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.”
And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (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), it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” (Romans 9:1-13)
I used to have trouble with the text for our devotion today. I used believe and struggle against double predestination. That God chooses some for salvation and He chooses others—from eternity—for damnation. There is nothing you could do about either, and ultimately this makes God out to be unmerciful and two-faced. Two-faced because He says He wants all men to be saved, but He doesn’t really mean “all.” This is a terrifying prospect. But thanks be to God, this is not what Paul is saying.
Paul was called the “Apostle to the Gentiles” by himself clearly, but he admits that Peter was sent for the Jews. But even though He ministered amongst the non-Jew, the Gentile, Paul still had a deep love for his own people. How could he not? He makes a holy oath to prove it, and wishing in some sense that he himself could be “accursed” or “cut off” from faith if it could mean that the entire Jewish nation could be saved. Paul wants his people to be with him in the resurrection to life on the last day, and his wish isn’t just a whim on his part. It’s rooted in the promises of God.
The Jews should’ve been the first to believe. Paul lists the great blessings the Jews had, “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.” They had the Word of God, His covenants, His sacrifices, His forgiveness, and they had the promise of the coming Savior. Christ came from them. He’s the Son of David. He’s Abraham’s Son. He’s the promised seed who would come from Eve. For all intents and purposes they should be saved. But they had rejected Christ, they had rejected the Word, and so they rejected the adoption.
Because it’s not about where you come from. It’s about who believes. John the Baptist said it this way, “Do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.” Paul talks about it it terms of promise. “Those who are children of the flesh, these are not the children of God.” It’s all rooted in the promise of God. God’s promise was to send a son, and Isaac was born from Sarah, who was barren. God’s promise was to work through the younger son, and Jacob was the one who would be called Israel and the father of the 12 tribes, and not Esau. God’s promise was to send His Son, and He would die for sins and sinners. Because the Lord truly hates sin and sinners, He hates death, but out of His great love His Son bears that hatred, He bears the wrath against sin, and sinners, He bears our death. All of it on the tree, and He rises again to bring life and immortality to light.
Paul’s rooted in the promise. What God ordained for salvation, and not just the salvation of the Jews. It was for the salvation of all who believe that Christ Jesus died and then rose again for them. An ancient song called the Te Deum says this of Christ, “When You had overcome the sharpness of death, You opened the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.” He certainly has. It was God’s promise to do so. He worked by way of that promise from Eden, to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, to Mary. His promise is our very salvation. He chooses us, and makes us to be partakers of Christ Jesus. He baptizes us into Him, and He gives us to partake of His body and blood. As Paul says, “Not of works but of Him who calls.” Thanks be to God. INI + AMEN.
Lord, ’Tis Not That I Did Choose Thee (LSB 573)
O God, whose never-failing providence orders all things both in heaven and earth, we humbly implore You to put away from us all hurtful things and to give us those things that are profitable for us; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.