Romans Chapter 9
First Baptist Church
Des Moines, NM
Welcome to the Ministerial Alliance program on KLMX. Iím Bryan Kimsey from 1st Baptist Church in Des Moines and for the past year or so Iíve been working thru Paulís letter to the Romans church. This week weíre in chapter 9, a chapter with a reputation for being controversial and difficult. But, as I said yesterday, I think the only reason it has that reputation is because it brings us face to face with God. As rebellious human beings, we donít like God tell us how things are. I think weíd much rather tell God how weíd like things to be! But, in any case, Chapter 9 is part of the Bible and here we are.
Our passage today is this one:
Romans 9:6-16 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." (10) 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." (14) 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." (16) So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.
If you recall from yesterday, Paul was expressing dismay in Israelís refusal to accept Jesus as Messiah. Paul saw clearly that salvation comes by faith and not by works of the law or by background. In other words, Israel wasnít saved just because they were born of Abrahamís lineage. People are not saved because their parents are saved, but each person must come to faith on their own. The question I left us with yesterday was this one: "Why then did God call the Israelites his special people?" Why did God set them apart, give them the law, give them the opportunity to worship Him, give them covenants and promises, if Heís only going to abandon them because they donít have faith in Jesus? Thatís the question Paul is going to answer now.
He starts off with the statement "For they are not all Israel who are of IsraelÖ" and then, in typical Pauline fashion, goes on to demonstrate what he means using the Jewish scriptures to show his points. So, Paul says "For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, "IN ISAAC YOUR SEED SHALL BE CALLED." His point here is that Abraham had two sons- Isaac and Ishmael. God had promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, but Abraham and Sarah grew impatient and Abraham fathered Ishmael thru Sarahís maid Hagar. They then asked God to bless Ishmael. Yet, God told him in Genesis 21:12- "IN ISAAC YOUR SEED SHALL BE CALLED." And so it was, as the Israelites came not from Ishmael, but from Isaac. Here is one of the first places where God displays His sovereignty in who He calls and who He does not.
I say "one of the first" because Abraham himself was a result of Godís calling. Abraham, if you recall, was worshipping idols when God spoke to him and said "Go!" God didnít speak to anyone else, not that we have record of at least, and so why did God choose Abraham for this duty? You might say "Well, because of who Abraham was! He obviously had a heart for religion." Maybe so, but Abraham was in clear violation of what would later become the 1st Commandment; namely "You shall have no other gods before me." Abraham certainly did have other gods before God Almighty. But was to why God chose Abraham, we just canít say. In light of other passages later in Bible, I really donít think God chose Abraham based on anything Abraham himself did, but that it was rather a choice of a sovereign God. And I think Paul will explain this himself in just a bit.
Romans 9:7-9 Ö."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."
So we have Ishmael as the child of the flesh and Isaac as the child of the promise. Isaac is the one thru whom God will build a nation, or more correctly it is thru the child of promise that God will build a nation of promises. Now, at this point, we have two children, both with the same father but with different mothers. And you might very well say something like "It was Hagar that caused the problem. She wasnít really Abrahamís wife but only a handmaiden." Well, Paul answers that question now when he says:
Romans 9:10-12 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."
As twins, Jacob and Esau obviously had the same mother and the same father. They therefore cannot be separated on the basis of their parents. In addition, Jacob was born after Esau. Yet, God says ""THE OLDER SHALL SERVE THE YOUNGER." Now we would think that the older should have the rights, but God exercises his sovereignty and designates the younger as the master. Why did He do that? Paul told us already in v 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)." Note again that it wasnít Isaac or Rebekah who decided that Esau would serve Jacob but God who made the decision. In fact, Isaac favored Esau. According to Paul God called Jacob and this was done so "that the purpose of God according to election might stand."
Now, weíll revisit the purpose of works again. Earlier I mentioned that some people believe that God selected Abraham because of some character that Abraham displayed. In other words, they say that Abraham did this and as a result God then selected him. Yet, Paul writes clearly of Jacob and Esau ""for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil..." The children were not even born and had not done anything- good or evil- and yet God had already selected Jacob. And Paulís not making this up in order to push his doctrine of election, but is using quote after quote from Genesis to show that this doctrine has been there all along. God chose Abraham, then chose Isaac, and then chose Jacob- these are the fathers of the Jewish nation, all chosen by God, and at least one of them chosen in the womb.
Thatís the doctrine of election which is often dodged and avoided in todayís church. However, there it is in the Bible. The word occurs 5 times in the New Testament, 3 times in Romans, once in 1 Thessalonians, and once in 2 Peter. The concept is further explained in several other places, particularly in Ephesians chapter 1 and 2.
There is some debate as to whether the doctrine of election refers to individuals or to nations. After all, Jacob and Esau became heads of nations. Surely, God gave them both free choice as to whether or not they would accept him? After all, itís not really fair that Esau didnít have a chance to prove himself is it? And if you follow Jacobís lying, cheating, and devious behavior in Genesis you can fairly ask the question "Why Jacob?" The very name "Jacob" means "heel catcher" or "supplanter" which is to say "deceiver". So, it just doesnít seem fair that Jacob is chosen over Esau, before the children have done anything, good or evil.
If youíre thinking along these lines, then recall what I said at the beginning of this study. When we read the Bible, we so often want it to say what we want it to say. Weíd like to tell God what He should do. But the inverse is true. God tells us what He wants to say and He shows us how we should think and what we should do. We often donít like the God of the Bible! That should come as no surprise since Isaiah tells us:
Isaiah 55:8-9 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. (9) "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.
When we come face to face with Godís thoughts we often have trouble understanding them. His ways are higher than ours and we just canít see that high on our own. And so it is with the doctrine of election. Itís not fair!
And the doctrine of election is not fair. It actually is far more than "fair". We, in our little human terms, think in terms of "fair", but God thinks in terms of "graceful" and "merciful". As Paul told us earlier in Romans "Öall have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." If all have sinned and fall short, then "fair" should mean that we get what we deserve and what we deserve as disobedient sinners is punishment. As unfruitful natural branches, we actually all deserve to be cut down and tossed in the fire. Thatís fair. But God, thank God!, is merciful and gracious and has a system by which some are saved and converted from the natural state to a spiritual state. Not only do we see this in the Romans text, but itís evident in several parables, most notably the parable of the workers in the vineyard. In that parable, the generous owner pays all his workers the same, regardless of when they started working for him. The ones who worked longer grumble and say "thatís not fair!" The ownerís reply is "Did you not agree to work for these wages? Why do you criticize me if I chose to pay these others the same? Can I not do as I wish with the things that are mine?" And thatís exactly where Paul is going with his discussion on election. We, however, are out of time today so youíll have to come back tomorrow at 9:45 am here on KLMX radio and see what Paul has to say next, how he brings the doctrine of election back to Christ, how it should become a massive comfort to those who are saved by it, and how responsibility is still laid at your feet.
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