Can we count on God to keep His promises? Listen to this lesson to learn how the Apostle Paul wrestles with this question concerning God's promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Find out what it means to be Jewish and how those long lists of generations in the Bible are not there to put us to sleep. Watch out for "wolves in sheep's clothing" who say they are our spiritual teachers but don't stick to Bible texts.
Election: Jacob and Esau
Before we get started I had a nice e-mail that came in the other day. I get these every now and then but I particularly appreciated this one. It's from a man up in Missouri. It says, "Pastor Dean, I don't know if you get e-mails like this one but I want to thank you for your devotion to the Word of God for equipping God's people. I hope you do get these e-mails but I know that you may not. I wanted to send this to encourage you in the work of your ministry that God has given you for your life's work. It appears to me here in St. Joseph, Missouri that a famine of the word is sweeping over the planet and is growing more pronounced with every year that passes. Your internet ministry with its videos, audios, and transcripts are like an oasis for the teacher of God's Word in a church desert stripped bare by the spirit of this age. I also want to acknowledge Barb Appel for all her help."
As a side note here, Barb has done a lot to help this man and get videos and other things but there's a whole team. I'm not reading this to pat myself on back. Barb does a tremendous job. She really does. Connie does a tremendous job. There are a number of other people who work behind the scenes, doing transcripts, working on the internet web site including the new one coming out any month now. It's going to have a lot of features the other one didn't have, a lot of ability to pull together transcripts and recordings, based upon topics you want to study, and a topic and verse index so you can just type in the verse you're interested in and pull up where I taught that. So a lot of people are doing a lot of things. I do the teaching but it wouldn't get out if it weren't for a host of people who do the many, many other things. They are often unsung and they need to all be recognized at times for all the time they're give in volunteering to help out with ministry.
Now back to the e-mail, "God is magnifying the teaching ministry he has given you to equip his people to change lives and the spiritual growth of believers. Your teaching has serious implications for the life of the believer, both here in time and for the believer's inheritance at the Bema seat. Along with the Apostle Paul, you will also say, 'For I am already being poured out as a drink offering and the time of my departure has come. I have fought a good fight. I have finished the course. I have kept the faith. In the future there is laid up for me the crown resulting from righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me at that day. And not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. You feed the flock which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint but willingly, not for filthy lucre but of a ready mind, neither as being lords over God's heritage but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear you shall receive a crown of glory that fades not away. Thank you."
I appreciate getting e-mails like that. It's a great encouragement and it's good that every now and then someone expresses that.
We're going to get into an interesting section today, Romans 9:6-13. Here the Apostle Paul is addressing an issue that is often taken to be personal salvation as a result of God's specific, individual election of some to salvation and some to perdition, which is otherwise known as double predestination. But before I begin I want to go over a few things to give us a little bit of context for the book of Romans.
The last few weeks we've focused on Romans 9:5 dealing with the great statement about the deity of Christ. Let's just go back and see our organization of the book of Romans. Under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote this epistle. So it is from his personality, his background, his knowledge, but it is God the Holy Spirit who is overseeing and superintending what he is writing so that without overriding Paul's personal style or his background or personality, the Holy Spirit makes sure that what he writes is without error. So he writes the epistle to the Romans as a vindication and explanation for the righteousness of God and how God treats sinful human beings by providing a redemption that is based on grace through faith alone in Christ alone.
The key verse in Romans is often cited as Romans 1:16 where Paul says, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." Then he goes on in the next verse to say, "For in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith…" The first faith is faith at salvation, I believe, and the second faith is the on-going faith-rest drill in terms of the spiritual life. So the righteousness of God is a critical phrase in understanding this book. That phrase "the righteousness of God" is somewhat under debate today. I want to address that in terms of that overview as we get ready to focus down on Romans 9:6 and also because it's going to come up a lot, especially at the beginning of the next chapter.
In Romans 1:18- 5:21, Paul is relating Israel to the righteousness of God in justification. What he says about the righteousness and justification applies to all, Jew and Gentile alike. He's not simply just zeroing in on Jews. He's talking about both Gentiles and Jews but as he is dealing with this he's focusing on how the righteousness of God relates to Israel in terms of justification. And by righteousness of God we must continue to understand that this is talking about God's intrinsic character, His ethical purity and His rightness. And He is right, not because He conforms to some external standard of rightness. He is righteousness because He is the barometer. He is the ultimate measuring stick. He is the ultimate standard by which right and wrong are evaluating. So in 1:18 through 5:21 the focus is on God's righteousness and how He justifies human beings by faith alone in Christ alone.
Then we saw in 6:1-8:17 how Paul relates Israel to God in sanctification. He talks about the believer but he deals with the Law and he deals with how the Law did not truly sanctify. The Law was good. It was from God but it did not provide for sanctification. Then in 8:18-39 Paul will relate Israel to the righteousness of God and glorification but as he concludes at the end of Romans 8:38-39, Paul says, "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Someone who's Jewish, ethnic Jewish, in his audience, Christian or not, might raise his hand and say, "Well, wait a minute. God seems to be setting aside Israel right now in favor of this new thing, the Church. Doesn't that indicate that God is no longer going to be faithful to his promises?" So now what Paul is going to do is relate Israel's place in God's plan to His righteousness and His vindication.
What's we're going to see is that God's faithfulness is God's outworking of his character. His righteousness is not identical to His faithfulness. The reason I say that and I've pointed it out a few times because it's a part of my responsibility as a pastor to warn you about certain things going on today. In Acts 20:28 Paul is on his way to Jerusalem at the end of his third missionary journey and he stops in Miletus. He has a meeting with the leaders in the church in Ephesus, the pastors in the area, and he says to them, "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood."
Three terms are used in this chapter for the leaders in the churches: elders, overseers, and shepherds. Overseers has to do with being in a position of authority and administration, elders is one word that is used to describe the role of pastors emphasizing their spiritual maturity, and then shepherds means pastoring the church of God. Paul is saying that the Holy Spirit has made you overseers to shepherd or to guard or to lead the flock. In verse 29 Paul says, "I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears."
So one of the roles of a pastor is not only to instruct but also to warn and to inform in terms of this kind of a warning. Now I've mentioned this a few times in the past. There's a growing influential theologian in England. He's an Anglican and used to be the bishop of Durham. Now he's teaching theology. His name is N.T. Wright. Most people call him Tom but since we have our own dearly beloved Tom Wright we don't want to confuse anyone by thinking I'm calling Tom a heretic. I'll just refer to this man as N.T. Wright.
N.T. Wright is often N.T. wrong so we're going to see that. It's interesting how in the providence of God things come together. As most of you know on Friday mornings I have a group of pastors and we've gotten together off and on, mostly on, for the last 5 or 6 years. We've done Bible study methods together. We've studied Greek together. We've studied through various theological issues together. It's a very good time of fellowship. Mike Brennan of Brenham comes in, Orlando comes. There's usually two or three others from around here. Others get on line. We've now got a much more sophisticated program to use and we have pastors from Tucson and Preston City who get online. With this better program we have, we've had more participation. We've had as many as ten online during the summer.
Tomorrow I think we're going to have even more because of the topic. We've been studying a book written by Joseph Dillow. Some of you are familiar with an earlier work of his called Reign of the Servant Kings. That earlier work was very good in many areas. There were some areas I didn't agree with, some areas I was critical of because I don't think Dillow is as consistent in his dispensational hermeneutics as he should be. That shows up even more in his latest books. I say that because there are a lot of pastors and young men who want to be pastors who listen to me and Servants of the Reigning Kings is part of my reading list. It's still the best overall theology of the free grace gospel. Lots of tremendous information there but we always have to learn as we will in our Bible study methods class that we have to read anyone with discernment. Even Lewis Sperry Chafer! Even Robby Dean! I know I taught things ten, twenty years ago that I'm sure I don't agree with any more. In fact, I know there's some things I don't agree with any more because there's such a thing as growth and maturity that takes place on the part of a pastor. Any pastor who ten years later believes exactly the same thing that he taught before isn't growing. Or he's not honest. One or the other. So I have a reading list for guys to read and others who can get it off the internet. Dillow's book is there. It's very good the way he handles many problem passages. A lot of his work in Hebrews is very, very good. Some of his work in the Old Testament and on inheritance and rewards is just excellent. He is a good, critical thinker but he has some flaws.
I think that in this new book he's got out which is a revision and an expansion of the original Reign of the Servant Kings has some real holes in it. It's added to the original. It's not just added. It's expanded. Some of his views have modified and changed especially in a chapter that he calls, "Messianic Salvation" where he begins to deal with Romans 9, 10, and 11. ("Oh," you're saying, "Now we know what this is all about.") As he got into that he is going through his explanation of this section. He covers it in about three or four chapters but in the beginning he starts to deal with the term, the righteousness of God. As I'm reading through the fourth or fifth page last Friday morning—and I'd had a busy week. I'd had out-of-town guests and I really hadn't had a chance to do this extra reading—I started a paragraph where he says that regarding the term righteousness of God and he's basically following the teaching of N.T. Wright.
Now Wright has a lot of problems. First of all he's not dispensational, second, he's Anglican, third, he does not hold to a distinction between Israel and the Church, fourth, he has a distorted view of Judaism in the 1st century which causes him to want to redefine and reinterpret the entire book of Romans. Now a lot of time we look at people like this and we go "pish tosh". We don't want to pay any attention to them. We don't want to listen to them. But we have one doctrinal pastor up in the northeast who about eight or ten years ago started reading N.T. Wright. He came completely under his sway and the whole church shifted over a period of four or five years. Now they hold to preterism which is the view that all prophecy was actually fulfilled before 70 A.D. and they no longer hold to any form of dispensationalism. They've gone into various other aspects of N.T. Wright's views on justification which are somewhat erroneous if not heretical.
One of the young men trained by that pastor became pastor of a doctrinal congregation in Corpus. We have members in this congregation, one of whom is sitting here tonight and has relatives who are in one of the other of those congregations. We have several people who know people who are in those congregations as well as some others. So the camel's nose is way under our tent. It may not be something scratching an itch you have but it is scratching an itch we all have. It is affecting us whether we recognize it or not. We need to be doctrinally perceptive. A lot of people just aren't. They're just too busy studying the truth, focusing on the spiritual life, and not hearing about the spasms that are going on in the broader stream of Christianity. But this is definitely one of them. So we have to understand them.
What N.T. Wright basically says is that the term righteousness for God is just a code word for God's covenant faithfulness. Every time you read the righteousness of God what you ought to read is God's faithfulness to the Abrahamic covenant. In reality, the righteousness of God is a term that refers first to God's intrinsic character, who God is. God's faithfulness, His actions, are a result of His character. What N.T. Wright and others are doing they're trying to redefine a lot of things. They're called the New Perspectives on Paul. They started back in the 80's. It's gained in momentum. They're very influential.
I've heard N.T. Wright. Some of you remember that about two years ago I went to an ETS, Evangelical Theological Society, meeting in Atlanta simply because the focus was on justification and the righteousness of God and N.T. Wright was one of the speakers. I like to go hear people and read what they have to say. This guy is brilliant but he's hard to follow. He has a wonderful deep voice with a rich, melodious British accent. Americans think that anyone who speaks with a British accent must be telling the truth. He is brilliant and he is a product of that incredible British educational system. This guy can quote from church fathers, all the rabbis, in the original languages off the top of his head. His education is fantastic. He forgot more about theological studies by the time he was twenty than most of our pastors ever learned. That's a tragedy.
Back in the day before World War II, it was important for pastors to be well educated. In my first church down in LaMarque, Texas was a man, their former pastor, who had been there from 1933 to 1973. He sat in the third row back, almost where Jim is sitting tonight. Harry Burch was his name and he was about 83 or 84 years old. He had gone to Moody Bible Church and Austin Theological Seminary and he was ordained by the Southern Presbyterian denomination in the early 30s and his pre-ordination exams were incredible. He had to read and translate before the ordination committee a passage they would choose, one in Greek and one in Hebrew. He had to pass written theological exams. He had to demonstrate that he truly understood the Scriptures and that he wasn't just depending on what others said but that he could open up the Word and at least read the original languages. Well we have people today who think they can get that kind of education by getting on the internet. There's some things you can learn that way: survey courses, church history, things of that nature. But I don't understand how you can truly learn most subjects.
Some things are changing a little bit with "Go To Meeting", a software program, which has some real potential for people who are spread out. It's in real time. There's no lag in the audio and the video and so it's almost like everybody is right there in the same room. That's a real improvement. But language study and exegesis needs that interaction. After class the students in seminaries go to the campus coffee shop and they argue among them about the different points the professor just made. It helps sharpen their thinking. It helps them to understand what was lectured on better. They get a chance to truly dig into what they've learned and not just repeat it on an exam. Theological education is a training in how to read and how to think.
You can't really learn how to read and how to think sitting at your desk and looking on the internet without someone telling you, "You read that wrong. It's an "F"! Why didn't you say this? Why didn't you say that?" Someone is dripping red ink all over your papers and telling you that "You may love these ideas but you are in love with an adulterous woman. These ideas are all wrong." It's amazing how many people think that going to seminary or Bible college is like going to Sunday school. The first day when you were a student at Dallas Seminary you suddenly realized there's a whole level of studying the Scripture that you never dreamed about. So there has to be this kind of teaching and training.
Monday night we had a conference call with the Board of Chafer Seminary. We were using this "Go To Meeting" technology. I just mentioned to them that we were using this on the Friday morning meeting. I also mentioned that we were reading Dillow's book. That got Charlie Clough and Mark Musser and Clay Ward really interested. David Roseland found out later. So we're going to have even more guys this week. It was an interesting observation and I'm not saying this to run down the guys who don't have a full seminary training. I'm challenging whoever is listening out there that you've got to go for the gold, the platinum, and not just to get by.
What's interesting is that we've had ongoing e-mail interchanges about the problem of N.T.Wright's theology. Not all the seminary-trained guys have stepped in because a lot of them don't know enough about him to say anything but I have noticed that only the seminary-trained guys are capable of doing the kind of work to critically evaluate N.T.Wright.
These are generalizations. One of the greatest critical thinkers I know is Jim Myers. Jim didn't go to seminary. He did go to Moody Bible Institute. He didn't learn critical thinking skills there. I don't know where he learned them but that's one of the things I love about going over to Kiev every year, the times we have together to really sharpen one another. Anyhow, we have to learn these things.
I have to protect you so we're just going to kind of set this up real quick before we get into our study of Romans. In the last part of Romans, chapters12:1 through 16:27, Paul relates Israel to the righteousness of God and its practical application. Now in this outline I'm not giving you everything related to what Paul's saying. I'm simply pointing out that in each section Paul relates the righteousness of God to Israel. In justification, in sanctification, in the glorification of God, and the vindication of God's righteousness with reference to His plan and purposes for Israel since it appears that Israel is being set aside for the Gentiles, this new thing called the Church.
Now one last thing I want to point out about N.T. Wright before we move on is a paper. David Roseland knew about this, pulled it up, and sent it out this afternoon. The paper is by Dan Wallace. I don't always agree with a lot of things Dan has to say. Dan was a classmate of mine. He's gone on to stellar intellectual recognition as a textual critic and has done some good things there. His organization has discovered a lot of manuscripts in the old eastern Roman Empire that had been sitting hidden away for years. In fact, you can't say anything about it, because of publishing contracts but he has a book that is going to be coming out, going to be published by T & T Clark which is a well-known Scottish imprint where he is going to be describing the fact that they have recently discovered, with all the evidence to support it, a fragment of the gospel of Mark that dates to the 1st century. That's fabulous. That's just incredible. So Dan's done some good things.
I don't agree with some things he teaches. He's a progressive dispensationlist. He trends a little bit too much to lordship salvation but when he deals with N.T. Wright his conclusions were pretty good. In his conclusion he says something we should be aware of, "What Wright has done is to pick up on a minor theme that is necessary for Paul's argument that all people are sinners and in need of salvation." See what Wallace is saying is that the main point in Romans is that everybody's a sinner and in need of salvation but the righteousness of God is not the main point, it's a sub-point to prove that. Wright has turned that minor theme into the theme of Romans.
"His [N.T. Wright's] language is strong, even full of hubris at points. [I do think righteousness of God is a major theme but Wright has misdefined it saying it's God's covenant relation with Israel.]" This pounding of the pulpit [by Wright] does not alleviate the problem that his vision of Paul's doctrine of justification, as attractive and coherent as it is, does not adequately deal with the text." Now that's just a great insight. That critique can be made of a lot of pastors I know. They have great theological systems but they don't adequately deal with the text. We have to be text-based in whatever we say.
Wallace goes on to say, "Coherent arguments are made all the time about this or that aspect of the Bible's teaching." That's a brilliant observation. A lot of people think that something makes so much sense that the speaker must be right. No, just because someone's argument is coherent and seems logically consistent doesn't mean it comes from the text. Wallace says, "Coherent arguments are made all the time about this or that aspect of the Bible's teaching but when they don't match with the text they must be rejected. I would view Wright's synthesis of Romans as a brilliant failure. Brilliant because of how coherent it is but a failure because it sits three feet above the text at all points." I can't tell you how many people on their theologies do that. They sound so good but they're about two or three feet off the text. They're not dealing with what the Scripture says. We're going to see that a little bit tonight in our study on election and Jacob and Esau.
"It's a failure because it sits three feet above the text and at all points where it would be inconvenient to wrestle with what the text actually says. In this respect, Wright's views simply cannot handle the inconvenient truth, to borrow a phrase from Al Gore..." See Wright and his New Perspectives on Paul people come along and say that Christians have misunderstood Paul's critique of the Jews. It wasn't that they were trying to earn their way to heaven. It's that they didn't quite understand that the ritual had ended. As far as N.T. Wright and the others are concerned the moral ethical observance of the Law for Jews is adequate for salvation. He redefines the works of the Law, redefines the righteousness of God, and there are just hundreds of thousands of people who follow him. This guy is just really developing a cult following. We see that the N.T. Wright's camel nose has gotten even under our tent.
Okay, let's look at the immediate context in Romans 9:1-5. "I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and incessant grief in my heart for I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises whose are the fathers and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all. God blessed forever." I reordered the phrases there to "Christ came, the eternally blessed God, who is over all. Amen." An extremely strong affirmation of the deity of Christ.
Now a couple of things to note. When Paul starts to talk about the Jews here in 9:3, "I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren"—Pop quiz time everybody—Is that a singular or a plural noun? Brethren is plural. My countrymen is singular or plural? Plural. According to the flesh who are Israelites. Is Israelites singular or plural? Plural. I'm making that point because Paul is emphasizing the Israelites, the Jews, as a corporate entity. This is difficult for some people from a democratic-oriented culture to understand the emphasis on the body of Christ or the corporate nature of the body of Israel. It's an emphasis on both Israelites as individuals and individual salvation or justification, as well as the salvation and deliverance of the nation as an entity.
Now when we talk about the deliverance or salvation of the nation, we're not talking about going to heaven. We're talking about the nation finally conforming to God's plan and purposes by the nation by accepting Christ as Savior. Now when Jesus came in the first Advent, and let's think this through a little bit. This is going to be foundational to understanding the next two chapters. When Jesus came, there was an announcement to repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. That was the message of John the Baptist, the message of Jesus, and the message of his disciples. Many individuals responded to that.
We're told in the gospels that people came from all over the country to go down to hear John preach and many thousands were baptized, which was an indication they believed in John's message. Many thousands believed in Jesus as the Messiah. However, the leadership who are the corporate representatives of the nation rejected Jesus as Messiah. Because of that corporate rejection by the leadership of the nation, the nation was viewed as an entity as having rejected Him as Messiah. There were tens of thousands of Jews who were saved individually but the nation was destroyed and went out under discipline in A.D. 70.
Flip it to the end times. In the end times you're going to have tens of thousands of Jews living in Israel who believe in Jesus as the Messiah and who respond to his warning in Matthew 24 that "when you see these signs occur, flee to the mountains immediately." Don't go back home, don't pack a bag, just leave immediately and go to the mountains and hide and God will protect you. So half way through the Tribulation when they see the Abomination of Desolation, when the Antichrist sets up his idol to be worshipped in the Temple, and declares himself to be God, then these people are going to say, "This is what Jesus was talking about. I'm going to do what Jesus said. I'm going to leave."
Unsaved Jews aren't going to do what Jesus said, they're not going to know what Jesus said. So the Jews who are believers are already individually justified and they are going to hit the road and head to the hills. After this group leaves and go to hide themselves in an area across the Dead Sea and into the southwestern part of Jordan today, near probably Petra, Basra as indicated by the prophets, there, as an entity, as a corporate group they will call upon the Lord to save them.
This is where we're going to end up at the end of Romans 11 and in this manner all Israel will be saved or delivered. It's not talking about justification there. It's talking about that corporate deliverance when Israel as a nation finally turns as a whole and says, "Jesus, come and save us." Then the Lord returns right before the Battle of Armageddon and delivers them and they will go into the end of the Tribulation period. So this is the difference between corporate and individual salvation.
Paul's talking about the corporate group here. He's not talking about the individual. The reason I say this is because when we get to this next little section, starting in Romans 9:6 and it talks about the fact that it's not talking about personal or individual justification when it gets to "Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated." Jacob and Esau in context represent the nations that came from them. It's corporate entities that we're talking about here. This passage has nothing to do with individual justification. It has to do with God's choice in selecting certain people groups for certain destinies in history, not their eternal destiny.
So when we get into Romans 9:6, we read, "But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who descended from Israel, nor are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants." We can diagram it this way. There is one large group, Israel, which is made up of everyone who is an ethnic descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That's what makes someone Jewish as compared to someone who is not. If you are a descendant of Abraham, like Ishmael, but are not in the line of the seed, or like Esau who was not in the line of the seed, you're still a descendant of Abraham. That doesn't make you Jewish. The Jewish line ran from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
That's what makes you Jewish, not one of the descendants of Ishmael or of Abraham's second wife, Keturah who had other sons. It's not those descendants. It's only the line through Isaac Now when the text says that it's not as though the word of God has no effect, that word there in my New King James is not capitalized. It's not talking about the bible. It's talking about the promise of God to Abraham. "In you, my seed will be named." That's the promise of God. The line of the seed is going to come through Abraham.
Remember back in Genesis 3:15 God told the serpent that the serpent will be at enmity with the seed of the woman. Now the seed of the woman is a really strange term because the Greek word for seed is sperm. That's associated with the male, not women, but the seed of the woman is emphasizing a male descendant from the woman, from Eve. In some of the older pre-Christian Jewish interpretations there seems to be an indication that there was something special about a particular woman and that's why in Isaiah 7:14 the prophecy is "Behold the virgin…" There's an assumption there that it's a particular woman.
So you have this seed terminology that goes through Genesis that those genealogies are not there to put you to sleep at night or back to sleep in the morning when you're trying to read your Bible. They're there to trace the lineage of the Messiah all the way back. So you have the seed of the woman going through the third son of Adam and Eve, Seth, and going down to Noah, and through Shem and down through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and then through Jacob's son, Judah, all the way down through Jesse and David, all the way down eventually to Jesus. You can trace that whole lineage of Jesus through these genealogies, all the way down to Matthew, chapter one. So the promise of God is what they are referring to here and there's some Jews at the time Paul writes who have doubts about this. Has God breached his promises? Has he broken His word to us? And so Paul is saying no he's hasn't broken His word just because there is defection among ethnic Jews to the truth. Not all ethnic Israel is true Israel. True Israel are those who are not only ethnic Jews but also regenerate Jews. They have to be regenerate.
That's the whole point Jesus is making to Nicodemus in John, chapter 3 that unless a person is born again they cannot see the kingdom of God. Jesus is emphasizing the importance of personal regeneration that comes when a person believes that Jesus died on the cross for their sin. It's not a result of their performing certain moral, ethical acts in life, which is what the Jews, the Pharisees thought. They believed if you lived a good enough life and followed the rituals, the Mosaic Law, and the traditions then you would be good enough to see the Messianic kingdom. So Paul is saying that not all Israel is Israel and that means that there's only a true regenerate group that is referred to sometimes as the remnant.
Paul says it's not that the word of God has taken no effect. Notice in English there's a double negative there that cancels each other out. He's saying it that way for emphasis so it gets our attention because it's unusual to see a double negative. The word of God has taken effect. That's his emphasis. It has taken effect because it has had a powerful impact. He goes on to say in verse 7, "Nor are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants [the seed of Abraham which I mentioned a minute ago]." Ismael and Esau are from the line of Abraham but they're not from the line of the seed. The sons of Keturah are not from the line of the seed. It's the line of the seed which is important and this goes from Isaac on down through Jacob.
He continues, "But through Isaac your descendants will be named." God made a choice when he selected Abraham. He's not selecting Abraham to be justified. Genesis 15:6 says that Abraham was justified by faith, so God isn't selecting Abraham to be justified. He's selecting Abraham among other believers at that time. Probably Job lived at the same time, certainly Melchisedec was a believer who lived at the same time as Abraham and so there were other believers at the same time. God is choosing Abraham for a special purpose in human history. God is going to work in and through Abraham and his descendants to reveal Himself to the human race and to give them the privilege and custodianship of Scripture to record and preserve what God inspires the prophets to write so that that is preserved. Ultimately the seed is fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ.
So in Romans 9:8 Paul says "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." Physically ethnic Israelites are not the children of God. There's a pernicious doctrine that came out of 19th century Protestant liberalism that we're all children of God. It's called the universal fatherhood of God. Let's just all hold hands and sing "kum ba ya and go home. That's the idea. It's out of pure liberalism that we're all just God's children. We are all, as I pointed out in Acts 17 the other night, only children of God in one narrow sense. And that's that we're all the image of God; we're all created in the image of God, and we are all created by God. "That's it. We're not born spiritually children of God. We're born spiritually dead.
Jesus told the Pharisees in John 8 that they were of their father, the Devil, not regenerate. So among the Jews and Gentiles there are two groups; those who are children of the flesh ethnically but that doesn't mean they are spiritually descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Verse 8 goes on to say, "But the children of the promise are regarded as descendants." That's those who believe the Messianic promise in the Old Testament, these are counted as the seed, the descendants of Abraham. There's a whole important discussion of the meaning of the seed but I'm just going to leave it basic here that it's a collective noun and in many cases it refers to the whole of the group of the descendants of Abraham but in some places it's very clear it's a singular idea and that's because of certain pronouns and other terms that are associated with it.
Now he defines the promise in verse 9, "For this is the word of promise [the word of God in verse 6]." This is taken from Genesis 18:10 and 14 where God told them "at this time I will come and Sarah will have a son." He says nothing about Ishmael's salvation or the lack of it in these passages. I want you to keep your place here by sticking something here and turn back to Genesis 18. We're going to go back and forth a little bit tonight and we see here how God promised with specificity the coming of the seed. Now back in Genesis 12 God gives a preview of coming attractions, just like a good movie where you go in and before the main movie, you get a preview of some other movies. In this case you're getting a preview of the coming story, a little teaser.
In Genesis 12:1-3 we have a summary of the covenant God is going to make with Abram. He tells him to get out of his country and from his relatives and go to the land which He will show him. He says in verse 2, "I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, and so you shall be a blessing." So blessing is another part of this covenant and also the idea of seed, although the term is not mentioned here the idea is present in the phrase, a great nation. At this point Abram and Sarai are childless. So we see all three elements of the covenant there: land, seed, and blessing.
This gets expanded in Genesis 15 when God actually makes a covenant with Abraham and gives him specific promises related to his descendants and what will happen in the future. So God tells him in 15:9 to bring a sacrifice and he brings it and cut all the animals into pieces and laid them out for a sacrifice. Abraham is protecting the animals because vultures want to come and eat the dead flesh so he's driving them away. This went on most of the afternoon and he was so tired he had to take a nap. God caused a deep sleep to come upon him and while Abraham is asleep, God alone passed between the parts of the sacrifice. That shows that God alone is binding Himself to the terms of this contract. Abraham didn't have a clue. He's taking a nap. God promised things to Abraham following that and that's the actual cutting of the contract.
Then in chapter 17 there's a sign given related to the covenant and that is circumcision and then in chapter 18 God has come to the terebinth trees at Mamre down near Hebron and there He tells them more specifics They've been waiting about twenty years at this point for the coming of this promised child. In verse 10 God says, "I will surely return to you at this time next years, and behold, Sarah, your wife will have a son." Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing and it says Sarah laughed within herself which is a form of the word tsacjaq which is why the child is named Isaac and she scoffs at God saying this. They didn't believe it could really happen.
God's response is to ask why Sarah laughed. Verse 14, "Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you at this time next year and Sarah will have a son." God specified that son would be born and the son will be called Isaac. Verse 10 of Romans 9 says, "And Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac, for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls."
Now Rebekah is the wife of Isaac. So Sarah gives birth to Isaac. Isaac grows up. It's time for Isaac to get married so Abraham sent his servant, Eleazer, to go back to the relatives in Haran to find someone who was a God-worshipper who would be worthy of Isaac. So he found Rebekah. Rebekah is like her mother-in-law, Sarah, barren for a while. All these matriarchs, Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel all have a period of barrenness. This is to show it's God who is working a miracle to bring forth birth.
I've taught through the doctrine of the barren woman before. There are only six women whose barrenness is made an issue of in the Scriptures and they all have to do with someone being born who is part of God's plan. You have the three matriarchs. You have Hannah, the mother of Samuel. You have Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist. There's something being taught there, that only God can bring forth life where there is death. It's teaching the principle of regeneration and the principle that Israel, especially with the three matriarchs, is a miraculous birth of God. Oh, the other one was the birth of Samson.
The one we're looking at now and we're going to deal with has to do with these two children that Rebekah's going to have. She's pregnant with twins and before they're born, before they've done any good or evil, "that the purpose of God according to choice [election] might stand, not of works but of Him who calls." The argument here is that God has the right to choose whom He will use to serve His purpose. He's not selecting them for justification. He is deciding what the line of the seed will be through whom the Savior will come. It's national.
In fact what we learn in the passage in Genesis 25 is that what God tells Rebekah that there are two nations struggling inside her womb. Even there he's not talking about them as individuals but as the representative of their descendants. Romans 19:12, "It was said to her [Rebekah] that the older shall serve the younger." This was God's plan that Esau would be the older by just a couple of minutes and he will serve the younger, Jacob.
Then verse 13 says, Just as it is written, Jacob I have loved but Esau I hated." Now this passage has been distorted and misunderstood many, many times as if this is a personal selection process and God is deciding who's going to be saved and who's not. These are terms of acceptance and rejection. It's not that God hated Esau. He didn't select Esau for his plan. As we'll see next time when we come back and go through the Old Testament stories, Esau was blessed by God. So was Ishmael. He was richly blessed by God. I believe both Ishmael and Esau were Old Testament believers. But God's plan wasn't for the seed to go through their line. It was to go through the line of Isaac and Jacob so for that reason Ishmael and Esau are said to be rejected. Love and hate here indicate acceptance and rejection for a plan. It's like a coach saying, "Well I've got two good quarterbacks. I'm going to make this one sit on the bench for a while." He's not kicking the second stringer off the team. He's just not the primary quarterback. That's what God is doing here. He's selecting Jacob for a purpose. We'll come back and look at this next time.