THE FOLLOWING THREE CHAPTERS DEAL WITH SALVATION BY FAITH THROUGH GOD’S SOVEREIGN GRACE AS SEEN AT WORK IN THE LIVES OF PEOPLE, THE NATION OF ISRAEL AND HEATHEN NATIONS.
A. ISRAEL’S PRIVILEGES AND FAILURE (9:1-5)
Paul expresses his grief because of the fact that though Israel had been greatly privileged above all the other nations of the earth, they had failed to lay hold of the glory which God had in store for them. So intense was his sorrow that he would gladly give up his own salvation if only that could save them.
In what way were they privileged? In the following:
• They stemmed from the 12 patriarchs, that is from the sons of Jacob from which the 12 tribes descended.
• They received God’s written Law by the hand of Moses, revealing to them the mind and will of God.
• They received the precepts of God by which the Law was explained to them symbolically.
• They received the Temple in which God himself dwelt and by which the spiritual principles of a person entering into the right relationship with God, was further symbolically explained.
• They could become God’s adopted sons.
• It was with them that God entered into covenants.
• It was to them that God made promises.
• It was from them that the Messiah, the Christ, the Saviour of all mankind was physically born.
• The glory of God rested upon them as a nation.
Why then did they not become what God had intended for them to be: did God fail them? Was it God’s word embodied in his promises that failed? No, not so. The reason was that though they were born as God’s nation after the flesh, they were not born as His sons after the Spirit, for that could only happen by faith as earlier unexplained. God never intended His promises to apply to those that were descendants of Abraham in the flesh only, but to those that were also His spiritual children in that they resembled Abraham by their faith in God.
B. ISAAC AND ISHMAEL, AND JACOB AND ESAU (9:10-15)
This principle mentioned in the previous paragraph, was clearly demonstrated by God’s choosing of Isaac and later on Jacob as fathers from which His people would descend. Isaac was born as a result of Abraham and Sarah’s faith in God, whereas Ishmael his brother was born because of their own scheming in the flesh. Jacob again, though the second born, after Esau, was, even before they were born, chosen by God to inherit His promises because God knew beforehand that Jacob would enter into a faith relationship with Him and Esau would not.
C. PHARAOH (9:16-18)
God shows his mercy and applies his wrath in His own sovereign way which is never unjust. The way which God dealt with Pharaoh, demonstrates this principle. God knew beforehand that the proud Pharaoh would not listen to him and let his people go, therefore He raised him up to be the leader of the Egyptian nation. After he had ignored the warnings of his conscience for scores of years in maltreating the people of God and even killing their newborn babies, God sent His servant Moses to command him to let His people go.
God backed up His word by many signs and wonders to convince Pharaoh that the words spoken by Moses were indeed from Him but when he continued acting against his better judgement and refused to let them go, God hardened his heart so that he had no option but to continue in this stubborn way up to the point where God destroyed his nation. In this way God demonstrated his wrath upon those that oppose Him and showed His sovereignty in dealing with them.
D. THE POTTER AS AN EXAMPLE OF GOD’S SOVEREIGN GRACE (9:19-21)
Man may then reason, saying that if God is sovereign in hardening a man’s heart, man cannot be held accountable for his decisions. We need to take great care not to blame God of being unjust for we have a very limited understanding of what it means to be just.
Take the example of a potter who uses the same clay for forming different kinds of pottery, some very beautiful and for noble purposes and the rest for menial tasks. Likewise God uses his material to form all of mankind. Those that will enter into a son/Father relationship with Him by faith, will demonstrate the glory of his workmanship and those that will not do so, will He use in this life for all the menial tasks that need to be done to sustain life and in the hereafter, they will serve to demonstrate His holiness by His pouring out of His wrath upon them because of their sin. Even in these latter ones He will demonstrate His patience by bearing with them through all the many years of their lives. The former ones, those upon whom He bestows His glory, will come from both Jews and Gentiles.
E. THE REASON WHY THE HEATHEN GOT SAVED BUT NOT THE NATION OF ISRAEL (9: 25-10:4)
The prophet Isaiah prophesied that only a small remnant of the nation of Israel will be saved (Isa 29:16 and 45:9) and Isaiah further stated that it actually was because of God’s grace that even this remnant would enter into a faith relationship with Him.
The tragedy therefore is that the nation of Israel that had for centuries on end, tried very hard to be accepted by God by scrupulously keeping His laws, had failed to be accepted by Him because of their self-righteousness and pride.
Their Messiah, which is Christ, and Who was to be their foundation stone on which they were to build their lives, became to them a stumbling stone (Is 8:14 and 28:16). The heathen, on the other hand, that had been living licentious lives, serving other gods and the lusts of the flesh, had come to know God and be accepted by Him, because they saw the wickedness of their ways and the uselessness of their works to please Him and simply cast themselves by faith on Him, depending totally on His grace to accept them as His own. This shows clearly that Israel failed because they had a misconception of God’s way of salvation, of God’s plan for man to accepted by Him.
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