Romans IX-XI
(The Chosen Ones)
November 27th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

So then he has mercy on whomever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomever he chooses.

- Romans 9:18 (NRSV)

Summary of Chapters

In these three chapters Paul addresses the situation of the Jews relative to the Good News of the Gospels. In doing so he reviews the history of Israel from Abraham to the present generation and explains how God made choices about the future of Abraham’s descendants.

In chapter 9, Paul offers an introduction to the topic by emphasizing that he wants all of Israel to be saved and would make great sacrifices to do so, if it were possible. He then describes the divine selection process that took place in Abraham’s first generation: Ishmael was sent away from the family, but Isaac remained and inherited God’s blessings.

Isaac’s son Jacob was the chosen one of his generation, although he was not the first born. His twin brother Esau was first out of the womb, but God had already chosen Jacob. Paul emphasized that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were chosen by God – not for what they did, but because of God’s will.

This synopsis of the early history of Israel builds up to Paul’s point that God can also chose the Gentiles to be saved, and that the blood descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob might miss out, just as Ishmael and Esau did, and just as many of their fathers did. In this generation's case it may be because they stumbled over the idea of earning their inheritance.

In chapter 10, Paul stresses once again that he wants the Israelites to be saved, but explains that in order to be saved they must hear and accept the message of Jesus Christ. Paul quotes the prophets to emphasize that anyone who hears and responds can be saved – even those who did not seek him:

    It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!”

    Scripture reassures us, “No one who trusts God like this—heart and soul—will ever regret it.” It’s exactly the same no matter what a person’s religious background may be: the same God for all of us, acting the same incredibly generous way to everyone who calls out for help. “Everyone who calls, ‘Help, God!’ gets help (Joel 2:32).”

    - Romans 10:6-13 (MSG)

    And Isaiah boldly says,

    “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.”

    - Romans 10:20 (Isaiah 65:1) (NIV)

Chapter 11 presents Paul’s response to questions and objections that his readers might be pondering. He makes clear that God did not reject all of Israel at any time, but always reserved a remnant. He also is allowing the Gentiles to be grafted into his family and will eventually use the Gentiles to rescue all of Israel.

Reflection and Application

Once again, our study of the Old Testament is paying off. We remember these stories of Abraham and the first generations of descendants.

Remember how the infant Jacob came out of the womb holding the foot of Esau, as if they were fighting to determine who gets out first? Then, in the time of the prophets we read how God continued to curse Edom. For example, in Ezekiel, the LORD confronts Edom with knowledge of their plans to take possession of all of the land of Israel. As a consequence, he tells them “ ‘I will treat you in accordance with the anger and jealousy you showed in your hatred of them’ (Ezekiel 35:11 - NIV).”

This might be the most complicated concept in the book so far. On the one hand, it’s straight-forward: God can chose who he wants to save, and the early books of the Bible clearly document that. However, it seems unfair that some did not have a chance, like Esau. We can argue with God, but may find ourselves in the same untenable position as Job and his friends when they tried to lecture the Creator. Part of faith is accepting what we don’t understand.

But then just when we have accepted that God has made these choices Paul says that anyone can be saved, if he or she hears the word. Paul seems to acknowledge our confusion as he articulates the questions that might be rolling around in our minds: “How then can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news (Isaiah 52:7)’ (10:14-15 - NIV).”

While we ponder what all of this means we can consider the thoughtful interpretation from the Biblical Commentator, William Barclay, who summarizes Paul's message from chapters 9 to 11 as follows(1):

  1. Israel is the chosen people
  2. To be a member of Israel means more than racial descent
  3. This selection by God is not unfair because he has the right to choose
  4. Israel's mistake was dependency on human achievement
  5. The Gentiles should have no pride because they are like branches grafted onto an olive tree
  6. This is not the end, the Jews will be so moved to wondering envy at the grace provided to the Gentiles that they will be brought in by them
  7. So, in the end, all will be saved

We still may not fully understand all of this, but we can still be masters of our own feet which bring the good news so that those who have not heard can hear. We may even reach those who were not seeking God but perhaps we arrive just at the time that God has chosen to send us.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. Other than your relationship with God, what has been one of your most exciting moments of being “chosen?”
    2. Why do you think God chose some people and not others?
    3. Who can you choose to bring the message to today?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we thank you for making your salvation available to all people. Help us to be encouraged to spread the word.

    Prayer Concern
    People of Israel


    (1) Barclay, William, The Letter to the Romans, the New Daily Study Bible, John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, 1975 p.144

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading:Romans 12-16 (Principles of Christianity)

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