1Red Script = Main Point / Blue Script= Directive / Double underline= Important to remember / Boxed= Biblical Text & SDA Commentary Reference / Green Script: A Possible Answer
Lesson 10December 2-8/9Children of the Promise
Memory Text: “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth” (Romans 9:18).
“As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. . . . For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy . . . , and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (Rom. 9:13, 15).
What is Paul talking about here? What about human free will and the freedom to choose, without which very little of what we believe makes sense? Are we not free to choose or reject God? Or are these verses teaching that certain people are elected to be saved and others to be lost, regardless of their own personal choices?
The answer is found, as usual, by looking at the bigger picture of what Paul is saying. Paul is following a line of argument in which he attempts to show God’s right to pick those whom He will use as His “elected” ones. After all, God is the One who carries the ultimate responsibility of evangelizing the world. Therefore, why can He not choose as His agents whomever He wills? So long as God cuts off no one from the opportunity of salvation, such an action on God’s part is not contrary to the principles of free will. Even more important, it’s not contrary to the great truth that Christ died for all humans, and His desire was that everyone have salvation.
As long as we remember that Romans 9 is not dealing with the personal salvation of those it names, but that it is dealing with their call to do a certain work, the chapter presents no difficulties.
SundayDecember 3Paul’s Burden
“And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel” (Exod. 19:6).
God needed a missionary people to evangelize a world steeped in paganism, darkness, and idolatry. He chose the Israelites and revealed Himself to them. He planned that they become a model nation and thus attract others to the true God. It was God’s purpose that by the revelation of His character through Israel the world should be drawn unto Him. Through the teaching of the sacrificial service, Christ was to be uplifted before the nations, and all who would look unto Him should live. As the numbers of Israel increased, as their blessings grew, they were to enlarge their borders until their kingdom should embrace the world.
Read Romans 9:1-12. What point is Paul making here about the faithfulness of God amid human failures?
Romans 9:1-12 (Israel’s Rejection of Christ) 9 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. (Israel’s Rejection and God’s Purpose) 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.”
A Possible Answer: While Paul is sorry, in this passage, that all the Jews who are the seed of Abraham are not the children of promise, the point that Paul is making is that God is able to work with human failures, irrespective to time and circumstances, to still achieve His divine purpose.
Paul is building a line of argument in which he will show that the promise made to Israel had not completely failed. There exists a remnant through whom God still aims to work. To establish the validity of the idea of the remnant, Paul dips back into Israelite history. He shows that God has always been selective: (1) God did not choose all the seed of Abraham to be His covenant, only the line of Isaac. (2) He did not choose all of the descendants of Isaac, only those of Jacob.
It’s important, too, to see that heritage, or ancestry, does not guarantee salvation. You can be of the right blood, the right family, even of the right church, and yet still be lost, still be outside the promise. It is faith, a faith that works by love, that reveals those who are “children of the promise” (Rom. 9:8).
Look at the phrase in Romans 9:6: “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.” What important message can we find there for ourselves, as Adventists, who in many ways play the same roles in our era that the ancient Israelites did in theirs?
6. Not as though. Paul’s point is that his grief for his fellow countrymen must not be understood as meaning the failure of God’s promise to Israel. Word of God. That is, God’s declared will and purpose. Hath taken none effect. Gr. ekpiptō, literally, “to fall out,” hence, “to fail.” Not all Israel. The passage reads literally, “for not all who are of Israel, these are Israel.” Paul’s meaning is that not all who are descended from Israel really belong to Israel in the full spiritual significance of that name. His purpose in making this statement is to explain how the word of God to Israel has not failed. The fulfillment of God’s promise is limited to those who meet the conditions of the covenant relation. For this faithful and obedient remnant the word of God will not fail. Of Israel. This refers to the offspring of Israel according to the flesh, Jacob’s physical descendants. The divine promise was indeed given to Israel, but that did not include everyone who could claim descent from Jacob without any further limitation. Paul has already explained that those who have faith are the true sons of Abraham (Rom. 4; Gal. 3:7–9; cf. Rom. 2:28, 29).
A Possible Answer: The important message for us as Adventist is that we are not to think that because we are baptized and have our names on the church books that God counts us as faithful members of His family. While His word and promises will not fail, their fulfillment is limited to those who meet the conditions of the covenant relation... it is not one’s status or profession of faith.
“It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Rom. 9:12, 13).
As stated in the introduction for this week, it is impossible to understand Romans 9 properly until one recognizes that Paul is not speaking of individual salvation. He is here speaking of particular roles that God was calling upon certain individuals to play. God wanted Jacob to be the progenitor of the people who would be His special evangelizing agency in the world. There is no implication in this passage that Esau could not be saved. God wanted him to be saved as much as He desires all men to be saved.
Read Romans 9:14, 15. How do we understand these words in the context of what we have been reading?
Romans 9:14, 15 (Israel’s Rejection and God’s Justice) 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.” 14. What shall we say then? This introduces the first of two possible objections that a Jew might raise to Paul’s argument. The second is in v. 19. The selection of Israel and the rejection of Ishmael and Esau were examples of God’s choices that a Jew would heartily approve. But Paul has argued that these examples involve a principle that would justify the exclusion of the unbelieving nation of the Jews. To such a conclusion he expects that objection will at once be made. Is there unrighteousness? The Greek construction implies a negative answer. Paul answers this by appealing to an authority that could not be questioned by a Jew. God cannot be charged with being unjust, for in the OT Scriptures God expressly claims for Himself the freedom to deal with men according to His own divine purposes. God forbid. See on ch. 3:4.
15. I will have mercy. The quotation is from Ex. 33:19. The words were spoken to Moses in connection with his request to see God’s glory. The issue is not one of personal salvation, but one of God’s right to show certain favors to whom He will. The fact that God does not reveal to us His glory in the remarkable way He did to Moses is no evidence of injustice. “God is too wise to err, and too good to withhold any good thing from them that walk uprightly” (SC 96; see Ps. 84:11). Whom. Rather, “whomsoever.”... It is not for man to dictate to Him.
A Possible Answer: “Paul is quoting from Ex. 33:19 to emphasize his point that it is for God to decide who are to be the recipients of certain favors.” (Ibid) Hence we are to understand those words in such a manner that supports God’s right to independence of thought and choice.
Again Paul is not speaking of individual salvation, because in that area God extends mercy to all, for He “will have all men to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4). “The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11). But God can choose nations to play roles, and although they can refuse to play those roles, they cannot prevent God’s choice. No matter how hard Esau may have willed it, he could not have become the progenitor of the Messiah nor of the chosen people.
In the end, it was no arbitrary choice on the part of God, not some divine decree, by which Esau was shut out from salvation. The gifts of His grace through Christ are free to all. We’ve all been elected to be saved, not lost (Eph. 1:4, 5; 2 Pet. 1:10). It’s our own choices, not God’s, that keep us from the promise of eternal life in Christ. Jesus died for every human being. Yet, God has set forth in His Word the conditions upon which every soul will be elected to eternal life - faith in Christ, which leads the justified sinner to obedience.
As if no one else even existed, you, yourself, were chosen in Christ even before the foundation of the world, to have salvation. This is your calling, your election, all given to you by God through Jesus. What a privilege, what a hope! All things considered, why does everything else pale in comparison to this great promise? A Possible Answer: Everything else pales in comparison because that promise places us in a position to receive all that heaven affords (happiness, fulfillment, adoption, an immeasurable inheritance, join heir ship and eternal life) irrespective to one’s nationality, heritage, history and performance. Why would it be the greatest of all tragedies to let sin, self, and the flesh take away from you all that’s been promised you in Jesus? A Possible Answer: It would be the greatest of all tragedies because in the light of what Christ has done, there is no need to. To let something so valuable, so close, so highly anticipated, so free and so ‘easy’ to obtain slip out of our reach is unfathomable.
Why? Because... A) That which deprives us of these blessings is far less valuable. B) That which relates to sin, self and the flesh cannot provide for the deeper needs of the human heart. C) The cost of what is loss cannot be compared with inconceivable price that was paid to give us that which is relative inexpensive to receive.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8, 9).
Read Romans 9:17-24. Given what we have read so far, how are we to understand Paul’s point here?
Romans 9:17-24 17 For the Scripture says to the 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. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? 22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? 18 He hardeneth. Gr. sklērunō. The only other NT occurrences of this word are in Acts 19:9; Heb. 3:8, 13, 15; 4:7. In Exodus the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is sometimes described as self-produced (Ex. 8:15, 32; etc.) and sometimes as produced by God (Ex. 4:21; 7:3; etc.). In the Bible God is often represented as doing that which He does not prevent (see on 2 Chron. 18:18). Paul here chooses the latter representation as better suited to his purpose in this context. The hardening of a man’s heart is the result of rebellion against the divine revelation and rejection of the Divine Spirit. Paul has spoken earlier in this epistle of how God turns a man over to the inevitable consequences of his stubborn disobedience (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28). For a discussion of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart see on Ex. 4:21. 21. Power. Gr. exousia, “right,” “authority.”... Paul may be alluding to Jer. 18:6... God is working for the good of men and nations, but they by their stubbornness and perverseness bring ruin upon themselves. 23. That he might make known. The grammatical connection between vs. 22 and 23 is defective, but the sense is clear. God’s patient endurance of those fit for destruction is also for the purpose of showing mercy to those willing to undertake the program of God. Though the Jews had deserved God’s wrath, He had borne with them with much patience, both for their own sakes and also for the ultimate good of His entire church.
A Possible Answer: Paul’s point is that God has the right to do and deal with all mankind in whatever manner He deems best. God takes everything into consideration as He accomplishes His purpose... (as in the case of Pharaoh, God’s bringing him upon the stage of history and through him accomplishing a specific purpose). God works through nations and their leaders to accomplish His purposes on earth.
By dealing with Egypt at the time of the Exodus in the manner He did, God was working for the salvation of the human race. God’s revelation of Himself in the plagues of Egypt and in the deliverance of His people was designed to reveal to the Egyptians, as well as to other nations, that the God of Israel indeed was the true God. It was designed to be an invitation for the peoples of the nations to abandon their gods and to come and worship Him.
Obviously Pharaoh had already made his choice against God, so that in hardening his heart, God was not cutting him off from the opportunity of salvation. The hardening was against the appeal to let Israel go, not against God’s appeal for Pharaoh to accept personal salvation. Christ died for Pharaoh, just as much as for Moses, Aaron, and the rest of the children of Israel.
The crucial point in all this is that as fallen human beings we have such a narrow view of the world, of reality, and of God and how He works in the world. How can we expect to understand all of God’s ways when the natural world, everywhere we turn, holds mysteries we can’t understand? After all, it was only in the past 171 years that doctors learned it might be a good idea to wash their hands before performing surgery! That’s how steeped in ignorance we have been. And who knows, if time should last, what other things we will discover in the future that will reveal just how steeped in ignorance we are today?