Romans 9: God's Sovereign Righteousness--Children of the Promise

by Bob Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

Reading: Romans 9

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. I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. (Romans 9:1-8)

Reflecting and Thinking
Some have suggested that the topic changes in Romans 9-11, but this section is perhaps better understood as an amplification of Paul's treatise on salvation or righteousness (chapters 1-8). Paul expands his explanation of how God's righteousness will be applied to Israel (3:25-26), demonstrating the justice of God's dealings with Israel.
God has rejected Israel, and rightly so. God made a sovereign choice when he selected Israel (9:1-5). God treated Israel as children, based on his promise to Abraham and his eternal purpose (vv. 6-13). The question of God's foreknowledge or predestination is not only a New Testament concern-here it is raised concerning Pharaoh (vv. 14-18) and extended to Israel. Was God unjust to elect Jacob over Esau? Has God failed Israel?
God's intent in Israel was to reveal himself and to reach all whom he prepared for glory and called, not only in physical Israel, but in spiritual Israel which includes Gentiles (vv. 19-29). Israel's lack of faith and dependence on law and works has excluded them. The Gentiles have found faith and righteousness even though they were not seeking it (vv. 30-33). [As we will see, these are generalizations. Not all physical Israel is excluded and not all Gentiles are included.]

What advantages did Israel have? Why did Israel find it so hard to seek God by the faith of Abraham, choosing instead to depend on righteousness by the law and by works? Based on this chapter, how would you explain that God was not unjust in choosing Isaac over Ishmael, in choosing Jacob over Esau, or in rejecting Pharaoh?
Deeper study: What does v. 30 say about whether we by faith seek God or merely seek salvation (righteousness)?

Dear God, we stand in awe of the extent to which you will go to accomplish your will, raising up and using human beings according to their desires and your purposes, being gracious to all so that your wrath might be seen and your righteousness might come to those you call. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

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Last updated July 27, 2011