Spiritual Israel
by Ulrike

9:1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit,
9:2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart.

Earlier in the book of Romans, Paul wrote out the steps of salvation, and emphasied the absolute necessity of having Christ's justification, for the law cannot justify anyone. He has told his readers that they must receive the Holy Spirit in order to truly live the righteous life. (They must die to the old carnal nature and rise to newness of Life in Christ) Now he turns his attention, with a heavy heart, to his own country men; the Jewish race, who have largely rejected Christ, the only hope of salvation.
With a strong threefold affirmation he asserts his continuing love for his fellow Jews. They cause him great sorrow and unceasing anguish of heart as he thinks of their unique privileges, which SHOULD have made them the most responsive people to the coming of their Messiah. Yet, they would not believe.

9:3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,
9:4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;

A Key to understanding this passage:
These are the Israelites OF THE FLESH, the natural, genetic descendants of Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel). Paul calls them his brothers, and those of his own race, his countrymen.

Paul sees these Israelites OF THE FLESH, (that is natural descendants,) who have rejected Christ, as lost, not having salvation. We know this because of his anquish of heart. Paul, like Moses, loves them enough that "were it possible" he would give up his own salvation, IF it could be accredited to them and gain them salvation.

The Jews were God's chosen people, through whom He had purposed to bless the entire world. From among them God had raised up many prophets. These had foretold the advent of a Redeemer. Though God foreknew and it was prophecied that Christ would be rejected by His people, yet THAT was NOT the plan. To them-- that is, to Israel as a nation were given the promises, they, the promises, "pretain to THEM". All those prophecies which modern Christians now attempt to project to the future WERE MEANT TO TAKE PLACE BACK THEN.

Israel was given 490 years, after their Babylonian captivity was ended and they were gathered back to their homeland and were able to accomplish the rebuilding of Jerusalem back in 457 B.C.; 490 years were given them to prepare for the coming Messiah.
They were to be center of the gospel going forth to the world.

GOD'S PLAN was that they would accept the Messiah and be the light to the Gentiles-- that was the PLAN. This had been promised them.

9:5 Of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.

We often have the idea that when Paul was converted to Christ, that he turned his back on Judiasm. But that cannot be true. Paul here explores the TRUE Israel in Christ. From the Jewish "fathers" can be traced the human ancestry of Christ, Who is God over all those "fathers". Yet, HE, God, became a Jew according to the flesh-- that is, HIS genealogy can be traced back to Abraham.
What a special privilege that God (they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Matthew 1:23) became a Jew, and walked among them. How could they reject HIM, did the promises fail?

9:6 But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect.

The promises all centered upon the coming REDEEMER, Jesus Christ, and Christ HAD COME! The Word of God had been fulfilled. So why was there this rejection of the fulfilment of the promise by the people?

When God's written word was given through the Hebrew prophets, Satan studied with diligence the messages concerning the Messiah. He knew about Christ's purpose to be both a suffering sacrifice and a conquering king. He determined to blind the eyes of the people, so far as might be possible, to the real significance of the Messianic prophecies, in order to prepare the way for the rejection of Christ at His coming.

So, by using the Bible, he focused their eyes to build up one aspect of the prophecies to the exclusion of Christ's true mission. As a nation, the people of Israel, while desiring the advent of the Messiah, were so far separated from God in heart and life that they could have no true conception of the character or mission of the promised Redeemer. Instead of desiring redemption from sin, and the glory and peace of holiness, their hearts were fixed upon deliverance from their national foes, and restoration to worldly power.

Is it any different today? Has the deception of an earthly, sin accommodating kingdom, blinded people from the true meaning of the prophecies, and is preparing them to receive the "false christ"?

9:6 For they are not all Israel who are of Israel,

Paul is now beginning his discussion (which covers three chapters) on who true ISRAEL is-- to whom the promises will be fulfilled.
In these chapters he clearly points out that there is an Israel according to the flesh, and an Israel according to the election of grace.

9:7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called”.
9:8 That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.
9:9 For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.”

Remember the KEY Paul gave us in verse 3 and 4; Israelites according to the flesh were Israelites by birth, they were of his race, his countrymen, who had rejected Christ.

Now Paul is saying just because one is an Israelite according to the flesh doesn't mean they are Israelites of the promises.

Abraham had two sons, but only one was "the son of promise."
What does it mean to be "children of the promise"?

Ishmael was born due to the will and act of man, but Isaac's birth was a miracle, born after Sarah's childbearing years were long past.

Paul is not simply speaking of the descendants of Ishmeal vs the descendants of Isaac. He is using the illustration of Isaac and Ishmeal to make a point, it is an allegory.
In Galatians 4:22-31, Paul reveals that Ishmael represents unbelieving JEWS, while Isaac represents both Jews and Gentiles who have faith!

In Galatians 4.23-29 we read
But he (Ishmeal) was born of the bondwoman after the flesh; but (Isaac) of the freewoman was by promise.
Now we, brethren, (
Paul is speaking to the Galatians) as Isaac was, are the children of promise.
But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.

Interestingly enough Ishmeal with his mother Hagar represents Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. (Gal. 4:25)
But Isaac, represents the children of promise : Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. (Gal. 4:26)

Paul makes it very clear, here in Romans 9:8 That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. Israel of the flesh, he has clearly identified as "his countrymen" which cause him great sorrow because of their rejection of Christ.

In the previous chapter, Paul talked a great deal about the flesh, vs. the spirit. It is not those who walk after the flesh, but those who walk after the Spirit, who are the children of God, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. (see 8:16,17)

Galatians 3.16
Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. Christ IS the promised "seed". And if you be Christ's, then are you Abraham's seed." Galatians 3:29

9:10 And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac
9:11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls),
9:12 It was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.”
9:13 As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”

Jacob and Esau were both sons of Isaac, BY THE FLESH, and both sons of the same mother, Rebecca. They were twins. Yet only one was "chosen"? God does not "elect" people simply because of their "linage", something else is involved. Now to Abraham had been given the promise that Isaac and his descendants were the inheritors of the promises-- yet here we see that God rejected even the fully legitimate, literal "seed" of Isaac, and accepted only one of his sons. Before either of them were even BORN, God foreknew what would happen and told Rebecca.
The statement at the birth of the twins, "The elder shall serve the younger" (Gen 25:23), meant that God had chosen Jacob to have the spiritual birthright. Both brothers would be guilty of serious sins. (See Gen 25:27-34; 27:1-41) However, Jacob repented and by faith, accepted God's salvation. Esau persisted in his rebellious way of life.

God did not chose Jacob because of his future good works, but because the Lord foresaw that he would be a genuine believer who would accept God's grace and forgiveness and follow after HIM. Esau was rejected because God foresaw that he would not choose to receive divine saving grace. Both had equal opportunity to accept salvation. One responded, the other did not.

God's ELECTION was not arbitrary, it was based on His foreknowledge of their choices. It also shows that God's election was independent of Jacob's good works, but based on Jacob's response.

God did not "hate" Esau in the modern sense of the word. The Greek word, like its Hebrew equivalent, is used in the sense of "to put aside".

Jesus used the same word in Luke 15:26. He doesn't mean we are to "hate" our mothers and fathers, that would be breaking the fifth commandment, BUT we are not to let them stand in the way of our following Christ.
In the same way, God put Esau, outside of the promises to Israel.

Now Paul is drawing on these examples to show that "election" to God's Israel is not based on lineage, God does reject those who do not accept the salvation offered by Jesus Christ and God chooses those who accept it.

9:14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!
9:15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion”

Is God an arbitrary God? Does He deal unjustly? Absolutely NOT!

God told Moses very plainly on Whom He would show mercy.

Ex. 20.6
And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
Ex. 34.6-7
And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.
Yes, God is just-- we need not fear that HE is arbitrary. He knows the heart, we may not see the "heart", but HE knows the heart of every individual and HE His mercy for the honest in heart.
Psalms 86.5
For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.
Psalms 103.11-12
For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.
As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
Psalms 103.17-18
But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children;
To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.
Psalms 147.11
The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.

Isaiah 55.7
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

9:16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.

Salvation comes solely from God. Mankind can do nothing whatsoever to earn it. Nothing but Christ's blood can forgive our sins, nothing but the power of God can raise us to newness of life, nothing but the life of God can give us eternal life. Salvation comes not from man, but from God.

In Hebrews 12:17 we read that Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright, afterward, when it was time to inherit the blessing, was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears."

Esau represents a class who have a special, valuable blessing within their reach,--the immortal inheritance.
Yet, he chose self indulgence. He thought, If I now sell the right to the promises, I can easily buy it back. He bartered it away for a favorite dish, flattering himself that he could dispose of it at will and buy it back at pleasure. But when he sought to buy it back, even at a great sacrifice on his part, he was not able to do so. He then bitterly repented his rashness, his folly, his madness. He looked the matter over on every side. He sought for repentance carefully and with tears, but it was all in vain. He had despised the blessing, and the Lord removed it from him forever.

Esau was not shut out from the privilege of seeking God's favor by repentance, but he could find no means of recovering the birthright. His grief did not spring from conviction of sin; he did not desire to be reconciled to God. He sorrowed because of the results of his sin, but not for the sin itself.

Earlier in the book of Romans, Paul has made it clear that just because a person is born a Jew (or Christian) or just because he performs works, does not mean he is a child of God. There can be NO CHILD of God, outside of God's saving grace. God provides salvation and moves upon people's hearts to awaken in them the desire to follow HIM. He chooses those who respond to His calling and submit to the leading of His Spirit.

Some-- especially those who have worked hard to earn merits with God think this unjust.

ROMANS 2.28-29
For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

9:17 For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you and that My name may be declared in all the earth.”

Did God deliberately harden Pharaoh's heart against Pharaoh's will?
What God does is show HIS TRUTH in a compelling way, but when God shows TRUTH-- people react, they either accept it or they go to GREAT LENGTHS to oppose it. Thus one can say that God "did it" but it was THEIR CHOICE and THEIR REACTION.

God didn't "shut down" Pharaoh's receptive abilities to truth, Pharaoh did that himself in his stuborn resistance to the awesome revelations of God's reality.
God didn't "shut down" the minds of the Israelites-- they shut their own minds down in opposition to compelling revealation of God through Christ.

But the truth remains, WHEN GOD'S TRUTH shines forth in power, those who resist must harden themselves and end up building massive mental walls to keep God's spirit out of their lives.

That's what Pharaoh did, BUT rather than hinder God it only made his power show forth greater.
That's what Israel as a nation did. The Messiah, Himself, worked among them yet they would not accept Him and they hardened their hearts against Him. But God's truth still shone forth with power.

When the light is bright, that is when the two camps separate and it can be clearly "discerned between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not."

Some may question: If God knew Pharaoh would respond to God's revealed compelling evidence by hardening his heart, why did God allow him to be Pharaoh in the first place?
Others may wonder, IF GOD knew Israel would harden their hearts against HIM, why did He chose them in the first place?
Well, God's power shone through with even greater brightness because of the stuborness of man.

9:18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.

Well some may question, why did God allow this bright light to come to Pharaoh if he was only to reject it? Because through it God showed His mercy to all who responded to Him!

In the same way we may question why does God shine forth compelling evidence if HE knows people will only reject it and harden themselves?

Yet it is by shining forth compelling evidence that God draws many to Himself, and to these He shows mercy, even though many harden themselves in the process.
Yet God knows what He is doing!

When God's truth shines forth, people respond in only one of two ways-- they harden themselves against it, or they are drawn God.

9:19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?

God is in control of the development of His plan. People ask; "what choice do we have then if God controls everything Why are we still called sinners?

The answer follows: Our choice is to submit to the will of God, to allow Him to fashion our lives according to His plan.

When God's truth shines forth, no person can remain neutral--
they either respond, or harden themselves against God.

Thus it makes a clear destinction between them that serve God and them that serve Him not, and no one will yet say God is unjust.

9:20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it “Why have you made me like this?”
9:21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?

People are to submit to the will and righteousness of God. Some will be called to do a humble, common work for the Lord. Some will be called to do a great work for the Lord. Our duty is to submit to our Creator and not "answer" or talk back to God.

Romans 12.1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

So people still question, Lord, if only you had made me a more "honorable" person, I would have responded. If only you had given me more money, or better position---
Why do you question God? "Whosover believeth in Me, shall not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16" Don't make excuses that you are less honorable, or too honorable and that caused you to harden yourself against God.

9:22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,
9:23 And that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,

Notice the longsuffering of God with those who HE KNOWS, before they were even born, that they would reject HIM. Yet, His longsuffering with them is astounding. Think of Judas. Christ knew he was a traitor, yet with loving longsuffering He drew Him to Himself, till Judas "went out into the night", and personal destruction." A potter does not create a vessel just so he may destroy it. He creates vessels for useful purposes. Yet many vessels end up in the garbage pile--WHY?
Because they are not plyable, the potter cannot mold them into the desired shape.

The same holds true for people, those who do not present themselves to God, who refuse to be molded by the Master Potter, cannot be kept-- they will be destroyied.

He endured with great patience--these vessels of wrath.
God doesn't throw them away right away. He tries to make something good out of them, but in the end they must be destroyed if they do not submit. Just like a potter will eventually throw out all pottery that does not meet with His standard, even though this was not the reason why he first started making them. Yes, God can still make good come out of things. Even in the vessels destined for wrath because of their own choice, God's power, mercy and justice will be seen.

9:24 Even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

Yet those who would respond, who allow the Master Potter to mold their lives, God foreknew as well. It is for them that the promises in Christ are given, not of the Jews only, but also for the Gentiles.

9:25 As he says also in Hosea: “I will call them My people, who were not My people, and her beloved, who was ot beloved.
9:26 And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, You are not My people, there they shall be called sons of the living God.”

Paul, is shown that God's promises have a "gospel fulfilment" not only for the Jews, but for the Gentiles as well.
The Gentiles had been "separate from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of promise, without God, without hope, in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, those who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ and made them fellow heirs of the promises. Ephesians 2:12-13; 3:6

The Jews were were not in right relationship with God either, as we will see a few verses further. So "God has committed all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all. Romans 11:32"

That is to say both, Jews and Gentiles, are lost without Him!
But He has come to REDEEM them, that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. and o were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Eph. 2:16,17

Next Paul turns to Isaiah 10:12 and 7:3 to convince the Jews, that "they are not all Israel who are Israel" Romans 9:6 and that "he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God."
Romans 2:28,29.

9:27 Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant will be saved.
9:28 For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, because the LORD will make a short work upon the earth.”
9:29 And as Isaiah said before: “Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we would have become like Sodom, and we would have been made like Gomorrah.

The big emphasis here is to show that the majority are not on the right side. Though Abraham's descendants be as the sand of the sea, yet there is hardly any "seed" left! Just like in Sodom and Gomorrah when facing destruction, only a handful were spared, (three people) so from natural Israel, only a remnent will be saved.

Out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors" Isa 37:31

And we see a small band of natural Jews embrace the gospel and carry it to the Gentiles. (Paul, Peter, John, and many more New Testament Christians).

9:30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith;
9:31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.
9:32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law, For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.

9:33 As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offence, and whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.

This is the crux of the whole issue! Christ! The chief cornerstone. The author and finisher of our righteousness. The only one who can forgive and save, and sanctify.

The whole situation sounds so incredulous. There are the Gentiles, former pagans, who hadn't been pursuing any type of righteousness, yet when they heard the gospel of justification by faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit worked in them in a powerful manner.

But the Israelites, on the other hand, who knew about God's promises and standards of righteousness, and were filled with "religious zeal", lost out.

Notice that Paul does not say here, that they lost out because that was God's plan, NO, they lost out because they rejected Christ, and thought they could establish their own righteousness without HIM.

Romans 10
Romans 11
Home Page