Just in case you missed our introduction to this epistle, we will repeat it here to set the scene for a greater understanding;
It is importance in studying any of Paul’s writings to come to understand the mindset of the Apostle, when he sat in front of his blank papyrus, and pondered upon his purpose for writing.
To do this we need to consider where Paul was at, in his Christian experience and his present circumstances. We need to consider how Paul must have thought concerning those he was writing to. What prompted him to write?
Firstly Paul, a Jew, was writing with Gentiles in his mind. ( see vers 13”other gentiles”)
You may remember that when Paul was arrested by God on the road to Damascus that God said the reason he had been chosen was to take the gospel to the Gentiles. This was an amazing commission, for Saul, as he was then, was a Hebrew of Hebrews, steeped in his religious traditions and a firm believer in being a member of Israel, as God’s chosen nation”
However after a few years of contemplation, with the Holy Spirit’s aid, he began to read the Old Testament in a new way, with a new pair of eyes. In fact he realised that he was being shown a mystery that God had hidden since the foundation of the world. It must have blown his mind, for no Jew had ever even contemplated the possibility of such things as he was being shown.
The word “revolution” does not fully suffice to describe this apparent “reversal“ of God’s plans, nor of Paul’s understanding of them. He came to realise that from the beginning of time God had a salvation plan for the whole world and his revelation of Himself to the Jews through the Law and all its accompanying rituals was merely the backcloth for when Jesus, the Messiah came on the scene. Furthermore, by his death on the cross, he exploded both in heaven and earth a complete change in relationship between God and man.
From some Old Testament prophecies, one could surmise that what Jesus, as God’s Son, accomplished by his death would have been thought more cataclysmic in heaven than ever realised on earth. This was a completely NEW Testament, completely “out of the blue” so to speak.
Paul makes some remarkable statements in his writings. He says that this new revelation of how man can now be justified and made righteous in God’s sight, by faith, is not a new revelation at all, for it had always been so. The Jews had thought that by their efforts to keep the commands and rituals of the Law they were accepted before God, but Paul points out that not one person had ever been able to keep the whole law of God since day one. But, and that is a BIG BUT, certain people had been counted righteous before God, not by their works but by their FAITH. Abraham and David are mentioned in Romans and Galatians and in Hebrews 11 there is a whole list of all the heroes of the Old Testament.
Paul goes so far as to say that though in the Old Testament one gets the impression that all those who were circumcised were “marked” as the chosen people of God, that this was not actually the complete truth. In chs 9-11 he goes to great pains to explain that not all those known as Israelites were the “chosen people” of God. For they had thought that when Abraham was circumcised in the flesh, this marked him as accepted before God, but the real truth from God’s viewpoint, was that his faith had justified him and the circumcision came later and was significant in the cutting off of the flesh. For the flesh is of the Devil and has no way of pleasing God or bringing acceptable in his sight. So how wrong can you be? Most Jews still can't see it!
You see, faith is the very life of God. So those who carried on the rituals of their religion just as a human performance would not be counted righteous unless they did it all by faith in the coming, promised Messiah. For all that they did in their ceremonies were mere parables of the work that the Messiah would do. The epistle to Hebrews is all about this. Paul says that all that was done under the law was but a “shadow” of the real thing. The true Hebrews were those who see the eternal and invisible rather than the natural and earthly.
In the Old Testament God promised he would make a completely New one, and this was accomplished by what Jesus did, by his life and sacrificial death.
Now the upshot of all that was the fact that the Gentiles who never had access to the ceremonies and rituals of the Jewish religion could now be included in the chosen nation and become a child of Abraham simply by exercising the faith of Abraham for it was not the circumcision of his flesh that justified him before God, but by the faith which circumcised his heart. God now counts all those who put their faith in Christ who died in the flesh, to have also died to the flesh. (circumcised in their hearts) They are now identified from heaven as being accepted IN Christ Jesus. (resurrected) Note the following verses from Romans ch 2:28-29.
Rom 2:28-29 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
This is the reason why he wrote Romans ch 9-11, which cause much controversy among Christians today. Paul explains to his own people that this has always been God’s plan. He has not changed the goalposts and just because the Jews may have got the wrong idea for 2000 years that is not God’s fault. Perhaps if they had been more obedient and less unbelieving they would have seen the truth. And furthermore, he points out that the disgruntled Jews who feel they have been discarded in favour of the “gentile dogs”, that God is Sovereign and he can choose whoever he so desires. He can reveal his plans as slowly or mysteriously as He decides. The clay cannot tell the potter, “Why have you made me thus?”
He has always looked for faith, and not religious works, which tend to gender pride. God deals with the humble and contrite of heart. Under this new agreement, all who simply acknowledge their sin and their inability to do anything in the flesh to compensate for their wrongs, have simply to believe, that Jesus paid the full penalty for man’s sin when he died on the cross. God raised him from the dead to confirm that his sacrifice had been accepted.
So on the basis of this revelation Paul had done all to tell the whole of the then known world, about the Good news that salvation was now available to all men. Little wonder that his greatest enemies as he took his missionary journeys, were in fact the Jews. Their blood must have boiled at what he said. But the great consolation for Paul was that Jesus had experienced exactly the same reaction. In Col 2:24-5 Paul identifies his sufferings as the continuance of the suffering of Christ’s body- of which he was a member.
Lets' ponder now over Rom ch 9. Please read each section carefully. Rom 9:1-5 1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, 2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. 3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: 4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; 5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
Before the mystery of the gospel was revealed to Paul, he firmly believed that he was special in the eyes of God. He numbers himself with all other Jews. However he is expressing some sorrow over some of his fellow Jews. They were surely all sons of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. IN THE FLESH THEY WERE ALL ONE, and even could be identified with Christ himself as he was of the same race.. There is no doubt that God CHOSE Israel as a nation unto himself, from all the nations in the world.
Deut 14:2;2 For you are an holy people unto the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.
But Paul makes an astounding statement that not all Israel is Israel. (v 6) He is saying that not every one born into a Hebrew family are really God's chosen people. He has already said this in ch 2 Rom 2:28-29 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. Now these are amazing statements to begin with, for surely the Old Testament clearly said that God had chosen the Israelites. But Paul is clearly saying that it isn't quite as it sounds for many of those who think they are chosen, have not been chosen. Even those who have been born into a Jewish family, and fulfilled the requirements of the law and indeed practice their religion regularly. Just as we might see the orthodox Jews today, zealous and committed to the God of the Old Testament, they pray and rock at the wailing wall. Surely they have not done anything to be "unchosen". But Paul says they have. Not all the "chosen" are chosen. How could God have suddenly moved the goalposts, so to speak. Surely that is unfair. Has he broken his covenant? (are you with me so far? if not then read the scriptures we have quoted until you can agree,) Having made this bombshell statement and expressed his sorrow at its truth he moves on to explain that the true Israel are those who have faith in Christ Jesus, either before his coming- i.e. as their promised Messiah King or after as God their Saviour, plus those who simply believed God in impossible circumstances.
Rom 9:6-14 6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: 7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall your seed be called. 8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. 9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son. 10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; 11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) 12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. 13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. 14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
If one is to understand this chapter, then one has to realise the weight of these words from Paul to the Jews. “They are not all Israel who are of Israel", - all those who have believed for centuries that they are the chosen people of God are NOT the children of God. Those who have thought they were under the covenant made to Abraham are not under the covenant. It seems that the God who said over and again that He loved Israel, now he seems to be saying "I didn’t love all of you ” Little wonder the Jews became Paul's greatest enemies. This teaching was tantamount to blasphemy. This preached a God who didn't keep his promises, this preached a changeable God. Note v 14. Even Paul admits it sounds as if God is being unrighteous. (Sometimes I wonder if we realise just what a mighty difference there is between the Old and the New Testaments. I doubt if we see it from God's point of view, or what it meant in heavenly realms. When I was studying Zechariah, a very difficult prophecy to discern, I had a great feeling in my spirit that ch 11 was about this great change, and the first few verses indicate it was like a mighty and devastating forest fire)
That is the basis of this chapter. Paul is letting the Jews know that God is sovereign and he can choose whom He likes. If God wants to choose those who make no effort and reject those who make an effort to keep laws and rituals practised for thousands of years, then that is his perogative. He is God. Because Jesus has fulfilled His Law, something the Jews could never do, God has now chosen to accept as his people all those who simply believe in Jesus Christ who came as a substitute. He not only kept the Law but fulfilled the penalty of the Law for mankind. On the basis of this act, Paul could preach the gospel that the "debt is paid", "atomnement has been made", so all God requires now is for individuals to repent and believe in Jesus as their Saviour. Contrary to what some would advocate, the scripture clearly teaches that Faith is not a work- as we clearly see in Romans ch 4 . Rom 4:1-6 1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about-- but not before God. 3 What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." 4 Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5 However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. 6 David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:(NIV)
So now Paul is preaching that God has not chosen those he regards as his people according to merit. How could a just God make such a choice? - to reward those who have done nothing, with salvation, while those who have kept themselves pure from other peoples and races, and followed the religion as taught by their leaders are seemingly now rejected. Illustration:God has not changed the goalposts. The Jews had thought the goalposts were football posts and ran around kicking a ball with their feet, but they were really hockey goal posts, and they should have been hitting the ball with sticks.
Jacob & Esau: Here Paul then makes that great "sovereign" statement, much loved by Calvinists, that God loved Jacob and hated Esau. (Mal 1:2-3.) Yet we should note carefully the other scriptures, which seems to indicate that such partiality was not known to Isaac their father, for He blessed them both. Heb 11:20-21 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. But Paul firmly states God chose Jacob over Esau. - Unjust? Not really if we now understand what God was looking for in a man. and that God by his foreknowledge reckoned before the foundation of the world that he could use Jacob and not Esau in his plans and purposes. Note that the above verse makes mention of Jacob's faith but it makes no mention of the faith of Esau, does it? In the natural mind we would say that Jacob was a liar, a deciever, a supplanter who stole by deception his brother's spiritual blessing which was his right by birth(in the flesh). Esau was a hardworking down to earth guy who sweated at the end of the day, having done an honest days work. He was a practical man, concerned about getting bread on the table. Airey fairy "spiritual" blessings never fed anyone, according to his way of thinking. On the other hand Jacob apparently stayed home with his mother, and was envious of his brother's "spiritual birthright" as the firstborn. Jacob no doubt thought "What a lucky guy (polite word) was Esau, considering they were twins. He got the blessing by a few minutes." But God is God and he can have mercy on whom he so desires. He can choose what characteristics he will reward. He loved Jacob because he had faith. Paul is trying in Judaic terms to explain that God has always looked for FAITH, and the Jewish religion was ostensively one of pleasing God by fulfilling the WORKS of the Law. But God had revealed to Paul that even before Jacob and Esau were born he foreknew that one would be spiritually minded and exercise faith and the other would be carnally minded and sell his spiritual birthright to satisfy the hunger of his flesh. "He loved Jacob but hated Esau:" If that confuses you, it may help you to understand by remembering that Jesus said if you did not HATE your mother and father you could not be his disciple. Was Jesus advocating the breaking of the fifth commandment? Of course he was not; - so what did he mean when he said "hate"? To understand you have to be cogniscent of greek and hebrew, for some words actually mean opposites. for example "Devoted" also means "accursed"- you can't be devoted to someone, unless you count everything else accursed. Levi meams "joined" but also "separated" To be joined to God you must be separated from the world. This is the meaning of Hate in Romans and in Jesus's statement. It merely is a means of emphasis. God's love was so much poured out on Jacob (Israel) that in comparison Esau was hated. If you check out how both Jacob and God blessed Esau you will see that this is borne out. Heb 11:20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
Even today Esau's descendants, the Arab nations, are prospering in material wealth. What he saw in Jacob was faith. Faith believes in the invisible. Esau credited no value to his spiritual, invisible birthright, he preferred a mess of pottage to satisfy his flesh.- an earthly blessing- which the Arabs have inherited. Verse 11 confirms that God's purposes would be fulfilled in the choices he made and he, when faced with a choice between Jacob's and Esau's, he would choose those with faith every time. It may help if you read those verses above once again.
So It makes no difference how hard you run, it's up to God to choose. "Not to the strong is the battle, nor to the swift is the race, but to those who are full of faith"
Rom 9:15-21 For he said to Moses, I will have mercy on whoever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whoever I will (choose to) have compassion. So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shews mercy. For the scripture said unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised you up, that I might shew my power in you, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore has he mercy on whoever he will (choose to) have mercy, and whoever he will he hardens. You will say then unto me, Why does he still find fault? For who has resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who are you that repliest against (to argue with) God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why have you made me thus? Has not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
See how strong Paul is in making his argument that God is sovereign, he can choose whom he likes. In the case of Pharoah, his foreknowledge assured him that Pharoah had a hard heart, God merely hardened it to show how strong his will and power were over Pharoah's, at its strongest. But even if that was not the case, then God has the power and authority to act in that partial way. But certainly it was not in a callous and sadistic way that God used Pharoah, he simply had foreknowledge of Pharoah's heart. Pharoah chose to act as he did. So who can argue with God's choices? The clay cannot argue with the potter. He has seen the end from the beginning. He knows about clay. He chose Jacob because of his faith, although his "works" were not righteous. Like his Grandfather Abraham his faith was accepted as righteousnes in God's sight. God seemingly has no regard for self suffciency in the flesh, and sees no merit in the works of the flesh and certainly it makes no difference as to who your earthly father might be in the flesh. (John 1:13) So all Jews are not real Jews and all Israel is not the real chosen people of God. So I trust you can see so far, that the point being made here is to explain to the Jews that the goalposts seem to have been changed. But this is the Mystery of the Gospel which God had hidden for thousands of years, and all the promises to the Jews in the Old Testament were really to those who had a spiritual thing called "faith" and not a physical natural thing like chauvanistic circumcision.
The true "chosen ones" are those who receive and believe the promises of God, so it is no good the Jews feeling sore, let down, or resentful. Under this new agreement prophesied in Jeremiah, they have to enter into the "Chosen One" (the ark) to be among the chosen people. Basicly Paul is saying "If you are a Jew and you don't like it then tough! If you dont want to enter into Christ, then the Gentiles will." This chapter is saying nothing more and nothing less than that. In his special letter to the Jews - Hebrews, he pleads with them to enter into Christ.
v. 22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: 23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, 24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
That is what this chapter tells us regarding predestination. God decided before the foundation of the world to choose those who had faith in His "ark" - namely His Son Jesus Christ. For faith is the life of God. He is only choosing those with His life in them.. It is not any kind of faith that God looks for, but what Paul called the Faith of God- Faith IN in God's promises. Unfortunately not everyone saw the hidden clues in the times of the Old Testament, but they were eventually revealed to the Apostle Paul. The goalposts haven't changed it is just as if the Jews thought it was a football match and God knew it was a hockey match, and were looking at the wrong goalpost dimensions. The message to the Ephesians, who were Gentiles, was that God was reconciling ALL THINGS to himself, which were IN CHRIST JESUS his son. Everything might have been lost in the first Adam but God was reconciling everything in the last Adam, His own Son. Anything outside of Jesus, God doesn't want to know. His firstborn gets the blessing and Jesus is the firstborn of many brethren.
If you are still not convinced that this is what this chapter is about , then ponder on these other verses. Rom 9:25-31 25 As he says also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. 26 And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, You are not my people; (the gentile world) there shall they be called the children of the living God. 27 Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, ( "only" ed.) a remnant shall be saved: 28 For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short (small) work will the Lord make upon the earth. 29 And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodom, and been made like unto Gomorrha. (were they not all exterminated?) 30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. 31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath NOT attained to the law of righteousness. Verse 27 confirms that only a few of those who thought they were "Chosen", are truly among the Chosen. This is definitely a new slant on the old covenant, so it seems. No-one had spotted it before, apparently and there are a lot of christians who haven't even seen it today. Paul says that the Spirit revealed this mystery to Him. The chapter closes with a confirmation of what was said at the beginning. So those who augment their belief that God has chosen a few individuals and damned the rest for eternity, by quoting the hard dogmatic statements in the middle, are really taking such dogmatic statements right out of context, which is the main cause of any heresy.
Carry on reading, Check out the rest of the chapter; Rom 9:30-33 30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. 31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. 32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; 33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believes on him shall not be ashamed.
If your still not convinced then ask yourself why are the words "whosoever believes" in the last verse, just as they are throughout the New Testament. (and incidentally, slap bang in the middle of these three contraversial chapters 9-11) It cannot be "whosoever" if God chooses specific individuals. Whoever believes IN CHRIST- By his foreknowledge of such, these are they whom God predestinated before the foundation of the world. This truth was a stumbling block to the Jews. It has also become a stumbling block to not a few christians throughout the ages. Hopefully now the light has been switched on you wont stumble over it. I personally, stumbled over it for fifty years, but not any more. I have been recently made aware that my "light" on the subject is not some new revelation, but long since rejected by those of Calvinist persuasion. I can quite live with that, recognising the great responsibility that rests on those who profess to be Bible teachers. Most people believe what they are told. But my advice to all seekers of truth is to read the Bible fully, and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to you. Consider if the God who you see in the bible is One who would have specifically chosen a minority of individuals before the foundation of the world, and destined at least a thousand times more people to suffer eternally in Hell. Furthermore such beliefs include the belief that those whom He chose before the world began, He ensured their salvation by endowing them with a particular kind of faith that lasts forever, and ensures their eternal salvation. He would withhold that faith from those who he had decided would be lost. Therefore if a person is not predestined to salvation then you could talk to them of Jesus for the rest of your life but the message would never get through. And those who start to believe and join a church and the things of the spirit, if they stop believing and leave then God's opinion would be that they were never saved in the first place. But if they had died a few months before they were destined to leave they would have died believing and therefore saved. Also all children who die under the age of knowing right from wrong, whatever that is, will have been predestined to be saved also. I might close by saying you have a choice as to what version of salvation you believe, but maybe if I am wrong and the Calvinists are right - you haven't.