12 pages many hours later, these verses deserve every ounce of attention we give them.
Romans Bible Study #31
The God of Jacob
6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; 7 nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.” 8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. 9 For this is the word of promise: “AT THIS TIME I WILL COME, AND SARAH SHALL HAVE A SON.” 10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.” 13 Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.” NASB
6-9Don't suppose for a moment, though, that God's Word has malfunctioned in some way or other. The problem goes back a long way. From the outset, not all Israelites of the flesh were Israelites of the spirit. It wasn't Abraham's sperm that gave identity here, but God's promise. Remember how it was put: "Your family will be defined by Isaac"? That means that Israelite identity was never racially determined by sexual transmission, but it was God-determined by promise. Remember that promise, "When I come back next year at this time, Sarah will have a son"?
10-13And that's not the only time. To Rebecca, also, a promise was made that took priority over genetics. When she became pregnant by our one-of-a-kind ancestor, Isaac, and her babies were still innocent in the womb—incapable of good or bad—she received a special assurance from God. What God did in this case made it perfectly plain that his purpose is not a hit-or-miss thing dependent on what we do or don't do, but a sure thing determined by his decision, flowing steadily from his initiative. God told Rebecca, "The firstborn of your twins will take second place." Later that was turned into a stark epigram: "I loved Jacob; I hated Esau." The Message
stark-rigid, bare, blunt, severe epigram-a concise, terse, statement or poem
Verse 6 The basis of this section is: even though many individual Jews are not at this time knowing God, it is not proof that God’s eternal, unchanging Word has failed. If God’s word failed for them it could fail for us, so Paul must defend it, and enlighten us on this topic. Israel, is the receptor of the promises of God, but only the individual believers in the nation whom God chooses are the remnant that He preserves. Chapters 9-11 will progress us through this start with the individual Jew, through the time of the gentile church, and back to God’s sovereign, electing, choice of the nation of Israel, God’s word will stand. “Let God be true and every man a liar.” That statement was from Chapter 3 of this same book, in reference to this same question, so now Paul is progressing in his answer.
Verse 7 Through Isaac, laughter, how can God bring life out of this dead man and his wife’s dead womb? It is a sovereign miracle. This verse is a start in Paul’s argument. The start is; none of this is because of you. Sarah was right to laugh, there is no ‘natural’ possibility that Isaac is ever going to see the light of day. “But God”
Verse 8 The children of the promise. Ishmael, was Abraham’s best shot, Sarah knew she could not provide the heir, so why not do it this way, “helping God” leads to all sorts of painful scenes in life. Better to wait and trust, even and especially when such waiting looks preposterous. A promise is something that is still out there. Hope is our word. Satan can not give hope. Only God can. Our best shot always falls short, but our trust in His Word of Promise never falls short. So laugh Sarah laugh, it is funny, it is impossible and yet...
Verse 9 When God comes, He brings the miracle son and such are we in this world. So this is the end of Part 1 of the answer to the question God’s word didn’t fail, did it? No, but only some are chosen to display the truth of God’s word. They are not born of the flesh, they are born of God. They are not, ‘we figured out how to make this happen.’ They are ‘laughter’, ‘you gotta be kidding’, ‘that’s impossible’, children of a promise that only God could make, and that only God could bring to pass. That’s us.
Part 2 of the answer goes even further, and here we had better re-affirm our commitment to let the word of God change us and to never try to change the word of God, because I was researching this section and came upon some who could not handle it, so they changed God’s word.
Jesus, we ask for Your mercy, that we would be changed by Your word. Amen.
I am reminded of a time in my younger years, when my girlfriend and I were in what we thought was a quiet, secluded part of a state park. What we did not know was we were about 15 feet from an active set of Amtrak train tracks. So, all of the sudden, there is a noise and a rumbling and it is getting louder and louder and I jumped up, not knowing what to do, but knowing that whatever was making that noise, I was absolutely no match for it, and then...relief, it is just a train. But that ‘heart-pounding’ moment when all I knew was something was coming and I was no match for it, is what we feel on the verge of these verses in Romans that have caused many to stop and reject this portion of scripture.
Verse 10 Paul is wiping out any argument against what he is about to say. At this point one could say, “yeh that Ishmael was the son of a slave woman, not a Hebrew.” Rebekah has twins in her womb, obviously both are children of Isaac. (can you hear the rumbling getting closer, growing louder)
Verse 11 Not just twins, but twins who were still in the womb. “Do” was not a word that could be applied to them. No works had been done by them. Up till now the contrast was between works and faith, but now we are going deeper, Paul is building truth and the truth that is revealed here is the contrast between works and “Him who calls.” So there is something underneath and before our ‘faith.’ Otherwise it would be “our faith” and something we could boast in, but there will be none of that!! God’s purpose... His choice... Him who calls (the rumbling is so loud now that the ground is shaking and any thought of ‘I can handle this’ is G-O-N-E!) God is going to be glorified as a Free, Sovereign Being, like no other in the universe.
Verse 12 “It was said to her,” not she was consulted, or she was given a choice, no, “It was said to her” this is how it is going to be, Period! I am God, I call the shots, what I say, goes!
Verse 13 CRASH! Head on against all our thoughts of our own righteousness, or goodness or some quality of ‘my faith’ that led God to choose me ..comes this verse. If His choice could be traced back to something in us, then He would actually be obligated by us, we would be in control. God is free, Free to choose and not choose. Double predestination is the term and many people who have studied and tried to explain these verses cannot handle it and so they dance around and do back flips and all sorts of amazing twists and turns to avoid the plainly stated truth. This is a quote from the book of Malachi, not the book of Genesis where the story of Jacob and Esau is recorded.
Malachi 1:1 The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi.
2 “I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have You loved us?” “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob; 3 but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness.” 4 Though Edom says, “We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins”; thus says the LORD of hosts, “They may build, but I will tear down; and men will call them the wicked territory, and the people toward whom the LORD is indignant forever.” 5 Your eyes will see this and you will say, “The LORD be magnified beyond the border of Israel!”
So in the context, it is actually God answering the question, “How have You loved us?”
Amazing, His answer, My love is shown in My choosing you, My free and sovereign choice of you is the proof of My love. And maybe we should leave it where He leaves it. Right there.
So, Thank You God for Your choosing us, for the love that You have shown to us. Thank You for all that You have done to bring us under the shadow of Your wings. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
This thought is from Reggie Kelly
Though personally and nationally 'unholy' in the sense of regeneration, they are nonetheless rightly and justly called, "the people of your holiness" (Isa 63:18) in the sense of set apart. The nations and most of the church, do not get this. That is why so many will stumble, when judgment begins at the house of God. It is the mystery of election that sees God as just in His sovereign 'right to choose as He will choose' . He holds the sovereign prerogative to give an irrevocable election, whether it be concerning a Land or a people, even before, and independently of the necessary fulfillment of the conditions. Not because the conditions don't require fulfillment, but because God is jealous for the source and cause of that fulfillment, that it be nothing of man, so that no flesh can glory. Why and how God is able to do this is at the heart of the mystery of electing grace. (Remember we are headed for this verse, “and so all Israel will be saved” Romans 11:26, what He has done in our lives as individuals, He will one day do for a nation, and if we truly know that it was nothing in us that prompted Him to do that work in us, it will not cause us to stumble when there is nothing in them that causes Him to choose them.)
These were good thoughts from John Piper
Let’s look at the three closest parallels in Paul’s writing where he used this word "purpose," and work our way back to verse 11.
Look first at Romans 8:28, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Here he says that God calls people to himself but there is something behind that call, namely, God’s purpose, guiding whom and how he calls. We are called "according to His purpose." So God’s purpose has to do with guiding his saving work, in this case his calling.
2 Timothy 1:9
Next, let’s look at 2 Timothy 1:9. Here again he connects God’s calling his people to his purpose. "He saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity." Here we see four things:
First, God’s purpose is eternal – "from all eternity," he says. It doesn’t originate or respond to anything. It is eternal.
Second, God’s purpose is related to Christ from all eternity. Christ is not an afterthought. God’s purpose was in him and through him from all eternity.
Third, God’s purpose is linked with grace. "According to his own purpose and grace." It is a gracious purpose. It’s a purpose to exercise grace.
Fourth, the purpose of God rules out works as the basis of his saving call: "He saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to is own purpose." His own purpose is the basis of his call, not our works.
Ephesians 1:4-6, 11
The third parallel is in Ephesians 1, first in verse 11 and then verses 4-6. Ephesians 1:11 says, "We have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will." Notice two things.
First, not just our calling but also our predestination is "according to His purpose." So God’s purpose governs his predestination.
Second, Paul says that it is a free and sovereign purpose, not governed by anything outside of God. He says, "According to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will." What’s the point of saying that this Purposer "works all things after the counsel of his will"? The point is that he governs all things, and that he does not base his governance ultimately on anything in man or in nature, but only on himself. "He works all things after the counsel of his will." We are not finally decisive in turning the will of God; God alone is decisive.
The next verse (12) comes very close to defining God’s purpose. It’s a continuation of verse 11 and tell us what the purpose is of him who works all things after the counsel of his will, namely, "to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory." In other words He does all His works to this end: that we would "be to the praise of His glory." His purpose here is the praise of His glory.
It is even more pointed in verses 4-6. Follow the purpose statements up to their highest point in verse 6: Eph 1:4"Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will [probably another way of referring to his purpose], 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved." There it is again. God’s purpose is to bring about the praise of the glory of his grace. All election, all predestination, all calling, and all redemption is according to this purpose – for the praise of the glory of his grace.
What Is God’s "Purpose"?
Now back to Romans 9:11. God performs the unconditional election of Jacob over Esau "so that his purpose according to election would stand." From all we have seen so far, as well as the context of this paragraph, I would state the purpose like this: God’s purpose is to be known and enjoyed and praised (or if you like alliteration: to be seen and savored and sung) as infinitely glorious in his free and sovereign grace. This is the purpose that governs all the works of God. He elects, predestines, calls, redeems, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies to this end – for this purpose: to be seen and savored and sung as infinitely glorious in his free and sovereign grace.
But "infinitely glorious" I mean perfectly beautiful and immeasurably great.
By "free" I mean the final reason for all events in the universe is in Himself and not another. The decisive influence of all that happens in the world is God’s. He works all things, not just some things, after the counsel of His own will. He alone in all the universe has the freedom of ultimate self-determination.
By "sovereign" I mean that nothing can thwart what He wants most to do.
God’s purpose is to be known and enjoyed and praised as infinitely glorious in His free and sovereign grace. And this purpose is "according to election" – it is an electing purpose – because if God did not elect unconditionally He would not be free, He would not be sovereign, and He would not be glorious.
Not free, because then men would determine their own election, not God. He would be bound (not free) to conform to their own self-determination.
Not sovereign, because instead of doing successfully what He wants most, He would be thwarted again and again by self-determining man.
Not glorious, because God’s absolute freedom and sovereignty are the essence of the glory of His grace.
More from Piper
"But Because of Him Who Calls"
But that is not what he says here. He says, "not because of works but because of Him who calls." Why? Because faith is a condition of justification, but it is not a condition of election. Election is unconditional. But justification is conditional. Before we can be justified we must believe on Jesus Christ. But before we can believe on Jesus Christ we must be chosen and called. God does not choose us because we will believe. He chooses us so that we will believe.
Notice carefully how Paul says it. "God’s purpose according to election will stand . . . because of Him who calls." Notice it does not say: his purpose stands because of His calling. It says because of HIM who calls. God will one day call His elect. But His election is not based on that calling. It is based on Himself and his free and sovereign will to call.
So to paraphrase the verse: "God’s electing purpose will stand not because of any foreseen deeds, and not because of any foreseen faith; but simply because of Him – because of God." I used to squirm out of this truth, by saying, that God is not stuck in time, so He was choosing Jacob based on things that He knew Jacob would do, but the scripture really does not allow one to squirm out from under this at all.
The ultimate ground of God’s election is God. This is simply another way of saying: for God to be God he must be free and sovereign. This is his glory. This is what it means to be God.
The Application to Our Lives
There is more to see. So much more to see. But for now the application to our lives is clear. If the purpose of God – flowing from the very essence of what it means to be God – is that he be known and enjoyed and praised as infinitely glorious in his free and sovereign grace, then the meaning of our existence is clear. We exist to know and enjoy and praise and display the glory of God’s free and sovereign grace. We exist to see and savor and sing – and spread a passion for – the glory of God’s grace.
And underneath this meaning for our lives is the massive assurance: This purpose will stand. And all who are in Christ by faith will stand in it. So spend yourself for this great purpose while you live. All the elect in Christ prevail, God’s purpose stands, it cannot fail.
Reggie Kelly again.
To refuse to bow to the election of God is to bow down to another god, the idol of human self-determination. It manifests a self sufficient refusal of the knowledge of God. That is why I see this issue as the principal stone of stumbling that will test many hearts in these treacherous days of ultimate strong delusion.
More thoughts from Piper
Three Reasons Why the Doctrine of Unconditional Election Is Good News
It is good news because it means no unbeliever is so bad that they can say in response to our gospel pleading, "I can’t be elect; I am too evil. I have sinned too long and to deeply." God’s election is not based on how much we do or don’t sin. It is not based on anything we do or think or feel or choose. Therefore, the proper response to that kind of despair is to say, "Who do you think you are to exalt your sin to the level of God? Who do you think you are to wallow in your despair and make your sinful will the sovereign of the universe, as if you could decide who is elect and who is not by the quantity of your sinning?" No! You have no right and no power to declare yourself beyond God’s election. He and he alone decides who is elect. And he decides NOT on the basis of your sin or your righteousness, but on the basis of his inscrutable will alone. You may not play God with your sin. None of it proves you are not elect. Repent, therefore, and call on the name of the Lord through Jesus Christ who has died for sinners. For he has said, "Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.’" To the despairing soul who feels he has sinned himself out of the possibility of election, unconditional election is good news.
The doctrine of unconditional election is good news because it preserves the praise of God’s glorious grace at every point in our salvation. There was not, and is not, nor ever will be, a point where we become the decisive cause of our salvation. God has chosen us freely so that we may not boast in ourselves but in God. This is good news because we were made to find greatest joy in praising, not being praised. Probably the deepest corruption that we have all inherited from the Fall – and it is especially and blatantly prevalent in the last 50 years – is that we believe and feel that happiness and health come from being praised, rather than from praising God. We think that psychological health comes from being made much of, rather than from being freed from that need to enjoy making much of God forever. That is why we were made, and that is where the greatest and deepest and longest joys are found – not in being made much of, but in forgetting ourselves in the joy of making much of God’s glory, which consists very much in his free and sovereign grace. Unconditional election is designed for that great and happy end. Therefore it is good news.
The doctrine of unconditional election is good news because when, by grace through faith, you know yourself loved by God, forgiven, justified, accepted, this doctrine of election assures you that the roots of your salvation – the roots of God’s almighty commitment to save you – are not shallow, but go down deep into the counsels of eternity. It is good news to know that the root of your salvation goes down forever and ever into eternal grace and never gets to a point where it is contingent and fragile and dependent on your foreseen faith or your foreseen good works.
Moses asks to see God’s glory. God obliges by saying: Here’s my goodness, my name. And to his name he attaches this sentence: "I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy." In other words, I think God is saying to Moses, and to us, my glory is expressed in my name, Yahweh (Lord), and my name is expressed in my freedom to have mercy on whom I have mercy. This is who I am. This is my name. This is my glory. My essence as God consists essentially in being free from any constraint originating outside my own will. This is the essence of what it means to be God. This is his name, my glory.
One confirmation of this is that back in chapter 3 of Exodus Moses asks God what his name is so that he can tell the Israelites who sent him. God answers in verse 14: "God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, "I AM has sent me to you."’’" In other words, God explained his name here as "I am who I am." And in Exodus 33:19 he explains his name as "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy." The structure is the same, and the meaning is simply expanded. God’s name, the essence of his glory, is that he IS absolutely and without cause or constraint from outside himself. He is who he is. And, expanding on that in chapter 33, he says his name, his essence, is, "I have mercy on whom I have mercy" – that is, I am absolutely self-existent and absolutely self-determining. I exist freely, without cause or control from any other. And I have mercy freely. At the deepest decision of my mercy there is no cause or control or constraint by anything outside my own will. That is what it means to be God, Yahweh. That is my name and the essence of my glory.
Therefore the doctrine of unconditional election stands and God is righteous in it.
And I close with the reminder of how good this news is:
No amount of sin that you have ever done can keep you from being God’s elect. God was, is, and always will be free. And your past record of sin was and is no hindrance to your being elect. Call on the name of the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.
And let all the praise for your salvation go to him and not yourself. You were made for this. Find your joy in making much of God and his grace, not making much of yourself. And when you find your rest in Christ through faith, glory in this: the roots of your security go down forever in the eternal grace of God. Amen.
Why election is good news?
1) No one is so bad that he is outside of God’s choosing
2) God’s grace, not myself, my intelligence, my choosing
3) When my faith and love for God is most fragile, I can
remember that God’s choosing of me, is rooted in who
He is, not in anything I do.
God elects, predestines, calls, but He does so without changing the
fact that individual people are held accountable for their choices in
this life, and there is no injustice in that. We are held responsible.
God in His sovereignty renders certain the belief of the elect without
taking away our responsibility. It is a mystery, but both truths are in
the Bible. What is not in the Bible is that man makes a choice outside
of the will of God. Man is not sovereign.
“He comes to thine aid for His own sake and not for thine” Schlatter
His is miracle or absence of miracle.
Only as free, regal, sovereign, unbounded and incomprehensible, can we comprehend God and do Him honour.
Be careful that you feel good enough or wise enough to judge the goodness or wisdom of God.
The church of Jacob lives its life in fear of Esau, realizing that it is only separated from Esau, but the electing grace of God.
Hope comes only from God, we must decrease, He must increase.
The church is inadequate, transient men, proclaiming the eternal and absolute Word of God.
The Ishmael church is any church that is attempting to help God by its own efforts and that busies itself doing ‘good’ things. Totally unwilling to admit that they are poor, blind, weak and needy. The Isaac church laughs at the impossibility of God choosing to use it, it would take a miracle for that to happen, and that is, of course the ‘point.’ It does take a miracle and God gets the glory when Isaac is born, not Sarah’s womb or Abraham’s body which are both dead.
Life out of death, resurrection is the theme of the church.
This is the eternal absolute word of God. It is not a transient, human word. It is unprecedented. It is not “one thing” among “other things.” It is OTHER, as He is other. As Abraham’s seed, we must realize and accept that we are not established by ourselves, we are established by God, by a miracle, out of death - life.
John Stott offers this helpful analysis:
If therefore God hardens some, he is not being unjust, for that is what their sin deserves. If, on the other hand, he has compassion on some, he is not being unjust, for he is dealing with them in mercy. The wonder is not that some are saved and some are lost, but that anybody is saved at all. For we deserve nothing from God’s hand but judgment. If we receive what we deserve (which is judgment), or if we receive what we do not deserve (which is mercy), in neither case is God unjust. If therefore anybody is lost, the blame is theirs, but if anybody is saved, the credit is God’s. (Romans, pp. 269-270).
This is the main point of the entire chapter. No matter how disappointed we may be, God’s Word has not failed, nor will it ever fail. Numbers 23:19 puts it this way: “Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” Isaiah 55:11: “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
* God’s purposes always promote His glory, even if we don’t understand what He is doing. The real question is not why God rejected Esau but why he chose Jacob. He elected to lavish mercy on the deceiver Jacob, even though he deserved justice. Esau simply received what was coming to him. Without mercy Jacob would have been passed over as well. Likewise, we are all born objects of God’s wrath (Ephesians 2:3). It’s only through His electing love that we receive mercy. Everything comes back to God and no one deserves salvation. If you got what you deserved, you would go to hell. And so would I.