And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (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;) it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. — Romans 9:10-12
Sibling rivalry in a family with five children takes many forms, as my husband and I have learned. In our five — three girls and two boys — ongoing banter revolves around the fact that our oldest daughter is adopted. She is fond of teasing her younger brothers and sisters, “Mom and Dad chose me! They just had to take what they got when you came along!”
Today’s focus verse speaks of “the purpose of God according to election.” The Greek word translated election means “divine selection” or “chosen.” I will never forget the day we chose our daughter. A couple who had adopted twelve Korean children attended one of our church services, and my husband and I spent some time chatting with them afterward as his parents were living in Korea at the time as missionaries. Since the two of us had talked about adopting a Korean child sometime in the future, we also were understandably intrigued when this couple brought their twelve children with them into church!
We found that they had been longtime sponsors of a small orphanage in Seoul, South Korea, where children in need of a home were cared for by a foster mother. They casually mentioned that there was one little girl left in the home at that time: a three-year-old with whom they had a special bond — in fact, she had been named after their own birth daughter, Nena. While several couples had been interested in adopting this little girl, the couple wanted her to be placed in a Christian home. When my husband and I saw little Nena’s picture, our hearts were captured in an instant. God opened doors in a miraculous way, confirming to us that adopting Nena was His plan for the two of us. Eight months later, our daughter arrived from Korea and entered our home and our hearts.
In our text, Paul focused on the thought of election and God’s sovereignty. Abraham, the father of the Jewish people, had many sons. Paul illustrated divine sovereignty by pointing to God’s plan that the Messianic line would come through Abraham’s son Isaac, and Isaac’s younger son, Jacob. They were chosen! Why was Isaac selected instead of his older brother, Ishmael? Why was Jacob chosen instead of his older brother, Esau? We don’t know, but we understand that it was God’s right to choose.
At times, we may not understand why God operates the way He does. Situations may come in our lives that do not make sense to us, but God has the right to do what He wishes in order to accomplish His purpose. However, we can be clear about one thing: God has chosen each one of us to be recipients of His salvation. Whether we understand why or not, we have been chosen! Our part is simply to respond with repentance and faith, and then we can enjoy all the blessings that come with being part of God’s family.
In chapter 8, Paul had completed his description of how God’s righteousness was manifested in Christ, and the provision for victory over the power of indwelling sin. However, he seemingly was concerned his readers might conclude that God’s plan of justification apart from the Law meant that God had rejected the Jews. So in chapter 9, he began a three-chapter segment explaining Israel’s role in God’s plan. In brief, chapter 9 deals with election and divine sovereignty, chapter 10 with rejection and human responsibility, and chapter 11 with restoration and universal blessing.
The Apostle opened chapter 9 by expressing his grief at the Jews downfall and concern for his fellow Israelites (verses 1-5). His statement in verse 3 that he could wish himself “accursed from Christ for my brethren” is similar to that of Moses when he offered to have his name blotted out of God’s book in order that Israel be saved (see Exodus 32:30-33).
In verses 6-13, Paul noted that although Israel failed, God’s promises did not. He gave an illustration of God’s sovereignty by pointing to the patriarch Abraham. God ordained that the Messianic line would come through Isaac, the son of promise, rather than through Abraham’s eldest son, Ishmael, who was the son of the bondwoman, Hagar. He made it clear that the true children of God are the children of promise (those who believe in the God of Abraham), not the children of flesh (those who merely descended from Abraham).
In verses 14-18, the Apostle expanded the concept of God’s sovereignty, explaining that it was God’s right to reward faith and judge unbelief. In verse 17, Paul referred to Exodus 9:16, where God foretold that Pharaoh would be raised up to display His power and declare His name.
Paul used a hypothetical question and the example of the potter’s right to determine the shape of a clay vessel to show God’s sovereign right to make such choices (verses 19-21). His point was that it is not God’s failure when one resists His will, though God uses that resistance to accomplish His purpose.
Paul went on to establish that it is God’s right to turn from the unbelieving Jews to believing Gentiles. He quoted two Old Testament prophets to prove that, as foretold by Hosea (Osee), the children of promise are both Jews and Gentiles rather than Jews only. However, according to Isaiah (Esaias), only a remnant of Israel would be included (verses 24-29).
The Apostle concluded in verses 30-33 that the Gentiles, who had no knowledge of the Law, had received by faith the righteousness which God imparts. By contrast, although the Jews were recipients of the Law, they lacked faith and therefore Christ became a “stumblingstone and rock of offense” to them, as foretold by Isaiah (see Isaiah 28:16).
(Hannah's Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. God’s plan of salvation
C. Illustrated by Israel’s history
1. Israel had not believed in the past (9:1-29)
a. Paul’s burden for the Jews (9:1-5)
b. Promises obtained by faith, not by bloodline (9:6-13)
c. In sovereignty, God shows mercy (9:14-18)
d. God is just and His purposes inscrutable (9:19-29)
e. Redemption dependent on faith (9:30-33)
Although we may not always understand how and why God works as He does, we can rejoice in the fact that we have been chosen to be a part of His family.