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  • « Munus Triplex - The Triple Cure - Christ as Prophet, Priest and King | Main | John 1:1 »

    The word of God has not failed

    by Pastor John Samson

    Romans 9: 1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

    6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." 8 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.

    After the crescendo of revelation in Romans 8, Paul now attempts to deal with an objection that he knows would be mounted against all he has communicated so far, namely, “If it is impossible for the people of God to be separated from God’s love, why is it that most of the Jews now stand in just such a condition?”

    Most of Israel did not embrace Jesus as Messiah. As such, there is no salvation for them. Paul desires this with a fervent passion (Romans 10: 1Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.) But it still needs to be explained why a nation who are His special chosen ones failed to come in to the kingdom of God at the very height of Israelite ministry, the time all the prophets had pointed to for generations; the coming of the long awaited Messiah.

    Many theologians, in failing to recognize that this is indeed what Paul is seeking to do here, also fail to see the point of the three chapters of Romans 9-11. Some have even gone so far as to say that these chapters are something of an apolostolic digression – that Paul went down a theological rabbit trail – and we should wait for him to emerge back up from the hole at chapter 12, when he comes back to the point of our response to the gospel.

    I could not disagree more. Paul is doing what he knows must be done – defend the integrity of God and His promise. Paul is a Jew and it grieves him tremendously that his fellow Jews (as a whole) failed to recognize Messiah when He came.

    The theme of God’s righteousness is central to Paul in this epistle (Romans 1:16, 17; 3:21-27; 5:17-21; 8:4) and so he understands that God’s very righteousness is on the line if there are all the many promises made to Israel and in the end, none of them happen. “What is at stake ultimately in these chapters is not the fate of Israel; that is penultimate. Ultimately God’s own trustworthiness is at stake. And if God’s word of promise cannot be trusted to stand forever, then all our faith is vain.” – John Piper

    That’s why all the opening verses of Romans 9 are a preamble to talk on this issue in the sixth verse – Paul wants to tell us with apostolic authority that God’s word has not failed at all and he wants to explain why this is the case.

    On the way there, he tells us of his apostolic heart for Israel (verses 1-3). Paul was no mere theological brain without a heart. Paul was so consumed with love for Israel that if it were possible (which it isn’t) he would revoke his own election if it might mean the salvation of the Jews.

    This is so important to recognize. Many who embrace the doctrine of election share no passion whatsoever to reach lost people. Paul proclaimed Divine Sovereignty in salvation at least as much as any other apostle, and yet no one could doubt Paul’s tremendous compassion for those lost in their spiritual blindness.

    Some see election as a dampener to evangelism, yet they do so without any biblical precedent. For Paul, election is the fuel in the tank FOR evangelism… Just as Jesus has many others not of this fold, and that is why He must proclaim the kingdom elsewhere (John 10:16; Luke 4:43)… so Paul recognizes that God has His people everywhere and He must go reach them by preaching. Without election, evangelism would be tantamount to the frustration a salesman would have trying to sell his wares in a graveyard. The dead do not buy anything, and likewise, spiritually dead people do not come to Christ. God elects people and through the proclamation of the gospel (the effectual call, Romans 8:29-30), raises these ones to spiritual life (being born again or born from above) so that they respond in faith to the message.


    Jesus said “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). This is a fact borne out by the fact that the Old Testament is a Jewish book, Jesus is a Jew, and most of the New Testament was written by Jews also. Humanly speaking, Gentiles owe a great debt of gratitude to the Jews. Indeed, the very book we are reading (Romans) is written by a Jew.

    Paul lists eight benefits belonging to natural Israel:

    (1) adoption
    (2) the glory
    (3) the covenants
    (4) the giving of the law
    (5) the worship
    (6) the promises
    (7) the patriarchs
    (8) and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ (Messiah) who is God over all, blessed forever.

    We could profitably take a sermon to deal with each of these eight items – they are abundantly rich in meaning; yet the big picture here is that no nation on earth had the spiritual privileges Israel enjoyed.

    ALL THIS… AND YET ISRAEL FAILS TO RECOGNIZE MESSIAH WHEN HE CAME? How is this in any way possible? Did God fail to keep His promise to His people? It certainly looks that way.

    No, a hundred times, no! Verse 6 explains why: It is not as though the word of God has failed. For (because) not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.

    Not all the natural seed of Israel are the spiritual seed of Israel or as verse 8 puts it, “it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.” Everyone of the spiritual children of Israel did indeed recognize Messiah, Paul being one amongst them.

    This answer needs more explanation and that is indeed what Paul will do in the rest of Romans 9-11. But do you see… he is defending the honor and trustworthiness of God’s character as He unfolds to us why God did indeed keep every promise made to Israel - the true Israel in His sight?

    God keeps His promises - everyone of them. All the true Israel will come in to the kingdom of God. And that’s why the Golden Chain of Redemption (8:28-30) is an eternal chain, beginning in eternity past and ending in eternity future, and yet through all the events of time and eternity, this chain will remain unbroken. That is because God keeps His promises and that is why there is both no condemnation and no separation for the one truly in Christ Jesus.

    WHAT HAS HE PROMISED YOU? Shall He not do it?

    Paul could say:

    I am sure (convinced) (Romans 8:37); I am confident (Phil 1:6); I know (2 Tim 1:12)…

    Convinced that nothing can separate us from His love; Confident that He who began the good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ; I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me

    Are you able to say the same?

    Posted by John Samson on October 9, 2011 12:42 PM


    Oh that America would have the same heart for Israel that Paul had. If the government did and enacted policies favorable to Israel's future then blessings could return to
    America again and replace the judgements that are now being poured out upon it.

    Totally wonderfully John. I've been concentrating on especially Romans 9 for the past two months - recently finished Dr. Pipers, "Justification of God" and literally spent 14 hours on Romans 9 and the bulk of that on these first five verses just this Saturday. How it fires my heart again to read your post.

    I do have question: I've leaned for many years more to Sam Waldron's explanation in "More End Times made simple" in understanding that Israel in Rom 9:6 and again in Rom 11:26 is referring to the full number of God's children - not just those who are elect among ethnic Israel.

    I think this understanding still stays true to the thrust of your post - that the righteousness of God is vindicated in that his promises and purposes were not to every individual Jew without exception but were to his elect, the true Israel of God.

    Do you also hold to this understanding or do you see a build up to Rom 11:26 as a future mass regeneration of ethnic Israel?

    I have a couple of additional questions - I don't want to overburden you - the above was most important to me, if you have a minute additionally I'd like to ask:

    Tom Schreiner in his commentary on Romans sees a Chiasm in Romans 9 - do you know what specifically he is referring to as the beginning and ending statements of this chiasm: I'm thinking he means Romans 9:1-5 to begin -- then Romans 9:24-29 to end and sandwiched in between the great truth that God is Sovereign in election. But I wasn't positive.

    Also: Both Dr. Piper and Schreiner see three couplets based on assonance in Roman 9:4 and explain the pairing as such. (uiothesia-nomothesia, doxa-latreia, diathekai-epangelliai.) Do you agree in that? It does illuminate the explaination of those six terms for me in a certain OT way - (Schreiner and Piper differ some in the understanding of the terms.)

    thanks again - Glory and majesty to His exalted Holy Name. Wow.

    Here's a message I thought you might like to hear, God's final warning and call to anguish.
    Brother Jackie

    October 7, 2011 DAY OF ATONEMENT, 7:00-11:00PM EST


    Thank you for your very kind words. I am not all that familar with Sam Waldron's work but would certainly see Romans 11:26ff as reference to a future ingathering of His elect amonst ethnic Israel.

    Regarding other questions, I think you are very much on the right lines in studying Piper's great treatise on Romans 9. I find that Dr. Piper takes great pains to seek to never speculate beyond what the text actually states, and this is always the wisest approach.

    May God continue to lead and guide us all into His truth.

    thanks John!

    With this post, and more thinking on Romans 9 and the Word that does not fail, What a great Monday!

    I always hear people who think that this section of Romans points to a mass turning to Jesus by national Israel, but I still don't see it.

    A lot of theologians and preachers who I highly esteem hold to this mass return thing, and I'd love to be able to agree with them, but I simply can't see it, and it also does not seem to be logical either, or at least follow the normal logic of God.

    I believe that national jews can come and believe on Jesus, no problem. They must come to Jesus the same way any gentile would come, just as well.

    But I sometimes fear that the mass return thing is a holdover from people's former dispensationalist days, and something they just don't want to let go of.

    I know they are basing on the way it is written in the text, but it just doesnt seem to square up for me with the way God does things.

    I have no problem allowing them their belief of this and can still agree about most other things, and it certainly won't affect our fellowship, but I would not accept the mass return idea unless I had hands down, concrete proof of it, and I don't expect that will ever happen.

    James S,

    I have had the same experience in discussing Romans 9-11. Also, I agree with you that I don't think a future-in-gathering is the proper understanding of Rom 11:26 or of the whole of Rom 9-11. I like how you qualify with your last paragraph.

    I appreciated Sam Waldron for admitting that he formerly held to the future-in-gathering view as he wrote in his new book, "More End Times Made Simple." And then especially for his chapters explaining why he changed in understanding recognizing that Rom 11:26 is teaching "in this manner all Israel will be saved" to mean that the full number of God's elect from both Jew and Gentile are saved by a present partial blindness of physical Jewry and a fullness of gentiles coming in as described in Rom 11:25. The Word doesn't fail for it speaks not to children of the flesh but rather that the children of the promise are counted for the seed - FOR this is the word of promise, At this time I will return and Sarah shall have a son. So as Isaac was a child of promise born by the strength and virtue of the promise given to Abraham we also like Isaac are Children of the Promise born not of the will of man but of God. Gal 4:28 and Joh 1:13. That's how I see it, but like you said, differing views on this don't affect our fellowship, it may affect somewhat ones hermeneutic in seeing the figure/type of Isaac in the various places employed.

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