We have covered Romans 1 through 8. We may consider chapters nine through eleven as a parenthesis and chapter twelve as a continuation of chapter eight. In the sense of the life process or life practice it is correct to say this; however, I do not think that in Paul’s concept these chapters were parenthetical, for in them are some elements which are a continuation between chapters one through eight and twelve through sixteen. Therefore, these three chapters, in a sense, are a parenthesis, but, in another sense, they form a continuation between Romans 8 and 12.
God’s selection is our destiny. Our eternal destiny has been fully established by God’s selection. This selection and destiny are of the very God who calls, not of those who work. Our selection is absolutely of God who calls. In order to grasp this point we need to read 9:1-13.
“In Christ I speak the truth, I lie not, my conscience bearing witness with me in the Holy Spirit.” This verse proves that the conscience is a part of the human spirit. We have seen that the Holy Spirit witnesses with our spirit (8:16). However, in this verse we are told that our conscience bears witness in the Holy Spirit. Therefore, since the Holy Spirit witnesses with our spirit and our conscience witnesses with the Holy Spirit, our conscience must be part of our spirit.
Paul’s conscience testified that he had great grief and unceasing pain in his heart (v. 2). This was the pain Paul suffered for his kinsmen that they might be saved.
“For I was praying that I myself would be a curse, separated from Christ for my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (v. 3). This is a serious prayer. Paul prayed in such an earnest way because of his desire for Israel to be saved. To pray that Israel be saved was necessary, but to pray that he be a curse was too extreme. Regardless of how spiritual we may be and how much in our spirit we may be, it is still possible for us to utter a prayer in a way that is not of the Lord. When Paul was praying that he might be a curse, separated from Christ, I do not believe that it was of the Lord. Do you believe that the Lord compelled Paul to pray that he become a curse, separated from Christ? I do not think that the Lord required this of him. Then what motivated him to pray this way? Paul’s intense desire. He prayed that way because of his great love for his kinsmen.
Many times we have an intense desire for a certain thing and that desire causes us to utter a prayer in an extreme way. A brother may pray for his wife who is seriously ill, praying desperately in every way, even with fasting. The Lord may answer his prayer, but not according to his way. Such was the case with Paul’s prayer in verse 3. He prayed with a great desire that God would put him aside and make him a curse that his brothers might be saved. God answered his prayer, but not in his way.
“Who are Israelites, whose are the sonship, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service, and the promises” (v. 4). Sonship means the right of inheritance. What is the glory mentioned in this verse? The glory of God was manifested at least twice to the people of Israel: in the wilderness when the tabernacle was erected (Exo. 40:34) and in Jerusalem when the temple was built and dedicated (2 Chron. 5:13-14). On both occasions the Israelites saw the glory of God. The covenants are those God made with Abraham (Gen. 17:2; Acts 3:25; Gal. 3:16-17) and with the children of Israel at Sinai (Exo. 24:7; Deut. 5:2) and at Moab (Deut. 29:1, 14). These covenants are treasured by the Israelites (Eph. 2:12). The giving of the law refers to the law (Deut. 4:13; Psa. 147:19), which is precious to the Israelites. The service mentioned in this verse is undoubtedly the priestly or Levitical service, for all the service related to the tabernacle was under the hand of the priests and Levites. The promises are those God gave to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David (Rom. 15:8; Acts 13:32).
Verse 5 says, “Whose are the fathers, and out of whom according to flesh is the Christ, Who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” The fathers were Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and others. Also, according to His human nature, Christ came out of the children of Israel. Paul says that Christ is “over all, God blessed forever.” When Paul came to this point in his writing, he was so filled with the glorious Person of Christ that he poured out what was in his heart—“Christ is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” We all have to be deeply impressed with and fully realize and appreciate the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ is the very God who is over all and blessed forever. Though He came out of the Jewish race in flesh, He is the very infinite God. Thus, Isaiah 9:6 says, “Unto us a child is born and his name shall be called The mighty God.” We praise Him for His deity and we worship Him as the very God forever.
“Not, however, as though the word of God has come to naught. For not all are Israel who are out of Israel” (v. 6). In verse 3, Paul prayed out of his desire for his kinsmen to be saved. As he came to verse 6 he spoke of God’s economy. In verse 3 he uttered a prayer out of his desperation, even willing to be “a curse, separated from Christ.” In verse 6 he said, “Not all are Israel who are out of Israel.” God’s economy is that not all who are out of Israel, that is, all who are born of Israel, are the true Israel. All Jews have been born of Israel, but not all of them have been selected by God. All of them are of the Jewish religion, but not all are saved even though outwardly they have all the good things, including Christ, promised by God in His Holy Word.
“Neither because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children, but, In Isaac shall your seed be called” (v. 7). In verses 6 and 7 Paul is in the light of God’s economy and sees things clearly. Only that part of Abraham’s seed which is in Isaac is called. Besides Isaac, Abraham had another son named Ishmael. Though Ishmael was born of Abraham, neither he nor his descendants, the Arabs, have been selected by God. They are the children of the flesh and cannot be reckoned as the children of God. Only Isaac and a part of his descendants are selected by God and reckoned as the children of God.
Verse 8 continues, “That is, Those who are the children of the flesh are not the children of God, but the children of the promise are reckoned as the seed.” According to God’s economy, it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise who are reckoned as the seed. Not all the seed of Abraham are the children of God. The natural birth is inadequate to make them children of God; they need to be born again (John 3:7). The phrase “children of the promise” denotes the second birth, for it is only by the second birth that they can be the children of the promise and thus be reckoned as the seed.
“For this is the word of promise, About this time next year I will come, and Sarah shall have a son. And not only so, but Rebecca also having conceived of one, Isaac our father, the children not yet being born, nor having done anything good or bad, (that the purpose of God according to selection might remain, not of works, but of Him Who calls,) it was said to her, The greater shall serve the less; as it is written, Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (vv. 9-13). These verses unveil to us the fact that God’s selection is not according to man’s work, but absolutely according to His choice. We are told that of the one man Isaac Rebecca conceived and brought forth two sons, Esau and Jacob. Before the children were born and before they had done either good or bad, God told Rebecca that the greater, who was Esau, would serve the lesser, who was Jacob. This proves that God’s selection depends upon His likes and dislikes. Thus, God said, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (Mal. 1:2-3). This word is very strong. We think that God only loves and that He never hates, but here it says that God hated. “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Only those who are loved and selected by God are reckoned as the seed. God’s selection depends upon Himself who calls according to His likes; it does not depend upon man’s works. Though God said, “in Isaac shall your seed be called” (Gen. 21:12), yet only one of Isaac’s two sons was selected by God. This reveals the fact that God’s selection is also not according to man’s birth. God does not select people according to anything other than Himself.
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