Read This Week’s Passage: Romans 9–11

What About Israel?

In Romans 1–8, Paul has explained the significance of the good news about Jesus. His exposition of the good news has not yet answered what would have been a pressing question for Jewish Christians. What is the relationship between the story of Jesus and God’s plan for Israel? Paul answers this question in Romans 9–11.

He begins by surveying the Old Testament and discovering that someone may be ethnically related to the family of Abraham, but that doesn’t make them a genuine Israelite (Romans 9:6). Abraham had multiple children, but it was through the promised son Isaac that the “seed shall be called” (Romans 9:7). From this, Paul deduces that being a descendant of Abraham is based on God’s promise rather than being a flesh descendant of Abraham (Romans 9:8). Paul sees a similar story when Rebecca gave birth to Jacob and Esau. These twins had the same mother and father, but God, going against convention, chose the older to serve the younger (Romans 9:10–12).

The next section can be a bit confusing (Romans 9:13–23). One scholar has suggested that reading this section is like riding a bike. If you go too slow or stop, you will fall over, but if you keep moving, you can follow the argument. Paul is asserting (albeit in a way that seems foreign to us) the fact that God can do what He wants. It’s important to note that saying God can do what He wants is not the same as telling us what God wants to do. By asserting God’s freedom to do as He pleases, Paul is making it clear that God is not bound to save ethnic Israel simply because they are related to Abraham. He eventually gets around to telling us what it is that God wants to do. God wants to have mercy on those who will put their faith in Jesus (Romans 9:25–33; 10:9–13).