In our lesson last week, we saw mention of “the called” (Rom. 8:28).  We discussed who “are the called in our lesson last week and the called has been a common theme in many of our lessons this quarter.  We have seen Paul say that there is no difference between Jew and Gentile.  We are going to continue in this thought in our lesson this week.  This week’s lesson is being taught from Romans 9:6-21.

The True Identity of Israel

Our lesson opens with Paul stating, “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 (vss.6-7).”  This verse is not the key verse of our lesson according to the book but it definitely sets up the major talking point of our lesson.

The identity of Israel was a point of contention in Paul’s day and it is still a point of contention in our day today.  The reason being is because people want to feel special and being able to say you are the chosen people of God has always made people feel entitled.  Again, in our lesson last week, we spoke a great deal about who are “the called” and why they are the called.  I want you to remember that I said God chose all nations when He gave His only begotten Son to the world.

They are not all Israel who are of Israel

So, Paul, a Jew, focuses in on the identity of Israel.  Let’s first take a look at what Paul means when he says, “they are not all Israel who are of Israel.”  To be “of Israel” you would have to be a physical offspring of the man Israel (Jacob).  Jacob had several children.  He had 12 sons, from which we have the 12 tribes of Israel, and he also had a daughter as well (Gen. 29:31-30:24).  And, of course, his children had children and his children’s children had more children and so forth,

Yet, Paul says they are not all Israel who are of Israel.  That’s a very interesting statement because how else could one be of Israel?  The only other way one could be an offspring of Israel (Jacob) would be as a spiritual offspring.  I am always reminded of what Jesus said about the folds He had come to save.  Jesus said, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd (John 10:16).  Notice, Jesus didn’t say there will be two separate folds – He said there will be one flock.

So, Paul is essentially getting to this same point and it is a point that many people often overlook in our world today.  For whatever reason, it seems better to make ourselves specials while devaluing others at the same time.  It was common in Paul’s time and that is something that is still common now.  

The children of the flesh

The Jews were once hot and upset with Jesus and said to Him, “Abraham is our Father.”  Again, they felt this made them special and that because Abraham was their father, they were good in God’s eyes.  Jesus responded to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham (John 8:39) … You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do (John 8:44).”

So, if they truly were of Abraham, they would have lived their lives much differently, according to Jesus.  Paul, again, touches on this same point within this passage of scripture.  Paul writes, “those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God (v.8).”  So, let this be clear, you could physically be a descendant of Jacob (Israel), but if your works and faith were of the flesh, then Paul says, you are not Israel nor are you a child of God

Honestly, it doesn’t get more plain and simple than that.  There is much talk today about the “real Israel” but no definition you find in our world today is more defined than this.  This election (being chosen) is one that is divine and God has defined this election process.  The one thing the world tries to do is it take God’s word and twists it so that it can fit into it – that’s not how this works.

The children of the promise

Paul says, “the children of the promise are counted as the seed.”  These are the chosen – the elected – the children of the promise.  And again, we see Paul use the nation of Israel as the example of this election.  The children of the promise, when it came to Israel, were those who were the natural offspring of Jacob – they were counted as the seed.

However, a distinction is being made here between those whose election is not sure and those whose election is sureThose who are counted as the seed spiritually are those who are the spiritual children of God.  We are the spiritual children of God through our genuine faith in His only begotten Son.  Again, the Jews felt that they were entitled to special benefits (worldly and spiritually) – they saw it as a birthright.

Paul, in the next few verses, dives even more into the fact that the spiritual benefits are not a birthright but belong to God’s elect (vss.9-13).  He mentions Sarah having a son – Isaac – who was promised. He also mentions Rebecca as an illustration of the principle of the divine election as well.  Paul then mentions by name both Esau and Jacob.  Esau, we remember being the older twin of Jacob and even though he was the older, God chose the younger.

This election is, again, divine.  It is divine in that God is the one doing the choosing.  I said last week that God loved the world – in choosing the world He chose to love all nations and not just one specific nation.  His elect will ultimately come from all nations of people of which He chooses.  I’m not sure there’s a line that stands out more in this passage of scripture than this:  “that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls.”  God is the one calling the shots in this divine election.

Is this wrong of God?

Paul understood that this would raise the ire of some and that this train of thought would provoke many to suggest this is not fair of God to be choosing His people.  Paul wrote, “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not (v.14)!”  He is essentially saying that the Lord can do whatever He pleases because He is God.  God is righteous and sovereign.

Who are we to question God’s divine election?  Who are we to question His judgement?  Yes, we are His creation but we are His creation in this world.  We are nothing without God!  We have no real might or power.  All we have without the Lord is petty thoughts, ways, and squabbles.  As I have been saying in recent weeks, our own self-righteousness does not hold water when we stand before the Lord!

God has always operated this way.  Paul first mentions what the Lord said to Moses when He said, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion (v.15).”  Paul then shows us how the Lord elected to use Pharaoh for His purpose.  The Lord said of Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth (v.17).”

So, is it wrong for God to use us for His purpose?  Who are we to tell the Lord that He is doing something wrong or that He is being unrighteous?  We would be raising ourselves above the Lord to be making such judgement of Him!  That is a very dangerous line to cross as we have seen it was the line Satan crossed himself.  Because the devil crossed that line, He will have no part in the eternal kingdom of the Lord.   

So, Paul concludes, “Therefore He (the Lord) has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens (v.18).”  As I mentioned in last week’s lesson, we have to learn to trust in the Lord’s divine will which also includes His divine election as well.  Let us remember, again, what He said to Jeremiah when He said, “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jer. 29:11).”


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