Summary: God is faithful in the execution of his plan of salvation. Paul deals with ethnic Israel.
This 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.
INTRODUCTION ROMANS 9.1-11.36
There is an obvious coherency to the first 8 chapters of Romans that culminates with an affirmation of the believer’s inseparableness from the eternal love God. No matter how tightly woven the argument of those chapters might be, they are closely related to the next section of Paul’s letter. Indeed, there is a progression from Paul’s discourse on Habakkuk 2.4, The righteous by their faith shall live, to the assurance that God will never abandon believers. The assurance of God’s abiding love and grace is of particular importance at this point in the development of Paul’s theme of God’s faithfulness in salvation, because it may appear to many that his message about salvation through faith in Christ has been largely rejected by the Jews. So then, if Jesus is God’s expression of salvific love for his covenant people, how is it that the gospel has largely fallen on deaf ears so far as the Jews are concerned? Has God forsaken the people descended from ancient Israel? If he has, then how can one believe that God will not also abandon him? But Paul’s argument in Romans 9-11 is just this: God has not failed Israel, nor has he failed to keep for himself all those who are rightfully his. It is not a matter of God having abandoned Israel but recognizing that from the outset God did not intend to bestow salvation on every physical descendant of Abraham. Indeed, in these chapters Paul’s emphasis on ethnic Israel and the community of faith answers the questions raised by his explication of salvation by faith alone stressed in chapters 1-8. There is a corporate relationship between the Jews and Gentiles and this connection is endemic to Paul’s letters. The covenant established with Abraham does not abruptly come to an end with the inauguration of the kingdom in the New Testament.
Paul’s address of Gentile Christians in 11:13-32 is in a different category. This must be read as an indication of Paul’s intended audience at this point in his discussion and demonstrates that one of Paul’s purposes in Rom. 9-11 is the rebuke of Gentile arrogance (in Rome and elsewhere) towards
Jews and Jewish Christians. But does it require that this be Paul’s only intended audience without these chapters? We do not think so. Paul’s vehement affirmation of concern for his Jewish kinfolk, as well as his careful scriptural defense of the exclusion of many Jews from the messianic salvation, suggests strongly that he also writes to convince Jewish Christians of the truth of his gospel. As he has throughout the letter, then, Paul in Rom. 9-11 writes to both Gentile and Jewish Christians, both of whom are represented, as we have seen, in the church at Rome. Paul’s complex theologizing in chaps. 9-11 has a very practical purpose: to unite the squabbling Roman Christians behind his vision of the gospel and its implications for the relationship of Jew and Gentile. As so often in Romans, Paul’s approach is balanced. He insists, against the presumption of many Gentiles in the community, that the gospel does not signal the abandonment of Israel (chap. 11, especially). But he also makes clear that Jews and Jewish Christians who think that they have an inalienable salvific birthright are in error (chaps. 9 and 10, especially). Paul therefore criticizes extremists from both sides, paving the way for his plea for reconciliation in chaps. 14-15. (Douglas Moo, Romans, pp. 552-53)
PAUL’S LAMENT (9.1-5)
Though the transition from Romans 8 to 9 is abrupt it does not warrant the conclusion that Paul is radically changing his theme or line of reasoning, merely that he has moved on to a new facet of his argumentation. The lack of a conjunction or participle to connect the two chapters only serves to heighten the dramatic shift in moods: from celebration (8.31-39) to lamentation (9.1-3).
Paul had suffered much at the hands of Jewish antagonists and an uninformed observer might easily conclude that Paul would have little personal affection for his tormentors. Yet, though Paul was repeatedly and systematically vilified and physically mistreated by those representing the Jewish establishment (e.g., Acts 21.28-31; 24.5-8), it is clear that he held no resentment nor hatred towards those who abused him (Romans 12.14-21; cp. Matthew 5.10-12). Moreover, Paul’s advocacy for salvation through grace by faith alone may have led some Gentiles to believe that Paul no longer saw any place for Israel in God’s redemptive plan. Nothing could be further from the truth and his preface to this section, I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears witness along with me in the Holy Spirit, gives weight to the assertions that follow. Indeed, Paul emphatically states that his most ardent wish for his brothers in the flesh is that they might be saved. This desire is expressed in a manner reminiscent of Moses’ own intercession for Israel: The next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Alas, this people have sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written” (Exodus 32.32; cp. Genesis 44.33; 2 Samuel 18.33). Of course, the substitutionary sacrifice of one sinner for another is utterly inadequate (Psalm 49.7-8). Thus, Moses’ plea to be blotted out of God’s book, though emotionally charged, had no redemptive effect.