Romans 9:1-13 ESV
God’s Sovereign Choice 9 1 a I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For b I could wish that I myself were c accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, 1 my kinsmen d according to the flesh. 4 They are e Israelites, and to them belong f the adoption, g the glory, h the covenants, i the giving of the law, j the worship, and k the promises. 5 To them belong l the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, m who is God over all, n blessed forever. Amen. 6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham o because they are his offspring, but p “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but q the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: r “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but s also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though 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 t him who calls— 12 she was told, u “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, v “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
Main point summary
God and his word do not depend on the blessings that God himself gives, nor does it rest on man's work. God's word rests in God alone - His promises: His word, HIM...who calls.
Context and References
Romans 3:1-8 Romans 8:38-39 Genesis 15:1-6, 18-21; 16:1-4, 15-16; 17:1-8, 15-21; 18:1-2, 9-15; 21:1-7, 12; 25:21-26 Malachi 1:1-4 Ephesians 1:1-14
To what extent do I love my 'kinsmen'? How is this love evident; why is it manifest? In what situations do I presume that God's word has failed? What is the folly of this thinking? Am I so in love with the blessings of God toward me and my community, that I am blind to God himself? How tangible is God to me? What is my reliance on my works? What is the assurance of my salvation? God's work and his doing, or my works? What is my reliance on God and his perfect, unchanging word? How is this reliance seen in my life every day? In what situations can I rest in God's purpose for his glory (Ephesians 1)? If I am chosen by God and his mercy, and not anything I did, should I not fall down always in fearful worship and humble trust? Do I try to add to my justification? Can I? Why not?
· Note the incompleteness of Romans 3:1-2ff, as well as the similarity of Romans 3:1-8 with Romans 9:1-6 · The list of advantages or blessings which begins in Romans 3, seems to get completed here, in Romans 9:1-6, reaching a crescendo with the reality, yet tragedy for the Israelites: ...from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 9:5b) o The tragedy is implied by Paul’s almost violent show of love for his kinsmen in the flesh – the Israelites. This reaction is very different from Paul’s in Romans 3:1-8. o All these blessings are given to the Israelites, especially Christ, who is God over all, and yet, like Romans 3:3, there is an implied faithlessness (or blindness) o Their blindness in their blessings only accentuates the tragedy even more, to the point where Paul (interestingly, soon after Romans 8:38-39) wishes himself cut off and separated from Christ if that helped his brothers in the flesh. · In this tragedy of being blessed, yet blind, one wonders (just like in Romans 3:3) – Did God fail to keep his promise to Israel? Therefore, can God be trusted to keep his promises? o These questions are apt especially in the light of Romans 8 – a chapter full of promises to us! o The force of Romans 3:3-4 ought to have sobered us then, and if not, Paul answers the same question now – is God unfaithful? Can he be trusted to keep his promises? · The pivot of the passage, therefore, is Romans 9:6. Paul implies the question asked in his answer and gives the ground for his answer in the verses to come. · But it is not as though the word of God has failed. · On what basis are you saying that Paul? o Romans 9:6b-7 o Paul states a negative fact in two ways and backs that up with a supporting positive statement: § For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel… § …and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring § The positive is a quote from Genesis 21:12: …but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” o There is, therefore, a difference between the ethnic, physical, flesh-based Israel and the ‘true’ Israel. There is an Israel within Israel. o So, in Romans 9:8 Paul proceeds to explain this further, by contrasting ‘children of the flesh’ with the ‘children of the promise’ – who are the children of God, the Israel within Israel and the real offspring of Abraham. § Romans 9:9 points first to the promise, highlighting its importance: · Genesis 18:10, 14 · The promise, in turn, hinges on one condition – “I will return”. In Genesis, this is seen even more obviously: o v10 I will surely return o v14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? · The promise was not based on Abraham or Sarah, but on God and His supernatural acting. o This is especially accented when we realise that the child of ‘flesh’ [Ishmael] was a result of Abraham and Sarah trying to play God and relying on their own flesh. o The promise, on the other hand, was Isaac, who came from a thing that did not exist (Romans 4:17, Genesis 18:9-14) – something only God could do, not man. Isaac was a result of God’s work – a child of God. § The real Israel are therefore acts of God, not just what men can do, in their flesh – hence, they are called ‘children of God’. So, God’s word, instead of failing, succeeds! o From Romans 9:10, Paul adds to this (note the progression), using the example of Israel himself: § Rebekah too conceived children (in the flesh) – Isaac (the same child of promise). § Two children – equal twins, not yet born and not having anything to their merit/demerit. § But Rebekah was told – “The older will serve the younger” – a clear deviation from the norm, where whatever deserving aspects are not counted. § On what basis? · Because it was written in Malachi – I loved Jacob even though Esau was his brother. · The basis was fore-love. Unconditional, not based on anything Jacob had done. o But the real purpose is seen in Romans 9:11 “…in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls”. § God and his purpose is the basis. § Works play no part, but God does – he purposes election and calls. § Cf. Ephesians 1:1-14 § It was because of God and his purpose that Jacob was fore-loved and called, and Esau was not. · Based on Malachi 1:4, God’s hate and anger on Esau is justified because of his wickedness § God’s word again, succeeds! · All of Romans 9:8-13 explains Paul’s point: not all ethnic Israel is true Israel. True Israel are offspring of God’s promise, i.e. chosen by God. His promise, purpose and calling are the bases, i.e. God is the sole basis for who is part of true Israel and who is not. So too is my justification and my calling - they are completely dependent on God and my works count for nothing. It is God who justifies. My works are guaranteed to fail, God and his word are guaranteed not to. · So, how can God’s word fail, when it is by his word that the real Israel was chosen, when his word always succeeds? God’s word cannot fail.
a I am speaking the truth in Christ—
I am not lying;
my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—
that I have great sorrow
and unceasing anguish in my heart.
For b I could wish that I myself were c accursed
and cut off from Christ
for the sake of my brothers, 1
my kinsmen d according to the flesh.
They are e Israelites,
and to them belong f the adoption,
g the glory,
h the covenants,
i the giving of the law,
j the worship, and
k the promises.
To them belong l the patriarchs,
and from their race,
according to the flesh,
is the Christ, m who is God over all, n blessed forever. Amen.
But it is not as though the word of God has failed.
For not all who are descended from Israel [in the flesh] belong to Israel,
and not all are children of Abraham o because they are his offspring, [in the flesh]
but p “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”
This means that it is not the children of the flesh [i.e. Ishmael/descent] who are the children of God,
but q the children of the promise are counted as offspring.
For this is what the promise said:
r “About this time next year I will return ,
and Sarah shall have a son.” And not only so,
but s also when Rebekah had conceived children
by one man, [by flesh]
our forefather Isaac, [by flesh]
though they were not yet born
and had done nothing [in flesh]
in order that God’s purpose of election might continue,
not because of works (or man)
but because of t him who calls—
she was told,
u “The older will serve the younger.”
As it is written, v “Jacob I loved,
but Esau I hated.”
Also cf. Romans 3:1-4
Paul's deep, unending sorrow does not prevent him from pointing back to (and even resting in) God's will and purpose. What about me?
Instead of God's word failing, the opposite happened - God's purpose, fulfilled by his word (to both Abraham and Sarah as well as Rebekah)
God's purpose was not dependent on their deeds - seen again in 11f
Whose promise? God's! Again, man (flesh) cannot stand before God and his promise!
That God is over all does not mean that man has no role (or responsibility - seen in Romans 4:18-22, and also the reality of Ishmael). Also, the fact that the twins were from one man, also implies that there is nothing, even in genealogy that makes one more deserving than the other.
Note the blessing upon blessing that God has given the Israelites: v4b the adoption v4c the glory v4d the covenants v4e the giving of the law v4f the worship v4g the promises v5a the patriarchs v5d Christ...God over all, blessed forever
...according to the flesh...God over all.
Paul's sorrow and anguish is drawn out even more by the 8 blessings given to his brothers, and yet their unbelief.
Observe the extent of Paul's sorrow, and implying his love for his kinsmen.
By the mercies of God, I too have several blessings. But who is Christ to me? God over some?
Do I love my 'kinsmen according to the flesh'/my neighbours with the same vigour?
Note the uses of 'flesh' in v3d and v5c and then the contrast seen in v8a,10c and 11f.
I had initially shown this as a series, but on a second glance, it looks like Sarah's son is dependent on God's return - thus a child of God, in a sense.
Cf. Luke 14:26 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 .
This frightening expression seems to have more to do with God's foreknowing, elective love than with hatred - a love so vigorous, that anything less appears to be hatred.
A direct contrast to v6a (where God's word seems to have failed). Also see Romans 8:28-30
May I never fail to glory and trust in a God whose word never ever fails - even if everything seems contrary. What foolishness if I do not trust him!
v6b-7b Ishmael descended from Abraham too. Could this be a counter to paedobaptism?
cf. Romans 8:31-39