Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
September 15, 2002
God’s Choice of Israel
How important is the salvation of others to you? How much are you willing to
give of yourself in seeking to see others rescued from their sin and its eternal
damnation? This morning we will look at an example that will challenge us to
think more seriously and be more giving toward the salvation of others.
Our tendency is to look at those mentioned in the Bible, such as the Apostle
Paul, as somehow so different from us that their example is unattainable. We
think that it is impossible for us to do the kinds of things that they did. Yet,
we are told to look at their examples and follow accordingly. 1 Cor. 10:11 tells
us that the Old Testament was recorded as an example for our instruction. In 1
Cor. 11:1 Paul tells us to be imitators of him, just as he was of Jesus Christ.
The truth is that Paul, the other apostles, the prophets and the others
mentioned in the Bible were people just like us. There was much they did not
know. They had their own fears. They often failed, but they also succeeded in
ways that sometimes make us wonder what is wrong with us. That is why we tend to
think that their examples are unattainable. However, I think the only real
differences boil down to their priorities. They understood and lived with the
right priorities in view. Why was Paul able to accomplish so much in the service
of the Lord? It was his heart and mind set for sacrificial service. That heart
and mind set are clearly expressed in our passage of study this morning, Romans
Look at verses 1-5 with me as we begin our study with an examination of Paul’s
Romans 9:1 (NASB) I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my
conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and
unceasing grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed,
[separated] from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the
flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory
and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the [temple] service and the
promises, 5 whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the
flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.
Paul’s Passion (1-5)
Paul’s Heart (1-3). Paul’s expression of his heart’s desires for
the salvation of his fellow Jews is so strong that he prefaces it by making
three declarations of its validity. He is telling the truth in Christ. He is not
lying, and his conscience is bearing him witness in the Holy Spirit of the truth
of his statement. Paul is not making an exaggeration here for the purpose of
stressing his point. This is an expression of how he actually feels. He has
great sorrow and unceasing grief over the lost state of is kinsman.
Sorrow (luvph / lup_) expresses the
heaviness of heart that comes with sad news. The disciples had this after Jesus
had told them He was to be crucified (John 16:6, 20-22). It is also the sadness
that comes upon a person when they recognize they have sinned. Godly sorrow
produces repentance while worldly sorrow produces death (2 Cor. 7:10). Here we
find that Paul had great sorrow over the lost state of his brethren.
Paul also had "unceasing grief." Grief (ojduvnh
/ odun_) is the pain that one is plunged into when there is something bad that
has happened. The verb form is used in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 to describe the
grief of having a loved one die. Paul says here that this is the emotion he is
continually feeling in his heart as he considers the state of the unsaved
These emotions are so strong that he even states that he could "wish
that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren .
. . ". In other words, if somehow my own damnation could result in the
salvation others, then I would wish that. Of course that cannot happen. You may
be able to save others physical lives at the cost of your own physical life, but
you cannot save them spiritually by the sacrifice of your own spiritual life.
Yet, Paul would even long for that if it could happen. That is an extremely
strong statement about his love for others. The heart of true love is the
willingness to sacrifice oneself for the benefit of the one loved. The reason
that Paul was used so mightily in the Lord’s service was because of this heart
of sacrificial love.
That is the challenge to us in imitating Paul. It is not doing all the things
that Paul did as an apostle – the various miracles, traveling all over the world
and establishing churches everywhere. We can only do what God calls us to do
according to the particular gifts He has given us, and no one here is an
apostle. That would require you to be an eyewitness of the Lord’s life (Acts
1:21f). What Paul does ask us to imitate about his life is his passion and
character. Live in righteousness and be passionate about serving the lord.
No wonder that we tend to be intimidated by Paul’s example. How many of us
would dare say that we could wish ourselves accursed if it would result in the
salvation of our relatives? We demonstrate our hardness of heart towards others
by our hesitancy to speak to them about Christ, or to give of our time, talents
and finances in serving the Lord in our areas of giftedness or supply for the
needs of others so that they can better serve the Lord with their gifts. The
answer to your hesitancy is not in making out Paul’s example to be
unreasonable, but rather to repent of your selfishness and then, asking the Lord
to help and change your heart, step out in faith to give a little more of
yourself, to be in situations that make you uncomfortable, to even risk the
rejection and persecution of others because they do not want to hear the truth
from you. Paul’s example is a realistic one to follow, and those who share his
passion for the lost will follow it.
Paul’s Kinsmen (3-5). Paul was an apostle to the gentiles (Rom. 1:5;
11:13), but he understood that the gospel was to the Jew first (Rom. 1:16) and
he still had a great passion for their salvation. In verses 4 & 5 Paul makes
it clear that it is to his "brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh,
who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the
covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises,
whose are the fathers, and from who is the Christ according to the flesh." The
identification is clear here as is also the blessing that God has poured out on
them including the fact that the Christ, the promised Messiah is also of the
lineage of the Jews, and at the mention of Christ, Paul cannot contain the
praise, and so he proclaims Him as the one "who is over all, God blessed
The Jewish people have received great and wonderful blessings from God as His
chosen people. They are the ones that have received God’s promises. They are
the ones through whom God has manifested Himself and His glory. But in bringing
them up, there immediately rises several questions concerning God and His
dealings with the Jews. Why did they receive these blessing instead of some
other group? If God has chosen them, then why aren’t they responding to the
gospel? How do the gentiles fit in? What is Israel’s future? Will God keep His
promises to them?
Paul will be answering those questions in chapters 10,11 and 12. They are
important questions for us too, not only because they reveal how we Gentiles fit
in, but also because they reveal the character of God in both His choosing of
His elect and His faithfulness to keep His promises. This morning we will only
be working out way down to verse 18, but in doing so we will find out why God
chose Israel and begin to understand His nature in choosing His elect.
True Israel (6-13)
Romans 9:6 (NASB) But [it is] not as though the word of God has failed.
For they are not all Israel who are [descended] from Israel; 7 neither are they
all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: "through Isaac
your descendants will be named." 8 That is, it is not the children of the
flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as
descendants. 9 For this is a word of promise: "At this time I will come,
and Sarah shall have a son." 10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah
also, when she had conceived [twins] by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though
[the twins] were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order
that God’s purpose according to [His] choice might stand, not because of works,
but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, "The older will serve
the younger." 13 Just as it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I
Children of the Promise – Isaac (6-9)
The first thing that Paul points out is that the word of God has not failed. "God
is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has
He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? (Numb
23:19). What God says is true and will be fulfilled. Paul pointed out earlier in
3:3 that their unbelief does not nullify God’s faithfulness. In Romans 11:1,2,
Paul makes it clear that God has not rejected His people, for He always keeps
for Himself a remnant even when the vast majority reject Him. When God’s sends
His word out, it will accomplish what He desires (Isa. 55:11). Failure in people
to respond properly to God does not reflect a failure on God’s part.
Paul states at the end of verse 6 that "they are not all Israel who
are descended from Israel." Paul had explained in 2:28,29 the spiritual
application of this statement in that having physical descent as a Jew is not
enough to make a person a Jew spiritually. That belongs to those who are
circumcised of heart by the Holy Spirit.
Here in Romans 9:7, Paul traces the truth of his statement in its physical
application by starting with the lineage from Abraham. This is a very important
point for us to understand in our own day due to the constant tension in the
Middle East between the Jews and Arabs. The basic conflict between Jews and
Arabs has also engulfed America and is the major reason for the terrorist
activities against us.
What is this basic conflict? It is a question of who has God given His
promises to? Who are the people that have inherited God’s covenant with
Abraham? Who are the ones that have received God’s adoption as sons, the
covenants, the laws, the promises and through whom does the savior come? Paul
said in verses 4 and 5 that this belongs to the Jews. Islamic Arabs claim that
it belongs to them through Abraham’s first born son, Ishmael.
Paul’s first point in tracing the correct lineage is that it belongs only
to the children of the promise, and not to all physical descendants of Abraham.
Abraham actually had many sons. Ishmael was his first born through Sarah’s
maid, Hagar. Isaac was his only child through Sarah herself. And then after
Sarah died, Abraham took Keturah as a wife and she bore to him Zimran and
Jokshan and Medan and Midian and Ishbak and Shuah. Four of these eight sons
became fathers of nations. Did all of them inherit God’s covenant with
Abraham? If not, which one did?
Paul quotes Genesis 21:21 (vs. 7) and 18:10 (vs. 9) as two of the passages
that make it clear that Isaac is the son of the promise. It is Isaac through
whom Abraham’s descendants would be named. Even today, it is only the Jews’
that freely boast about being the "children of Abraham." Arabic
apologists will trace their lineage to Abraham, but they are more likely to
stress their descent from Ishmael or their forefather of the Arabic tribe than
to Abraham. Another strong passage proving that Isaac is the son of promise is
Genesis 17. In that chapter God establishes His covenant of circumcision with
Abraham. In the process, God also changed the name of Sarai to Sarah and
promised that she would bear a son, even though she was already 90 years old.
Abraham actually argues with God in verse 18 saying, "Oh that Ishmael
might live before Thee!" In other words, Ishmael is enough, let the
covenant be through him. God’s response is recorded in verses 19-21.
But God said, "No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you
shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an
everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 "And as for Ishmael,
I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful, and will
multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I
will make him a great nation. 21 "But My covenant I will establish with
Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year."
So contrary to Arabic and Islamic claims, the promises belong to the Jews and
the land belongs to Israel because of that. Even the claim of the so called
"Palestinians" is a false one, for up until the modern establishment
of the nation of Israel and even into the 60’s, it was the Jew who was called a
"Palestinian" and not those of Arabic descent. The Jews have had a
presence in the land for over 3,000 years. Those who are called
"Palestinians" now of Arabic descent are only recent immigrants into
This claim of descent is also important to us who are Christians, because God’s
covenant to Abraham traces through to Jesus Christ who is the fulfillment of the
blessing promised. This means that Muhammad has no legitimate claim to be a
prophet of God. He is in fact a false prophet of the false god, Allah, not of
the true God, Yahweh.
Children of the Promise – Jacob (10-13). Paul further narrows the
children of the promise in verses 10-13. It is not even all the children of
Isaac, but only those of Isaac who trace their lineage through his son, Jacob.
In verses 10-12 Paul refers to the story told in Genesis 25 about the birth of
Isaac’s twin boys, Esau and Jacob through Rebekah. It was while both boys were
still in the womb that the Lord said to Rebekah, "And the Lord said to
her, "Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples shall be separated from
your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall
serve the younger." The subject of the prophecies are the nations that
would arise from these two boys and what the relationship of those two nations
would be. There is no Biblical or extra Biblical evidence that Esau himself
actually ever served Jacob, but there is plenty of evidence of the nation that
came from Esau (Edom) being in subjection to and serving Israel.
Paul’s quote of Malachi 1:2,3 is also in reference to the nations that came
from Jacob and Esau rather than the individuals themselves, for that it is the
context both in this passage and in Malachi.
It is important to note what Paul says in verse 11. God’s choice in this
was done before these boys were born, before they could do anything either good
or bad. The choice was made simply by God’s sovereign purpose as He decided
and not upon any work either boy had done. The impact of this is made even
stronger when it is considered that the prophecy was dealing with the nations
that would arise from them that had not yet even been conceived, much less born
to take some action, good or evil.
That truth tends to make people uncomfortable, especially us Americans
because we value our supposed autonomy so much. We don’t want others telling
us what to do, and we certainly do not want people deciding our destiny without
our say so in the matter. There almost seems something unfair about it. Why
should one be chosen for blessing and the other placed in subjection especially
when neither has done anything to either warrant the blessing or the hardship?
There are several things about this truth people do not like. First, we tend
to focus more on the negative aspect than the positive. We look at the one that
received a hardship or did not receive the blessing as unfair. If we look at the
one who got the blessing, we see that as good for them, but don’t tend to
think of it as being unfair to them, only unfair to the one that did not get it.
Second, we don’t like the fact that God is sovereign in His choices and He
does not always explain the reasons why He does something in anyway that makes
sense to us. As a result, people tend to skew the interpretation of these
passages to produce a god they can understand rather than One that is beyond
their comprehension and to Whom they must humbly bow.
The nation of Israel was chosen to be God’s people on the same basis that
Jacob was chosen to receive the blessing instead of Esau. Cultural tradition
demanded that Esau receive the blessing and that the younger should serve him,
yet God’s choice was the opposite. God is not bound by the cultural traditions
of any people.
The Old Testament gives us several insights into the choosing of Israel to be
God’s people. The Lord says in Deut. 4:37-39, "Because He loved your
fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them. And He personally
brought you from Egypt by His great power, 38 driving out from before you
nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in [and] to give you their
land for an inheritance, as it is today. 39 "Know therefore today, and take
it to your heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and on the earth
below; there is no other." Deut. 9:5,6 adds, "It is not for
your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to
possess their land, but [it is] because of the wickedness of these nations
[that] the Lord your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the
oath which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 6
"Know, then, [it is] not because of your righteousness [that] the Lord your
God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn
people." Deut 10:14,15 states, "Behold, to the Lord your God
belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. 15
"Yet on your fathers did the Lord set His affection to love them, and He
chose their descendants after them, [even] you above all peoples, as [it is]
Putting all of these together, we find that the Lord did not choose Israel
for anything commendable about them. Even their possession of the land was due
to God’s judgement upon the wickedness of the people before them and not as a
reward for something good about them. God chose them simply as an act of His own
gracious love in keeping the promises He made to Abraham through which God would
glorify Himself. His choice of you is the same. It is an act of His own gracious
love for His own purposes.
The illustration given here of the Lord’s love for Jacob and hatred for
Esau demonstrates further God’s sovereign choice in His own mercy and grace.
Again, the context of this passage and of Malachi 1:2,3 from which the verse is
quoted, is of the nations that came from Jacob and Esau. There is no Scriptural
indication of any divine hatred against Esau the man, but God’s hatred of
Edom, Esau’s descendants is clear. They were an idolatrous and rebellious
people whom the Lord chastised and eventually destroyed. But Israel was also
often idolatrous and rebellious against God. God also chastised them and even
had them taken away into captivity, yet God also preserved a remnant and brought
them back to the land. This was done only because of God’s mercy and grace
extended to them while He was working out His plan of redemption. The nation of
Israel exists today only because of God’ grace upon them in working out His
future plans for them.
God’s Mercy (14-18)
Verses 14-18 further bring out this point. "What shall we say then?
There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to
Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion
on whom I have compassion." 16 So then it [does] not [depend] on the man
who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture
says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My
power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole
earth." 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He
No Injustice with God (14). First, though many people would react and
claim this, there is no injustice with God. Deut. 32 records Moses’ song to
the Israelites. In verse 4 Moses declares of God, "The Rock! His work is
perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice,
Righteous and upright is He." Elihu wisely said in Job 34:12-15 "Surely,
God will not act wickedly, And the Almighty will not pervert justice. 13
"Who gave Him authority over the earth? And who has laid [on Him] the whole
world? 14 "If He should determine to do so, If He should gather to Himself
His spirit and His breath, 15 All flesh would perish together, And man would
return to dust." There is no injustice with God. He has authority over
all things and would be just and righteous if He decided to withhold His mercy
and grace though that very act would result in the destruction of all flesh. The
Lord’s judgements are always true and righteous (Rev. 16:7).
God’s Sovereign Mercy (15,16). God is sovereign with His mercy. The
quote in verse 15 is from Exodus 33:19 when Moses requested to see the Lord’s
glory. It was an act of grace and compassion for the Lord to allow Moses to see
the goodness of the Lord pass before him. When God did do that He proclaimed of
Himself, "The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to
anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 who keeps lovingkindness for
thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means
leave [the guilty] unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children
and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations" (Exod
That is the character of the Lord our God. The extension of the Lord’s
mercy to someone is not dependent upon what they desire or how well they work at
being good. It is dependent on the Lord’ mercy to them, for no man seeks God
(Psalm 14:1-3; Romans 3:10-12), and even a man’s best effort to do a work of
righteousness falls far short and is filthy before our holy God (Isa. 64:6).
God’s Sovereign Hardening (17,18). God is also sovereign in hardening
of the hearts of those that resist Him. Paul brings up the example of Pharaoh
during the time of Moses to illustrate this. Some have incorrectly taken these
verses to mean that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in the sense of it being done
as an act of predestination or election to condemnation. This is the idea that
this is something that God did to Pharaoh who was a passive recipient to God’s
decree. However, the quote in verse 17 is taken from Exodus 9:16. By this point
in time, Pharaoh had already endured six plagues. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened
when Aaron’s rod became a serpent and ate up those that Pharaoh’s magicians
threw down (7:13). Pharaoh’s heart was hardened at the turning of the water
into blood (7:22). Pharaoh hardened his heart at the plague of the frogs (8:15).
His heart was hardened at the plague of gnats (8:19) and he hardened his heart
again when Moses removed the plague (8:32). Pharaoh’s heart was hardened again
when the Egyptian cattle died (9:7). It is not until the plague of boils that we
find that "the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart." It is only
after this that God tells Pharaoh through Moses, "But, indeed, for this
cause I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power, and in order
to proclaim My name through all the earth. Still you exalt yourself against My
people by not letting them go."
Pharaoh was responsible for his actions. He continued to harden his heart
until finally God sealed His fate and confirmed the hardening so that there
would be no repentance. God did exalt Himself through Pharaoh as the rest of the
plagues were poured out on Egypt culminating in the Passover, the exodus and the
destruction of Egypt’s army in the Red Sea. Those are all events which are
still celebrated to this day to the glory of God.
God has mercy on who He has mercy and He hardens who He hardens. It is God’s
sovereign choice, yet man is still responsible for his own rejection of God and
refusal to seek refuge in Christ.
To those that are already saved, Jesus revealed no one could come unto Him
unless God the Father draws him (John 6:44). We do not come to Jesus Christ
because we choose Him, but because He chooses us (John 15:16). We love Him only
because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
Yet to the unsaved, Jesus gives warning and an invitation. "Unless
you believe that I am He [Messiah], You shall die in your sins"
(John 8:24). "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not
believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the
only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18). " Come to Me, all who
are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 "Take My yoke upon
you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find
rest for your souls. 30 "For My yoke is easy, and My load is light"
The interaction of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility is not
understood by man. Those who have been saved simply turn with greater praise to
God that He would extend His grace and mercy to them. You do not have to know
what God has chosen for you in order to respond to His invitation to salvation.
If you respond with belief in Christ’s atonement as the payment for your sins,
then you receive God’s mercy. If you reject it, then you are responsible for
your sin, but be warned if you think you can sit on the fence and put off a
response to the invitation to salvation. There could come a point in time when
God seals you in your rejection and hardens your heart so that you cannot repent
and turn to Christ. Neither you nor I know when that could be. It is not a risk
worth taking. Don’t leave here today without making peace with God.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s
lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something
you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older
Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times words
for choice (choose, elect, etc.) are used. 2) Discuss with your parents your own
responsibility in responding to God’s call.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. How important is
the salvation of others to you? What things do you do that would demonstrate
your concern for the salvation of others? What do you think of Paul’s passion
for the salvation of his fellow Jews? It is realistic to imitate Paul? Why or
why not? What blessings had God given to the Jews? Can the word of God fail? Why
or why not? What is the spiritual implication of, "they are not all
Israel who are descended from Israel"? What is the physical
implication? Which descendant of Abraham also received God’s covenant. What
proves this? Why is this important? Do Arabic people have any right to the land
of Israel? Why or why not? Why can’t Muhammad be a legitimate prophet? Is
Allah the same as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Which descendants of
Isaac are the "children of the promise"? Who exactly is Paul talking
about in 9:10 in referring to Jacob and Esau? What evidence supports your
answer? When did God make His choice between Jacob and Esau? What does that
reveal to us about God? How does that truth make you feel? Why? What was the
basis of God’s choosing of the nation of Israel to be His people? Is that
fair? Is it just? What is the context of Malachi 1:2,3? What differences were
there between the nation of Edom (Esau) and Israel? Can there be injustice with
God. Why or why not? On what basis does God bestow His mercy? On what basis does
He harden? What does the example of Pharaoh teach us about this?
Sermon Study Sheets
God’s Choice of Israel – Romans 9:1-18
Paul’s Passion (1-5)
Paul’s Heart (1-3)
Sorrow (luvph / lup_)
Grief (ojduvnh / odun_)
Paul’s Kinsmen (3-5)
True Israel (6-13)
Children of the Promise – Isaac (6-9)
Spiritual Application (Romans 2:28,29)
Physical Application – Ishmael, Isaac, or a son of Keturah
Genesis 21:21; 18:10; 17:18-21
Children of the Promise – Jacob (10-13)
People tend to skew the interpretation of these passages to produce a god
they can understand rather than One that is beyond their comprehension and to
Whom they must humbly bow.
Choosing of Israel – Deuteronomy 4:37-39; 9:5,6; 10:14,15
God’s Mercy (14-18)
No Injustice with God (14)
God’s Sovereign Mercy (15,16)
Exodus 33:19; 34:6-7
God’s Sovereign Hardening (17,18)
The Example of Pharaoh – Genesis 17, 18, 19