THE SAD FAILURE OF THE NATION ISRAEL DOES NOT CONTRADICT
THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD IN CHOOSING THE RECIPIENTS OF HIS GRACIOUS PROMISES
John MacArthur: Several questions must be answered because Paul has been presenting a gospel that has been preached to all nations. He said that in chapter 1. And he has characterized the lostness of all men and the redemption of all men. And in presenting this gospel of salvation by grace through faith to all who believe, whatever their national heritage, he naturally poses this very important question that would be asked by a Jew or anyone who knew the special place of the Jews: What does this mean in relation to Israel? Are they no longer God’s chosen people? Are they permanently set aside? Has God cancelled His promises to them? Is the Gentile church the new Israel? And then this question: How can Jews, to whom this gospel came first and who are the sons of Abraham, be rejecting it if in fact it is the truth? Wouldn’t they be the most likely to recognize its truthfulness? And then there’s this question: If Paul has been saying in chapter 8, particularly, how secure we are in Christ and how nothing can ever separate us from Him or His love, how can we be sure God’s going to keep that promise if He broke His promises to Israel? I mean, if God didn’t keep the Jews in the place of covenant blessing, why should we believe He’ll keep us there no matter what he says? . . .
The unbelief of Israel is not inconsistent with God’s promise.
Frank Thielman: Although Paul was grieved over the relatively small number of Israelites who had believed the gospel in his own time, this sad situation did not impugn either the gospel in which he had just expressed such confidence or the Scriptures themselves. The word of God has not wrecked on the rocks of Israel’s unbelief. Rather, the present ethnic configuration of the people of God is consistent with the portrait of God in Scripture. There God is free to choose who will belong to his people and who will be hardened in rebellion against him, and he is free to make what, from a human perspective, are unconventional choices about those to whom he will show mercy. . .
In 9:6–13 Paul states the thesis he will develop in 9:7 – 11:32 and then begins to support this thesis from Scripture. Israelite unbelief does not mean that God’s promises to be faithful to his people have failed (9:6). Scripture demonstrates that the children of God and the physical children of Abraham are overlapping but different groups (9:7–9) and that God freely chooses his children without regard to their relative virtues and vices or their family connections (9:10–13).
I. (:1-5) SADNESS — BECAUSE ISRAEL HAS FAILED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THEIR SPIRITUAL PRIVILEGES
A. (:1-4a) Sadness of Apostle Paul Embraced – Burden for Lost Souls
- (:1) Reality of His Grief — True Testimony
“I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying,
my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit,”
James Stifler: The transition from the eighth chapter is abrupt. The sudden change may be accounted for psychologically. The apostle had just been contemplating the certainty of the glory of the sons of God; his heart goes now to the other extreme, the failure and misery of his own countrymen.
Frank Thielman: Paul calls on two witnesses to the truthfulness of what he is about to say: himself and his conscience. His appeal to himself is especially emphatic, using both a positive statement that he speaks the truth (cf. 2 Cor 4:2) and a negative statement that he does not lie (cf. Gal 1:20). His conscience can serve as a second witness since he conceived of it as an internal gauge of how well one’s actions conformed to one’s moral standards (cf., e.g., Rom 2:15; 2 Cor 1:12).
Thomas Schreiner: The conscience is contemplated as a confirming entity that substantiates Paul’s claim to truthfulness. The conscience, of course, is fallible and does not invariably judge matters aright (cf. 1 Cor. 8:7, 10, 12; 1 Tim. 4:2; Titus 1:15). Any notion that Paul’s conscience on this occasion is fallible is excluded, since his conscience bears witness ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ (in the Holy Spirit). In this instance his conscience has been informed by and is under the control of the Holy Spirit, so the Roman readers can be assured of the truthfulness of his assertion (so Lohse 2003: 265).
- (:2) Intensity of His Grief — Crushing Concern
“that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart.”
Alva McClain: The Jew might have brought the charge against Paul that he did not care for his kinsmen. They might have said, “He is so wrapped up in this new gospel that he has forgotten all about his people.”
Steven Cole: IT IS POSSIBLE TO HAVE GREAT SORROW OVER THE LOST AT THE SAME TIME THAT WE HAVE GREAT JOY IN CHRIST.
Paul has just exuberantly told of God’s great love for us in Christ, but now he tells of his “great sorrow and unceasing grief.” He wasn’t bi-polar, going from a super-high to a super-low! Rather, he was “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10). It’s possible to be both sorrowful and yet rejoicing at the same time. . .
If I focused on the sad condition of lost people to the extent that I had only great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart, I would be very depressed. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. I wouldn’t reflect the joy of the Lord. On the other hand, if I were so filled with the joy of my salvation that I never felt any sorrow or grief for the lost, I would be very self-centered and calloused. I need both the joy of salvation that moves me to want others to know the same joy, along with sorrow over the sad condition of the lost, so that I reach out to them with kindness and compassion.
- (:3-4a) Subjects of His Grief — Ethnic Empathy
“For I could wish that I myself were accursed,
separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren,
my kinsmen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites,”
John MacArthur: But the Jews, you see, need to know where his heart is. And so, he gives them a look at his heart at the beginning of chapter 9 and then again at the beginning of chapter 10. He loved his people. The fact that he went to the Gentiles and the fact that he preached the truth about salvation by grace through faith, not law through works, doesn’t mean that he was anti- Jewish. The fact that he confronted the lost Jew with his sinfulness and the emptiness of his system was not an act of hate but an act of what? Of love, for love calls men away from sin to salvation. Love calls men away from the delusion to the truth. So they missed the point. The reason he confronted the false system of Judaism and called men to Christ was not because he hated the Jewish system or the Jewish people but because he loved them so much.
Steven Cole: LOST PEOPLE WON’T CARE HOW MUCH YOU KNOW UNTIL THEY KNOW HOW MUCH YOU CARE.
I didn’t originate that phrase, but it captures a truth that oozes out of verse 3, where Paul says that he could wish himself accursed and separated from Christ for the sake of his fellow Jews. That is such a radical statement that Paul felt the need to say (9:1), “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit ….” Some of his Jewish enemies thought that Paul had forsaken his Jewish heritage for the sake of the despised Gentiles. But before God, Paul testifies that he had such deep concern for the Jews that he would be willing to give up his salvation if it meant that they could be saved!
Thomas Schreiner: The soteriological import of these terms in Paul can hardly be denied. Soteriology continues to be the issue in Rom. 9:22–23, which contrasts “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” with “vessels of mercy that were prepared beforehand for glory.” Paul often uses the word ἀπώλεια (apōleia, destruction; Phil. 1:28; 3:19; 2 Thess. 2:3; 1 Tim. 6:9) for eschatological destruction, while he frequently uses δόξα (doxa, glory) to describe the eschatological splendor awaiting believers (Rom. 2:10; 8:18; 1 Thess. 2:12; 2 Tim. 2:10; cf. Col. 3:4; cf. E. Johnson 1989: 127). Finally, the argument in Rom. 9:30 – 11:32 substantiates the idea that eschatological salvation is the matter at hand. What troubles Paul in 9:30 – 10:21 is that Israel has failed to believe in Christ and therefore is not saved. What gives him hope in chapter 11 is that God has promised to remove ungodliness from Jacob and that ultimately “all Israel shall be saved” (11:26–27). Any attempt, therefore, to sever the historical destiny of Israel from salvation in this context is unpersuasive. Paul’s heart is rent with sorrow because so many of his kindred have rejected the message of the gospel and are therefore destined for judgment.
B. (:4b-5) Spiritual Privileges of National Israel Not Embraced
- Adoption as Sons
“to whom belongs the adoption as sons”
Frank Thielman: “Adoption” (υἱοθεσία) recalls God’s designation of Israel in Scripture as his “firstborn son [υἱός]” (Exod 4:22–23; cf. Deut 14:1; Jer 31:9; Hos 11:1; Jub. 1:24–25), a status that now belongs to believers whatever their ethnicity (Rom 8:15, 23). Unbelieving Israel does not have “adoption” in this sense because this form of adoption arises from union with God’s Son (8:14–17). Paul’s anguish over unbelieving Israel probably arose in part from this disparity.
- Shekinah Glory
“and the glory”
Frank Thielman: “Glory” (δόξα) refers to the experience of God’s presence and is reminiscent of God’s meeting with his people at Sinai, in the tabernacle, in the temple, and at his coming at the restoration of all creation (e.g., Exod 24:16–17; 29:23; 33:18–22; 40:34–35; 1 Kgs 8:11; Ps 26:8; Isa 60:1–2). The hope for this glory, however, now belongs preeminently to those who have believed the gospel (5:2; 8:18, 21).
“and the covenants”
John MacArthur: Covenants with Abraham, Genesis 12:15 to 17. Covenant with Moses, and that all the way from Exodus 19 to 31, repeated in Deuteronomy 29 and 30 and given an even added dimension. Covenant with not only Abraham and Moses but David, 2 Samuel 7, the covenant of a great and eternal kingdom, reigned over by a great and glorious son of David. God promised them a nation through Abraham. God promised them blessing through Moses. God promised them eternal glory through David. I mean, they were the recipients of the covenants. They were the nation to be blessed.
“and the giving of the Law”
Michael Bird: The emphasis here falls on the God-given nature of the law, not its negative effects as usual, especially the privileges of receiving it (Deut 31:10 – 11; Ezra 7:6, 10; Neh 8:1; Ps 78:5; Sir 45:5, 17). It is probably identical to the idea expressed in 3:2 that the Jewish people were “entrusted with the very oracles of God.”
- Temple Service
“and the temple service”
James Dunn: The worship of the temple cult is specifically in view (cf. Josh 22:27; 1 Chron 28:13; 1 Macc 2:22; Philo, Decal. 158; Spec. Leg. 2.167; Josephus, War 2.409; Heb 9:1, 6). Paul spiritualizes or secularizes the concept in 12:1 (see on 12:1; also on 15:16), and that broader usage presumably lies below the surface here (cf. his use of λατρεύειν in 1:9 and Phil 3:3), though there is no evidence that non–Christian Jews yet gave it a wider reference prior to the destruction of the temple (Str-B, 3:262).
“and the promises,”
Michael Bird: The “promises” undoubtedly refers to the promise of blessings given to Abraham and the other patriarchs, which figure prominently in Galatians and Romans (Gen 12:1-2; 15:1-5; 17:1-27; Rom 15:8; Gal 3:16, 21; Wis 12:21).
James Dunn: The promises in view would include not only the inheritance of the land (see on 4:13), but also the blessing of the nations (Gen 12:2–3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14; Sir 44:21; Acts 3:25).
- (:5) Lineage — Family Connections
“whose are the fathers,”
“and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh,
who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.”
Thomas Schreiner: To ascribe blessedness to Christ after identifying him with θεός (God) fits more naturally into the context, since the Messiah sharing the divine nature is the consummation of Israel’s privileges. Indeed, an ascription of deity to Christ heightens the profundity of Paul’s grief. Not only have the Jews rejected the Messiah, who is ethnically related to them, but they also are spurning one who shares the divine nature with the Father.
R. Kent Hughes: Paul hurt so much at the thought of Israel’s rejection of Christ that he was willing to forgo Heaven and suffer damnation if that would bring their salvation. Though Paul knew such a bargain was impossible, his emotions were intensely real. Why? He loved his fellow countrymen and longed for their salvation. He was proud of his Jewish heritage. His hurt was intensiﬁed by his awareness of the vast privileges from which they had not beneﬁtted—especially the fact that the Messiah “who is God over all, blessed forever” (v. 5) came from them.
Frank Thielman: Although the emphasis in the passage lies on Israel’s failure to realize the perfection of the gifts God has given to them because of their rejection of the gospel, it is significant that Paul describes these gifts as still the possession of unbelieving Israel. The church has not taken these gifts from Israel but only realized prior to Israel the eschatological direction in which they were pointing. Israel’s continuing possession of these gifts points forward, then, to Paul’s argument in 11:25–29 that eventually “all Israel will be saved” and that God’s “gifts and calling” will then be seen as irrevocable.
II. (:6-9) SUCCESS – BECAUSE GOD HAS NOT FAILED IN HIS REVEALED PLAN TO SAVE THE CHILDREN OF PROMISE – EXAMPLE OF ISAAC
A. (:6a) Culpability Does Not Lie with God’s Word
“But it is not as though the word of God has failed.”
Douglas Moo: Paul must defend God’s faithfulness to his promises to Israel. For if God has gone back on his word to Israel, then a deep chasm between the Old and New Testament opens up, and the good news can no longer claim the God of Israel as its author. The whole plan of salvation crashes.
B. (:6b-8) Clarification Regarding Identity of the Children of Promise
- (:6b-7a) Distinction between Physical Israel and the Believing Subset
“For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel;
7 neither are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants,”
Thomas Schreiner: Paul begins by asserting the thesis of these chapters. God’s word, God’s promises to Israel, haven’t failed (cf. Isa. 40:7–8). He never promised that every ethnic Israelite would be saved. Most commentators locate the οὐ (ou, not) in 9:6b with the first part of the sentence, but it is more likely that it belongs with the final part. The meaning of the sentence is not affected significantly on either reading, for the intention in any case is to say that not all ethnic Israelites belong to the true Israel, the people of God. Identifying the precise referent in the second use of the term “Israel” is controversial. Paul almost certainly labels the church “the Israel of God” in Gal. 6:16 (Schreiner 2010b: 381–83), and this follows from the truth that the church is the true circumcision (Rom. 2:28–29; Phil. 3:3) and the true family of Abraham (Rom. 4:9–25; Gal. 3:7, 14, 29). Moreover, gentiles are grafted onto the olive tree of Israel (Rom. 11:17–24), and OT texts that refer to Israel are applied to gentiles who believe in Christ (9:24–26). To see the term “Israel” as referring to both Jews and gentiles in Christ, therefore, would harmonize nicely with Pauline thought. Nonetheless, in this particular context it seems more likely that the second use of “Israel” is restricted to ethnic Jews who believe in Jesus as Messiah. Nowhere in Rom. 9–11 is the term “Israel” transferred to the church, and the issue that Paul confronts here is whether the promises made to ethnic Israel will be fulfilled. Furthermore, in Rom. 9:27–29 and 11:1–6 Paul speaks of a remnant, and in these instances it is clear that he refers to a remnant within Israel (so Thielman forthc.), and thus the same is probably true here. In subsequent verses (vv. 7–13) Paul argues that a winnowing process has always occurred in the midst of ethnic Israel.
John MacArthur: 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’s 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 parlance. He is therefore saved. He is therefore going to go to heaven. But God never intended that all Israel would be redeemed Israel, for they are not all the true Israel who are of the fleshly Israel.
Listen to it this way. The real Israel is contained within the natural Israel. To put it another way, spiritual Israel is contained within physical Israel. And though the nation, now listen very careful distinction, though the nation was chosen as a nation to be a vehicle to transmit the Scriptures, to be a vehicle to propagate the message of monotheism, one God, though the nation was chosen to be a witness nation, the choosing of the nation as an entity does not mean that every individual within that nation was also chosen to salvation. So the fact that Israel does not believe, that many individuals don’t believe doesn’t cancel the promises because God never intended in His sovereignty that every Jew would believe, but that within the physical Israel there would be a believing remnant. 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 isn’t anything just common to the time of Christ.
- (:7b) Divine Choice of Isaac
“but: ‘through Isaac your descendants will be named.’”
James Stifler: That the real Israel should not be as wide numerically as the natural Israel is supported by the further statement that even Abraham’s natural seed were not all of them children of the covenant. The promise was limited to Isaac, and Ishmael was left out, although he also is called Abraham’s “seed” (Gen. 21:13). Paul thus keeps the all-important point foremost, that the promise to Israel was a vital promise, still holding, but not on the condition of mere natural descent.
John MacArthur: Now the point here is this, that it’s obvious that God chooses some of the sons of Abraham to blessing, not all of them. And it’s obvious from the very start, He rejected Ishmael. He accepted the line to come through Isaac. And I don’t know if you remember but Abraham had another wife by the name of Keturah through whom he had a couple more sons. And they too were rejected. So just being a child of Abraham doesn’t put you in the place of blessing. And that’s verified by the very illustration of the case of Isaac. The chosen nation was to come through the loins of Isaac. Paul’s argument is very simple. Ishmael and Isaac demonstrate that God never intended all those naturally descending from Abraham to receive covenant blessing. The point is, God is selective, or better, God is elective. And the key word is “called,” chosen by sovereign will.
Thomas Schreiner: “shall be named” — it denotes an effective call that creates what is desired (cf. Rom. 4:17; 8:28, 29; 9:12, 24, 25, 26). Indeed, there is probably an echo of 4:17, where God “calls things into being that do not exist,” which in the context of Rom. 4 refers to the birth of Isaac by God’s creative word. This interpretation of “calling” in 9:7 is also validated by the structure of the verses, for the parallel to “calling” in verse 8b is “promise” (ἐπαγγελία, epangelia). The promise of God secures that which is pledged just as the call creates that which is intended. Thus the thesis of verse 6a is defended. God’s promises have not and cannot fail because they are based on his call, which is always effective, and on his promise, which is guaranteed.
- (:8) Distinction between Physical Children and Children of the Promise
“That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God,
but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.”
C. (:9) Confirmation of God’s Word of Promise
“For this is a word of promise:
‘At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.’”
Thomas Schreiner: Another controversy exists over whether the salvation promised here relates to individuals or groups. Many opt for the latter and exclude the former, because Paul focuses on the salvation promised to corporate Israel. I have argued at some length elsewhere that such a dichotomy is logically and exegetically flawed, since groups are always composed of individuals, and one cannot have the former without including the latter. At this juncture I should note that the selection of a remnant out of Israel implies the selection of some individuals out of a larger group. Moreover, the unity of Rom. 9–11 indicates that individual election cannot be eliminated. In chapter 10 believing in Jesus is an individual decision, even though Paul addresses Jews and gentiles as corporate entities. The individual and corporate dimensions cannot be sundered from each other in chapter 10, and the same principle applies to chapter 9 (cf. Müller 1964: 76–77). Those who insist that corporate election alone is intended in chapters 9 and 11 are inconsistent when they revert to individual decisions of faith in chapter 10. The three chapters must be interpreted together, yielding the conclusion that both corporate and individual election are involved.
Douglas Moo: The initiative, Paul makes clear again, is with God. Inheriting the promise is not based on birth alone; it depends on God’s gracious intervention.
James Dunn: Paul’s line of argument is clear: scripture confirms Paul’s earlier exegesis; the founding fathers show that Israel’s own election was not in terms of natural descent and law, but from the outset and thus characteristically in terms of promise and faith. Consequently, Paul implies, the Jews as a people cannot and should not object to Paul’s gospel; to do so is to misunderstand their own gospel (of election). . .
Jews who insist on “works of the law” as the indispensable mark of God’s chosen people are actually denying not simply the gospel but also their own election—an intolerable situation indeed for one who desperately wants to be loyal both to his Jewish heritage and to the revelation of Christ.
III. (:10-13) SOVEREIGN CHOICE – BECAUSE WHOM GOD SAVES DEPENDS COMPLETELY ON GOD – EXAMPLE OF GOD’S CHOICE OF JACOB OVER ESAU
A. (:10) One Act of Conception between Rebekah and Isaac
“And not only this, but there was Rebekah also,
when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac;”
B. (:11) Destiny of Twins Determined by God’s Sovereign Choice
“for though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad,
in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls,”
Frank Thielman: The genitive-absolute construction broadens Paul’s case that God chose Jacob over Esau apart from their physical relationship to Isaac and Rebecca. Now Paul includes the further thought that God chose Jacob over Esau without regard to the moral quality of their lives. The purpose clause states that God worked this way to preserve his sovereign freedom to determine the identity of those through whom he would accomplish his purposes.
Thomas Schreiner: His failure to insert human faith as the decisive and ultimate basis for God’s election indicates that God’s call and election are prior to and the ground of human faith (see D. Moo 1996: 583).
Michael Bird: In sum, Paul has been telling the story of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with a view to establishing an important premise: God always intended that only some of Abraham’s progeny would carry his saving purposes forward. That is the view of election that “stands” or “remains.” It had nothing to do with merits, but only with the divine purpose. On the one hand, anyone familiar with the Torah would find that unobjectionable; after all, God chose Isaac not Ishmael, God chose Jacob not Esau. There was a holy line reaching from Abraham to Israel. On the other hand, it is the application that Paul draws from this principle that would have aroused indignation. Paul was not merely suggesting that the promises bypass some of Abraham’s descendants, but that physical descent does not seem to matter at all.
Even worse, the precepts of the Torah, even if followed with the utmost scruples, do not merit salvation for anyone. The identity of Israel was never determined by lineage or law, but exclusively decided by God’s effectual call and mercy. Barclay observes the shocking nature of Paul’s claim: “Paul has directly or indirectly ruled out numerous possible qualifying criteria for divine selection: birth (natural rights of descent), status (comparative ‘greatness’), and action (‘works’), all forms of superiority humanly ascribed or achieved…. Thus the only principle that Paul will identify as operative in Israel’s history is the principle of call/election, which operates by mercy alone.” The upshot is that when it comes to the divine promises, as N. T. Wright puts it, “what counts is grace, not race.”
C. (:12) Primacy of Firstborn Supremacy Overturned
“it was said to her, ‘The older will serve the younger.’”
D. (:13) Distinction in God’s Treatment of Jacob and Esau
“Just as it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’”
Frank Thielman: The term “hated” (ἐμίσησα) is both harsh and startling, but it is also hyperbole. Paul probably thought of it as clarifying his point that God freely chose one individual over another (cf. Luke 14:26).
R. Kent Hughes: This relative use of hate is also found in Luke 14:26 when Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Jesus obviously does not mean his followers are to hate their relatives, but that they are to love him so much that love for family appears as hatred in comparison.
More severe interpretation:
John MacArthur: Now some have tried to say in that verse what it means is, “Jacob have I loved and Esau have I loved less.” It doesn’t say that. It says He hated him. I mean, let God hate if He wants to hate, and He hates evil and He hates idolatry and He hates paganism and so He hates Esau. He hates. You can read about God’s hate in Psalm 5:5, Psalm 11:5, Psalm 26:5, you can read it in Proverbs 6:16 where it says six things the Lord hates, yea seven are an abomination to Him. In Jeremiah 44 verse 4, the abominable thing I hate, says God. You can read it in Hosea 9:15, Amos 5:21, Zechariah 8:17 and Malachi 2:16 and many other places. God hates. He hates evil, He hates wickedness, He hates idolatry. And He hated what He saw in the seed of Esau. It says at the end of verse 4 of Malachi 1 that against Edom the Lord has indignation forever.
Douglas Moo: Some think “hate” may mean simply, in Semitic fashion, “love less.” But the Old Testament context points in a different direction. That context is clearly covenantal, so that “love” means, in effect, “choose,” while “hate” means “reject.”
James Dunn: The final quotation of Mal 1:2–3 (“Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”) rounds off the first stage of the argument introduced by v 6—“the word of God has not failed.” It has not failed, it has simply been misunderstood—misunderstood by the people whose scriptures they are! The word of God was always in terms of election, of God’s purpose fulfilled through his free choice, never in terms of the natural kinship of blood ties, never in terms of a community characterized and bounded by particular ritual acts (works of the law). The word of God has not failed (as the success of the gospel shows); it is Israel according to the flesh who have failed. By emphasizing God’s selection of Jacob afresh (“Jacob I loved”) the Malachi proof text repeats and confirms the character of God’s covenant through Jacob, as a relationship given and maintained by God’s free choice. But it also introduces a further element: the choice of Jacob was also a choice against Esau. This negative corollary to the election of Isaac and Jacob was always implicit in vv 7–12, but now Paul deliberately brings it to the fore to introduce the transition to the next phase of the argument.
Those Not Chosen Are Still within the Purpose of God (9:14–23).
Steven Cole: By this point, some of you probably are thinking, “If God accomplishes His purpose through His free, gracious choice of some, while He rejects others, then He’s not fair!” You may also be thinking, “If God is absolutely sovereign as you’ve described, then we’re all just robots with no will of our own. How can God condemn robots that He has programmed to act in a certain way?” If those are your questions, then I have correctly interpreted Romans 9:6-13, because those are precisely the questions that Paul anticipates and responds to (9:14-18, 19-24).