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.



Paul's train of thought unfolds as follows in these verses. Because God's election of Israel did not depend on natural descent (vv. 6-10) or human merit (vv. 11-14), Israel's disobedience cannot nullify God's determined purpose for the nation.

The failure of the Jews to respond to the gospel of Christ did not mean God’s Word had failed. Instead, this rejection was simply the current example of the principle of God’s sovereign choice established in the Old Testament. Paul reminded his readers of a truth he had presented earlier: For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel, that is, spiritual Israel (cf. 2:28–29).[1]

  1. They are not all Israel who have descended from Israel (6)

Ro 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

The word of God that was in Paul's mind was evidently God's revelation of His plans for Israel in the Old Testament. God revealed that He had chosen Israel to be a kingdom of priests (Exod. 19:5-6). The Israelites were to function as priests in the world by bringing the nations to God (cf. Isa. 42:6). They were to do this by demonstrating through their life in the Holy Land how glorious it can be to live under the government of God. Israel had failed to carry out God's purpose for her thus far and consequently had suffered His discipline. It looked as though the word that God had spoken concerning Israel's purpose had failed. The Greek word translated "failed" means "gone off its course," like a ship. Paul proceeded to show that God would accomplish His purpose for Israel in the rest of chapters 9—11.

Romans 9—11 contains 11 occurrences of the term 'Israel,' and in every case it refers to ethnic, or national, Israel. Never does the term include Gentiles within its meaning. The NT use of the term is identical with the Pauline sense in this section."

Saved Gentiles are also Abraham's seed, but they are not in view here. Paul was considering only two kinds of Israelites: natural (ethnic) Israelites, both saved and unsaved, and spiritual Israelites, saved natural Israelites.

The failure of the Jews to respond to the gospel of Christ did not mean God’s Word had failed. Instead, this rejection was simply the current example of the principle of God’s sovereign choice established in the Old Testament. Paul reminded his readers of a truth he had presented earlier: For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel, that is, spiritual Israel (cf. 2:28–29).[1]

That is a very important statement: For they are not Israel who are of Israel.  What does he mean by that?  He means that God never promises unconditionally to each offspring of Abraham covenant blessing just because he is an offspring of Abraham.  Did you get that?  You see, the Jew believes that because he is fleshly descending from Abraham he therefore is included in the covenant; because he is a Jew by birth, he is therefore a child of promise.  He is therefore redeemed, if you want to put it in our manner of speaking.  He is therefore saved.  He is therefore going to go to heaven.  Nevertheless, God never intended that all Israel would be redeemed Israel, for they are not all the true Israel who are of the fleshly Israel.

The nation was elected to privilege but only individuals are elected to salvation.  The real Israel is the Israel of faith and throughout all of the history of Israel, there have been faithless Jews.  It is not anything just common to the time of Christ.

In fact, if you go to chapter 11 you will find that in verse 4 during the time of Elijah, go way back, in the time of Elijah, verse 4, God says, "I have reserved to Myself seven-thousand men who've not bowed the knee to the image of Baal."  But what about the multiplied tens of thousands of others?  They had bowed the knee to Baal, they had entered into paganism.  Even in Elijah's time all Israel was not true Israel.

This is merely an application of our Lord’s words, That which is born of the flesh is flesh. It is not what we get from our fathers and mothers that ensures our place in the family of God.”[1]

Hebrews chapter 11 and verse 4, Hebrews 11:4, the great chapter on faith. It says in verse 4, "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain by which he obtained witness that he was righteous.  Righteousness did not come because he was born of Adam.  Righteousness did not come because he offered a sacrifice.  Righteousness came because he trusted in a Christ to come and offered an excellent sacrifice that was born of his righteousness,

John chapter 8, same concept, verse 39, but here Jesus is confronted by the religious leaders and their hope, of course, is in their Abrahamic descent.  They believe they are part of the kingdom because they were born of the seed of Abraham.  They say in verse 33, "We are Abraham's seed," that is their claim to fame.  In verse 39, they answered and said, "Abraham is our father.” That makes us invincible.  Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham's children you would do the works of Abraham."  Now what does he mean by that? They were Abraham's children physically but he says if you were really Abraham's children spiritually, you would do the things that he did.  And what did he do?  He did righteous things. 

Look at Galatians chapter 3 for another scripture that will help us understand this.  Chapter 3:6, "Even as Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness, know ye therefore that they who are of faith the same are the children of Abraham."  Verse 9: "So then they who are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham."  That is the point.  So when we go back to Romans chapter 9 we really are hearing an echo of what he said in Romans chapter 2 verses 28 and 29, for he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh but he is a Jew who is one inwardly and circumcision is that of the heart in the spirit and not in the letter whose praise is not of men but of God.

Galatians 3:29 it says, "If you are Christ's then are you Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise.”  If you are Christ's then you are really Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise. 

  1. Christians believe in Christ. The Christ of the early Christian community and of all true Christians everywhere, is the Christ of the New Testament, which means that he is the Son of God who became a man for our salvation. This is the one on whom the Christians believed. Moreover, this belief was no mere intellectual conviction. I have often said that faith (or belief) has three elements. The first is its intellectual content: who Jesus is and what he has done for our salvation. The second is the emotional part being broken over our sin and being moved by Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. The third is personal commitment, the most important part of all. It means giving oneself to Jesus, becoming his, taking up his cross, being a disciple.

This is what the believers in Antioch had done. They had committed themselves to Jesus so thoroughly that the pagans who looked on said, “They are Christ ones, Christians.”

  1. Christians follow Christ. There was a second characteristic of these first Christians, which is also characteristic of all true Christians at all times. It is wrapped up in the matter of commitment, as I have just indicated: Christians are followers of Jesus. That is, if they have believed on him in a saving way and not merely by some mere mental intellectual assent to his deity, then they are following him on the path he sets before them. That path is the path of obedience, and as they walk along it, they become increasingly like the one they are following and obeying.

This is an important dimension of what it means to be a Christian. To be a Christian means to believe on Jesus, surely. But it also means to be following Jesus and thus becoming increasingly like him. A true Christian is someone who is becoming like Jesus Christ.

  1. Christians witness to Christ. I think there must have been another reason why the early Christians were called Christians, and it is that they were apparently always talking about their Savior. The name of Jesus was constantly on their tongues, his gospel consistently on their hearts, and his glory uppermost in their minds. They were always looking for others whom they could tell about him, and they were always praying and working at their witness so that these others might be saved.

It is significant in this respect that the first great missionary movement of the church began in Antioch. We are told about it in Acts 13: “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off” (vv. 2–3). Paul undertook three missionary journeys at the direction of this church and with accountability to it, for at the end of each assignment he reported to the congregation what God had done to save other Gentiles and some Jews through him.

We cannot forget that Jesus himself said that his followers would be witnesses: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

  1. Christians learn more and more about Christ. Here is a fourth thing that is characteristic of true Christians. They want to learn more about Jesus. We are told of the Christians at Antioch that after Barnabas had gone to their city to encourage the infant church in its faith, he then went to Tarsus in Turkey to look for Paul, whom he remembered from earlier days (Acts 11:22–25). When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch so that “for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people” (v. 26a). It is significant that it was immediately after this, after the Christians at Antioch had been carefully taught about Jesus, that they “were first called Christians” (v. 26b).

As they learn about Jesus Christ, Christians naturally become more like him, intensify their love for him, and witness about him to others.[1]

A Time for Self-Examination

The point of all this is that each of us who calls himself or herself a Christian should be led to self-examination. And what we should ask ourselves is: “Am I a true Christian, or am I a Christian in name only?” This is a serious question and a necessary one. For if Israel—with all the spiritual advantages that Paul mentions in Romans 9—could be composed of thousands or even millions who were not true Israel, it is certain that the visible church of Jesus Christ in our day is filled with many who are actually unbelievers.

Paul told the Corinthians, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves” (2 Cor. 13:5a).

Peter told his readers, “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10a).[1]