“…the children of the promise…” Romans 9:8b
The tone of Paul’s letter to the church at Rome changed at what is now the codified chapter nine of Romans. Paul had a broken heart for the Jewish nation (vv. 1 – 2). In fact, he would have gladly taken the blame for their hardness of heart (vv. 3; 31 - 32). He listed the following benefits God had bestowed to the Israelites in their long history:
Adopted as God’s children (v.4a);
Witnessed God’s glory in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night (v.4b);
Covenanted with God through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob… and David (v.4c);
Received God’s law through Moses (v.4d);
Experienced glorious worship in the temple (v.4e);
Received God’s promises of rescue and redemption (v.4f);
Revered the patriarchs of their faith and nationality (v.5a);
Traced through the patriarchs the human ancestry of Christ (v.5b).
So, what made Paul so sorrowful? The list above seems to give cause for celebrating his heritage and people. Paul skillfully presented both a history and theology lesson in this chapter revealing another aspect of systematic theology: election… not through a voting system, but by God’s divine choosing of people to accomplish His purposes. Paul presented the dynamic of faith working to make those far from God the children of the promise.
Paul began his ‘argument’ with the premise that “…not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.” (v.6) Having Abraham as one’s ancestor doesn’t necessarily make one a child of God’s promises (v.7). Paul noted that it was through Isaac that Abraham’s offspring would be recognized. To us today, this doesn’t seem quite fair, but don’t rush to conclusions, for Paul is building a case that will show the promises of God available to all people through faith. Paul articulated it this way: “In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.” (v.8) The Roman Jewish-Christian was reminded how the covenant was restated, describing how Sarah would have a son (v.9). We know that Abraham also had a son through Sarah’s maidservant, Hagar (Genesis 16), at the age of eighty-six years old, and that God promised Hagar her son would become a great nation as well. However, the seed of redemption would pass through Isaac, Sarah’s son.
Paul described how God’s promise was passed through Isaac’s son, Jacob, which had been prophesied before he and his twin brother were born, even though the twin, Esau, appeared first during delivery. Are we seeing a pattern develop? Can we see how God works His purposes out in ways that are much higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9; Ephesians 3:20-21)? To our eyes it may not seem fair, and Paul had a ready answer which we will ponder tomorrow, Lord willing.
For now, let it be sufficient that when we trust Christ with all our heart, we become the children of the promise!
Have a blessed day…