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God’s Mysterious Purpose for His People (Romans 9:1-13)

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

“God’s Mysterious Purpose for His People”

(Romans 9:1-13)

Series: Romans – United in the Gospel [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

December 31, 2022

Introductory Comments:

Well, it’s a joy to be back in the book of Romans. Today, we are going to start one of the more challenging sections of Romans and perhaps one of the most challenging sections of the Bible.

I’ve given you notice for the last few weeks to read ahead of time in order to start to get a grasp on Romans 9. 

Today, we’re going to dive into God’s glorious Word in Romans 9:1-13. Today’s sermon is entitled, “God’s Mysterious Purpose for His People.”[on screen]

Before we get started, let’s pray together and ask God to speak to us. 


Romans 9 is indeed a challenging chapter. I’ve heard of some pastors who simply skip over this chapter when they are preaching through the book of Romans. However, most of you know me well enough to know that I can’t do that. So, let’s see what God has for us in this chapter. 

It’s important for us to understand that after all is said and done with this sermon, we will not perfectly understand what we’ve learned. In fact, we are more likely to have additional questions than we are to have all of our answers. To be honest, if you understand this perfectly, please come explain it to me after we dismiss today. 

We must remember as we study this passage that God is God and we are not. We must also remember that He has given us His Word for our benefit. He has revealed some of who He is, what He does, and why He does it in the Bible. However, He has not revealed all of Himself to us. We must remember the words of Isaiah 55:8-9:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not my ways.”
This is the Lord’s declaration.

“For as heaven is higher than earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
[on screen]

So, let’s do a little review. We took all of June off from the book of Romans. In chapter 8, Paul has spoken about the beautiful saving love of God and how nothing can separate us from that love. Now, he starts to explain more of what God is doing through His saving love in chapter 9. 

So, first, let us look at . . . 

I. Paul’s statement and sorrow (1-3) [on screen]

Let’s dive right into what Paul is saying here at the beginning of chapter 9. I have to tell you, it’s a bit peculiar. Look at verses 1-3. 

1 I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience testifies to me through the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the benefit of my brothers and sisters, my own flesh and blood. 

First of all, Paul has to tell us he’s not lying. Now, it’s not as though he usually lies. However, he wants to be sure that we’re paying attention. What he’s going to say in a few spots in this passage is strange and maybe even uncomfortable for his readers. So, Paul says, “I am not lying; my conscience testifies to me through the Holy Spirit.” So, Paul is telling the truth, he’s serious, and God has put this on his heart. 

Well, why do I think that this passage is strange? Why would folks think that he is perhaps lying?

Paul first says, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.”

Well, that’s not too weird. Many of us have sorrow and anguish in our hearts at times. In fact, when you go on and realize that Paul’s anguish has grown out of his love for the Jewish people it starts to make sense. 

You see, Paul realizes that many of his brothers and sisters in Judaism have rejected Jesus the Messiah. Paul knows that a rejection of Jesus means a rejection of God. Paul knows that those Jewish people who have rejected Jesus have rejected all the promises and rewards of God including a home in heaven with God. Paul has great sorrow over this reality. 

The next statement that Paul makes is the peculiar one. 

Paul says in verse 3, “For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the benefit of my brothers and sisters, my own flesh and blood.”

Here’s what Paul is saying, “I would be willing to lose my own salvation if it meant that the Jewish people would come to Jesus.” To me, that is very strange. In fact, I’m not sure that I could say that for my own people. 

I’m not sure that I would be willing to give up my own salvation in order for all of Bartow to come to Jesus, or all of Florida to come to Jesus, or all of America to come to Jesus. 

You see, my salvation in Jesus Christ is the most precious thing that I have. I can’t say what Paul is saying, although I greatly admire his love for his people.

In fact, I would think that Paul is using hyperbole (or extreme exaggeration) except for the fact that he says at the beginning, “I am not lying.”

Church, Paul has a tremendous burden to see the Jewish people come to Jesus. They were God’s people in the Old Testament and Paul wants to see them receive all the benefits and blessings of being God’s people. 

Paul is burdened for his people. This is Paul’s statement and sorrow. 

Second, we see . . . 

II. The Israelites’ blessings and boundaries (4-7) [on screen]

Paul spends a moment in these verses highlighting who the Israelites are. Let’s look at verses 4-7. 

4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple service, and the promises. 5 The ancestors are theirs, and from them, by physical descent, came the Christ, who is God over all, praised forever. Amen.

6 Now it is not as though the word of God has failed, because not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7 Neither are all of Abraham’s children his descendants. On the contrary, your offspring will be traced through Isaac.

The “they” about whom Paul is speaking when he says “my brothers and sisters,” are the Israelites. 

Paul has a great desire to see the Israelites come to Jesus. After all, they are special people. They are the ones who descended from Abraham, the chosen one. They are the ones God adopted as His own. They are the ones to whom God showed His glory. They are the ones with whom God made many covenants. They are the ones to whom God first gave His law. They are the ones to whom God gave the temple. They are the ones to whom God delivered many promises. Through them, the great ancestors of the faith came. Through them, Jesus the Messiah came. 

All of these miraculous and wonderful blessings came through the Israelite people. They are indeed a special people.

However, there are also boundaries for the Israelites. They cannot simply do anything they want to do and ignore the ways of God. They cannot reject God and His Messiah and expect everything to be ok.

Paul asks the question in verse 6 if the word of God had failed. You see, God made the promises concerning Israel, yet Israel had rejected their own Messiah. They had rejected God. So, have the promises of God towards His people failed?

Paul points out that not all of the children of God have failed. Paul says this stunning statement in verse 7, “ . . . not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.”

What Paul is saying is that just because someone is Jewish doesn’t really mean they are actually one of God’s chosen people. This is astonishing that Paul, a Jew, would say this concerning his people. 

However, what Paul is saying is that there is still hope because among the Israelite people, and among others, there are still those who truly are God’s people.

The people of Israel had experienced tremendous blessing and there are more to come. However, the true blessings are reserved for those within the boundaries of those who are the true Israel. Those who are truly followers of God and of Jesus the Messiah, “ . . . who is God over all, praised forever. Amen.”

So, Paul would love to see his people come to Jesus but he knows that not all will because many have rejected Jesus. However, God does have a people who are His own. He still has children among the Israelites and beyond. Let’s see what the rest of the passage has to say about that. 

Third, let’s discover . . . 

III. God’s promise and purpose (8-13) [on screen]

Let’s look at the final verse of the last section again. Look at verse 7, “Neither are all of Abraham’s children his descendants. On the contrary, your offspring will be traced through Isaac.” Paul is pointing out that it’s not just about being a child of Abraham that matters. What matters is that you’re a child of the promise. Let’s look more into this. Look at verses 8-13: 

8 That is, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but the children of the promise are considered to be the offspring. 9 For this is the statement of the promise: At this time I will come, and Sarah will have a son. 10 And not only that, but Rebekah conceived children through one man, our father Isaac. 11 For though her sons had not been born yet or done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to election might stand— 12 not from works but from the one who calls—she was told, The older will serve the younger. 13 As it is written: I have loved Jacob, but I have hated Esau.

Paul says in verse 8 that it is not as important as to whether or not one is a physical descendant of Abraham. What is more important is whether or not someone is a child of the promise. Well, who are the children of the promise?

Paul begins to trace who the children are, beginning with Abraham. 

Paul points out in verse 9 that Sarah, the wife of Abraham, would have a son. Again, as Paul has already said, this would be a promised son, not just any son. This would be Isaac, the promised one. 

Then, Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, would have a promised son. However, she had twins. This is where we see the mysterious and sovereign hand of God at work. Pay attention.

Paul tells us that so that God’s purpose might stand, Jacob was chosen over Esau. Now, we might be tempted to think that God chose Jacob to be the child of the promise over Esau because God knew Jacob would turn out better. Well, pay attention. Paul gives more clarity to the reason God chose Jacob. 

Paul says God chose Jacob when, “ . . . her sons had not been born yet . . .” (verse 11)

Paul says they had not, “ . . . done anything good or bad . . .” (verse 11)

Paul says it was, “ . . . so that God’s purpose according to election might stand . . .” (verse 11)

Paul says that it was, “ . . . not from works . . .” (verse 12)

Paul says that it was, “. . . from the one who calls . . .” (verse 12), of course, meaning God Himself. 

Listen, church: the idea that God chose Jacob instead of Esau because God looked forward to see how Jacob would turn out is totally incompatible with what Paul says here in Romans 9, as well as with other parts of the Bible. 

Let’s just imagine for a moment that God did look forward at Jacob’s life. Do you know what kind of man Jacob was? For most of his life, Jacob was a scoundrel. Why would God choose him based on what he did? One commentator said, “The amazing thing isn’t that God DIDN’T choose Esau. The amazing thing is that God DID choose Jacob.”

So, before these twins were even born, their mother, Rebekah, was told that Esau serve would Jacob. In a break with Jewish custom, the younger son would receive the blessing of God. By the way, you can read about this in Genesis 25. 

Jacob would be loved by God (in this context meaning being blessed by God) and Esau would be hated by God (again, in this context meaning being rejected by God). You can read about this in Malachi 1:2-3.

Well, what are we to make of all this? Paul says this was all, “so that God’s purpose according to election might stand.”

Election refers to God’s sovereign choice to bring about His purposes on the earth. We’ll talk more about this later. For now, remember that Paul says all of this happened, “so that God’s purpose according to election might stand.”

There is a great mystery here, but we must understand this: you are not saved because you sought God; you are saved because God sought you. 

God has made a promise to call His children to Himself and He has purposed from the foundation of the world to elect His people, not just Jewish people, but people from every tribe, tongue, and nation, and He is calling them to Himself so that they may call upon Him and be saved from their sins. 

Concluding Thoughts:

There’s a lot more to be learned here and we’ll be in Romans 9 at least one more week. 

For now, let this bottom line summarize what we’re learning:

Bottom Line: God has promised to pursue His people according to His purpose. [on screen]


Remember, church: this passage began with the question of whether or not God’s plans had failed because some of the Jewish people had rejected the Messiah. Paul responds by saying that not only has God’s purposes for the Jewish people not failed but God is doing something even greater by choosing those who are not Jewish to be part of the promise as well. 

God’s purposes will stand. His promises will stand. God will pursue His people, call them to Himself, and miraculously save them and use them for His glory. 

How does all of this work out? We don’t know exactly, but we know that God is in charge and God will work it out. 

Challenge yourself this week in the following ways:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

1. Read Romans 9. [on screen]

Dig into this chapter some more. There’s a lot more there that we will cover later. 

Ask yourself this question, “What is God saying in this chapter?”

Pray for God’s Holy Spirit to guide you. 

2. Thank God if you are one of His people. [on screen]

If you’ve been saved by the blood of Jesus, thank God that you belong to Him. It’s not because there’s something great about you. It’s not because God knew ahead of time that you would be a wonderful Christian. It’s all because of the grace of God!

Thank God that He loved you, sent Jesus Christ to save you from your sin, called you to salvation through the power of His Holy Spirit, and adopted you as His promised child. 


God is calling His children to Himself, to be rescued from the slavery of sin. Are you listening? Will you answer the call? Will you come to your Heavenly Father?

(Gospel presentation)

(closing prayer)


COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER: The text contained in this sermon is solely owned by its author. The reproduction, or distribution of this message, or any portion of it, should include the author’s name. The author intends to provide free resources in order to inspire believers and to assist preachers and teachers in Kingdom work.


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