For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
Romans 9 is often used as a proof-text for determinism. It is as though Paul is presenting the Gospel for Jew and Gentile from Romans chapter 1 to chapter 8, and then becomes a fatalistic philosopher all of a sudden in chapter 9. This would really be a strange detour for the apostle to take. But, there is no detour. Paul continues to preach the universal message of salvation in Romans chapter 9. This chapter will become clear to us if we let Scripture interpret Scripture. So in the next several posts, we will look for a few key passages from Scripture, primarily from Paul’s epistles, in order to understand what Paul is arguing in Romans 9.
I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.
But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel,…
In Romans 9:1-5 Paul is presenting a dilemma, and in verse 6 he begins to demystify the riddle. God had made promises to Israel. They were promised adoption as sons, a New Covenant, and a Messiah that would have authority over all nations. God fulfilled His word and sent Christ, but Israel rejected Him, the New Covenant, and the adoption that is in Him. So, will the unfaithfulness of national Israel destroy God’s plan? This is what Paul seeks to address in Romans chapter 9.
In Romans 9:6a Paul lets us know that even though Israel has been faithless, God’s plan will not be stopped. This reminds us of what he said earlier in Romans chapter 3.
For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: “That You may be justified in Your words, And may overcome when You are judged.”
Paul then defends God’s justice. Though the Jews had been entrusted with the Old Testament, most of them failed to believe in Christ when He came in fulfillment of the promises contained in those Scriptures. They were faithless, but God was faithful and fulfilled His word.
He makes the exact same point later in 9:6a: “But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect.” God will still fulfill his word, though Israel fails to believe in the fulfillment.
But, how can God fulfill His promises to Israel, if Israel refuses to receive them? He answers this dilemma in Romans 9b: “For they are not all Israel who are of Israel.” He declares that though national Israel rejected Christ, God will still keep His promise to Israel. He can do this because God does not reckon Israel according to the flesh but through faith in Christ. Not everyone descended from Jacob (i.e. Israel) is counted as part of Israel (i.e. God’s holy people).
Paul already talked about this back in Romans chapter 2:
And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
Romans 2:27-3:4 is the key to understanding Romans 9:6. God has kept His promise to Israel because Israel is reckoned spiritually through Jesus Christ, not physically (i.e. ancestry) through Jacob.
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