Romans 9 Contending for the Faith
Paul exposes his heart concerning the Jewish people and their response, as a nation, to the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus. We see here that he is willing to be “accursed from Christ” if they would receive Jesus as Lord. This people, chosen by God, had been adopted by the Father (so to speak) when Abraham believed God; they were carriers of the glory of the Lord (the cloud by day & fire by night), they had received a number of covenants (Moses’, Noah’s are but 2 examples), they had been given the law (which was to be a means by which many nations were to come to know God), service of God (in the tabernacle and temple ministries) and had received numerous promises from Almighty God. With all of these they still resisted and rejected Christ.
Paul’s passion for Israel was the same as Moses when he asked the Lord to strike him and spare Israel. Every leader has a passion for the salvation of people and a heart to see them come into the family of God. When you’ve found such a shepherd, you are truly blessed. Stay with them!
The problem with the law (whether Mosaic or Conscience), wasn’t with the law; it was with the people. Similarly, the problem wasn’t the “word”; rather the people tried in vain to mix faith like Abraham’s and works of foreign religions to be accepted by God. Why were some people of faith and other’s not? Because just being a “Jew” by national origin didn’t make them Jews of the faith of Abraham. To drive this point home, Paul declares it was those who came through the “seed” by Isaac and not Ishmael. Ishmael’s lineage weren’t the “children of promise”, only those who came through the seed of Isaac, who was born of Sarah; the child of promise and faith.
A generation later, Jacob and Esau served to illustrate that it was only through those whose hearts were circumcised, as Jacob’s was; rather than having a heart after the flesh as Esau did surrendering his birthright for soup. Even though Esau was born before Jacob, Jacob contended for the faith, even in a prophetic act at birth by grabbing the heel of Esau. The Lord had told Rebecca the older would serve the younger, because of the younger son’s passion for the things of God. God never condoned Jacob’s deception, He did reject Esau’s cavalier attitude toward the position of having the “seed of Abraham” within him. Keep in mind that both boys carried the “seed”; yet it was Jacob who found favor with God because of his desire for the birthright and the blessing.
Jacob was a recipient of God’s mercy as the Father knew Esau’s response would be negative toward it. The analogy Paul uses next was a hard pill to swallow for the Jewish people as he references Pharaoh as having been raised up to be a demonstration of a hardened heart toward the things of God. They understood it was of the lineage of Esau he spoke, a Jew.
Paul then references the parable of the potter in Jeremiah 18, which has been misconstrued by many. Many have read it as being the “potter” (God) who marred the clay, a better translation would read “having found the mar in the clay”; in other words, the mar was in the piece of clay, not that the potter marred the clay. As a result, the potter had to restart the process of creating a “vessel of honor”; in this case it was Jacob and not Esau. Further it wasn’t just a single act that caused the mar to be discovered, it was a series of character defects in Esau’s life. That’s what Paul means when he says God “endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath”. Mercy is extended to all, but only those who respond with the faith of Abraham become “vessels of mercy. . . .prepared beforehand for glory” which wasn’t limited to the Jewish people alone, but also for believing Gentiles.
The next analogy Paul employs is referring to Hosea – a type of Father God, whose wife Gomer – a type of Israel, went after the flesh. Yet Hosea contended for her, paid the price for her redemption and was restored back into relationship. That is one of most clear illustrations of one responding to the mercy of God in scripture. The result was Gomer (a Gentile) became a member of the household of faith, one of “My people” who “was not beloved”; but that all changed when Hosea redeemed her life.
Isaiah was also referenced by the apostle reminding the believing Jews in the church at Rome, the Lord of Hosts (Sabaoth), would have a remnant to carry the “seed”; had there not been, they would have ended up as Sodom and Gomorrah.
So how did the Gentiles come to be a people adopted into the Kingdom of God? They received Christ’s work on the cross by “faith”; rather than pursuing after “the law of righteousness” “by the works of the law”. Unbelieving Israel, stumbled over the “Rock of offense”, Jesus Christ; not realizing the shame from consistently failing to arrive at righteousness through “works” could be remedied by placing faith in Christ.
In the letter to the Galatian’s Paul reminds them to not return to “works” what began in faith of the Spirit of God.