in Catechesis

Romans 9:1–15 God’s gracious choice

The following is the twenty-second week’s lesson. Paul returns to the issue he began speaking about in chapter 3:1–8: What about the Jews? If Paul was right, namely, that a Gentile could enjoy true circumcision of the heart, then what about the Jews who had outward circumcision but no faith? Had God failed? In chapter 3, Paul quickly put down Jewish arguments against his teaching and simply affirmed that God was faithful.

However, Paul concluded chapter 8 by saying that God elected us to come to faith and nothing can undermine that election. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. So again, what about the Jews? Weren’t they God’s chosen people? Is their lack of faith proof that they have experienced what Paul said was impossible and have been cut off from God’s grace? In the next three chapters, Paul will deal with this question, and in the process, he will unfold a marvelous plan of salvation that reaches Jews and Gentiles alike.

Romans 9:1-15 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.

But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.”That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.”

10 And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac 11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), 12 it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”

14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.”

God gave the Israelites all they needed to remain faithful to him. And he did not fail. God’s elect among the Jews do come to faith. This seems to suggest a certain unfairness on God’s part, but Paul says that God, who shows compassion, is not unfair.