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God’s Purpose (9:1-18)

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One of the messages of the Apostle Paul’s inspired letter to the church at Rome is that there is nothing which can separate the followers of Christ from God’s love. No matter what the situation is; whatever dangers or persecution they may have to face, there is nothing in all of heaven or earth which can prevent God from bringing good out of it for those who love Him.

While this is certainly true concerning the followers of Christ, what about the Jewish people? Aren’t they also God’s people? Didn’t God enter into a covenant relationship with them? Now that Christ has come are they excluded from God’s blessings?

In chapter 9, verses 1 through 18 Paul writes, “I tell the truth in Christ. I am not lying, my conscience testifying with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing pain in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brothers’ sake, my relatives according to the flesh, who are Israelites; whose is the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service, and the promises; of whom are the fathers, and from whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God, blessed forever. Amen. But it is not as though the word of God has come to nothing. For they are not all Israel, that are of Israel. Neither, because they are Abraham’s seed, are they all children. But, “In Isaac will your seed be called.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as a seed. For this is a word of promise, “At the appointed time I will come, and Sarah will have a son.” Not only so, but Rebecca also conceived by one, by our father Isaac. For being not yet born, neither having done anything good or bad, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him who calls, it was said to her, “The elder will serve the younger.” Even as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? May it never be! For he said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I caused you to be raised up, that I might show in you my power, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then, he has mercy on whom he desires, and he hardens whom he desires.”

In this passage we see the depth of Paul’s love. He was willing to give up his own place in heaven if by doing so it would bring salvation to his people – the Jews. In this he followed the example of Christ. Scripture says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”” (Galatians 3:13 NIV)

It is true that unlike Christ, we are sinners and therefore cannot redeem anyone from his sin. But how much are we willing to sacrifice so that others have the opportunity to become reconciled to God? Are we willing to lay down our lives for them as Christ laid down His life for us?

Paul points out that the Jewish people are the ones who should have received an inheritance from God. They are the ones who should have received the fulfillment of God’s promises. After all, the promises were originally made to them. God made a covenant with them to make them His own people above all others on the earth. Not only that, Jesus Christ’s human ancestry is from the Jewish people.

Since the Jewish people had all these advantages, why have so few of them received the blessings God promised them? Did God’s word fail? Not at all. Paul points out that not all of the descendants of Israel are considered Israelites in God’s sight. In other words, not all of the natural descendants of the Jewish patriarchs belong to God. For example, Abraham had more than one son, but God chose to reckon Abraham’s offspring only through Isaac. It is Isaac who is the son God promised to Abraham. In the same way, God chose to fulfill His purpose through Jacob rather than Esau – even though they both were born to Isaac.

The same principle applies today. Not everyone who wears the name of Christ really belongs to Christ. Jesus said, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:22-23 NIV) All of us who claim to follow Christ need to ask ourselves whether God has really chosen us or whether we are merely deceiving ourselves. Will we really share in God’s blessings?

However, this raises another question. Isn’t God unjust when He chooses one person over another? Shouldn’t everyone have the same opportunity to share in God’s blessings? Later in this chapter Paul will explain the reason for God’s choice. It is not arbitrary. In these verses, however, Paul reminds us that it is God’s right to choose whoever He likes. God does not have an obligation to show mercy to anyone. As Paul already demonstrated earlier in the letter, all of us have sinned. All of us deserve God’s wrath and judgment. If, instead, He chooses to show mercy and compassion to some, He can do so. He does not need permission from us or anyone else. The Creator has the right to do whatever He likes with His creation.

There is an important lesson in this: God is not obligated to save anyone. It is not our good works or anything we do which saves us from God’s wrath. Our salvation is entirely dependent upon God’s choice to show us mercy.

God not only shows mercy to some, He chooses to harden others like He did to Pharaoh during the time of Moses. In both cases, God chooses to show mercy or to harden so that His power will be displayed and His name proclaimed throughout the earth.

This raises another issue. If there is nothing we can do to earn salvation, and if God chooses to harden some people, then why does God blame us if we do not respond to His call? God chose to harden us and we cannot resist or overturn His will. If you would like to know the answer to this dilemma, then remember to listen to our next program.