Note the "pecking order" in distinguishing subject from predicate, p. 44 in Wallace
Οὐχ οἷον δὲ ὅτι ἐκπέπτωκεν ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ.
Nevertheless , it is not the case that the Word of God has fallen
οὐ γὰρ πάντες οἱ ἐξ Ἰσραὴλ οὗτοι Ἰσραήλ
For all the ones from (physical) Israel these are not (true) Israel
οὐδʼ ὅτι εἰσὶν σπέρμα Ἀβραὰμ
Neither because they are (physical) seed of Abraham
are they ( for that reason) (true) children
ἀλλʼ ἐν Ἰσαὰκ κληθήσεταί σοι σπέρμα.
but in Isaac seed shall be called for you (Gen. 21:12)
τοῦτʼ ἔστιν, οὐ τὰ τέκνα τῆς σαρκὸς ταῦτα τέκνα τοῦ θεοῦ
That is , the children of the flesh these are not the children of God
ἀλλὰ τὰ τέκνα τῆς ἐπαγγελίας λογίζεται εἰς σπέρμα.
but the children of the promise are reckoned for (true) seed
ἐπαγγελίας γὰρ ὁ λόγος οὗτος κατὰ τὸν καιρὸν τοῦτον ἐλεύσομαι
For the word of promise is this: "At this time I will come
καὶ ἔσται τῇ Σάρρᾳ υἱός.
and (the result ) will be a son to Sarah" (Gen. 18:10, 14)
Οὐ μόνον δέ,
and not only (is Sarah/Isaac a good support for v. 6b) but also
ἀλλὰ καὶ Ῥεβέκκα
Rebekkah/Jacob (is an even stronger support for v. 6b)
ἐξ ἑνὸς κοίτην ἔχουσα, Ἰσαὰκ τοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν
(for although ) Rebekkah conceived (Jacob and Esau) from one, our father Isaac
μήπω γὰρ γεννηθέντων
(and although ) they were not yet born
μηδὲ πραξάντων τι ἀγαθὸν ἢ φαῦλον,
and ( although ) they had not done anything good or bad
ἵνα ἡ κατʼ ἐκλογὴν πρόθεσις τοῦ θεοῦ μένῃ,
in order that the purpose of God according to election might stand
οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων
not ( based on ) works
ἀλλʼ ἐκ τοῦ καλοῦντος,
but ( based on ) the one who calls
ἐρρέθη αὐτῇ ὅτι ὁ μείζων δουλεύσει τῷ ἐλάσσονι,
( nevertheless ) it was said to her that the older will serve the younger
καθὼς γέγραπταi τὸν Ἰακὼβ ἠγάπησα,
just as it has been written, "Jacob I loved
τὸν δὲ Ἠσαῦ ἐμίσησα.
but Esau I hated." (Mal. 1:2-3)
JP's translation 6a But it is not such that the word of God has fallen. b For all the ones from Israel, these are not Israel; 7a neither, because they are seed of Abraham, are all children; b but in Isaac shall your seed be called [Gen 21:12]. 8a That is, the children of the flesh, these are not children of God; b but the children of promise are counted as seed. 9a For the word of promise is this: at this time I will come b and Sarah will have a son [Gen 18:10, 14]. 10a And not only [does Sarah illustrate the point] b but also Rebecca, c who became pregnant by one man, our father Isaac. 11a For, although [Jacob and Esau] had not yet been born b and had not done anything good or evil, c in order that the purpose of God according to election might remain, 12a not from works b but from the one who calls, c it was said to her: the elder will serve the younger [Gen 25:23]; 13a just as it is written: Jacob I loved b but Esau I hated. 9:6a ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ....τὰ λόγια τοῦ θεοῦ in Rom 3:2 and ἐπαγγελίας ὁ λόγος in 9:9a, neither of which refers to Paul’s gospel. Also, as we shall see below, Rom 9:11c is probably the positive counterpart to 9:6a. JOG 49 The construction οὑχ οἷον δὲ ὅτι is unique in Paul. Its closest analogy is the use of οὑχ ὅτι ... ἀλλά (e.g. “Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy,” 2 Cor 1:24; cf 3:5; Phil 4:11,17; 2 Thess 3:9). Whenever Paul uses this he is guarding against a possible misunderstanding of something he has just said. Bauer (Lexicon, 565), Blass/Debrunner (section 480) and Turner (Grammar, III, 47) conjecture that the phrase in 9:6a is a combination of this common Pauline construction with οὑχ οἷον which is Hellenistic for οὑ δήπου and means “by no means!” The sense of Rom 9:6a then is this: “Regardless of what my words in 9:1–5 imply to you, by no means do they really imply that God’s word has fallen.” "The Word of God" The intention of God, the plan of God, the revelation of God, we might say, which found expression in all these benefits—this has not fallen. p.49 9:6b οὐ γὰρ πάντες οἱ ἐξ Ἰσραὴλ οὗτοι Ἰσραήλ· For all the ones from Israel, these are not Israel, 48 The construction οὑχ οἷον δὲ ὅτι is unique in Paul. Its closest analogy is the use of οὑχ ὅτι ... ἀλλά (e.g. “ Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy,” 2 Cor 1:24; cf 3:5; Phil 4:11,17; 2 Thess 3:9). Whenever Paul uses this he is guarding against a possible misunderstanding of something he has just said. Bauer ( Lexicon , 565), Blass/Debrunner (section 480) and Turner ( Grammar , III, 47) conjecture that the phrase in 9:6a is a combination of this common Pauline construction with οὑχ οἷον which is Hellenistic for οὑ δήπου and means “by no means!” The sense of Rom 9:6a then is this: “Regardless of what my words in 9:1–5 imply to you, by no means do they really imply that God’s word has fallen.” John Piper, The Justification of God: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 9:1–23 (2nd ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1993). ἐκλογή -- G. Maier ( Mensch und freier Wille , 359–62) has confirmed this common conclusion with his attempt “to shed light on the problem from the Jewish doctrines of predestination and freedom which are known to us.” He argues “that with the term πρόθεσις τοῦ θεοῦ Paul really wanted to render מהשחאל [God’s predestining plan]” (360, see especially the use of this term in 1 QS 3:15,16; 11:11 etc). On the term ἐκλογή Maier stresses the pharisaic background: “We encountered in the preceding study of Ps Sol [9:4] the emphatic pharisaic point of doctrine: ‘Our works are in the free choice ( ἐκλογή ) and authority ( ἐξουσίᾳ ) of our soul, to do righteousness and unrighteousness is in the works of our hands’ [see note 59]. We recognized there in ἐκλογή a pharisaic terminus technicus which aims to express free will. [So used by Josephus also, Jewish Wars II, 165] … “Everything suggests that the rabbinically schooled Paul in such an important part of his epistle, where he disputes the Jewish viewpoint before Jewish readers, has used the traditional Greek equivalent for the pharisaic terminus technicus for free will. The application of the term to God is no hindrance to this assumption. The only appropriate translation of ἐκλογή therefore in Rom 9:11 is ‘free will,’ ‘freedom.’ Accordingly Paul has put together skillfully the two Jewish termini technici for free will [ ἐκλογή ] and predestination [ πρόθεσις in order to express that God determined his purpose in complete freedom uninfluenced by any works at all” (361f). John Piper, The Justification of God: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 9:1–23 (2nd ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1993). Appeal is made, for example, to Lk 14:26 par; Gen 29:31,33; Deut 21:15–17; 22:13,16; 24:3; Judges 14:16; Is 60:15. Forster and Marston ( God’s Strategy , 60f) argue that “when the Bible uses the word hate as a contrast to love , it intends us to understand it to mean ‘love less than.’ ” John Piper, The Justification of God: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 9:1–23 (2nd ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1993). God's Word Stands: Not All Israel Is Israel, Part 1 December 1, 2002 by John Piper Scripture: Romans 9:6-12 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." To understand Romans 9 we must constantly keep the flow of Paul’s thought before us. In verses 1-5 he expresses his grief over the lostness of his kinsmen, the Jewish people. He says in verse 3, "I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh." And what receives the emphasis in verses 4-5 is not that Israelites are Paul’s kinsmen but that they are God’s kinsmen. It says, "[They] are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants." So the crisis in verses 1-5 is not only a personal one for Paul, it is a theological one all of us whose eternity hangs on God’s faithfulness. The crisis created in verses 1-5 is that Israel is God’s chosen, covenant people, and that most of them are accursed and cut off from Christ and from salvation. Has God been faithful to his promises? If not, what are we hoping in? The Crisis: If God Doesn’t Keep His Promises to Israel, Will He Keep Them for You? Every week we must keep in mind that this is the crisis Paul is dealing with in Romans 9:1-23 . Israel is God’s chosen people and most of them are perishing, cut off from the Savior, Jesus Christ. And the reason it is a crisis for you, and not just for Jews, is that, if God’s promises to Israel do not hold true, then there is no reason to think his promises to you will hold true. The rock solid security of God’s elect in Romans 8 (Verse 33: "Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies!") – this security that we exult in, at the heart of our faith, is worthless if God proves unfaithful to his covenant people. If God does not keep his promises to Israel, will he keep the promises he makes to us? That’s the crisis that Paul is dealing with as we begin today’s text. We will spend two weeks on verses 6-13 because Paul deals with two illustrations of his point in this paragraph: one is the illustration of Isaac as the child of promise, not Ishmael (verses 6-9); and the other is the illustration of Jacob as the child of promise, not Esau (verses 10-13). Today we will deal with verses 6-9 and the illustration of Isaac’s birth as a child of promise, not a child of the flesh. Is It True That the Word of God Has Not Failed? Verse 6 states the main point of the whole chapter. "But it is not as though the word of God has failed." That is Paul’s assertion over against the crisis described in verses 1-5. Yes, it is true that many in the covenant people are accursed and cut off from Christ, and yes it is true that God chose Israel and made a covenant with her and gave her promises, but, no, it is not true that the word of God has failed. That is Paul’s assertion. And so far it is only that: an assertion. But everything else through this chapter, and indeed almost everything through the next three chapters, is an argument or a support for this assertion. He does not just make the assertion and then leave us hanging. He makes it and then gives reasons for believing it. And so keep in mind as we move through this chapter that some of the clearest and most forceful statements in the Bible about unconditional election and the sovereignty of God in salvation are made here in the service of God’s faithfulness to his promises. Paul doesn’t deal with controversial doctrine in the abstract – as if it would simply be interesting to know – he deals with it because it is needed to help us understand and enjoy God’s faithfulness. In Paul’s mind these great doctrines had a direct bearing on the way we live. If that’s not the case with you, you might want to rethink what does shape your responses to life and your plans or living. If not the great truths about God, what then? Now then, what is Paul’s argument in support of God’s faithfulness? How can he say that the word of God has not failed even though many Israelites are accursed and cut off from Christ? He states his answer three times in verses 6-9 and gives two Old Testament quotations to support it. 1. Ethnic Israel and True Israel First, in verse 6b he says, "For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel." In other words, Paul’s argument is that the promises of God always hold true for the true Israel, the spiritual Israel, but not all ethnic Israel is true Israel. That’s his first statement of the argument: "They are not all Israel who are descended from Israel." The assumption is: there is a true Israel; God’s saving promises are made to them; and these promises have never failed. 2. All Descendants of Abraham and the Children of Abraham Second, in verse 7a he says it a little differently, but makes the same point: " Nor are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants." In other words, he is distinguishing here between two kinds of "children" – there are all of Abraham’s descendants, and there is a narrower group in that number whom he calls here "the children," or we could say, "the true children" since the others are physical children also. The assumption is that the promises of God hold true for the true children of Abraham but not for all the descendants of Abraham. So in verse 6 he says that not all Israel is Israel, and in verse 7 he says that not all the children of Abraham are children. There is a true Israel and there are true children. The word of God has not failed, because it was meant for the true Israel, the true children, and it has never failed any of them. 3. The Children of the Flesh and the Children of God Third, in verse 8 Paul states the argument a third time in more general terms without naming Israel or Abraham so that we see the principle involved. "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." This, he says again, is why the word of God has not failed –why the promises of God have not failed – even though many of Israelites according to the flesh are accursed and cut off from Christ. It’s because the promises are for the children of promise – the children of God – and not every child of Israelite flesh is a child of promise. When Paul distinguishes "children of the flesh" and "children of God" he means that not all physical Israelites are "children of God." And that means that the term "children of God" is not a mere ethnic or physical or historical term. It has its full saving meaning just like it does in Romans 8:16 , Romans 8:21 , and Philippians 2:15 (cf. Hosea 1:10 ). And when he then says that these "children of God" are "children of promise," he means that they have their spiritual position not because of their physical connections, but because of God’s effective promise. The promise produced the position. What Is the Old Testament Support? Now this is where we need to look at Paul’s Old Testament support for this. But first remember that we have seen three different statements of Paul as to why the word of God to Israel has not failed. Verse 6b: "They are not all Israel who are descended from Israel." Verse 7a: " Nor are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants." Verse 8: "It is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants." That is why the word of God has not failed even though so many Israelites are accursed and cut off from Christ. They were not true Israelites. They were not true children of Abraham. They were children of the flesh but not children of promise, that is, children of God. Now where does Paul see this idea of a people within a people in the Old Testament? Where does he find the idea that the promise of God is not simply for every Israelite, but for those who are children of promise? And what does that mean – children of promise? The Case of Isaac and Ishmael Paul gives two illustrations in verses 6-9 (and another one in verses 10-13 that we will look at next week). The first is in verse 7. After Paul says, "Nor are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants," he quotes Genesis 21:12 . "But: ‘Through Isaac your descendants will be named.’" The context here in the Old Testament is where God is saying to Abraham, even though you have an older son, Ishmael, he will not be the heir of the promise. Rather "through Isaac your descendants will be named (or called)." What Paul sees here is that being a physical child of Abraham, and even being the oldest, did not make Ishmael an heir of the promise to the covenant people. Then Paul adds another insight from Genesis 18:10 in verse 9. After saying in verse 8 that "the children of promise are regarded [God says] as descendants," then he quotes Genesis 18:10 , "For this is the word of promise: ‘At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.’" The context here is tremendously important. God had promised Abraham that all the families of the earth would be blessed through him ( Genesis 12:3 ) and that his descendants would be like the stars in the sky ( Genesis 15:5 ). But Abraham had no offspring and his wife Sarah was barren. What was the solution? Abraham’s answer should have been, "I’ll trust God for a child of promise. I’ll trust God that the divine promise itself is powerful enough to bring itself to pass." But instead Abraham did what he could do in his own strength: he used Hagar, a maid of Sarah, as a concubine and produced a child named Ishmael. Abraham helped God out of his pickle. And produced what Paul called a "child of the flesh." He was "born according to the flesh" ( Galatians 4:29 ). That is, his position was owing to no more than what man could do. Abraham wanted Ishmael to be the heir God had promised. In Genesis 17:18 Abraham said to God, "Oh that Ishmael might live before you!" But God said, "No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac." That’s the context of Paul’s quote in Romans 9:9 . God promises: "At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son." You see the sovereign purpose of God’s word here. I make the promise, God says. And I bring it to pass. My promises are not predictions of what may come about with your help. My promises are declarations of what I intend to bring about by my sovereign power. "I will come, and Sarah shall have a son." Barren Sarah and old Abraham will have not a child of the flesh, but a child of promise. So what is a child of promise (child of God)? A child of promise is an heir of God’s saving grace, not because of ethnic origin or physical birth, or, as we will see next week, any human resource. But because of God’s sovereign word. The birth of Isaac is a picture of how every child of God spiritually comes into being. The decisive work is God’s work. Not Abraham’s and not Isaac’s and not ours. But God’s. The Answer to the Crisis What then is the answer to the crisis of verses 1-5: Has the word of God failed because many Israelites are accursed and cut off from Christ? Have the promises of God come to naught? The answer is no. And the reason Paul gives three times is that the promise of God itself accomplishes its purpose, and that purpose is make for himself a true Israel. The promise and purpose of God was never that every Israelite would be guaranteed salvation. The promise was: God will see to it that the true Israel is brought into being and saved. And we have seen, and will see again; this true Israel includes Jews and Gentiles. Application for Today How shall we apply this to ourselves? We are moving to the Lord’s Supper; so let that be the application. The way God brings into being the true Israel is, finally by sending his Son, Jesus Christ, as the true Seed of Abraham, the true Son of David, and, in a profound sense, the true Israel himself. Jesus fulfilled all that Israel was destined for. And now every person, Jew or Gentile, who trusts in Christ, is united to him and becomes part of this true Israel in Christ. The question facing you this morning as we move to the Lord’s table is: Do you trust in Christ Jesus as your Savior and Lord and Treasure? Are you united to him? Has he made you a child of promise, a true Jew, a child of God? If so, eat the Lord’s supper and enjoy fellowship with him. If not, trust him now. Amen. God's Word Stands: Not All Israel Is Israel, Part 2 December 8, 2002 by John Piper Scripture: Romans 9:6-13 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." The unbelief and condemnation of many Israelites in Paul’s day and in ours creates personal and theological crisis for all Christians. Can we trust the promises of God? In verse 3 we learn that many Jews are accursed and cut off from Christ. Paul says it with sorrow and grief. Verses 4 and 5 intensify the crisis: they are Israelites, and they were given promises and covenants and adoption as sons. But now they are perishing, cut off from the Messiah. This is the crisis Paul deals with in these verses. His answer is in verse 6a: No, "it is not as though the word of God has failed." How so? His basis for this statement is in verse 6b: "For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel." In other words, the saving promises of God applied only to the "Israel within Israel" – the true Israel. The word of God has not fallen. It always saves the true Israel. There is an Israel within Israel. He says it three times. Again in verse 7: "Nor are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants." And again in verse 8: "It is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants." In other words: there is a true spiritual Israel in ethnic Israel; there are true children among Abraham’s children; and these true children and true Israel are children of God, children of promise, not mere children of flesh. The word of God has not failed because it applies only to these. And these are saved. That’s the argument. The support for the argument is from two Old Testament illustrations that show God was choosing some descendants of Israel as children or promise, not others. The first illustration was Isaac and Ishmael, which we considered last week . Not only did God choose Isaac to be the heir of the promises, but he did it in a way that shows God’s freedom and power in creating children of promise. For example, in verse 9 he says, "For this is the word of promise: ‘At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.’" The point here is that Isaac became a child of promise because of God’s free and sovereign creative work. Sarah was barren; Abraham was old. And God says: "I will come." Not Hagar. The child of promise will be born decisively because of my powerful promise, not your human resources. That’s the key. Children of the promise are children of God, because God freely chooses to make them his own. The Illustration of Jacob and Esau Today we consider the second Old Testament illustration – Jacob and Esau. Paul is still illustrating that within the physical descendants of Israel there is a true Israel chosen by God. Here, more clearly than ever, Paul makes it plain that God’s election – God’s free and unconditional choosing of the children of promise – is what guarantees that the word of God does not, and never can, fail. Let’s start reading at verse 10. "And not only this, [not only do we see the point in the case of Isaac and Ishmael] but there was Rebekah also [the wife of Isaac], when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac." Notice what Paul is doing here. He is pointing out two things that make the choice of Jacob over Esau an even more compelling illustration of God’s unconditional election than the illustration of Isaac and Ishmael. The first is that Jacob and Esau were twins. They were in the same womb. This draws attention to the fact that the distinctions between them were minimal. The conditions of their birth are going to be almost identical. So any choice between them would be based on God, not on them. The second difference from Isaac and Ishmael is was that Jacob and Esau were conceived of the same parents. Notice the words in verse 10, "conceived by one man." Somebody might have said about Ishmael, "Of course God didn’t choose him as a child of promise. He didn’t have a Jewish mother. Hagar was a Gentile." But Paul says, "No, you missed the point, and I will clarify that with Jacob and Esau. They were in the same womb and had one father, not two different fathers." He is systematically doing away with the human distinctives that might constrain God’s election of one over the other. He is saying that election is based on God, not man. Then in verse 11 he makes this unconditionality of his election crystal clear: "For though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad" – skip to the main clause in verse 12 – "it was said to her, ‘The older will serve the younger.’" The quote from Genesis 25:23 simply makes clear that God decides the destiny of these two sons and the nations they represent before they are born. And to make it even clearer for us, Paul does not just say, they were not yet born when God decided their destinies, he also says, "they had done nothing good or bad." And to remove the possible objection that he chose the older because the older deserves it, he chose the younger. This is why we speak of the biblical doctrine of unconditional election. God chose Jacob over Esau before they were born or had done anything good or bad. It was not their behavior or their attitude or their faith or their parents that moved God to choose Jacob and not Esau. The choice was unconditional. It was rooted in God alone and not in man. This Teaching Nullifies Neither the Genuineness of Our Choices Nor the Necessity of the Obedience of Faith Before we look at the rest of the text let me make sure you are not jumping to unwarranted and unbiblical conclusions. This teaching of Romans 9 does not contradict the truth that Jacob and Esau and you and I make choices in life and will be held responsible for those choices. If Jacob is saved he will be saved by faith. And if Esau is finally condemned, he will be condemned for his evil deeds and unbelief. Our final judgment will accord with the way we have responded to the gospel in this life. Which means that our final entry into heaven or to hell is not unconditional. To be finally saved we must have believed. And to be lost we must have sinned and not believed. No one will stand on the precipice of hell and be able to say, "I don’t deserve this." Just one text to show this: Romans 2:7-8 , "To those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury." In other words, unconditional election does not contradict the necessity of the obedience of faith for final salvation, or the necessity of the disobedience of unbelief for damnation. What unconditional election does is knock from underneath salvation every ground of human boasting, and replaces it with the unshakable electing love and purpose of God (v. 11b). The will to believe is saving, and the will not to believe is damning. We are held responsible for both. But underneath both is God’s free and unconditional election of who will be saved and who will not. The elect believe. The non-elect do not believe. We are not sovereign, self-determining, autonomous beings. Only God is. How God renders certain the belief and unbelief of men without undermining our accountability I do not fully understand. If this stretches your mind to the breaking point, better that your minds be broken than that the scriptures be broken. And even better yet would be to let your mind and heart be enlarged rather than broken, so that they can contain all that the Scriptures teach. "Jacob I Loved…" Now with that clarification in place consider verse 13. After saying in verse 12 that God determines the destiny of Jacob and Esau before they were born or had done anything good or bad, he supports this with a quote from the Old Testament. "Just as it is written, [ Malachi 1:2-3 ] "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." What did Paul see in this quote from Malachi that made it right for him to use it in this way to support the unconditional election of Jacob over Esau? Let’s go read it in context. What we will see is that Malachi’s way of arguing is exactly like Paul’s. Malachi 1:1 , The oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi 1:2 "I have loved you," says the Lord. But you say, "How have You loved us?" [Then God answers] "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." Do you see how God is arguing for his love for Jacob? They say, "How have you loved us?" And he answers, "Wasn’t Esau Jacob’s brother?" In other words, "Didn’t Esau have as much right to being chosen as you? Wasn’t he the son of Isaac? Wasn’t he a twin in the same womb with you? Wasn’t he even your elder brother? Nevertheless, I chose you." The whole point of that question, "Wasn’t Esau Jacob’s brother?" is exactly the same as Paul’s point. Paul saw it in Genesis. And he saw it in Malachi. Jacob and Esau had an equal claim on God’s choosing, namely, no claim. And God chose Jacob unconditionally. That is the meaning of "Jacob I loved." In fact, we will never understand or experience the fullness of God’s love until we grasp what it means to be chosen freely by God on the basis of nothing in us. "…But Esau I Hated"? Now what is the meaning of the words, "But Esau I hated"? I think we should put aside all speculations here and get the meaning strictly from the context in Malachi and Romans 9. Let’s read Malachi 1:3-4 , "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 [i.e., Esau] 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.’" Verse 4 points to two ways of understanding God’s hate. The first meaning is seen in the word "wicked." Near the end of verse 4 God says, "Men will call them the wicked territory." "I have hated Esau . . . I will tear down; and men will call them the wicked territory." In other words, God gives them up to wickedness. This is important in view of what we said earlier about the conditionality of God’s final judgment. God does not bring judgments on an innocent Esau or Edom. Edom was judged as wicked. When God passed over Esau and chose Jacob before they were born, there was no decree that an innocent Esau would be judged. Rather what God decreed was to pass Esau by, to withhold his electing love, and to give him up to wickedness. And as Esau acted in wickedness, he was accountable for that wickedness and deserved the indignation and judgment of God. Which leads to the second meaning of God's hate. At the end of verse 4: "And men will call them the wicked territory, and the people toward whom the Lord is indignant [or angry] forever.’" In a sense you might say there is a passive and an active side of God’s hate. Passively, he withholds electing love from Esau and gives it only to Jacob, and hands Esau over to wickedness – a wickedness for which he is really accountable and blameworthy. Then actively, God is angry with this wickedness forever. And if Esau is finally condemned, he will not be able to say "I do not deserve condemnation." His own sins will shut his mouth and his own conscience will condemn him. And Jacob on the other side will tremble with fear and wonder that he was chosen to believe and be saved. Be Careful! O Bethlehem, be careful here. Be careful that you do not play God and tell him how he should save. Be careful you do not stand above Scripture and demand that it be one way and not another. Be careful that you do not assume that your heart is good enough to judge the goodness of God. Or wise enough to judge the wisdom of God. There are a thousand reasons why God does what he does which we cannot yet comprehend. "The secret things belong to the Lord our God" ( Deuteronomy 29:29 ). How do these chapters end? Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" 35 "Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?" 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. ( Romans 11:33-36 ) Why Did He Save Us This Way? If we ask why he saves by means of unconditional election, there will be several answers in this chapter. God is not opposed to honest and humble questions. And he takes us farther than many are willing to go. His first answer is given in verse 11b. Why did God choose Jacob and not Esau, before they were born or had done anything good or bad? Here’s his answer: "so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls." And that is so important I must save it for next week and give it a sermon of its own. But you can see the connection with verse 6 and the overall purpose of this chapter. The word of God has not fallen. You can count on the promises of Romans 8. Why? Because God has chose to save his people in such a way, as verse 11 says, that his purpose will stand – it is invincible. Because it depends not on us but on the one who calls. From him and through and to him are all things. To him be glory. The creation of the universe, the history of the world, the plan of salvation, the coming of Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection for sinners, and the gift of your own faith – are all for the glory of God. Look to Jesus Christ, to the Word of God. And pray with the psalmist, "O Lord, Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things." Then banish all your fears. Amen. Unconditional Election and the Invincible Purpose of God December 15, 2002 by John Piper Scripture: Romans 9:6-13 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." Our purpose today is limited and huge. We focus merely on verses 11 and 12: "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.’" Our aim is simply to understand and apply to our lives the reason Paul gives for saying to Rebekah, before Jacob and Esau were born or had done anything good or bad, "The older will serve the younger." Why did God do this? The answer is given part way into verse 11: ". . . so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls." That’s the reason for announcing Jacob’s election before his birth. "So that God’s purpose according to election would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls." That’s what we want to understand. I exhort you to feel the weight of this sentence. When God tells us why he does something as eternally fundamental as unconditional election, he is giving us information about the nature of ultimate Reality – namely his Reality – that is more foundational and more important than all other human knowledge. Nothing is greater to know under God than why he does his most fundamental acts. And here is one of these massively important sentences. Why, God, do you do this great work of unconditional election? Answer: "So that My purpose according to election would stand, not because of works but because of Me who calls." My outline would look like this: First we will look a the phrase "God’s purpose according to election" and see what that phrase means. Second, we will look at the phrase "not because of works" and see what that adds to God’s purpose. Third, we will look at the phrase, "But because of him who calls." "God’s Purpose According to Election" First, then, what does the phrase "God’s purpose according to election" mean? Literally the construction in the original is "the according to election purpose." "According to election" is defining the purpose. What purpose? "The according to election purpose." In Romans 11:21 the same grammatical construction occurs in the phrase, "the according to nature branches." All English versions translate it "the natural branches." They turn "according to nature" into an adjective. That’s good English and gets the meaning right. So here in Romans 9:11 we could do it like this: "The according to election purpose" would be "the electing purpose." In other words, the purpose of God is at least partly defined by election. The purpose of God that would not be what it is, if there were no election. The purpose that consists largely in election. But what is it? How can we state God’s purpose according to election – God’s electing purpose? 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. Romans 8:28 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: "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. By "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. "Not Because of Works" To show that last point, Paul makes a negation and an affirmation at the end of verse 11: ". . . so that God’s purpose according to election would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls." Let’s take the negation first. God chose Jacob over Esau "not because of works." This adds something important to the first part of verse 11 where Paul says, "though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad." Those words stress that God chose Jacob before birth and before virtue or vice. But now Paul goes farther and says that this choice was not "on the basis of works." Here the time is not the point. The foundation is the point. God did not choose Jacob because of works he had already done. Nor did he choose him because of works that he would do later. In other words, here Paul is ruling out foreseen good deeds that Jacob will do, and foreseen evil deeds that Esau will do. And he is saying: my election is not based on deeds in any way: not deeds already done, not deeds undone and foreknown, and not deeds undone and not foreknown. My election is free. That is my glory. Therefore, my purpose accords with that kind of election, because my purpose is to be known and enjoyed and praised as infinitely glorious in my free and sovereign grace. Finally, consider the affirmation at the end of verse 11. Why does Paul say, ". . . so that God’s purpose according to election would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls"? This is striking. Paul’s ordinary contrast with works is faith. In 9:32 he says, "Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works." In 3:28 he says, "A man is justified by faith apart from works." In Galatians 2:16 he says, "A man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith." When we hear Paul say, "Not by works" we naturally expect him to also say, "but by faith." "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." 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. The following hymn was written by John Piper to sing at Bethlehem Baptist Church on December 15, 2002. This was sung in connection with Pastor John's exposition of Romans 9:6-13 : " God's Purpose Stands " The following hymn was written by John Piper to sing at Bethlehem Baptist Church on December 15, 2002. This was sung in connection with Pastor John's exposition of Romans 9:6-13 . To the tune of "My Hope Is Built" ("The Solid Rock") God's mighty word can never fail, Though some be lost and saints be frail. There is a chosen Israel, Who cherished Christ and never fell. All the elect in Christ prevail, God's purpose stands it cannot fail. God's purpose stands it cannot fail. O, be not proud of ethnic roots, Or rest your hope on human fruits. Let no one boast in flesh and bones, God makes his offspring out of stones. All the elect in Christ prevail, God's purpose stands it cannot fail. God's purpose stands it cannot fail. God will not share his sovereign reign, Though one should plot, it is in vain. God's mighty promise rules the earth: The barren woman will give birth! All the elect in Christ prevail, God's purpose stands it cannot fail. God's purpose stands it cannot fail. All-sovereign grace saved us in Christ, Before our birth pure grace sufficed, Not from our deeds that man enthralls Or from our faith, but him who calls. All the elect in Christ prevail, God's purpose stands it cannot fail. God's purpose stands it cannot fail. Sing now to God for sovereign grace; Rejoice that we may see his face. Come savor now his firm embrace, This is our everlasting place. All the elect in Christ prevail, God's purpose stands it cannot fail. God's purpose stands it cannot fail. God's Word Stands: Christ Came to Confirm It December 22, 2002 by John Piper Scripture: Romans 15:5-13 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God. 8 For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers, 9 and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written, "THEREFORE I WILL GIVE PRAISE TO YOU AMONG THE GENTILES, AND I WILL SING TO YOUR NAME." 10 Again he says, "REJOICE, O GENTILES, WITH HIS PEOPLE." 11 And again, "PRAISE THE LORD ALL YOU GENTILES, AND LET ALL THE PEOPLES PRAISE HIM." 12 Again Isaiah says, "THERE SHALL COME THE ROOT OF JESSE, AND HE WHO ARISES TO RULE OVER THE GENTILES, IN HIM SHALL THE GENTILES HOPE." 13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. The connection between this message from Romans 15 and the preceding messages from Romans 9 is the link between Romans 9:6 and Romans 15:8 . Both of these verses affirm that the word of God has not fallen but stands invincible. Romans 9:6 says, "It is not as though the word of God has failed" and Romans 15:8 says, "Christ has come to confirm the promises given to the fathers." The words of God - the promises of God - have not fallen, they stand confirmed. The difference between these two texts is that the ground for God's unfailing word in Romans 9 is the truth of unconditional election, and the ground of God's unfailing word in Romans 15 is the truth of Christ's redeeming work as the servant of Israel. In Romans 9:6 Paul says, "It is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel." In other words, within Israel there is an elect Israel, and these will be saved and the word of God - the word of promise - will stand and never fail those whom he sovereignly plans to save. On the other hand, in Romans 15:8 Paul says, "I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision [that is, he was born as Jewish Messiah to serve his people] on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers." In other words, the word of God stands because Christ came into the world and did the work that had to be done to save the elect. Election and the Saving Work of Jesus Christ So here is an absolutely crucial banner that needs to be waved over the teaching of Romans 9. It's the banner of Christmas and Good Friday and Easter. Namely this: The doctrine of God's unconditional election must never be separated from the saving work of Jesus Christ. Mark these crucial words from Ephesians 1:4 , "God chose us in him [in Jesus Christ] before the foundation of the world." Or mark these words in 2 Timothy 1:9 "God saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began." Or Ephesians 3:11 , "[God has acted] in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord." So, God chooses his people in Christ - in relation to Christ and his saving work - before the foundation of the world. He appoints them for grace in Christ before the ages. He carries out his eternal electing purpose in Christ. We must never think of the precious and glorious truth of unconditional election apart from Jesus Christ and his saving work on the cross. God chose people to be saved by Christ. The saving work of Jesus Christ was not an afterthought. Christmas, Good Friday, Easter were in the mind of God as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world. Therefore the promises of God stand invincible not simply because he is free and sovereign in his choice of whom to save (as Romans 9 teaches), but also because he undertakes to actually save them in history by the coming and dying and rising of his Son, Jesus Christ (as Romans 15 says). So today, since it is the Sunday before Christmas, let's focus on Romans 15:8-9 , and ask in particular, Why is it good news that Christ came on behalf of the truth of God? Let's read these verses again: "For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers, 9 and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy." Now let's read it more carefully and notice the structure of this sentence. "For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision . . ." This means that he became a Jewish man to serve the Jewish people. Recall what he said in Mark 10:45 : "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" - that's the service in view, the service of dying for many as ransom. Then Paul makes the main statement about why he came: "I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God . . ." That's the main statement: Christ came to serve (to give his life a ransom) in such away that the truth of God would be established. Then come two purposes for this God-vindicating work of Christ: First, " . . . to confirm the promises given to the fathers," Second (verse 9a), ". . . and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy." So the main statement for why Christ became an incarnate human being as a Jew is that he came to serve man and vindicate God. Verse 8: "Christ has become a servant . . . on behalf of the truth of God." Or to be more accurate: Christ came to serve man by vindicating the truth of God. It's not as though his service is one thing, and his proving the truth of God is another thing. His vindicating the truth of God is the way he served man. How is Christmas Good News? So here is the one question I want to try to answer from this text: Why are we well served by the vindication of the truth of God through Christ? Why does it do us good when Christ validates the truth of God? Or to make the message feel seasonal, we could ask: How is Christmas good news if it means Christ's coming on behalf of the truth of God? I see four reasons why it is good for us that Christ came on behalf of the truth of God. 1. It is good for us that Christ came on behalf of the truth of God because Christ's coming shows that God is true first and foremost to himself. It is noteworthy that Paul makes a distinction in verse 8 between Christ's confirming "the truth of God" as one thing, and then, as another thing, the result and purpose of that, namely, "to confirm the promises." Read verse 8 again: "For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision (1) on behalf of the truth of God (2) to confirm the promises given to the fathers." One could argue, I suppose, that these are two ways of saying the very same thing: Confirm the truth of God, and confirm the promises he made. But there is something deeper in God's truth than his keeping promises. God is true before he makes any promises. God is a God of truth before he speaks to man. It's important that we think about this. Otherwise we tend to think of God only in relation to us as if his attributes have no meaning or significance apart from us. This makes far too much of us. And it runs the risk of demeaning God's self-sufficiency - that he is gloriously and absolutely God and true apart from us, and without us. The relevance this has for God's truth is that it reminds us that God himself is the definition of truth. He is truth. "I am the way the truth and the life," Jesus said ( John 14:6 ). And he could say it because he was God the Son. There is no standard of truth outside God for God to be measured by. God never checks or measures his thoughts or his statements or his actions with a standard outside himself so that he can then declare them true because the measure up to the standard. God is the standard. God is truth. God is the measure of all things. All things are true to the degree that they conform to what God is and says. Therefore, the first and most fundamental attribute about God in relation to this is not that he is true to his promises, but that he is true to himself. Here's the way Paul put it in 2 Timothy 2:12-13 , "If we deny Him, He also will deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself." Now that is a very fundamental truth about God. He cannot deny himself. His most fundamental faithfulness is not first to us, but to himself. When he contemplates what faithfulness or truth means, he takes into account the highest standard first, namely himself, and remains true or faithful to that. So Paul is saying in Romans 15:8 "Christ has become a servant . . . on behalf of the truth of God," that is, Christ served us - Christ did us good - by confirming God's deepest "trueness" his deepest faithfulness, namely, his faithfulness to himself. Christ served us by vindicating God's commitment to his himself. He served us by establishing and demonstrating that God is true - he is true to God. It is good for us that he did that. For if God were not true to God - if God's deepest and most fundamental esteem and faithfulness were given to something or someone other than what is most worthy of esteem and faithfulness - then he would be false, and no true God. And all our hope for everlasting joy would vanish. And that would be no service to us. Christ serves us by coming on behalf of the truth of God. 2. It is good for us that Christ came on behalf of the truth of God because this does in fact confirm the promises of God. God's promises are not his first allegiance. God himself is God's first allegiance. But then on the basis of that allegiance comes the next one, his word, his promises. And we see it plainly in verse 8: "For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers,." All the promises that God ever made are true, first because God is true, and second because Christ came and confirmed them as true. He bought them. The other clearest statement on this (besides Romans 15:8 ) is 2 Corinthians 1:20 , "For all the promises of God find their Yes in [Christ]. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory." What is the Good News of Christmas? Here is the essence of the good news of Christmas. Why did Christ have to come and die and rise so that all the promises of God would be yes in him - so that all the promises of God would be confirmed and made sure in him? The answer is that you and I do not deserve the fulfillment of one single promise of good toward us. What we deserve in our sin is punishment not promises. And what we get by faith alone, is fulfilled promises not fulfilled punishment. How can this be just? Because Christ came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many ( Mark 10:45 ). He bought us. He ransomed us. He rescued us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us ( Galatians 3:13 ). Or as this week's fighter verse says, "He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross" ( 1 Peter 2:24 ). Why? So all the promises could come true for us even though we are undeserving sinners. So all the promises of God are bought and confirmed for us by the blood of Jesus on the cross. That is why we claim the promises of God in prayer and close every prayer with, "In Jesus' name, Amen." Don't ever be ashamed of it. Children, listen to this simple point: when you close your prayers by saying, "In Jesus' name, Amen," you should mean, "I don't deserve the answer to my prayer, but Jesus does. And so I ask for it in his name, not my name. Because he is perfectly worthy and I am not." So it is good for us that Christ came on behalf of the truth of God because it confirms the promises of God by purchasing them for sinners like us. 3. It is good for us that Christ came on behalf of the truth of God because the promises he confirms and purchases are promises of mercy. You can see this when the blessing of Christ's coming spills over the banks of Israel and reaches to the gentiles - to the nations - according to Jesus Great Commission. Read verse 8 again and the first part of verse 9: "For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers, 9 and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy." When the promises are confirmed and purchased by the coming of Christ, the blessings spill over the banks of Israel and reach to the nations. And what the promises spill over with is mercy. Oh how the saints in the Old and New Testaments love to exult in the mercy of God! Just this week I read Micah 7:18 where the prophet exults like this: "Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love [mercy!]." This is the truth that breaks our pride, and heals the paralysis of hopelessness, and gives us courage to love in hard times, and moves our hearts to sing a new song. So Samuel Davies turned that Micah text into a hymn: Great God of wonders! All Thy ways Are matchless, Godlike and divine; But the fair glories of Thy grace More Godlike and unrivaled shine, More Godlike and unrivaled shine. Who is a pardoning God like Thee And who has grace so rich and free? And who has grace so rich and free? So it is good for us that Christ came on behalf of the truth of God because the promises he confirms are promises of mercy - pardon, forgiveness, and the gift of righteousness. 4. It is good for us that Christ came on behalf of the truth of God because the essence of the mercy he promised is himself, and not his gifts. God's gifts are precious beyond words, and we will sing of them forever. But the most precious ones you can think of are not ends in themselves. They all lead to God. Take forgiveness, for example. When Christ became our servant as a ransom, he took away the curse of the law and the threat of punishment for all who believe. But to what end? That we might enjoy sin with impunity? No. But that we might enjoy God for eternity! Forgiveness is precious because it brings us home to God. Why does anyone want to be forgiven? If the answer is just for psychological relief, or just for escape from hell to have more physical pleasures, then God is not honored. But Romans 15:9 says that the aim of Christ's serving us is that the gentiles "glorify God" for his mercy. But if we exploit God's mercy as ticket to enjoy sin, God gets no glory from that. God gets glory for showing mercy when his mercy frees us to see him as the most enjoyable person in the universe. So it is good for us that Christ came on behalf of the truth of God because the essence of the mercy he promised was himself. It is good for us that Christ came on behalf of the truth of God, because his coming this way shows that God is true first and foremost to himself; confirms the promises of God; confirms that the promises are promises of mercy; and shows that the essence of the mercy he promised is himself. This is the meaning of his coming. This is the meaning of Christmas. O that God would waken your heart to your deep need for mercy as a sinner. And then ravish your heart with a great Savior, Jesus Christ. And then release your tongue to praise him and your hands to make his mercy shine in yours.
Study Questions on Romans 9:6-13 John Piper 1. What would give rise to the assertion of 9:6a that “God’s word has not fallen”? What does Paul mean by “word”? 2. Explain the basic argument of 6b-8 and how it supports Paul’s contention that Israel’s rejection of the Messiah does not mean God’s plan has fallen through/ 3. What is the point of quoting Gen. 21:12 in v. 7? Who were Abraham’s children besides Isaac? 4. How would you describe the two Israels of v. 6? What adjectives will help us to keep them separate? Make two columns with one kind of Israel at the top of each and put in each column the words in vv. 6-13 which parallel the two kinds of Israel. 5. In v.8, what is the difference between a child of the flesh and a child of the promise? What do the two phrases mean? 6. What is the relationship between v.9 and v.8? What is the relationship between the two propositions in the Old Testament quote from Gen. 18:10 cited in v.9? 7. How does Jacob (vv. 10-13) provide an even more striking example than Isaac that v. 8 is true? Find at least three features of Jacob’s situation that make him such a good example. 8. How would you respond to this? God was electing only Israelites, not Gentiles, and so he was giving Israel a reason to boast in that He treated them in a special way. 9. What in your own words is the purpose given in vv. 11 and 12 as to why God promises the blessing to Jacob before he and Esau were born? 10. What does “works” mean in v.11 and why is it antithetical to God’s saving purpose? Read Rom. 4:4,5 and use the present context of 9:6-13 to answer this. 11. Explain the meaning that 9:13 had in the context of Mal. 1:2,3. Is there anything in that context to justify Paul’s use of it here? 12. Do you think Paul is dealing with the eternal destiny of men in Rom. 9:6-13 or is he merely discussing how God’s purposes are worked out in this world by the people of his choosing? Give reasons for your answer. 6a Nevertheless, the situation is not such that the word of God has fallen b For not all those descended from Israel are truly Israel 7a neither are they all children (of God or of promise, v.8) b j ust because they are the seed (i.e., the physical descendants) of Abraham c but rather (as Gen 21:12 says) it is through Isaac that your (true) seed will be called. 8a To say it another way : it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God b b ut rather the children of the promise (alone) are regarded as seed (cf 2:26) 9a for the word of the promise (Gen 18:10, 14) is this: at this time (next year) I will Come (with all my creative power where the flesh as been no avail, and I will intervene) b so that Sarah will have a son 10a Not only was Sarah/Isaac a good support for verse 8 b but also Rebekah serves as a good support for verse 8 c Here’s how: although Rebekah conceived Jacob and Esau by only one man, our father Isaac, 11a and although they were not yet born b and had not done anything good or evil c-12a (Nevertheless) in order that the purpose o God according to election Might remain as not being from works but from him who calls, b therefore it was said to her (Gen25:23), “The older will serve the younger.” 13a just as it is written (in Mal. 1:2-3) “Jacob I loved b but Esau I hated.” 1) What would give rise to the assertion of 9:6a that “God’s word has not fallen?” Do you agree with Ellison p.41? What “word” does Paul mean? There is a clear implication in 9:3 that Israelites are separated from Christ and thus accursed because many have not believed (3:3). But if Israel as a corporate body has rejected the Messiah (Ellison p.42) then the promises to Israel seem to have come to naught (Murray “covenant promises” p.9). For example, the promises of the New Covenant (Jer 31:31-34) : to put the law within them and write it on their heart and be their God and they his people. Many other promises to Israel and her future blessing and restoration could be mentioned. Ellison has already obscured things on p.32 by saying Israel only seems to be accursed. So here he must create a new objection to God’s word instead of taking the answer nearest at hand. 2) Explain the basic argument of 6b-8 and how it supports Paul’s contention that Israel’s rejection of the Messiah does not mean that God’s plan has fallen through. The basic argument is that while there are amazing promises of blessing made to Abraham’s seed in Gen 17:8 it becomes evident in the Genesis account that the promise did not apply to all his posterity (like Ishmael Gen 16; 17:18-21 or the sons of Keturah Gen 25:1-6) but only to Isaac (9:7c). The Israel that is now rejecting Christ is in the category of Ishmael and the sons of Keturah, and the Israel that is accepting Christ is in the category of Isaac. Since this narrowing down of Ab’s seed was in the plan of God from the outset, the fact that many of Ab’s posterity is rejecting the Messiah is no miscarrying of God’s plan. 3) What is the point of quoting Gen 21:12 in v.7? Who were Abraham’s children besides Isaac? To show that the narrowing began already in OT. Ishmael and the sons of Keturah 4) How would you describe the two Israel’s of v.6? What adjectives will help us keep them separate? Make two columns with one kind of Israel at the top of each and put in each column the words in vs. 6-13 with parallel the two kinds of Israel. Physical Israel True Israel 7b Seed 8a Children of flesh 12a From works 13b Esau 7a Children 7c Seed called through Isaac 8a Children of God 8b Children of Promise 8b Seed 12a From him who calls 13a Jacob 5) In v.8 what is the difference between a child of the flesh and a child of the promise ? What do the two phrases mean? If we take Isaac and Ishmael as our prototypes the difference is that a child of the flesh is one who is product of merely human powers. He is characterized by nothing more than is resident in the natural world; he is a mere descendent after the flesh (cf 9:3,5). But the child of promise (Isaac) owes his position of blessing to something more than what mere man can do. The child of promise fulfills a promise that seems impossible because human resources have petered out and are insufficient to accomplish the added step necessary to make a child of promise out of a child of flesh. He owes his status as a child of God *8a) not to the effort of man or the event of his fleshly birth into a certain family but rather he owes it to the supernatural work of God which is done only in response to his promise not in response to human distinctions. Further children of promise are those whom the promise applies not only because it gave rise to their election but also because they alone enjoy its future fulfillment. 6) In his discussion of vs. 6-13 Ellison repeatedly (pp 43.5;46.6;48.5) says that Paul “is not debating the final destiny of men” but is only discussing “the manner in which God’s purposes are worked out in this world by the individual or people of his choosing.” Do you agree with this? Give reasons. No if he means that the difference between true and physical Israel have no eternal consequences. Reason: 1) The situation Paul as described is that (in 9:3) the bulk of Israel has rejected the Messiah and is accursed. That these lost Jews do not entail a frustration of God’s plan is shown by saying they are not true Israel but are only physical descendants. So the distinction developed between two groups of Jews in vs. 6-13 is a distraction between those who are lost and those not. 2) The distinction children of flesh and children of God support this (Ellison does not discuss the meaning of the details). What does children of God mean if not something like that in Rom 8:16, 17, 21. You can’t say it means Jew in general in the sense of “sons” in 9:4 because it is a category among the Jews. It is those who have a special relation to God over and above their membership in the chosen people. This relationship is that enjoyed by those who believe in Jesus (8:16) or those who have faith of Abraham (4:12, 16). 3) When Paul distinguishes outward and inward circumcision and outward and inward Jewishness in Rom 2:28, 29 the distinctions are between those who are saved and those who are under judgement (2.27). Therefore while Paul’s main point is not to point out men’s eternal destiny here, there is a necessary implication that only the children of promise = children of God = true seed = true Israel are saved while the others do not share in the promise. 4) Another reason is Paul’s conception of the promise to Abraham in Gal 3:14, 16, 20 which is taken to involve ultimately the giving of the Holy Spirit and salvation with Him. That is, promise has to do, for Paul, with eternal destiny, not just with historical purposes in this life. 5) Why the idea of “reckoning” them as seed unless he is speaking of something more than Jewishness and does this not paralle 2:26 “reckoned as circumcision” and 4:3,9 “reckoned as righteous” 7) What is the relationship between the two prepositions in the O.T quote from Gen 18:10 cited in v.9? What is the relationship between v.9 and v.8? I will come so that Sarah will have a son. It is a promise which will be affected by God’s special divine intervention. It thus stresses how God, not the flesh produces a true seed or a true child of God (v.2). Since Isaac was “reckoned as seed” because of God’s supernatural work in fulfillment of his promise (v.9) therefore it is not mere children of flesh but children of promise only who are reckoned as seed (v.8). 8) How does Jacob (9:10-13) provide an even more striking example than Isaac that v.8 is true? Find at least 3 features of Jacob’s situation that make him such a good example. Verse 8 stresses that among the Israelites only those are children of God for whom the promises apply. That is, the reason one is a child of God and one is not is due not to any fleshly, ie human distinctions, but only to God’s fulfilling his promise. 1) Unlike Isaac and Ishmael Jacob and Esau had the same mother (v.10). One might think Isaac could claim some special distinctive on which to base his election since he was not born of an Egyptian handmaid like Ishmael. But that boast is eliminated by the Jacob and Esau story. 2) Not only were they of the same parents but they were in the womb at the same time. So neither could claim a special situation surrounding his origin. 3) Ishmael had already been born when the promise concerning Sarah’s son in Gen 18:10,14 was made so that one could conceivably argue that God waited to see how Ishmael was coming along before he decreed Isaac to be the true seed. But in Jacob/Esau’s case both were unborn and had done nothing when God made his choice of one over the other. He thus proved that man’s deeds have nothing to do with eliciting election. 4) In the one way that Jacob and Esau were distinct so far as inherited blessing is concerned God contradicted human custom by saying the older would serve the younger. The one thing in the 2 brothers birth which could have been used as a ground for boasting was demolished by turning the tables and choosing the younger and least favored. Therefore Jacob/Esau story demonstrates that becoming a “child of God” depends solely on God’s fulfilling his promise, not on any human distinctive. 9) How would you respond to this? God was electing only Israelites not Gentiles and so he was giving Israel a ground for boasting in that he treated them in a special way? 1) If some Jews are not chosen then mere Jewishness can’t be logically boasted in, can it? It gave Ishmael no comfort that Isaac and not some Gentile was reckoned as the seed. 2) even if God had chosen all Israelites to be children of God they would have had no ground to boast because their election was due to sheer mercy since God is not bound by anything but his promise. Let him who boast, boast in the Lord’s mercy! 10) In your own words, what is the purpose given in Rom 9:11-12 why God promised the blessing to Jacob before he and Esau were born? To make it perfectly clear that God’s purposes (ie his intention, what he is bringing about) is not due to a man’s works but is solely to himself who elects and calls. 11) What does “works” mean in v.12 and why is it antithetical to God’s saving purpose? Read Rom 4:4,5 and use the present context of 9:6-13 to answer this. - “Works” is any deed or distinctive that a man has which he hopes will show him worthy or deserving of blessing. - Works call attention to a man’s value to God in the hopes that God will respond with some favor. For example: being Abraham’s posterity can be laid claim to in the hopes that God must bless one. John the Baptist found this attitude and said, “Don’t presume to say ‘We have Abraham for our father.’” (John’s argument: God is not obligated or bound to you in order to fulfil his promises; he can make sons out of stones if he pleases and let you perish and still be faithful to his promise: your view of God is all wrong) - The point of v/ 10-13 is that God’s purpose in redemption is to act on man’s behalf precisely not because of any value inherent in man which would obligate him. The slant of vs. 10-13 is to clear away every vestige of the idea that the ground of a man’s election should be sought in himself. (The modern heresy that runs: if God loved me so much as to die for me then I must have been worth loving, is a vicious denial of Pauline Christianity) What does motivate God in election if not anything in man? He is motivated by a love for his own sovereign freedom (v.12). That he is motivated by his own fullness and overflowing deity which cannot possibly be in debt to a mere man. It is his exceeding glory not man’s that he first aims to maintain in redemption. (Is 48:9-11; 43:25; Ezek. 20:9, 14, 44; Ps 79:9) Note: This does not mean god is indifferent to faith for faith is the one act of man which calls attention to the worth not in the man who believes, but in the one who is trusted. Faith glorifies God and God thus honors faith – and faith alone. 12) Explain the meaning that 9:13 had in the context of Mal 1:2,3. Is there anything in that context to justify Paul’s use of it here? The context is God’s demonstration to Israel that He has indeed loved her. They are restored to the Lord while the enemy Edom is beaten. The thing in the context of Mal which makes Paul’s use fair is the rhetorical question in v.2 “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Is it not obvious that you were shown special favor over Esau/Edom even though (hence Paul’s use) you and he were equally deserving or underserving.