God's Word Has Not Failed, For Not All Israel Are Israel (Romans Sermon 62 of 120)
March 13, 2005 | Andrew Davis
Blessing of Abraham
I. Romans 9: A Magnificent Vision of God Serves a Pastoral Purpose
Please, if you would, take your Bibles and look with me at Romans Chapter 9, which you've heard already beautifully read for you. Romans 9. This morning, we'll be focusing on verses six through nine.
January 17, 1995 at 5:46 AM. I was in Japan with my wife and preparing to go to a time of prayer, when all of a sudden, for 20 seconds, the foundation of the house was shaking, so much, I could barely stand up. This was the Great Hanshin earthquake, 7.2 on the Richter scale, centered near Kobe, Japan, 5,000 people were killed as a result of that earthquake, 300,000 people were left homeless as a result of those 20 seconds.
Now, what was interesting was the study done of architecture after the earthquake, by Japanese experts. They were interested to see how buildings did in the earthquakes. They found that the buildings that were older, built in the 30s and 40s in the traditional Japanese style, were destroyed immediately all of them. None of them survived in that area. They were made mostly of bamboo and wood and mud and other things, and they were just destroyed. The buildings built in the 60s, some of some of the floors were crushed. In other words, you would see like Floor 12 or Floor 8 just disappear and it would be gone, be crushed, and you'd see Venetian blinds and other things sticking out all around. Really astonishing, and it would be shifted or leaned over in some way.
The more modern buildings that were built with the Japanese technology in dealing with earthquakes, did better, except some of the buildings. And those were the buildings which were built on ground that literally liquefied during the earthquake, and they were destroyed, as well. And it got me to thinking about the word of God. It got me to thinking about what Jesus said at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. "Everyone who hears these words of mine, and puts them into practice, is like a wise man who built his house on the rock, and the rains came down and the streams rose and the winds blew and beat against that house. But it stood firm because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand, and the rains came down and the streams rose and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."
But then I thought, what can you do when the ground liquefies under your feet, when it literally disappears? And all things around us, someday, will be shaken, for the Lord will return and everything not eternal and permanent will be shaken and destroyed. And where then will you stand? And so it is also metaphorically and spiritually that some of you are going through trials right now in which it feels like the ground is melting under your feet. It could be a very serious diagnosis, maybe cancer. It could be that of a loved one facing a similar thing, could be the spiritual state of a loved one, which you realize that they are not in Christ praying and seeking their salvation, but it isn't coming. It could be financial problems. It could be other practical life issues.
And you may wonder in a very practical way, How does Romans 9 address my life situation? How does Romans 9 line up with my marital struggle? How does Romans 9 line up with my struggle against sin and temptation? How does Romans 9 fit into my life? Let me tell you something. Jesus said if you hear His words and put them into practice, you have a solid foundation under your feet, but if the word of God gives way, what then do you have under you? If you have not the Scriptures to bank on, to build on, what do you have? If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? It says in Psalm 11.
And that is the crisis that's in front of Paul in Romans 9-11. Has the word of God failed in the case of the Jews? Now, Romans 9, we all know, has some of the most difficult doctrine to swallow. It's really very striking, really, when you read it and you think, "This is not the God I was taught in Sunday School. This is not the God I grew up with in the children's Bible." And so, it may feel to you like the theological ground might be liquefying under your feet as you begin to find a God you've never known before, but there he is in the text. And it's terrifying to some degree to have your world rocked like that, to have a new vision of God, and to see that it actually is in the Bible to find.
Oh my goodness, what am I going to do? How can I live with this different understanding of God than I had before? And it's a challenge. Now, Romans 9 was not given to us for academic sport, so that ivory tower theologians can kick ideas around back and forth and write treatises to each other and have a job. That's not what it's for. Still less is it for a theological puzzle like The New York Times crossword puzzle, or some kind of mathematical puzzle for you to figure out and then you've got it. And once you've got it, then you can feel good about your intellectual prowess.
May I say to you, if you think you've got it, you don't. And that includes me, the preacher, who has to stand and preach it. It is far deeper than even the one who wrote it, when he said, "Oh the depths, the richest, the wisdom, and the knowledge of God, how unsearchable His judgments and His paths beyond tracing out." That's his way of saying I don't fully understand all of this. It's deep. Still, less is Romans 9 given to divide the local church or to split friend from friend. But rather, I believe that Romans 9 was given for pastoral concern. Or Romans 9 was given because people are going to face troubles, and trials in this world, and if they don't have this kind of solid rock underneath them, their foundations will buckle. The ground will feel like it's liquefying under their feet. They'll have nowhere to stand.
Now, I think there's a kind of a hierarchy of spiritual priorities in Romans 9-11. The top level priority is a magnificent vision of God enthroned, ruling over all of His universe. And from that, everything flows. Your sense of peace and security about your soul flows from that. Your sense of stability about what's going on in our life flows from that throne whose foundation can never be destroyed. And Romans 9 gives you a clear vision of that throne, which shall never be moved, and how pervasive and powerful is the sovereignty of God. It gives that kind of vision at the highest level.
From that comes a confidence that the words, the pronouncements, the decrees that come from that throne can never fail. That when God says it, it's final. When He speaks peace over your soul through the blood of Christ, that settles it. And you are at peace with Him, and you are secure in this world that God rules. God's word has not failed, neither can it fail. And that is, that Jesus said, a solid rock foundation on which to build your life, on which to build your house for eternity.
Third level below that would be, that we individual people may have the proper state of mind about that. It’s so that we might have a sense of security in life, a sense of certitude, a sense of certainty and assurance in our lives, and that we've got ground under we our feet to make progress and sanctification. We have ground under our feet to go forth and preach the gospel or to slay some particularly besetting sin. We have ground under our feet to stand firm when earthly things, finances, and relationships, and health are crumbling around us. We can stand firm because God's Word cannot fail. And I think every bit as important as that comes the slaying of our pride, that we might be slain in our pride before this throne of God, that we might stop making much of humanity and start making much of God who created all things, that we might stop making much of our vaunted choices and start making much of the God who rules over all things.
There's a hierarchy of priorities in Romans 9-11, and the highest is the throne of God. And God yearns for these things in our hearts that we might be at peace with Him, that we might trust him when it seems like the ground is liquefying under our feet, that we might be confident in making progress in our spiritual lives. He wants these truths in our hearts, even if it causes you and me pain to get them in there. And so he brings us to Romans 9, he brings us to this meet that we might understand.
II. A Crisis of Confidence: Has God’s Word Failed?
Now, we've seen already the crisis that faces us, theologically, in Romans 9. Perhaps you didn't see it before, but I hope you see it now. The crisis is that incredibly grand promises have been made to us in Christ. Romans 1-8 shows us incredibly grand promises of future and final glory in Christ. Someday we will be as glorious as God because God's glory will be in us.
I consider that our present sufferings, no matter what you would list as your top five biggest practical issues that you'd hope addressed from the pulpit here this morning, whatever they are, they're not even worth comparing with the glory that's going to be revealed in you, or so says God. But can His word be trusted? Is it indeed true? Because I have it on good authority that God's chosen people, the Jews, are almost universally, almost universally rejecting Christ. And if what you say is true about Christ, that you must believe in Him to be saved, then they are rejecting Christ to the damnation of their own soul, which then Paul takes up in Romans 9:1-5 and says it's true. But he has great sorrow and unceasing anguish in his heart over it. He could wish that he were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of them, those of his kinsmen in the flesh, the Jews. And then he lists their spiritual advantages and their benefits.
Indeed, they were God's chosen people and still are, but to try to understand that and how it lines up with Christ, that is the issue. In Deuteronomy 7:6, it says, "The Lord, your God," [speaking to the Jews] "has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the Earth to be His people, His treasured possession." And then he lists the benefits in verses 4-5, concerning the people of Israel. He says, "Theirs is the adoption of sons, theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised. Amen."
Those are the advantages of the Jews, but they are inadequate for salvation. They're rejecting Christ. Therefore, the key question is, Has God's word failed to the Jews? Has he made promises to them that he's not keeping? And if so, how do I know that the promises He has made to me in Christ, that they are rock solid? If he's lied once, can he not lie again and again. We likened it to the worthless Deutsch marks printed by the billions in Germany between World War I and World War II, or a certificate of ownership to the Brooklyn Bridge. Would you like to be 100% owner of the Brooklyn Bridge? It's not worth the paper it's printed on.
But are God's promises worth the paper that they are printed on? Is it true that nothing else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord? Is that true? Can we trust that? Now, this is a crisis because of the importance of the Word of God in the scripture. From the very beginning, in Genesis 1:3, God said, "Let there be light" and there was light. God spoke. From the very beginning, he created light by the word. Also in Isaiah 55:10-11, he says, "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth, making it bud and flourish so that it'll seed for the sower and bread for the eater. So is my word, which proceeds from my mouth. It will not return to me empty, but will achieve the purpose I desire and the accomplish what I sent it out to do." That is the power of the Word of God. Or as Jesus said, "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."
Indeed in this very section, Romans 10:17, we're going to learn that "faith comes from hearing the message. The message is heard through the word of Christ." If God's word cannot be trusted, where does that leave us? Where does that leave us? And Jesus said this in John 11, speaking to Mary, he said, "I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me will live even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die." And then he asked Mary a soul defining question, "Do you believe this?" Now here's my question. If God's word has fallen, if it's failed, then how can we say to Jesus, Yes, I believe that you are the resurrection and the life? That is the crisis here. If God's word toward Israel has failed, then why won't His word toward us fail? Remember what it was that saved Abraham. God took him out of his tent and said, "Look up at the stars and count them if you can."
Then he spoke a word of promise to him, and the word of promise, was... "So shall your offspring be." That's the promise. Abraham heard the promise, and he believed it. He believed the promise of God, he believed the Lord, and God credited it to him as righteousness, his sins forgiven by faith. Now, what I say to you is if God's Word can fail, where then is hope? It says in Hebrews 6:17 and following says, "Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised. He confirmed it with an oath." What's an oath but word, right? He confirmed it with an oath. "God did this so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul firm and secure." Do you have that kind of a soul anchor?
I was watching a movie recently about the International Space Station, and there are people up there orbiting the Earth all the time. They're up there on the Space Station. Just day after day, week after a week, year after year, they're up there and they're doing experiments on medicines and growing crystals and all kinds of things. But occasionally, astronauts have to go out of the cozy confines, if that's what you want to call it, of the Space Station, and go out and kind of space walk, and fix something on the outside of the building. Now, how would you feel if you look down beneath your feet, and there looking actually small, is Africa, or the Pacific Ocean? Would you not have somewhat of a death grip on the ladder? Well, not only with the death grip is this tether that attaches you to certain places. It's a wire. And if those two fail, the death grip and the wire, and you start to drift away from the Space Station, they have as a last resort, this little kind of jet propulsion booster thing. And that'll get you back and you can grab on to it. Does that sound secure to you?
But how would you feel if you're falling away, and there's that tether attached? Aren't you hoping it'll hold? May I say you that is nothing compared to the soul tether of the Word of God. If the word of God can fail, then you are lost. You have nothing on which to build your life.
III. Paul Answers the Crisis Three Times Over
Paul answers this three times over. First of all, he makes a plain assertion in verse six. It is not as though God's Word has failed. He just says it straight out. No, God's word has not failed concerning the Jews. Says it straight out. But is that enough simply because you, the apostle, tell me that God's Word has not failed? Is that enough? Can you support it? Can you defend it? Well, he gives us three chapters of defense of this. It isn't just a statement he makes. He's going to support it, but he does it immediately by supporting it with a second assertion and he says I want you to understand that not all Israel are Israel.
Not all Israel are Israel. God's promises to Israel were not intended for every physical descendant of Abraham, but rather for a group within that set of physical descendants that he calls Israel. Here, not all Israel, the big Israel, physical Israel, are truly the spiritual Israel to whom the promises were made. That's why God's word has not failed. He never promised to all of the physical descendants of Abraham the gospel promises. And so, God's Word has not failed. Now, he gives the same answer three times, first of all, this statement, "Not all who are descended from Israel are Israel" in verse 6B. And then he gives us this statement in Verse 7A. "Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham's children." And then again in verse 8, there's the children of the flesh versus the children of God. Verse 8 says, "In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children but is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring."
Not All Israel Are Israel
First, he says, "Not all who are descended from Israel are Israel." There was within ethnic Israel, generally, that mass of humanity we know as the Jews or Israel, generally, a true spiritual nation that He calls Israel here, a subset within the larger set. To them, the promises were made and therefore, God's word hasn't fallen because he never promised those promises to all of the physical descendants of Abraham.
He speaks of this group within a group later using the language of remnant. Look at verse 27 of chapter 9. Romans 9:27 says, "Isaiah cries out concerning Israel. Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved." He uses this language of the remnant. If you look over at Romans 11:5 Paul writes, "so too, at the present time, there is a remnant chosen by grace." That subset within the larger group we could use the language of remnant. Romans 9:27 and 11:5 uses the language of remnant. And so, it's right for us to do it as well.
Paul Delineates Between the Descendants of Abraham, and the Children of Abraham.
Secondly, he says in verse seven, He delineates between the descendants of Abraham, and the children of Abraham. The NIV gives it to us. Nor because they are his descendants, are they all Abraham's children. Again, supporting this assertion, Paul just restates it. He delineates than a difference between Abraham's physical seed and his spiritual seed. Just because you are Abraham's physical descendant did not mean that God had made promises to you, which if you end up in hell, he didn't keep. That's what we're getting at. If you have Abraham as your biological father, and you ended up in hell, it does not mean that God's Word has failed or fallen in any way. That's what Paul's getting at.
And then again in verse eight. He says, "In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children but it is the children of the promise, who are regarded as Abraham's offspring." Now, here, Paul contrasts the natural children with the children of God, literally the children of the flesh, versus the children of the Spirit. Abraham could give birth to the flesh, as Jesus said to Nicodemus, flesh gives birth to flesh but the Spirit gives birth to Spirit. Those children are the true Israel, they are the remnant. To them, God has made his promises. Now, this principle has been stated many times before. John the Baptist said it. You remember when he saw the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing? He said to them, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves. We have Abraham as our Father. I tell you that out of these stones, God can raise up children to Abraham."
Thank God for that. Was not your heart like a heart of stone? Does he not have the power to change your stony heart into that of the heart of flesh? Can he not make out of stones, children of Abraham? Hallelujah for us who are Gentiles, that's precisely what he's done. Yes, he has that power. But the Jews were trusting that just because they were physically descended from Abraham, they were in, they were good, they were fine. John the Baptist said Absolutely not. Jesus said it even stronger. John chapter 8. Just listen. Read it later if you like, but John 8:37-44, Jesus speaking to his Jewish adversaries, he says, "I know you are Abraham's descendants..." He acknowledges you are physically descended from Abraham.
"'I know you are Abraham's descendants yet you are ready to kill me because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father's presence and you do what you have heard from your father.' 'Abraham is our Father,' they answered. 'If you were Abraham's children,' said Jesus, 'then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You were doing the things your own father does.' 'We are not illegitimate children,' they protested. 'The only father we have is God Himself.' Jesus said to them. 'If God were your father, you would love me for I came from God, and now I'm here. I've not come on my own, but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning not holding to the truth for there is no truth in him.'"
Now, this is incredibly strong and totally lines up with what Paul is saying in Romans 9. Yes, I know you are physically descended from Abraham but you know who your real father is? The devil. If you were truly Abraham's children, that is, children of God, you would love me, you would believe in me, you would follow me, you would live the life that Abraham did, the life of faith, but you don't. Therefore, Jesus clearly saw a set within the larger group of those who are truly Abraham's children. The larger group, it was no certain proof that just because Abraham was their physical father, that they were right with God. Jesus taught the same thing. And so it is also in Stephen's speech in Acts 7. You can read it. Now, Paul says in Romans 2, "A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly, and circumcision is circumcision of the heart by the Spirit, not by the written code. "Such a man's praise does not come from men, but from God."
There. Paul has already distinguished between the true Jew, and the one who's only outwardly a Jew. Therefore, to restate, not all Israel, our Israel means that there is a group, a set of people who are physically descended from Abraham. And there is within them a second set of those who are truly the remnant chosen by grace. They are the true Israel and to them, the promises have been made. If any of those people end up in hell, and God's word has failed. God's word has fallen, but I tell you they will not, but God never promised to all of the physical descendants of Abraham that they would be His children. Now, how does he prove it? He's made the assertion. How does he prove it?
IV. First Old Testament Example: Isaac and Ishmael
He brings up two examples. First is the example of Isaac and Ishmael, and the second is the example of Jacob and Esau. The first we will cover today, the second in two more messages afterwards. The first example is Isaac and Ishmael. Look at verse 7-8. "Nor because they're his descendants are they all Abraham's children. On the contrary, it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise, who are regarded as Abraham's offspring." Now, what do we have to do in order to prove this assertion, not all Israel are Israel? Well, I think we had to follow Paul's example. Right?
Romans chapter 4, as he's teaching on justification by faith, he asked a simple question, Romans 4:3, "what does the scripture say?" And he's doing the same thing here to prove that not all Israel are Israel. What does the scripture say? And he brings up this case of Isaac and Ishmael. Now, Ishmael was a child of flesh. Let me explain what I mean by that. God had made an astounding promise to Abraham, He says in Genesis 12:3, "I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you, I will curse, and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." Later, he clarified, as I already mentioned, Genesis 15, that look up at the stars and count them if you can. So shall your offspring be. But he says, "I don't have any children. I have this guy, Eliezer of Damascus, he's a really good person, but he's not my son. Is he who he had in mind?" God said, "You're going to have descendants." Okay, I'm going to have a child. I'm going to have a son. That's hard to believe, and that I'm just old and Sarah's womb is barren but there it is. I believe it, I trust it.
I believe it, but then comes a hideous side adventure in Genesis 16. Abraham looks at his situation, his body is as good as dead, and he looks at Sarah and Sarah makes a suggestion. "I have an idea. Why don't you take my Egyptian maid servant, Hagar, and have a son by him? It's not happening with me." And Abraham thinks and Sarah thinks they're going to help God out. God's having a hard time fulfilling His promise. God needs a little human assistance in this matter, so they're going to assist God. They're going to come up with a plan, Abraham's the man with the plan. And so he's going to go and he's going to have a son by Hagar. And so he has a son by Hagar, and his name is Ishmael. And he is not one step closer to fulfilling God's promise thereby. It's arm of flesh. It's a fleshly effort. Not one step closer to "So shall your offspring be," not one.
Meanwhile, you've got the child of the promise, Isaac. God had a different plan. He had a plan to bring a child into the world through his wife, Abraham's wife, Sarah, in such a way that His supernatural action in the matter would be clearly put on display as a picture and example of how people like you and me get saved. He wanted to put it on display. So, no, it's not going to be the Hagar thing. It was an arm of flesh. It was a fleshly effort. Rather, we're going to do supernatural purpose and promise.
He says in Genesis 17, God said Abraham, "'As for Sarai, your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name, I will bless her and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her and she shall become the mother of nations. Kings of people shall come from her.' Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, 'Shall a child be born to a man who's 100 years old? Shall Sarah, who's ninety years old, bear a child?' And then Abraham said to God, 'Oh, that Ishmael might live before you.'"
What is he asking for there? I have a son. I did that already. What do I need with this? And the answer is very strong. No! But in Isaac shall your offspring be named. The answer is no to the arm of flesh. "No" He says in Genesis 17. God restates the promise in Genesis 18. The Lord said, "'I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah, your wife will have a son.' And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. Now, Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. [She was beyond the age of bearing children]. Sarah laughed to herself saying, 'After I'm worn out and my lord is old, [that's Abraham] shall I have pleasure?' The Lord said to Abraham, 'Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Shall I indeed bear a child now that I'm old?' Is anything too hard for the Lord? [Listen.] At the appointed time, I will come. And Sarah have a son."'
Genesis 21, God kept his promise. Listen to this. Genesis 21:1-3. This is so vital. I miss this. I didn't understand how important it is until I read it over and saw it. Genesis 21:1-3. This is this is what it says in the account. The Lord visited Sarah as He had said. That is so vital in this account. "The Lord visited Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised, and Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son, who was born to Him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac."
Now, notice this phrase, "The Lord visited Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as He had promised." My friends, the visitation of the power of God is meant to be thought of as a miracle. It's meant to be displayed as the power of God. Isaac was the miracle baby. Without God's direct intervention, as it says, "The Lord visited Sarah," this baby would never have been born. Now, may I say to you with care and reverence, it's similar to, but lesser than what the Angel Gabriel told Mary would happen to her with the incarnation. Believe me, don't misquote. I am not saying that Isaac was incarnate. He was born in the natural way through marital relations, but supernaturally by the direct action of God. It's the way the text reads. Without God's direct action, there is no Isaac.
And so, the Angel Gabriel said to Mary, or Mary said to the angel, "'How will this be since I am a virgin?' And the angel answered her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. And therefore, the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.'" Now, once the child of promise, Isaac, is born, Ishmael persecutes him, and God makes His judgment clear. Genesis 21:9-12. Sarah saw the son of Hagar, the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, laughing. So she said to Abraham, "Cast out the slave woman with her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not be heir with my son, Isaac." And the thing, listen to this. This is incredibly important. The thing was very displeasing to Abraham on account of his son. Who's the son? Ishmael. Abraham was very upset about Ishmael, but God said to Abraham, "Be not displeased because of the boy, Ishmael, and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named." That's the statement made here in Romans 9.
Salvation is Based on The Calling of God
Now, I find it fascinating, if I can speak directly. I find it fascinating that both Abraham and Isaac chose the wrong of their sons to be the one carrying on after. If Abraham had had his way, Ishmael would have been the chosen son. If Isaac had had his way, Esau would have been the chosen son. We are just wrong. We're just off from what God wants. His ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts. He has chosen in a way to frustrate the flesh, to humble the human being. That's what he's doing. And so he says, "Through Isaac your offspring will be named." Now, Paul makes an incredible statement here. He says, "In Isaac shall thy seed be called." That's literally the word he uses. Called.
Now, this word called is vital theologically. Let me explain what I mean. God speaks into existence something that did not exist before. That's what I'm saying. Romans 4:17"As it is written: 'I have made you a father of many nations." [Abraham] is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed-- the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. You wonder where I'm going with this? That's what's happened to you if you're a child of God. You're supernaturally born again by the power of God. You're like Isaac, not like Ishmael, if you're a child of God. He's spoken something that didn't exist before. He's called you by His power. This word is so important. Listen to Romans 8:30. "Those whom He predestined, He also [did what?] called; And those whom He called, He also justified. And those whom He justified, He also glorified." Or as He says later in this chapter, Romans 9:10-12. You can look right on the page there.
"Not only that, but Rebecca's children had one and the same father, our father, Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad, in order that God's purpose in election might stand, not by works, but by Him who calls, she was told the older will serve the younger." God calls and we exist. That's how it works. Or again, in Romans 9:24. "Even us whom he also called, not only from the Jews, but also from the Gentiles." We are then the called, like Isaac. And it is in Isaac, that all of these spiritual descendants will be called into existence, physically, called into spiritually into the saving fate spiritually. That's the calling of God. It's not just that he calls and you will respond or you don't. I mean, he calls the way He calls dead people to life. That's the calling of God.
The Importance of “Reckoned”
There's a second important word, and that's the word reckoned in verse 8. Verse 8 says that it's not the natural children who are God's children but it's the children of the promise who are reckoned or regarded as Abraham's children. Again, an incredibly important word. The word reckoned or accounted or thought of is used 39 times in the New Testament. Paul uses them 19 times, uses this word 19 times in the book of Romans. And the most important one is Romans 4:3. "What does the scripture say? Abraham believed the Lord and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." God thinks of your account as righteous because he's taken all of Christ's magnificent righteousness and credited it to your account. He sees you as righteous as Jesus just by reckoning. He thinks of you that way. And so also, it is In Isaac that all of God's children are reckoned. They're called to be His children in the same manner as Isaac.
V. Children of the Flesh Vs. Children of God
What does that leave? Well, it leaves a dichotomy then in the world, two manners of people in the world. There are the children of the flesh, like Ishmael, the natural ones. And then there are the children of the spirit, who are supernaturally born. The same thing is spoken in Galatians Chapter Four, in which he speaks to some Gentile Christians who have heard the Gospel and believed it, but now they're getting sucked into Judaism, legalistic Judaism, by people who want them to behave like slaves. And he says, "Tell me, you who want to be under the law. Are you not aware of what the law says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way, but his son by the free woman was born as a result of the promise."
There is the dichotomy. Either you're born in the ordinary way, that's just marital relations, folks. Man and wife come together and the child gets conceived and born. Ordinary way, that's Ishmael. Or you're born in the supernatural way, by the Spirit, according to the promise. And my friends, if you are not born again, you will spend eternity apart from God in hell. You must be born again, Jesus said to Nicodemus that you must be born of the Spirit. You must be like Isaac, a child of the supernatural power of God. And so Paul says to the Gentile Christians in Galatia, "Now, you brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. We are children, therefore, not of the slave woman, but of the free woman." It's the very same thing that John said in John 1:11-13. He said Jesus "came to his own, [the Jews] but His own did not receive him." They rejected Him. "Yet to all who received Him." To those who believe in his name, he gave the power to become children of God. Children who are born not of the blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but born of God." Supernaturally born again. That's what he's talking about here.
So we have two manner of people, children of the flesh are born and live in the natural way. Parents have marital relations in they're conceived. They're born, they breathe, they eat, they sleep, they dream, they achieve, they age, they get sick, and they die. And they do it all with no faith in the promises of God. Meanwhile, the children of the promise, they are born just as natural children are and do all of the same things I just described, but at some point, they hear the promise of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And having believed they were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who supernaturally conceives in them that they are children of God. Every child of God who is listening to me right now is a miracle. You're born again by the Spirit, nothing you could have contrived by your own effort or strength, or will, or running.
Can I ask you to assess yourself as you're listening to me? Am I like Ishmael, a child of the flesh only? Or am I like Isaac, a supernatural child of God, born again by the Spirit? Am I living through faith in the promises of God, or do I have total disregard for the promises of God and living like Ishmael? If you're a child of God, can I say With all humility, understand your origin with awe. You would not be a child of God right now if God had not spoken into existence what did not exist before. Saying, "Let there be light in your soul," and there was light. He called you. And also, may I say to you, and you'll get more of this as we go on. Understand your origin in humility. He did it in the face of your rebellion, not because of anything he saw in you. He did it because of His own purpose and grace, as we will see.
God's word has not failed. And the fact that it seems numerically the overwhelming majority of Jews are rejecting Christ, is no proof that the word of God has failed. God's word has not failed and it never will fail. Close with me in prayer.