Let us continue our journey through the book of Romans. I want to thank you for the significant and positive response to our study. I pray that these emails are beneficial to your walk with the Lord and help you on your journey.
Read: Romans 9
I want to let you know that if you are keeping up with the reading plan according to our app, the emails are behind. I know and understand this, the point of these emails is to help us unpack the book of Romans. When we complete Romans, we will catch up with the reading plan. Some of you were concerned about this.
Romans 9 is a challenging passage. There has been a great theological debate for hundreds of years over this chapter. I want to make a few disclaimers. First, I am not a Greek scholar. I study the language and study the scriptures, but I do not claim to be a scholar in this area. Secondly, my opinion and interpretation are formulated from the study and reading other men who have spent their lifetime unpacking this text. Thirdly, I do not claim to be the final authority in this text. What you are about to read is hopefully encouraging in one significant way; God is in control. If God is in control, He won’t mess up.
1. A burden (1-5). One thing that is truly remarkable to me is the desire for his fellow Israelites. Paul is truly burdened for their souls. Paul writes that he wished that he would be accursed, that he would go to hell so that his kinsman would be adopted into the family of God. This is genuinely great love and compassion for someone. I’ve often wondered, do I have this type of compassion for the lost? Remember, these are folks that wanted to kill Paul, and Paul wanted to be able to sacrifice himself on their behalf. This should help us know the heart of Paul when we later get into the more difficult truth that Paul will write. When we hear or read difficult truths, it is better to know that it comes from a heart of tremendous love and compassion.
Paul also lays out the benefits to the ones that he so dearly loves. They are the ones in which Christ comes from. It is from the Jews that we see the prophets, the covenants, and ultimately the Christ. They are the blessed nation that was promised; they are the ones that received the Law; they are the ones to receive the promises. Yet, these beautiful things do not make someone believe in Christ. This is what broke the heart of Paul. He so desired that they would believe in Christ.
2. Israel (6)- There is a difference between the natural and spiritual Israel. One who is a genuine believer and one by birth. We see here that Paul is pointing out this very fact. That though there are the descendants of the birth of Israel, it does not make them children of God. They may have the flesh but not the Spirit. I’ve told you over and over that God does not have grandchildren. There is some that stake their eternity on the fact that their grandmother was a Christian. They believe that because their family was followers of Jesus that this is a guarantee for them. This is simply not the case.
3. Election (7-12)- All I can say is hold on to your britches. I want you to know that before we get into these next few verses, these are the most challenging and complex texts of all of scripture. In this, we find not only the doctrine of election but the even more difficult of reprobation, reprobation is the passing over those who are not elected to salvation. So before you get offended and fire off emails, pray with me that we will grow in our love for Jesus more. Many will take offense to the idea of election because the argument is that if election exists, then free will does not exists; that is simply not the teaching of scripture. Instead, I do know that from the teaching of scripture, that election does exist. God chooses some for salvation and passes over others. We do not understand the process or the why, this is a difficult truth, but again, still the truth. We see that Romans 9 is a very difficult text, but I want to let you know that this does not negate your personal decisions.
A. Abraham was elected. We see this in Abraham’s life. God chose him to be a great nation. We know that Abraham was of a pagan family, meaning that he worshipped false gods, and God chose him to become the great nation in which Moses, David, and Jesus would come from. Abraham did not come after God; God chose him.
B. Isaac was elected. The point of this is that Abraham had more than one son. God chose Isaac as the one that would be the one that all nations would be blessed. Isaac was the child that God had made the promise to Abraham.
C. Jacob. In Jacob, we see that he was the one in which God chose. Though both Jacob and Esau were born of Hebrew descent, it was Jacob that God chose and not Esau.
I know that many will read this and think that this is not fair. It is not fair that God would choose some and not others. Let me say that you should know, God has given everyone a fair chance. Everyone chooses the opposite of God. We choose ourselves, that is in and of ourselves. We know this from Romans 3. It is God that rescues us from our sinful nature, nothing that we have done to deserve it nor earn it. Rather, it is to be conformed into the image of God’s Son. Now, if you read all of this and you feel like you have many more questions than answers, do not fear, you are not alone. These are hard truths, but they are still the truth.
4. God Hates? (13-18) I remember when I first read this verse and thought to myself, this must be a misprint. God doesn’t hate anyone. I want you to know that this is a complicated text. Yet, you must deal with it. You must not dismiss this scripture. Many scholars call this text “the doctrine of double predestination.” That it is impossible to have the positive side of election without the negative, this is where you and I must tread carefully and seek wisdom to understand these types of texts. From this text, we’ve seen the most dangerous forms of theology come about. Hyper-Calvinism is one. This one says that we should not do missions nor evangelism because God chooses both. That is unbiblical, and no true biblical scholar would advocate such a doctrine.
The idea that God passes over some is not new. We see it throughout all of scripture—Proverbs 16:4, John 12:39-40, John 13:18, and more. God passes over some, and that is clear from the Bible. Instead, the difficult part is God hating. First, let us understand that when we see the word “hate,” this does not mean to love less. Rather, this is holy hate, and we do not completely understand that because you and I are sinful, and our anger is not pure of sin. We know that Esau did not trust in God but himself. This is exactly what is laid out in Romans 1 for those who would suffer the wrath of God. They had exchanged the truth for a lie. This is why we see that God is merciful to believers. They deserve hell and wrath, yet they receive grace and mercy. There is honestly much more that could be said about this text, but for the sake of not rambling, I will continue on with these words. We do not know whom God has chosen, nor how, what we do know is that God has commanded us to share the Gospel. The purpose of our knowing that we’ve been chosen by God is not to be some sort of club to beat others; rather, it is to be an encouragement to us during the time of persecution and trial.
5. The Potter (19-24). Here we go with another problematic text. I am not going to try and genuinely define all of this for you, instead, let me encourage you with some great thoughts that I’ve had in this text.
A. We are creation. You and I have been created by God. We are not in control; rather, we are subject to the will of God.
B. The Lord is patient. This is where you and I must say amen. The Lord is patient with us in our misunderstands. We must be so thankful for the Lord’s patience towards our sinful ways and desires.
C. We are saved for a purpose. God has saved us for a reason, we have a mission, and we are being conformed into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. You are saved for a work that God is doing in you!
6. God’s People (25-29) We are the people of God that were not part of His chosen people. Rather, we are the sand of the sea that is blessed by the seed of Abraham. Verse 29 has always spoken to me; it says that if it had not been for the Lord, then we would be like Sodom and Gomorrah. I always say that we must be thankful that God saved us and redeemed us. We must be thankful that the Lord changed us and redeemed us!
7. Israel’s Unbelief (30-33) We finally get to the end of our chapter. It has been a long journey. In these final verses, we see that Paul asks the question. Is it better to have been a Gentile and received faith and not to be a Jew and have the Law? Paul is basically saying that the birthright of the Jew and having the Law, has hindered them from faith in Jesus. In a way, it has. We must be thankful to the Lord that we trusted in Christ. That we are a chosen people that have been set apart for a mission of proclaiming the Gospel to the ends of the earth, amen.
I pray that I was encouraging to you in this chapter. Know that I struggle with this chapter and seek to go deeper and understand it all the more. Yet a truth I repeat to myself. God’s ways are higher than mine, difficult truth is truth, and I’m not God.