.

Malachi 1:2-3 (NKJV) "I have loved you," says the LORD. "Yet you say, 'In what way have You loved us?' Was not Esau Jacob's brother?" Says the LORD. "Yet Jacob I have loved; 3 But Esau I have hated, And laid waste his mountains and his heritage For the jackals of the wilderness."

Nothing can more clearly manifest the strong opposition of the human mind to the doctrine of divine sovereignty than the violence which human ingenuity has employed to twist the expression, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated."

Some say that what Paul is talking about here is the election of a nation as over against nations, and not election of individuals. That's really a foolish argument. 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?

The quotation from Malachi 1:2 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.

Malachi 1:2-3 (NKJV) "I have loved you," says the LORD. "Yet you say, 'In what way have You loved us?' Was not Esau Jacob's brother?" Says the LORD. "Yet Jacob I have loved; 3 But Esau I have hated, And laid waste his mountains and his heritage For the jackals of the wilderness."

This passage and:

Romans 9:12 (NKJV) it was said to her, "The older shall serve the younger."

Relate to the descendants of Jacob and Esau and to the individuals themselves. The "elder" = Esau, shall serve the "younger" = Jacob. He went back to Genesis 25, and he laid stress on the individual nature of election. So he speaks of individuals. Remember the question is how can God's word be true when the majority of the nation has rejected the gospel? His argument would be useless if it was simply an appeal to natural election.

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.

Luke 14:26 (NKJV) "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.

Here hate would have the idea of "to regard with less favor."

But in the original context of Malachi 1:1-5 loving less hardly fits with the visitation of judgement.

Malachi 1:3-4 (NKJV) But Esau I have hated, And laid waste his mountains and his heritage For the jackals of the wilderness." 4 Even though Edom has said, "We have been impoverished, But we will return and build the desolate places," Thus says the LORD of hosts: "They may build, but I will throw down; They shall be called the Territory of Wickedness, And the people against whom the LORD will have indignation forever.

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 have 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. Now I know that when I say that, people get upset, but it is clearly what the Word of God teaches. He didn't love Esau, that is very clear. Now how will you argue, will you say that he loves everyone but Esau?

One of the most popular beliefs of our day is that God loves everybody. But the idea that God loves everybody is a modern belief. The writings of the church fathers, the Reformers or the Puritans will be searched in vain for any such concept. The fact is, that the love of God is a truth for the saints only. With the exception of John 3:16, not once in the four gospels do we read of the Lord Jesus Christ telling sinners that God loved them. In the book of Acts, which records the evangelistic labors and messages of the apostles, God's love is never referred to at all. Does that seem odd to you? But when we come to the Epistles, which are addressed to the saints, we have a full presentation of the truth.

Hebrews 12:6 (NKJV) For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives."

God's love is restricted to the members of His own family. If He loves all men, then the distinction and limitation here mentioned is quite meaningless. God only chastens who he loves, which is a reference to believers, the elect.

What about John 3:16? Does it teach that God loves everybody? It seems to.

John 3:16 (NKJV) "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Doesn't this prove that God loves everybody? No, remember he hated 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.

The word "world" here is not used to mean the entire human race. Do you remember Amos 3:2?

Amos 3:2 (NKJV) "You only have I known of all the families of the earth; Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities."

Why did God only have a special relationship with Israel and leave all the other nations to walk in darkness? Because he didn't love them and He loved Israel.

The word "world" often has a relative rather than an absolute meaning. For example:

John 12:19 (NKJV) The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, "You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!"

Was everyone in the world going after Jesus? No!

Acts 19:27 (NKJV) "So not only is this trade of ours in danger of falling into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worship."

Did everyone in the world worship Diana? No! I am talking about Diana of the Ephesians, not Princess Diana. If I was referring to Princess Diana, the answer might be different. It seemed as if the whole world did worship her.

Romans 1:8 (NKJV) First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

Was everyone in the world speaking of the faith of the Roman believers? I don't think so.

In John 3 Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus, a Jew. The Jews believed that God loved only them. What John 3:16 is saying is that God's love is international in its scope, he loves Gentiles as well as Jews.

John 6:33 (NKJV) "For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."

He didn't say offers life, but giveth. Gives necessarily implies its acceptance. Does Christ give life to everyone? No, world is here limited to the world of the elect.

John 13:1 (NKJV) Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

Jesus loved those who belonged to Him. God loved Jacob and He hated Esau. Why? God is sovereign in the exercise of his love.

A woman once said to Mr. Spurgeon, "I can't understand why God should say that He hated Esau." "That," replied Spurgeon, "is not my difficulty madam. My trouble is to understand how God could love Jacob."

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.

There were two rebellions that took place, angels and men. God provides redemption only for men. There is no redemption for angels. The Bible is full of distinguishing love. God is sovereign in the exercise of His love.

People reject this doctrine, not because it is unclear in the Bible, it is not because they do not see it there. It's because of the problems that it raises in our minds. Problems like:

Romans 9:14 (NKJV) What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!
Romans 9:19 (NKJV) You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?"

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.

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