Summary: The sovereignty of God helps us understand the distinguishing grace of God in salvation.
Last week, in Romans 9:1-5, we saw a glimpse into Paul’s heart of compassion, as he expressed concern for his fellow Israelites. And that’s important to remember for a couple of reasons.
First, we need to remember that the Apostle Paul, as convinced as he was of the sovereignty of God, worked more diligently than anyone else for the conversion of the Israelites. Luke’s account of Paul’s ministry in Acts tells us that his philosophy was to preach to the Jew first and then to the Gentiles. That was Paul’s primary strategy. He believed in God’s sovereignty, and yet he worked very hard for the conversion of his own people, the Israelites.
Second, it’s important for us to remember his compassion for the Israelites because in the verses to come, not only in Romans 9:6-13 that we’ll study today, but throughout the rest of this chapter, Paul says some things that are very difficult for us. It’s not that they are hard to understand. It’s just that they are difficult to swallow.
Some very godly Christians wrestle with swallowing the full force of Paul’s teaching in Romans 9, and it’s important for us to remember Paul’s heart of compassion for the lost people of Israel.
Paul had been shown his sin, and he knew the grace of God. And because of this he was able to be compassionate to those who resisted and rejected the word of God. His desire was for them to be saved. And this should be our desire as well.
Let’s read Romans 9:6-13:
6But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11though 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— 12she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (Romans 9:6-13)
As you look out on the world, you see some incredibly intelligent and wise and talented and lovely people who have never heard the gospel. They’ve never sat under the preaching of the gospel, they’ve never seen a Bible, or known the grace of God personally and savingly.
And then there are others who have heard the gospel. Some have embraced it, and some have rejected it.
And you wonder, why? Why is it that lovely and intelligent and talented and gifted people have never heard the gospel? Why would this be? Why would God allow this to happen?
And why is that some people who hear the gospel embrace it? It may be the first time they have heard it, but they embrace the gospel and they love the Lord Jesus Christ with all their hearts and trust in him.
And some people who have heard the gospel over and over again reject it.
Why? Why would it be that some people with the same opportunities and the same advantages would hear the gospel and reject it, while others embrace it?
This is the question that the Apostle Paul is answering in this great passage. I’d like to walk through this passage with you and see how Paul answers that question. He answers the question of why it is that some embrace God and others reject him.
Paul answers this question by tackling another thorny issue, and you’ll see that issue at the beginning of verse 6.
The issue is basically this: has God’s word of promise to Israel failed? You see, there is a specific historical situation that leads Paul to ask some questions about God’s purposes and plans. In verses 1 through 5, Paul raises the issue of the rejection of Jesus the Messiah by the people of Israel. He said his heart breaks over it. He mourns for his people. He even wishes he could take his peoples’ punishment if only they would trust in Jesus.
Has God’s promises to Israel failed? Paul is clear: No! It is not as though the word of God has failed.
You see the issue that he’s tackling. How do you square God’s covenant promises to Israel and Israel’s unbelief? How do they go together? How do you square God making promises to Israel and yet Israel rejecting the promises? Has God’s word failed?