Tag Archives: purpose of election

Romans 9:22-29 – Corporate Purpose of Election

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Introduction:

Paul’s main point thus far in Romans 9 is:

  • God’s purpose of election explains why God’s chosen rejected their Messiah.

 

This means a main objective of Paul…

  • Is to zero in on the Jews who have rejected their Messiah – the vessel for dishonorable use.
  • And to tell us exactly what God’s purpose-of-election-use is for them.

 

So what is God’s purpose-of-election-use for the dishonorable vessel?

  • Last week we finally answered this question.

 

And Paul’s answer was quite jarring.

  • desiring to show his wrath…
  • “…to make known his power…
  • “…to make known the riches of his glory…”

 

We saw two really important things in his answer.

  • (1) God’s-Action=God-Knowing.
  • (2) And the basics of God’s purpose-of-election-use for the dishonorable “the vessels of wrath”.

 

In short –

  • (1) God gives redemptive knowledge of Himself through His action in history.
  • (2) God’s purpose of election is a giving of such knowledge in specific ways, to specific corporate groups of people, for specific reasons.

 

The peoples are the “vessels of wrath”, “vessels of mercy” and Gentiles.

  • The purpose is to “show his wrath”, “…to make known his power…”, “…to make known the riches of his glory…”.

 

Last week we drilled down into the God’s-Action=God-Knowing principal – number 1.

  • Both in the OT generally…
  • And then specifically in the coming destruction of the Temple in 70.

 

Today we dig into the details of God’s purpose of election – number 2.

  • In other words, the specifics of the peoples and the purposes.

 

 

People and Purpose – Show Wrath to the Dishonorable Vessel:

What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (verse 22).

 

 

People:

The Jews who rejected the Messiah from their own flesh…

  • Are the Jews God chose to tear off of the lump and make into “vessels of wrath”.

 

We learned way back in Romans 3 how to understand God’s wrath.

  • God’s wrath is best understood as His “judging righteousness.”
  • This is in contrast to God’s “saving righteousness”.

 

This means then, that “vessels of wrath” are:

  • The corporate group of Messiah rejecting Jews…
  • That will come under God’s judging righteousness.

 

This is huge.

  • Paul is now completing his argument.

 

The Jewish rejection of the Messiah was part of God’s purpose of election.

  • It did not catch God by surprise.
  • And it doesn’t compromise the legitimacy of Jesus as Messiah.

 

And about this wrath…

  • We saw last week that this judging righteousness was the destruction of the Temple.
  • And the resulting fragmentation of the Jewish people.

 

The historian Josephus described the events that accompanied the destruction of the Temple.

  • Speaking about the Jewish rebels, “…so they were first whipped, and then tormented with all sorts of tortures before they died, and were then crucified before the wall of the city”.
  • And about the crucifixions, “…the soldiers out of the wrath and hatred they bore the Jews, nailed those they caught, one after one way, and another after another, to the crosses, by way of jest; when their multitude was so great, that room was wanting for the crosses, and crosses wanting for the bodies.”

 

Judaism would never be the same again.

 

Paul wants us to see, however, that God “endured with much patience” Jewish unbelief (vs. 22).

  • The idea here with “endured” is that God literally “put up with” them (BDAG).
  • Meaning that God choose to withhold His wrath (show them mercy) until the time (70 AD) of His choosing.

 

 

Purpose:

And what was the purpose for this judging righteousness upon the Jews who rejected their Messiah?

  • make known His power” (vs. 22)
  • make known His glory” (vs. 23)

 

Make known to whom?

  • the vessels of mercy” (vs. 23)
  • the Gentiles” (vs. 24)

 

Paul already hinted at all of this with his allusion to Malachi’s handling of Jacob and Esau.

  • Malachi 1:3–4 (ESV) — 3 but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” 4 If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the Lord of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the Lord is angry forever.’ Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, ‘Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!” – Malachi 1:5.

 

And we he referenced Pharaoh.

  • “But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” – Exodus 9:16.

 

So God used His judging action against unbelieving Jews for the benefit of two other peoples.

  • And to them we now turn.

 

 

People and Purpose – Make Known Power and Glory to Remnant Jews and the Gentiles:

…even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?” (vs. 24)

 

This is a remarkable text.

  • Paul says there are a people on a different purpose-trajectory than that of the Messiah-Rejecting Jews…
  • And these are a people Paul calls “us”.

 

The “us” Paul speaks of are:

  • Messiah believing Jews – “a remnant” (vs. 27).
  • And “Gentiles” (vs. 24).

 

It is these – the remnant and the believing Gentiles –

  • Who are the beneficiaries of the God’s purpose-of-election-use of the unbelieving Jews.
  • It is they who know God’s power and glory as a result of this use.

 

Paul cites a number of OT texts to make this point.

  • We will deal with those shortly.

 

 

The Us:

Before we do, we need to emphasize something that will help us solve a puzzle later.

  • When Paul says, “even us whom he has called”…
  • He is being controversial!

 

Paul is not making a distinction between believing Jews and Gentiles.

  • Paul is not making a distinction between the Church and believing Israel.

 

He is doing the opposite.

  • Paul is deliberately redefining believing Israel!
  • And its definition has nothing to do with ethnicity or religion.

 

Believing Israel is now anyone – Jew or Gentile who submits to Jesus the Messiah.

  • Specifically, in context of Romans 9…
  • Believing Israel is anyone who is called by God through His purpose-of-election-use of the non-believing Jews.

 

Here is why this is so controversial.

  • Paul has added the Gentiles to the lump of clay that is Israel.

 

And even more controversial:

  • Paul says they are part of the lump of clay that God worked into “vessels of mercy” – not “vessels of wrath”.

 

Perriman and Bird help punctuate this point:

  • “God choosesnow to destroy and disgrace the larger part of the lump of the descendants of Abraham and to preserve and glorify a smaller part, to which Gentiles have been addedin order that his name and power might be made known to the nations” – Andrew Perriman.
  • “God is not replacing Israel with the church. Instead, God is preserving a remnant within Israel and then expanding it to include Gentiles as well” – Michael Bird.

 

Knowing this hugely important fact…

  • We can continue.

 

 

OT Allusions – Believing Gentiles:

As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ ” 26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’ ”

 

Here Paul seeks to reinforce his point about Gentile inclusion in God’s purpose of election.

  • Believing Gentiles are to be God’s people – “sons of the living God” (vs. 26).
  • And this was something God had always planned.

 

We need to see how Paul uses Hosea to reinforce this point.

  • Hosea is speaking of a time when God will bring remedy to a rebellious Israel (as opposed to Judah).
  • An Israel that God says is “not my people”.

 

The remedy (Hosea 2) comes from the “God’s-Action=God-Knowing” principal we hit on last week.

  • I will remove…
  • I will make…
  • I will abolish…
  • I will betroth…

 

The result of these actions:

  • And you shall know the Lord

 

Specifically, the results of these actions as cited by Paul are:

  • They were “not my people” and are now called “my people”.
  • They were “not beloved” and are now called “beloved”.
  • And, from Hosea 1:9, they are now “called ‘sons of the living God.’

 

So Paul’s point is that Gentiles, like Israel in Hosea, had a certain status.

  • They were “not my people”.

 

And by God’s action through the Messiah-Rejecting Jews, the believing Gentiles are now…

  • my people”.
  • beloved”.
  • called ‘sons of the living God.’

 

The oddity with this allusion to Hosea is this:

  • Hosea’s text has nothing to do with Gentiles.

 

So how does Paul’s interpretation here actually work?

  • It appears the solution must have something to do with the “us” we just discussed.

 

In other words, the “us” is so fundamental to God’s “purpose of election”…

  • Paul recognizes its existence within God’s purposes even though not explicitly stated in Hosea.

 

Also, Paul knows his OT – where there are many OT texts that do speak to this:

  • Genesis 12:2–3 (ESV) — 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
  • Isaiah 2:2–3 (ESV) — 2 It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, 3 and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

 

Not to mention Paul knows this first hand!

 

Paul’s own ministry was part of God’s purpose of election for the Gentiles.

  • Acts 13:46–47 (ESV) — 46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you [Jews]. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “ ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”

 

So given what Paul has been teaching in Romans 9…

  • And the OT teaching on God’s desire to include the nations…
  • Paul seems to be, under inspiration, showing us just how deep the “us” thread runs.

 

OT Allusions – Believing Jews:

Then after alluding to the OT to emphasize how the believing Gentiles were part of God’s purpose of election.

  • He does the same for the believing Jews – the remnant.

 

He does this by quoting Isaiah 10:22-23 and Isaiah 1:9.

  • “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.

 

These allusions are straightforward.

  • God always purposed to pull off from the lump that is Israel a believing remnant.
  • A remnant that would be known by its belief in God’s Messiah.
  • This remnant is the “vessel of mercy”.

 

Paul, through Isaiah, refers to them as:

  • a remnant” who “will be saved
  • And an “offspring” that would not have existed if God had not purposed it.
  • Paul is such a “remnant” and “offspring”.

 

The remnant, like the believing Gentiles…

  • Were always part of God’s purpose of election.

 

So there was never a time when the entirety of Israel was in jeopardy.

  • God’s purpose of election took care of that.

 

 

Conclusion:

So with this we have concluded Paul’s main thought in Romans 9.

  • We now understand how the Jews who rejected the Messiah were part of God’s purpose of election.
  • We now understand what this purpose of election was.

 

God had always purposed to:

  • Include believing Gentiles with believing Jews.

 

God had always purposed to:

  • Preserve a remnant of believing Jews to which the believing Gentiles would be joined.
  • And mold them into “vessels of mercy”.

 

God had always purposed to:

  • Use his judging righteousness against the unbelieving Jews to facilitate Gentile inclusion.

 

Romans 9:19-21 – A Jobian Beat Down and A Lump

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Introduction:

We saw last week that Paul sought to vindicate God from an apparent blemish in God’s faithfulness.

  • God’s “purpose of election” seemed to flounder with the Jewish rejection of the Messiah.
  • This brought the charge that clearly God was unjust to His elect.

 

The way Paul answered this charge was to allude to a couple of stories in Exodus.

  • Moses and Israel after the Golden Calf incident.
  • Pharaoh and the seventh plague.

 

In each, Paul made the point that its God’s prerogative to deal with the guilty (Jew or Gentile) as he chooses.

  • He had mercy on Israel despite its lack of believing loyalty.
  • He had mercy on the unrighteous Pharaoh, sparing him personally from the first 6 plagues.

 

In each case, the implication of Paul’s allusion to these texts was this:

  • God’s decision to extend mercy or judgment is not based on Gentile or Jewish affiliation.
  • God’s decision is based on His purposes – the big picture.

 

We saw that this purpose seemed to involve a revelation of God to the world.

  • We noted a couple of Paul’s OT allusions that seemed to bear this out.
  • Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, ‘Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!’” – Malachi 1:5.
  • But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” – Exodus 9:16.

 

 

God’s Purpose of Election and Human Guilt:

Moving forward from all this…

  • It’ll help us to figure out where we are now in Paul’s argument.

 

9:1-21 Outline:

  • Lament – vss. 1-5 (Jews had every privilege yet rejected their Messiah)
  • Foundation/Explanation – vss. 6-13 (Purpose of Election is where explanation of rejection to be found)
  • Answering Charge 1 Rabbit Trail – vss. 14-18 (Foundation means God must be unjust and arbitrary)
  • Answering Charge 2 Rabbit Trail – vss. 19-21 (God’s purpose working equals no personal responsibility)

 

So today’s text is the second rabbit trail Paul takes to vindicate God.

  • And what’s the charge?

 

You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’

  • Paul’s rhetorical opponent apparently thinks that given what Paul has taught thus far…
  • God’s “purpose working” exempts the objects of his working (them) from personal culpability.

 

Paul obviously disagrees.

  • But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

 

We need to press into this answer, and not blow right through it.

  • Why?

 

There are at least two reasons to hang out in these two verses.

  • (1) For starters, they come across as a somewhat brutal “Jobian” beat down.
  • (2) Secondly, it isn’t clear how it exactly answers the charge.
    • Either the charge is flawed, and Paul is addressing the real issue…
    • Or, Paul’s answer is irrelevant to the charge.

 

 

A “Jobian” Beat Down:

Consider what we know about God and humanity.

  • God loves humanity.
  • In fact, humans are God’s image bearers.

 

These two facts are so important that much of God’s redemptive history flows from them.

  • God loves a rebel humanity and seeks to restore it – and does so through Christ.

 

And yet, Paul’s words seem to paint another picture.

  • Humanity is a lump of clay.
  • And God can mold it how He wants – to suit His purposes.
  • Brutal – doesn’t sound very loving.

 

So what are we to make of this jarring description of humans as clay?

 

I think Paul wants his Jewish opponent to be jarred.

  • I think he wants his Jewish opponent to be thoroughly humbled.
  • And the same goes for us!

 

In this way, then, this isn’t an answer to the charge.

  • It is a slap upside the head to pay attention to what is really the issue.

 

Paul’s critic has seem to forgotten the implications of his humanity – he or she is a creature.

  • This is worth repeating – humans are merely creatures.
  • And importantly, Jewish ethnicity does not elevate this in anyway!

 

Moses teaches something similar in his dealings with the Jews in the wilderness:

  • Deuteronomy 7:6–7 (NRSV) — 6 For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession. 7 It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you—for you were the fewest of all peoples.

 

And here:

  • Deuteronomy 10:14–15 (NRSV) — 14 Although heaven and the heaven of heavens belong to the Lord your God, the earth with all that is in it, 15 yet the Lord set his heart in love on your ancestors alone and chose you, their descendants after them, out of all the peoples, as it is today.

 

Both of these texts are similar to Paul’s text.

  • People, nation and land were the hallmarks of a worthy people in the ancient Near East.
  • Despite the fact that Israel started with none of these, God chose them.

 

And more than that, God chose the Israelites despite the fact that:

  • He was the Creator God who “owns” all of creation (including those people with impressive nations).

 

So in both Moses’ and Paul’s case, they were dealing with a particular Jewish problem.

  • “The children of Israel were tempted to presume upon God’s gracious favor, to assume, for example, that because the Lord had placed His temple at Jerusalem, they were exempt from judgment” – Timothy George (HIBD).

 

All of this reminds me of God’s “Jobian” beat down.

  • Job 38:4–7 (NRSV) — 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

 

So is Paul’s description of humanity as clay a brutal depiction?

  • Yep – as it should be.
  • And ideally it should lead Paul’s critics (and us) to humility not outrage.

 

But is it an answer to the charge against God?

  • Let’s find out.

 

 

Answering the Charge:

Now we can unpack how, or if, Paul’s reply answers this pressing question.

  • ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’

 

Let’s look at Paul’s answer again:

  • But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

 

In these two verses:

  • Paul takes us in a couple of directions.

 

(1) The first direction was the “Jobian” beat down we just explored.

  • Who are you, O man, to answer back to God?
  • It is laughable for a mere creature (“the molded”) to question the legitimacy of God’s (the “molder”) economy of choosing, as revealed in the OT.

 

In other words…

  • God can find fault because He is the standard, not the creature.
  • It’s His economy of choosing not ours.

 

(2) The second direction points us towards the foundation Paul laid in vss. 6-13.

  • That is to say, it has to do with God’s “purpose of election” or plan of choosing.

 

Look what Paul says:

  • Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

 

What is crucial to see in this verse is found in an obvious distinction.

  • God is working all of Israel (the lump) for a particular use in his “purpose of election”.
  • An “honorable use
  • A “dishonorable use

 

So how does the fact that there exist two distinct uses for Israel…

  • Answer the question as to why God is in the right to find fault?

 

Remember earlier I suggested two possibilities about Paul’s answer.

  • The charge is flawed, and Paul is addressing the real issue.
  • Or, Paul’s answer is irrelevant to the charge.

 

It seems to me the first possibility is correct.

  • Let’s get at this with another question.

 

Does Paul’s answer actually address how an individual is or isn’t responsible for a certain standing before God?

 

I don’t think so (obviously, I’m not the only one).

  • And I think this is where the questioner gets off track and asks the wrong question.
  • The context here is God’s dealing with corporate Israel – not individuals.

 

Remember, we are headed towards Paul’s answer for why God’s own (corporate Israel) rejected the Messiah.

  • The foundation of his answer was God’s “purpose of election” for the Jews – corporate in scope.
  • So Paul is steering us back towards where he started – before all the rabbit trails.

 

Paul’s point, then, is this:

  • Corporate Israel has been divided into two vessels – based on God’s “purpose of election”.
  • Vessel 1 – is for an honorable use (this may be the remnant Paul brings up later?).
  • Vessel 2 – is for a dishonorable use (apparently those who rejected the Messiah).
  • Both vessels are crucial for God’s “purpose of election”.

 

All this can be teased out further.

  • It was God who called out the original “lump” through His call to Abraham.
  • Its God’s prerogative to separate this “lump” into two “vessels”.
  • This doesn’t violate His covenant faithfulness.
  • And, apparently, His “purpose of election” gives Him a very good, and just reason to do so.

 

So what exactly are these two uses, honorable use and dishonorable use?

  • How do they relate to or reveal God’s “purpose of election”?
  • Stayed tuned.

 

 

 

Romans 9:14-18 – God Is Arbitrary and Unjust?

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Introduction:

Last week we saw that Paul began to address a serious question.

  • Why had God’s chosen people rejected their Messiah?
  • An issue he was in deep lament over (vss. 1-5).

 

One answer he gave to this question was simple enough.

  • it is not as though the word of God has failed” (vs. 6)

 

His second answer, however, was a more complicated answer.

  • in order that God’s purpose of election might continue” (vs. 11)
  • We paraphrased this – “God’s plan of choosing” – to help us out a bit.

 

We saw that Paul didn’t actually tell us what he meant by this…not yet.

  • Though he did give us a clue with an allusion to Malachi’s Esau text.
  • Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, ‘Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!’

 

What he did do is begin to build the foundation for fleshing out this answer.

  • And what was the foundation Paul laid?

 

God is a God who chooses to suit his purposes.

  • His choices are not arbitrary.
  • God chose to be the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – not the God of Abraham, Ishmael and Esau.

 

And the results of His choices are corporate in scope:

  • There are children of the flesh.
  • And within them are children of the promise.

 

 

Another Controversy:

This foundation leads to another set of problems.

  • All of which Paul wants to address before he gets back to his main point.
  • So Paul takes a rabbit trail to address them.

 

However, we will see that Paul’s rabbit trail does curve back into verse 11.

  • “in order that God’s purpose of election might continue”

 

The perceived problem raised by God’s seemingly arbitrary choices is this:

  • A God who chooses the “children of promise” based on His own plan and purpose…
  • And not based on their ethnic status as God’s chosen…
  • Or their supposedly righteous spiritual status…
  • Must be an unfair and unjust God.

 

Remember, Paul was sure to tell us last week…

  • though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad” (vs. 11)…
  • God chose and loved Isaac, but He rejected and disfavored Esau.
  • Even though both were ethnic Jews…
  • And neither had any spiritual standing at all in terms of obedience and disobedience.

 

This is why he exclaims in verse 14:

  • What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!

 

So now we need to chase after Paul and see where he is going.

  • We need to find out why there is no “injustice on God’s part”.
  • We need to find out why the foundation Paul laid in vss. 6-13 is secure.
  • As with last week – Paul takes us back to the OT to make his point.

 

 

Moses and Exodus 33:

The first place Paul goes in verse 15 of Romans 9 is Exodus 33.

  • For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

 

To get an idea of what is going on here, we need to look at a bigger chunk of Paul’s citation from Exodus.

  • Exodus 33:12–19 (ESV) — 15 And he [Moses] said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” 17 And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” 18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.

 

This text takes place after Israel’s rebellion at Sinai.

  • They had built the Golden Calf and God set a plague upon them.
  • The text Paul alludes to deals with Moses’ intercession on behalf of a rebellious Israel.
  • God had declared to Moses – “I will not go up among you” (33:3).

 

Moses pleads with God.

  • You have to go with us.
  • How else will “it be known” that the Israelites have “found favor in your sight”? (vs. 16)

 

He presses the point.

  • Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” (vs. 16)

 

In other words…

  • The nations will know that Israel is God’s inheritance, His people…
  • Because of His presence and action on their behalf.

 

God apparently relents.

  • This very thing that you have spoken I will do” (vs. 17)

 

God then went on to tell Moses:

  • I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. (vs. 19)

 

This statement is made in response to Moses’ intercession for a rebellious Israel.

  • God makes clear that because He is “The LORD”…
  • It is entirely His prerogative to extend grace and mercy as it suits Him.

 

Israel – God’s chosen – have failed in their believing loyalty to Yahweh.

  • They deserve nothing.

 

God can justly handle them how he chooses.

  • He can abandon them for their disobedience.

 

Or He can show mercy out of deference to the covenant with Abraham.

  • His decision – take them “to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’(33:3)

 

This is why Paul can argue that this passage answers his question…

  • “Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means.” (vs. 14)

 

Because of Israel’s failure in the believing loyalty department – and thus their guilt…

  • God’s “purpose of election”, his “plan of choosing” will always be…
  • Dependent, “…not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” (vs. 16)

 

In other words,

  • If God is just to choose Israel and bring them out of Egypt to begin with.
    • To make them His inheritance.
  • God is just to either to judge them for their disloyalty or show them mercy.
  • However God wants to work out His plan with Israel – His actions are just.

 

But just in case you are still not convinced of this.

  • Paul takes us to Exodus 9.

 

 

Pharaoh and Exodus 9:

The second place Paul takes us in verse 17 is Exodus 9.

  • For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”

 

As before, we need to look at the whole passage.

  • Exodus 9:13–16 (ESV) — 13 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. 14 For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth. 15 For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. 16 But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.

 

The context of this passage was the seventh plague of the nine that God had set upon Egypt.

  • Once again, God sent Moses to Pharaoh saying, “Let my people go, that they may serve me”. (vs. 13)

 

But God added a new wrinkle for Moses to disclose.

  • The coming plagues will be upon Pharaoh himself, “on your yourself, and on your servants and your people”. (vs. 14)

 

God’s reason for this is that:

  • Pharaoh, “may know that there is none like me in all the earth” (vs. 14)
  • The plagues against the crops, rivers and animals apparently didn’t have the desired affect.
  • This is fodder for a theodicy!

 

In fact, God’s disclosure of this new twist prompts Him to let Pharaoh know something surprising.

  • God had thus far had mercy on Pharaoh – a hardened, Gentile persecutor of God’s own people.

 

This is made clear in verse 15.

  • For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth.

 

So God didn’t strike Pharaoh down – not yet anyway.

  • Why?

 

It wasn’t an arbitrary, unjust decision.

  • In fact, God had a very good reason.
  • But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” (vs. 16)

 

God had used Pharaoh’s hardness and position…

  • To demonstrate to all of Egypt His power over creation.

 

This declaration is hugely significant for Paul’s purposes.

  • God has the right show His mercy to anyone He chooses.
  • Even a hardened, Gentile persecutor of God’s very own people.
  • And He does so based on his purpose of election.

 

How can God act this way?

  • Because God’s people are such by God’s own choice, purpose and plan.
  • They are not as such because they are “better” people than the Gentiles.
  • They are not as such because they don’t have hardened hearts.

 

Paul says as much in his conclusion of this Exodus story in Romans 9:18:

  • So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.” (vs. 18)

 

This is why Paul can allude to this passage as an answer to his question in vs. 14:

  • “Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means.” (vs. 14)

 

Why?

  • Because, the thing that is driving God’s choices is not the worthiness or unworthiness of any peoples.
  • Jew or Egyptian.
  • It is God’s “purpose of election” or “plan of choosing”.

 

And in the Pharaoh example, we get a glimpse of exactly what this purpose or plan might be:

  • so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.

 

Pharaoh was hardened and received mercy during this hardening…for a time.

  • This was so that God could accomplish His purposes.

 

It just so happens that God’s choosing to then withhold His mercy on Pharaoh…

  • Eventually benefited the Israelites.
  • But, it doesn’t always have to be this way.

 

 

Conclusion:

So God’s plan of choosing does not mean He is unjust.

  • It means He is God – He is creator.
  • It means God chooses based on his plan and purposes.
  • And these don’t always have to line up with Israel’s well being.

 

Again, Paul still hasn’t fleshed out exactly what God’s purpose of election or plan of choosing is.

  • Remember, he has taken a rabbit trail that trailed off of the foundation he laid last week.

 

But, like last week, we get another clue about this purpose and plan…

  • Remember – Paul is ultimately trying to explain why the Jews rejected their very own Messiah.
  • His answer is wrapped up in God’s purpose of election – His plan of choosing.

 

Last week we encountered this clue:

  • Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, ‘Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!’” – Malachi 1:5.

 

This week we encountered this clue:

  • But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” – Exodus 9:16.

 

It seems God desires to make Himself known.

  • It seems God desires to draw people to himself.

 

If this is a clue to what God’s purpose and plan might be…

  • It has an obvious Jesus connection…
  • Philippians 2:10–11 (ESV) — 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

Romans 9:6-13 – A Glaring Problem – Jews Rejected Their Messiah

ma_star-on-torah

 

Introduction:

I think the best way to dig into these texts (and chapters 9-11 specifically)…

  • Is simply to parse out what Paul seems to be saying on a plain reading.
  • The reason for this is to try and leave the baggage of our various traditions behind.
  • Keeping in mind, of course, that baggage has a way of creeping in anyway.

 

So having just expressed his lament for his fellow Jews in verses 1-5…

  • Jews who were connected to God’s promises and the Messiah…
  • Yet missed out on the fruit of these promises.

 

Paul now wants to address the elephant in the room – a potential huge problem.

  • If Israel was God’s elect, why do so many reject their Messiah?
  • This fact is problematic.
  • And it seems to impugn the character of Paul’s God.

 

There appear to be two answers to this question revealed in our text.

  • One is an affirmation of a negative.
  • The other is more drawn out, and centers on Paul’s interjection in verse 11.

 

Specifically Paul’s answers are:

  • (1) “it is not as though the word of God has failed” (vs. 6)
  • (2) “in order that God’s purpose of election might continue” (vs. 11)

 

 

Paul’s First Answer:

“But it is not as though the word of God has failed.” (vs. 6)

  • This is straightforward enough.

 

Paul wants to be clear that the ways God has acted in history on Israel’s behalf were not hollow.

  • God’s promises, His covenant faithfulness, etc. haven’t failed.
  • His character is not in jeopardy.

 

It’s debatable whether he is extending “the word” forward to include the Gospel.

  • The Gospel is certainly a continuation of God’s action in history on behalf of Israel.
  • The Gospel comes out of His promises and covenant faithfulness.
  • And Paul, after all, does mention Jesus in his lament.

 

So then, if “the word of God” wasn’t to blame…

  • How does Paul account for the glaring problem of Jewish unbelief in their Messiah?

 

 

Paul’s Second Answer:

in order that God’s purpose of election might continue” (vs. 11)

  • A paraphrase of this is – “so that God’s plan of choosing might continue”.
  • And this answer is where it gets complicated.

 

To liken Paul’s answer to a house, we might say that…

  • In chapters 9-11, Paul is building a house – one with many necessary rooms.
  • But like any house, it needs a foundation.
  • And our text today is where Paul is laying the foundation.

 

So it is only the beginning of his second answer.

  • The complete answer will come when we apprehend the entire house and all its rooms.

 

The House Foundation:

6b For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “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 the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 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…12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

 

The foundation is, textually, pretty basic.

  • The history of Israel is a history of God acting and choosing.
  • God called out ethnic Israel generally – “children of the flesh” (beginning in Gen. 12).
  • God chose through whom the promise to ethnic Israel would flow specifically – “children of the promise”.
    • Isaac and Jacob – not Ishmael or Esau.

 

Importantly, this choosing on God’s part had nothing to do with merit.

  • His point is God’s prerogative to choose, not the spiritual state of an individual.

 

He presses this point with the Jacob and Esau illustration.

  • Before they even had, what we might call “a spiritual status” – “done nothing either good or bad”…
  • God made his choice.

 

In fact, this leads to the foundation Paul is laying:

  • God chose and chooses…
  • “in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls” (vs. 11).

 

Before we unpack how Paul teases all this out…

  • I think it will be useful to pack it all in a helpful proposition.

 

God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – not the God of Abraham, Ishmael and Esau – and this was God’s choice, and it suited his purpose/plan of election/choosing.

 

 

The Flesh and The Promise:

Paul builds his foundation with two distinctions – children of the flesh, and the promise…

  • He does so using a number of different ideas.

 

Verse 6b – He says in verse 6b, “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel”.

  • Here he is making an important distinction.
  • There is a difference between ethnic Israel – “descended from Israel”.
  • And those that “belong to Israel”.

 

Importantly, we need to notice…

  • All those who “belong to Israel” are “descended from Israel”…
  • But not all those who are “descended from Israel” actually “belong to Israel”.

 

Verse 7 – Paul then builds on this distinction.

  • He says, in verse 7…
  • “and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”

 

Paul nuances the distinction made in verse 6.

  • He says that just because your are Abraham’s “offspring”…
  • Meaning just because you are an ethnic Jew, in the line of Abraham…
  • And thus “descended from Israel”…

 

Doesn’t mean that you are…

  • children of Abraham”.

 

This means Paul is layering the distinction from verse 6.

  • It is the “children of Abraham” that “belong to Israel”.

 

So who are the “children of Abraham”?

  • Paul’s answer, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”

 

What is this supposed to convey?

 

Verse 8 – He explains it this way:

  • “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.”

 

So using yet another phrase that connected back to verse 6’s “descended form Israel”…

  • Paul says that these folks – the “children of the flesh” – are not really “the children of God”.
  • So, they are not really the “children of Abraham”.

 

The real “children of Abraham”…

  • Those that are truly “counted as offspring” are the “children of the promise”…
  • Not the “children of the flesh”, not the “descended from Israel”.
  • That’s a lot of layers.

 

So why bring Isaac into the picture?

 

Isaac is the archetype of the “children of the promise”.

  • How so?
  • Paul thought you might ask.

 

Verse 9 – Paul lifts up Isaac as the archetype of the promise because…

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

 

This text is an allusion to and quote of an awesome story.

  • Genesis 18:10–14 (ESV) — 10 The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.

 

God made a promise to Abraham.

  • Old Abraham and barren Sarah would have a descendant.
  • And Isaac was the fulfillment of that promise.

 

This is why Paul cites Isaac as the archetype or representative of the “children of the promise”.

  • Though Isaac certainly was “descended from Israel” and a child “of the flesh”…
  • He was more than that.

 

Isaac was the fulfillment of a God-made promise to Abraham.

  • And Isaac’s unique status as the promised offspring was his…
  • Only by God’s choice.

 

This is why Paul began the Isaac bit in verse 7 with:

  • through Isaac shall your offspring be named”.

 

God decreed with these words…

  • That Isaac, not Ishmael (the son of Hagar)…
  • Would be the one through whom His promise would be borne out.

 

So Isaac was born from the barren Sarah by God’s choice and promise…

  • And he was set apart from Ishmael by Gods’ choice and promise.
  • So Isaac is the archetype or representative of the “children of the promise”.

 

But just in case additional objections are raised about Paul’s layered distinctions.

  • Distinctions between the “children of the flesh” and “children of the promise”…
  • Paul brings in another archetype or representative of the promise – Jacob.

 

Verses 10-13 – And this example is more emphatic than the first.

  • 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… 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

 

In these verses Paul quotes and alludes to both Genesis and Malachi.

  • Genesis 25:21–23 (ESV) — 21 And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22 The children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. 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.”
  • Malachi 1:3–5 (ESV) — 3 but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” 4 If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the Lord of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the Lord is angry forever.’ ” 5 Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!”

 

Here Paul introduces another promise story.

  • Rebekah learns that she is pregnant with twins – Jacob and Esau.
  • And God tells her (promises her) that, “the older shall serve the younger”.

 

This is an odd promise.

  • Typically, it is the older son who is in the driver’s seat.
  • Not so this time.

 

Paul also points out a peculiar feature of an already odd promise.

  • Just in case one thinks the Esau has committed an unrighteous act in the womb…
    • Like was thought of the blind man in John 9.
  • And so deserved to loose his birthright…

 

Paul wants us to know that God declared that Esau would serve Jacob even…

  • “though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad”

 

In other words:

  • The relationship between the two was to be so…
  • Because God had determined to promise Rebekah it would be so.

 

It was a decision that had nothing to do with the actions of Esau and Jacob.

  • Their righteousness or lack thereof was irrelevant.
  • Their spiritual status was irrelevant – or non-existent – at the time of the promise.

 

But just in case we are still hesitant to embrace Jacob as an archetype of the “children of the promise”…

  • Paul busts out a brutal sounding verse from Malachi.
  • As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

 

These words are chillingly clear.

  • God chose/promised Jacob – He “loved” Jacob.
  • And he “hated” Esau.

 

Strong words – what does “hated” actually mean?

  • Hated” means – “to decrease in status” or to “disfavor or disregard”.

 

The point here is that…

  • God chose to elevate Jacob’s status – a promise he made to Rebekah…
  • But in so doing he chose to decrease the status of Esau.

 

So as a result of God’s choice and promise…

  • It would be Jacob that would obtain the birthright that belonged to Esau.
  • Jacob would be the progenitor of Isaac’s line.

 

So like Isaac…

  • Jacob is a representative or archetype of the “children of the promise”.
  • Those that “belong to Israel”, are “counted as offspring”, and are “children of God”.

 

Verse 11b – But why would God choose and promise with such specificity?

  • As we said at the beginning…
  • “in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls”

 

But there is a big picture principle behind all this specificity – thus the archetype language.

  • In other words, Isaac and Jacob weren’t chosen simply as individuals.
  • They were chosen to suit the much bigger, corporate in scope, purposes of God – the status of the “children”.
  • All of which suited His “purpose of election” or “plan of choosing”.

 

So the explanation for why Paul’s “kinsman according to the flesh” (vs. 3)…

  • Are cut off from Christ…
  • Is not found in a deficiency in God or His promises.
  • It is so that God’s “purpose of election [plan of choosing] might continue”.
  • The same purposes or plan that Isaac and Jacob were caught up within.

 

What exactly is God’s “purpose of election” [plan of choosing] that must “continue”?

  • As we said, the answer to this takes 3 chapters for Paul to develop.

 

What we have today is only the foundation for the answer.

  • The entire answer will be found in the rooms that Paul builds on this foundation.
  • Rooms we will explore over the coming weeks.

 

Paul’s citation of Malachi 1 does give us a clue.

  • Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, ‘Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!’” (vs. 5)
  • God’s disfavor of Esau and judgment of Esau’s Edom seemed to have a certain desired affect.

 

And what was the foundation Paul just built?

  • God is a God who chooses to suit his purposes.
  • His choices are not arbitrary.
  • God chose to be the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – not the God of Abraham, Ishmael and Esau.

 

And the results of His choices are corporate in scope:

  • There are children of the flesh.
  • And within them are children of the promise.