Romans 9:1–13 (NKJV)
1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.Romans 9:1-5
Paul expresses his wish that he could die in the place of all his Jewish brethren. The Israelites were chosen by God and received the covenants and law of God, and great promises throughout their history. The fathers of the faith, even the fathers of Christianity, were of the Israelites, and the lineage of Christ Himself came through the Jews. Yet they are in peril without faith in Christ. For this Paul grieves and has tremendous sorrow.
6 But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” 8 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. 9 For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.”Romans 9:6-13
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.”
Paul moves to a rationale that uses the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to demonstrate that physical Israel had language and thought processes that demonstrate that not all of Israel is considered part of God’s people and others besides Israel qualify as God’s people. It is not just the “seed of Abraham” that are children of God, for God promised that in Isaac Abraham’s seed would be called. Therefore, Ishmael is not part of that lineage. This means that they would come to God through Abraham’s seed, but not necessary be His seed physically. It is not the children of the flesh only that will be the seed, but the children of promise. Just like God gave Abraham a son by promise, He will have other sons because of the promises of God. Therefore, physical lineage alone does not guarantee or deny the ability to be a child of God. Nor do typical rights, such as the firstborn, guarantee position or status, as God showed when Jacob became superior to Esau in the line of Abraham, even though he was the younger.
It is said that the ground at the foot of Calvary is level. Anyone can be saved by grace through faith. We can share in the general promises of God to the Israelites of grace and salvation and covenant with God. While the covenant of law is no longer the covenant of force, the covenant of grace is strong and active. We have an opportunity to be not necessarily sons of Abraham, but rather to be equally sons of God with all who believe. Please enjoy the video below of both Jews and Christians praying at the Western Wall. This, in my mind, demonstrates in just a small way how we all come to God by grace through faith, whether Jew or Gentile.
Artwork from http://cbcbellevue.com/previous-sermons and Dr. Greg Sloop private collection.