Summary: In this sermon we notice that God has mercy on some, and that is not inconsistent with his justice.
First, he wanted to send them a general tract on how we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
Second, he wanted to address the relationship between Jewish and Gentile Christians within the church at Rome.
That, of course, is possible. But I do not think that is exactly what the Apostle Paul had in mind. It seems to me that there is another (and probably better) explanation for the relationship between Romans 8 and Romans 9-11.
Romans 8, you may remember, ends in a tremendous climax of confidence. Paul says that God guarantees our final preservation, because our salvation is not based on our will and strength. Rather God has called us and opened our minds to the truth, and now he carries us on to final glory. And so Paul says in Romans 8:30, “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
But now you can imagine someone saying, “Hold on, Paul! You say that when God calls someone he always brings him or her all the way home to glory. But what about the Jews? God called them. He even went to them, but most of the Jews rejected Christ. So maybe God’s calling and purpose can be rejected!”
So Paul now deals with a subject not only of intellectual importance but also of great emotional importance to him as well. If God promised Israel that they would be his people, yet the majority did not believe in Christ, does that mean that God’s promise has failed? That is the issue that Paul tackles in Romans 9-11.
The fundamental question that Paul is dealing with in Romans 9 is this: “Why does not all Israel believe when the message of the gospel should be clearest to them?” Or, to put it another way, “Why don’t all people believe the gospel, especially those to whom the gospel should be clearest?”
In Romans 9:1-5, Paul makes it clear that he has a heart of compassion for his own people. He was an Israelite himself and even though his own people—who had tremendous spiritual privileges—in his own time had, by and large, turned their backs on Jesus the Messiah, they were also rejecting the gospel that Paul was preaching. Nevertheless, he deeply loves and cares for them.
That, at the very least, should let you know that what he is going to talk about from verse 6 to the end of this chapter is not some sort of an dry, arid, abstract, speculative, theological diatribe. Paul is invested in outreach, in evangelism, and in gospel witness to the Jewish people. And their rejection of Jesus as Messiah is not simply the occasion of some sort of a philosophical thought-fest on his part. This is something that strikes at the very core of his heart.
I hope that will help us find that what Paul has to say in this chapter is a little more digestible to us, because he has some very hard things to say. But realize that Paul does not say them as someone who is emotionally detached. He is very much invested in the plight of his own people, and yet he can speak very clearly and forcefully of God’s sovereignty in election and salvation.
Then in verses 6-13 Paul gives his first answer to the question of why not all Israel has believed the gospel: It is not because God’s promises have failed. In verses 6-13 the Apostle Paul answers the question by appealing to God’s distinguishing grace in election. He says, “No, God has not forsaken his promises, because you need to understand that these promises are not simply made generically to all those who are physically descended from Abraham. They are made specifically and covenantally to those whom God has chosen.” The climax of Paul’s argument is in verse 13, where he says: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
In other words, Paul is saying, “If you want to understand how it is that God’s promises have not failed, you have to understand that it is God who chooses.” God chooses Jacob, and he passes by Esau. That is God’s choice. That is what the Scriptures clearly teach.
Now as you might suspect, this immediately raises another objection. And that objection is what Paul is going to respond to in Romans 9:14-18. This has to do with the fairness of God. And Paul basically answers: God is not unfair in his granting of mercy.