The word of God has not failed
by Pastor John Samson
Romans 9: 1 I am speaking the truth in Christâ€”I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spiritâ€” 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, â€œIf it is impossible for the people of God to be separated from Godâ€™s love, why is it that most of the Jews now stand in just such a condition?â€
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 heartâ€™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 â€“ that Paul went down a theological rabbit trail â€“ 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 â€“ 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 Godâ€™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 Godâ€™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. â€œWhat is at stake ultimately in these chapters is not the fate of Israel; that is penultimate. Ultimately Godâ€™s own trustworthiness is at stake. And if Godâ€™s word of promise cannot be trusted to stand forever, then all our faith is vain.â€ â€“ John Piper
Thatâ€™s why all the opening verses of Romans 9 are a preamble to talk on this issue in the sixth verse â€“ Paul wants to tell us with apostolic authority that Godâ€™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 isnâ€™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 Paulâ€™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 evangelismâ€¦ 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)â€¦ 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.
THE SPIRITUAL PRIVILEGES OF ISRAEL
Jesus said â€œsalvation is of the Jewsâ€ (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:
(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 â€“ they are abundantly rich in meaning; yet the big picture here is that no nation on earth had the spiritual privileges Israel enjoyed.
ALL THISâ€¦ 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, â€œit is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.â€ 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 seeâ€¦ he is defending the honor and trustworthiness of Godâ€™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 thatâ€™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)â€¦
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?