Not All Israel is Israel, II. The Children of Promise are God’s Offspring

After Paul reveals to us his deep love for brothers according to the flesh in Romans 9:1-5, he begins to address the chief subject of this passage, namely God’s faithfulness to his promises. For there are those who look at the promises to Israel before Christ and then look at the rejection of physical Israel by God after Christ and question the validity of God’s promises. They might ask, “If God cannot be trusted to keep his promises to his people Israel, why should we expect God to keep his promises to Gentiles who are followers of Christ?” This is a valid concern indeed, if it were in fact true.

To address this, Paul goes directly to its root—the promise given by God to Abraham. Paul does not look at the promise itself, but to whom the promise is given. He writes:

Not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” … For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son” (vv. 9:7, 9).

These statements are significant because, if you remember, Isaac was not Abraham’s first son. Abraham had taken Sarah’s maidservant and had a son with her by the name of Ishmael who by law and custom was the rightful heir of Abraham’s inheritance. Yet God had chosen Isaac over Ishmael as the one through whom the promise would be fulfilled.


Then someone objects, “God had said to Abraham from the beginning that it was through Sarah’s child that the promise would be granted; Abraham’s child through Hagar was illegitimate.” For this reason, Paul writes:

And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger” (vv. 9:10-12).

These children, Esau and Jacob, are God’s great demonstration that he is the commander of destinies. The two sons of Isaac, from a worldly standpoint, were on equal playing ground. They were conceived at the same time by the same father, had done no deeds either good or bad, and neither of them had anything that would commend or condemn them in the sight of God, and God chose Jacob over Esau for the sole reason of demonstrating that it is he who calls.

How does this demonstrate that it is not the children of the flesh who are offspring of God but the children of the promise? In the case of Esau of Jacob, both were equally legitimate children of Isaac and were therefore equally legitimate children of Abraham. If the promise given to Abraham were a fleshly promise, i.e. one that was received by primogeniture, Esau would have been the bearer of the promise not Jacob. However, Jacob is not merely the chief recipient of the promise, he is the sole recipient, for it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (v. 9:13; Mal. 1:2, 3). This act of God demonstrates that God’s promise is not a fleshly one and that God’s people are not his people by virtue of their physical descent. For this reason, Paul is able to declare with great confidence that the word of God has not failed and that God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew (cf. vv. 9:6; 11:2).

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Next: III. Jacob I Loved; Esau I Hated, Pt. 1



Categories: Fridy Night Bible Study

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