But it is not as though the Word of God has Failed

In Romans 9:1-18 Paul says: But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Jacob; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “Through Isaac your descendants will be named.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as descendants.

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 ethnic Israel is God’s chosen, covenant people, and that most of them seem to be accursed and cut off from Christ and from salvation. Has God been faithful to his promises? If not, what are we hoping for?

We must keep in mind that this is the crisis Paul is dealing with. 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 Christian elect in Romans 8:33 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 Christians?

 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. That is Paul’s assertion 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.

But everything else through this chapter, and indeed almost everything through the next three chapters, is an argument or a support for this assertion. And so keep in mind as we see in 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 to prove God’s faithfulness to his promises.

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.

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. The fact is: there is an Israel of God, His saving promises are made to them, the ‘set apart people’ and these promises have never failed.

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 group within that number whom he calls here “the children,” or we could say, “the true children” since the others are physical children also. The truth is that the promises of God hold true for the true children of Abraham but not for every descendant 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 God’s children. The word of God has not failed, because it was meant for the true Israel, the true Spiritual children, and it has never failed any of them.

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.

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.

Now 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 lost 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.

Where does Paul 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?

Paul gives two illustrations in verses 6–9 and in verses 10–13: The children of Abraham and Sarah and the children of Isaac and Rebecca.  After Paul says: Nor are they true children because they are Abraham’s descendants, he quotes Genesis 21:12 Through Isaac your descendants will be named. Even though you have an older son, Ishmael, he will not be the heir of the promise.

Then Paul quotes Malachi 1:2-3…Jacob I love and Esau I hate….

So, again, it is God’s choice that dictates the line of the Promise.

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.

So what is a child of promise, a child of God? A child of promise is the recipient of God’s saving grace, not because of ethnic origin or physical birth, or of any human action, only 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. Only God’s choice. John 15:16

What then is the answer to the crisis of verses 1–5: Has the word of God failed because many Jews are accursed and cut off from Christ? Have the promises of God come to naught? The answer is no.

The reason Paul gives three times is that the promise of God itself accomplishes its purpose, and that purpose is to gain for Himself a righteous holy people, who will live in all of the holy Land as His witnesses, Isaiah 43:10 and be the Light to the nations, Isaiah 49:8, as He always intended.

 Ezekiel 20:38 says how God will take the ethnic Israelites out of the nations where they now live, judge them and only the righteous, joined by every other true Christian believer, will enter the holy Land. Isaiah 35:1-10

The way God brings into being His true Israel is, finally by sending his Son, Jesus Christ, as the true Seed of Abraham, the Son of David, and, in the deepest sense,  Israel Himself. And now every person, Jew or Gentile, who trusts in Christ, is united to him and becomes part of God’s true Israel in Christ. And that Israel includes people from every tribe, race, nation and language. Isaiah 66:18b, 1 Peter 2:9-10, Revelation 7:9 Ref: John Piper

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. The fact is: there is an Israel of God, His saving promises are made to them, the ‘set apart people’ and these promises have never failed.

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 group within that number whom he calls here “the children,” or we could say, “the true children” since the others are physical children also. The truth is that the promises of God hold true for the true children of Abraham but not for every descendant 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 God’s children. The word of God has not failed, because it was meant for the true Israel, the true Spiritual children, and it has never failed any of them.

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.

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.

Now 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 7a:  Nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants.

That is why the word of God has not failed even though so many Israelites are lost 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.

Where does Paul 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?

Then Paul quotes Malachi 1:2-3…Jacob I love and Esau I hate….

So, again, it is God’s choice that dictates the line of the Promise.

So what is a child of promise, a child of God? A child of promise is the recipient of God’s saving grace, not because of ethnic origin or physical birth, or of any human action, only 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. Only God’s choice. John 15:16

What then is the answer to the crisis of verses 1–5: Has the word of God failed because many Jews are accursed and cut off from Christ? Have the promises of God come to naught? The answer is no.

The reason Paul gives three times is that the promise of God itself accomplishes its purpose, and that purpose is to gain for Himself a righteous holy people, who will live in all of the holy Land as His witnesses, Isaiah 43:10 and be the Light to the nations, Isaiah 49:8, as He always intended.

 

The way God brings into being His true Israel is, finally by sending his Son, Jesus Christ, as the true Seed of Abraham, the Son of David, and, in the deepest sense,  Israel Himself. And now every person, Jew or Gentile, who trusts in Christ, is united to him and becomes part of God’s true Israel in Christ. And that Israel includes people from every tribe, race, nation and language. Isaiah 66:18b, 1 Peter 2:9-10, Revelation 7:9