ROMANS 12

We just finished one of my favorite chapters in the Book of Romans, which was chapter 8. Not only did our chapter end the first half of our book, it is also when Paul finishes focusing on how the Gentiles have been fully accepted into the kingdom of God. Now, this doesn’t mean that Paul is finished with this topic as he will mention it some again, but in chapters 9 – 11, Paul will focus on his own Jewish brethren for the most part as he pours his heart out about how they have rebelled against God and have not embraced what God has done for them through Christ.

Mr. Coffman outlines these 3 chapters as follows:

This chapter may be outlined thus:

(1) Paul skillfully introduced the problem of Israel's attitude of rejection toward Christ, affirming his love for his own nation, and showing his appreciation of what God had done through them (Romans 9:1-5).

(2) God's rejection of Israel, due to their rejection of the Messiah, was shown to be consistent with God's promises and his sovereignty (Romans 9:6-24).

(3) The rejection of Israel was specifically foretold by the Jewish prophets (Romans 9:25-29).

(4) Conclusions from this line of reasoning (Romans 9:25-30). (Coffman Commentary, Romans 9, online version).

 

Many consider these 3 chapters as being difficult because Paul is talking about a 1st century problem with the Jewish nation and he approaches his words from that perspective. Also, some like to twist the words in these chapters to teach the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination and election, which I talked about in Romans 8. These chapters are also being used by those who teach the rapture doctrine. For example, they teach that toward the end of the world all Jews will accept Jesus as their Savior based on Romans 11:26.

 

As the Truth for Today Commentary suggests:

 

Some parts of chapters 9 through 11 are not easy to understand. N.T. Wright said, “Romans 9-11 is as full of problems as a hedgehog is [full] of prickles.”2 He added, “Many have given it up as a bad job, leaving Romans as a book with eight chapters of ‘gospel’ at the beginning, four of ‘application’ at the end, and three of puzzle in the middle” 3 (pg. 127; Romans 9).

 

So, I will do my best with these 3 chapters and deal with the misunderstandings that come from them. Let’s begin with the first 5 verses.

 

Romans 9:1 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.

No doubt, many of the rebellious Jews considered Paul as a traitor to Law of Moses especially sense he spent the first 8 chapters of this letter trying to convince Jews that they cannot be justified through the Law of Moses or through their physical circumcision. Paul clearly shows that he is not a traitor and that he deeply loves his fellow Jews.

 

In verse 1, he wants everyone to know that he is not lying. In fact, he is saying that what he is proclaiming is from God. He understood that he was in presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit and would have to answer to them had he been lying. Paul had great sorrow and continual grief in his heart for his fellow Jews because most of them remained blind to the simple truth that Jesus the awaited Messiah, had come and accomplished His work on the earth. Paul understood their stubbornness because it took Jesus appearing to him on the road to Damascus to turn him into a believer, but he knows that it’s possible for them to believe.

 

If there was any doubt in his fellow Jews’ minds, that doubt should have been gone after what he wrote in verse 3 because Paul basically says if it were possible for him to be accursed in place of his unbelieving Jews, he would do it so they could be saved. We know this is not possible as we all must give an account for ourselves (Rom. 14:12; 2 Cor. 5:10). However, it shows how much Paul loved his fellow Jews.

 

Many times, when Paul uses the term brethren, he is referring to Christians, but in our verse, he is talking to his kinsmen, that is the Jewish nation. In the first 8 chapters, Paul referred to his kinsmen as Jews, but in chapters 9 – 11 he often refers to them as Israelites, which had a special meaning to them as they began to be called this after Jacob wrestled with an angel, who was God (Gen. 32:28; Hos. 12:3-4). This term Israelites became known as those who were chosen by God.

 

Paul understood what a blessing it was to be an Israelite. These Jews were not only chosen by God to be His people, they were also entrusted with the oracles of God. Though they had all of this, they couldn’t open their eyes to the truth that could be seen right in front of their eyes.

 

In verses 4 and 5, Paul list 9 blessings his fellow Jews have. I already mentioned the first one, which was calling them Israelites. The second blessing was them being adopted as sons. God could have chosen any nation, but he chose them (Ex. 4:22; Hos. 11:1; Amos 3:2). Third, Paul mentions the glory, which either refers to the glory God bestowed on the Jewish nation when they were chosen, or it could refer to God’s presence among His people. Fourth, is the covenants, which God only made with Israel (Ex. 24:8; 20:1-17; 2 Sam. 23:5; 7:12).

 

Fifth, Paul mentions the giving of the Law. As I mentioned earlier, they were blessed with the written Law from God. No one else had this. Sixth, Paul mentioned the service of God, which gave the Jews the privilege to worship God and to serve in accordance to His Word so they would be pleasing to Him and would be blessed by Him. Seventh, were the promises. The Word of God was full of wonderful promises to the Israelites, and God always kept His promises. Now, some of those promises were contingent on the faithfulness of His people in which they failed many times to keep. Nevertheless, they were blessed with these promises from God. Eighth, they had their fathers, that is the patriarchs such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

 

The greatest blessing they had was the ninth one because through their ancestry would come the Christ. Christ would not only be a blessing to the Israelites, He would be a blessing for everyone. Jesus was both flesh and Deity.  

 

Paul says this about Christ: 5… who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen. Jesus is over all as He stated Himself in:

 

Matthew 28:18 "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

 

The ending of verse 5 is great verse to use to show that Jesus is called God, and there are other verses that do this as well (Mt. 1:23; John 1:1; 8:58-59; 20:27-29; etc). However, to be fair, though most translations put a comma after “who is over all” in verse 5, some claim that a period should go there. If it could be shown that a period belongs, then those last few words would refer to the Father instead. However, as Moo wrote:

 

“The issue is complicated, but both the syntax and context favor the comma. This verse, therefore, deserves to be numbered among those . . . in the New Testament that explicitly call Jesus ‘God’ (Moo, 294).”

 

In our next section, Paul is going to point out how God has the right to choose who true Israel is, and he will demonstrate this through the choices God made in the past.

 

Romans 9:6 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."  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 has established that he is not against his people and he is trying to get them to understand that is was God’s will that they would be saved through Christ and not through Law of Moses or some fleshly connection through Abraham. Just because many of the Jews didn’t believe in Jesus doesn’t mean the Word of God failed, on the contrary, it was these rebellious Jews who had failed to accept the truth.

 

When Paul says, “they are not all Israel who are of Israel” he is showing that not everyone who was decedent of Abraham were children of the promise because Abraham had many children including Ismael who came through Hagar. The promise came through Issac, but that promise was limited through him because the promise included this:

 

Genesis 12:2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing.  3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

 

So, just as God chose to narrow the promise through Isaac, He also chose to not limit his promise to the fleshly decedents through him, but to those who would honor the promise made through Abraham which ultimately pointed to Christ.

 

Galatians 3:7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.  8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, "In you all the nations shall be blessed."  9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.

 

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

 

Paul’s argument is that just because you have some kind of fleshy connection with Abraham doesn’t mean you are part of the true Israel, and even if you can trace your lineage to Isaac, you can only be part of true Israel if you honor the promise that came through Abraham, which is Jesus.

 

Paul uses another example to show God’s right to choose which involves Jacob and Esau. Let’s look at the text again:

 

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."

 

Not only does that show God’s right to choose, it further proves that having a fleshly connection to Isaac is not enough. One could not even argue that God cut off Esau because of something he had done because the choice was made by God before the children were born or had done anything good or evil. Notice what was told to Rebecca:

 

Genesis 25:23 And the LORD said to her: "Two nations are in your womb, Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger."

 

If you read the account of Jacob and Esau, you will never find where Esau served Jacob. So, what does it mean that the older shall serve the younger. We need to remember that two nations would come from these men. So, the statement was not about these two men, but refers to the nations that would come from them. History shows us that the descendants of Esau were the Edomites who did serve under the descendants of Jacob who were the Israelites under King David (2 Sam. 8:14).

 

Back in verse 14, you will notice that it uses the word election. Those who teach Calvinism like to use this to teach that God predestines people to be saved or lost. Since God announced before either boy was born that the older one would serve the younger one, which was the opposite of the norm, but God made it happen this way. They would say Esau had no choice in the matter of becoming a wicked man. However, I have already shown in previous lessons how this principle is not true. We cannot forget that God knows who we are and what we will do before we are born but knowing these things doesn’t make us be born in sin nor is God making us do things we do because we have a free will. So, He can certainly announce which person will become what based on what He knows without forcing anyone to do anything. That is exactly what we have going on with Jacob and Esau.

 

When Paul writes:

 

13 As it is written, "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated."

 

This is a quote from Malachi 1:2-3. It’s not so much a personal statement as it is a national one. However, it true that Esau did many things that not pleasing to God. This idea of love and hate simply means approve or disapprove. God certainly approved of Jacob and blessed him, but he disapproved of Esau and what he did and the nation that came through him certainly paid the price for being opposed to the will of God.

 

Regarding our text, Robin Haley wrote:

 

This "election" or "rejection" was not unto salvation nor damnation of the individuals involved.  God was not choosing persons, but nations to fulfill His purpose.  Thus, God's Word did not fail because He did end up with exactly what He wanted: children of promise, or people who would fulfill the description of those to receive His promise.

 

All of this tells us that God has the right to choose who will be part of the true Israel that will be saved, which of course are those who choose of their own free will to accept Jesus as the Messiah and to obey the gospel.

 

In verse 19-29, Paul is going to bring up possible objections the Jews might bring up against what he said, and he will deal with these objections.

 

Romans 9:14 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."  16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.  17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth."  18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.

 

Since God chose Jacob over Esau and Isaac over all the other children of Abraham, does this mean that God is unrighteous or as some versions say, ‘unjust’? No Jew would claim this because they could understand that God has the right to choose. Not only did God have the right to choose the lineage through whom the Messiah would come, He has the right to choose who can be part of the salvation that He offers because it was not limited to just the Jewish nation. As Peter learned in:

 

Acts 10:34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.  35 "But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.

 

Paul is trying to show the Jews that just as God had the right to choose Isaac and Jacob and reject others, He also has the right to accept other Gentile nations who fear Him and work righteousness or we could say who are obedient to the will of God. Of course, Paul’s answer to his question about whether God was unjust was an emphatic no because he said, “Certainly not!

 

Paul uses Moses as the next example to show that God is the one who is control of who He will give mercy to and who He will not. Verse 15 is a quote from Exodus 33:19 when Moses and the Lord were talking after the golden calf incident. If you will remember, God had mercy on those who were willing to stand by His side, but the rest, around 3000 were killed that day.

As you read through Scripture and the events in which God had mercy on His people, what you will find is that His mercy centers around those who turn from their sins and turn toward Him. However, as Paul points out in verse 16, it doesn’t matter if a person really wants God’s mercy or even runs for it, no one can earn God’s mercy because He gives it to whom He wills.

 

I like what the Gospel Advocate says about verse 16:

 

He illustrates what he means by the case of Jacob and Esau. Isaac willed that Esau should inherit the blessing, and Esau ran with haste to obtain the venison for his father that he might have the blessing; but neither Isaac’s will nor Esau’s running could defeat the purpose of God to bless Jacob. If Esau had possessed the character approved by God, God would have willed to bless him; but as he did not possess the character approved by God, his father’s anxiety for him to have the blessing could not secure it (Romans p.174).

 

Paul also uses the Pharaoh in verse 17 to add to his argument that God shows mercy to whom He wants, and He can use people to bring about His will without violating theirs. The Jews would be very familiar with the story of Pharaoh, and they would have no sympathy for God not showing mercy to Pharaoh because it meant something good for their own people. Just as they had no problem with God’s not showing mercy to Pharaoh, they should also have no problem with God show no mercy to the unbelieving Jew.

 

Those who teach predestination would say that the Pharaoh is a good example of predestination because they would say he had no choice in the mater but to be rebellious since God hardened His heart. However, this is not the complete picture because the Scripture teach 3 different things about the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart.

 

1.      The Scriptures simply state that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened.

Exodus 7:13 And Pharaoh's heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the LORD had said. Exo. 7:22, 8:19, 9:35

2.      The Scriptures teach that Pharaoh hardened his own heart:

Exodus 8:15  But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not heed them, as the LORD had said. Exo. 8:32, 9:34

3.      The Scriptures teach that God hardened the Pharaoh’s heart.

Exodus 4:21 And the LORD said to Moses, "When you go back to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh which I have put in your hand. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. Exo. 7:3, 9:12, 10:1,20,27, 11:10, 14:4,8.

Since the Word of God is true and it does not contradict itself, we can make the following statement, “the Pharaoh hardened his own heart, and God hardened Pharaoh’s heart”.  The question becomes, how did God harden the Pharaoh’s heart, and does God still harden the hearts of people today?

The answer is that God hardens the hearts of people today in the same way He hardened the Pharaoh’s heart long ago, but before I answer the question of how God does this, I want to examine how God doesn’t do this. The false doctrine that teaches God makes some people saved and some people lost means that a person does not have a free will, but we are going to quickly see from the OT and the NT that humans have a free will and God does not violate that free will. See if you can figure out the common theme from the following verses:

Matthew 23:37 " O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!

John 5:39 "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.  40 "But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

John 7:17 "If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.

Revelation 22:17 And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

Did you figure it out? Every one of these verses show that we have a choice in the matter. The rebellious Jews chose to reject Jesus even though He wanted them to come to Him. In our last verse, we see that everyone who thirsts and desires to drink from the water of life can, which means we have a free will.

Let’s notice a few more verses:

Matthew 10:32 " Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.  33 "But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.

James 4:4  Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Again, we have a choice. We have discussed this before, but in order for predestination to be true, God would have to show partiality, which He does not (Acts 10:34; Rom 2:11). In fact, the Scriptures clearly show that God wants everyone to be saved (1 Tim. 2:3-4; 2 Pet. 3:9).

If we have no choice of whether we are saved or lost, then we don’t need the Bible and verses like this following one doesn’t make any sense.

Philippians 2:12  work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 

How could you possible work our your own salvation if it has already been determined if you are going to be lost or saved?

Let’s take a look at who the Bible says will be lost and how that will be determined. 

2 Thessalonians 1:8   in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 5:8 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.  9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,

These are the people that will be lost, which are those who do not know the Lord and those who refuse to obey the gospel. Joshua certainly understood that we have choice of who will obey.

Joshua 24:15  "And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

So, there should be no doubt that God doesn’t harden our hearts by violating our free will, and He didn’t harden the Pharaoh’s heart by violating his free will.

I will now answer the question, how did God harden the Pharaoh’s heart, and how does He harden the hearts of people today?

The answer to our question is found within parable of the four soils.

Mark 4:4 "And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it.

 

This soil is the hard soil on the path where people walk and compact the dirt down. Just as the seed cannot penetrate this hard soil, neither can God’s word penetrate the heart of someone who resists His truth. That is exactly how God harden Pharaoh’s heart and how He hardens the heart of people today. The Pharaoh was presented with God’s command to let His people go or there would be consequences, but the Pharaoh, with his free will, chose to harden his own heart by resisting God’s command. The same thing is true today. When God’s Word is taught to the lost and they choose to resist the truth, God has hardened their hearts because they don’t want to accept God’s will. So, there you have it. God hardens the hearts of people by presenting them with His commands that they don’t want to obey.  

This is what Stephen accused them of just shortly before he was stoned to death by them.

Acts 7:51 " You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.

Some may not realize this, but if Pharaoh had chosen to obey God’s command and didn’t harden his heart, God would still would have been glorified, and God’s name would have been declared to all the earth as the one who was able to cause the mighty Pharaoh to let His people go.

 

Paul will continue to deal with some possible objections that the Jews might have against what he has said, but we will have to examine those in our next lesson. So far, Paul has certainly shown that God has every right to show mercy to whom He wills, and He can also harden the hearts of whom He will using their free will, which He uses to control nations at times. I hope you will join us for us next lesson.