Romans 9:1-13 (CSB) I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience testifies to me through the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the benefit of my brothers and sisters, my own flesh and blood. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple service, and the promises. The ancestors are theirs, and from them, by physical descent, came the Christ, who is God over all, praised forever. Amen.
Now it is not as though the word of God has failed, because not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Neither is it the case that all of Abraham’s children are his descendants. On the contrary, your offspring will be traced through Isaac. That is, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but the children of the promise are considered to be the offspring. For this is the statement of the promise: At this time I will come, and Sarah will have a son. And not only that, but Rebekah conceived children through one man, our father Isaac. For though her sons had not been born yet or done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to election might stand— not from works but from the one who calls—she was told, The older will serve the younger. As it is written: I have loved Jacob, but I have hated Esau.
Not going to lie, I am completely intimidated by Romans 9 and I think rightfully so. I have read books and seen debates on Romans chapters 9, 10, and 11.
After years of reading about it and then actually reading it, there are two things I take away from Romans 9-11.
Some Scriptures are hard to understand
2 Peter 3:14-16 (CSB) Therefore, dear friends, while you wait for these things, make every effort to be found without spot or blemish in his sight, at peace. Also, regard the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our dear brother Paul has written to you according to the wisdom given to him. He speaks about these things in all his letters. There are some things hard to understand in them. The untaught and unstable will twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures.
John 6:60-66 (CSB) Therefore, when many of his disciples heard this, they said, “This teaching is hard. Who can accept it?”
Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, asked them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to observe the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? The Spirit is the one who gives life. The flesh doesn’t help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some among you who don’t believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning those who did not believe and the one who would betray him.) He said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted to him by the Father.”
From that moment many of his disciples turned back and no longer accompanied him.
But we can only understand Scripture by the Holy Spirit alone
1 Corinthians 12:2-3 (CSB) You know that when you were pagans, you used to be enticed and led astray by mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
John 14:26 (CSB) But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.
1 Corinthians 2:12-13 (CSB) Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God. We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people.
We can easily get bogged down in certain phrases within Romans “I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated” and double predestination. But is that what Paul is writing about? No!
What Paul writes here in Romans 9, verses 1 through 13, he expounds in Galatians 3. We can run to good teachers, good commentaries and good Bible Studies when we don’t know what a particular passage means. You know where we should run to first? God. And nearly all of the time, you know where he will point to explain his word? His word–his Scripture. You need God to understand his word and his word is sufficient to explain his word.
You might push back and say, “Isn’t that circular?” It is if you had one human author, sitting down, and penning this book from cover to cover. But the Bible is no ordinary book. It is “inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 CSB) And it was penned by several dozens of authors over a period of time of at least several hundred thousands of years–if not more.
Scripture is sufficient to explain Scripture–that is the essence of the Latin phrase, “Sola Scriptura”. The Bible is complete as it is. Nothing needs to be added nor taken away.
But I digress. Let us continue.
Paul is desperate in all of his letter mostly to get Jewish to understand that Jesus Christ is Lord. If it meant that Paul could be cut off by God in order to get all of us to see, he would do it. But you know what? Paul cannot. There is nothing he can do other than what the Lord has commissioned him and us to do: proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth. We are to proclaim the good news and God will do it all.
To understand Romans 9:"
Now it is not as though the word of God has failed, because not all who are descended from Israel are Israel
Let us look what Paul writes in Galatians 3.
Galatians 3:1-9 (CSB) You foolish Galatians! Who has cast a spell on you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? I only want to learn this from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by the Spirit, are you now finishing by the flesh? Did you experience so much for nothing—if in fact it was for nothing? So then, does God give you the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law? Or is it by believing what you heard— just like Abraham who believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness?
You know, then, that those who have faith, these are Abraham’s sons. Now the Scripture saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and proclaimed the gospel ahead of time to Abraham, saying, All the nations will be blessed through you. Consequently, those who have faith are blessed with Abraham, who had faith.
Here is the point of the passage: you can only be a child of God if you believe and trust in Him and that means, believing, trusting and obeying Jesus Christ.
Look how John puts it:
John 1:12-13 (CSB) But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born, not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.
John 3:36 (CSB) The one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who rejects the Son will not see life; instead, the wrath of God remains on him.
I grew up with the false doctrine that somehow some way, the Jewish people were going to be autosaved by God because they are “God’s chosen people”. They are God’s chosen people. But nonetheless, as Paul writes here, just because you might be blood related to Abraham doesn’t mean you are already saved. You want to know how the Jews will be saved by God? Believing, trusting, and obeying Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Sound familiar? You might think, “But Jewish people don’t even acknowledge Jesus as God.” True in the Gospels, true in throughout the New Testament and true today. You know what that sounds like? Gentiles. No different. Neither Jew nor Gentile gets a free pass. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And the wages of our sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life through whom? Jesus Christ our Lord.
Where do you see God in the text? What does the text say about God?
Galatians 3:10-18 (CSB) For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, because it is written, Everyone who does not do everything written in the book of the law is cursed. Now it is clear that no one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous will live by faith. But the law is not based on faith; instead, the one who does these things will live by them. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, because it is written, Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree. The purpose was that the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles by Christ Jesus, so that we could receive the promised Spirit through faith.
Brothers and sisters, I’m using a human illustration. No one sets aside or makes additions to a validated human will. Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say “and to seeds,” as though referring to many, but referring to one, and to your seed, who is Christ. My point is this: The law, which came 430 years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously established by God and thus cancel the promise. For if the inheritance is based on the law, it is no longer based on the promise; but God has graciously given it to Abraham through the promise.
Christ himself have become our curse so that we might be saved to God.
Galatians 3:27-29 (CSB) For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise.
Here’s the kick: if I belong to Christ, then I am Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise.
I am related to Abraham by faith alone in Jesus Christ.
Galatians 4:1-7 (CSB) Now I say that as long as the heir is a child, he differs in no way from a slave, though he is the owner of everything. Instead, he is under guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were in slavery under the elements of the world. When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then God has made you an heir.
What is ours to do? If you belong to Christ, then you are a child of God with the Spirit of God that empowers you to call out to God the Father and by what Christ has done, we are now co-heirs with the Son who has inherited everything.
Help us to walk in the faith for you have adamantly proclaimed, “Only the righteous shall live by faith.”