Romans - Lesson 39

Romans 9:6-29

Lesson 39
Watching Now
Romans 9:6-29

 IV. The Defense of the Gospel: the Problem of Israel (9:1-11:36)

A. Introduction: The Tension Between God's Promises and Israel's Plight (9:1-5)

B. Defining the Promise (1): God's Sovereign Election (9:6-29)

1. The Israel within Israel (9:6-13)

2. Objections Answered: The Freedom and Purpose of God (9:14-23)

3. God's Calling of a New People: Israel and the Gentiles (9:24-29)

C. Understanding Israel's Plight: Christ as the Climax of Salvation History (9:30-10:21)

D. Summary: Israel, the "Elect," and the "Hardened" (11:1-10)

E. Defining the Promise (2): The Future of Israel (11:11-32)

F. Conclusion: Praise to God in Light of His Awesome Plan (11:33-36)

Class Resources

Dr. Douglas Moo, from Wheaton College Graduate School, offers an exegetical examination of the book of Romans. This course was recorded during a D.Min. seminar at the Carolina Graduate School of Divinity in May 2012.

Please note that the audio mp3 file numbers on downloaded files are two greater than each lecture number beginning with number 15.

This transcript follows the main points of the speaker but is not always word-for-word.

Romans 9:6-29


It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.”


A. The Dilemma with Israel: Well, back to the overall argument. Paul responds to the problem which he set out in four different stages as I see it. The first stage includes verse 6-29 where Paul develops the idea of an Israel within Israel, not race but grace is Tom Wright’s phrase. Wright is very good with coming up with these neat and effective ways of putting things. You can see what he is getting at; God’s choice has always rested on his grace, not simply straight forward racial identity. The next point, Paul is going to say that Israel has a lot of responsibility for her own fall; Paul talks about Israel’s lack of understanding and stubbornness and sinful disobedience. Three, God is saving a remanence now; in other words, when Paul presents the problem in 9:1-5, he presented it in very global general terms. Most of Israel hasn’t responded but some has; there are Jewish Christians. We should not forget that in this situation. Finally and climatically, the end of Romans 11, Paul climaxes the thing by this claim that God is going to save all of Israel. All of this is an answer to the dilemma or problem of how to understand that so many Jews are not part of the new people of God and so many Gentiles are. The first answer, God never promised to save all the Jews as shown in 9:6-29. Paul looks at the history of the people of Israel, particularly in its early period. He says that God has been making choices all along here. Let’s start with Abraham, he says; Abraham had two sons and only one inherited, Isaac, not Ismael. Isaac also had two sons and in this case, he had two sons who were twins. Paul uses very specific language here saying that Jacob and Esau were the result of one seminal emission, one act of making love. This is the Greek language that Paul is using here. He is trying to make the point as graphically and clear as he can. Jacob and Esau were conceived at the same time. Indeed, Esau was the older for he came out of womb before Jacob. God has himself shown that being racially descended from Abraham isn’t what you a true part of the people of God. These are choices that God has been making all along; Isaac and not Ismael and Jacob and not Esau.


B. Was It Fair for God to Make These Choices: Paul, then in 14-18 takes this a bit further. Is it fair for God to do this then? Is this unjust of God to make these kinds of choices in this way? Paul reminds us of the Old Testament story in which God tells Moses that he has mercy on whom ever wants. On the other hand, he hardens whomever he wants. Here, he brings in the story of the Exodus and the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart at that time. In verse 19, there come more objections; why does God still blame us? Paul says that God has a right to do this; to make these decisions because he is God. Not only does God make choices within Israel, he even chooses people from outside to be involved as in verse 24. He has not only called us from the Jews, but also from the Gentiles. So what you have here is Paul saying that within the larger entity we call Israel, there is a smaller group of those whom God has chosen and added to that group from within Israel is a group entirely apart from physical Israel, the Gentiles. Those who interpret God’s promises in the Old Testament to mean that God promises to save all the descendants of Abraham and only the descendants of Abraham are misunderstanding God’s purposes in regards to these promises. God has always demonstrated the purpose in what he has actually done in choosing only some among the larger group Israel to be his true people. It is as the Old Testament itself indicates in places like the Book of Jonah where God has always been interested in allowing Gentiles to become part of that. This is something, of course, in the New Covenant era that has expanded more significantly beyond what you see in the Old Testament. This is an overview of what is being argued here. It meets the objection that Paul’s Gospel can’t really be from God because your Gospel isn’t bringing salvation to all of Israel. Paul says that this isn’t a reasonable objection because you are assuming that God’s purpose was to bring salvation to all of Israel. That isn’t clear at all. Read your Old Testament more carefully and you will see again.


C. Has God Failed Israel and Will He Fail Us: This probably wasn’t comfortable for Paul but the Gentiles were happy to hear it. There was lots of debate among Jews in Paul’s day about the correct interpretation of the Old Testament. Who do the promises apply to and how do we understand them. Paul is taking a particular stand from that debate which was an anathema for many Jews. It was very uncomfortable for many Jews. Perhaps even some Jewish Christians who weren’t really happy with it. (Was God actually faithful to his promises to the Jews, a student asked? If God wasn’t faithful to Israel and if he has made a change toward the Gentiles and making promises to us as well; will he keep those?) This is a very good point. If God has changed his mind in making the promises to Israel, what is to say that he is going to change his mind again? This is a fundamental issue. At the beginning of verse 6, it puts it in those terms. The Word of God has not failed. His promises never fall short of becoming fulfilled.


D. Individual Salvation verses the Status of Israel in History: Before we leave this section, let’s briefly talk about the implications of this passage on the doctrine of election. Both Calvinists and Armenians believe in election but have different ways of understanding it. The way I define the views; we have a passage that puts a lot of emphasis on God sovereignty in choosing and the Calvinists emphasize that part of it; this is a text that Calvinists like to quote. It is God who chooses, it is not our will or our works; it is God’s choice that makes the difference. But the Armenians typical reply, yeah, there is a lot of emphasis on God’s choice here but don’t forget that there is a lot emphasis on human choice on Romans 1-8 on this point. Our faith seems to be something that is foundational to this whole matter of salvation as well. So, let’s bring them together and find here that while Paul in Romans 9 is saying that God is indeed in charge and his choosing doesn’t take place away from our decision to believe. That is where the debate focuses here. There is one other strand to the debate; there is another way of viewing this. In current times, especially in recent years, there has been a lot of emphasis on taking the whole issue of God choosing here to do more with the status of Israel in history rather than with the eternal destiny of individuals. In other words, when God decides to choose Isaac rather than Ismael, is that text talking about God chooses to save Isaac and dam Ismael or is it simply saying that God chose to carry out his promise through Isaac? Or when you come down to Pharaoh, does the text say that God condemned Pharaoh to hell or does it simply indicate that God used Pharaoh in a negative way to accomplish his purposes in rescuing Israel and magnifying his name? This has become a very popular way of coming up with an interpretation about salvation history that would fit an Armenian in a way of thinking about election in a general way. I don’t really have anything to add to this in terms of more Calvinist reading of this particular argument.