Summary: Everything depends on God’s Mercy
Does God Play Favorites?
A sermon on Romans 9:1-18
Does God play favorites?
I read an interesting thought on sermon central last week. ‘There are certain phrases every parent expects to hear from their kids. Phrases like: "why!", or, "But Greg’s parents let him do it!" or, "But that’s not fair!" We said them to our parents. And our kids say them to us. And of course the standard response we learned from our parents that we pass on to our kids is, "Well, life’s not fair." You know, when we’re young, we’re idealistic. We expect things to be fair. But as we get older, we grow more cynical. Well, life’s not fair. But even in our cynicism we hold out hope that at least there’s One Person in this universe who is fair: God. When some dastardly criminal slips through the justice system, we like to believe that he won’t slip past God’s justice system. We trust that one day they will have to stand before God. So even if this life isn’t fair, at least we can trust God is fair. But what if God isn’t fair? Or what if God’s definition of fairness is different than our definition of fairness? What if God plays favorites? Can we still trust Him?’
Please Take Out Your Bibles
Sue and I have been working through the Book of Romans this month. And this morning we will be looking at the ninth chapter. And chapter nine suggests that God does indeed play favorites. If you have your Bibles with you, and you haven’t already done so, why don’t you take them out and turn to the ninth chapter of the Book of Romans. And in a moment I’ll begin reading at verse one.
Beginning at verse one, we read, ‘I speak the truth in Christ. I am not lying; my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit. I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart, for I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen. It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.’ (Romans 9:1-6, NIV)
The Context of Romans chapters 9 - 11
The Book of Romans is one of the most difficult books in the Bible to study. Its arguments are involved. The points can extend over several chapters. There are teachings in here that are hard to understand. And chapters 9 through 11 are considered the most difficult chapters to understand, and accept. The theme of the Book of Romans is something like, ‘Justification by Faith’, and its benefits. In the first eight chapters of Romans Paul speak of sin, and grace, and faith, and how and why we can have right standing with God in spite of ourselves.
There is a change of gears at chapter nine, – why?
But then suddenly we get to chapter nine, and there is a rather abrupt change of pace. Suddenly Paul starts telling us all about Israel. There is this sudden change of gears and suddenly we find ourselves in an extended discourse that goes on for several chapters  about the place of the Old Testament and Israel in salvation history. And people ask why? Why the change in gears? What’s going on? 
The relationship of Jew and Gentile was of concern
Well the answer takes us back into the first century. For, Paul is answering a number of questions that would have been raised against his teaching of Justification by Faith in predominately Jewish churches. Few Churches today have very many Jewish members in them. At our church back in Minnesota there was one Jewish member. But that wouldn’t have been true in Paul’s day. Many of the early churches looked more like Messianic Jewish congregations.  Over time they evolved a more Gentile character. But in those early days many churches had a predominately Jewish character and so they struggled with how and why exactly Jews and Gentiles fit together.
We know that Jews and Gentiles have been fitted into one body
We, as post New Testament Believer are taught to believe, ‘There is one body, and one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all’,  and, ‘Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.’