Romans 9:7 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."
7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, "In Isaac your seed shall be called."
The first example shows that God made a sovereign choice among the physical descendants of Abraham in establishing the spiritual line of promise.
God was choosing which nation He would bless not individuals
Ishmael, born to Hagar (Gen. 16)—and the six sons of Keturah as well (Gen. 25:1–4)—were Abraham’s descendants but they were not counted as Abraham’s children (“born ones”) in the line of promise. Instead, as God told Abraham (Gen. 21:12), It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned (lit., “in Isaac seed will be called to you”). Paul repeated the principle for emphasis in different words: It is not the natural children (lit.,“the born ones of the flesh”) who are God’s children (“born ones of God”), but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring To be a physical descendant of Abraham is not enough; one must be chosen by God (cf. “chosen” in Rom. 8:33) and must believe in Him (4:3, 22–24). God’s assurance that the promise would come through Isaac, not Ishmael, was given to Abraham: At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son Gen. 18:10 from the LXX
He distinguishes between the seed of Abraham and children. Children here refers to those who enter into salvation, those who enter into covenant blessing, those who enter into the promise, life eternal. He says just because you are the seed of Abraham — that's a phrase that has to do with racial identity — just because you're Jewish, just because you descend from Abraham doesn't mean you are a child of salvation, doesn't mean you're a child of blessing, doesn't mean you're a child of promise, doesn't mean you are a child of God.
Here is his illustration. "In Isaac shall thy seed be called." Now this is most important. Because we know that everybody who descended from the loins of Abraham is not automatically in the covenant, everybody descending from Abraham is not automatically in the promise, everybody descending from Abraham is not automatically in salvation blessing, and the best way to prove it is to go right back to Abraham and look at his own biography. Who was the first son born of Abraham? Ishmael, he was a son of Abraham. But Ishmael was excluded from the promise. He was excluded from the covenant. The second son and the first legitimate son born of Sarah was Isaac. And Isaac was included. Was Isaac better? Did he earn it? No, it all happened before Isaac was ever born or Ishmael. It was the calling of God, "In Isaac shall thy seed be called."
Paul's argument is very simple. Ishmael and Isaac demonstrate that God never intended all those naturally descending from Abraham to be a part of the line from which the covenant blessing came.
The point is, God is selected one nation to be the people whose line contained the promised Seed Jesus.
Ishmael did not go to hell based on these scriptures, so he was not predestined to hell because he was not chosen of God
Ge 25:8 Then Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people.
Ge 25:17 These were the years of the life of Ishmael: one hundred and thirty-seven years; and he breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people.
Ge 35:29 So Isaac breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people, being old and full of days. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.
Ge 49:33 And when Jacob had finished commanding his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.
Nu 20:24 "Aaron shall be gathered to his people, for he shall not enter the land which I have given to the children of Israel, because you rebelled against My word at the water of Meribah.
Nu 20:26 "and strip Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son; for Aaron shall be gathered to his people and die there."
De 32:50 "and die on the mountain which you ascend, and be gathered to your people, just as Aaron your brother died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people;
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.
It starts out "that is," which indicates to us that he's giving us a further explanation. "That is they who are the children of the flesh," that is equal to the phrase "Abraham's seed" in verse 7, or the seed of Abraham. Those who are physically descending from Abraham, these are not the children of God, that's equal to the children of verse 7.
In other words, just being physically from the loins of Abraham does not mean you're a child of God. "But the children of the promise,” that's another way to say the children of God, or the children of verse 7 “are counted as the seed."
Who are the true children of God? It's the children of promise. They're called that because they were called by God to receive the promise of salvation. They are considered the true seed. They are regarded as the recipients of promise. And Isaac is the illustration.
It was not all the natural children of Abraham that God had in mind when He spoke of blessing Abraham's seed uniquely. It was only of the children born supernaturally in fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham about seed that He was speaking, namely, Isaac's descendants.
Isaac is a perfect illustration of a believer because he was born by a special act of God, he was born by supernatural power, and he was born according to a divine promise. He's a picture of anyone who is redeemed.
9 For this is the word of promise: "At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son."
The word of promise was given in Genesis 18:10, "And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life and lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. That's the word of promise, Verse 14: "Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee according to the time of life and Sarah shall have a son." The word of promise is repeated, verse 10. It's repeated in verse 14. And here in verse 9, "This is the word of promise, at this time will I come and Sarah shall have a son," quoted right out of Genesis 18:14. That's the promise. Sarah shall have a son. Not Hagar shall have a son, and not Keturah shall have a son, Sarah shall have a son. And so God is selective. Isaac was born at a special time, born by the special power of God, and born by the promise of God. He is the child of divine choice as God acts in human history.
Just as it is said of Ruth that she was uniquely set by God in a special place, chapter 1:6, just as it is said of Esther that she had come to the kingdom for just such a time as that, just as the Bible tells us God acts through various human beings at special times in history, just as it says of Christ in Galatians 4 that He came at appointed time in the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son made of a woman, made unto the law and so forth, so it is that in the right moment in the right time by the right choice God chose to give a child of promise, Isaac. And this is all just an illustration, simply pointing out the fact that God is selective.
It's very difficult for the Jews to accept this because what it says to them is that within the Jewish race there are some that are to be the children of the promise, not all. So wholesale Jewish unbelief doesn't make us panic like God has overturned His promises.
God has always worked through a remnant, a saved minority.
10 And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac
But there's even a stronger illustration here in verse 10: Rebecca was the daughter of Bethuel, remember, from Padan-Aram, chosen as a wife, as a bride for Isaac. You remember that great story of how the servant went to find a bride for Isaac. Genesis 24. And she was to be the bride. And she came back and was the bride. And according to Genesis 25, she gave birth. And you remember, she gave birth to twins, Genesis 25. You can read it in verses 19 to 24. Their names were Jacob and Esau. And from those two God chose one through whom would come the line of promise and the one was whom? Jacob. Esau was first born and he should have had the right of primogenitor (the first born privileges), which meant a double blessing and double respect. But God chose Jacob, and what it means is God is selective. And He's not only selective but sometimes He chooses what doesn't seem to be the way you should choose. He has that sovereign right.
So when Rebecca had conceived by one, that's one man, that is by our father Isaac, jump to verse 12, "It was said to her," verse 11 is a parenthesis, "It was said to her, ‘The elder shall serve the younger.’" Who said that? Who said that? Genesis 25 says God said it. God says I choose Jacob. I choose the younger to be set over the elder. And that was against the normal course of life. But that was God's choice.
Now if you read Genesis 25 you find a lot of interesting things about these two men, Jacob and Esau.
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),
According to God's purpose, whose choice was not based upon works (11)
Esau was the one who was first born. He was not chosen of God. And his life confirmed that, didn't it? You see, when God chooses that's only part of it. God rejected Esau as the line of promise. And Esau also rejected God. And you can be sure that God only rejects those who reject Him and only chooses those who choose Him. That's the divine mystery.
12 it was said to her, "The older shall serve the younger."
The other one was Jacob, he was the younger. And verse 12 says that the text said the elder shall serve the younger. You can read it in Genesis 25, God said that. The elder is going to serve the younger. He bought the birthright from Esau. He received the blessing. Oh, he received it by deception, didn't he? He pretended to be Esau. His mother put him up to it. Stupid. What would Rebecca do that for? She knew God said the elder will serve the younger. She knew God said Jacob is the one I choose. Why do you do that? Why don't you trust God if He says it's going to be that way that He'll make it happen without being a deceiver? Isn't it sad the way people take things into their own hands? His mother put him up to it in spite of the Word of the Lord. All they had to do was wait and God would have worked it out that he received the blessing, but they tried to deceive and get it on their own. Consequently, poor Jacob had a life of pain and sorrow and trouble.
Jacob did seek God. He's the one who wrestled with an angel and out of that wrestling God changed his name from Jacob to what? To Israel. And he did seek God. He had a heart for God. But he suffered because of his sin. He was chastened by the Lord. He was hated by his brother. His life was full of pain and sorrow. But he did seek God and there was a righteousness in him. And he was God's chosen child. So the point that Paul is making is the same point only he's using a different illustration. When it came to Jacob and Esau, God made a choice, too. So it shouldn't be surprising to us that all of the Jews don't believe. All of Abraham's sons weren't chosen as children of promise nor all of Isaac's either.
13 As it is written, "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated."
"The strong contrast is a Semitic idiom that heightens the comparison by stating it in absolute terms."
it is evident that in this case the word hate means to love less, to regard and treat with less favor. Thus in Gen. 29: 33, Leah says, she was hated by her husband; while in the preceding verse, the same idea is expressed by saying, “Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah,” Matt. 10: 37. Luke 14: 26, “If a man come to me and hate not his father and mother,” &. Joh 12:25 "He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
That is a direct quote from Malachi 1:2-3. "I hated Esau, laid his mountains and his heritage waste." He hated Esau. Verse 2, I love Jacob. Jacob I loved, Esau I hated. Now listen carefully. I do not believe that this is a primary reference to the individual Jacob and the individual Esau. I don't think that's the point. Because that's never said in the Old Testament. That is never uttered in the book of Genesis. God never says when those young men are born, "I hate Esau." He never says it during the life of Jacob and He never says it during the life of Esau. There's no such statement made. In fact, it is probably nearly a thousand years later when the prophet says, "Esau have I hated." And the Esau of His hatred is the idolatrous, pagan kingdom of Edom that's come from the loins of Esau. And the Jacob He loves is the Israel, the Israel of God, His people, His nation, the people of blessing.
- God did not base His election on the physical. Therefore, if the nation of Israel—Abraham’s physical descendants—has rejected God’s Word, this does not nullify God’s elective purposes at all.
- God chose Jacob before the babies were born. The two boys had done neither good nor evil, so God’s choice was not based on their character or conduct. Romans 9:13 is a reference to Malachi 1:2–3 and refers to nations (Israel and Edom) and not individual sinners. God does not hate sinners. John 3:16 makes it clear that He loves sinners. The statement here has to do with national election, not individual. Since God’s election of Israel does not depend on human merit, their disobedience cannot nullify the elective purposes of God. God is faithful even though His people are unfaithful.
- We cannot explain the relationship between man’s choice and God’s purpose, but we know that both are true and are taught in the Word.
- We cannot help but admire Paul’s burden for Israel. His words remind us of Moses in Ex. 32:31–32. Do we have that kind of a burden for lost souls? Christ loved us so much He became a curse for us.
- Keep in mind that the election discussed in Rom. 9–11 is national and not individual. To apply all the truths of these chapters to the salvation or security of the individual believer is to miss their message completely. In fact, Paul carefully points out that he is discussing the Jews and Gentiles as peoples, not individual sinners.