Grace Bible Church
Robert R. McLaughlin Bible Ministries
The Tree of Life is a weekly teaching summary.
The Tree of Life from the week ending 04/19/09
Individual or national failure will not cancel God's Word.
The golden calf incident reveals the mercy of God in the divine decree.
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 unceasing 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. Amen. (ROM 9:1-5)
Paul’s burden is related to the fact that negative volition has blinded contemporary Jews to their spiritual origin. The first 5 verses are a unit, or paragraph, verse 6 starts a new paragraph. Paul starts out here with a premise that he will then go and prove using the Jewish Bible. It is as if he were presenting an argument to a very skeptical, very proud Jew. After all, you have all these promises in the Jewish Bible that were made to the Jews, to Israel.
The Jews were God’s Chosen People. They had all of the privileges that Paul listed in verses 4 and 5. Those privileges included unconditional covenants - promises to Israel regarding their future: a nation forever, a people of God forever, possessing the Promise Land forever. Now in God’s plan, He ends the age of Israel, and inserts the Church-age. The nation of Israel is no longer the client nation to God. Through Jewish eyes, by calling out the Church, God is not going to keep His word. He is not going to fulfill His promises to the Jews.
But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; (ROM 9:6)
This verse is the key premise, and it is one that Paul will now spend the next 12 verses proving. He will use the debater’s technique to get his points across. He will ask a question, and then answer it. He will anticipate the arguments of his opponent, state them in the form of a question, and shoot down the argument with his answer. So, the promises of the Word of God are valid only to the regenerate of Israel, not the racial Jew. The Word of God has not failed the Jew; the Jew has failed the Word of God by rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ, the Shekinah glory:
What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, “That You may be justified in Your words, And prevail when You are judged.” (ROM 3:3-4)
In Rom 9 you can’t throw away everything you already learned in the first 8 chapters! Please notice that the issue is believing, versus unbelief here at the outset. Notice the context; Paul is writing about contemporary Jews (see ROM 3:1-2). The book of Romans is one big essay, an argument to the Jew and the Gentile (ROM 1:16-17). Romans is an essay on the theology of the Cross and the righteousness of God. The weight of the argument builds from one chapter to the next one. The doctrines learned in chapter 3 are necessary if you are going to master chapter 9.
Back in ROM 9:6 Paul is saying that Israel’s present discipline and the failure of individual Jews does not cancel out God’s promises. The plan of God as revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures will be fulfilled. The failure of any individual, or nation does not cancel anything in the Word of God. God’s purpose will be established. The issue is always the glory of God, not the failure of man. Paul then goes on to give three Old Testament illustrations of this principle:
In verses 7 - 9 we have Isaac and Ishmael
In verses 10 - 13 we have Jacob and Esau
In verses 14-18 we have Pharaoh.
The premise stated in verse 6 will be illustrated by the formation of the Jewish race and nation in verses 7-18. The first two illustrations are still our focus, and they show that God’s choice is not based on the natural but the spiritual. It was Isaac rather than Ishmael, Jacob rather than Esau, who is true Israel.
Neither are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants, but: “through Isaac your descendants will be named.” (ROM 9:7)
From the very outset, God announced that the seed of Abraham to which the promise belonged would come from the line of Isaac, not of Ishmael, even though Ishmael could also called Abraham his father. Then we get the conclusion to which we are forced, the principle behind this example of Isaac:
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. (ROM 9:8)
The Greek word for “are regarded” is “logizomai” and it means to impute, to calculate, to count. It represents a condition which is assumed as perpetually existing. It harkens all the way back to the divine decree, and all the way forward to the Millennial Reign and the eternal state.
For this is a word of promise: “At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.” (ROM 9:9)
The omniscience of God knew that Isaac would believe in Adonai Elohim (the Lord Jesus Christ) and Ishmael would reject Him. God put these facts of history into the computer of the divine decree before time began. The divine decree is behind this entire section of the book of Romans. To be the physical descendant of Abraham is not enough; you must also be a child of the promise. How do you become a child of the promise? Well you cannot ignore chapters 1-8 of Romans as you tackle chapter 9. Here is another great case in point!
For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation. For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, (ROM 4:13-16)
Yet, with respect to the promise of God, he [Abraham] did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. The Jews in the first century should have learned this lesson from their father Abraham but so many did not! Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness. Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification. (Rom4:20-25)
You become a child of the promise one way and one way only: faith alone in Christ alone.
And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; (ROM 9:10)
The issue is not legitimate versus illegitimate birth, or good mother versus bad mother. No human factor is the issue. This is confirmed by the second case history now brought into focus. 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, (ROM 9:11). In eternity past, the omniscience of God knew that the firstborn, Esau, would reject Christ as savior, and fed that information into the computer of divine decree. It was said to her, “the older will serve the younger.” just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Eesau I hated. (ROM 9:12-13)
This statement “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” is actually a quotation from the last book of the Old Testament. It is written about 1,400 years after Jacob died! This is a quotation from MAL 1:2-3.
What shall we say then? there is no injustice with God, is there? may it never be! for he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (ROM 9:14-15)
What is the conclusion of all this?
So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. (ROM 9:16)
It does not depend on man, but on God. We need to look at the mercy of God, and how His mercy relates to His sovereignty, His love and His justice. Let’s start again in this passage, this time at verse 10.
And not only this, but there was 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, it was said to her, “the older will serve the younger.” (ROM 9:10-12)
Here Paul makes his argument more decisive. Our Jewish critic might say, “Ishmael was an illegitimate son, so he had no rights in comparison with Isaac, who was legitimate. We Jews are legitimate descendants of Abraham, so we have a right to the inheritance.” Paul gives his response to this in verses 10-13. In the case of Isaac’s twin sons, there seemed to be very little ground for making any kind of distinction between them. Yet God did! He declared that the elder (Esau) would serve the younger (Jacob). Jacob and Esau had the same father and mother. They were born on the same day. The only basis, humanly speaking, for picking one over the other was birth order. Yet Esau, the elder, was rejected. Jacob, the younger, was made heir of the promises from God. Was this an arbitrary pick by God? Not at all! It was made in freedom, in His sovereignty, but there is more to it.
Here’s the point: Humans - in this case certain Jews in the first century AD - can claim all they want that they have rights before God on the basis of their parents, their birth, or their works. God totally ignores them! Election is not made conditional through descent from physical birth, or the heritage of the racial Jew, or by keeping the Mosaic Law. Election is God’s free exercise of grace toward those who believe in Christ. Man with his sin nature inside alone is incapable of pleasing God. The only standard God uses is the perfect righteousness of His Son, and we all fall short of that in our flesh. Job found that out. So did Isaiah, and David, and Paul. Esau and Jacob were not yet human beings but the omniscience of God had known for billions of years that one would be a believer and the other would be an unbeliever. He knew exactly how the free will of each one would function. The omniscience of God fed facts of reality in history into the computer of divine decree. Jacob was fed into the computer: “believer” He would believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Esau was fed into the computer: “unbeliever” he would reject Christ as savior.
When Jesus Christ was nailed to the Cross, the sins of both Esau and Jacob were imputed to Christ and judged by the justice of the Father. With the same opportunity, one used his free will to believe in Christ; and one used his free will to reject Christ. It was the will of God that both Esau and Jacob be saved. That was the directive will of God. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1TI 2:3-4).
Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (ROM 9:13)
The word for “hate” is miseo, and while it can mean “to hate”, when it is used in contrast to “love” it does retain its original meaning of a literal hatred, but of a lesser degree of love. So this is an anthropopathism. It expresses divine policy in language that we can understand. Jacob the believer was under the policy of the grace pipeline. There was something in Jacob - perfect righteousness - that God loves personally. Esau the unbeliever was under the policy of condemnation.
As mentioned, this statement is found in the book of Malachi. This book is addressed to a nation. This is God’s last warning until the time of Christ. They will get no other warning. The basic concept of Malachi is how to keep a nation from going down. The interpretation of this book deals with the nation Israel. Israel is going to decline. In this first chapter we also have another nation, Edom, a nation which was destroyed never to recover again. This book of Malachi deals with the subject of what causes a nation to rise and fall, and how all of this is related to the plan of God and the Word of God. The point is that Paul is dealing with the formation of the Jewish race and nation in verses 7-18 of chapter 9 in the book of Romans.
Our critic may now claim that God is not just.
What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (ROM 9:14-15)
And what is the conclusion of all this?
So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. (ROM 9:16)
It is does not depend on man but on God. The energy that moves the plan of God forward is the mercy of God, not the striving of men. The Jew must be lead to cut off his reliance on his birth. He must cut off his trust in his works. These cannot be the basis of his claim to favor with God. If he is able to separate from his ancestry and his self-righteousness, he would see the truth: that all that he has left is to rely on the mercy of God. He would then realize his need for the Savior. The failure of any individual or the failure of any nation does not in any way cancel anything in the Word of God. God’s purpose will be established. The issue is always the glory of God, not the failure of man. The only issue is this “What think ye of Christ?”
This is all actually sanctified sarcasm on the part of Paul. He is saying to the arrogant and offended Jewish mindset: You think you have a claim against God because of your heritage as an Israeli? The Lord had led Moses up to Mount Sinai to receive the tablets of stone, the Law. Moses would stay up there for 40 days and 40 nights. During that time the Lord would among other things give Moses detailed instructions on how He wanted the Israelites to construct the tabernacle. While Moses is up there on the mountain communing with the Lord, the people of Israel decide it’s a good time to satisfy their flesh. They are tiring of this new and mysterious way of living out there in the desert, and they want to go back to the tried and true way of dealing with anxiety. They convince Aaron collect all this gold from the people and make a golden calf - so they can worship it! In his weakness he complies.
The Lord is making plans with Moses for how the Jews are going to use their gold to construct this replica of the Holy Tabernacle in heaven. Meanwhile, the people are down below messing around with a golden calf, calling it their god. They took all their gold and made that instead. They didn’t last a week on the Law program. The Lord gets alone with Moses again and He actually says something along the lines of: Moses you are My friend, but I have no use for the rest of these Israelites. What if I wipe out the whole 12 tribes, and we start over with just you? See how similar this is to the choice God had before Him when Satan rebelled? He could have wiped out the angelic race and started over. It was the same thing when Adam and the woman sinned. He could have scratched that human race idea and came up with an alternative. But that is not the choice He made.
“I Myself will make all My goodness [the character and nature of God, His attributes] pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” (EXO 33:19)
The glory of God is revealed through the grace of God. Only here the grace of God comes in a complicated package: the doctrine of divine decree. In the divine decree, all the facts of history are entered, including every thought, every decision, and every action. In eternity past God put His grace in motion, and so woven throughout the decree is mercy, His grace in action. In eternity past, God fed into the computer the fact that He has always been gracious. It is going to come out of the computer as the application of this grace to the lives of His imperfect creatures.
For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all. (ROM 11:32)
What is God’s purpose in all of this? To glorify Himself by showing His mercy. God pours out His mercy freely, abundantly, creatively, amazingly, and wonderfully! God will have mercy on whoever He decides to have mercy on. His decision, His directive will is that He wants to have mercy on everyone. God our Savior desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth