God’s Sovereign Choice
9 I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
Some people think we shouldn’t share the Gospel with Jewish people because they are covered under the Old Covenant with God. But consider what Paul is saying here and how it makes the point that Jewish people need Jesus, too. He was saying that he’d give up his salvation if he could so the rest of the Jews could be saved. The point is that he can’t do that, and that they need to come to Jesus on their own.
We can learn two powerful lessons from Paul’s salvation:
1. If someone as awful as Paul — whose former role was terrorizing Christians — can be redeemed, there is hope for us.
2. If an outstanding Jew like Paul still needed Jesus to be saved, then so does every other human on the planet.
6 It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7 Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 8 In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. 9 For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.”
10 Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 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 It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
People don’t like to hear those phrases, but God has ultimate control of the universe and what happens in the end. The Bible is crystal-clear that God knows who will come to him and who will not. Some people passionately debate whether God has already decided whom He will draw to him and others think it is due to our free choices (I’m probably over simplifying that, but I’m not trying to resolve it here). Both sides have compelling Bible passages to support their conclusions. It is an important topic but I think someone could hold either view and still be a Christian.
19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?
Now there is an important and humbling phrase! God is the potter. We are the clay. Too often people want to reverse the roles and make God in their own image. When you think of things from God’s perspective that is a pretty ridiculous idea.
22 What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25 As he says in Hosea:
“I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,”
26 and, “It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”
27 Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved.
28 For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality.”
29 It is just as Isaiah said previously: “Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah.”
Paul frequently quoted from the Old Testament. He reminds the Romans – and anyone else who will listen – that it was always God’s plan to save the Jews and the Gentiles (non-Jews) through the Jewish race. And He did that through Jesus.
30 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.” 33 As it is written:
“See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Once again, Paul points out that we are saved by faith, through God’s grace, and not by any righteous deeds or adherence to the law on our own.
What parts of this chapter stood out to you and why?