In our study on God’s dealings with the children of Abraham and his sovereignty over them, we primarily addressed the lineage of the Promise. We looked at how God chose Isaac over the firstborn Ishmael to be the bearer of the Promise and how God chose Jacob over the firstborn Esau, before either of them were born and had done nothing good or evil, to demonstrate his purpose of election (cf. Rom. 9:11). We saw also that God’s choice brought with it eternal blessing to one and eternal ruin to the other (cf. Mal. 1:2, etc., Rom. 9:13).
It is at this point that many interpreters of Romans 9 who do not like the doctrine of Divine Election point out that vv. 1-13 have dealt solely with God and the people of Israel. In spite of Paul’s design in using the examples of Isaac and Jacob to explain God’s Purpose in Election and thereby explain why God has not broken his promise to Israel though they were not believing in Jesus Christ and are therefore condemned, many interpreters see, “God’s dealing with Israel” stamped over the text and skip ahead to Romans 12. They argue, “This text does not deal with the Church, so let us move on.”
However, such an interpretation is completely absurd, for the apostle writes a few verses later:
What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
Paul clearly states that God’s election is not about the physical descendents of Israel but it is about the children of the Promise—the true Israel, which is the Church (cf. Rom. 2:28, 29; Gal. 6:16).
Also, the “this is for Israelites” classification is absurd because in our text for this week, Romans 9:14-18, Paul uses the example of the Pharaoh of Exodus to make his present point, who is in fact a Gentile.
We come to v. 9:14 after Paul has made the extraordinary statement, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” After looking at this statement in the context of Romans 9 and in the context of Malachi 1 from where it is quoted by the apostle, we concluded in our earlier study that this act of loving and hating on God’s part had eternal consequences. One was given the right of the Promise and received eternal blessing and life and the other was given nothing pertaining to the Promise and received death and destruction.
And as our philosophically wise hands raise to object to the hard doctrine, the apostle writes to us, “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!” (v. 9:14). Paul assures his reader that Yahweh is a just God and has always dealt with his people justly and has always been faithful to his Promise. And though in our feeble minds we look at God’s hatred and subsequent condemnation of Esau before he was born as unjust, we must recognize that we are but a vapor and God is everlasting from everlasting. We might never comprehend the ways of God, and we should be humble and content with knowing this in light of who we are and who God is.
Paul recognizes our humble position, and instead of waxing eloquently with the latest Greek philosophy to explain God’s justice, he appeals to Scripture. He writes, “For [God] says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.'” Paul’s answer to the objection, “That is not fair!” is a humbling statement from the lips of God, “I have mercy on whom I desire.” Therefore, God’s mercy is not subject to anything in man or any other thing that is created, but it is subject only to God’s good pleasure.
Categories: Fridy Night Bible Study