Hi Jim, You have helped me so many times and here I am again. Can you tell me what Paul is talking about in Romans 9? It sure looks like a case for “predestination and election”, which I thought I had come out from under when coming to understand the grace of God and Jesus as my Life.If you have a post on this and would direct me to it I would sure appreciate it! Thanks a ton, Karen
Hello Karen! Good to hear from you again.
Yikes … Romans 9?!?!?! Hehehe! No, I don’t think I have a post on this anywhere, but I’ll see if I can come up with something here, okay?
Now, there is no doubt in my mind that God is the one who is in control of all things, and is working all things according to His own will. I mean, this the essence of grace: it’s all of God and not of man. And as Paul states, “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” But this is fortunate for us because otherwise there is no salvation!! But it’s very important to notice how Paul was connecting all this to the reality of the life of Christ … and why he brought it up.
But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: ‘THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.’ 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 9:6-8
Paul wrote this letter in a logical progression of fleshly objections to the grace of God in Christ. Consider the fact that this part of Paul’s expose comes after the famous grace discussion of chapters 6-8 that blow away the fleshly conclusions about grace. You remember, where fleshly religious wisdom asks “Shall we sin so that grace may abound?” Paul answers with a “Don’t be ridiculous, for the one who has died to sin no longer lives there!!” You see, the answer is not found by human logic, but only in the new creation that has risen with Christ from the dead. Realize right now that the answer to every other objection is found in the same place.
The next fleshly question after the amazing confidence of Romans 8 addresses how God is not unfaithful to His promises just because it appears so according to a view based upon human wisdom.
But it is not as though the word of God has failed… Romans 9:6
How else can fleshly wisdom (especially religious forms of it) view the promises of God if God can’t even save His own people? But the objection is found only in the mind of man … not in reality. You know what? We’ve asked very similar questions about the fleshly church as we so often try to claim that God would not be faithful to His promises unless He saves everybody. But the truth of the fact is that the “Israel” that God saves is not bound in any way by the outward lineage. Remember Jesus’ statement? “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” John 7:24
…for they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants… Romans 9:6-7
The same holds true for those in the institutional church system. The fact is that our fleshly perceptions are still trying to figure out who is born of God based upon many different appearance formulas, often backed up with scripture. Salvation is not found in the flesh in any way!! It didn’t have anything to do with being one of the fleshly children of Abraham anymore than with being a member of a “Christian” church. If it did, then it would still be found in the old dead life of Adam.
…but: ‘THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.’ 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 9:7
Paul’s whole argument revolves around the miraculous new creation in Christ as the only rationale by which we can recognize the very meaning of God’s promise. Christ is the one that God has chosen and life is only found in him … as surely as He consistently chose the weaker and despised sons Paul refers to. What was his point in it all?
…so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, Romans 9:11
Not because of works but because of God who does the calling!! You see, Isaac was the impossible child made possible only through the miraculous choice of God. He was also the younger so that he was persecuted and intimidated by his older half-brother. He was made to feel as if he was not the rightful heir. And you know what? It looked that way no matter how Isaac tried to rationalize according to everything in the world around him. Sound familiar?
Paul’s Scriptural references were not placed there in order to instruct us in a theology but as a witness to the reality of Christ, who is the substance behind the shadows. By relating it to Christ the real promise is made known. The funny thing was is that the lives of those written of contained the seed of promise.
THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED. Romans 9:6
He was the by-faith child, and it was always known, and yet the illusion crept in and held on for centuries that being born in the fleshly lineage of Abraham had some saving power.
AT THIS TIME I WILL COME, AND SARAH SHALL HAVE A SON. Romans 9:9
As spoken by God Himself. As it says, “This is the word of promise”. And they had missed the whole significance that it was God’s doing and not their right as flesh-born sons.
Here’s that fleshly question stated clearly:
What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! Romans 9:14
Like I say, the objection only makes sense in the logic of the fleshly mind as it uses anything and everything to justify itself … and then to validate it by Scriptural quotations. Of course, I think we understand this logic very, very well … and that we often let it lead us into many absurd ideas and confusion.
So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.Romans 9:18
And if this is true then He has lavished His desire on those who don’t deserve it. You know who was hardened? Every man in Adam!! For consider that Paul had already established at the beginning of this letter that:
What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, ‘THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD’ Romans 3:9-10
It also raises the next logical fleshly question:
You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?’ Romans 9:19
One again, this is a bogus objection found in the heart of mankind as it attempts to justify itself. Nothing more. After all, who finds this mercy?
That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith Romans 9:30
Found by those who didn’t care, didn’t want it, and didn’t even know it was there, but were still running far from it.
And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.
This us, the “vessels of mercy”, is not describing some of Adam’s race chosen above others, but is instead speaking of the choosing of the risen life of Christ, the new creation, and we IN HIM. We are so quick to think of ourselves according to the flesh when we hear stuff like this, but the truth of the matter is that we are not who we think we are most of the time!! God didn’t save any of Adam’s race but instead condemned it all to death in Christ so that those who are raised from the dead with Christ are not who they were even though everything in the world demands it to be so.
Well, I’m not sure if this answers your question, so please let me know, okay?
Jim, Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I am thrilled with your having taken the time to consider my questions and appreciate so VERY much the wisdom that you have. YES it has helped and yes it makes all of the sense in the world!!! I appreciate you from the bottom of my toes!
Jim, I have another question. What about, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” and the verses regarding Pharaoh? I think that I understand the generalities of fleshly vs the spiritual way of looking at Romans 9, with your help, but not quite yet with the “specifics” regarding the “personal”. (vs 13 and 17-18)Thanks again, Karen
Okay, now this may seem quite the long way around answering your question, but I want you to get good picture of Paul’s presentation as it reveals much in addressing your question. Below I’ve included the whole of Romans 9 from the NASB version. Do you see the all-caps sections? Those are quotations from OT scriptures, and it’s important to recognize why Paul would have included so many in this portion of the letter.
I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.
But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.” 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. For this is the word of promise: “AT THIS TIME I WILL COME, AND SARAH SHALL HAVE A SON.”
And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 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, it was said to her, “THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.” Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.”
What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.” So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.
You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.
As He says also in Hosea, “I WILL CALL THOSE WHO WERE NOT MY PEOPLE, ‘MY PEOPLE,’ AND HER WHO WAS NOT BELOVED, ‘BELOVED.’” “AND IT SHALL BE THAT IN THE PLACE WHERE IT WAS SAID TO THEM, ‘YOU ARE NOT MY PEOPLE,’ THERE THEY SHALL BE CALLED SONS OF THE LIVING GOD.” Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “THOUGH THE NUMBER OF THE SONS OF ISRAEL BE LIKE THE SAND OF THE SEA, IT IS THE REMNANT THAT WILL BE SAVED; FOR THE LORD WILL EXECUTE HIS WORD ON THE EARTH, THOROUGHLY AND QUICKLY.” And just as Isaiah foretold, “UNLESS THE LORD OF SABAOTH HAD LEFT TO US A POSTERITY, WE WOULD HAVE BECOME LIKE SODOM, AND WOULD HAVE RESEMBLED GOMORRAH.” What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written, “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”Romans 9
As a comparison, here’s how many separate OT references are in the following chapters … with the subject matter corresponding to each chapter.
Romans 1 = 1 The gospel declared to the world in condemnation
Romans 2 = 2 The impartial judgment of God toward Gentile and Jew
Romans 3 = 7 The law condemns all, including the Jew, righteousness apart from law
Romans 4 = 6 Abraham revealed as father to both Jew and Gentile believers
Romans 5 = 0 Sin through Adam, righteousness through Christ
Romans 6 = 0 Dead to sin, alive to God through Christ
Romans 7 = 1 The law no longer has jurisdiction
Romans 8 = 1 Life through the Spirit
Romans 9 = 10 What about the promises to Israel?
Romans 10 = 9 No distinction between Jew and Gentile
Romans 11 = 6 God did not reject Israel
Romans 12 = 2 This grace toward one another
Okay, this may seem be going down a rabbit trail, but do you notice how there are more scriptural quotes found in the sections that deal with the natural-born Jew? Consider how Jesus often spoke to the religious Jews:
It is also written in YOUR law, that the testimony of two men is true. John 8:17
Jesus answered them, Is it not written in YOUR law, I said, Ye are gods? John 10:34
The Pharisees were saying to Him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?’ And He said to them, ‘HAVE YOU NEVER READ what David did…’ Mark 2:24-25
But he said unto them, HAVE YE NOT READ what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; Matthew 12:3
Or HAVE YE NOT READ IN THE LAW, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? Matthew 12:5
And HAVE YE NOT READ THIS SCRIPTURE; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner: Mark 12:10
Are you following me here? Usually when Jesus made a “Scriptural” point it was directed to those set among the people as having achieved a higher spiritual position through their knowledge of the written law. Somehow though, with all their wisdom they had overlooked those writings they held most sacred. They were the “masters” of the Law, and yet they understood nothing of God … nor of themselves. If you will also consider Paul’s manner of presentation you will begin to pick out a pattern by which he did a similar thing when dealing with Israel.
But if you bear the name ‘Jew’ and rely upon the Law and boast in God, and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? For ‘THE NAME OF GOD IS BLASPHEMED AMONG THE GENTILES BECAUSE OF YOU,’ just as it is written. Romans 2:17-24
Is it mere coincidence that Paul brought up this “as it is written” statement right at this point? I would hardly think so, as this is a major slam against those who glory in their own self-righteousness while passing it off as their “authority from God”. This Jew vs. Gentile thing is huge! You see, the very words they demanded as being the ultimate truth were being used by Paul to show them the truth they should not have been ignorant of. Paul’s concern was not to put the Jews down (for he was one), but to build up all in Christ, whether Jew or Gentile. With one swipe he took the mystery out of that fleshly “authority” found in the people of the written law because their own writings disqualified them.
So, in Romans 9 as Paul jumps into the serious allegations that the impartial grace of Christ is somehow nullifying the promises of God made to Israel he turns once again to the scripture itself to show how nothing has changed with God. Paul now proposes: “Have you never read in the Law…?” Keep in mind that the Gentile believers needed to hear this as much as the Jewish believers did because their whole perspective of “God’s promises” had originally come from those “masters of the Law”. If God just decides to change His mind and discard the original recipients of the promise then where do the rest of us stand? We don’t need to know how everything fits together regarding the Law we just need to have the fleshly reinterpretations declared to our hearts for what they are!
And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 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, it was said to her, “THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.” Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.” Romans 9:10-13
When Paul pointed out what should have been so obvious to anyone who had been schooled in the written law it also unleashed many of the fears held by non-Jews for they had been often intimidated by the supposed authority of those who rejected Christ. In bringing up the second example of the twins born of Rebekah and Isaac Paul again establishes the ages-old reality overlooked by those under law. Now, as everything about the Jews existence was founded upon Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel) you can be sure that these scriptural references regarding the promise of God were no small matter in the eyes of both Jew and Gentile, for Christ came through this line!
See, while the religious leaders had claimed the authority as “sons of Abraham” and had used the written word to promote their biased and performance-based approach to God Paul simply reminded both Jew and Gentile of the real nature of the promise contained in those writings. Paul was establishing the impartiality of God’s choice through the “fathers” of Israel.
Though Jacob and Esau were twins one of them had to come out first, and that one had always been accepted as the pre-eminent one, the son through whom the line would be named. But once again, God chose the un-chosen younger son through which to bring the promise. The persistent truth of the written records are a testimony to the God who doesn’t operate as man would expect. But somehow, the religious mind of man keeps trying to force Him into its fleshly expectations.
Consider the whole stinky mess in which these events took place. Mom had been told that the younger son would be the one through whom the promise would come, but Isaac had always favored his firstborn, the more manly man, Esau. Yeah, that means that “our father Isaac” was banking on the wrong son just as his father Abraham had when he begged God to let Ishmael be the promised child. It seems that Israel had developed the consistent habit of recognizing according to the flesh. But it made no difference because God’s choice would stand. And then consider that even though Rebekah was pushing for God’s man she thought she had to be sneaky to bring God’s promise to pass.
The choosing of Jacob over Esau, the younger over the older, the unexpected over the expected, was all in accordance with God’s purpose based upon His choice, not man’s. Esau was the choice of man, Jacob was the choice of God. Everything about Esau found favor with man, but God’s choice of Jacob had nothing whatsoever to do with man’s preferences or expectations for it took place before they were born. Nor did God choose Jacob to perpetuate the promise instead of Esau because of what He knew would happen later, for it had nothing to with anything in man but only with God’s purpose. Christ was the unexpected choice of God after the pattern of Jacob’s choosing.
Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED. Romans 9:13
Now, don’t forget the significance of the quoting of the scripture in the context of Israel’s rejection of God’s promise. Hundreds of years later God sent a prophet to declare,
“The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi. I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness. Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever. And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The LORD will be magnified from the border of Israel.”Malachi 1:1-5
Religion has speculated so many things about Jacob being loved vs. Esau being hated and yet the context of Malachi’s prophecy usually seems to be ignored when quoting it. Realize that the statement was made about Jacob and Esau in a federal sense, that is, as the fathers of the corresponding nations. The prophecy was by no means a praise of Israel over Edom but was a scathing judgment of the faithless nation. But the choice of God was found in Israel as “the Lord will be magnified from the border of Israel.” This speaks of no one but Christ. The loving of Jacob is the love of the Father toward His son, the hating of Jacob is the despising of man’s choice according to works.
For Paul to bring up this choice little quote from the law demands that the preference of Israel (Jacob) was Christ himself. To think that it meant anything else would only have highlighted the ugly condition Israel was in at the time of the reminder of God’s love for Jacob. All of this only emphasized the fact that religion had grossly and purposely misread the promises of God toward the Israel of God.
In real life, Esau and his descendants did become servants to Jacob and his descendants. Also in real life it was Esau who made the attempt to reconcile with his brother, though it appears Jacob only ended up deceiving him once again out of fear. God’s choice really has nothing to do with the man … or his works.
What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.” So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. Romans 9:14-18
The issue Paul deals with by bringing up Moses and Pharaoh is the question of injustice with God. If God judged one man above another as man judges one above another He would be unjust because that judgment would be based upon man’s will and/or man’s doings, but God’s choices are based upon Himself. He is the only unbiased one, and only His judgments are true, while man’s are based upon a shifting and insincere scale. Our old fleshly wisdom will always have problems with anything and everything God does and wills because that logic is intricately connected with false judgments and deceitful schemes.
Do not miss the fact that the religious claim regarding God’s injustice all revolves around Christ’s free gift of righteousness being rejected by those who are SUPPOSED to be the rightful heirs. The injustice leveraged against God by the religious mind is CHRIST, because everything about him disregards and nullifies every fleshly claim to God and His righteousness and authority. He is the stumbling stone, the rock of offense. The inclusion of these scriptures presents one of the many embarrassments to the fleshly self-righteousness of Israel for it speaks of God’s mercy, which seems to establish Moses over Pharaoh, but at the same time demands that God HIMSELF raised up Pharaoh to be the slave-master of Israel. Ouch!!
There is no way one can read the Old Testament scriptures in honesty without being struck by the incessant demands that God raised up all sorts of vile leaders and ruthless people to make a waste of Israel. But with religious glasses we are able to somehow praise the fleshly workings of the nation through whom Christ would come instead of recognizing that everything about Christ demands pure and total grace.
The personal aspect regarding Pharaoh and God’s choice has nothing to do with the man’s evil against Israel, but only to do with the demonstration of God’s power in that man. Pharoah, on his part, did what he wanted to do … even though he was almost ready to back off a couple times. Pharaoh did indeed come to a bitter end … but so do all in Adam.
The bottom line is that no man receives mercy, for all have turned away from it. There is nothing we can claim regarding our own faith in Christ except that it is miraculous indeed, and that it only testifies to another miraculous life that is found in Christ.
Well, I’m not sure I really answered your question in all that … but I think I gave you some food for thought!! :)