By Kevin Rutherford
The Jews were given many special blessings by God so that they could be the nation through whom the Messiah would come, and so that they would be prepared for such a coming. Paul lists those blessings in Romans 9:4-5 as adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service, and the promises. Yet, this special place given to the Jews and the special blessings provided for them by God did not in any way remove their free-will regarding personal responsibility, accountability, and salvation. Though they were chosen and elected by God to be the nation through which the Christ would come, they could still choose to reject God and consequently be lost. In fact, many of them did. It is because they made this choice to reject Christ that Paul had great sorrow and continual grief in his heart (Romans 9:1-5). Despite their blessings and despite their religious zeal for God they were lost because they chose of their own free-will to reject Christ (Romans 10:1-4).
“But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel (Romans 9:6).” In other words, the Gospel has had an effect upon the Gentiles. Those Gentiles who have chosen of their own free-will to humbly submit themselves to the will of God are the true seed of Abraham and the true children of promise (Romans 9:6-8). Whether Jew or Gentile only those who believe in Jesus Christ are true Israel. “That is those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed (Romans 9:8).”
Is it right for God to have mercy upon the Gentiles? It seems some would challenge this right. In making such a challenge against the sovereign authority of God one is charging God with unrighteousness, but God is never guilty of such (Romans 9:14-15). God has the right to have mercy on whomever He will have mercy and compassion on whomever He will have compassion. The point of this statement is not indicate one is chosen by God to either be saved or lost and man has no free-will in the matter. The point of this is to address the issue of the context which is God showing mercy to the Gentiles by giving them the opportunity for salvation. God has every right to act within His perfect character, and by His sovereign will to make all upon whom the word of God has had an effect the true seed of Abraham. God has chosen to include the Gentiles who obey Him. He has every right to do so. His sovereign will in this matter is not to be questioned.
God has shown His ability to act within His sovereign will to make choices despite what people may think He should do. Before Jacob and Esau were born, God determined Esau was going to serve Jacob. Esau was going to be the oldest of the twins and so one would expect Jacob to serve him, but God wanted it to be the other way around. God in His sovereign will has every right to choose which should serve the other. So Jacob was favored over Esau, but this choice was not regarding their salvation. God did not choose Esau to be lost and Jacob to be saved in such a way that they could not exercise free-will in regard to their salvation. This choice was as to which would serve the other not as to which was going to be saved. Jacob would be the one through whom the Messianic seed-line (ancestry) would continue.
Just as God had the sovereign right and authority to choose Esau to serve Jacob, so He has every right to offer salvation to the Gentiles. As Paul wrote the book of Romans many Jews were rejecting Christ, even as Gentiles were beginning to accept the Messiah. The church had become true Israel under the New Covenant, and Christians are the true spiritual descendants of Abraham no matter their national background and heritage.
- Kevin V. Rutherford, formerly of Warners Chapel church of Christ in Clemmons, NC (Currently an instructor at Memphis School of Preaching in Memphis, TN). The congregation may be contacted through their website: http://warnerschapelchurchofchrist.org/