Sermon: True Israel and God’s Purpose of Election Romans 9:1-13

True Israel and God’s Purpose of Election

Romans 9:1-13


Truth Taught- True Israel is made up of those who have faith like Abraham, not those who can trace their lineage back to Abraham.

Introduction

As we enter into Chapter 9, it’s important to connect it to the larger section coming up, which is Chapter 9-11. In these three Chapters we’ll see the overflowing grace that is poured out on God’s people made up from those called out of the world both Jews and Gentiles.

Paul’s goal in Romans is the glory of God. Here God’s glory is seen in an amazing way. In God’s goodness and mercy He extends a sovereign calling to those who are undeserving. We see His grace in salvation shining forth in all its splendor.

God is glorified as we see that He is the author and finisher of our faith. He is the beginning and end of our salvation. He alone saves us. What about those who are not saved? What about those who will never be saved? God is also sovereign over them as well.

Romans 9:1–13 (ESV)

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 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. For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but 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 him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

  1. Abraham’s Physical Descendants-

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 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.

In Chapter 9, Paul begins by declaring that he would give just about anything to see his kinsmen saved. He’s referring to his Jewish kinsmen, those who are descendants from Abraham. His Jewish kinsmen know their Old Testament, they know the Jewish traditions, feast days, ceremonial days, and days of special worship. They know the language of Judaism very well, some are even very high up in Jewish circles. However, the fact remains that most of Paul’s kinsmen are eternally lost, forever separated from the God they think they know a lot about.

Because most will never be saved and will spend eternity in hell some were thinking and saying that God had abandoned His ancient people, the Israelites. This thinking stemmed from centuries old misunderstanding as to who God’s people really are. They are not Abraham’s descendants of the flesh but Abraham’s offspring of promise.

Abraham’s descendants are all who can trace their lineage back to Abraham. These are not true Israelites. True Israelites are people of faith like Abraham not his descendants.

Romans 4:9–13 (ESV)

Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.

Let’s listen to our Lord’s words as He was speaking to descendants of Abraham…

John 8:39–44 (ESV)

39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Remember what John the Baptist said as the Pharisees and other lost descendants of Abraham came out to also get baptized…

Matthew 3:9 (ESV)

And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.

So, the overwhelming biblical consensus is that if all a person has is the claim that they are from Abraham’s bloodline they do not belong to God are lost and still in their sin.

In today’s text, Paul goes on to show us all the amazing privileges the Jewish people had…

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.

Here we see the tragedy of religious unbelief. Religious privileges are wonderful but they cannot take the place of Jesus Christ.

Paul is literally grieving over his lost kinsmen. He has great sorrow over them.

They had experienced corporate adoption as a people; God cared for them in a special way. As a people, they experienced the glory of God as He led them out of Egypt. God gave the covenants to them every time God said, I will be your God and you will be My people. The Mosaic Law had been given to them, feasts, ceremonial worship, and from their own people came the promised Messiah. However, the sad reality was that they wasted every one of their special advantages.

The vital piece of each and every advantage Paul lists is that each of these must be coupled to faith. Israel had no faith she was spiritually dead.

So unbelief would mark Abraham’s physical descendants. With the vast majority of the Israelites remaining unbelievers, did God’s Word and God’s promises fail?

  1. Abraham’s Spiritual Descendants

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. For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but 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 him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

Paul answers the question by stating that God’s promises have not failed. Notice what he tells us to prove His Word hasn’t failed…

For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel,

He immediately defends God’s Word by writing that God’s promises have not failed because the promises were made to true Israel not to those who are Abraham’s descendants by the flesh. God’s promises were never made to Israel as a nation but those who are Israel by faith.

For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel,

So, Israel’s vast unbelief is not inconsistent with God’s promises but is consistent with God’s promises because His promises were never intended for national Israel to start with but those who are Israelites by faith. Those that share the faith of Abraham are truly his offspring. Every single Jew who exercises saving faith is proof that God’s promises have been accomplished.

Who are the people who make up true Israel?

Abraham’s True Offspring are the children of Promise. Paul shows us two example of how this works.

  1. Isaac and Ishmael

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. For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.”

Paul begins his proof by starting right at the very beginning of Abraham’s descendants. Isaac and Ishmael both claim Abraham as their father. Abraham was their father. Isaac was from the union of Sarah and Abraham and Ishmael was conceived from the union of Abraham and Hagar (Sarah’s servant).

Genesis 21:12 (ESV)

12 But God said to Abraham, “Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named.

Although Ishmael was a son of Abraham, and although Sarah was past the age of normal childbearing, it was through her, Abraham’s true wife, that God gave assurance that the true son of His promise would be born: “Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.… My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year” (17:19, 21; cf. 18:10–14).[1]

So, what God is telling Abraham in Genesis 21 is that even though both Isaac and Ishmael are his blood descendants, only Isaac will receive God’s sovereign call which brings spiritual life, Ishmael will not. Isaac will be the son of promise the one who has faith like Abraham.

Paul’s assertion in Romans 9 echoes what Jesus said to those unbelieving Jews in the Temple and what he himself had emphasized some years earlier in his letter to the Galatian churches: “Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham” (Gal. 3:6–7).[2]

So, Paul uses this example to prove that it’s not Abraham’s physical descendants who are Abraham’s offspring but only those who receive God’s call. They are the ones for whom the promise is intended.

This is to highlight God’s sovereign work because only God can give the effectual call that brings spiritual life just like only God could bring life to Sarah’s barren womb. Her conception was entirely a work of God.

For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.”

So, those whom God counts as Abraham’s offspring are not his descendants but those who are given spiritual life by God through His sovereign election and calling.

Romans 8:29–30 (ESV)

29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Remember this is God’s work and God’s alone.

So, two brothers Isaac and Ishmael one called by God the other not and both had Abraham as their earthly father. So, it’s not physical lineage that makes us sons of God but it is God’s work alone.

To make his point even further Paul goes to the very next generation, Isaac’s children, Jacob and Esau…

  1. Jacob and Esau

10 And not only so, but 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 him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

Unlike Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau had the same father, Isaac and the same mother Rebekah.

Someone might say well, I can see why God chose Isaac over Ishmael, it’s because Ishmael was never going to be called by God because it was Sarah not Hagar that received the promise that God would grant her a son. Here, the boys have the same father and mother.

Like with Isaac and Ishmael God chose one and not the other to extend His call to. Here, God’s sovereign choice took place even before they were born and before either of them had done anything good or bad.

God did not choose both sons to continue the physical line of promise but sovereignly elected Jacob and passed over Esau before they were even born. And just as He chose them without any regard for what they would do in their lives, but purely that God’s purpose… might stand with no regard for any human work, so God has chosen some Jews, not all, for salvation.[3]

What Paul is getting at is that there is no human act involved, no human decision made, and no sin committed.

To go a step further, from a human standpoint the inheritance should have went to Esau because he was the first-born. However, God had another plan altogether.

Genesis 25:23 (ESV)

23 And the Lord said to her,

       “Two nations are in your womb,

and two peoples from within you shall be divided;

       the one shall be stronger than the other,

the older shall serve the younger.”

What’s going on here? God is exercising His sovereignty over His creation. Specifically, Paul explains that all of this is to show in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls

God’s election-

Is His free and sovereign choice and His choice is put into effect by His effectual call. God does not wait to see who will believe and then choose them; no He chooses them, calls them and then they believe.

Conclusion

God’s Word has not failed, He has kept His promises not to Abraham’s descendants but Abraham’s true offspring, true Israel, those He has called according to His purpose of election.

So just as God chose Isaac and not Ishmael and as He chose Jacob and not Esau to extend His call to, He has the right to do as He pleases with His own creation.

Application

As we consider the doctrine of election we must realize that it isn’t just Paul and the other apostles who teach it. Jesus, Himself addresses it in various places.

John 6:44 (ESV)

44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

John 13:18 (ESV)

18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’

John 15:16 (ESV)

16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

Election is the foundation for worship now and in eternity.

Psalm 115:1 (ESV)

115 Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,

for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

If we were responsible for our own salvation either in whole or in part we would be singing our own praises. We will, instead, be singing praises and worshipping God for what He has done on our behalf. He alone is worthy to receive our worship.

Revelation 5:12 (ESV)

12 saying with a loud voice,

       “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,

       to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might

       and honor and glory and blessing!”

Revelation 7:10 (ESV)

10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

 

 

 

Sources Used-

Romans by John MacArthur

Romans by John Stott

Teaching Romans by Christopher Ash

 

 

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (Ro 9:6). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (Ro 9:6). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (Ro 9:6). Chicago: Moody Press.

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