Calvary Road Baptist Church

“MONUMENTAL MISUNDERSTANDING”

Romans 9.6-13 

In the city of Rome, in Paul’s day, there were two groups of people who had a special relationship with God. There were the Jewish people, the nation of Israel, who claimed to be God’s covenant people, who claimed to be the people God gave the Law to on Mount Sinai, and who claimed to be the people of God. But there were others in the city of Rome who also claimed to have a special relationship with God. They never claimed to be a part of a chosen nation, with a covenant relationship with God. But they did claim to have a personal relationship with God, to have received Jesus Christ as their Savior.

Here’s the sticky part. Though there were people, such as Paul, who were simultaneously members of both groups, most were not. Though some Jewish people had committed their lives to Christ and had “duel status,” if you will, most of the Jewish people had rejected Christ as the promised Messiah of Israel and most of the Christian community were now Gentiles. If you were with us previously, you would remember that Paul identified the Jewish people of his day as the nation of Israel to whom all of the fabulous blessings listed in Romans 9.4-5 were given. So, the natural question arises, “What gives here?” Paul acknowledges the special relationship with God that the nation of Israel has, but he certainly does not deny the unique relationship with God that only believers in Jesus Christ have.

In our text for today, Romans 9.6-13, Paul begins to explain how you can have two groups of people, both of whom rightly claim that they have a relationship with God, without having a contradiction in the Bible. Let’s stand and read that passage together. I will read verses 6, 8, 10 and 12 aloud, and I would like you to read verses 7, 9, 11 and 13 responsively: 

6  Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:

7  Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.

8  That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

9  For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son.

10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;

11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)

12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.

13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. 

In this passage, which is given completely over to a discussion of the doctrine of election as it pertains to the nation of Israel, Paul points out two things about election that are true and given to comfort us, though some people insist on being uncomfortable with election: 

First, THE ASSURANCE OF ELECTION 

Verse 6:

“Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.” 

Two statements are made in this verse:

In the first Paul declares that the Word of God cannot fail. Why do you suppose that Paul declares, here, that folks should not think that the Word of God had taken none effect? Is there some reason Paul suspected that some people’s confidence in the Bible was shaken? Could it be that there were those who might have entertained thoughts that God’s Word did not have a powerful impact on people? Absolutely. Folks, there are many today who have grave doubts about the power and the potency of God’s Word. And many others have no doubts whatsoever. They are convinced that God’s Word is powerless. You may have family members with this estimation of the Bible. What happens to cause people to think that about God’s Word? People lose confidence in the Bible when they think the Bible says something other than it actually says, and what they see happening doesn’t line up with what they think the Bible teaches. For example, innumerable lost people think that the Bible is a powerless book because they see the worldly and impotent lives of so many so-called Christians. “Their lives are no different from mine,” the lost person says, “so the Bible must be just another book. It hasn’t changed his life.” The problem, of course, is that the lost person has assumed that the person in whose life the Bible has no effect is really the Christian he claims to be. And the same kind of thing occurred in Paul’s day. According to the Word of God, God blessed the nation of Israel with all these blessings, made them all these promises, and so forth and so on. But as I look at them, I see them to be in a terrible fix, suffering horrible persecution, and on top of that rejecting their promised Messiah. How in the world can I trust God’s Word to be reliable when what God promised to them has turned out this way? It was that kind of thinking and reasoning that Paul was dealing with when he wrote, “Not as though the Word of God hath taken none effect.” If there is a discrepancy between what you think the Bible teaches and what you observe to be true with your own eyes, understand that you have simply misunderstood the Bible. The Bible is not wrong. Psalm 12.6-7 declares, 

6  The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.

7  Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation forever. 

In the second statement Paul points out the caution which must be exercised: 

“For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.” 

In this single sentence, the word “Israel” has two different meanings. Remember, if you will, that the name “Israel” was originally given by God to the grandson of Abraham, the son of Isaac, who was named Jacob by his parents. In recognition of the covenant relationship that was established with Jacob, God renamed him “Israel.” Additionally, the physical descendants of Jacob were referred to collectively as “Israel.” With that in mind, take a look at that sentence again. When Paul writes “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel” he is indicating that not every physical descendant of this man named Israel is a part of that select group descended from him who will receive the benefits of the blessings promised to him. You might think to yourself, at this point, “Pastor, I don’t understand what Paul is driving at.” Good. Because what Paul’s intention has been to this point is to bring you and me to the place where we will consider the possibility that we don’t understand what’s going on about the nation of Israel. 

Second, THE ASSIGNMENT OF ELECTION 

7  Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.

8  That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

9  For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son.

10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;

11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)

12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.

13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. 

Here is where Paul begins to deal with some unwarranted assumptions that were made by many people for many years. Their unwarranted assumptions resulted in a monumental misunderstanding of what God’s Word said about the election of the nation of Israel. To explain what the Bible teaches, so that people will not be discouraged by what they have observed, thinking that the Word of God is not being fulfilled, Paul turns to the selection of two of their three patriarchs:

First, there is the selection of Isaac, verses 7-9. It is obvious that God chose Abraham, elected him to leave Ur of the Chaldees and journey to the Promised Land. No one disputed or disputes Abraham’s election by God. The choosing of Isaac over his brother Ishmael, however, provides another excellent illustration of God’s elective purpose: 

7   Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.

8   That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

9   For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son. 

Let me make three statements that summarize the essence of these three verses: First, being the son of the man chosen by God does not mean that you are the inheritor of the promises and the blessings. Ishmael was Abraham’s first son to be born. But he was born to Abraham’s concubine. And though he was Abraham’s child, he was not Abraham’s seed, insofar as being an inheritor of the relationship with God was concerned. Second, just because your mother was the wife of the man chosen by God does not mean that you are the inheritor of the promises and blessings. Remember, after Sarah died? Abraham married a woman named Keturah, and she had six sons. But neither were the sons of Keturah, though they were Abraham’s children, the seed of Abraham. So, you can’t say that Ishmael’s problem was that his mother wasn’t married to Abraham, because Keturah was married to Abraham and her sons still were not selected by God. Third statement: Only if you are the child promised to Abraham by God are you the child of Abraham who is his seed. Of all Abraham’s kids, only Isaac was the child who was promised to Abraham through Sarah. So, you might look at Abraham’s children and think that God has not blessed Abraham’s children like He said He would. But hold on. God’s promises did not ever apply to every one of Abraham’s children, but only to the child of promise. So, don’t be fooled by your misunderstanding of the Bible. God is the one Who chooses, Who elects, Who selects. The illustration of their patriarch Isaac shows this to be true.

Then, there is the selection of Jacob, verses 10-13: 

10  And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;

11  (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)

12  It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.

13  As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. 

Some people are very hard to convince. No matter how explicitly it is stated that these blessings are the result of God’s choice there are some people who insist that merit plays some part in the selection process. And those people would say that it was Isaac because Ishmael was a bastard child, or it was Isaac because he was older than the sons of Keturah. To refute that notion Paul uses the even better illustration of the patriarch Jacob’s selection. Let’s consider each verse individually: 

Verse 10: 

“And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac.” 

Rebecca, of course, was the only wife Isaac ever had. So far as the Scriptural record indicates, she was the only woman he had ever lain with. But even more critical to Paul’s use of this illustration is the fact that Isaac’s two sons were twins. See that word “conceived”? That translates the word that our English word “coitus” is derived from. It refers to the very act of sex itself. What Paul is pointing out is that the two sons of Isaac, Esau, and Jacob, were conceived at the very same time. Therefore, there was no maternal superiority of any kind, as might be imagined with the sons of Abraham. Rebecca was mother to both of them, and at the same time. 

Verse 11: 

“(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)” 

While both sons were in their mother’s womb, before they had committed any personal acts of sin, God chose one over the other. Why? I suspect the reason is, so it might be established that election is according to the purpose of God and has absolutely nothing to do with good works. God’s choice was not the result of anything in Jacob or not in Esau but was the result of God’s choice. 

Verse 12: 

“It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.” 

This was what God told Rebecca. But they were twins. In actuality, they were the same age. What God said, in essence, is that the first one to be born would serve the second one to be born. But who decides which one will be born first? God. You see? The choice was God’s and God’s alone. 

Verse 13: 

“As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” 

Did God have a personal hatred for Esau, or is this an idiom of the language? You know what an idiom is. It’s a phrase that is not meant to be understood literally.

Consider for just a moment the concept of idioms in language: First, I would like you to turn to Proverbs 13.24: 

“He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” 

Do people really withhold Biblical correction because they hate their child, or is it because they have a distorted view about expressing godly love for their child? Next, turn to Luke 14.26: 

“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” 

Does God want you to hate your mom and dad, or does this refer to a commitment to Christ that will sometimes be misunderstood by your loved ones and mistaken for lack of love for them on your part? The idiom Paul uses in Romans 9.13 teaches us that God decided, a selection if you will, that greatly benefited Jacob, but did not greatly benefit Esau. It was not a decision regarding the personal salvation of each, mind you, but was a decision that determined who would be the chosen seed of Isaac through whom the promises that God made to Abraham would be ultimately fulfilled. 

People think the Word of God is of none effect when something happens that does not agree with their understanding of the Bible, and when they make the mistake of trusting their ability to interpret the Bible over the accuracy of God’s Word. Unconsciously making the mistake of thinking they perfectly understand the Bible, people will assume that the fault lies with the Bible, not their understanding of the Bible.

So was the danger in Rome. Two groups of people; Jewish people and Christian people. Some overlapping, but not many. Promises and commitments seem to be made to the Jewish people in the Old Testament. Promises and commitments are made to the Christians in the New Testament. But from what was thought about the promises made to the Jewish people, and from what was observed in their lives currently, the apparent failure of the Biblical promises made to them caused some people to doubt the Biblical promises made. The Bible must be wrong. Or, at least, ineffective. Right?

Wrong. What is so obvious with Abraham is that God chose him from all the inhabitants of Ur of the Chaldees. No one would ever deny that. But people begin to hedge when it comes to Isaac or Jacob. They think that there was some merit, some quality, some asset, some awareness of their future goodness, that caused God to choose them over their brothers. But such thinking is all wrong, my friends. With both men, it was God’s selection of them that made the difference. Being the physical descendant of this person or that was not at all the issue.

Several thousand years pass by. During that passage of time, the Israelites mistakenly began to think that it was their lineage, their ancestry, the fact that they are physical descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob, that established their relationship with God as His Israel. But Paul says, “No.” They are not all Israel, which are of Israel. Not all physical descendants of Jacob are the Israelites to whom the promises made to Jacob will be fulfilled. Just as God chose Isaac instead of Ishmael, just as God chose Jacob instead of Esau, it is who God chooses. Never forget that. That means you cannot evaluate the reliability of the Bible or the effectiveness of God’s promises by analyzing the physical descendants of a particular man. So, what you do, instead, is trust the Bible to be true, to be accurate, to be efficacious, and allow God to choose who He will choose.

I close with this: This sermon was not a presentation of the Gospel. Though I would be delighted to discover that someone came to know Christ as a result of the Holy Spirit using this message, this message comes from a passage addressed exclusively to Christians to begin addressing their dilemma about the Jewish people and the Bible. To state finally: If your observation of the current spiritual state of the Jewish people causes you to consider questioning the veracity of Scripture, the efficacy of Scripture, then think again. The Bible is true. God’s promises will be fulfilled to whom they were given. And your primary concern is to make sure that you realize that in this equation composed of what the Bible says and what you understand the Bible to mean, you and I are the unreliable component, not God’s Word.

So, study your Bible, Christian. And study diligently, because God adheres to what He has declared to be true in His Word, not what you or I might erroneously think He has said in His Word.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

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