By Andrew E. Courtis
In Romans 9-11 the focus is on Israel and the sovereignty of God. Though from one perspective these chapters may appear out of place, the fact is, they are of great importance. Firstly, they answer an anticipated question. After making the point that nothing can separate God’s people from His love (8:35-39), an objection might be “What about Israel?” Though they have rejected the Lord, this doesn’t mean God has failed. In chapters 9-11 Paul answers that question by dealing with Israel’s past selection (9), present situation (10), and future salvation (11). The second reason why these chapters are important is because reveals the place of Jew and Gentile in God’s plan of redemption (cf. 1:16).
In this section of chapter 9 (9:1-13), Paul introduces the theme of Israel’s election. The word “elect” was used back in 8:33 in reference to the security of God’s people. The doctrine of election refers to the unconditional and free choice of God in which He selects certain people to save. This sovereign choice takes place before the foundation of the world, is solely out of God’s free grace and love, without anything in the individual as a condition or cause moving Him to choose them, and is perfectly consistent with the free agency of man (Rom. 8:28-30; Rom. 9:6-18; 1 Cor. 1:27-29; Eph. 1:4-5, 11; 1 Thess. 1:4- 5; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim 1:9; 1 Pet. 1:2). It is on the basis of this understanding of election that God’s promises to Israel are irrevocable. In this passage we learn about The Blessings of Israel’s Election (9:1-5) and The Basis of Israel’s Election (9:5-13).
1. THE BENEFITS OF ISRAEL’S ELECTION (9:1-5)
When Paul thinks about the unsaved Israelites “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” fills his heart (9:2). This burden and passion (which is genuine and guided by the Holy Spirit cf. 9:1) causes Paul to say “I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (9:3). Though this is not a possibility (cf. 8:35-39), Paul expressed a genuine willingness in a hypothetical scenario. Such an expression reveals his passionate desire for salvation, and in some ways reflects the actions of what Christ did for us (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21).
Paul now goes on to reveal eight great blessings that proceeded from Israel’s election. Firstly, they received the blessing of Adoption. This refers to the act of God in which He brought them into a relationship in which He would be their Father and they His children (Ex. 4:22; Deut. 14:1; Is. 63:16; 64:8; Hos. 11:1; Mal. 1:6). The Glory refers to the glory of God seen at Sinai, in the Tabernacle and the Temple (Ex. 24:16; 40:34-38; 1 Kings 8:10-11). The Covenants are the Divinely given oaths and promises of God (Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic). The Giving of the Law took place at Sinai in which God gave His people through Moses moral, civil and ceremonial stipulations. The worship was seen in regulations found in the Law concerning the service of the Lord and the procedure in the worship. The Promises are of a considerable number and they all reveal the grace and faithfulness of God. The patriarchs refer to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (and perhaps David cf. 1:3). The greatest of all blessings that came out of Israel was the Christ. Unlike the patriarchs, He is fully God (9:5b).
2. THE BASIS OF ISRAEL’S ELECTION (9:6-13)
Even though there have been, are and will continue to be Jewish people that don’t believe, this does not mean God’s election has failed (9:6). Paul proves this by showing that God’s election didn’t include all but only some. He does this by demonstrating that God chose Isaac and not Ishmael (9:7-9) and He chose Jacob and not Esau (9:10-13). It is important to note that this sovereign choice of God was not influenced by people’s future actions (good or bad). This choice is solely made on the basis of His own will (9:11). Though objections will be raised (Paul deals with two of them in the next passage 9:14-33), it is important to understand that there is a huge element of mystery here from our vantage point.
- What can we learn from Paul’s evangelistic passion for Israel? How should this influence the way that we view the lost? See 9:1-3
- How is Israel a privileged nation? See 9:4-5.
- What is the greatest blessing Israel received? See 9:5b.
- What evidence does Paul give to show that being physical children of Abraham doesn’t make you elect? See 9:6-13.
- What was the basis of God’s choice of Jacob and not Esau? See 9:11.
 John Murray, NICNT Romans